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Genius Guide to Jazz

Romance and the Modern Bachelor

By Published: August 16, 2005

Romance is that giddy, heady rush of emotions that happens early on in a relationship, usually occurring after the first meeting but before the restraining order.

Well, kids, Spring is coming up, and you know what they say about Spring. It's the time of year when a young man's fancies turn to thoughts of...I'm sorry, just typing that sentence actually caused my fancies to turn to thoughts of Nicole Kidman wearing a little black dress and a "come hither" look.

So then.

Springtime is the time of the year when we emerge from our winter cocoons and begin that process of rebirth and renewal that kindles both our sentimental affections and our innate biological needs, culminating in either romance or a misdemeanor arrest for public lewdness. For our purposes, we'll deal with the former.

Romance is that giddy, heady rush of emotions that happens early on in a relationship, usually occurring after the first meeting but before the restraining order. Romance is very important for the Modern Bachelor, because it is the first step towards finding a woman with which he is willing to spend the rest of his entire evening. This is not to imply that the Modern Bachelor should be entirely a love 'em and leave 'em playboy, but speaks to the fact that romance is by its very nature ephemeral. Romance, though often mistaken for love, is not love. It is simply the temporary glue that leads either to a stronger and more lasting connection, or else just leaves both parties once again disjoined and sticky to boot. Romance, while intoxicating and rejuvenating, is still in itself just a means to an end.

Which is to say.

Jazz is not a solitary art. It is a music that craves interaction, companionship, communication. Within the inner workings of jazz exists a perfect mixture of conflict and symbiosis, like any real relationship. This is why it is the ideal soundtrack for romance, because it is a creation of infinite possibility that relies on each individual participant contributing their best to the effort. Not only is that also the working definition of a great relationship, but also makes for a fairly tasty pizza. In fact, if you were to ponder the jazz-as-a-metaphor-for-relationships-as-a-metaphor-for-pizza concept in depth, wherein John Coltrane and Miles Davis represent you and your beloved represent pepperoni and mozzarella, you would soon realize that you have wasted a significant portion of your day with virtually nothing to show for it.

Be that as it may.

The Modern Bachelor, though single, is also not a solitary creature. He depends on several forms of companionship and social interaction to keep himself from sitting alone for hours on end, downing bourbon-and-Cokes like a professional football player chugs Gatorade, writing verbose articles wherein he speaks of himself in the second person for no good reason. The Modern Bachelor needs friends, buddies, companions, ex-girlfriends, and girlfriends to remain emotionally and spiritually robust. Each of these plays a role in the romance department, which is why I mentioned them.

The first and closest bunch to the Modern Bachelor is the Friends and Buddies class. The difference between friends and buddies is that you can fart in front of your buddies. You could fart in front of your friends, but wouldn't. The F&B set are there to act as encouragement during the first stages of a relationship, support during the inevitable ups and downs throughout a relationship, and consolation at the end of a relationship. They also serve to hone the herd instinct, and save you from such tragic dating mistakes as chasing after someone who is way out of your league, or the more terrible error of dating Courtney Love.

I generally classify a companion as any non-human comrade such as pets, invisible friends (very popular among the regression-therapy set), favorite inanimate objects like teddy bears or Virginia hams, or the ghost of pioneering trombonist Jack Teagarden who just can't seem to stay out of my refrigerator. The companion serves as a silent sounding board, someone who listens without judgment. The companion is not to be underestimated in importance when it comes to romance, because there are times in a relationship when you just need to get things off your chest without worrying how they are going to take it. I can tell my parakeet anything, no matter how embarrassing or naughty, and he will simply cock his head to the side and assure me that I'm a pretty bird. There's a certain comfort in that.

