“The Theory of the Leisure Class” By Mike Lee


Paraphrasing the jazz legend Cannonball Adderly. “Sometimes we just don’t know what to do when we are faced with adversity.” But he is wrong. There are innumerable ways to face adversity. One can deny the horrors surrounding you, ignoring them until the sudden darkness of oblivion. Or break down immobilized in tears, again, until sleep comes down, the kind you never wake from.

Those are two ways. There is no not knowing what to do when the proverbial shit hits the fan, so Adderly is wrong, but hey he was a great player, and Joe Zawinul wrote fantastic songs, and a superlative jazz pianist. In 1970, he founded Weather Report. He died in 2007 of a rare form of skin cancer.

Consumption is not just an archaic synonym for tuberculosis. It is also a term in economics having to do with the use of goods and services. In a book by a man named Veblen, he postulated that the wealthy waste material resources in conspicuous consumption. Whether it be on sports, entertainment, buying useless objects of art, gambling or clothes often worn once—if at all—the one percent and those slightly below on the capitalist pyramid essentially throw their money away.

Perhaps consumption as tuberculosis and consumption as financial waste is similar. Both are rather chic in their respective times. Wasting away, coughing blood and having the pallor of a vampire seemed rather attractive to the smart set in the 19th century.

Blowing a bunch of bucks in a very short period of time is celebrated always. Waste is the most celebrated of commodities, since everyone loves having a good morning shit. How is that not what it is?

At the jazz club in Chicago, Cannonball Adderly performed Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. This song was written by Joe Zawinul, and it became a surprise hit, just missing the top ten on the American charts in 1966.

But this song was not really recorded at a club in Chicago. The musicians performed in a Hollywood studio, before friends. There was an open bar.

Standing at the bar, waiting for his Balblairs neat, Bobby coughed into his handkerchief. He stared at the bloody phlegm stains before jamming the cloth into his trouser pocket.

When he began getting sick, Bobby decided he wanted to drink the worst liquor in the world. He chose scotch. He’s been drinking scotch for five years.

When he gets the scotch, he fingers the rim with a calloused forefinger. Bobby is a bassist. Had a brief stint with Harry James, and sits in at the hottest spots on Central Avenue. Pays the rent, cleans the suits, but not much more.

He feels his chest is ready to burst.

When Cannonball introduces a song about facing adversity, Bobby takes a sip of scotch, which deadens the fires burning inside.

He leans against the open bar, knowing he does not have long to live.

But he exists for the rhythm, and the crescendo of the upbeats. That’s how to deal with adversity.

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