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Phillip's Tale

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Phillip Raines

Phillip is from the Atlanta area and we've been trading thoughts on writing and life for more than a year now.   I'm not sure how to sum up who he is.  Maybe he should.  I know he thinks highly of Hunter Thompson, as I do.  And as you can tell from this, he's a fine tenor player.  Some day I hope to catch him in one of the clubs in Atlanta.  I know he does poetry too - some "spoken word" items of his can be had on CD.  He's also one fine mason, as in bricks and mortar, not the folks in robes and funny hats.  I've seen photos of his work.  And now he's trading stocks and bonds.  Life takes odd turns.  Next time I'll have him send a picture or two.  Phillip sends this.


When I was in my early twenties I was taking sax lessons at an art consortium housed in a school built in the twenties.  After the lesson my sax teacher and I left one of the old classrooms and went to the theater to watch the dance troop.  "Bring your horn, maybe they'll dance to it," he said. 

He talked to the dance instructor, a slender babe in her early forties. 

"Class," she announced, "I have a final assignment for the evening.  I want you to dance like water moving over a series of rocks and finally over a waterfall to a calm pool."

"Young man," she said to me, "improvise the proper music for this image."

"Sure," I said, dizzy from the smell of sweaty leotards. 

I rolled clusters of chromatics and played collisions with what I imagined as notable stones into a deliberate theme of cascading melody, finally whispering low tones while the dancers moved all around me in and out of colored spot lights.  The sax teacher stood next to the dance teacher leaning on a piano just off stage grinning knowing he had just gotten me addicted to expressive improvisation and a desire for dancers that has haunted me like a sickness my whole life. 

Afterwards, as I was packing up my horn, the dance instructor invited me to a bar nearby where she was meeting some friends, some theater people.  I looked to my horn teacher and asked if he was coming along.  He said he might and then we lined up another lesson. 

I met them at an old bar in a large corner booth.  I sat next to the dance teacher.  She smoked a cigarette and I pulled it out of her hand and took a pull. 

"You're a wind player and you smoke?"  She asked. 

"Yeah, but I know it's bad," I told her.  She said to leave my number.  She might call me to play at her improv class again. 

A couple of nights later she called me and suggested we get together and to meet her at her place.  I arrived and her husband, who she was in the process of divorcing I later found out, was picking up her two kids.  She introduced me as her date.   Instead of extending my hand I just looked to the ground and up at him in an awkward wordless admission of apology for being dragged into a lousy situation.

He cut his eyes at me, hating me, and then really hating her.  He left with the kids hurriedly. 

I don't remember what we did on the "date," only she paid for it and we ran into some of her friends where I was paraded in a way in front of the far less attractive peers of hers.   We went back to the empty house and she merely said she needed this.  She kissed me and tore into my shirt and took off hers then buried her face in her hands and said -- "This is crazy, you're half my age.. my God, what would my mother think of me?"

With a swagger I braced myself against the door jamb and said, "Who the hell invited your mother into this moment?" 

She laughed, we fucked, and I pretty much never saw her again. 

I did latch on to another dancer in her troop, and also hooked up with a director I met through her and got involved in some local theater. 

But the point is Alan, how the hell does "what God thinks" get dragged into the discussion of the motives of reps dismantling social programs by creating a huge deficit? Of course we know that the political right is attracted to Godliness, but only as an out for lack of humanistic ethics. 

Even in parody pointing out that using holiness as a tool to manipulate the shallow and superstitious is just an aside to the insidious intentions of power, lust and self-centered aggrandizement.  Well it's a cheap shot, though true. 

Of course your friend has the right to not be forced to help any one but himself, but he makes more money than he really needs and so he by law shouldn't be allowed to be a selfish short-sighted son of a bitch, or we'll just kill him, then really, really leave him alone because dead he will have no value to anyone, not even himself, and that will show him.  Better yet, hope for the wish that he suddenly wakes up black and poor and had one thing after another go wrong, beyond his control, framed, jailed, sickened and denied mercy -- really wallow in the hopelessness of relentless frustration.  Then maybe he would wake up Christmas morning and buy that big turkey for Tiny Tim. 

Until then he must be forced to pay for others beyond his will.  Forced to have mercy, forced to give up what is so rightfully his.  A smidgen of frustration to teach him about the larger nature of hopeless relentless frustration.  The rock that feels no pain and the island that never cries.  Introversion is never the path to greater mental health.  Stay his friend, man he needs you.

I toast a whiskey to you, just leave God out of it.  I prefer philosophy to superstition.

28 May 2003