This fabulous piece comes to us from another one of the amazing people we have met at our Clarion Content offices in Mercury Studio. Thaddeus Hunt is a web development guy by day, but a writer since childhood. Already with numerous great publishing credits by his name, we were delighted he was willing to share this piece with the Clarion Content.
A Side, B Side: A Musical Connection
by: Thaddeus Hunt
The A Side:
When the needle dropped, he closed his eyes. The minute of gentle hisses and pops coming out of the speakers nestled in nicely between the sounds of the cool September wind blowing outside. I looked down at my tumbler of whiskey, swirling it around in my glass, when the horn section of the opening track of Count Basie’s “Atomic Basie” flew excitedly out of the speakers.
I looked back over at Ingvar, his eyes were still closed only now he was tapping his finger tips to the rhythm on the arm of the chair he was sitting in. All with a wonderful smile of contentment on his face.
I wanted to do the same, but I felt self-conscious. I didn’t want to mimic his experience or come across like I was posing as something I wasn’t. But then I remembered the promise I made to myself. That on this trip to Norway and Sweden, my first overseas trip in well over a decade, I would let it all go. I’d strip away needless or stubborn hangups and try to experience everything to the fullest. To be present while I was away from my usual comforts. Besides, who was I even kidding? This wasn’t staying at a dodgy hostel for the first time, or eating native cuisine that was still moving. No, this was listening to jazz and sipping whiskey with new-found family. This? This was easy.
I then closed my eyes halfway into “The Kid From Red Bank”, opening them only after it ended and slipped ever so sweetly into “Duet”.
As I sipped more of my whiskey, a slight smile curled at the corners of my mouth. I’d never been much of a whiskey drinker (I’m an unabashed Vodka junkie), but it was as if the company, the ambience in the living room and the timeless jazz in the air had erased my palate history completely. When I sipped it, taking it all in slowly, it tasted really, really smooth.
I sighed and rested my head on the back of their couch. A small wave of fatigue washed over me. I’d just spent the last week hiking and traveling around Norway, but I fought the temptation to sleep. After all, we’d talked about this very moment, Ingvar and I, and I was still letting it all sink in.
“Do you like it?” Ingvar asked, lifting his glass and nodding towards it?
“The whiskey? Yes, it’s wonderful. Though I doubt anything could be otherwise right now.”
He nodded, that same content smile on his face. “It is wonderful isn’t it? How we are sitting here right now, when only months ago we had no idea each other existed?”
“I couldn’t agree more.” I took another sip and we both fell back into silence, continuing to listen to his record collection.
It was hard not to think fondly about how we both got here sitting in this room together.
Almost a year prior we had only just started exchanging emails. Ingvar was continuing a genealogy project of his and he was chasing down some loose ends from the east coast in the US which eventually led to my father’s humble branch on the tree. We’d always known we had family in Sweden. But like many things in life, years went by and we never seemed to make the time to seek them out and contact them. Luckily they had the good sense to do precisely the opposite. Good old email, Google searches and Facebook changed everything quickly. Gaps were bridged, faces were eventually put to names and it wasn’t long before we heard each other’s voices for the first time when they visited us in the spring of 2011.
During that spring visit, we were showing them around Sarah Duke Gardens on Duke University Campus when Ingvar and I had some time to chat, just the two of us. We made small talk at first, but then we started talking about music and I mentioned how my wife Melinda was once a vocalist in the Keene State College Jazz ensemble. It was then that he told me of his time helping Count Basie’s orchestra when he was “much, much younger”.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Admittedly, at the time, I was far from a devout jazz enthusiast, but even then I knew who Count Basie was! I quickly shut up and listened. Such stories! Memories of how he would help the band set up before gigs, hearing their music as it was played, moments with the band members, hanging out after shows, simply hearing the greatest jazz musicians of our time… it was impossible to not see his eyes light up when he retold these stories with pride. I only hoped he could see the same light in mine.
Eventually our family broke up the conversation to decide on a place to eat lunch, but before we got into our separate cars he mentioned his jazz collection and how we will visit him and listen to it together some time soon. I said that I would love to stop by and listen to it with him. As if I was just next door. We both smiled – it was a nice thought. At the time, we had no idea when, or even if that moment would happen though.
Six months later, here I was! Sitting in a living room in Gotëborg, Sweden for the first time, surrounded by the memories of a new branch of my family that, a year prior, I’d never even known. It was not hard at all to see that Ingvar was right: it truly was wonderful. In every sense of the word.
The Conduit and The Connection
He was pouring me another whiskey when I said, “I hope you’ll let me know what albums we are listening to. I’d love to buy them when I get home. I wonder how much of these classics are on iTunes?”.
He turned to me, handed me the glass and chuckled. Admittedly, I was a little nervous, worrying that I might’ve caused offense: digital versus analog versus generational versus cultural differences. He was having none of it though. He just smiled and motioned towards his collection, mentioning how the entirety of it could probably “fit on my phone” now. I didn’t even have to think – as majestic as his collection was, I knew that it could. He even mentioned how much clearer the remastered recordings sounded compared to what we were listening to now. He was so kind and I didn’t know what to say.
To him, those debates didn’t matter and they certainly weren’t why we were sitting here, enamored with this moment. For him it was about the connection. That connection that music has to every single one of us. How we attach single moments to songs and how we carry those memories in card board sleeves (stacked vertically of course), or in the cloud, streaming to some gadget in our pocket.
It’s that rare occurrence where the conduit matters far less than the signal it delivers.
I took a breath, heeded my reminder and surrendered to everything, enjoying those last tracks of Atomic Basie before moving on to Charlie Parker and then some choice cuts from Dizzy. We didn’t say much more for the rest of the evening. We didn’t have to, the music was doing the talking. We were just making those connections.
The B Side:
When I got home a week later. My parents wanted to hear all about the entire trip. After beeming the entirety of the pictures we took to their Apple TV, I marveled at just how much of the physical things we had let go of. I clearly remember making photo albums of our honeymoon in the nineties! It really didn’t seem that long ago. Now everything’s scanned and on Flickr. The same went for my music and movie collection. What was next?
We then ate some dinner and talked about what I missed while I was away. My parents are at an age now where they want their kids to start telling them “what do you want after we are gone”. To date I’ve needed very little in life as far as material things are concerned, so I would always stick with the standard “I’m good guys. Thanks though.” response.
But tonight? Remembering that night in Gotëborg, after Ingvar’s time, his stories, his kindness, after the whiskey, after the jazz, after Basie? Tonight was different.
“Do you still have your old record collection?”
“I’d love to have it, if you could part with it.”
He frowned and then smiled broadly. As if he was saying “FINALLY! The kid wants something!” with only his face. Looking at me with a father’s warmth he said, “It’s yours.”
I hadn’t owned a record player in years and to date, I still don’t. Eventually I will though. All in good time. The important part is that I have those connections – those moments – sitting right there. Like books on a shelf.
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