Sunday, March 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/20: Up the River, Wellness Trail, Miles Davis Documentary

1. After I had the Sube's wheels retorqued -- it took over a week for me to rack up 50 miles of driving after having the summer tires put back on -- , I made a solo drive up the North Fork of the CdA River to see if the Coal Creek Trail was accessible. The river road had a light traffic. Several vehicles sat in parking areas while their owners waded out into the river to fish. A few other people fished out of boats that drifted downstream. I saw no gatherings, no crowds, just solitary guys fishing or floating.

From the road, I saw that it will be a while before I can hike Coal Creek. Snow covered the short road at the turn in as well as the small parking area. I'll check it again in a couple of weeks without high expectations. Since I don't have a sturdy snow vehicle nor do I own snowshoes, I just cruised on by the trail head area, found a place a ways up the river to turn around, and headed back to Kellogg.

2. In Kellogg, I parked at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the hospital's Wellness Trail. I took a brief nap in the car. Soon I started up the Wellness Trail itself. Already, I'm getting a bit stronger. Yes, I stopped at both benches along the trail and rested and let my heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat return to normal, but my recovery time was quicker and as I hiked to the picnic table at the end of the trail, my legs felt stronger. I hope that before long I can hike to each bench without stopping. After that, I will try to complete the hike and only stop at one bench. Ultimately, I hope to repeat what I did last summer and hike the length of the (pretty short) trail without stopping.

3. I taught, as a graduate student, in the Composition Program at the University of Oregon in the 1980s. Back then, the beginning writing classes were taught by graduate students and a staff of instructors -- the instructors held graduate degrees. They worked part and full time. They were not professors. They were not grad students. They were instructors, overworked and poorly paid.

Today, I had flashbacks to one of the instructors teaching at the same time I was. His name is Bob Martin. I didn't know Bob well at all. In composition workshops and meetings, Bob struck me as really smart and charismatic. When he discussed how he was working with his students and helping them learn to write, his ideas always sounded innovative and his enthusiasm inspired me.

In one workshop in which, I think, we were discussing teaching WR 123, the research and composition course, Bob explained how he brought Miles Davis into his course.

Except he didn't call him Miles Davis.

He just called him Miles.

There was something hip, cool, and worldly about the way Bob talked about Miles Davis, calling him Miles, that conveyed to me that Miles Davis breathed air so rarefied that he didn't need a surname. People in the know, people on the inside, cool people just called him Miles. It was similar to being around friends who loved the Grateful Dead. They never uttered the name Jerry Garcia. He was just Jerry.

I remember Bob Martin talking about Miles that day in ways that suggested (and I had no problem with this) that cool people hip to the world of jazz shared a first-name kind of familiarity with Miles Davis, not only with his music, but with his story.

Bob Martin's tone of voice in talking about Miles Davis was knowing. He resided in a land of coolness that was foreign to me, speaking with an intimate knowledge of "Miles" that left me wide-eyed, as if I'd heard the tales of an adventurer who was reporting back from some exotic place.

I enjoyed my memory of Bob Martin (however inaccurate it might be) returning to me this afternoon as I watched the documentary film, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.

I am not knowledgeable enough to review this movie. I enjoyed learning how Miles Davis translated feeling into music and eventually created a unique expression of jazz music that had an immeasurable influence on the world of jazz and helped expand the imagination and the careers of musicians like John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and many others who collaborated with him at different times in different bands.

I also learned more about Miles Davis' struggles with heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, about his marriages, and his physically violent outbursts of jealousy. These parts of the his story were awful to learn about.

Underlying the movie and its many interviews with people who knew Miles Davis was a current of bewilderment. That Miles Davis was a musical genius always expanding the boundaries of jazz and looking for ways to innovate is undeniable and was a source of this movie's respect for him; that he was also difficult, erratic, temperamental, and violent informed the movie's uncertainty as to what, in the end, to make of Miles Davis.

Well, I was left perplexed. Maybe it wasn't the movie that was uncertain. I was.

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