A Confession

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Despite my lower-middle to middle-middle class background, despite my mediocre education, despite my all-too-average IQ, I have somehow become an elitist.

Yes, I confess that I’m one of those insufferable aesthetes who find Forrest Gump, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Dave Matthews tedious, one of those arrogant, pretentious, overbearing know-it-alls who roil the stomach acid of the vulgarians at Fox News, one of those liberals Trumpsters want “to own.”  In fact, now that I’ve passed through the gateway of old age, suspending my disbelief has become a mission worthy of NASA.   I’m as disdainful of middle brow art and dogmatic ideology as today’s teenagers are of pre-digital special effects.

For example, even though I adore Ray Charles and admire Johnny Cash, I found both of their critically acclaimed biopics unbelievable, not because I doubted the veracity of the depicted events of their lives, but because everything seemed ersatz. I kept looking in vain for some scrap of atmospheric imperfection – a balled-up napkin on the counter, dead moths in a light fixture, a shitty haircut, anything that suggested that I wasn’t consuming a product manufactured in Hollywood.

Oh, to be able to enjoy a mainstream movie!  Oh, to be able to finish a John Clancy novel!   Oh to be Rupert Murdock!

The tragic truth is that once you become an elitist, it’s virtually impossible to go back.  After strolling around Dublin with Leopold Bloom and acquiring a sense of wonder at  Joyce’s magnificent mastery of language, seventy pages of ventriloquist dummy John Galt’s lip-synching of Ayn Rand’s theory of Objectivism ain’t gonna cut it.  After forty years of listening to Lester Young, you’re not going to find Yanni interesting.  Going back would be like trading in your Austin Healey for a Honda Accord.

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Lester Young

 

A Lenten Folly Gras

Despite USA Today’s designating Folly’s celebration of Mardi Gras as one of the top ten in the USA, New Orleans and Mobile have nothing to fear from us. Folly Gras still has a way to go, and by a way to go, I mean a long way, like a couple of light years.

One particularly glaring deficiency of our local version of Fat Tuesday* is a paucity of people of color. Call me racist, but when I think of Mardi Gras, I think of ragtime, Dixieland jazz, plain ol’ kickass jazz, and funk, and when I think of those genres, I think of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Coleman Hawkins, Vic Dickenson, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, the Meters — you know, black people.

Calling out around the world, we'll go shagging in the streets

Calling out around the world, we’ll go shagging in the streets

And even though yesterday’s 4th Day of Lent/Folly Gras boasted the biggest crowds I’ve seen in the 8 years it’s been around, I could count the number of African Americans I saw on one hand. Though Charleston did have a history of jazz back in the day, that tradition has gone the way of the trolley car. Ain’t no second line funeral celebrations round here. And even though the Godfather himself was born just a couple of hours northwest of the Edge of America, funk’s not a Lowcountry staple either.

bead fling 2Not that yesterday’s street party wasn’t fun. You could stand on the sidewalk and listen to decent rock-n-roll. You could watch folks throw beads from balconies and pretend that the ladies below were exposing their breasts. You could sip hurricanes from elongated glasses and jostle among the crowd . You could shag and sport funky clothes.

Or you pedal your bicycle home and take a two-hour-and-forty minute nap and awaken to the sun setting on another Lenten Saturday.

*That fact that it occurs during Lent screams inauthenticity.