A man goes through life as a postman, making roughly $200 a week. He has three kids with a fourth on the way, with a wife he loves dearly. He has dreams of being a jazz drummer, always hanging out with his two buddies, waxing poetic about travelling the country and finding happiness in the rhythm of the music. Every night, after he puts the kids to bed, he kisses his wife and heads out to the jazz lounge, a stone’s throw from his home. He lives wonderfully behind the drum set, dreaming of Max Roach, Billy Cobham, Tony Williams… and many other people who lives the life he wants so bad. He and his jazz buddies believe in each other and plan to stay together to make their collective dreams come true. OH! I forgot. One buddy plays the trumpet and the other plays the double bass. They seriously accept the challenge and form a pact around it, with the hopes of never breaking it and completely fulfilling it, for real this time.
A couple weeks later, one of his buddies rings the doorbell rampantly. He opens the door to his comrade, completely focused on his character. The friend says, “Remember that night we played at the lounge?!” He replies with a nod and in turn… “Coltrane was there! Coltrane was there! He called the owner of the lounge and said he wants us to play with him in NEW YORK CITY. You got to come! You’re the best drummer we know and we got this pact. We can be one step closer to fulfilling this dream, man! Let’s go!”
The man is smiling, but behind the smile lies a form of disappointment. “That’s great”, he murmurs. The friend sees a look he’s never seen before — disappointment in the place of excitement, especially in the predicament of following his dreams. The man then says, “You guys can go ahead and play for Trane. I’m sure he’ll have Elvin Jones play drums for you guys anyway. I’m going to the military.” The friend is shocked. “You never said anything about the military! You’re a drummer! A great one at that! You can find opportunities with this, man. You can play with the greats. McCoy. Miles. Ornette. Mingus. Monk. Quincy. You got this, man. Come on, you can’t break this pact, brother.”
“I got to go”, he answers. The man had a tendency of being at half mast most of his life. He never completed the dreams he always said he wanted and even though he signed a pact with this friends, he had thoughts of never providing the team with the hard work. He wants to be the best drummer but his wife wants him to stay home and look for a better job to take care of his family versus going to the lounge every night for nickels and dimes. He realizes that he might have to put the dreams to the side to be the strength behind the family and had talks with his wife about the military. She loved the idea and wondered if he’d be happy with this change. He said no but he still felt a sign of goodness from it, being that he can take the family with him and still make a good amount of money from it. He won’t be with his friends and he won’t be drumming as much as he does now, but he has bigger things to worry about. “The Air Force is where I’m going, man. They’ll give me security, food, a good job, and a nice place for me and my family. Besides, I got some changes that need to be made for me and mines.”
“But what about the pact?!?! We talked and played for hours, working towards this! You’re just gonna leave?”
“Yeah. Sorry it’s on short notice. But I think it’d be a great idea.”
A pause was born and then the friend said “Will you be happy?”
He replied with, “Not as happy as I’ll be if I went on the road with y’all. But I got to do this. I’m not as mature as I should be. I’m making shit at this post office. I got things to do. This avenue serves all areas, man. I’ll be back playing with you guys in no time”, and he smiles.
After a moment of reflection, the friend sits on the stoop, inundated in shock, confusion and a slight sense of doubt. “Okay, man. I love you. If you think this is the best decision, I can’t do anything but support you, but we’re going to take the train to New York and play. You’ll be there in spirit.”
“I already know, man. You knock ’em dead.”
“Just come with us to the train station at least. We might not never see you again.”
“Sure. When’s the train?”
“Cool, see you then.”
They hugged, a couple of tears fell, they exchanged mail information and he left.
The next morning, he picked up his buddies and headed to the station. Not a word was said. Just sniffles and weeps. They realized the pact is broken, dreams may be coming true, the three may not live to see it come to fruition and the reason why the pact is broken is something that doesn’t bring total happiness for the person who’s staying. The third friend said, “You sure you don’t wanna come? We know you want to. We want you to come. We talked about this.”
Inbetween sniffles, the man expresses, “Yeah. I’m sure. I’ll be up there before you know it. It’s just something that needs to be done for me. Security and a change of scenery.”
They arrived at the station, and the train to Paradise came. The three looked at each other, like the kids they were years ago, talking about baseball cards and jazz music. They hugged and smiled and the man said “Knock ‘em dead.” They went on the train and as the train started chugging, the remaining two had their hands pressed against the windows,watching their friend fade away in front of them.
The train went on its way…
…and he fell ill when the train passed.
Two years later, the man is stationed in a colossal Air Force base in the middle of nowhere. To him it was, but it was just Texas. His family is doing great, living in a nice-sized condominium on the base. He’s working as a engineer in the Air Force, coming home with way more money than usual. Less problems arose in his brain but the void was still there. He’ll play basketball recreationally, maybe some cooking classes for therapeutical reasons, but every night at the dinner table, he’ll close his eyes and with the steak knife and salad forks, and emulate the freakiness of Max Roach with the pocketed genius of what will soon be resembled by Clyde Stubblefield & John “Jabo” Starks of the J.B.’s.
