The Continued Adventures of Sam Sonata - Music Detective of the Stars
Chapter Seven


Sam Sonata
Some days go by and you have a hard time understanding what just happened to you. You want to pick up the needle and put back in the first groove and hear that first song again and see if maybe this time it doesn't make just a little more sense. You want to try it at 45 and 78 rpm - even though it's a 33 - just to get the whole feel for the thing in its subtleties and entirety of meaning. You want to reset the cd player to the first track, or to play tracks at random, or turn it off and on - when YOU want to. You want to rewind and replay again and again until you've mastered the difficult passages and memorized the words. And finally, you want to play it backwards and find the hidden messages that will provide the clues to the mysteries that confound you.

fire eater But life doesn't work that way. Someone else presses play and it's off to the dance, where the Universal DJ has the playlist and the final choice of the songs. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get to choose who you get to dance with under the spotlight, but usually you're stuck on a never-ending elevator ride, pressed up against a bunch of maladroit, malodorous strangers who whistle and cavort and make chit chat, while the 101 Strings make a mockery of the beloved works of Sir Paul McCartney and Dear John Lennon by offering their rock music standard "Day Tripper" as a synaptic nerve-shearing waltz with a delightful little calypso feel - over and over in the background, and the elevator raises higher and higher, and the tune deconstructs, and you grind your teeth and wish and wish that the door would open or the cable would snap. And there's no rewind mechanism, and a pause button that only works partially, and the STOP button is too severe, and you can't find the credits, and you're not sure who played the bass on the title track (a very important conjecture), and suddenly the song stops. And in the end you find that all you've got to listen to is a creaky jukebox full of sparkling yet empty triumphs, and shadowy regrets, and sugar coated, melancholy love songs, and long dead boogie-woogies that were once all the rage, and pre-fabricated, post-hypnotic induced memories of false memories of people, places, things you can't even remember at all - and will never even want to - all composed in the dissonant modern manner of Charles McIves' "Dictophone Symphony in Z" - as a haunting chorale, percussion and baritone saxophone bubblegum electro-dirge Requiem Mass, recorded to a now antiquated format that you can't even sell on ebay for a song with free shipping and handling included. That's how I felt today.

But that was before I had my coffee - black and hot, and a quick smoke, my handy Meerschaum full of that good old time flavor. My encounter with the nefarious "Tumult" had left my mind and emotions agitated, and my subsequent mutilation at the hands of the Rhythm Kings left my reattached ears sore and somewhat lopsided. I fingered the thread that was used to reattach my rather large ears to their rightful place thoughtfully as I pondered what to do next. The trail seemed a dead end - so I got in my car and drove slowly down the freeway north to where I turned off on the Dwight D. Weisenheimer Expressway to the Rainbow Parkade. I needed to think, and the simulated fresh air and sunshine was just what I needed.

I paid my admittance fee at the gate and entered the series of stately pleasure domes indeed. Synthetic fronds and thickets were arranged in convincing forests and hedges and green vines draperies hid the walls. Above a service worker adjusted a Klieg-Sun as picnickers, lepers and other sunbathers thronged through the entrance. I followed a heavy set woman carrying a beach ball down a masonry path someone had cleverly painted the hue of ripe lemons, as a remotely familiar Harold Arlen tune played in the background.

The woman veered toward some children playing in the Sahara Desert water park area and I took the high road toward "Twilite Falls." The "Hall of Discarded Species" was closed as they were busily building a new wing, and I could see the replica of an actual Islamic minaret far below in the valley; they say it is the only one still in existence. Prerecorded birds whistled, bullfrogs croaked and crickets chirped in the thickly veneered verdure. Occasional real flowers sprouted from within the masses of plastic greenery, but electrical fields and trip wires connected to claymore mines kept the curious from any olfactory malfeasance.

