Friday, March 21, 2008

From Vows, by Peter Manseau

One of the mothers would always see you if you went for the door, so the escape tactic that worked for me was to slump lower and lower in the big dining room chair until I was entirely under the table. Hidden by the curtain of the tablecloth, I'd be free to dig into my pockets for pieces of the miniature magic kit that at the time was my favorite toy. The best trick involved an orange plastic box into which a nickel would be placed. I would snap the lid on top, shake the box so I could hear the coin rattle inside, then take the lid off and - abracadabra, hocus pocus - the money was gone.

Hocus Pocus - a bit of fake Latin, I would later learn, a medieval parody of Hoc est corpus meum, the ritual words of transubstantiation, the spell for which my parents' friends now waited. Magic above the table, magic below.

"This is my body," I would hear Dad say. "This is my blood."

Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son, by Peter Manseau, (Free Press, 2005)


Jazz for Joy.

Oh I'm blue. It's a week of bottom feeding and heel dragging. One of those weeks that makes you doubt sincerity, that makes all your endeavors seem frivolous, that makes every hour of waiting for one single email feel like seven. Who would want to leave the house?

But I did, and dragged my sad sweet ass down to the Village Vanguard to see Joshua Redman play a set on Wednesday night at 11 pm. It was balmy and rainy here in the city (what? am I Lear?) and as I clipped around ruddy streets in the Village I was accosted by a man on a bicycle.

Neurotic and gay (he told me so three times) and locked out of his home, he asked for cab fare. His props from an offway play were left in the hallway, he told me, from a production in which he was the costumer. He told me I had lovely skin and that I was the first person to give him an ear. So I gave him the bucks and my email address as he requested for promises that he would return the loan.

Outside the Vanguard, discontent was already brewing at 10 pm. Too many lines and the put-upon line keeper was not about to clarify. I pushed into the dropping tunnel and found myself perfectly seated.

And then, ah, the joy! For a generous hour and a half I laughed and grinned at the beauty, the sincerity of the trio. Joshua Redman was strangely vulnerable as he watched the audience, nervous and showy in the most unabashed way. His movements were free, his music, less so. His eyes never. He watched all and saw the expressions and the shifting and he adjusted their selections accordingly. Brian Blade was never aware of the audience, he grimaced and squinted and loved his drums, loved them like you think love should be.

When the set was over they disappeared. I didn't get the chance to ask Brian Blade if he ever received the bench he bought from me in California and I shipped to New York for him some ten years ago. I don't care. I floated out onto the wet streets and walked around the Village until I found a taxi.

Will you take me to Red Hook? I asked him. Of course he said. And he did. He did! Joshua Redman was there to give me a good show and he did. He did! The moon came up, the rain came down, promises were made and kept and for just a few hours, I remembered what sincerity was.