Zoot Sims on the Booze Cruise

As I recall, he got top billing, as was
his due, which meant you had to wait
through somebody else’s set to hear him.

On the way out of the harbor, with some
people there just for the night in the
ocean air, and the booze, of course,

there was some jostling for place, but
it was nothing more than you would
encounter on a city pavement at lunch hour,

and it accomplished zilch; there were
several hours to go and by that time,
those who had come for the dating and the mating

would be sloshed out of their minds, resting
against the wooden benches like distraught
mourners at a funeral, waiting for the death

of tomorrow’s hangover. Then you could
make your move, and hear one of the great
tenors of his time, when those who didn’t

know what they had bought tickets for
had given up. I came down from the upper
deck and found standing room behind the

band, a perfect view of the man I’d first heard
on an EP of The Four Brothers of Woody Herman’s
band and wondered—what kind of mother names

her kid Zoot? He had the unknowing and the
cognoscenti in the bell of his horn, his warm tone
taking the chill off the early summer eve.

And down front I saw a mirror image of myself,
but a little hipper; tapping his foot, a carefully-
chosen baseball cap on his head, while I was

still in a business suit. He was more self-conscious of
his attire on a night where time had warped,
and it was an evening before he and I had been born.


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