I dropped a token in the slot and entered a new region where a series of escalators simulated a hike up the Matterhorn, complete with an alpine horn orc-kestra playing a salute to Grieg, Heidi-like waifs milking goats, a frozen caveman, and free samples of their special powdery snow-like cocoa. I sampled the wares and leisurely rode the ascending stairs and tried to think. What was my next move? Where was Melody Littlesong?

The Alpine air and the damn fine cocoa made me lightheaded - so I splashed back to the main level in a sleigh on rails, pulled by mechanical reindeer spurred on by an actor overacting the part of Peer Gynt. A few frantic trips around the circumference and the sleigh tipped, dumping me into a gondola floating below the bridge. As I floated down the Lazy River surrounded by happy black plastic robotic field hands singing Stephen Foster tunes - I still felt somewhat downcast.

Then I spotted her. Behind a matronly Mammy wearing an apron - I saw an exact replica of Golden Grate Park as it was in the late 1960's B.C. Balloons of many shades filled the meadow - I counted 99 red balloons alone. Long haired men and women wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, fringed leather jackets, bell-bottoms, paisley undershorts and raspberry berets, Day-Glo go-go boots, and facial hair danced together under a huge hand painted banner that contained one artist's conception of what some scientific experts believe a "rainbow" once looked like. Within the teeming mass of jiggling, discordant frenzy I spotted two long braids of familiar auburn shade whipping and whirling about like the blades of a Helicopter flying to the "Flight of the Valkyries." It was Harmony.

I gave the gondolier a judo chop to the adam's apple and dove into the murky gray waters. Braving the rapids, and machinegun fire from the Troll King and his minions, I hurtled the falls and found myself aground near the "Whuzuppe Dock and Marina Cantina." Waving two 45s - The Temptations - "My Girl" and U2's -"One" in both hands I ran through the crowd to the park.

A fire-eater was on stage reading poetry with flaming lips when I reached the area where I spotted Melody's younger sister. Searching I fought my way through the whirling and sweaty bodies as they danced like dervishes. But she had disappeared again. Shortly, a famous sword-swallowing banjo player and his jug band assassins started in with their hee-hawing, garnering much applause from the exuberant crowd. I was getting desperate, as I tore through the crazed tent village, knocking over baby-carriages, spilling over cartons of feminist poetry books, and searching tins and barrels of health food, forever sifting through the wheat germ for my green eyed girl.

The jug band's reconstruction of the Battle of Bull Run ended with a flourish on the washboard. A blues guitarist sauntered lazily onto stage and began to make his poor guitar "wail." There was a ton of clapping, but I was so frustrated that I yelled at him in anger: "You're a disgrace to Robert Johnson!"

"Sam?" I heard a voice like the tinkling of pleasant tiny little bell - you know like the cute little ones you can buy at gift stores when you're on vacation to bring back for people you don't really want to buy anything for, but you feel like you have to, and they go on and on about how much they like it, and they really are cute and they have a little picture of the place painted on them - they must hire very tiny little people to paint those lovely little scenes - either that or children, but I don't really think children would possess the required talents for such intricate artwork - this is not to say some children don't posses a great degree of talent in and of themselves, in fact--"

"Sam - snap out of it!" I felt the tiny fist hit my jaw and I crumpled to the ground.

"I'm sorry - I didn't mean to hurt you," she apologized.

"No problem, just practicing my... yoga." I leapt to my feet sprightly.

She looked like a Hindemith symphony on wheels - bright and twinkly on the top, round and full below - a full tank of gas and a long windy road to paradise. I wanted to suck her in, learn her secret chords and sing her praises out loud to the mundane morons around me in the form of an extemporaneous Gregorian Chant, but with full antiphonal harmony.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"No why are YOU here?"

"Did you find Melody yet?"


"Bummer. So what do you think of my scene?"

I glanced up at the blueglass band on stage who plucked their mandolins with pieces of broken whiskey bottles in the traditional manner. "I'm afraid I don't get it."

"The people are good. They have good hearts. They remember the old songs and try to pay homage to Mother Earth."

