Part VI

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Part VI

Supper is at the Dice ("I have to repay him for looking after my bike.") and the conversation is more topical than exploratory prodding, which I think is something of a relief for both of us. It's always interesting talking to people who have read, but not been told what to think about what they read. He does not disappoint. We talk Walden and Ginsberg and swap Lenny Bruce jokes. He hasn't gotten his hands on Li Po or the Taoists yet. I have only a scanty knowledge of modern philosophy. A brief foray into Kenneth Rexroth brings that lop-sided grin back as I feel my cheeks turn red while discussing the influence of "When We With Sappho". By the time I'm stealing the last of his chips we're hip deep in a discussion of Jazz, an interest most of his young protégés do not share.

"They're into Rock n' Roll, which is o.k. in its way." He draws on his cigarette, "Too structured. Too simple. More so now that the record companies have started white washing it."

"Yeah, now, but it doesn't have to stay that way. I can't think of a single music form that has remained static."

"Maybe, but at the moment there's no room for a Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk to come out and really play with the form. To really make it speak. Jazz was always fluid, of the moment. You go back to what it was during the war and then look at it now. It almost a completely different animal. Jazz can take anything, any song, and turn it into something else entirely."

"You're talking Coltrane."

"Exactly! The most banal sugary song, a kid's song, becomes something meaningful, something haunting."

"Most people are pretty unhappy with him right now."

Unsurprisingly, he brushes popular opinion aside. "They don't see what he is doing with the structure. How he is freeing the melody and the rhythm. How he is opening the door for others. In fact…" he glances over his shoulder to check the clock above the counter. "…you can see for yourself. Come on."

We take both bikes this time and I follow him to a small basement club in town. It's Saturday night and the joint is in full swing, but not unpleasantly crowded. Lots of younger people, but enough folk our age to make the atmosphere relaxed and "cool." My friend gets more than a few nods of greeting as he plows through the crowd at the bar to get us drinks.

He returns several minutes and a couple quick conversations with the bartender and another patron later. After handing me my gin and tonic, he steers me to where a band is setting up on a riser the size of a postage stamp. Steers. His hand on my back the entire time, he introduces me to the band including a gangling lad barely old enough to be in here whom he proudly declares to be "The best axe-man in the north."

"Jimmy." the kid says quietly, blushing from my companion's effusive introduction.

I tell him my name and shake his hand in return.

"Oh, you give *him* your name." my companion mock-pouts. "I've been with her since lunchtime and she hasn't told me yet."

"You haven't asked."

"He didn't either!" he protests over the band's knowing laughter.

"He gave me his."

"Oh, so that the way it works is it? Ricky." He sticks out a hand which I shake and repeat my name again.

After encouraging, no commanding, the band to "slay" tonight, Ricky steers me towards some comfortable couches at the back of the club. We chat for a few minutes about how long he has been coming here and the jazz scene in Durham before the band starts up.

He's right, the kid is blows a mean sax.

Ricky's arm is draped across the back of the couch as we enjoy the music in silence, giving me time to mull over things. Talking with Ricky is as easy a breathing, yet downright exhilarating, and I readily admit to myself that I enjoy his physical presence. Less readily I admit that I even enjoy the possessive gestures he made ever since we walked into the club. But given the rest of his character, I know what they mean. He has only broken into his rhetoric, a diatribe of rough polished rage at the educational establishment, once since we sat down to dinner, but it was enough to remind me what I am dealing with. The ever-simmering anger, the ego, and the dominance. And as much as Leo power-play can be a fun for an evening, or in certain arenas, with a personality like his I would have to engage in them constantly to maintain my own identity and autonomy in his eyes. The idea itself is exhausting. That is if there is a relationship. Monogamy is not something high on a Beat's priory list, if it appears on their list at all, and as progressive and independent as I am, I'm just not wired that way.

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