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A Cleansing Rage

There are some moments in life that just stick in the brain as an indelible image.  Such a moment for me was New Year’s Eve 2009.  Maria and I were in London with her family and her sister took us to a fancy dress party which is what they call a costume party. The theme was American Prohibition which, coming from Chicago, was pretty hilarious to us.

But we put on our 1920’s clothes and went to the bar which I believe was in Tooting or one of those still somewhat disreputable neighborhoods, at least at that time. It’s probably changed by now.  At any rate, there was a smoking hot jazz band complete with a tap dancer and we drank bathtub gin and it was alright.

I was absolutely entranced by the tap dancer, partly because of her skill, partly because she wore a ludicrous smile the whole time she performed and partly because she was on a not very wide platform that was at least four feet high which I thought was amazing.  I stared at her and the band with such a look of naked fascination that at one point the guitarist winked at me like I was a ten year old in a Dickens novel. Which maybe I was, just for a bit. London is a weird place.

But, as cool as that was, that’s not the memorable part.  You may recall that 2009 was a rough year for a lot of people.  We had this little thing called the global economic meltdown and, well, it was tough.  For me it was tough because I had recently quit my piano teaching job and was trying to make ACM my full time job.

Things were going very well at first and I was feeling good and then the crash happened.  All of our grants and donations pretty much evaporated. The Illinois Arts Council was mercilessly gutted and has only now seen its funding almost completely restored.

Things worked out in the end but at the time I was scared and totally unsure of what the future held.  And I was hardly alone.  At midnight the band did the countdown and we all yelled Happy New Year!  And then, maybe thirty whole seconds into 2010 someone in the crowd yelled in a thick British accent “f*ck 2009!”

We laughed at first but he yelled it again and then we all started yelling it and pumping our fists in time.  It was an angry yell but God it felt good. It was absolutely cathartic. We needed to be in this dingy room in South London yelling f*ck 2009 over and over again.  People started laughing and hugging and high fiving and the band started up again and I remember looking around and thinking I don’t know any of these people but I sure hope 2010 is better for all of us.

2019 has not been nearly as bad as 2009 for me personally but I know that this entire decade has been hard for a lot of people.  There’s a lot of anger and not in a fun South London kind of way.  As we move into the holiday season and then start a new decade, well, I just hope we can learn to agree on something.  And if we need to be angry and shout, let’s do it together.  Ideally with a smoking hot swing band and tap dancer because who doesn’t love that?

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