Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Know I Can't Help It

Back in the day, around something like 1970-71, I used to stay at the Tropicana in Hollywood, when we weren't on the road. I could fill a very large book with just short tales of those days, but remembering them would be part of that process. Sadly, that is something that may not be entirely possible, due to lost brain cells. From what I hear, along with them go the memories contained therein. I know I had some great times, though, since the 'small brain' says so. (long memory, that little brain) More on that subject, later.

One great moment, that stayed etched in my brain (or perhaps resides in cells not destroyed), is something that happened around the pool, at the 'Trop', as we used to call it. Pools loom large in my legend. I would lay around a pool all day, everyday, if I was independently wealthy. Back in those days, actually, we acted like we were.

Now Stanley, our trumpet player back in the latter half of my stint with PG&E, was a very hip black man who was also from Chicago. He and I got along really well, maybe due to some combination of our love of The Blues, being Chicagoans or the fact that we were born in the same year. Whatever the reason, I always enjoyed spending time with him and listening to what he had to say. Stan was also a very intelligent person, so his humor--being kinda cerebral--was right up my alley. He also was able to articulate really well in a visual sort of way, which is not uncommon to artists who have speaking skills. On one particular day, he cracked me up with the tale of a little encounter of his own, around the pool.

Tootie (pronounced with the short-double 'o' sound, as in the word 'foot') was Sly Stone's sister. I think one of the reasons that Stan knew her, was because she was the trumpet player in Sly's band Sly and the Family Stone. Anyhow, Tootie went 'pimping' by Stan one day, on the pool deck, maybe on the way to her room. Pimping, by the way--as Stan called it--is kind of like a bouncing strut. Actually, to be as descriptive as I can be, it was a fairly well-known, cool-looking walk that was more common to black people back in that era. It really wasn't a swagger like the hip-hop or gangsta moves today, but rather a slow, bouncing, forward-leaning strut, sometimes accented with one hand hooked into the belt while the other hung at the side, swinging with the arm and shoulder slightly lower than the other side. Basically, a walk that says, "I am as cool as I can be."

Stan, who I think was leaning back on a pool chair enjoying the summer air, couldn't resist making a comment: "Tootie, why you so mean?" She cocked her head just enough to direct her answer to Stan, without changing her gait one bit, and said, "Aw, man. You know I can't help it."

Of all the cool things I have heard said, that would rank toward the top.