Monday, November 24, 2008

Prayer for a dead man's high-hat

On Friday night, at the Poetry Scores Art Invitational, David A.N. Jackson pulled me aside. He had played percussion in the poet K. Curtis Lyle's ensemble that performed with him that night, as part of an art show devoted to Curtis' poem Nailed Seraphim.

"Did you see the high-hat?" David asked, referring to a cymbal in his percussion kit.

He didn't even have to explain. "Damn," I said, "Hunter was on this gig, too?"

I had inherited that high-hat from Hunter Brumfield III. Hunter and I were playing together in Three Fried Men when he killed himself - we had done a gig on Friday, and he junked himself on Sunday. His drumkit was borrowed (of course). After Hunter was gone, I asked the owner of the kit, Richard Beckman, if I could hold onto it, and he said sure, he wasn't using it.

After a period of intense grief, David A.N. Jackson joined our band. David is (among many other things) a human beatbox - the world is his percussive instrument, and all of the things in it. David didn't need a drumkit, but I had one, so he played it - a drumkit was maybe the last thing he actually used as a drumkit.

Bands that survive a suicide, and the St. Louis scene has amassed a sad amount of evidence on this point, don't last long. After we split up, David (who knows the history of the drumkit) kept calling me to borrow parts of it, which has resulted in a number of exchanges in front of The St. Louis American, just another funky thing that happens there, trading a dead man's high-hat back and forth.

David's need for Hunter's high-hat has been so persistent, and my will to start another band without Hunter has been so weak, that the high-hat no longer changes places. It stays with David now. That's why this shiny golden fragment of my dead drummer was at the art show.

I told David, "I've been thinking about Hunter, you know? A lot. He should have lived to see Obama win, you know that? That would have meant so much to him. He would have been so active on that campaign. He should have been alive to celebrate that with us."

I have been thinking something much more specific about Hunter, in connection with Obama. Hunter was the quintessential white kid who mixed well - who clicked - with black folks. He once told me it bothered him, as he moved around, from Chicago to St. Louis to Indiana to Seattle back to St. Louis, that he always had to start all over again, with the local black folks, everywhere he went.

"I'm always just the white guy," Hunter said. His street cred never carried over - it always had to be earned, all over again, everywhere he went. It made him sad and wore him out. The night Obama won, Hunter would have been able to see a new way of being, at least for a moment, and if he were alive today, he could help us try to make that rare and exciting moment an enduring reality.


The painting of Hunter with a chicken is by Sandra Marchewa and is situated on my shrine to Hunter in my basement museum, which was disturbed today, but that's another story - I'll try to figure that one out later.


Tony Renner said...

weird that the first thing i said to you at the poetry speaks art invitational was that i hadn't known you were in a band with hunter.

hunter crashed on my couch for a month or so back in 1999 or so.

-- tony

Confluence City said...

Yes, weird ... or something.