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Jazz

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Blame it on mom. She was a jazz freak and I grew up hearing Billy Holiday, Anita O’Day, June Christie, Ella and Louis, you name it. “The cats” she called them. She knew all the words and she’d sing to the records, snapping her fingers, looking at herself in the mirror, moving her hips. I remember sitting on the floor, holding the record jackets, looking at the pictures on the front then up at mom singing to herself. She sang when she did dishes or was dusting around the house. I can still see her holding a dish and washing it over and over while she sang,”When you wish Upon a Star”or “Stormy Weather.” I can still hear her sing,”it’s raining all the time…” moving her head from side to side while I sat on the floor playing with my Raggedy Ann doll.

I remember how she’d laugh at me when I came to her holding one of her Billy Holiday albums and I’d say, “Billy on. Billy on.”

She’d say,”Ginger, baby, you’re going to be a jazz singer when you grow up.” She’d put the record on and I’d sit on her lap and listen to Billy singing,”Strange Fruit” and “All of me, why not take all of me.” The record was scratchy and worn out,but I could tell how much mom loved those records and so did I.

Mom wanted to be a singer but got knocked up by some guy I never knew and had me. She worked at different jobs, dropping me off at Charlene’s Day Care then picking me up on the way home. I remember Charlene—a big fat black woman. She laughed a lot—especially when she’d hear me sing jazz songs while I played. I’d sing “How High the Moon” or my favorite, “A Tisket a Tasket a little yellow basket.” I sang it just like Ella and even did some scat singing—doowy-doowey, dee, dee, doo.”

Charlene would say,”Chile, where you learnin’ dem songs?” The other kids in the group sang nursery rhymes and songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I remember singing that song, but I’d jazz it up, standing in front of them, moving my hips from side to side like mom, and say,”sing it like this, “Twinkle…twinkle” and I’d snap my fingers and sing it fast, changing the notes so it had some feeling.

I know mom wanted to be a jazz singer but had to work to put food on the table. That’s when she’d say,”I’d be a jazz singer if I didn’t have to put god damn food on the table.”

Her saying that made me feel sad and awful like it was my fault she couldn’t be a singer. That’s probably why she drank so much and would fall asleep drinking and smoking in her chair listening to Billy or Sarah. I used to see her when I woke up in the morning, sound asleep in the chair with the needle from the record player clicking and clicking. I’d turn it off and put the record back in the album then wake mom up and say it’s time to get up and go to work. And I had to get to school—which I hated, by the way.

The drinking got worse and she didn’t sing like she used to. Her long brown hair was getting gray and she no longer wore colorful scarves around her neck or even seemed to care about her appearance. She’d come home from work and the first thing she’d do was pour a drink, take a gulp, let out a loud “ahh” like she was finally getting some relief. She’d put on Billy or Ella and sit in her chair, smoking. Sometimes we didn’t have dinner until eight or nine and dishes were left in the sink. I started doing the dishes and doing the dusting and by the time I was 15, mom was always so drunk, I’d eat by myself and try to wake her up. It made me angry when she’d drink because I’d come home and have no one to talk to. It was lonely. It was like living with a ghost.

It got so I hated coming home. There was hardly any money coming in. Mom was on welfare and we lived on food stamps. I hardly had any clothes that fit. My jeans were faded and really tight, my shirts were snug—especially around my tits and didn’t even reach to the top of my jeans. The few skirts I had were way to short as I got taller. I noticed how boys at school would look at me and also older men couldn’t keep their eyes off me. I have to admit I had a good body—nice ass, my tits weren’t huge but they weren’t little bean bags either. At first I was surprised and embarrassed. It felt a little strange, but then–I hate to admit this but I liked it.

When I was sixteen I got a job as a waitress at Roma’s Pizza and worked there from after school ’til eleven at night. On Saturdays during the day, I was a cashier at the Save-way Gas Station and Convenience Store. I worked there until three and headed over to “Roma’s” to work ’til midnight.

Well, I took my first weeks pay and tips and went to this cool thrift store—Second Hand Rose– and got really funky clothes—way different than the other girls but I still wanted the guys to look at me. I liked looking sexy. I had long dark hair,halfway down my back and made sure that what I wore caught their attention. It was the mid-sixties and I became a kind of hippie—though I didn’t know what that was. All I knew was I didn’t want to be like anyone else and I didn’t want to end up like my mom.

