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Claudine Jones-Scene4 Magazine

Claudine Jones


While I wait for the latest version of MuseScore to update so I can finish my Bach alto/tenor duet drilling, I'm conscious of competing avenues of exploration—from the familial to global chatter.

I type & wait; somebody somewhere may or may not be listening to the message I left this morning with the Alameda County Office of Something which offers to help with persons who are depressed, suicidal or in other wise Up Against It.

His nibs & I are just back from walking to lunch—legs are strong, bellies comfy.   

Timex-crOn the way back we checked out a side street  art installation that a neighbor's daughter said her mom had created. She (the daughter) recognized us from around our corner (a mile or so away) although I have to say I wouldn't have known who she
was. We just are fixtures to her, I guess, since we are continually out & about on the streets & sidewalks, taking full advantage of our neighborhood's walkscore. 

We had in this case been thoroughly blocked by this woman & her landscaper, hacking at the monstrous hedge across from our restaurant. She laughs & makes as if to carry us bodily over the masses of detritus, exclaiming apologies & then congratulates us on our spirit in going out into the street. As we walk on, she suddenly says you're my mom's neighbors on Ross Street! You know my mom, right? Susan. You should check out her installation! She gestures down the side street.  No pressure! Whenever you can, you know. She pauses. You know my mom,  Susan, right? We nod vigorously.

Who the fuck is Susan? when we're far enough away. O, she's the, you know, the lady with the, you know...o goddamn it. You know, the one who borrowed/stole my cast iron stove.  If it's the same woman, she used to be infamous in the area for doing window displays & all the found objects in & around her home were this close to car-on-the-front-lawn, but they were behind the fence, biggie.

It's probably her.

So here we are all these years later on a leisurely stroll back home, urged to make a side-trip—I must admit after goat karahi & two cups of chai, I'm not thinking; just blissed—but his nibs shall we take a look? This is a fellow who has pretty much no use at all for museums & galleries, but what the heck.  We turn the corner.

In front of us is precisely what we would have expected, having once seen the top of a giant plaster Lady of Liberty peering at us over her fence. Here is a rough open enclosure has been erected there just off the sidewalk in front of what appears to be a house with evidence of art bursting out of the very windows. The little shack has a colorful braided rug on the ground, & some chairs, but what really catches the eye is a large round carpet hanging at the back parallel to the sidewalk; it has no finished edge, as though someone hacked it from a Versailles-size larger piece. It is made up of violently primary colors & simple images of a bird  or two & some flowers & the word Venezuela across the lower third. Everything else in the immediate scene is festooned with bits the like of which might be found in the armoire with grandson's old projects & toys that he refused to let go of: are we keeping this? O yes, I might need it.

All in all it's actually pretty cool & totally worth the side trip. In my concern about the state of the world, it occurs to me again that art is limitless & that Cage's 4:33 has its place in it. We badger each other as we walk home; I have my phone, so I can call up information &, careful not to trip or meet my demise in front of a speeding vehicle, I read of the history of the making of four thirty three.

I know that such things as having a lively discussion about the circle of fifths & enharmonic equivalents amounts to torture to my old man, so I try to soften him up: this is not technical, after all. It is a call to the hacks who would label us degenerate & censor us or burn our stuff  or lock us up.  

No he says it's a joke! I paid to come to a concert & I get nothing? But the very act of paying for an experience is in itself part of the whole. 

Yesterday, I sat in a big chair & pulled my empty 20” loom up close, positioned the 15” loom against it & finished the last of a scarf  to be presented by me to my 97 year-old aunt in Paris in a couple of weeks; I was worried that what seemed to be a carefully crafted keepsake would resist my color choices—you never know what it will really look like until it's up & going, maybe necessitating god what was I thinking moment & a complete tear-down. So I was pretty happy with both my project & the sentiment behind it. Having a bunch of fringe to tie off is a perfect mindless task to do while having a phone conversation, so I checked in with ma.  I had the vague idea that the combination of working on a gift for her sister & chatting with her would have a mystical connection, even if not explicit.


