Mercy,, Mercy, Mercy

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy  –  22 x 26

It was the 80’s.

I was working at the Harvard Coop which was then quite a hopping place. In the middle of Harvard Square was a tiny alley paved in colonial cobblestone called Palmer Street. At the top of that alley was a hole in the wall music cafe called Club Passim. If you are of a certain age and had a soul that craved folk music then you already knew that.

I went to their website just now to get my facts right and it would appear it first came on the scene the year I was born, 1958, in the form of Club 47. That’s sorta fun. In 1969 it was established as the Club Passim that I came to know and love. It boasted the likes of Baez and Dylan taking the postage stamp of a stage. In my era I saw Tom Rush, Suzanne (New York City) Vega, Shawn Colvin.

But I had a unique view of that musical mecca. Literally.

Just across the alley and up one floor was the closet of a frame room which I managed for most of that decade. And for the first part of that tenure it was a windowless workshop. Until…while on a muffin break, I came up the stairs from the basement club and looked up. Huh. I never really gave it much thought but there are windows up there…where my desk was…only I faced plywood when I framed.

There was always a big turnover in that frameroom…think young college students and musicians needing work to bridge the gap until the rest of their lives came calling. On that day I had a particularly crazy group of framers who actually did go on to become musicians. Look up Sluggo…I dare you. He is a founding member of The Grannies.

A band which I am too musically challenged to classify but I can attest to the fact that Dug, excuse me Sluggo, was and is one of the grandest humans in the land. Big big heart that guy. It gives my own heart tremendous pleasure to add that he now owns and operates FRAME, voted 2017 winner of best frame shop in San Francisco.

So, with all that burgeoning creative energy working around me, I hurried up the back stairs to the closet and started pulling things off the makeshift shelving in front of what I now knew was a window. We began with a drill. A very small hole. And the light poured in.

Over the course of what I remember as a few days we enlarged that hole and waited to see if anyone discovered us. Then we got out a saw. A very small saw. After which we had a  deck of card sized hole. Waited a bit more but at this point we could actually see the weather. The next phase brought us what I remember being a horizontal rectangle about the length of a pair of my reeboks at the time. And that’s where Club Passim re-enters the story.

I could now see the top of their steps.

Where I once saw Nanci Griffith ( big fan ) leaning against the brick wall with one elbow on her guitar case and the other one lifting a cigarette to her lips. We could watch the lines form for evening concerts and the occasional film crew that came through. One famous actor (Follansbee would remember his name, Gene Wilder and Sidney Poitier come to my mind) had to run through the alley carrying a dozen eggs which he bobbled and splattered on the cobblestones. They had to clean the whole mess up after every take of which I saw three.

And here’s were the painting comes in…

I could also look down from my peep hole perch and see…my saxophone goddess.

Her name I have forgotten but not her long curly red hair…and her chops.
She would throw her case open and lean into some sweet jazz that wafted on the salty Cambridge air straight up to our window and into my heart. When I saddled my nerve I tossed a quarter in her case and asked if she gave lessons.

In my brief career as a sax player I learned two songs. As Time Goes By from Casablanca, and Cannonball Adderly’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

The instrument has traveled with me lo these many decades since and somehow the muses found it this winter and brought it down from the old prop room as a dare.

As you see, I called their collective bluff, but it started, as many paintings do, with a simple gesture…

Our renegade window did eventually get spotted. Some big wig saw the light emanating from it as I worked late one night. I got all kinds of yelled at and we had to cover it back up, which may or may not have been a clandestinely removable patch.

In my dreams now it is open and I can see the stars above the chimneyed rooftops.

And I have told Herself
that if I go first
she will know
every time she hears a saxophone…
it’ll be me.



The Mighty Blixa…

This sparkly smiling little boy is Blixa, the 3 yr. old son of an old friend of mine…Doug, aka Dug, and Lauren Cawley and younger brother to Dregen. Dug and I go all the way back to Harvard Square in the early 80’s when we worked together in the tiny closet of a frameroom at the Coop.

Now he and his wife own a frameshop in San Francisco and Dug tells me he’s some kind of famous in the screaming grundgy music world since he plays and sings in a band called The Grannies. Now…it’s a good thing for both of us that I’m not a music critic… and when we reconnected via facebook a while back I did take a quick tour of his site and listen to some of the music…and for an old folkie like myself it’s downright terrifying.

So consider yourselves forwarned if you dare to go down that road and look them up…although there are sure to be those among you who will be quick to challenge my narrow gereatric musical tastes and enlighten me to the intricacies of lyrics and costume…have at it.

What I can say, from the bottom of my heart, is that Dug is one of the finest, kindest and dearest humans on this planet. And so it was especially hard to hear the news that young Blixa has just been diagnosed with Leukemia. This is a family that has picked up more than their share of burdens, having been swept out of their home by the mortgage dementors. And, with their lives already out of balance, there is now a different focus to their needs.

I’ve followed along on his facebook page as he kept us all in the loop from Blixa’s hospital bed to his homecoming. That kid is smiling in every single photo and appears to have all the special powers he will need to battle this transformer. But the family could use some help.

The band is doing some fundraising gigs. Their website has some scary posters and gear for sale. And they have just put up a link on Paypal which lets people donate directly to Blixa’s medical fund. I tried that link today and Dug responded immediately so I know it’s up and running and it’s safe….

If you’re moved to want to pay forward some kindness that you were offered when you were in need of  help…

I’m just sayin’…

here’s the info directly from Doug’s FB page…

Also a lot of folks have been asking about a donation site and we now have set up – just use as the recipient & it will go directly to a health account for Blixa. Thank you!