When it was slow at the Save-way, I’d look at the magazines near the Sinop Escort door and see the covers with these sexy looking women wearing practically nothing, but you know, they all looked alike. I wanted to be sexy but not like that. I’d read articles about some of the actresses and their relationships and wondered if I’d ever have a relationship. I was fascinated by sex and loved playing with myself and wondering what it would be like to really have a man do it to me.

Lots of guys flirted with me at the Save way—some of them in their twenties, some a lot older and I liked how they looked at me and ask, “What are you doing after work?” Sometimes I’d smile back and never said anything but in my way I was teasing back. Even though I liked the guys teasing and flirting, still it was jazz that I cared about more than anything. I was always singing to myself, making up different ways of doing a song–fast, slow, playing around with the melody.

Forget about school. It didn’t exist, though they tried to get me to come. School was unreal. It was crowded and I didn’t care about what happened in 1812 or want to read the lame books they assigned like Silas Marner and I forget what other books that didn’t have anything to do with my life. I had no friends. The girls cared about clothes, boys and dying their hair different colors. The guys were jerks and just wanted to get laid or play stupid video games. I didn’t fit in that’s for sure.

There was one guy I liked—Gabe. I met him when I was a senior and already eighteen. He always carried a guitar on his back and I’d see him on the fire escape practicing. He was a loner, like me. He had long hair and was definitely not a jock. He seemed serious, like he was always thinking about something. He was in my Algebra class and I could tell he was bored because all he did was doodle. I saw his doodles—music notes all over the page and lots of swirls.

One day after Algebra, I asked him if he liked jazz. He looked at me, startled, like he wasn’t used to any one—especially a girl– talking to him, let alone asking him a question but the first thing I noticed were his intense blue eyes when he looked at me.

“Well, I see you like music because I see you practicing on the fire escape and noticed your doodling in algebra.” I paused. “Do you like jazz?”

“Kinda,” he said. “I guess. My dad’s a jazz musician. I’ve been taking classical guitar lessons.”

“Classical,”I repeated. “Cool! I’ve never heard classical guitar.”

“I play a little jazz,” he said,”but I really love flamingo and Bach.”

“You said your dad’s a jazz musician. What kind? I mean. What instrument does he play?” I asked, as we started walking down the hall.

“He plays piano and has a jazz trio. His real job is an accountant, but he plays jazz on weekends at different clubs.”

“I’m gonna be a jazz singer,” I told him. It was the first time I said that out loud. I don’t know why I said it and it scared me to blurt it out like that, but it also felt great to finally tell someone my secret thought, my dream. It felt right to say it to him because he loved music. There was no one else to say it to. Not at work. Not at school, until then, so I repeated it, just to hear the words again,”Yeah, I’m gonna be a jazz singer.”

Gabe looked at me like I was from outer space then smiled,”Cool,” he said. “Good for you. Not too many kids around here are into jazz.”

We continued to walk down the crowded hall without speaking,but I knew both of us were wondering what to say next. It was weird to find someone who loved music like me that wasn’t rock and roll. Finally, just before he stopped to go into his next class, he asked, “Would you like to hear me play the guitar?”

“Sure. I’d like that. Would you like to hear me sing?”

There was an awful silence. Finally I asked, “When?”

“Now, let’s cut and get out of here. It’s last period anyway.”

And that’s what we did. I cut school all the time, so it wasn’t a big deal, but Gabe said, he never did anything like this before. He was in the honors track, even if he didn’t pay attention in Algebra. He was on the school’s debating team and seemed pretty serious but there was also something else I sensed but couldn’t put into words. All I knew was I felt excited to be cutting with him.

He got his guitar out of his locker and we walked out of school and went to the park across the street. We went over a hill and sat down on the grass under a big tree. Gabe took out his guitar and tuned it. He looked at me then started playing something by Bach. He called it a partita. I was amazed at how his fingers moved so fast and how he bent over the guitar and concentrated. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him—those intense blue eyes, his long hair falling over his face,the way he moved his head and those fingers gliding over the strings.

He looked up at me after he finished and said,”I’ve been working on this like crazy for a month. What do you think?”

“You’re Sinop Escort Bayan amazing. I never heard anything like that. All I know is jazz.”

“My dad was a classical pianist then switched to jazz. Can I hear you sing now?”

