copyright © 2001 Clinton A. Johnston

[I stand center. Blackout.]

[***Start "Peg" (Track 3) in darkness. Lights up when the vocals start.]

When I was in college, I went to my then friend, James Sterrett’s house for dinner.

I went to my then friend James Sterrett’s house with my then best friend Tod. It was my first year and James’s too, Tod’s second, deep into the winter, and neither of us had had a home cooked meal in months. Tod lived in Schenectady and my parents were in Ohio of all places, but James came from just down the street.

James came from just down the road, and it was deep into the winter, deep into the biting cold that Philadelphia can bring, the cold that laughs at the warmness, the blistering heat of summer, the cold that rushes up to you undoing your coat and your shirt and your underwear, feeling you up like a masher or a bad parent, cold that feels like a slap with no quarter asked and none given, and that was college.

And we were deep into our first year (Tod, deep into his second) when James took us home for dinner. His parents were teachers at a Friends school, teachers, their profession to take care of kids, surely they’d taken care of James and his brother, two guys never more unlike that you couldn’t help but like. And they, the parents, not the brothers, had made us steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes from scratch, juicy pot roast, apple pie, and deep, cracked wheat bread, all homemade from the hands of people who took care. And it was the most wonderful meal we’d ever needed.

And James’s grandmother was there, and she was old, old, old, so old. I don’t remember her standing or moving or changing expression — a nodding, ever-present smile, not like someone who’s dottering, not like a tourist who is too embarrassed to tell you she’s from too far away and doesn’t understand, but like someone who knows something that she won’t let go, someone who sees herself holding on to own her death and laughing at the irony. She was so old from Pennsylvania Quakers who worked until their bodies gave out and maybe a little bit after that. And she saw us, and we were deep into our first year (Todd into his second), deep into a college like a Philadelphia winter, deep into too many books, and too many papers, and too many assignments, and too little time, and where were the drugs and the sex and the beer and the fun, none of that, just stress and things to do and people to be who we weren’t ready to be and didn’t want to be yet. And this grandmother, who was old, old, old. She looked at us. Feeling warm for the first time, it felt like, stress coming off of us like steam as the most wonderful meal we’d ever needed worked its way like a benediction in our bellies, and she said never losing her smile, "This will be the happiest days of your lives."


James wanted to dismiss her. Tod wanted to kill her, wanted to strangle that 70, 80 year old lady for her effrontery. I just stood transfixed, because she was so old, and what if it was true?


So, today I’m coming out of a death of sorts into a sort of creative explosion, and I have people coming to me. They say they want to do shows and pieces and projects and works. They want to start post-modernist, interactive, performance-based creative enclaves. They want to shine, and I listen, and I nod my head, and I just can’t get excited over what they are saying, because I know who Wayne Krantz is. You think you don’t know him.


[** Start "Reeling in the Years" (Track 1)]

That’s Wayne Krantz. You can hear him on "Josie" and "Peg" and "Reeling" and he played "Bodhisattva" on tour with Fagan and Becker. Yes, Wayne Krantz played guitar with Steely Dan, Steely Dan, the eclectic, iconoclastic brainchild of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, who eschewed rock regularity, gave up touring, and like the Beatles made their home in the studio, but, unlike the Beatles, had no regular line up (other than the two of them) just a series of the most talented set musicians they could find. If you don’t know, in rock (or pop or soul or blues or anything if you will) there are the people who are in bands and then there are those musicians, some of them mad, crazy, sick good, better than the wankers in the bands more often than not, but maybe not cool enough or popular enough or hip enough or enough enough to be stars, but boy can they play, and they are set musicians. You hire them, and they play the shit out of what you give them, or, at least, you did and they did … like Wayne Krantz.

And in 1996, after the tour was over, after the U.S. and Japan, after being taken back to his small Manhattan apartment in a limousine, Wayne Krantz paid off all his creditors from the lean years … and went to work at Kinko’s. You see, he was broke and struggling with his own band and the gig with Steely Dan, those eclectic, iconoclastic brainchildren, Fagan and Becker, was over. And it was deep into the days of synthesizers, samplers, and drum machines, machines making the jobs and taking the jobs of man, the underlying theme of the Industrial Revolution, and no one much needed set musicians any more. And every time one of those classic, classic Steely Dan songs would come on the radio, "Josie", "Peg", "Reeling", "Bodhisattva", his co-workers would run up to him, start to air guitar, and laugh. Walter Krantz says that when this happens at the Kinko’s in New York City, he smiles.

[Start a slow blackout.]

And I wonder if it’s the same smile, the smile of one who knows that his life, much like this piece, though still going on, actually ended [Blackout.]… just a moment ago.

[Hold on Krantz’s solo for a good few moments and then fade music.]


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