"They should listen to Mahler's "Song of the Earth," I said with a sniff.

"Listen, come with me," she said soft as a glissing viola. "I know a place we can talk."

She took my hand and pulled me through the crowded field and toward The Bridge - where a lone saxophonist played "Misty" and dove to his death every hour to the cheers of the crowd. Under the bridgework was a metal door marked "Not An Exit." We went inside and down a dark hallway.

The room inside was dark. She flipped a switch on the wall and suddenly a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and whole carnival midway lit up about a half a mile ahead of us. The domed sky was lit with the stars of a thousand lights above - something I hadn't seen since the nukes.

"I discovered this place the other day - will you take me?"

I smiled and we walked forward, hand in hand, down the powdered dirt path. As we got closer the sounds and smells of the carnival grew in intensity. A calliope burst forth in its joyful sadness, as canned laughter pealed in the air. Popcorn popped and filled the air with the smell of salt and butter. The merry-go-round spun in a blur of lights - its horses forever frozen - cantering forward. We rode the wild ponies that night - whipping them onward - laughing and screaming into a night that was ours alone.

We dismounted and sampled the cotton candy that spilled over the edge of the booth like the product of some overachieving, oversized arachnid. Then she laughed and dragged me to the Ferris wheel. "Let's go up, Sam - and down. I want to go up and down."

Up, up into the semi-starlit blackness like Orpheus ascending from the underworld, we rose and then fell like we always have throughout time, her laughter ringing like the echo of a trumpet over a still pool. I never wanted this ride to end.

The ride ended and we got off. She grew suddenly pensive and sad. "I have something to tell you," she said at last as we climbed the steps to the "Hall of Mirrors."

"What is it?" I asked. But she let go of my hand and ran laughing into the maze.

"You have to catch me first," she shouted, and I ran after her this way and that. As I chased her, she seemingly multiplied becoming several figures appearing in many directions. I chased the multitude until I grew tired of her game.

"Harmony - where are you?" I asked to a reflection.

She lowered her head sadly. "I'm glad I ran into you tonight, Sam. I wanted to let you know I'm leaving."

"What? You can't!" I lunged at her figure, but hit only glass.

"I have to. Melody is gone, and I'm afraid... afraid of what might happen to me if I stay."

"Melody isn't gone yet. You can't think that way."

"Look at the photograph my mother gave you."

I pulled the Polaroid out and shook it like the song says to. The brown haired girl in the photo was fading, becoming translucent - her beautiful burnished visage was barely visible against the oak paneled wall behind where she once stood.

"She is disappearing, Sam - little by little she is slipping away," she said in a trembling mezzo-soprano voice, "and I'm afraid Sam - I don't want to go where she is going too. I fear it is some... terribly lonely place."

"I wouldn't let that happen!" I shouted, but she just shook her head.

"But, but, where will you go?" I screamed.

"With them," she said and motioned back toward the door, behind which lay the "happy" people.

"But why?"

"They respect me and take care of me. They've made it clear that there will always be a place for me there with them. We'll travel the world and give hope for peace and love to people."

"Harmony - those are noble goals, but you know it's a dead end. You can't go back. You have to go forward, no matter how painful. Going back is a mistake, a retreat - you will wither and DIE there. You're a smart girl - you know that. You've got to know that..." I tried each direction frantically.

"I know you care, but look around you, Sam. Where would there be a place for me in this... world?"

"No Harmony, no. Stay with me. We need you here. I need you here!" I pounded against the glass frantically trying to break down the barriers to find her. "I love you."

"I know you do," she said - her voice growing more and more softly - her radiant figure receding in all directions as I battered and bloodied my hands against the walls of my glass labyrinth. "Goodbye Sam."

Suddenly the lights clicked off and all was blackness. My Euridice gone forever.

I screamed a chorus into the echo chamber:


To Be Continued...
Chapters: One - Two - Three - Four - Five - Six - Eight - Nine - Ten

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