Note: If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first. It will be helpful to better understand these sample chapter extracts.
The Comisario’s Band – Serving Two Gods
Morey left the office of the new Margaret Reed Music Conservatory’s administration building and strolled down the stairs out into the warm spring night. He walked to the back of the building to Frank’s grave. “Well, what do you think Frank? Did we ever think we’d come to this? Things are going great. Severo’s dream is well on its way for coming true and we are a big part of it. I wish you were here to share in it Frank. After all, you’re the guy who brought us down here in the first place.”
As Morey crossed the familiar soccer field and newly created public park area, he wondered what his mother and father would think of all of this. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in LA, where he worked for his dad, who was a plumbing contractor. His parents loved him and were proud of him when he joined the U.S. Navy to fight for his country after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. Morey served in a navy unit aboard a Command Flagship Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific theater.
Three years later, upon his return to Los Angeles and his family, his parents were shocked when he returned with a Filipino wife who spoke very little English. He married out of his faith and shattered his parent’s hearts.
“So why couldn’t you marry a nice Jewish girl, Morey? One who could speak a little English? Didn’t they have any Jewish girls where you were? I can’t talk to her. She listens to the radio all day long. She doesn’t make your bed. She throws the mattress and sheets on the floor. What’s the matter with her Morey? Why did you pick a girl like that? She wants to do the laundry in the kitchen sink. I try to show her how to use the washing machine but she’s afraid of it. She hates kafilta fish. She doesn’t like anything I fix for her lunch. Why did you have to marry a girl with such dark skin? Your father is beside himself. His friends tease him about her. She won’t wear proper clothes. Why her Morey, why her? Talk to me my son.”
‘Why did he marry her?’ He couldn’t remember now, it had been a long time ago but ‘probably for sex,’ he thought. He did remember that it became unbearable living with her in his parent’s house. He continued working with his dad but he and his bride moved into a tiny apartment where she continued listening to the radio, did the laundry in the kitchen sink, slept on the floor and cooked fish and rice every day.
He remembered that she finally made friends with some other war brides whom she met at the fish market. While Morey was defending her and himself and their relationship, day in and day out, his war bride was busy earning money as a prostitute, as she did before Morey had married her. She seemed quite happy in her new country and surroundings, but Morey became disillusioned and depressed upon finding her – on their mattress on the floor, with two men.
After his suicide attempt his parents sent him to a sanitarium, declaring that the navy was responsible for his condition. A piano teacher came to the hospital every Tuesday and Friday giving free lessons to patients who wanted them.
Morey took all of the other patients lessons, threatening them with physical harm if they went near the piano. His teacher, recognizing his natural ability and talent, worked with him until the board at the sanitarium insisted that he was well, and that they needed his room.
He reluctantly returned to his parents after being reassured by his teacher that they would still meet twice a week at the teacher’s apartment. Morey worked with his dad again and against his parents wishes bought a used piano, which he moved into his bedroom. He locked himself in his room every evening and made the most repetitious of sounds on the piano, running scales, learning harmony and tunes, building up his chops, until well past midnight. He was honing his skills at an advanced age – a not very common age to start learning music and for becoming a talented professional musician. His intense interest and near perfect pitch proved to be a great advantage.
Morey’s mother wailed and cried and his father sang prayers of thanks in the synagogue when he left town with a group of gentile musicians, two of whom were black.
‘If you’re up there, mom and dad,’ he laughed, staring up at the night sky, ‘I’d like to introduce you to my Mexican wife, Señora María Armenta, Levine,. ‘What the hell,’ he thought, ‘God bless them.’