Another group whose importance cannot be underestimated is the ex-girlfriend group. These are the women you've dated and remain friends with. This is the most brutally honest of the bunch, because they have seen parts of you that no one outside of a group of highly specialized medical professionals have seen. Ex-girlfriends are the group you go to when you want an unbiased appraisal of the state of your current relationship. Their job is to keep you honest, grounded in reality, and rightly penitent for all those times you screw up without realizing it. They provide the most useful insight, on the whole, and can usually be counted upon to remind you often that it could have worked out between the two of you if you weren't such a bastard.

It is the girlfriend group with which we are most concerned. The Modern Bachelor chooses a girlfriend with the same amount of consideration and discretion with which he would choose a CD-box set. Both must contain something new, something familiar, and something unusual but not too unusual. You wouldn't buy a Miles Davis box set just for a cut of him playing Embraceable You on the nose flute, nor would you date a girl just because she had a tattoo of Dexter Gordon on her butt.

Forget I said that.

Once the girlfriend has been chosen, it is now time for the romance part. And if it continues to take me longer and longer to get to the point of these articles, you'll have to read "Ask Ken" to find out what in the hell I'm going on about each month.

Be that as it may.

The Modern Bachelor is above such hackneyed romantic devices like flowers and a Whitman's Sampler. Yet, he must still appreciate the magic of traditional wine and candlelight. What is the difference between traditional and hackneyed? It's the difference between Frank Sinatra singing "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" and Kenny G playing it.

Adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

So now that we've chosen the right girl, and we have some general idea which direction we're heading, it is time to throw the romance machine into high gear (being careful to let off the clutch slowly, so it doesn't stall). This is where your Official Modern Bachelor Pad comes in. There is nothing more romantic than a quiet dinner for two, that you cooked yourself, lit by candlelight and set to the garment-loosening sounds of Coltrane's sax.

If you don't know how to cook, it is high time you learned. I'm not suggesting you enroll at Le Cordon Bleu, but the basic ability to prepare a decent meal is just one of the things that sets the Modern Bachelor apart from his take-out dependent heathen brothers. Buy a cookbook, watch a cooking show, and give it the old college try. Just remember the best rule of thumb: never try to cook anything you can't spell.

Keep in mind also that the meal should be something appropriate for a date. That means that messy "guy" foods, like babyback ribs and Buffalo chicken wings, are definitely out. Women have a different relationship with food than men do. We like foods that bring out the primal hunter in us, the visceral sense of conquest that comes from eating meat right off the bone. Women have complex and conflicting relationships with food. There are the things they eat in front of us, and the things they eat when they are alone or with other women. Weigh this in the balance when choosing the meal. Serve something light, and she will interpret this as meaning that you think she's fat. Serve something heavy, and she will be self-conscious about eating it in front of you. And if you try to be clever and serve what she really wants, like a half-gallon of Turtles ice cream and a German chocolate cake, you will end up sitting on the couch together in your bathrobes watching Sex in the City and painting each other's toenails. This is not the Modern Bachelor's idea of romantic.

My suggestion would be a filet mignon, roasted potatoes, a tossed green salad, and a good wine. This gives a little something for both of you, is substantial without being too heavy, and demonstrates the classic style that is inherent in the Modern Bachelor. It also earns me a significant kick-back from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association which, while not quite the corporate sponsorship I've been trolling for, certainly beats delivering pizza for a little walking-around money.

Now, once you've got the girl and the meal, you're going to need to set the proper atmosphere. It goes without saying that soft lighting is essential. Candlelight is always a good way to go, but pitch-soaked rags wrapped around a stick is not (unless you want to create a dungeon-like atmosphere, in which case you may want to consult one of those "members only" websites for more information).

Then, of course, there is the jazz. This is arguably the most important part, because the right music can cover a multitude of sins. Ply your date with the proper mix of tunes, and she will look right past the fact that there is enough loose hair in your bathroom to stuff an ottoman. There are hundreds of perfect tunes and scores of ideal artists, but there is really only one CD you need for the perfect romantic evening: John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. If this CD can't get you some leg, then it is just not going to happen for you.

That should be enough to get you started, kids. Give it a go this month and let me know how it turns out. Till next month, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.

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