Berklee, Manny "mug-pie-lo" Magpie, to New Haven
The plane ticket i had was good for a year but i stayed in Khamis for only a month (made some money working in a hospital supply room) and then "city-hopped" back thru Europe (favorite spot was the isle of Santorini in the Aegean and Athens) on my way to New Haven via New York to stay with Ok and make a foray up to Bwoston to apply to Berklee. i have the distinct mem'rhey i got accepted once it was ascertained i cood pay the costs, more than thru my actual musical skills. i anticipated this being a place where people were there with the overriding purpose of developing one's own musical craft and talent, and had high hopes it wood be a very magical musical environment and experience.
There were certainly some invaluable essentials i picked up while living on Gainsborough Street in the back bay section of town. The most important of which was finally learning how to truly sight read music manuscript, largely thru a terrific class where we practiced sight-singing scored melodies while simultaneously conducting the meter with our hand to keep track of where we were in the given measure. Most important of all, i learned how to notate music on manuscript paper from this class. Such skills stood me in good stead in the coming years. i had rented a full-sized upright and, among other songs, was working on Bach's Prelude and Fugue No 2 in C minor from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier for my performance class but found practicing for hours on end was not the effortless activity i had expected it wood be. My lower back wood get sore and i began to experience similar hints that my human overcoat was not the indestructibly robust "housing" that i, for the most part, had found it to always provide me with prior to that time.
The rest of my siblings had been born in Frammingham, Massachusetts -- my father elected to start his practice "out west" and moved the fam'blee to San Mateo after my sister was born but before i was a fertilized egg in Mah'mon's womb. Living thru a rather snowy winter in the land of the east, i better appreciated what Mah'mon had told me about how, when people lived in harsher climes where winter was the time to stay indoors, they were inevitably thrown back on their own devices to fill the time inwardly more than they wood otherwise be, continuing activities outdoors thruout the four seasons.
For the first time i found even just the three years difference in age between myself and practically all the people in my classes to be rather vexing. Not being especially out-going myself, and having the bulk of people i came into contact with being straight out of hi skool, i found out quickly there was a large gap between our experience of life and without more people around with whom it felt easy to be with, i withdrew more into my own singular world.
It was in this atmosphere i opted to seek out another rat friend and found a black-and-white hooded character i named Manny-Magpie. i'm not sure that was his first name. There had been Magpies at the McKays and he reminded me visually of them. i greatly appreciated his company and named a composition i wrote for a class after him. At some point "Magpie" phonetically suggested mugpie (strong accent on mug) which in time slid into mug-pie-lo.
i spoke with Dad on the blower while he was back for a visit to California from Saudi. He said he was only going to to carry me with the money i then had (which wood see me thru April) and after that i wood be on my own. i got a job driving a hack for Towne Taxi and started my first nite on New Years eve day working thru to about 3 am. There was a LOT of snow fall that winter but i was able to successfully negotiate my movements around town in the hack tanks. In February i switched to Checker Cab whose office and garage were only 2 blocks away from where i lived. But driving a hack was the same no matter who it was for and i was getting pretty fed up with the low pay (i figured it came out to less than 2 bucks an hour).
During the year i made some trips to New Haven staying with Ok or other members of the Helium Brothers, the band he was with, after taking a leave-of-absence from Yale, playing thruout southern Connecticut. They were 5 players doing drums, bass, fiddle, rhythm guitar and Ok on guitar+banjo, and were very popular playing a mix of rock and a sort of Dan Hick's-flavored jazz. Everyone but Ok wood sing with at least two to three harmonizing in any given song. Kim Oler played bass and he and i became great friends. He'd been doing piano for a long time and we had similar interests in styles. i was very impressed with his transcription of about the first half of Keith Jarrett's "Lalene" from the Facing You album.
At one point during the winter returning from New Haven, i came home to find Manny-Magpie had died of the cold from a friend i let stay in my place who had not closed a window. It was always a terrible loss when such a "before their time" death occurred. The hole left by Mug-pie-low's passing increased my sense of isolation living in Bwoston.
By the spring when classes ended i decided i had had enuff of Berklee and moved to New Haven and into a house with Peter Melien, a good friend of Kim's who was starting out in the lawyering world. Berklee had turned into just another skool in many ways. Instead of the magical musical learning experience where everyone was dedicated to perfecting their craft, all i seemed to find were a lot of kids treating it just like college where they were very conscious of grades and weren't into music for its own beauty and sake. i spent the beginning of summer playing in the practice rooms at Yale by day, and catching the Helium Brothers at night.
Since i had again attended skool that year, i was eligible for another free ticket over to Saudi and flew to Jeddah in June where Dad had moved to. The backyard of his house opened out onto the Red Sea and the reef was much more breath-taking in this location. One had to walk out a ways to get to beyond the shallows, but once past that there began the most incredible array of underwater shape and color. It was 6 to 10 feet for about 50 feet, and then it dropped down to about 40 feet with the "cliff edge" being a huge mass of infinitely diverse and evergrowing coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. The fish were infinite in their numbers and types as well.
This time i flew the return trip straight thru except for a brief stop in Athens. i found a 5 room house at 33 Carmel Street for $125 a month (!) and located a baby grand piano i cood use for as long as i wanted. Soon afterward i got a job working full time at the Grove Street Cemetery in downtown New Haven, where Daniel Webster and Charles Goodyear are buried. Once fall came mowing was supplanted by raking up the leaves and stuffing them into dumpsters. We even dug a few graves.
After moving into Carmel Street i found me another rat friend who went by the name of Pierrot (the name's inspiration came from Godard's Pierrot le Fou). He provided a marvelous liveliness to the environs (while i've known some very special cat and dog friends thruout my life, i've never been inclined to have my own as well as the requisite responsibilities). Ok's younger brother Steve who, 5 years later wood be the gifted photog-snapper of a majority of the images in the rat haus reality gallery, came over at one point and "scribed" a roll of film at 33 Carmel Street including "Pierrot not letting go of his rat diet morsel" and the "mr. piano intensity" shots seen here (as well the contrived "Red Star reader" scene below).
i enjoyed greatly having the baby grand and spent my evenings that late summer/fall practicing and transcribing. During this period i picked out Wynton Kelly's solo on "Freddie Freeloader" from Kind Of Blue and scored out the beginnings of Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco," "Monopoly," "Ornithology," Duke's "See See Rider" (from This One's For Blanton), Monk's "Work", and Bill Evan's "Beautiful Love". As often happened, my initial inspiration with a given song was high-spirited, but flagged once i got to a really tuff part. i knew that even if i were able to, after a fashion write something out, my own technique imposed limitations upon what i cood actually pull off playing.
Kim had turned me on to the four John Mehegan books and from the complete transcription in book four, i learned Bill Evan's "Peri's Scope." Kim also introduced me to the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album and, inspired by their rendition of "Lush Life", i worked up a solo piano arrangement of my own tempo and feel that i scored out and then learned.
There was a lot of time spent going to Helium Bros gigs even though i had never found bars or beer halls interesting to any degree. i saw a good amount of what it actually meant to play every night for a living. i bebember a gig playing solo in a pizza parlor in Steamboat and how it was fun at first but the fact i was being paid for what i was doing -- and playing to suit the owner's interests -- changed it from the sort of "show on my own terms" i had enjoyed in dorms or eateries in Eugene to something else not so satisfying.