#23 // Bill Coleman + Ben Webster “Swingin’ in London!”
I like things to be in order. I like things to make sense. I’ll spend hours trying to organize something. Right now I just migrated my email from Thunderbird to Postbox and it says that I have 673 unread emails in my Gmail. But when I go to it there are no unread messages. And it’s driving me crazy. Yesterday it said there was only one unread message. So I scrolled through probably over 20,000 emails trying to locate it. The whole time I kept wondering if something was wrong with me. Why am I spending so much time on this? Just let it go. Relax. Those are things I’m trying to work on. Letting things go and relaxing. That’s what they tell you to do in yoga class. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I think I’m getting better at it. Guess it depends on who you ask. And if you do you gotta ask someone who’s known you for awhile. Someone knew or someone who kind of knows you don’t count. The people who have seen you at your worst do. They’re the ones who know you. The people who know you beyond just your posts. That’s funny too huh. How posts define who you are. I’ve been mentioning social media, especially Instagram a lot in these posts. Ha. Another post. Just post your life away. You didn’t know? Didn’t you see what I posted the other day? Yes as if the whole world is anxiously waiting for your latest post. I used to be in media. Information seemed a lot more controlled back then. Now it’s just a flood, a deluge of posts that reporters have to stay on top of in case something important “breaks.” And in case you missed it, don’t worry a site will compile the bests Tweets and Instagrams that you may have slipped in between real moments in your life.
#22 // Sonny Rollins “Tenor Titans”
It’s just a helmet but I’ve spent so much time researching them online. Various searches of “safest bicycle helmet” to “best bike helmet” to “stylish bicycle helmet.” I didn’t want to get one. I bought a bike the summer as a part of my PBUA (post break up activities) and rode the hell out of it. Basically try to avoid taking the train all the time since the purchase. A few female friends in my life suggested that I get a helmet. A couple guys too. And I didn’t want to get one. It felt bulky. It felt un-New York. It felt dorky. But then last month I fell. It wasn’t a crash and there was no blood gushing tho I still have scabs on my knee from the scrape. The fall was pretty scary, especially if it was a preview of something much worse. That’s when I said, OK I need a helmet.
Makes total sense. Especially riding around New York City. There’s so much happening on the road at all times. Plus the roads suck. No one pays attention the bike lanes. I’ve almost ran into pedestrians, bikers, and cars. Just this week a lady slowly turned on a red light into the bike lane and I almost ran into her. She got mad at me and said I was going too fast. I reminded her that it was her who ran the red light. I biked past her. She kept mouthing off. I abruptly stopped. That scared her. I said, “You know what? Let’s go for a ride.” She said, “This is unnecessary.” I said, “No, you said I was going too fast? Fine, I’ll slow down and bike at your speed since you think that’s the speed I should be going.” So I pedaled right next to her for two blocks as she tried her best to pretend I wasn’t there. A guy behind us was laughing the whole way. Bike riders have some serious road rage. They may have the worst road rage. Then we got to a red light and I left her. “Look who’s running a red light,” she yelled. “Yeah but I didn’t almost hit anybody though,” I replied. I looked back. She was wearing a helmet. Of course.
#21 // Bill Evans w/ Eddie Gomez “Montreux II”
It’s been awhile. Life comes at you fast they say. Not sure if it was life. More like work. But so much of our work is a part of our life now. Was thinking the the other week about how it’s become OK for us to put life on hold because of work but not the other way around. Let’s say you made plans to do something with someone and some work related stuff comes up, you can totally get out of doing that something that you planned because of the work stuff that came up. And people will totally understand. Maybe thats a New York or big city thing. “Hey man, sorry. Work stuff.” Does that work elsewhere? Do other places place a higher premium on your word and promises that you made? What if there was a big work thing coming up and life got in the way. And I’m not talking some big major catastrophic life changing life thing but like hey I have to help my friend move or I forgot it was their birthday kind of thing. Would that slide? Would work understand? Work. A noun. A verb. A damn entity. How you been? Just working. What you been up to? Work. And we just leave it at that. As if we know what that means. Does it mean it’s been great? Well, you should see it as a blessing to be working, others would kill to be in your spot. Really? How do they know what spot I’m in and what I have to do in my spot and what it’s like to be in my spot? They see the surface. They hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. The final product looks great. I want that.
