Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Could Be Sadder, My Friend Thought, Than a Clown in Need of a Context?

Three more Mingus pieces via bud Greyhoos and then one more from me at the bottom. I don't know as much about jazz as I wish - there are only so many hours - but I was turned onto Mingus by an English professor at Anne Arundel Community College (there's a story) about the time Earthgirl and I first lived together in a marina house in Deale MD (google map 6064 Drumpoint Road, Deale MD and you can see it), and while true that Mingus' music strikes pleasure tines in my brain most jazz - most music - doesn't, I also associate Mingus with wonderful times sitting in the backyard listening to Mingus, watching the sailboats come and go while steaming the blue crabs we pulled from our pots we threw off the docks and BBQing fresh bluefish friendly fisherman gave us, and awful times too, sitting in the backyard listening to Mingus with my friend Henry, a black man, and his white wife Donna, and being called over in private by two boat owners who demanded I get the fucking nigger and his white whore off the property, waking up in the morning after I told them to fuck off to find my car tires slashed, Henry and Donna's car tires slashed. The local cops taking the police report thought it was funny.



Stephen Dunn

If a clown came out of the woods,
a standard looking clown with oversized
polkadot clothes, floppy shoes,
a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him
on the edge of your property,
there'd be nothing funny about that,
would there? A bear might be preferable,
especially if black and berry-driven.
And if this clown began waving his hands
with those big, white gloves
that clowns wear, and you realized
he wanted your attention, had something
apparently urgent to tell you,
would you pivot and run from him,
or stay put, as my friend did, who seemed
to understand here was a clown
who didn't know where he was,
a clown without a context.
What could be sadder, my friend thought,
than a clown in need of a context?
If then the clown said to you
that he was on his way to a kid's
birthday party, his car had broken down,
and he needed a ride, would you give
him one? Or would the connection
between the comic and the appalling,
as it pertained to clowns, be suddenly so clear
that you'd be paralyzed by it?
And if you were the clown, and my friend
hesitated, as he did, would you make
a sad face, and with an enormous finger
wipe away an imaginary tear? How far
would you trust your art? I can tell you
it worked. Most of the guests had gone
when my friend and the clown drove up,
and the family was angry. But the clown
twisted a balloon into the shape of a bird
and gave it to the kid, who smiled,
letting it rise to the ceiling. If you were the kid,
the birthday boy, what from then on
would be your relationship with disappointment?
With joy? Whom would you blame or extol?    


  1. Yeesh. The Maryland of the recent past sounds similar to the Alabama of the recent past that I grew up in. But I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. After all, doesn't the official state song contain a lyric to the effect of: "Huzzah! Death to all the Northern Scum!"?

  2. To be fair, the overwhelming majority of neighbors and people were perfectlyu pleasant regardless they may have agreed or disagreed with my politics had those things even been discussed, which they weren't. But it's only been the past decade that Maryland wasn't solid red except for MOCO, PG, and Baltimore City, and the western shore south of the South River and especially the Eastern Shore were, when we lived in Deale in the mid to mid-late 80s, the South.

  3. It's an unfair comparison, Iknowiknow, Just sounded a bit too familiar. Pardon me if I was being a bit feces-ious with the above. I lived in Bmore city for a while about a decade ago. But only for 18 months; but never got a sense for MD as a whole.

    One thing I learned while I was there: Reputedly the official state sport was *jousting.* WTF? I figured it would've been lacrosse(?). Never saw the slightest hint of jousting while I was there, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't even take place at Pimlico in the off-season.

  4. I don't think it was an unfair comparison at all. It *was* the South.

    My comment was toward my kazillion-step program to constantly remind myself that a person who I might fundamentally disagree on some or many political issues the majority of the time is not an unreasonable asshole and is probably a decent person. I was born a scold and a partisan flag-waver, I need remind myself to be Kind.