...It was a mad dash out of the office. I spent the last few hours there closing up loose ends and setting up the staff for a busy evening without me. While juggling new calls, ongoing issues, text messages from Jessie (who was already on her way), and a parked car that was minutes away from a parking ticket, I raced towards the door as fast as I could. We were in the middle of a filing period which meant a huge up tick in calls and lengthy, but time-sensitive issues. Under all other circumstances, I would have been with them to the end. But tonight was inevitable - I had to be out of the office right then or I would have missed the show: Brad Mehldau
was playing in Richmond.Opening Intro
Brad Mehldau (Mel-dow) is a leading jazz pianist out of New York. He's been making the usual rounds in recordings and performances over the last 10 years but he seems to be picking up steam outside of the normal Jazz world. I was introduced to him by an old buddy of mine who was going through a jazz mid-life crisis of sorts. He trumped him up as THE jazz pianist of our day and had me listen to several pieces off his latest album. Originally, I didn't hear much at all; Just a collection of straight-ahead jazz tunes with a pretty good pianist as the lead. But after browsing the CD, I came across a cover he did for Radiohead's Exit Music (for a Film)
. The tune was amazing. Mehldau managed to take a song that already was soaked in meaning and angst, completely re-worked it, and produced a totally different song that was arguably better than the original. After overplaying it to death, I went on a online scavenger hunt
and found several more of his covers that included songs from Radiohead, the Beatles and others. I was immediately hooked. I haven't missed an album release yet and I've been patiently waiting the chance I could see the guy perform live. Fortunately for me, the chance was near.
I got home, straightened out the place, took a quick shower and caught a five minute nap while waiting for the evening's guest. Jessie was battling the mid-afternoon traffic while heading over from Baltimore to catch the show with me. I've preached the Mehldau gospel to many of my friends, but Jessie was the only one curious enough to join me and see him live. Ironically, Jessie (up to this point) hasn't even seen me in person. Yes, Jessie and I met through one of those online networking services. We shared a common friend and I decided to send her a quick message. Interestingly enough, we had a great rapport and have been messaging back and forth for a while. Since we both seemed to have similar musical tastes, it was only logical for us to meet at a show.
With the spotty help of Google Maps, Jessie finally found her way the house. I signaled her in to the closest parking spot and she jumped out of the car...The Head: Section A
Jessie was a twenty-something year old neuroscientist from New England who loves fast cars and has a knack for all things fabulous. One-part Mario Andretti, One-part Philippe Stark, and One-part Niels Bohr; Jessie was unlike anyone I've ever met before. She graced out of the car to say hello and I immediately outstretched my arms for a hug (it usually throws people off who are expecting a handshake, but it definitely takes the edge off of meeting new people). She had an amazing smile and a strong sense of style in her clothes, not to mention the fact that she's pretty cute (for all you with your heads in the gutter... you know who you are). It became obvious that I had my work cut out for me. I'll be the first to admit when this DCist is behind the power curve.The Head: Section A - Repeat
After a quick tour of the house, we got on the road for the show. Already late, we jumped in the Jetta and made our way for Richmond, VA. Now, I swore that the maps showed it was an hour away, but of course, this was the first of my many errors on this trip. Naturally, we got stuck in traffic and the rain hit us pretty hard. Nonetheless, Jessie and I kept up a great conversation along with way. Fearfully avoiding a lull in the dialogue, we weaved together a surprisingly stimulating conversation on life, politics, love, the future, and all that jazz (literally). Just like what a melody line is supposed to be... we hit all the standard notes and rhythms. It was actually pretty nice to carry on a good little discussion about everything and nothing without having to worry about the political implications of it. Somehow up here in D.C., you get so nervous about offending someone or stepping on someone's toes, all your conversations start to boil down to:Hey.How's it going.Pretty good.Hear about [insert random Drudge headline here]?Yeah... pretty crazy. I can't believe it.Yeah, neither can I.
You begin to yearn for something authentic. Jessie brought that and more... and it was definitely welcome.The Head: Section B
With more than an hour to the trip, we had another 30 miles to go. We were already dipping into the show time and my gas gauge was on E. What luck, huh? We hit the gas station and I reviewed the directions I had in my coat pocket. The last thing I needed was to make a wrong turn. Staying ever so cautious, I went ahead and pulled another Brian. Five minutes after getting back on the road, we missed our first exit. At this point, It's raining, my window's fogging up, I have no clue where I'm headed, and Jessie's gripping the door handle in obvious concern that we'll peel out into some ditch.