Sometimes I wish my parents understood more about my work. Sometimes when I explain my work to people who are not a part of this world and I listen to myself describe my work I realize I sound crazy and I just want to stop talking. Maybe I’ll just tell people I play music on the subway. Everyone would get that right? Now I sound like I’m complaining about my work right? And that’s like something we’re not allowed to do anymore. Or are we? There’s the let’s make our work sound like the most important job in the world to the world so that people remind us of how great we are, let’s document it, and share it so that everyone can see that we’re killing it out there. Because that’s what counts. Make the likes count. And the comments too. Engage with me.
#20 // Max Roach “Members, Don’t Git Weary”
The days between my writings are getting longer and longer. Things have been quite busy these days. I also got used to writing in the morning and haven’t even attempted to write during the day or at night. I need to break out of that. I used to be big into routines. Even writing these posts became a bit of the routine with the jazz records, oatmeal, and black coffee. I ran out of coffee beans so there’s no coffee today or oatmeal either. Feels slightly strange truthfully. It really does feel like something is missing from the experience.
The whole getting used to something or expecting something to be a certain way can mess us up. Conditioning I suppose. Well, I did it that way for so long so when I had to do it another way I didn’t really know what to do. A lot of times we take pride in that fact. This is the way to do it because that’s the way it’s always been done. This is the way to do it because that’s the way I’ve been doing it all this time. Ain’t no other way. Then something happens, like technology and we’re forced to adapt. To get used to doing it another way until the next time we have to adapt. We have to continue to adapt. Or we’ll get left behind. Not like we’ll get extinct but it’s as if everyone will move on from us while we cling onto the past. I see this with men a lot. We take a lot of pride in our principles and our beliefs that we think are true and right. And we refuse to bend. We refuse to even try to look at things another way, from another perspective. We’re more willing to shut things down than we are to let things in. Maybe we fear losing a piece of ourselves. This self that we’ve spent all our lives building and strengthening to exist and survive in this world. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
#19 // Hugh Masekela “I Am Not Afraid”
I need to stop worry about the people who are into things. Not the things that people are into but the people who are into them. Especially if they are things that I am into. I don’t want to be lumped into the same category as them. I don’t want to be mistaken for one of them. I wonder how many wonderful experiences I may have missed out on because I was so worried about something as silly as that.
I like buying records. But I’m not a record collector. I don’t go to record fairs. I don’t know the value of obscure, rare records. I don’t own 45s asides from a few I inherited. I go to record stores and I see the guys who are super into records and are a bit, ya know, socially awkward. I’m in the same store as them and I think oh man, am I going to be one of those guys? Or worse, am I one of those guys? I worry about it to the point that their presence alone annoys me. Why’d you have to come and ruin my thing man? I like coffee. I try to support smaller, local businesses. But I’m not a coffee nut who can talk about the country of origins of the beans and the slightly flowery, nutty flavor aftertaste. I just like good coffee. But I’m not a pour over guy. It’s all too precious and cute for me. I like independent movies but can’t stand the snarky, ironic, hipster, smarter than everyone, I listen to trill rap white folks and tall, thin white dudes with their Asian girlfriends with sharp bangs audience that often fills up the theaters. Man, I sound like the angriest Asian man in America right now. No wonder I love Louis CK and slightly like Larry David. Sorry, Larry gets annoying to me. How come only white comedians can be angry about everyday life?
#18 // Bud Powell “At the Blue Note Cafe, Paris 1961”
More and more I don’t think the truth matters. Or that there is no real truth. Shit, what’s real? We want to believe that the truth is everything. Shit, what’s everything? The truth will set you free. Not sure who said that first but we love saying it when confronted with a tough decision. To tell the truth or not? And if it’s not the 100% truth is it a lie? Seek truth they say. They say an artist should tell the truth. Shit, who’s they?
Most of the time we confuse truth with opinion. We read something. We watched something. Somebody posted an article on Facebook. And there’s the truth. Here are all the reasons why Obama is the worst president ever. Here are ll the reasons why Obama is the best president ever. Writing these posts I realized I don’t remember a lot of details from my past. Maybe my memory remembers things the way I want to remember them to be. For whatever reason. Memories that make me look good, make me look like the victim, make me look like the hero. And so if others who were there say, hey, you forgot this or hey, actually it was more like that, does it mean that I’m lying? Am I not telling the truth? Or am I just telling my truth? And is my truth a combination of truth and opinion?
