Safe Sex of the Highest Order

And later in the night, I listened to Archie Shepp's Three For A Quarter, One For A Dime, which I understand is the darker, angrier, wilder side of a performance held at San Francisco's old Both/And Club on February 19, 1966.

February 19, 1966. What sort of world was this in 1966?

The music boiled from the hi-fi and spilled all over my listening room. Archie Shepp plays tenor sax and piano, Donald Garrett and Lewis Worrell are on bass, Beaver Harris rocks the drums, and Roswell Rudd works the trombone. With all of its yearning and moaning and relentless beauty, Three For A Quarter, One For A Dime does sound like the work of a man who is extremely passionate and proud.

And afterwards, I began reading Kurt Vonnegut's Armageddon in Retrospect, a recently published collection of essays, stories, letters, and lectures on war and peace. In the first piece, a speech presented by Vonnegut's son Mark at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis, Vonnegut tells us:

The most spiritually splendid American phenomenon of my lifetime is how African-American citizens have maintained their dignity and self-respect, despite their having been treated by white Americans, both in and out of government, and simply because of their skin color, as though they were contemptible and loathsome, and even diseased….

And what gift of America to the rest of the world is actually most appreciated by the rest of the world? It is African-American jazz and its offshoots. What is my definition of jazz? "Safe sex of the highest order."

And I had to close the book for a moment, and nod and smile.

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rvance's picture

I try to impress upon my friends who feel bad about Obama's election, how symbolically monumental his presidency is for generations of dispossessed blacks. Growing up in the '50's and '60's it was appalling to see the effects of racism and the white resistance to racial equality. Obama's election goes beyond mere politics and partisanship in America- it is a global phenomenon that shines a beam of light where freedom and hope have been extinguished.I was visiting a friend on the west side of Long Beach, back in 1975. I worked as a custodian at Long Beach Poly, but I was still a little self-conscious as a lone white in the ghetto, when I stopped to get a six pack near the corner of Anaheim and Cherry. A weary old man hanging out front asked me if he could have one of my beers. I couldn't think of a reason to say no, so I gave him one. He was mildly surprised. He handed me a bottle of Black Velvet for a pull and while we drank he said "Young man- don't let the motherfuc

rvance's picture

...kers bullshit you! And I never did.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Awesome story, rvance. Put a big smile on my face. Thanks.

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