I find myself sitting here with the words that invariably manifest themselves as I write my Static column for each issue: It’s been a month. That thought’s more eloquent companions have fled, screaming, to the depths of my subconscious. Schubert had better luck snagging his mischievous trout than I do trolling for those saucy fugitives. They lurk just out of sight—and out of mind.
The high point certainly was just after publication of my July issue, when I received my Jazz Hero award from the Jazz Journalists Association. It took me so long to decide where that presentation was to take place, mulling over both Utica and Rome before settling on Syracuse, that I expect the JJA will grant me the coveted Royal Pain award for inconveniencing others above and beyond the call of duty. After my months of vacillating, the event (a meeting of the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse) went quite well, with my lifelong best friend in attendance. As a gesture of appreciation for the kind reception, I managed to keep my acceptance speech well under three quarters of an hour.
Shades of This is Your Life—but this is also my life: you readers may have noticed that the July issue was more gray and less physically substantial than previous issues, as if printed on the same stock as the local daily you ignore as you quickly check the news on your smartphone. The reason of course is that it is printed on exactly the same stock. This is not a result of (as the kids like to say) “shrinkflation,” nor is it due to the pathological thriftiness of the publisher. I’m not trying to sell you 48 ounces of ice cream (metaphorically speaking) for the price of a half-gallon. And if I run things on a strand of frayed dental floss (a shoestring would be extravagant), it is merely to make the paper look as good as possible for as little money as possible.
No, world-wide supply-chain issues have visited our humble office—and, like most pests, they intend to stay a while. As with most New Normals, this one is decidedly more austere than the Old Normal. An interminable paper mill strike in Finland and the disruption caused by the war in Ukraine mean that the nice bright white heavy stock you have come to expect is now exorbitantly expensive—assuming it can be found at all. If it’s a choice between not going to press at all or printing on standard newsprint, I happily choose the fishwrap.
And, as Bing Crosby gently moans “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” in the background, there’s this: I discovered a week before this writing that my first-class expense for mailing a paper had risen by twenty cents. Going back further, sending a single paper is up thirty-six cents from last August. At this point, as they say, it begins to run into money. I cannot even bear to consider what Periodical Rates are going to do. It may happen that the US Geological Survey will detect seismic activity in this neighborhood when I find out.
Keeping it personal, Fate began to stomp away, then turned in her tracks and said, “And another thing…” In the course of a routine dental checkup, I told the hygienist of some mild discomfort I was experiencing and asked for an x-ray. I would have been disappointed if it had not been another abscessed tooth requiring extraction. What other outcome could there have been? My maternal grandfather, that Lancashire reprobate, primary begetter of my genetic train-wreckage, must be laughing his arse off right now if they are allowed to laugh where he is.
Having dislodged from my psyche—and then lodged here—these particular complaints, and choosing not to address dire occurrence outside my sphere of immediate influence (since I regret I am unable to respond to all your hate mail), what then has gone right? Actually, it’s not all bad news.
Aside from being chronically ill with a Whitman’s Sampler of co-morbidities, I seem to have stumbled on a course of treatment that has improved my energy level and sense of well-being—while intending to do something else entirely. This has been good for The Syncopated Times, since I’m not approaching my print deadline in a frantic (yet fatigued) state. As train wrecks go, I’m doing okay.
As a general boon, it is worth noting that almost all the festivals which were postponed during the Long Intermission have plans to go forward this year—and have placed advertising in this issue. The outlook is a good deal less grim than it was in 2020 or 2021. I am truly happy for all those who have waited for the festivals to open up again—and for those who worked to make it happen. (I will likely be happier still once I can remember how to write an ad invoice.)
In other positive news (well, positive for me, at any rate) I have rediscovered my muse who was hiding, shivering, in a junk room behind crates of old records. I called her by name, gave her soup and a sandwich, and she reawakened in me the gift of song. I forgot I was a songwriter. Current events and trends (which I dare not speak of here) inspire lyrical commentary set to tunes both original and well-known. I have paused in my composition only to lay out and publish the issue you now hold in your hands.
As inflation and supply-chain problems rage around me and erode my resources, I keep a battered six-stringer by my computer to pick and strum as I wait for software to load. The actual making of music was what was missing from my life.
And since this is a paper about music, that’s of no small importance.