#17 // Dizzy Gillespie “Live at the Vanguard”
I used to write these posts just for fun. It was a suggested my teacher in my meditative writing class. Just start your day. Take 30 minutes. Write whatever you want. Just let it flow. Let it flow. So I did. And it was fun. Things just came out. Went all over the place. I started writing with no real agenda. I posted on here, shared the link on Twitter and Facebook. Got some comments and feedback. It was fun. Then I missed a day or two and people noticed. Someone pointed out that they didn’t like the way I wrote about women in a specific post. Then something strange happened. This writing exercise that was supposed to tap into my subconscious became very conscious. I became aware of my audience. There were voices in my head. I started worrying about what I was writing. The fact that someone noticed that I didn’t write one day made me feel like I let them down.
I’m big on telling others not to care about what others think and just doing what they feel driven to do. Just follow your heart. You know deep inside what you want to do. That thing that you’re scared to do? That’s the thing that you really want to do. That’s what Jake told us in class. You’re scared for a reason. But once I recognized that there was an audience for my posts, I became self-conscious. And let’s be real, it’s a very small audience. It’s not like there are 100s of people who are reading these. But I know them. And they know me. Some know me real well. Some don’t know much at all. I’ve written about things that those closest to me don’t know about. Especially things about my childhood. And I should continue to share, write, and express myself fearlessly. There’s still a post about the whole year I was bullied in high school that I can’t get myself to write about. An incident that my sister reminded me of when I wrote about the time I bullied a kid. I’d tucked that memory away. Of course once she triggered it, I remembered.
#16 // Dexter Gordon “Sophisticated Giant”
I love reminiscing about things I never experienced. Get nostalgic about times before my time. I get sad when old school New York establishments that I never patronized close. It’s very convenient for me to romanticize about the idea of things. Because I wasn’t there I can just pick and pluck elements from certain eras and other people’s memories that appeal to me. Living in New York, especially downtown New York, especially in like the last few years means having to witness massive buildings creating massive changes to the culture and attitude of the area. When iconic cultural institutions like CBG’S, Mars Bar, and Max Fish (which is now back) closed, I was sad. I was sad at the idea of them disappearing from the cultural fabric of New York. I wanted to believe that shiny Whole Foods could co-exist with a bar that was proud of having the nastiest bathroom in the city.
But all those places, as well as music stores like Kim’s and countless family restaurants that got bumped out due to increased rent? I never went to them. I just liked passing them on my commutes. I liked pointing them out to my friends who were visiting here. I was like one of those guides on the double decker buses. I pointed but never got off my ride, never went inside, and most importantly, I never gave them my money. And neither did most of us. We love the idea of an old school, family run, small business that’s been in the neighborhood longer that we’ve been alive. But we also like shiny new things. Oh did you hear about that new spot down the block that looks like it’s from the 1800’s? It’s awesome. We should totally go. So we can tell people that we’ve been to that spot. It’s cool. It’s aiight. I don’t need to go there again. Man, where should we go tonight? Can’t decide.
#15 // Milt Jackson & John Coltrane “Bags & Trane”
I don’t know why I did it. We were all waiting for the school bus in the morning. All the kids who lived in the apartment complexes came to the same spot to be picked up. I don’t remember the name of the building but half of it was the apartment complex’s administrative offices and the other half was a laundromat. I used to hang out at the laundromat with my friends. We’d try to figure out how to jimmy ice cream sandwiches out of the vending machine.
He was a new kid to the neighborhood. Nicholas I think was his name. Or maybe it was with a K. He may have been Russian. Thing is, I don’t remember much about him. Except that he was a new kid, had red wavy hair, and he had a younger brother. And for whatever reason we, the kids, decided we didn’t like him. Kids turn cruel quickly. Maybe it was the way he dressed. Maybe it was because we thought he was Russian. Hey, it was during the Reagan-era. Go watch Rocky IV so you can understand. We’d made fun of him. We didn’t make it easy on him. I really don’t know why we turned on him.
