Sunday, January 11, 2015

36 Hours

It has been a busy weekend indeed, working a booth at the Jazz Educators Network’s annual convention. I work in part for Woodwind and Brasswind, an online band and orchestra retailer whose catalog and web content is developed in the Los Angeles area. I lead a cubicle existence, generating and editing copy for the Woodwind and Brasswind website and catalog along with parts of the pro audio section of the Musician’s Friend catalog and website, so these convention duties are a welcome change. In the three years I have worked for the Guitar Center family of companies in Westlake Village, I have traveled to Dallas, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Columbus and now, San Diego to attend various trade shows and conventions. For this most recent one I drove down, which combined with a busy show and a gig I had previously booked in Los Angeles, precipitated a particularly intense 36 hours or so.

I worked nine to five on the convention floor on Friday, whose cacophonous din sounded like a pet shop on fire for eight hours straight. So Friday at five, I dashed out of the convention hall to make it to my gig at The House of Blues in Hollywood by 10:30. Traffic was medium, catching the suitcase crowd out of San Diego heading to whatever the Friday workweek antidote was, a cabin in the foothills, skiing in the mountains or a hotel room by the sea, and I got to the House of Blues by 9:00 where I met my lady Debra and our friend Debbie. The band had a nice set, and Debbie, Debra and I got on the road before midnight, encountering next to no traffic all the way and expecting to make the hotel room by 2:00 AM and get six hours of sleep before getting up to work the convention floor again on Saturday.

Eight miles outside of San Diego, traffic stopped completely and stayed stopped for ten or fifteen minutes. Some mobile web investigation indicated that a man was over the barrier on the Seaworld Drive highway overpass bridge and was threatening to jump. A traffic service additionally indicated that there was an accident in the area, which was supported by two wreckers that drove past in the left breakdown lane. The Occam’s Razor on that would be that during the dramatic slowing of traffic that probably occurred when the suicidal man was engaged with the police, a collision occurred between one or more inattentive drivers.

After another half hour or so, traffic began to move and we were funneled down to one lane by way of a slowly accelerating arc of highway flares that passed by the place where a man who of sound mind or not decided that hurling himself from a highway bridge thirty feet onto asphalt was how he would end his Friday night and his life.

Hundreds of cars filed past his sheeted body, surely dwarfing the procession that will honor his casket. An explosion of colored lights from emergency vehicles and police cars heralded his passing, perhaps the grand tribute he sought in life but couldn’t find. You could speculate on a life of ennobled suffering, loved ones taken by chance, by murder or by betrayal. Perhaps his life’s losses were born of neglect ascribable to a preference of his own selfish pursuits over the needs of those who counted on him, the remains of his shredded conscience at last pushing him to swing a leg over the rail. Information technology being what it is, I could probably dig out the story and find a police report, but it seems more decent to let the police, the priests and the worms do their work. Whatever his woe, and whatever fool this man may or may not have been, he now knows the detailed answer to a question that I believe none of the rest of us do, but that many of the rest of us are nonetheless pretty damn sure about.

We rolled into the Grand Hyatt a little after three and I enjoyed four or five hours of dead sleep before hitting the convention floor again for another eight hour stretch, followed by breaking the booth down and loading the gear and the signage into boxes and onto pallets. That took us until about 8:00 and I then met the ladies for a set of music at a club on Shelter Island, finally wrapping it up for a much-needed crash at around midnight.

The work provided wherewithal, the driving provided solace and meditation, the gig provided artistic release, the suicide provided a time for gratitude and reflection and the company provided the love and sharing I need to feel human. Thirty-six hours of pretty high output. I have discovered that I am not too old for this shit.

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