Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Tipping A Hat To The Naturals"

So I’m standing at the “turnaround” juncture of my “Wednesday Walk” – Groundwork, where I procure my coffee, turn around, and return home.  My favorite selection – in fact, the only one I order – is “Venice Blend.”  Being a congenital “moderate”, I hew insistently to the “Middle Strength” representative of coffee.

Here’s the thing, though.  For months, whenever I order “a small ‘Venice Blend’”, I am informed that they are not brewing “Venice Blend” that day. 

For months now – no already-made “Venice Blend” when I come in.  Instead, I am  offered another blend, or, as an alternative, an individualized “pour-over” of “Venice Blend” which is fifty cents more expensive and takes longer to deliver than the already-made.  (Which they would just have to pour, rather than individually “drip-coffee “prepare.)

Given no acceptable (to me) alternative, I surrender to the “pour-over.” 

But I am curious about this.  When I inquire if they ever brew “Venice Blend” on Wednesdays, I am dutifully informed that Groundwork’s numerous available coffee assortments are on a “rotation.”  They are simply not brewing “Venice Blend” that day.

I respond by explaining that I have been coming into Groundwork every Wednesday for months, and not once during that entire agglomeration of Wednesdays have they ever brewed “Venice Blend.” 

Which means either that something else is going on, or I am the unluckiest coffee drinker in Santa Monica.

I did not say that last part out loud.  But I thought it very loudly in my brain.


While awaiting my “pour-over”, I… you know, it is common to say “I caught sight” of something but not “I caught sound” of something, a phrase that would come in particularly handy right now, because that’s exactly what happened. 

There was music emanating from the emporium’s sound system, and, waiting patiently for my “pour-over”, I inadvertently caught sound of what they were playing.

The selection turned out to be one of my favorites – the incomparable Louis Armstrong, doing “A Kiss To Build a Dream On.”  Unfailingly when the gravel-voiced singer and master trumpeter performs, I melt deliriously into the moment.

As I always say, though not said recently in this venue…

I like it when it’s good.

To me, Louis Armstrong is a “Natural.”  How do I define a “Natural”?  His delivery is consummately skillful, consistently surprising, viscerally human and – most importantly – seamlessly effortless. 

The “Naturals” are an unquestionable “Forces of Nature.”  Other “Naturals” on my inevitably age-inflected playlist:

Jimmy Durante, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday. 

All are instantly identifiable.  The “Naturals” are like snowflakes.  There is only one of each of them.

Sinatra and Willie Nelson are also instantly identifiable.  But I have, rightly or wrongly, this sense of calculation in their presentations.  They’re sensational, but they virtually never “let it fly.” 

The “Naturals” let it fly.  They can’t help it.  They’re “Naturals.”  

Magic Johnson was a “Natural” on the basketball court.  You never knew what he was going to do.  That’s because, I believe, he never knew what he was going to do.
On the court, Magic’s teammates had to be ever alert to his spontaneous improvisations; otherwise, there’s the ball, hitting you in the head.

Here’s a contrarial wrinkle.

Larry Bird was not a “Natural.”  He could not run and he could not jump.  But he worked harder than anybody, and his tireless training and driven determination elevated him to elite, superstar status. 

Demonstrating – you kids out there – that you do not have to be a “Natural” to excel.

Conversely – and I cannot give examples, because…well you will see why in a second – there are “Naturals” who, believing they could simply coast on their ability, got nowhere (and are therefore unknown today), because being innately gifted isn’t enough.  Even the “Naturals” are required to arduously and conscientiously put in the time.

I don’t know about “Natural” writers.  Writing is inherently a “trial and error” situation.  No one I know consistently “gets it” on the first attempt.   

Plus, writing’s accomplished in private.  The work may appear effortless, but only your wastebasket knows for sure. 

Sometimes, like when I’m playing the piano, I inadmirably envy the “Naturals” because of the galactic distance between their talents and my own.  The “Naturals” were born to do what they do.  I, apparently, was perennially destined to struggle.

We can’t all be “Naturals.”  (He concluded with a sigh.)      

But isn’t it wonderful to have them around.

When you are waiting for your “pour-over” because, no matter what they tell you…

They do not brew “Venice Blend” on Wednesdays.

(Note:  You have to actually go on YouTube to hear this.  A drag, no question, but your ears will thank you if you do.  Plus, you'll probably smile.  Which is a bonus.    

1 comment:

Preter Natural said...

Me thinks Groundworks is feeding you some bad beans. And charging you extra for it. Just for the heck of it, you should go there daily for a couple of weeks.

"4PM Question of the Day: "23% of men polled said they hope to learn to do this in the New Year. What is it?"

The answer is - play the piano."

Had some stuff to write about "Naturals" but I got too tired when I was distracted prior to starting this piece. But I will go along w/you regarding Satchamo and Durante. They both make me smile just anticipating their performances. As did Dean Martin; as does Drew Carey and Lily Tomlin. And a few others. But I'll stop now before we all fall asleep.