the journal of amazing grace

The Journal of Amazing Grace

Bix Beiderbecke standing on a pier in Davenport hears Louis Armstrong blasting away on his trumpet from the deck of a riverboat and goes out and buys a cornet.

Years later, sitting in the colored section of a segregated theater, Louis Armstrong hears Bix Beiderbecke, and after the show he meets him at the stage door and drags him off to an apartment in Queens where the two of them blow their horns all night until the sun comes up. They can’t play together in public, this black boy and this white boy, these giants of jazz.

Louis Armstrong smoked a lot of reefer, which didn’t seem to slow him down none, and Bix Beiderbecke drank a lot of alcohol, which killed him.

Actually, as any hardcore A.A. knows, drinking is but a symptom of the problem–Bix Beiderbecke died of a broken heart. He was a victim of racism. What might have saved his life is if he’d been born black.

James Baldwin turned Nelson Algren away from his motel door behind which he was entertaining black militants. James Baldwin didn’t know what Louis Armstrong knew.

Still, don’t trust anyone who walks around with a sheet over his head.

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