Jazz and the Modern Bachelor
“ Jazz represents the intellectual and creative apex of American music. More cerebral than classical music, more visceral than rock, more emotional than country, more romantic than all the saccharin pop music ever recorded, and more men named Thelonious than any other form of music. ”
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I'm a seemingly normal, healthy man of 34, although I read on a 36 year-old level. I'm a fully licensed, board-certified heterosexual. And thusfar, I have remained single (at least until redheaded, left-handed actress Nicole Kidman comes to her senses and makes an honest man out of me). Of all the things we have lost in this society over the past forty years or so, perhaps the most lamented is the concept of the bachelor. There was a time in this country when a man could be intelligent, cultured, witty and single without being automatically described with terms that get people in trouble with those GLAAD folks (no, not the ones who make the trash bags. Look it up). Gone are the days when full-grown adults could play the mating game without bringing a litany of emotional, social, and even political connotations to the simplest sport of slap-and-tickle.
We are being afforded an opportunity to remake ourselves, to strip away decades of convoluted interpersonal dynamics and go back to a time when men and women could commingle without being goaded into adversarial terms by a myriad of self-serving sorts who can't stand to see anyone have any real fun. Here in the new world, where our victim culture has been shattered and all our simpering complaints ring hollow in the face of real tragedy, we can once again return to the comfort of an unaffected self. "Let be be finale of seem," said poet Wallace Stevens, and what the hell that has to do with anything I'll never know.
The point being.
Do you remember the halcyon days when men wore smoking jackets and women wore bullet bras (what the hell is it with this guy and bullet bras? -Ed.) and when a man invited a woman up to see his etchings, by god, he actually had etchings? Those were the days when people knew how to live.
People drank martinis that didn't taste like some nouveau flavor of Kool-Aid, they drove Rhode Island-sized cars, they preferred actually having sex to just endlessly yapping about it, and most importantly they listened to jazz.
And it only took me half the damned article to get to the subject.
One of the great values of nostalgia is the fact that one can filter out the unpleasantness of the past and cast it anew filled with the promise of a lesson learned. To bring back the era of swinging bachelors and Cool jazz doesn't mean a return to flattop haircuts and those horrid Beach Party movies. We're much smarter (and, on average, taller) now. We're more able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then keep the chaff (I've never been fond of wheat. I'm more of a corn man, myself).
So here we are, adventurers on the new frontier. With your own personal Genius to guide you (hence, the Genius Guide) we're going to spend much of 2002 concentrating not only on jazz, but the jazz lifestyle. And since I'm a bachelor, I'm going to do it from that perspective. If I accomplish nothing else this year (and right now, that looks like an even-money bet), I will define what the Modern Bachelor should embody. If women can have Ally McBeal to guide them on how to be an independent single woman, it's only fair that men should have a role model for the swinging bachelor. (AAJ would like to point out that they are not legally or morally responsible for what might happen when the Genius-inspired Modern Bachelor meets the Ally McBeal-model independent single woman. Particularly after a couple of Harvey Wallbangers and a Johnny Hartman record.)
The first requirement for being a Modern Bachelor is being single. I can't overstate the importance of that. If you're married, you can't be a bachelor no matter how appealing the lifestyle may seem to you. And it is no use getting a divorce. It's like trying to be a virgin again. Once you've done it, regardless of how poorly conceived or ill-advised your choice, there are no do-overs. So even if you have been married but are currently single, you are not eligible to join the ranks of the Modern Bachelor. You are, however, still welcome to join your local volunteer fire department. It probably won't improve your chances of getting any leg, but getting to tool around in a fire truck with a Dalmatian should certainly take your mind off your troubles.
The second requirement for being a Modern Bachelor is having a bachelor pad. This means a place to bring a female to for undisturbed social activities. It may be a house or an apartment, but your parents' basement can never under any circumstances be a bachelor pad. Especially if it is decorated with Star Wars toys, in which case getting a woman to come home with you is not too damned likely anyway.
The third requirement is culture. Gone are the lowbrow days when being able to belch the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies counted one among the ranks of the cultural elite. Also gone are the days when one could do anything and call it art. All those so-called "performance artists" from the nineties have gone back to just being surly to customers in whatever Barnes and Noble in which they are currently employed. The Modern Bachelor is not only about culture, but also refinement. And here is where jazz comes in.
Jazz represents the intellectual and creative apex of American music. More cerebral than classical music, more visceral than rock, more emotional than country, more romantic than all the saccharin pop music ever recorded, and more men named Thelonious than any other form of music. It is only natural that the Modern Bachelor should gravitate towards jazz as the soundtrack for his lifestyle. You see, we live in the Information Age now. All that claptrap they gave us in school about knowledge being power has finally come to pass. In the old days, women looked for big, strong men to be good providers by earning good money in factories or other industries. Now, they look for big, smart men who know how to operate computers and earn money by exploiting the recent conversion to the mysterious Euro, selling Monopoly money and car wash tokens to clueless day-trading currency speculators.
But I digress.
Any git can look like a geek (no longer a pejorative term, unless you're talking about those guys who bite the heads off of live chickens in carnival sideshows) by carrying around a cell phone and a PDA. It is the man who can demonstrate both intelligence and culture that is more apt to win the fair maiden. Jazz says to a woman that the man listening to it is a man of substance. And what better way to encourage substance abuse than listening to the music of Charlie Parker? That wasn't exactly my point, but I'll take it because I enjoyed that gag.
Putting all of these elements together into one cohesive style is indeed a challenge. The trick is to appear intelligent and cultured without coming off like a pretentious know-it-all. As a Genius, I overcome this perception by keeping an alcoholic beverage in my hand at all times. Drinking is almost a lost art these days, obscured either by dull-witted frat-boy excess or florid girl-drink concoctions designed to taste like everything except alcohol, but one that is vital to the Modern Bachelor lifestyle. Alcohol makes the one drinking it witty and personable, and those around him more attractive and interesting. It is also the most effective pants-removal fluids on the market.
The key to proper drinking is knowing what to drink. Remember that the Modern Bachelor is a man of culture and refinement, firmly rooted in the classics yet thoroughly modern (or else I wouldn't be calling him the Modern Bachelor, now would I?). Thus, the hallmarks of the Cocktail Generation are always apropos; the ubiquitous martini, the Bloody Mary, the Tom Collins, gin and tonic, Harvey Wallbanger, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, etc. The simple elegance of whisky, bourbon and Scotch most notably, can never be underestimated. And my personal favorite, beer, which has long been relegated either to the domain of the blue-collar Bud-loving everyman or the khaki-clad Heineken-swilling preppie swine, has gained new respectability now that a nationally-known jazz humorist declared it his personal favorite in his influential and widely-read column on AAJ.
WARNING: Alcohol may cause a bloated sense of self-importance.
That pretty much does it for this month. I'll be expounding upon the Modern Bachelor lifestyle throughout the year, interspersed with profiles of some of the greatest names in jazz history (like John, and Joe). I'll also be shamelessly trolling for those corporate sponsorships, using my position as a Genius to influence the course of American culture, and insinuating my way into that aching void in Nicole Kidman's life. It's going to be a good year.