Mr. Shepard mentioned in one of his classes that the best place to buy Jazz records in Chicago was at the world renowned Jazz Record Mart, located downtown, so, one day, I decided to pay the Mart a visit. While wandering around the store, as I sifted through the Pat Metheny vinyl, I overheard the owner having a conversation with a regular customer about how Paul Wertico, a drummer of in a band that I had always followed was performing just around the corner, at the touristy Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard St.
“Yeah man, you should check him out; he is only in town for this season. He will play this week at Andy’s Jazz Club. After that, he goes on tour for the rest of the year.” The owner said to the client.
It was right after lunch, on a weekday and I was a bit thirsty so I thought I’d stop by the club and get something to drink, since one of my favorite drummers was going to be there. From outside, the bright red and blue neon lights read “Chicago Jazz,” and a sudden pulling sensation made me think of what it would be like to work in a place like this, surrounded by live music. I decided; why not ask for a job application?
Once inside, I found the place empty and an old guy was tuning his acoustic bass on the tiny stage. The orange neon lights of the Wall of Fame decorating the whole bar were almost the only source of light in the entire space, with the exception of the big window that faced Hubbard Street.
I sat by the bar, where a bartender served an old lady who was smoking and sipping a coffee. The smoke and the steam from her coffee blended together, distorting her face.
“Hi Maam. Are they currently hiring personnel here?” I asked shyly.
“Yes. Let me getch ya a job application.” She said while chewing gum.
The old guy tuning the bass was in his own little world, humming a tune first, and then starting to play the now well-tuned bass. He lit a cigarette that smelled of cloves mixed with vanilla, almost like incense, as he played some bluesy tune while retaining the cigarette with his lips. A cloud of smoke covered him as his eyes shrunk.
The bartender handed me the application and I filled it out as my naked arms resting against the bar, felt sticky with grease from the dirty countertop. I handed the application back to the bartender as I gave the best of my smiles before leaving the place. She smiled back at me.
“They’re hiring Darlin’. Come back soon.” She said and wished me good luck.
As I walked out, the speakers from outside played:
“Fly me to the moon
let me play among the stars
let me see what spring is like
on a-Jupiter and Mars…”
I looked up at the gray skyscrapers that arbitrarily cut the blue sky; a feeling of belonging to the landscape came over me. As I descended the steps for the subway at Grand Avenue, my eyes read the headlines of a New York Times left abandoned on a bench: “The events that triggered Argentina’s crisis: Unemployment hits 18.3% in October, the highest since mid-1998, and unions call a general strike.” I felt pride seeing my country on the front page of such a prestigious paper. However, that pride quickly turned to sadness. I knew that I was not going back to Argentina. I was stuck in Chicago for a while.
The lights coming out of the dark tunnel of the subway blinded me and the sound of sharpening knifes from the wheels against the tracks distracted my reading, sending the newspaper flying into the air with its speed. When the doors opened, I jumped on the train humming to myself the melody of that bluesy tune the old man at Andy’s had played. I fell asleep.