Hi, ma.

Claudine? I'm not doing well at all. It's just terrible.

(This is never the way things start—she always says Claudine? Is that you? I didn't recognize your voice. What's cookin'? So, no preliminaries. I've actually always thought it was pro-forma—she knows it's me, she just likes saying it that way.  But she continues.)

It's awful. I don't know what to do. I don't know anything. You've always been so kind; your brother has been so cruel. I just don't know anything. The world is changing. Everything is too complicated. I called (social worker) and someone kept interrupting if you'd like to make a call, please hang up & try again I don't understand what is happening. I'm sorry. It's terrible. You people don't know what it's like. I was so happy. I was proud to be taking care of things myself.  I need hearing aids. Are you going to help me?

You've got to get a hearing test first, ma. We talked about this: you don't want to join Costco, so you need to call the clinic & get a referral for a hearing test.

I called them; they don't do it.

Did you ask for a referral?

No. You know, the so-called doctor—Mrs. Pizzeria or something, I don't know her name—she doesn't follow up. I asked them about my...(I interrupt)

Ma, you have four people on your team at the clinic: Dr. Pistorelli only comes in once a week, so you usually are going to deal with Journey, who is your Nurse Practitioner; if you need something, keep bugging them. They'll call you back. They always do; they like you.

It's terrible. You know your brother can be so wonderful; I don't understand. He was so kind. He took me to Walgreen's & he slapped my hand! He said it drives him crazy when I stop to look at something. I just was looking at a sweater & he slapped my hand!

(Since I know this story from a month ago & it appears to have rashomon written all over it, I leave it alone.)

Why did you call me?

O just checking in. I'm finishing a...

Why hasn't S called back? We had such a wonderful visit; I still have his movie. I wanted to talk to him about it. I don't understand why he hasn't called me.

(S is my oldest & is, as he pointed out to me, a 'grown-ass man', so if she wants to talk to him, she can call & not just rat him out to his mom.)

I'm sorry I'm keeping you on the phone.

That's okay, I'm just twisting a bunch of fringe. I'm going to...

Why are you telling me that? What does that have to do with me? I don't know what to do. It's terrible. What am I going to do? I have no appetite. I used to have such energy. (recitation of short list of items she can stomach includes pickles & beets.)

Have you had breakfast? It's 11am.

No, I just woke up, I'm still in bed. I woke early, so I finished the last of the vodka.  I can't have vodka anymore, it doesn't go well with the medications.

(This is old news. She's poured more vodka down the sink in the past year & then bought more than we can keep track of.  Some doctor told her 3 years ago that it's okay to have a sip of vodka at bedtime, so that's her motto.)

Ma, you can't expect to have any energy with no calories in you. Remember, you can make a smoothie: just a little milk with a raw egg & some banana; that'll get some protein in you.

Yes, that's true. I remember that. That's a good idea. (giant sigh) Your brother was so kind. I don't understand. He's such an unhappy man. He argues & insists on things & gets upset.

(Who else do I know who fits this profile...again old news. Apples & trees.)

He's scared, ma. He's afraid of losing you.

I don't understand.

You know, he's upset. He's afraid of losing you.

I don't know what you're saying.

Losing you, ma.

What does that mean?

Losing. Losing. LOSING.



I'm just in a terrible state, Claudine. I'm so scared. I should have died. It would have been better.


Are you there? This is awful, you people just don't know what it's like. People don't know what it's like with a depression.

(We've been down this road before; she opined once that I had no knowledge of depression, forgetting for a moment that I had been suddenly widowed at age 31 with three little kids. So, yeah. I had dealt with depression, in my own way.)

I think you should have some food, ma. It's hard on your system to function without any calories. Go have some smoothie.  We'll talk.  Listen to some music.

Bach is running in my ears as I type. The crisis hot-line guys have not called back.

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2017 Claudine Jones
©2017 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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