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Trumpets And High Heels – Jazz Over The St. Lawrence

Trumpets and High Heels – Jazz Over the St. Lawrence

Trumpets and High Heels Jazz over the River

Heels and Trumpets over the River

In a rush against time I drove from Wellesley Island to the Clayton Jazz Festival. When I arrived around 1:30, Kimberly Hawkey was just about wrapping up her concert. I still “captured” her last three songs or so, and highly regretted not hearing more. The concerts were held in a little plaza right by the river, as big barges were sailing down, a demonstration of that tight symbiotic commercial connection between two countries sharing a long waterway.  Kimberly Hawkey performing over the river in Clayton Jazz Festival, NYS

 Kimberly Hawkey performing over the river in Clayton Jazz Festival, NYS

10th Mountain Division

Then came the military band of the 10th Mountain Division – “our men and women”. They were apparently stationed nearby and came in close regular contact with the townsfolk. All musicians were white but the “little black drummer”, no kidding…

Introducing 10th Mountain Division Jazz Band, Clayton Jazz Festival, NYSClayton town introducing the 10th Mt. Division Band

A barge passes by as the town’s spokesman introduces the army band as “our heroes”.

In Israel army bands are considered “jobniks”, meaning those whose army service is non-combatant. They are, of course, liked and even admired for their music, and many start their public careers in these army bands. Army musicians and singers travel between bases, including in times of war, and along the borders, to bring up troops morale. I never heard them being called “heroes”, though…

 10th Mountain division jazz band playing at Clayton Jazz Festival   10th Mountain division jazz band playing at Clayton Jazz Festival

The 10th Mountain Division band.

In contrast to the high-heeled and coquettish Kimberley, the equally inspiring army female singer had her hair tied in a super-tight bun and wore a uniform. In that attire, it was surprising to hear her sing about the enchanted boy who spoke with fools and kings, and that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return…

As she was singing, more huge barges were sailing down the river just behind her. Awesome!

Hi, Doll

At one moment, a large group of motorcyclists in black leather came buzzing down the riverside drive and up into town. Later I found out the town had an event for veterans. During the break I walked around some streets, and in a large open yard a dining party was being organized, self-service style. No, I could not buy food there; it was for the group. And, indeed, soon enough these guys (and a few women) came to dine and shine and be pampered by the loving Clayton City…

One of them, a particularly big and muscular guy, said to me: “Hi, doll”. It was bizarre. American military carry a different air than the familiar and homey Israeli soldiers. They fight away from home, in wars that are often controversial. They are expected to be super-humanly tough and professional in perilous, treacherous circumstances. Of course, they have “the best equipment in the world”, and supposedly the best training, but the rationale behind using them can be faulty and divisive.

Often there’s a lack of familiarity and understanding of the “other”, sometimes a shortage on ethics. When they come back from wherever they served, they often do not easily find their way back into society. Sad. Very sad.

Israeli soldiers are by definition an integral part of the society, which makes the army less alien, and the soldier’s integration into “civil life” somewhat more organic. But, nonetheless, we have our share of suicides, post traumas, mental and physical breakdowns. I’m not playing down anything or wearing rosy spectacles. It’s just that, somehow, seeing that army group, so extremely masculine, felt odd to me. It also touched my heart in a special way. It seemed that good women (and men) from the town were really mobilized on their behalf, which was heartening.

Studio G on the River

I came back from the break to hear the first black band – Studio G – a totally different level of performance, though I liked all the shows. They came from Nashville, TN, and their blackness felt even blacker in the general whiteness of the town. And they were wonderful:

Studio G performing over the river at Clayton Jazz Festival    Studio G performing over the river at Clayton Jazz Festival, NYS

Studio G playing over the river, Clayton  

The music was purely instrumental and, when compared with the previous shows, a quantum leap musically. I was still feeling weird for the black guys playing for an all-white audience, but they seemed immune to that. 

They were going to play again in the evening at a joint called The Coyote Cafe. 

October Fest a-la-Americana

In between the morning and evening shows I decided to have a little driving trip to “pass the time”, but made sure I’d come back for Studio G’s evening performance.

As usual, I find interest in everything, and so in the end it took longer than I thought. I drove #12 further south towards Cape Vincent, and from there to Sacket Harbor, heading to my first encounter with The Great Lakes (I needed to be able to say I’d been there…), namely, Lake Ontario. I soon found out a lot was going on that sunny afternoon in upper New york State.

Cape Vincent was just several miles away, but everybody there was packing up after another weekend event – the Germany-inspired October Fest, now turned into a joyous American event. Adopted festivals are just as good as authentic ones, or as we say in Hebrew, everything is “Siba lemesiba” (a reason for partying). As long as drinks, music, and games are available, food and crafts are being sold and people get together rubbing against each other, why not celebrate life?

  October Fest at Cape Vincent, NYS  Didgeridoo player with kid at October Fest Festival, Cape Vincent, NYS

Cape Vincent, October Fest Celeberations

Americans seem to know how to party and enjoy themselves. Regardless of all the bad talk about rural America’s deterioration, about decadence, etc. etc., the majority, at least in the states I visited, appeared to lead a good happy life, and especially a good social life.

I walked around the closing booths, talking to people, taking a last peek at the merchandise before it was stowed away into bags and suitcases.

Heading a little away from the center of the party, I spotted the border crossing ferry office.

So How do you Cross the Border?

Since I haven’t given the issue any thought until that moment, I asked three guys who were seemingly slightly drunk but not too bad, if Cape Vincent was a good place to cross. They eagerly started to bombard me with info about Indian reservations, long interrogations by mean Canadian officials, being stuck for three hours for searches and questioning, but, in all, they seemed to accept the difficulties with grace and humor.

I swallowed my tongue not to say that one of them looked Middle Eastern, and that would “naturally” bring about more suspicions and procedures than my female whiteness. He was an American Latino, and I was the one actually from “that part of the world”…  Later I found out that my whiteness did not protect me from border troubles, but this did not happen at this border crossing, and not by the Canadians…

Still, the information sank in, and indeed once I consulted the map, names they threw around became alive. Although I originally had ferries in mind, I did go along with the idea of driving. These crossings required more driving than I bargained for, but they fit with my ultimate goal of reaching route 132 on the Canadian side – the promised longest scenic road in Quebec. Little did I know I was actually going to drive 132 in its entirety!

Corn Fields, Diplapidated Barns and Lake Ontario

From Cape Vincent I continued driving towards the next seemingly interesting spot on the map: Sackets Harbor. That was an excruciating drive. I first stopped at some dilapidated barns to give them photographic homage. I am always attracted to those scenes of abandonment and forlornness, the feel of days past, the ravage of Time and wild life on our attempts to create permanency.

To reach the destination I had to cut across the corn fields as fast as I could, The day was setting and there was the evening session of the Clayton Jazz Festival.

That did not work well. The drive was lengthy and tedious. I went on the 12E, but somehow messed up. GPS took me across agricultural universes, small villages, to eventually reach road 3 and the town. I asked some boys how to get to the beach. They got off their bikes and were happy to answer. I reached a bizarre T, then it was dirt roads.                

Dilapidated farmhouse on way to Sacket Harbor, Upper NYS

One way or another I found my way to that beach, but there was no access. I drove on and on past waterfront properties, “For Sale“ signs, driveways leading to private boat docks. Somewhere I eventually found an outlet to the lake and reposed for a few minutes. There was a geese flock in the water. I followed them with the camera until they all flew off. That was my experience of Lake Ontario, my first, and so far only sighting of the Great Lakes.

Geese by Lake Ontario, Sacket Harbor, NYS Lake Ontario

The Coyote Moon with Studio G

Five minutes later I headed back to Clayton in the dark, miraculously finding road 12. I got in time to the wonderful jazz concert at Coyote Moon, a bar-restaurant on Riverside Drive, with the guys from Nashville. It was great hearing Studio G in that intimate setup.

I had a wonderful strawberry cocktail, and schmoozed with a nice blonde woman who was crowding with me in a corner of the inner room where they were playing. In that environment, the players were much more open. They befriended the guests, laughed with them. Everybody was clearly admiring their talents, plus having a very good time.

My apprehensions regarding their potential estrangement went out the window. Clayton City welcomed Studio G with open arms! The place was packed. Everybody came on to that particular show. A great way for me to “feel” the town and enjoy some good music before saying goodbye to both Clayton and New York State. But first I had to see the “Other 999”…

Studio G at the Coyote Moon, Clayton Jazz Festival, NYS

At the Coyote Moon Cafe, Clayton Jazz Festival, NYS

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