Without regard for timing, I got off the interstate and u-turned it back the other way. I found the exit I needed and we were off. We hobble together a plan to find the place, but somehow, Richmond's roads weren't the easiest to navigate: Missed turn here, Wrong turn there. I wasn't in the best of form that night. Fortunately, however I tried to screw up the night, we were able to find the place.The Head: Section A – Reprise
While making our way to the performance auditorium at U of Richmond, I noticed she still had a smile on her face.
We navigated through a sea of elderly couples and scruffy hipsters who were out of the and during intermission. I asked sideburn-guy if this was the Mehldau show. He looked at me for a second, "yeah, the Scoffield show is at intermission." The John Scoffield trio was also on the bill.
Perfect timing, we made it in time for Mehldau.
Hiking a set of stairs, we hit the balcony and found our way to the seats. My heart dropped. They were center seats... in the last possible row of the auditorium. Great Job Brian. Clearly, my plans for showing Jessie a great evening was devolving into puddle of primordial sludge. By the way, how the heck was I supposed to hear the show from up there? Luckily, the acoustics of the room was great and we could hear every note that was played. While waiting for the group to come out, we simultaneously switched into people-watching mode. I, observing the stage-hands setup for the next set while Jessie was overheard a gaggle of NORML members compare the last song played to the Fibonacci Sequence. We couldn't watch for long though; the auditorium darkened and a group of musicians walked on stage. Interestingly enough, there was no Brad Mehldau.
To make the long story longer, Brad Mehldau turned out to be the opening act to the John Scoffield Trio. We completely missed the subject of the evening. Scoffield opened up his second set of the evening while I slumped slightly in my chair. The earnest smile remained affixed to Jessie's face.
How could she put up with this?
They played great. I mean, it was a solid show... but not the reason why I was there. I'm pretty sure I racked up at least three strikes, but then again, I lost count somewhere around the hug earlier. Mercifully, Mehldau came out with the Scoffield trio for an encore performance. The single solo was awesome as I expected, but worth a trip out to Richmond, VA? I think not. As soon as the show ended, we paced our way out to the car and got back on the road.Solo 1:
The ride back felt quicker than the other way around. Our conversations never ended. We flowed from comparisons of travel diaries to slight ridicule at the expense of the Fibonacci boys. The smoothest ride of the night was our dialogue which kept me on my toes the whole time. But sure enough, interstate highway quickly turned to city road, which turned to a garage door entrance. 12 midnight never seemed so late in the past and she had another hour drive ahead of her. I couldn't let that happen.
"Did you want to get on the road? Or do you want to take a rest inside before?"
"Well, my car is still in your garage spot."
"No big deal, I'll find a spot on the side of the road."
And so that was that. I parked and we made our way inside. In all honesty, it wasn't like that boys and girls. If I could have extended the conversation for just another 5 minutes, it surely was worth the risk in asking. Besides, this may have been the perfect time to crack open the bottle of champagne I had left over from my Birthday. My mind was telling me yes, but my dehydrated body was saying 'hell no.' Water became the libation of choice for the evening.
Took a tour of the house.
Described each other's roommates.
Traded home design tips.
Made eye contact.
Looked over the old yearbook.
Played a bit of guitar.
Assessed my book collection.
Drank some more water.
Herald the genius of the iPod.
Played the Didgeridoo.
It was 2 AM.
"So what's the plan?" I asked.
"I don't know."
"You can't drive this late."
"Well... I don-"
"Alright, this is what we'll do. Take off your shoes and relax a bit and..."
She undid her boot-like stilettos and whisked away to the couch. She was at home.
"No way," I said. "You can have my bed and I'll take the couch." (I really meant it too)
"Nah. I'm fine"
"No really, I'll feel better that way."
The more I pushed, the more I lost. The couch was hers.
To close the evening, I set my laptop on my coffee table and loaded up a set of episodes from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. She claimed to be a fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so naturally I had to put that to the test. We fell asleep while watching a talking cup, meatball, and a set of fries argue the merits of eating a demon possessed submarine sandwich.(Believe me... I'm starting to see the err of my ways as I'm writing this down. No need for comment there.)
The roommates where heading out to work the next morning as I woke up from the aqua-induced slumber. Clearly I wasn't going to make it into work on time that morning, and I wasn't sure if they would have me for the day at all. I called in for the morning and hit the shower to get off all the crud that naturally accumulates on you through a nice 20-hour day prior. Jessie was still asleep while I finished up in the bathroom; relaxing peacefully on the old couch. I had to do something to make it up. Try a batch of coffee on for size.
