Billie Holiday and a Beer: Seize the Moment!

Yesterday, the weather was hot around here! After dutifully trudging off to the gym in the afternoon, I came home, showered, and thought it time to relax with one of my occasional “musical interludes” as the sun descended behind the tall hedges in our backyard. It was a beautiful evening, very warm, but with a gentle breeze. The golden sunlight through the hedges and the contrasting shadows provided a marvelous visual.

Most important, this was shaping-up to be one of those rare, quiet, late afternoons in the spring/summer when neighbors are nowhere to be heard and the approach to San Jose International Airport is from “the other side.” From my CD collection, I selected disk one of a four disk set of Billie Holiday, that great jazz singer from the thirties and forties. I particularly like disk one because it showcases her earlier work which projects an ebullient, raw flavor so representative of early/mid-thirties jazz. 

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I popped the cap off of a Blue Moon beer, grabbed some Trader Joe’s oyster crackers, and settled down in one of the outdoor patio chairs, music playing from inside the house. I can listen to Billie Holiday anytime, anywhere, as is true of all the great big-band swing/jazz music of the thirties and forties. But under the idyllic conditions of the evening, the experience was pure pleasure!

I reveled in the experience as Ms. Holiday sang her way through the initial CD tracks, many of them with strong trumpet leads in the small group that accompanied her – I do love the trumpet! As my Blue Moon began to work its subtle magic on my empty stomach (despite the oyster crackers), I really began to feel mellow, relaxed, and at peace with the world. Next to winning the lottery or going to heaven (I hope!), there is no better feeling. 

I will, when the occasion seems right, have a glass of wine or a beer with my favorite music playing, and somehow the music seems transformed from eminently enjoyable to sublime. The mellow mood one glass of wine can induce in concert with such great music seems to melt away time, making me feel “one” with the life and times of the thirties and forties – the time when those notes were miraculously captured on lacquer, the time when my parents were young, the time when life was so different and comparatively simple – a different world . Now, I am not merely listening to old recordings of enjoyable music; now, I am feeling a connection with those times, their music, and their culture. It’s wonderful – a veritable time machine! 

As Billie reached cut #16, or so and I was totally enjoying the moment, I thought to myself, “This is so fortunate!; no neighborhood noise, no sirens in the background (rare) – I am loving this!” At precisely that moment, a very audible emergency siren went off in the distance, puncturing my reverie. It was not one of those which fades quickly away; rather, it seemed to wail on and on. Now, I could also hear young children’s voices from the yard behind us.

 The shadows were lengthening, and the spell was broken; time to go inside and start dinner (Linda is in Santa Barbara for several days). I laughed to myself at the timing of the police or fire – wouldn’t you know? I was nevertheless glad to have had that half-hour or so of music and relaxation.

 If you read my last post, you are familiar with the Latin, “carpe diem,” – “seize the day.” Sometimes, one must be content with “seize the moment,” and rejoice that one was able to do so! This, too, shall pass.

4 thoughts on “Billie Holiday and a Beer: Seize the Moment!

  1. When I think “Billie Holiday,” I always think of “Strange Fruit” — which is mesmerizing and haunting but not exactly summer evening relaxing music. I’ll have to expand my Billie repertoire.

  2. Just gave Linda a hug as she got in the car to head your way….glad you are taking care of
    yourself in such a GREAT WAY while she is absent. Keep up the good Work!

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