“I don’t know. It feels weird singing jazz in the park. I need someone playing.”

“Come on,” he insisted. “Sing something.”

“I always sing along with records. I never sang without music but here goes.” I took a breath and sang, “All of Me.” I sang it real slow. I mean super slow and made it sound sad,”Why not take all of me. I’m no good without you.” I remember closing my eyes and pretending I was singing to someone I couldn’t see, but I was talking to him with the words, pleading,”Take all of me….” I opened my eyes when I finished and Gabe was staring at me with his mouth open. “Hey, you’re great, Ginger. That was something else.” I loved how he looked at me.

“I never sang for anyone before. You’re the first person who ever heard me.”

“I hope I’m not the last,” he said. “You have to sing for my dad. You’ve got a great voice!”

“Really. You really think so. When can I sing for your Dad?”

“Tonight. Come home with me for dinner. He’s got to hear you.”

“I can’t. I gotta get to work in an hour at Roma’s.”

“Come afterwards,” Gabe insisted.

I told him I would. He played another piece by someone named Scarlatti and then I had to go. He said,”I’ll come get you at Roma’s” and he did. I

remember looking at the clock, thinking about singing for Gabe’s dad, going over the words of songs I liked, trying to think what I’d sing. It was pretty slow at work and it seemed like forever.

I wanted to look good when I sang for his dad and was glad I had worn a pretty paisley skirt and white peasant blouse I got at the thrift store. It wasn’t real short but came up above my knees. I liked how it fit and with my long, dark kind of wild hair and thought I looked like a gypsy—especially with the dangling earrings.

Gabe picked me up in his VW bus right at eight and we headed for his house. His dad was reading the paper when we arrived and said, “Gabe says you’re a pretty good jazz singer.”

He looked like an older version of Gabe except he had a mustache and goatee with flecks of gray. He shook my hand and told me his name was Peter. He asked if I wanted a coke or something and then we went into the living room. He had a baby grand piano and said, “Okay, Ginger, let me hear your chops.”

“Chops?” I asked,feeling stupid.

He smiled.”Chops. That’s jazz slang for show me what you can do–your sound.”

He sat down at the piano,ran his fingers over the keyboard, played a few chords.

“What do you want to sing?” he asked.

“Do you know”Blue Skies?”

“Cool,” he said,”Not too many singers do that Berlin tune. Let’s try it in C.”

“Play it real slow,” I snapped my fingers to give him the tempo.”Then the second time we’ll pick it up.” Suddenly,I felt confident,like I knew how I wanted to sing.

Gabe sat on the couch and his father smiled up at me while I sang. I closed my eyes and sang the words,”Blue skies, smiling at me. Nothin’ but Blue skies, do I see.”

I sang it slow and smooth the first time, emphasizing each word like mom did. When I finished the first time, I looked over at him then the second time, we picked up the tempo. I was snapping my fingers and moving my hips, swaying back and forth almost dancing. I felt like I was melting into the words, saying them so each word was important. I was telling a story about how the sky was smiling and I was happy, “Blue skies, nothing but blue skies from now on.” I really thought about the words, trying to say I just got through a hard time, but things were better now. I saw my mom’s face and how she used to look when she sang and now how she could hardly get out of the chair, but here I was singing about blue skies and things are getting better.

When I finished and opened my eyes, I saw Gabe looking at me with his mouth open like before and his dad staring at me like he was dazed or stunned. No one said a word then they both clapped.

“Hey you’re really good. That was amazing. Where’d you learn to sing like that?” Gabe’s father asked.

“My mom. She loved jazz and that’s all we ever listened to.”

He said he had a gig Saturday and would I like to sing with his trio.

“I gotta work Saturday,” I said,”but maybe I can get off early.”

“You’ve got to. You’re damn good. Wait until the guys I play with hear you.”

“Cool, I can’t wait,” I said looking at him then at Gabe. I was excited and scared.

“The place we’re playing is pretty much of a dive and we play to a lot of drunks but it’s a gig and the owner, Ed, appreciates good music. So, come and do a few tunes. It’ll be good experience.”

Gabe drove me home in his beat up VW bus and we sat in front of the apartment Escort Sinop house where I lived, just talking. It was dark except for a streetlight and I liked how he looked at me. My skirt was high on my thighs and the white peasant blouse was low on my arms, revealing my shoulders and a little cleavage. He turned and leaned against his door and told me how Segovia was his idol and how he wants to learn more pieces Paganini wrote for the lute. He spoke with such passion and it excited me to hear how much he loved music, but I also liked how his eyes kept drifting to my legs and tits while he talked and I knew there was something happening between us. We sat outside for almost an hour before I went in.

I wanted to tell mom all about meeting Gabe and Peter and I’d be singing at the Black Cat, but she was asleep in the chair with an empty scotch bottle dangling from her hand.

I couldn’t wait until Saturday— my first time singing to an audience and with other musicians. I told my boss Tony about my chance to sing and he let me off at eight so I could be at “The Black Cat” by nine. Gabe was going to pick me up.

I bought a change of clothes so I would look older. I wanted to be a hit and get everyone’s attention so I wore this vintage black cocktail dress from the forties I found at the thrift shop. It was cut low and came down below my knees,but I made it much shorter—about mid thigh. It clung to my body and I loved how sexy I looked. Mom had an old pair of shoes with heels that fit perfectly and my dark hair came halfway down my back. When Gabe saw me come out of the bathroom at Roma’s, he just looked at me like he had never seen me before.

“Wow you look beautiful,” he said, his eyes wide open.

Everyone in the place turned and Tony said, “You better be careful.” I knew what he meant by the way he moved his eyes up and down my body.

Even though Gabe and I were eighteen, we weren’t allowed in places like the Black Cat, but since Gabe’s father was there, Ed said it was okay. We sat at the bar both drinking ginger ale. I made sure mine didn’t have ice. I read that singers never have ice in their water before they sing. The lights were low and the place was half empty. I noticed a couple of pool tables along the side. Peter was right. It was a dive.

Sitting on the stool next to Gabe,my tight dress was pretty high up on my thighs and I noticed how Gabe kept looking at my legs. I wondered if I had made a mistake wearing such a low cut dress because it revealed a lot of cleavage and Gabe kept glancing at my tits. I liked how he looked at me and felt something stirring that made me want to touch myself but couldn’t so I turned and looked up at the bandstand,imagining me standing on that little stage singing. I was nervous, listening to the music and watched a few couples dance,but mostly, people were talking, smoking and drinking—hardly listening to the trio.

The place was pretty dark and Gabe was quiet but I could feel his eyes on me and sensed he wanted to do something but was hesitant. I felt the tension. I was sitting pretty close facing him. First his knee touched mine then he put his hand there then did something that really surprised me. He slid his hand up my dress and rubbed the inside of my thigh. He looked into my eyes to see how I’d react and I bit my lower lip and heard myself moan looking back into his eyes letting him know I liked how it felt. He leaned forward and whispered in my ear.”You turn me on.”

“Is that so,” I said and smiled, looking into his intense blue eyes then leaned closer wanting him to move his hand higher on my thigh.

Just then the trio finished their first set and came to the bar where Gabe and I sat. He pulled his hand away before anyone could notice. His father introduced me to the musicians. Chuck played drums and had a pot belly and a thin mustache. The other guy’s name was Al. He played bass and wore a baseball cap with a big A on it. They both looked at my tits but tried to hide it.

“Hear, you’re gonna do some tunes with us,” Al said before gulping down a whole bottle of beer without taking it from his mouth.

“Do Blue Skies like you did the other night and you’ll wake up these drunks,” his dad said. “What was the other tune?”

“All of Me,” I said, “real slow.”

When the guys walked on the stage, I took Gabe’s hand and put it back on my thigh. He looked at me and smiled. I didn’t say anything but our eyes met and I bit my lower lip and for a minute forgot I was going to be singing in public for the first time. I just wanted to feel his hand under my dress but suddenly remembered where we were and sat up straight. I took a deep breath and a sip of my ginger ale, my heart beating faster.

The trio was playing an upbeat version of “Stardust” and Gabe removed his hand then leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “I want to touch you all over.”

“I’d like that,” I said softly and felt a tingle between my legs,surprised at seeing this side of Gabe, remembering that sense I had about him when we first met. I wasn’t sure what-it was—a kind of intensity and passion lurking beneath his quiet shyness. I saw it when he played the guitar for me in the park. Also, those blue eyes seemed to look into my soul. I knew I wanted him and smiled, looking into his eyes.

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