My Cardboard Box

Take Five – Unorganized Hancock

with one comment

I was a stud in kindergarten.

Maybe it was the button-down sports shirts, the crisp slacks and the red blazer. Maybe it was the bad-boy reputation of being the first kindergartner in recent memory to have stayed after school (it was a half-day class back then, and I’d elbowed  another kid in the ribs during the Pledge of Allegiance.)  Anyway,  I got the girls.  Barbara, with chestnut hair down to the small of her back.  Rose, who bragged that one of her grandfathers had been in the IRA.  A few other playground female friends, including one auburn-haired sprite whose name I unfortunately forgot, but who probably drove her parents to despair when she hit puberty.

And then there was Natalie.

Our neighborhood in the early 60s was a mixture of French, Polish (mostly), Irish, and Black.  I was essentially part of the first group and she part of the last.  We’d meet up to walk to school and then walk home together holding hands. Sometimes we’d visit the fish market on the way home to look at the lobsters in their tanks. When it rained,  her father (who worked nights) would drive us the whole two blocks.  I gathered years later that we were the talk of the North Side  for quite some time.  When you’re six years old and brought up in an environment of  relative innocence, you don’t much know about that.

Natalie’s dad drove a big dark green Chrysler with lots of chrome and the radio permanently tuned to a jazz station. One time a song was playing that I really liked and asked him who the band was.

“That’s Brubeck.”

So for months I thought the band’s name was ‘Brubeck’.  A few years later, I found Take Five Live among my mom’s  albums and damn near wore the record out.

“Take Five” was pretty controversial when it was new, but today it’s a jazz staple. Most times that I hear it now, it’s either a tarted-up musical confection, or it’s been so suffused with ‘cool’ that it should be renamed “Fanfare for the Hipster”.  That’s why this stripped-down yet complex version by a couple of lads from Maine called Unorganized Hancock  blew me away.


It takes me back to sitting in the passenger side (Natalie in the middle, next to her dad) of that big Imperial, the beat -and-swish of its wipers somehow accompanying the song.

Natalie and I stayed together until the third grade, when her father died of a heart attack.  She ended up “staying back” a class and we drifted apart. She fell in with a wrong crowd. Though we’d still run into each other all the way through high school, we were strangers venturing on enemies.

It wasn’t until over decade after high school that we met each other again at a party while I was home on leave. She’d straightened out her life and had gone on to college. She was happy, pretty, living in New York City and married to a photographer.  We exchanged information. As usual in life, I never saw her again.  But I still think of her once in a while, especially while this song plays.

And I think of something else. Maybe it’s weird, maybe not. Looking back, her husband and I could have passed for brothers.


Written by PappyBro

April 5, 2013 at 18:52

One Response

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  1. *happy sigh* Another lapidary effort, Pappy, and just perfect for the quiet, small hours of the night when I read it. I am so grateful you choose to share these little bits of writings with us.

    — j.

    trailing wife

    April 5, 2013 at 23:42

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