#14 // Pharoah Sanders “Village of the Pharoahs”
We were already late. Underestimated the traffic coming back from Jersey. You should never underestimate the traffic coming back from Jersey. Not super late. Only 30 minutes. But we were going to my friend’s place and his boyfriend who was visiting from LA was going to let us in. That added to the pressure of being on time. The parking lot right below their building was full. We turned the corner and found another lot. When we pulled up to the attendant area, there was a line. The people look annoyed. We were underground, I had no cell signal. I couldn’t reach the other half of my crew who was on their way and I couldn’t reach my friend’s boyfriend to let him that we’d be delayed even more.
There was about seven of us. All waiting patiently. You could tell it was a tense situation. Couldn’t tell if they were waiting to retrieve their cars or drop off their cars. There was an attendant with a customer. The customer told all of us that they’d crash his car. Comforting. We turned around and saw his tail light cracked and his back bumper caved in. Another attendant was running around looking for someone’s car. It was a mess. I just needed to drop off my ticket and then go on my way. A few of the guys looked like construction guys, union guys, they had that accent, and look. They dressed like how NY rappers dressed in the ‘90s with their baggy jeans, construction vests, and Timbs. I think a few of them knew each other. The guy with the crashed car seemed to know a few. He seemed awfully calm for a guy who had his car crashed by parking lot attendants. He said it so casually too, “They crashed my car.”
#13 // Miles Davis “Someday My Prince Will Come”
After you reach a certain point in your life, a certain age, no one tells you how you’re supposed to grow. They don’t tell you how you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to think, what you’re supposed to do. Well, maybe they do. Maybe the whole world does from the very beginning. There are experts at every stage of your life to explain how you’re feeling and why you’re thinking and what you’re thinking. You reach milestones in your life, in your age, and you think well I’m supposed to be this now, I’m not supposed to be like that now. Where that comes from? No idea. Sometimes I think our whole sense of identity comes from pop culture and media. But there’s gotta be people who have no clue what’s going on in pop culture and media right? Where did they get it from? Are they the ones walking around the city looking completely odd ball all the time making people uncomfortable with their socially unacceptable socializing ways?
What’s normal? And do we want to be it? When I was in junior high school I befriended Chuck who lived in our apartment building. He was a DJ attending Cornell at the time. When I got to high school I was hanging out with Chuck’s younger crew who continued to DJ. I had my older set crew who put me onto game and music I’d never heard before. Looking back I’m sure I tried to act older than I was. I probably acted like I knew more than I knew. I didn’t want them to think of me as a corny little kid. I hung around, soaked in their knowledge. Besides, I didn’t want to hang around people my age. I was more advanced than them. At least that’s what I thought. Naw, the kids at my high school don’t get me. I was a loner who knew everybody but never rolled with anybody at my school. It’s not as if I didn’t participate in high school activities. I was on the tennis team. I was in concert band (alto sax). I read the school announcements. I wrote for the school paper and school magazine. I started the first Asian American club. I did have little cliques here and there but for the most part I liked to roam. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me. I could swim through the self segregated lunch room and feel OK. I was cool with at least one person in every clique. Writing it makes me seem like an undercover. 21 Jump Street.
#12 // Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers “Moanin’”
I was taking a shower when I heard the news. I was listening to Hot 97 and it was the Star and Buc show, the controversial duo who would later get the boot for offending I don’t remember who or what group. So I knew that when Star sounded real serious and solemn that something real serious and solemn just went down. He said that there was a report that a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers. It didn’t really register to me that what that really meant. I kept listening, finished my shower, continued to get ready for work. I was living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn at the time. I had a master bedroom with my own full bathroom and a walk-in closet the size of small bedrooms in Manhattan. It was a three bedroom on the third floor of a classic Brooklyn brownstone. Aaron and Felix were my roommates. We lived right across from Fort Greene Park.
I came outside to the living room. “Hey, did you guys hear about some plane crash?” Aaron and Felix were watching the news. We watched in silence. Actually I don’t know if we watched in silence. The details about that day are blurry. That’s why I want to write it down. And I know it’s the day before the anniversary. And tomorrow you will be flooded by memorials and pieces about that day. I know I’ll likely remember it the way that I want to remember it. I’m sure I’ll take editorial liberties and create unnecessary drama so that it reads well or that it tells well. Aaron and Felix, I expect you to comment on this and add your memories too. What I remember is that we watched some of it happening on the news. I think we saw the second plane crash into WTC. Maybe we didn’t. How can you remember things like that clearly when you’ve seen images of things over and over throughout the years?
