Thursday, February 27, 2003

Tomorrow, I promise, I’m getting up for the morning aerobics workout after missing the last three sessions. Sure, there will be much inquiry about our absence, and I could think of something glib for an excuse, but why should I answer to them? I miss working out, even after just a week off. My back is sore and there is a restless feeling in my soul, like I want to run, lungs screaming, until I collapse in a twitching heap. Smoke and drink quells that bug, but exercise is healthy.

Even though I haven’t been to the YMCA in over a week, I have gotten exercise. Last Thursday and Friday (Feb. 20-21) I went on long bike rides in nice weather. And on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 22-23) Esther and I went on long hikes on the Ice Age Trail. But since then I’ve done jack squat except help the kids bowl. And I think that’s why my back is sore. Lots of bending over, helping kids get the right form and arm swing so they can roll strikes. I really love this bowling unit because the kids love it (most of them) and their enthusiasm is infectious. We transform the gym into an alley with gray and black carpets that have foul lines, locator dots, target arrows, and large circles to mark where the pins, which are plastic, some weighed with sand, are supposed to go. This is the second week of the unit and the children are more familiar with taking turns and setting up the pins. Their skills have also greatly improved.

I’ve created another 12-bar blues riff centered almost exclusively around sliding grace notes and seventh chords. Nothing earth-changing here. My evolution as a songwriter should come from proper roots. Start simple and work up. It is kind of like my evolution as a rock music fan. I started out with Elvis, the Beach Boys, Fats Domino and Chubby Checker, listening to 45s on various theme record players with Kenny Bolton, a mildly-retarded kid who was the closest neighbor my age.

Kenny wore out turntables and records. He showed a single-minded devotion to his records and collection of balls. Kenny had more balls than any child I’ve ever seen. And I got to see the collection’s growth, from a mesh wire cage to filling a whole room. Funny thing is Kenny was always interested in other kids’ balls. Here he’s got the widest array of bouncy balls, basketballs (Kenny’s father was a basketball star at Harlem High School and graduated with my mother), footballs, soccer balls, and those cheesy, colored inflatable balls that always were unbalanced and could never be kicked very far. But if you threatened to go away and take your ball with you, Kenny would beg you to stay and throw a fit to wake up the neighborhood if you didn’t.

I last saw Kenny in 1994, the year Esther and I married. I was living at my parent’s over the summer working at Warner Lambert when he stopped by unannounced, out of the blue, just like he used to do 15 years earlier. He still collects 45s, but takes better care of them. We went to Toad Hall where he tracked down an obscure song about truck driving from an equally obscure artist whose name I’ve forgotten. He lives in South Carolina and is capable enough to drive, have a girlfriend, and hold a job. But his single-minded devotion to balls and 45s, and those temper tantrums, are what I will always remember about him.

No comments: