19. Mon Coeur Fait Plus Mal
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Nineteen Mon Coeur Fait Plus Mal wednesday, april 4, 2001 This Wednesday night there was no jam at Danny’s. He had a gig at Ashkenaz with his side band, Danny and Friends. So instead of hurried Chinese take-out, our usual fare on jam nights, we’d lingered over one of Steve’s home-cooked meals. The band didn’t start playing until 8:30, and Ashkenaz was just five minutes away by car—much closer than Fairfield. We had just finished clearing up when the doorbell rang. I was pleased, though not surprised, to find Danny at the door. He often dropped by on his way to a gig. “I thought it might be you.” I gave him a hug and ushered him inside. “So would you like—a no-alcohol beer?” It still felt unnatural to offer him anything but wine. “Sure.” A pause. “Do you have any French bread?” Red wine and French bread. That’s what Danny always looked for when he stopped by. Sometimes he would share a meal with us, but usually this was all he needed. Red wine and French bread were staples at our house and easy to find in the neighborhood. We lived just around the corner from Berkeley’s Hopkins Street shopping district, a collection of small shops with a European flavor. Like Barcelona, our visiting Chicago friends had thought. The intersection was anchored by the Monterey Market, a local landmark with a breath-taking array of fresh produce, along with a judicious selection of natural foods and groceries.A cluster of smaller shops radiated out from the crossroad: a bakery, a coffee-tea-cheese shop, an open air café called Espresso Roma, a butcher shop, a fish market, a Chinese restaurant, a liquor store. You could find most of what you wanted, and everything you really needed, right here. 209 210 Danse de Poullard But tonight, unaccountably, we had no French bread. And the nearby shops had just closed. I apologized—and Steve seemed morti fied. He began to rummage around for something to offer instead . Danny and I sat down at the dining room table. He looked weary. “So how are you?” It was no longer a casual question. “My mother is dying.” He said it simply, with no introduction, no preparation. “Oh no.” The sadness of this happening now, on top of everything else, was too much to bear. I was shocked, even though I shouldn’t have been. Steve joined us in the dining room. Danny’s mother was in her eighties. With a failing heart. Just like his. A year ago, she had been hospitalized, close to death, and Danny flew home to Texas. But his mother rallied. He saw her again over Christmas. She lived on her own, with most of her ten other children close by, in Beaumont and Houston. She was called Dorcena. Danny had named a song for her, one of his father’s, an old-time Creole tune he’d recorded with the California Cajun Orchestra. He called it “Danse à Dorcena.” Dorcena’s Dance. I knew Danny had a close relationship with his mother. He stayed at her house whenever he went home to visit his family.They always talked until late into the evening, he said. A bittersweet image, one that always made me hope my own sons would do the same for me, when I got old. Danny had been trying to arrange a flight to Texas—tomorrow, he hoped. He didn’t feel up to playing at Ashkenaz tonight. “Danny—have your doctors given you permission to travel?” I raised this cautiously, because I already suspected what the answer would be. Well, not exactly. They had tried to discourage him, although they hadn’t absolutely forbidden it. Even if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered. Danny needed to be in Texas. We felt so helpless. Steve resumed his search for bread. It was the least we could do. He found some pita, but it had gone bad, so he kept looking. Mon Coeur Fait Plus Mal 211 Danny had someone else on stand-by for the gig tonight, one of his local protégés. He planned to play for the first hour, at most. Then he’d turn the accordion over to André Thierry, a gifted young Creole musician everyone figured was destined to be a zydeco star. We continued to talk, the sadness in the air hanging so heavily we could almost...


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