BLIZZARD SONG (THOSE DAYS OF INDECISION)

PRINCETON IN THE SNOW

TO HEAR “BLIZZARD SONG” CLICK HERE.

In the Winter of 1986, I got a job at Princeton University as accompanist for modern dance. I was on my way to my destiny, determined to get a record deal. I kept my apartment in Hartford, Connecticut, playing in a weekend wedding band, while I stayed weeknights with a friend in Manhattan, worked my accompanying job at Princeton, pounded on doors of record companies and did occasional recording sessions with some well known rock and jazz artists.

A little history: Since my late teens, when I discovered to my pleasant surprise that I could get paid to improvise on the piano, I had “day jobs” as a modern dance accompanist. I mean who wouldn’t love this job? Performing (showing off, really) in front of beautiful girls dressed in leotards? It was a no-brainer. It was no coincidence that all my girlfriends from the 70’s and 80’s happened to be dancers. I would look forward to those bright, hopeful, crisp days of September when new batches of lovely young female dancers would present themselves as my new audiences (er, classes).

It wasn’t all lechery. I was good at this job. I made the classes fun for the students. Many of them thanked me for enlivening their classes, instead of lifelessly playing the same old boring Chopin preludes over and over like some of the other accompanists. Instead of putting them to sleep, I would mix it up with occasional bursts of singing, humor, soul music quotes and the occasional performances on saxophone, recorder and various percussion instruments. I enjoyed it too, and I got alot of satisfaction from making these classes fun. And it left my nights free to earn money playing with my bands in the clubs.

I had many of these jobs, starting at The Hartford Conservatory, with the legendary, German-born Truda Kaschmann. Truda brought me to play for her classes at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. I went on to accompany at The Hartford Ballet, Trinity College, The Loomis Chaffee School, The Ethel Walker School, Wesleyan University, Julliard School of Music, The Alvin Ailey School, Milton Academy, The Boston Ballet, The Boston Conservatory, Walnut Hill School For The Arts, The Martha Graham School, The José Limón School, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Sarah Lawrence College and Princeton University. I also played master classes for choreographers Gus Solomons Jr., Bill T. Jones, Moses Pendelton of Pilobolus, and was commissioned to compose scores for Viola Farber, Prometheus Dance and Bennett Dance Company.

But in the Winter of 1986, I was at Princeton. It was a very snowy Winter. I was in a state of transition. My life was in motion. I was on the way, moving out of my hometown of Hartford, Connecticut to New York City, where I would eventually get a record deal with RCA Records. During the week I camped out on an army cot in a friend’s basement barber shop basement in Manhattan, and commuted to Princeton. On the weekends I returned to my apartment in Hartford where I played in a wedding band. The Princeton commute took two and half hours each way. It involved taking the subway from East 85th Street to Grand Central, waiting for and getting on the not-always-punctual New Jersey Transit Train, getting off at Princeton Junction and taking the five minute train ride, known as “the Dinky Line”, from Princeton Junction stop to the campus. Sometimes the timing of the various trains would not line up, for whatever reasons, and I would arrive late for my first class at Princeton, which I hated doing. I’d rather be two hours early than be late for work. I remember being so stressed sometimes from the running through the streets and down the halls of Grand Central station, that I would break out into big, itchy hives that would last a few hours.

While my own life was imbued with a deep feeling of impermanence, there would be these moments on those snowy days at Princeton where I would become suddenly intensely aware of the self-contained, protected world there. The dance studio was steaming and filled with that fresh, cold air smell of snow-soaked coats and wool scarves. Every now and then, for a few minutes at a time, drinking my coffee-to-go from the campus dining hall, I would be overcome with happiness. Perhaps I identified with those college students. Shut off from the realities of getting a real job, settling down, getting married and all the rest, there was a wonderful, safe coziness to those wintry campus yards. I imagined hunkering down under the snow-drifted roofs for a romantic weekend with a girlfriend. Any girlfriend. How about that fascinating Chinese student? Or that Nordic-looking girl with bangs and glasses? Or that one in the green denim jacket that looks like she’d really like both hiking and poetry? I could read her my poems. Oh yes, I dreamed.

So I wrote, a few years later, this song about those days. It’s about that world-away-from-the-world, those magical, hidden days and nights between college campus days and “real life”. After the blizzard, the sun comes out, and you both emerge from the blizzardy eaves of the ivy-covered dorm rooms where the icicles are melting into the bushes and yards. You walk down the street in search of coffee, deeply in love, wrapped in the safety and surety of sexual infatuation and a romantic dream.

Sure you’ll have to face reality some day. But for now, who cares?
“It’s the time of indecision
every night and every day
every dream and every vision
help me now to slip away”.

 

 

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