#11 // The Cannonball Adderley Quintet “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the Club”
Where does our courage go? Where does it come from? Why are some kids willing to jump off things while others won’t even climb the thing to jump off from? It’s a word we use casually when we tell others how to go about things. Be brave. Be courageous. But what does it mean? It sounds good. Yes, absolutely, be those things. Live life with no fear. Or take on your fears head on. That’s a good one too. Is it courageous to tell someone else to live courageously? What are we doing that’s so courageous? How do you measure it? Do you look back at moments in your life and think wow I can’t believe I did that, I could never do that now, that was so courageous. And at those moments did we do them because we didn’t think about them or because we chose to be. Is it innate or a conscious decision? Be courageous.
And what makes something courageous? Doing something that everyone tells you to do even though you have doubts about it? Or is it doing something that everyone tells you not to do but doing it because you believe that it’s the right thing to do? Oh you pursued your dreams? Is that courageous? Oh you worked a job you hated for 11 years because you had people to take care of? Is that courageous? Who decides? In my screenwriting class our teacher Jake told us whatever decision makes us scared is the one we should decide because that’s the one we really want. Yesterday I watched my friend Adepero’s first written and directed short film and after she told everyone in the room, “If you have a vision and a story you want to tell, you have to tell it, reach out to your support and make it happen.” Or something to that effect. Such a simple thing to say. Such a difficult thing to do.
#10 // Mal Waldron with Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin “The Quest”
Lately I’ve been wondering what it means to be a resident. A resident, a citizen. What does it mean to live in a country, to live in a city, to live in a borough, to live in a neighborhood. What does it mean to move to one, what does it mean to have lived in one. Seems like in cities all over the country, at least the large ones, there’s something in the news about old residents getting pushed out by the new residents. Gentrification. Both sides claiming to be right.
The first summer I lived in New York was in 1996. I lived with my boy Alex’s family in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. Think it was 144th St between Willis and Brook. At the time I had no idea it had one of the worst crime rates in all of NYC. A Puerto Rican girl at Jimmy Jazz asked me if I was Chinese because she wanted to get her name in Chinese tattooed. I told her I was Korean. She asked me to write it in Korean anyway. I hope she never got that tattoo. Korean shop owners asked me in Korean what I was doing up there. Black shoppers always thought I worked at the clothing shops on 3rd Ave, “Yo my man, let me get a size 10.5 in these.” The next summer I lived in the basement of a home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was a two-fare zone during the token era. No free transfers from the bus to the train. The dollar cabs sometimes refused to take me as far as I needed to go. Yup the Asian man couldn’t catch a cab in a black neighborhood.
#9 // Rahsaan Roland Kirk “Prepare Thyself To Deal With a Miracle”
I never really used to smile in photos. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Asian. You should see my parent’s wedding photos, there’s not even a hint of a smile. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing. I look back at my photos from when I was a kid and I don’t see a lot of smiles. I don’t think it means that I wasn’t a fun kid. I was all kinds of rambunctious, I broke three bones in like three years because I was always jumping off stuff. I have a lot of great memories of having fun. Of course there are photos of me smiling when I was younger younger but then I get to a certain age and the smile isn’t there as much. The smile would sneak in on the more candid moments where you can tell it’s a genuine happy moment. But the photos where I had to pose and smile, I have this hard look on my face. Maybe I was insecure about my super underbite. And then later the braces I wore to fix my underbite. And then I just got used to hiding my teeth.
I used to try to practice my smile in front of a mirror. Everyone did right? But we didn’t have cell phone cams back then so you kids are lucky. We didn’t know anything about angles and lighting. So I’d just go to the bathroom and practice a smile that wouldn’t come off too creepy. I didn’t want to smile too hard and have my eyes disappear and end up looking like a racist cartoon. I was so conscious about my smile. And the way that I would look. Later on it developed into this smirk that made me look like an arrogant prick who looked like he knew something that nobody else in the picture knew. Then there was the super creep look with my eyes and slight chin up that just made my already cheeky face look chubbier. Then I went through a slight slight duck lip hard rock look that guys do. Yo I didn’t know how to smile in photos. Guys are funny too. You’ll see a bunch of us laughing and someone says, that’s great, let’s take a picture, and then we all stop smiling.
Why so serious?