Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

Circa 1972

Always a mixed blessing, ol' St. Pat.  Drink, eat, parade, drink more, eat more, drink even more.

Chances are you're not new around these parts, so you know what St. Patrick's Day means to me.  It was the day, 24 years ago, that my father died.  After a long week of working, he came home hoping to chill out in his recliner (not the one in the picture above), watch The Quiet Man and call it a night.

By the end of that night, a lot of lives changed irreparably.

I was out on a date.  I'd thought about staying around the house that night, since I really hadn't seen my dad to talk to.  Our last face to face was while he was eating breakfast two days earlier.  I walked into the kitchen, around 5:00 that morning, let the cat out, and went back to bed.

We didn't say a word to each other.  Not. A. Sound.

Ever since, I've tried to make the day be a celebration.  There have been some very good ones.  I was driving on the M40 in England on March 17, 1998, for instance.  I remember that being a very cool day.

Other years featured parties, or a good meal.  I always do what I can to keep it light.  Just another day.

But let's go back to the recliner for a moment.  The thing that helped earn him "Archie Bunker" status, if you will.  He died on a Friday and, as you can imagine, the next few days were a blur.  Go to the funeral home on Saturday.  Take care of other arrangements that day.  First wake Sunday night.  Two wakes on Monday.  The funeral on Tuesday.

After the funeral, everyone gathered back at the house.  Of course, that's where some of the reality begins to settle in.  It's a time to laugh and maybe relax a touch, hug a little more, and begin to move on a bit.  People gathered in the living room.  The kitchen.  My bedroom.  A few outside.

Nobody would go near the recliner.  Damn.  It was like a shrine.  So identified with him.

His car had been moved from the driveway (I remember doing that either the night he died or the next morning - absolutely numb).

But the recliner?  Oh no.  Nobody would sit in it.  Few, it seemed, could even look at it.  It was how you saw my dad.  Considering the arthritis that wracked his body, he longed for the comfort of that chair.  If you called the house, he talked to you from it.  You came to the front door (in summer), he would look over his shoulder at you from the chair.  He watched his movies, listened to his music, and entertained his world from there.

Finally, my mom asked my uncle - my dad's brother - to sit there.  It was OK.  It was time.

A recliner still resides in that space.  My mom uses it now.

My father loved music.  Loved it.  There was one record in particular that I recall him loving.  The Drum Battle: Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich at JATP.  And when I say "loved it," I mean to window-shattering levels.  I can recall being outside as a kid, with only my dad in the house, and being able to hear that album as the house shook.  He played it on the big "Hi-Fi" stereo that hung from wall (and still does) just inside the front door.  This is them matching up on "Flying Home" from that record in 1952.

I have the record now, and it took me a long time before I found it on CD.  Needless to say, I cherish it.

Krupa and Rich teamed up on the Sammy Davis Jr Show in 1966.

My father was a Gene Krupa guy.  Loved him since he was with Benny Goodman (and was part of the concert at Carnegie Hall on January 16, 1938, another cherished record that I also have on CD).  But Buddy Rich versus Gene Krupa?  To this, there was no debate.  None.

So to finish (if I haven't worn you out with this little jazz trip down memory lane), here's Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (with Krupa destroying it on drums), playing "Sing Sing Sing" from The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.  Besides Goodman and  Krupa, the legendary names playing that night included Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Harry James, Count Basie, and Lester Young.

The significance of that recording and the concert itself can't be ignored.  The album was the first "long playing"  - and thus, the reason we say "LP" for albums.  It was the first double album.  It was the first jazz performance at Carnegie Hall.  The recording was lost for about a decade before Goodman's sister-in-law discovered the acetates in 1950.

Yes, it is the 1950 recording that I have.

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