Readings, Jazz Standards, and Book Signings
I guess the right way to set this story up is to say that I spent decades after leaving Utah thinking that the social, religious, personal, and geographical distances between us precluded any return home. The places of my youth and young adulthood were closed to me. Those people would never have any interest in seeing me again. And so I concluded that those friendships had been meant to last only long enough to serve their purpose. They were over. And Toni would only know that seminal part of my life in the stories I told her. I would only have those friendships back by writing those stories down. I never knew how shortsighted I was being. I never knew how demeaning my way of thinking was. Until I went back.
In October of 2013, after really cool positive reviews of Journey and Of the World in the my hometown paper the Salt Lake Tribune, I returned home to Utah to introduce the trilogy If Where You’re Going Isn’t Home to audiences in my home towns of Bountiful and Salt Lake.
I read selections from the first two books of the trilogy, Journey and Of the World, fielded questions, and signed copies. The events included live piano and vocal renditions of some jazz standards that Shake learns and plays alone and with his band throughout the trilogy. My brother Marv and friend Dan Waldis played while Toni provided the vocals. Many people wanted to come to more than one event. So each event featured different reading and song selections to make it a unique experience and not repeat myself to the wonderful and supportive people who’d already seen me.
Golden Years Senior Activity Center
Tuesday October 22nd at 12:30 p.m. in the main room of the Golden Years Senior Activity Center at 726 South 100 East in Shake’s home town of Bountiful. This was a remarkable event for me. Among people I hadn’t seen since graduating high school and leaving Bountiful were my high school coach, my high school debate teacher, football heroes like Bill Callahan, Maurice Stacey, Jim Young, many other buddies, Linda from my Sunday School class, and my high school sweetheart. By request from one of the guests, Marv and Toni performed the song Shake first performed with Cissy, “Since I Fell for You.” The signing afterward was almost overwhelming. People were so moved by what I’d done and I was moved that it had moved them. I had told their story and taken them back to their own childhood. I can’t imagine a better and more rewarding and humbling homecoming. Thank you — all of you — for an incredible and unforgettable experience. And thanks, Stace, for setting up this event and making it happen. I will always owe you.
Eliot Hall at the First Unitarian Church
Tuesday October 22nd from 7 to 9 p.m. in Eliot Hall at the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City at 569 South 1300 East in Salt Lake. Where the reading and performance earlier that day had tapped into my high school experience, this event drew people from my years in college. Professor Ray Ownbey, my first instructor in the English Department after I left Engineering, Professor David Kranes, one of my gifted teachers in the creative writing program, English Professor and jazz musician Ed Lueders, Mark and Michele from my jazz department groupie days, new friends like Anne and her mother Eileen Juenger, Susan Horton, Julie Vesely, Nick Smith, Ed Glashien, and others who had come my way from reading the books, and family members like my cousins Artie and Michelle and three of my beautiful nieces. A special surprise was John Gill, one of my heroes from high school, and the mystery owner of the first Porsche Shake ever saw. Thanks to all for coming. And to Stace, Marv, Susan, and others for setting up chairs.
Bountiful Music Recital Hall
Thursday October 24th from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Bountiful Music at 365 North Main Street in Bountiful. This was the most intimate event of the week — a small room, the lighting quiet, a yellow baby grand. It was special because it was a music store on Main Street in Bountiful — a descendant of the one Shake found when he first went looking for the instrument that would make the sound he heard in the cattle truck. Guests included several of my closest high school buddies — Bob West, Johnny Rasmussen, Jim Taylor, Tom Tolman, Rulon Cushing, Stace again — and their wives. Two very special guests came — Regina and Robert Redd of the Redd family who owned La Sal, the southern Utah ranch Shake grew up on, the magical place of my own childhood. Dan Waldis, an old college friend and professional jazz pianist, stepped up and played some incredible renderings of My Funny Valentine and other standards, some with Toni singing. A very special night. Thanks again to all of you for coming.
The King’s English Bookshop
Friday October 25th at The King’s English Bookshop at 1511 South 1500 East in Salt Lake City. The King’s English is to many people the premiere independent bookstore in Salt Lake. They strive to make themselves real members of the community by creating and hosting all kinds of community-oriented book events. My old friend Ray Ownbey, a friend of the bookstore’s owner, is responsible for the chance I was given to read there. Thank you, Ray, and thank you to the King’s English staff for the room, and for promoting and selling the books. It was an honor to read there. And thanks to Professor Steve Baar for a surprise appearance. And to Bill and Sylvia and Wayne and Mary and Professor Steensma and all the rest of you for coming.
Friday night after the King’s English event, Anne Juenger hosted a small relaxed gathering of close friends at her home in the Avenues, where I wound down an incredible week with a couple of glasses of champagne and in the easygoing company of people who had helped me get through it. Thanks, Annie!
Public Radio Interview on KUER
On Monday October 21st I sat down with Steve Williams, host of Nighttime Jazz on KUER Public Radio at the University of Utah, for an interview and conversation about Books 1 and 2 of the trilogy. We talked about the story of a boy with a dream to play jazz trumpet and about the depiction of jazz and its history and heroes throughout the trilogy. I read scenes while Steve played selected jazz standards. Being my first on-air interview in a radio studio, it didn’t always go smoothly, but we spent a great hour and a half together. Thank you, Steve, for the experience and honor of an NPR appearance.