Jazz and the Sexual Revolution
How I managed to get through high school
Jazz has always been a source of inspirationÔÇª I remember in high school, junior year, 1968, my friend Eddie and I were in art class. Misses Downs was the teacher, a young, energetic, voluptuous red headed 'hip' white girl who comes to an all Mexican Catholic boy's high school at the height of the sexual revolution dripping with feminine allure. Needless to say we were victims. I could go on and on about the subtle innuendos, the sensual nature of unbridled lust or the occasional brush, touch or whisper. Truth be told we were sexually suppressed young men at our prime with nowhere to prime.
Published on LatinoLA: September 12, 2008
The art classes were last in the afternoon and sometimes went over. This was special because without the stringent rules of regular academia we flourish in the naughty moments alone with Misses Downs (her name was Beth but we preferred the 'Misses' title). You may ask 'what does this have to do with jazz?'ÔÇªWell Misses Downs was into jazz. She would bend over and adjust the little radio that perched on a makeshift table every class. It was the first thing she did. It drove us crazy. Understand, things were totally appropriate, she was entirety professional but in our eyes there was no mistaking, love was in the air. Maybe it was the way her sun dress offered abundant cleavage accented by hippy beads and patchouli oil, that wonderful play between dark and light, hill and valley, forbidden lure and that warm sensation that always followed. (Time out, I'll be right backÔÇªOK). Her long radiant hair and perfect smile framed a pair of eyes so blue you could swim in them. Skin so soft and creamy riddled with freckles, a phenomenon so rare in my world that it took on a sensual life of its own. In a school full of boys, the whimsical sway of curve to and fro as it waddled in magical time to the music was an anomaly. There were legs for days and tiny feet that seem to suggest something impishly nasty.
Yes, there were a few other women who worked on campus such as the librarian and the occasional office secretary, they just weren't put together quite the same way, although with our infliction none were impedingly omitted.
While all this was happening Eddie and I were getting an education, I mean besides the obvious we truly loved art, anyway I did, and through it all jazz was in the background. The music not only gave sound to our shenanigans, but set the mood for creativity of all sorts. It was this wealth of music that stimulated, percolated and encouraged our visions of the world. The fact that it was riding on the skirt tails of sexual awakening may have had more to do with it than I previously thought. Nevertheless Miles, Mingus, Parker and Coltrane resonated in that hollowed place where ordinary divides. The long solos to get lost in, perpetuating adventurous ideals that someday may manifest, and to inspire an ordinary mundane existence, forging ahead new avenues perchance to find truth, happiness and love. Jazz was a stepping out point, a place to begin. Through the years, like my faith in God, I've deviated from Jazz only to later acknowledge its grip.
The thing is because there are no rules in art; experimentations are constant worldly lessons that eventually succumb to some form of normality, but on ones own terms. In those days three cord melodies just didn't cut it. There is more to life than three cords, and although at the time I could have lived happily ever after with Misses Downs, I found out that life is constant and rejuvenating.
Somewhere young men are going through the same thing, enjoying the fruits of the vine. For me, that fruit is now a finely aged drink. A wonderful memory never lost.
As for Misses DownsÔÇª well I wonder if she still works at the high school. I've got this great collection of jazz records!
Just another car dude from South San Gabriel
Email the author