Fire and Rain

First some words  from James Taylor:

I’ve seen fire and  I’ve seen rain.

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.

I’ve seen lonely days when I could not find a friend,

But I always thought that I’d see you again.

Maybe it’s no more than that time of life when these things happen, but tonight, biking home from work along the Hudson River with the sun low  enough to the horizon to make me squint, I discovered myself thinking about Alvin Perry.  Here’s Al at the old  Tap-a-Keg where I used to play 8 ball afternoons with sanitation workers for tequila shots.  Probably ’66 or even ’67.

Al and I worked nights at a bar called The Annex on Avenue B between 10th and 11th back in the fall of 1965.  Al was a bartender and I, right there at the end of the bar, was the short order cook.  And short the order was: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried chicken and french fries.  You want something else?  Go somewhere else!

I had been listening to jazz for maybe 10 years by that time.  Al brought me to it live and with persons.  Al came up to New York from Philly at about the same time as John Coltrane and Lee Morgan and McCoy Tyner and the Heath Brothers and Hank Mobley and Stanley Clarke and Wilbur Ware and that whole, utterly incredible host of forefront musicians who set us on fire.  He knew them, so I met them and, of course, cooked burgers and chicken for them.  And there was Ellen Powell (, not that much later Ellen Powell Tiberino, but even then committed to Joe Tiberino, another artist.   She the Philly artist who let me know that art, like jazz, was made by people.

Here’s one of Ellen’s school days drawings.  She wasn’t that long out of school, and it was all I could afford at the time.

And Harold Feinstein (, my first photography teacher.  Al introduced me to him and, now that I think of it, to photography.  Al was my guide, my guru, my ambassador.  Somewhere around the time I left the Lower East Side for the Upper West side he left too, moving to the Southwest.  I don’t remember where.  I surely missed the man, but life was busy, and I was growing so full of myself that there was no need for a guru.  Still I always thought that I’d cross paths with Al Perry again.

Imagine two old men sitting over drinks trying to remember various women’s names and the ASAs of Tri-X, Plus-X and Panatomic-X.

That is until I got a call from Wesley.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love Wes.  Even though we haven’t seen each other in maybe a decade and even though Wes’ role in my life has been twice  to inform me of demise.   (

Anyhow (and as you’ve undoubtedly guessed by my digression)–and right now I can’t recall how many years ago–it came in a phone call from Wesley that Al “may have passed.”

May have passed?!  What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”


“C’mon man!  Is he gone or what?”

“Take it easy, Goldie.  I’m just tellin’ you what I heard.”

Now I realize Wes put it that way for fear that pronouncing him actually dead would make it so.  Keeping it as a rumor would leave space for his reappearance.  Now I appreciate that.

Maybe this fall I’ll get up to Saugerties to see Wes.

*   *   *

So here we are–you and me–with a bike ride home along the Hudson on a clear late Summer day and an equally clear set of memories from what now is closing in on half a century ago.  This from a man who’s right knee bends only under protest who loses the names of people he’s been working with for 15 years.

Go figure…

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 3:39 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. not dull, not exciting, but always interesting. blog on!


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