The Blues





above, below and all around.  Blue is everywhere traveling in shorter, speedier light waves away from the sun — elbowing out the other colors to get the most space in the rainbow. When asked to name a favorite color I imagine those boisterous blue light waves nudging blanket cuddling kindergarteners — “Hey, Me!  Pick me.”  And the kids reply BLUE!

Oldsters lean blue too, say the color psychologists.  Young and old reach for the sky.  Democrats chose blue — hoping.
Blue is a power color and has been known to be a bit of a bully.  Military dress blues stand tall and whisper “I’m tough.”  The police don’t bother to whisper — they use teargas blue.  And there’s the corporate casual look of the Brooks Brothers blue cashmere blazer.  “I may be relaxed but I’m still in charge. Pay attention to me.” 

In our blue uniforms the nuns enlisted us in the Army of Christ. Each classroom had a large statue of a blue Mary - she was the Immaculate Conception or the Blessed Virgin. Subliminal message?  It wasn’t until high school  when we wore earth colored uniforms were we free to make choices.  Even back then I didn’t like blue.

The human body responds to blue encounters.  A bully leaves its markings with shades of black and blue. Time shadows blue with varicose veins or bluish puffs under eye bags.  

Discovering blue bodies was part of my growing up.  Skipping school I spent days at Chicago’s Art Institute zigzagging through the main salons to stand dreamily in the open modern wing.  What romantic adolescent girl back then didn’t fall in love with Picasso’s Blue Period — how many of us had posters of the “The Old Guitarist”  on our bedroom walls and there it was in real life.  And I wanted so much to grow up to look like his mistress Madeline, the “Woman with a Helmet of Hair”  and “Girl with the Chemise” who wore fine sculpted features, a pouty mouth and upturned eyes.  I perfected that pout. 

Hidden in a corner room of the modern wing were the Ivan Albrights .  He too brought forth the blue body highlights but this time it was on subjects aging, decrepit and sinful. I couldn’t look away.  It was grotesque and delicious.

Blue is a trickster fooling the viewer to see a blue ocean when the color is only a reflection.   We see water and sky as blue even when we know it’s not. We cling to our story.

Mark is a blues man — not eye blue but ear blue.  It’s his music.  Back in our Haight Ashbury days George read his fortune:  “Mark, when you’re in charge Muddy Waters will be the world’s elevator music.”  He’s still waiting.

Little Walter’s “I Got to Go” is a sometime favorite.  Maybe it’s the crazed energy — it’s a Yes sound that may remind Mark of his wilder, running around days when he could always say “yes.” Those speedy light waves make up blues music — over and over again.  Little Walter was Chicago blues — the good old South Side where the sound echoed from the lakefront to the stockyards another of the trickster’s plays — a story of music sounding like fun, hiding the pain.

Mark’s “go to” memory when he’s feeling “blue” is the jam session with his old dog Trix, and his own blues harmonica.  She’d jump up on the couch right next to him  — butt to butt.  When he'd start blowing “I’m Blue and Lonesome ” she’d howl in tune.

I’m blue and lonesome as a man can be —- whoa-o

As a man can be….Baby, ple-e-ease come back to me…

I’m gonna cast my trouble down in the deep blue sea….Let the whales and the fishes have a fuss over me.

I was wrong in thinking the blues was only made up of  long held notes crying out for release from loneliness and despair.  John Lee Hooker would perform his boogie style blues in a little spot in the Haight — Mark loved it; I was miserable. I wanted the blues to be sad —“But, it ain’t necessarily so” as Sportin’ Life would say.  Maybe desolation ain’t so lonely when everyone is singing the same song. 


Diane Charlotte.