Jazz And Molasses
Jazz season has officially arrived.
Several people seem to be under the impression that Jazz is a summer thing, and I suppose it could be. For me, though, Jazz is always about fall. It's about cool days, cold evenings, the smell of nutmeg and candlelight. Jazz is a spicy lullaby for grown-ups--a music that mellows and warms like mulled wine.
My first Jazz Season was shortly after we moved to Nashville. I didn't care much for Jazz until college, and even then it was a sort of thing that I tolerated if it was on in the background but never a music I sought out. It took the genteel poverty of early marriage combined with the wierd detachment of moving to a strange city to make me relate to Jazz in that personal way that all Jazz lovers have. I think you have to allow the music to become a part of you in order to truly appreciate it.
That fall that I found jazz was one where we had just enough money to make rent, the car payment and eat with the occasional small treat thrown in. I was studying to be a travel agent, which as it turns out is a job not unlike waiting tables in a gourmet restaurant. You get to watch others enjoy life's greatest pleasures while you yourself drink in the misery of hard servitude.
Once a month, usually around pay day (that day when you feel wealthy for twelve hours) we would have a date. Usually our dates involved going to a new part of Nashville and soaking in the atmosphere--which is usually free. One of those dates involved a trip to Tower Records on West End, where they had Duke Ellington's 16 Most Requested Songs on sale for $8. I wanted some new music and had always liked Swing. That entire fall I sat in our small Briley Parkway apartment listening to Ellington and reading Arabian Nights by candlelight while my husband worked nights at a mental hospital for children.
One Monday night when we both had a free evening we decided to adventure out to Bellevue Mall. In the fall of 1991 that mall was populated with elegant stores that had absolutely nothing in our price range. Even the trinkets for sale at the registers cost more than I earned in a day. It was a bittersweet kind of fun, walking through the marble and glass and fantasising about a time when the hard work would pay off and we could do more than window shop. After admiring dozens of stores full of pretty things, my husband surprised me with the nicest treat. We stopped at a cookie store on the second floor where he bought me two molasses cookies. They cost $1.50 that we didn't necessarily have, but it created the nicest, most comfortable feeling. Like edible jazz, they were warm and spicy and sweet. Those cookies were a way of asserting some small statement of ourselves. We may not have been wealthy, but we could enjoy a bright shopping mall and a cozy autumn snack.
It's fifteen years later. Most things have changed. We have money now and Nashville has become home. The Tower Records responsible for igniting my love of jazz has died. The ritzy Bellevue Mall has fallen on hard times. Those stores I couldn't afford have decamped to greener pastures leaving behind a number of shops that, ironically, carry things I could have afforded all those years ago. Most of life has turned inside out, and I'm nowhere near where I thought I'd be at this point in my life. I didn't have kids, move back to Indiana or go to law school.
Funny, though, tonight as I sat in Starbucks with my molasses cookie I listened to the jazz and realised something. I'm not who I thought I would be, but I'm who I was supposed to be all along. And like the jazz and molasses, it's been a spicy, dark, smooth and sweet ride to get here.