A week or two later, he decided to hit one of the big supermarkets on the base to get some stuff for home. He’ll check off the list: orange, strawberry, lemon, peanut butter, bread, pasta, water, etc.
He catches a small part of the market that houses the entertainment (CDs, DVDs, TVs, etc.) and he scours the area. He finds some vinyl and fumbles through it, like he would in his stomping grounds back home. He finds a Archie Shepp record that was fairly recent. Unknowingly, he skims through the tracklist and sees his friend’s name, listed as a trumpeter on the album, which was recorded in the infamous Rudy Van Gelder studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The album was called Fire Music. He then sees a Bobby Hutcherson album, entitled Components. He finds the same feeling in the contents of that album, seeing the other friend listed as a double bassist. He bought both albums and the food and left the store.
He did what he usually did every other night: put the kids to bed, kiss his wife, and instead of heading to the jazz lounge, he goes to the basement. The basement had a nice speaker system, some furniture, a sizable amount of vinyl and a drum set he recently bought. He put both albums on the vinyl player and soon enough, he studied the work throughout the night. He’d mimic the drumming played by Elvin Jones & Joe Chambers, loving every moment. He would do it every night, almost as if he was on the stage with his friends. After about two weeks or so, he would play both projects and know EVERY SINGLE NOTE the drummers played, with precision and discipline. The first time he did it with no mistakes, he cried the night away. He had money, family, health and more than enough of well-being…
But he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t doing what he loved to do, what he worked hard doing every day of his life.
He fell ill the same way he did when the train passed that one delightful day at the station back home. He believed in himself as a drummer but he knew that he had to go through some changes as a man. He’d just wished he went through those changes without going to the military. He missed those wondrous moments his friends witnessed. He always felt like he was in spirit but he’s not dead. He’s still here in the physical essence. He should’ve been there. He has everything you need in life — a good job, security, food, housing, good health, and some scratch in the bank account. He just was missing one invisible, yet instrumental thing in his life and in the world.
There was times where he would smile whenever he heard his friend’s trumpet and there was times where he would scoff and cut the record off. There’s times where if he heard the evidence of a incoming train, he would bust into tears. There’s times where he would hug his wife tightly in bed, wishing he’d just went through the beautiful struggle. He still loves the way things went but he knows that there’s moments and happenings that went on in this world that he was designed and programmed to be a part of, that will never happen again.
I’m the one that may be going to the military, under what feels like the request of my parents, while my friends continue the beautiful struggle. I love my parents to death but I feel uneasy every time the Air Force is mentioned. I can’t do this. I’d rather go to school and find a nice paying job. I’d rather work for my career, not have it on a silver spoon, like my whole life pretty much. I know I’ve been one to talk about it and not walk the same way, but I never believed in myself the way I do now. I have friends who share the same interests and dreams and they believe in me too, even more than I do on some days. Either way, I’ll be successful. Shit, I’m already successful. I’m 23. Still alive. That’s success. This year has such a feeling to it. It’s like every day is covered with a translucent film, something I can’t see but I can feel the film covering the buildings and trains and people around me. The film symbolizes hope, resistance, resilience, imperfection, dreams, wonder, euphoria, HAPPINESS. I feel as though the plans I have now with my team will bring happiness to my doorstep within the next couple of years, only if we grind throught the grime and grit and keep our heads high.
We’re surely working on becoming a creative content company, with services in branding, podcasting, music, fashion, and entertainment. We’re working on a website, various albums, clothes, an LLC, and many other things. We’re collaborating with musicians and creatives alike, with intentions to be one as a state to not only open doors for us (New Jersey), but to break through the fucking walls. Mind you, we’re broke as shit. We don’t like our jobs much either. But with every day that comes and goes, we believe we’re gonna make it with faith, patience, work and the right directions. Most importantly, all 3 of us know that this shit is gonna take time and we’re willing to strive through it. That way, when we do become successful, we can think of the beautiful struggle over some Hennessey and just do nothing but smile and marvel at how far we’ve come.
That’s it, Mom. That’s it, Dad. Sorry I can’t say it to you. I’m trying hard to open my mouth more but you both know me. I don’t talk back and I don’t say much. But this is how I feel at the moment so I wrote it down. I don’t wanna go to the Air Force. I feel like I’ll be doing it for you both and my family when I should be doing it for me since I’M THE ONLY ONE THERE. I’m not a bum either. I’m not turning into one. I’m changing every day and I feel like I’ll be the illest designer and the illest rapper. Not just ‘cause I think I will or I feel like I will. I just believe in it. It just takes a little more work and lots of time.
In the words of a rapper from Southern California named Dom Kennedy…
“When the train stops this time, I’ma catch it.”