Saturday, March 26, 2005

New York break

March 26th, Central Park:
one day snow, the next -- these: Posted by Hello

New York break: next time, do your research, kid

I mentioned in my previous post the invitation I got to join a couple of journalists* on their hike this afternoon around the jazz hot spots of Harlem.

I have actually not a thing to say about the walk.

Oh, fine, I will bravely post on, though I’ll limit myself to just four points:

1. It is remarkable (albeit depressing) how little I know about jazz (after the conversation moves beyond Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzie Galespie, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey and Benny Goodman, I’m out of it);

2. It is remarkable (and again, depressing) how little is left of the jazz scene in Harlem (the Cotton Club? The Paradise? The Savoy Ballroom? Rhythm Club? Mother Shepherd’s? – all gone, without even a single plaque to commemorate them; no wonder I could not find them on my own);

3. It is remarkable how much territory I had already covered here during my solo trek last week (in a state of jazz ignorance and in hellish weather conditions, true, but with time to take out the camera and shoot; today I was totally traumatized by having jazz journalists with me and so I kept my camera, for the most part, in its case, as I mumbled things like “that’s okay…” each time someone asked me if I’d like to take a minute for some camera work);

4. It is remarkable how beautiful the music is of the people whose work I don’t know at all (I was given a handful of CDs, I’m sure out of benevolent compassion for my state of almost complete lack of knowledge about almost everything).

Just two photos then: one of a row of beautiful houses that I had somehow missed last week, and the other of the Lenox Lounge – one of the few spots that is still up and running.

* One of the journalists, Paul Blair, does (as a hobby) walking tours with a jazz focus in and around the city. If you’re ever in NY and want to join his groups, look up his operation at The guy knows a hell of a lot about jazz.
A surprisingly well preserved row of central Harlem brownstones, with balustrades still in tact. Posted by Hello
Lenox Lounge, with one of the journalists peering in. Posted by Hello

New York break: hanging with the big-time boys

When I was twelve I had an autograph book. Every girl in my class (I was in New York then) had an autograph book. We wrote little messages about how we’d be each others’ friend forever. Boys wrote little messages about how great they were.

On the title page of the book you had to write certain things about yourself, including what job you’d eventually like to hold. I put down “journalist.”

I don’t know why I wrote that. I had the label in class of being “good in math.” I didn’t especially like my English teacher. She had milk-breath. I read no Nancy Drew type books about women reporters. In fact, I’m not sure women were very visible in the 1960s world of newspapers, were they? Yet, in my mind, it was clear as anything: I wanted to be a reporter.

Moving back to Poland the next year put a lid on that career choice. Journalists, lawyers and cops – all ratty jobs for the unimaginative, the corrupt, the apologists.

And now, here I am, almost thirty years later -- a blogging member of the legal profession. Ocean is like this fantasy bubble where I can pretend that I have something that resembles a column, with a handful of readers who actually glance at the first sentence of each paragraph (just like in reading news stories).

Today, my circle is complete, because I actually get to hang with my heroes – a handful of reporters and photographers. I have Ocean and the Net to thank for this. I am set to spend the afternoon roaming the upper blocks of Manhattan with people who are professionally documenting life and the music scene of Harlem. I couldn’t be happier.

[What do I wear?? A black turtle neck and washed out jeans? Will they make fun of my dinky little camera? Of my yellow and navy note pad?]

Tune in later.