Mira Jay of Divine Rhythm asked for one of my tunes. I looked for a recording of a tune I wrote a long time ago, a harmonica thing. Couldn’t find it on the computer so recorded it again a few days ago. Sorry about the singing. I always thought it was one of my best tunes, but could never come up with words to match. Last year I made up some words that fit the opening scene of my book Up in the Bronx and used the tune to open the “soundtrack” CD titled Up in the Bronx and Down in L.A. – which is, I hope – a companion piece to the novel. So you can blame lovely Mira for this one.
I’ll add the opening of the book:
It was a late summer’s evening. The sun had just slipped out of view, and the sky over the elevated tracks had turned a deep orange. Old Sol was moving on: past the Harlem River, past Washington Heights. Past the mighty Hudson, past New Jersey. Past Pennsylvania. Sailing high over the vast remainder of our great, wide, God-blessed continent of North America.
Somewhere out there, the buffaloes were still grazing; perhaps one of them might lift his heavy head to examine the sun, while he chewed. Out in Montana, in Wyoming, and in Idaho the yellow sun still cast its gentle rays on the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Further west, in California, the late-afternoon surfers might still be descried paddling out toward the long, distant breakers, the sunlight glistening on the waters. However, in New York, up in the Bronx, it was the end of the day, the sun was setting, thank God.
Jack Isaacson looked down from his open bedroom window on the third floor of an old, five-story walk-up. Directly beneath him were the roofs of some unrented stores, the tar paper peeling under a gentle assortment of rubbish: strewn pages of the Daily News, empty paper cups, whatnot. Down on Jerome Avenue ran the trestle, the elevated tracks of the Jerome Ave #4 IRT line. Jack watched as some automobiles chugged their way up the hill from Jerome Avenue towards the Grand Concourse, some already with their headlights on, another day done.
He turned from the window and walked through the darkening living room and around into the kitchen. The window there also faced west, and the begonia plants on the sill stretched toward the last of the light. Some burnt petals lay curled on the old, linoleum floor. It had been a hot day. The summer of 1975, if you remember, was a hot one, setting all kinds of records for high temperatures. But in the Bronx, you would usually get a nice breeze in the evening, thank God.
Jack had lived in the Bronx all of his twenty-seven years. He had grown up in the east Bronx, and now rented this apartment on Morris Avenue and 184th St, not far from Fordham Road. His parents and two sisters had left the Bronx and moved to Florida. And it seemed most of his friends had either left the city for the suburbs or moved to the fast singles life of Manhattan. But Jack had remained in the Bronx: where he could still get by on his civil servant’s salary, where he still felt at home. The Bronx wasn’t what it used to be, but what was?
Jack Isaacson, son of Morris and Tillie Isaacson, was a tall man: six foot-two: thin, with an angular face and curly black hair, which fell over his ears in ringlets. His nose was big and hooked, like his father’s. His eyes were dark, and they shined as they reflected the last of the day’s light. Something was calling to him, drawing him silently to its bosom. Who knows what that “something” is, or what to call it? Jack stood with his hands in the pockets of his jeans, and watched as the light finally disappeared and the darkness began to slip over the sky.