Fancy Fingers

Once upon a time, there was a famous jazz pianist known as Junky The Pianist, who suffered from imposter syndrome. He played with all the biggies of his day in the 1950s and was on the cover of Time Magazine once (one less time than Duke Ellington).

            Jazz critics sucked up off his classical pianist training background; yet Junky The Pianist failed to feel good about his artistic heft after a depressingly dreary vision on extra-strength heroin one night, home alone in his Queens apartment in far Rockaway Beach.

            (This would’ve forced Miles Davis to face the audience, for a change, and stare down the motherfucker who dared to throw his jazz record masterpiece Kind of Blue out the window, too.)

            Junky The Pianist hunches over a pile of his own brown tarred puke, takes off his glasses, and rubs his eyes again, to make sure that what horrific vision he saw (on what was most likely pure, real-deal heroin) was actually true. Yes, it was.

            In this vision while on mind-melding H, a so-called Stay At Home Comedian Podcast Host in 2021 was filming a video on a strange mini-tablet device, of his son tossing Junky The Pianist’s prized jazz album, Heroin Hell, out the window into the frigid February snow with absolute relished glee to be finally rid of such horrible trash, forever. On the video, Junky The Pianist recoils from repeat visions of the kid throwing his “horrible” jazz record out the window, hoping it would break on a tree, after the little one admitted to liking jazz, prior, which made him more putrid sick in his stomach than ever before.

            Now Junky The Pianist wallows in the lowest form of self-pity, looks up to his leaky, decrepit, light flickering ceiling, and asks God, in the most dejected, harrowing way, “How can you like some jazz, but not my jazz piano masterpiece?”

             The Junky Pianist drones on, adding, “Who cares if I’m a white boy in glasses who looks like he should be a furniture salesman from Fort Lee, New Jersey?  

            “And how dare this so-called Stay At Home Comedian proclaim, “Best 20 bucks I ever spent” after his carefree son flings my jazz masterpiece into the yard as if it was another frenetic Herbie Hancock hand job record, knowing that the jazz critic at the Village Voice called my jazz piano masterpiece “heroin hell” and “melancholy magic.”  

            Junky The Pianist hears a loud thump on the door. Landlord screams, “Rent is due, Junky. How can you be on the cover of Time Magazine but not afford your rent in a rent-controlled apartment, motherfucker? I’ve seen those fancy cats you roll with, like Miles Davis. Well, guess what: you’re not Miles Davis. So, you’re in no position to turn your back on me, motherfucker.         “Look, Frank Sinatra is doing ok, singing songs from the great American jazz songbook. So, instead of composing more piano jerk music for jazz critics who still live with their mothers, why don’t you compose some fruitcake songs you can sell to Broadway, like Cole Porter or those those fancy schmancy Gershwin brothers, for a change? At least they dress nice and look the part. You look like a junkie furniture salesman from Fort Lee, Jersey. But, hey, you wear glasses and play at all the hip jazz joints downtown, so I’m positive you’ve got some brains cells left, to use more wisely.”

            Junky The Pianist pukes out a lung, this time. Landlord leans his ear closer to the door, this time, and bemoans, “Fight or flight, Junky: what will your destiny be? I get it. You’re most likely a closeted homo. I’ve heard you cry yourself to sleep singing ‘The Man I Love’ whenever Ella Fitzgerald is on the radio again.  

            “So you can’t hold hands with your imaginary lover throughout McDougal Street after a show at the Village Vanguard—whoopty freaking do. I’m positive you can get plenty of privacy at the Plaza with Cole Porter, or get some sin-on-sin loving behind any old dumpster behind any old Broadway theatre dressing room, too.  

            “Innovate or die a broke, boring junkie, fancy fingers. I don’t know why I waste my breath.”  

            Junky The Pianist musters the strength to crawl over to his piano, with no other furniture around, collapses on the dusty hardwood floor, and dies of a heart attack to avoid heroin hell one second longer, on the spot.

            His landlord paid for his casket and the remainder of his funeral expenses. Months later, Miles Davis visits his gravesite in Rockaway Queens, alone, and places a rock on his Jewish tombstone, and says, “Jazz rock is the new groove now, Junky. Sorry for turning my back on you when that junk started to ruin your fancy fingers at an accelerated rate, to where you couldn’t tell if you were playing meditative jazz or elevator music. on really slow acid, that takes forever to kick in.     “Regardless, your sound helped mold my best-selling masterpiece, Kind Of Blue. Having Train on the record with me, in charge as the bandleader to rein in his self-indulgent stroke sessions, didn’t hurt the overall marketability of the record, and made it more palatable for uptight white boy devil lawyers at Columbia Records to digest, too.

            “You played in a gorgeous, hair-tingly way on my birthday during a jam session on Milestones, which I’ll never forget. Sorry about cutting out your work, on that track. I couldn’t have a furniture salesmen from Fort Lee, New Jersey outshine me on my own shit, Junky.”

            Miles reaches into his camel skin coat pocket to grab Junky’s abnormally thick black glasses, places them on his tombstone, and says, “I got these from your landlord after I learned you’d passed. I can’t believe I was listed as your only emergency contact when I was still on the junk, too.

            “Your landlord told me to “innovate or die.” Then I recorded Sketches Of Spain during my drying out period, which represented my new lease on life, Junky. And I’ll always have your junky ass to thank. But boy, could you play. And I am fucking jazz.

            “And Miles knows best—even your homo ass all the way down in heroin hell can see that.”   

Michael Kornbluth

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