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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2004/03/29
by John Zinkand


The workday is over and I’ve unwound with a meal and a beverage. Head hits the pillow and it’s action time. Body rests as rhythmic breaths slide me into sleep, but now is the time for the mind to run like the wind. First there’s a flicker, like a monitor screen, an abstract idea or replay of something that happened yesterday. Breathing in and out, deeper and deeper, tired from the day, until consciousness is gone and absolute freedom for the mind is achieved. Like an improvisational musical exploration, anything can happen, any stone turned, anything’s possible.
And I’m in a vast field, close to home in the Pacific Northwest. Planes circle us now, my friends and I, as we walk across this huge sea of green. I look over and see the distant homes lined up in a row as the first one drops. My vision has the power of binoculars and I can see in great detail the falling object released from the airplane. It’s a gigantic bomb with wires, buzzers, gauges and whistles and it’s falling very quickly only a few miles away. Then the stomach tightens with an absolute fear and thoughts of how could they do this to us? Enormous in scope, the mushroom cloud emerges from a silent explosion at the point of impact and we run as fast as we can but know we can’t outrun the impending doom. Terror swells from down in my loins, sick with fear, as others drop and my binocular eyes see each one in great detail and there are mushroom clouds blooming like an apocalyptic Spring. Fleeing and scurrying like rats in a maze because at this point there is nowhere left to run. Then the explosions seem to fizzle and carry nothing but a small warm breeze across the green fields sewn with crops of corn and wheat. Turning the corner, I walk into my home.
But it isn’t my home at all. I’m back at work now. Work?? I work all day and I’m here again now? But this isn’t the normal office building that I drive to and from each day. This place is enormous, like work on steroids, and I struggle to find my cubicle. Piles of computers and desks in a pyramid shape make up my newly renovated work area and people are decorating all around me. Mundane gray walls are being transformed into something personal for each employee. The boss comes over and urges me to add my personal touch and lo and behold I have a stack of framed Grateful Dead poster art. One by one, the psychedelic art is hung on the wall and everyone stops by to say how cool my work area looks. I should try to control things and dream lucidly at this point because I should know that I must be dreaming.
Then I find myself in a dark and sketchy part of New Orleans. My friends and I have rented out a rundown apartment, and I’m slowly finding my way back there after a booze-soaked night on the town. There’s a lilt in my step and the brassy jazz music is still ringing in my ears as I make my way back and up the stairs to the third floor space where we live. Gunshots ring out and I’m startled and scared. I ascend the stairs quickly to find my friends dead – bloody and ripped to shreds by bullets. I catch some motion in the corner of my eye and see the killer running down the open staircase. He fires off a shot and I dive out of the way at the last second as the bullet skims my hair. Hate, fear, pain, disgust, emptiness are all running through my brain. Pursuing the killer with gun in hand that seems to have appeared from nowhere, I finally catch him and kill him with vengeance. But the dirty task of calling the loved ones of my fallen brothers and destroying their safe realities looms like a black dread.
Then I head inside an auditorium and the strangest concert I’ve ever seen is about to take place. The small theatre stage is divided in two by a temporary wall constructed just for this evening. The performance space is divided neatly in two and two separate bands have set up there gear on either side. This wall does not extend any further than the stage, however, and the audience will be able to see and hear both sides at the same time. How will this work? Won’t there be too much to see? Won’t the sound waves wash over the crowd like a stinky muddy stew that no one wants to taste? Umphrey’s McGee takes one side as the Om Trio takes the other. Chaotic and deafening the music slams through the room. A mish-mash of dark and twisted sound, but the crowd seems to love it. I move to one side of the stage and take in some Om Trio. By standing all the way over to their side, I can hear mostly their music. Heavy rhythms and swirling sounds hit me full force but all the while it seems like someone is playing the Umphrey’s McGee song "Andy’s Last Beer" on a stereo in another room. I slowly walk backwards while keeping my eyes focused on the stage until both bands are in view and the sound becomes a twisted, dense barrage of sound again. Slowly but surely the music is synched up until it sounds like one thick jam coming out of both sides of the stage. Then a crane lifts the wall between bands and they see each other. A delightful gasp of surprise on the faces of both bands appears and the jam swells in intensity as the crowd goes wild. Umphrey’s outlasts Om Trio on this unusual night and jams on and on as the Trio packs up their gear.
And I walk out into the lobby and find that it’s actually the office once again. And I look all around and see the same faces I do every day. I sit down at my desk and boot up the computer. I pick up the phone and answer it. I talk and I talk as I type away, all the while answering the phone over and over again. Rolling over I open my eyes and blink. Time to get up and start the day with a shower and some breakfast so I can go back to the office, sit down at my desk, boot up the computer, and answer the phone.

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