As the coffee maker finished bubbling, I completed the setup: two saucers, two mugs, silver teaspoons, creamer, missing a tray, sugar cubes, and mints. I'm a sucker for a proper setting, but that had to do considering the amount of preparations I made the day prior (none for those of you who were keeping count). I made my way upstairs and Jessie was already awake. Small talk ensued, but the promise of morning coffee sure woke her up. Remarkably, she looked just as beautiful as she did the day before. My couch has been brutal to me in the past, but Jessie seemed to perpetuate her physical looks through the adventure, regardless of a night on the couch.
We nursed our cups of coffee while overlooking the neighborhood square. The weather was amazing and somehow we knew that today was going to run at our pace and not someone else's.
Clas•sic (klas'ik) adj. 4b: Simple and harmonious; elegant.
Surely, I thought, that after a late evening and an even later morning, she would quickly dash back to her coffers in Baltimore to save herself the thought of wasting a day in D.C.
"I'm getting pretty hungry," she mentioned. I was wrong, again.
"Let's get something to eat," I replied. I was hungry too.
"Well, I don't want you to miss work or anything."
"Nope, it's fine. I have the day off." And even if I didn't, there was no way I would turn down that offer to run back to the office filled with meetings, conference calls, and e-mail.
We jumped back in the Jetta and I found the most tropical, relaxing, lounge music I could find on the pod. If we were going to do the day, we were going to do it right. She popped on her Bono glasses and I rolled back the sun roof. A random Wednesday in D.C. turned into an all out Saturday at the beach, as far as we were concerned.Solo 3:
After skirting around town for a bite to eat, it came at me like a dart: Union Station. Of all the places that I know here, nothing says The district much like a meal in the middle of this historic transportation hub. Having to pass the Capitol Building, Smithsonian’s, the Washington Mall, and the Washington Monument, the quest for food quickly turned into an impromptu tour. But after parking and making our way through the station's corridor, our focus quickly moved back to finding the right lunch. It was easy enough when we took a seat at the elevated restaurant in the middle of the station atrium. Lengthy conversation over a soup and salad filled the afternoon. The entire time, I sat trying to figure out if this girl was for real: one minute we're there debating the virtue's and vice's of plastic surgery, the next minute we're coming up with appearances of the number phi in the natural world.
Classic (klas'ik) n. 1: An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of
the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.
After I closed out the tab for the lunch, we made our way back to the car while perusing over some of the shops in the station.
"Do you know your way around D.C?" she asked.
"Well, I'm getting there." My brain starts to turn "Did you want to see something?"
"Well... We can take the long way back."
And that's when I realized that 2+2 does in fact equal 5. Finally, someone who knows how to improvise without self-imposed limits. In Jazz, the measure of a good musician stems from their ability to take a simple tune, repeat it over and over again, while each time extending it's boundaries further than its ever been taken before. By simultaneously maintaining the recognizable characteristics of the base tune or melody, the artist creates a multi-layered piece of art that can never be fully replicated. Improvisation is just that: unique, well thought-out, and completely random at the same time.
Jessie clearly understood this. Even if she never played an instrument in her life, she had the soul of a jazz musician. Her life was unique, well thought-out, and completely random all at the same time. While taking a day tour through D.C. the sights of the White House, Georgetown, the Pentagon, and Arlington cemetery were all completely out of the original plans, but natural to her nonetheless. Riding around with (what some cultures would call) a complete stranger, she felt at peace since she knew that it would all come back to the original melody in the end. I had a lot to learn from Jessie.The Head (Final Reprise):
Making our way back to the house. We relaxed for a bit and listened to a bit of music. After remembering the original intent of the trip, I decided to give her a good introduction to Brad Mehldau. I asked her to sit down, relax, and listen to one of my favorite songs of his, a cover of Nick Drake's River Man. I explained to her:
"Think of this song as a soundtrack to traveling down a large river on a raft.
At first, the river is calm and smooth. But gradually, the currents pick
up and the path becomes rough and sporadic, as does the music. Of course in the end,
everything comes back to the calm, original river."
We started it up and I sat back patiently awaiting her final reaction. Her finger tapped to the beat. Her eyes looked off in the distance. Her mouth remained lightly closed. After the song ended, I realized what I had done.
"I have to tell you something, Brian" she said.
"Yeah, you're not going to like it."
"I never really liked Jazz."
I nodded in conservative agreement.
After about a minute listening to the second song that was queued up on the iPod, she mentioned that it was time for her to go. I quickly agreed before she could finish her sentence.Coda:
We packed up her things and I escorted her to her car. We gave each other a hug and dutifully promised to do it again sometime. Somehow or another, it was a bit tough to look her in the eyes. After giving her quick directions to make it back on the interstate, she got back in the car and made her way on the road.
We never really got to trade addresses, so a thank you note is sort of out of the question. However, I hope the message got through.For those of you who missed it... try this out.