Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jimi Hendrix and the Jolly Jumper

"January's dwindling. Another storm is kindling."

There must be a lot of rejected weather lore that didn't make the cut: crumpled balls of newsprint lying around Ben Franklin's shoes. Anyway, in four minutes it'll be February, which will make all the difference. It will.

Unfortunately, Matthew has a slight fever tonight, in the wake of his band's torrid performance at the Arlington High Battle of the Bands on Saturday. They led off with a kick-ass version of a Jimi Hendrix song I didn't remember called "Dolly Dagger", including energetic cowbell, which reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago that has a little guitar, a little more Hendrix, and a fair amount of juggling in it. So here it is, unedited, and happy February, which will somehow get us from white to green, like a wintergreen mint that changes color.


This is about my son at twelve and a half. A kind of photograph with caption. The other night, a schoolnight but after homework, getting toward nine thirty. Carol upstairs doing her exercises. Matthew’s excited because he’s just taught himself the riff from “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath on his electric guitar—dom, dom, dom, dom, dumba-dumba-dum-ba dom dom dom. Anyway, he’s got his computer on, and it’s pumping out the music he’s downloaded from his I-Pod. Black Sabbath followed by Santana followed by Jimi Hendrix. He’s particularly fond of “Purple Haze.” And now, in a swoop of energy, he grabs his three juggling balls, the leathery, four-color ones, and begins to juggle in time to the music. This is something he’s been working on lately, inspired by the amazing Chris Bliss, whose tour de force juggling to most of the white-apple side of Abbey Road (“Golden Slumbers”, etc.) is one of Matthew’s shrines on YouTube. I’m reading something, and looking up from time to time, but I can see he’s really into it, doing it better than he’s ever done it before, fast little turns, then tossing the balls high whenever he wants to match a slower soaring part, and far from being bothered by a dropped ball, leaps to scoop it up still in time to the music and immediately incorporating it back into the rhythm—purple haze, all through my brain…’scuse me, while I kiss the sky…—he’s amazing himself, riding the joy and high of his sheer bravura performance, an incredible fusion of rock music, dance, juggling, Hendrix, and his own matchless exuberant drive. After Purple Haze comes “Satisfaction” by the Stones and it’s just as good, just as good, not too fast, but steady, hard-driving, bomp bomp ba-bom bom…a hey-hey-hey…that’s what I say…he’s totally in the groove, tossing, dancing, dropping, diving, scooping, and of course I can’t help flashing on the Jolly Jumper, which is always my then-and-now point of reference. Just an average moment when he was about a year old, strapped into one of those Jolly Jumpers, a springy harness that lets a baby bounce and bounce. I picture him, a kind of elongated baby in a pair of footed peejays, bounding away, grinning away, just a brief little snippet from the life, representing all the million other moments that I don’t remember, that have slipped through the cracks, but this one is the one I pull up (it used to be seeing him on the scale in the maternity room, with blood under his tiny fingernails, roaring at the lights and the cold) and compare to the Matthew at any modern moment, any new now, and especially, spectacularly, this rock juggler in his jumping jack flash element.

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