Saturday, 27 February 2010
Lying back upon the spare bed this evening, this thought throttled my heart. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind...I know I have read and heard these words of St Paul's before, but tonight, after a day of rain and sun, they're flying home. Thank you, thank you Nina.
Sam Shepard, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1982
I used to bring Nina Simone ice. She was always nice to me. She used to call me "Daahling." I used to bring her a whole big gray plastic bus tray full of ice to cool her Scotch.
She'd peel off her blonde wig and throw it on the floor. Underneath, her real hair was short like a sheared black lamb. She'd peel off her eyelashes and paste them to the mirror. Her eyelids were thick and painted blue. They always reminded me of one of those Egyptian Queens like I'd seen in National Geographic. Her skin was shining wet. She'd wrap a blue towel around her neck then lean forward resting both elbows on her knees. The sweat rolled off her face and splashed on the red concrete floor between her feet.
She used to finish her set with the "Jenny the Pirate" song from Bertolt Brecht. She always sang that song with a deep penetrating vengeance as though she'd written the words herself. Her performance was aimed directly at the throat of a white audience. Then she'd aim for the heart. The she'd aim for head. She was a dead shot in those days.
The one song she sang that really killed me was, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." It always froze me in my tracks. I'd be out on the floor collecting Whiskey Sour glasses and she'd start that rumbling landslide piano with her ghostly voice snaking through the accumulating chords. My eyes would go up to the bandstand and stay there while my hands kept on working.
I knocked over a candle once while she was singing that song. The hot wax spilled all over a businessman's suit. I was called into the manager's office. The businessman was standing there with this long splash of hardened wax down his pants. It looked like he'd come all over himself. I was fired that night.
On the street outside I could still hear voice coming right through the concrete walls:"You'd be Paradise to come home to."
San Francisco, Ca.