home's the most excellent place
 

Chapter I: It's a New-Born Afternoon
Chapter II: On a Distant Shore
Chapter III: So Very Plain To Read

Chapter IV: Just To Give It a Tune

When the night returns just like a friend,
When the evening comes to set me free,
When the quiet hours that wait beyond the day
Make peaceful sounds in me...

November 8, 1956

"Pop, Danny and I are going to head over to the library, okay?" Neil asked as he finished locking the front door of Diamond's Dry Goods.

"Mmm hmmm," Mr. Diamond mumbled through his mustache. He pulled out the cash register drawer to count the day's earnings.  "Don't be too late."

"We won't.  Thanks, Pop."  Neil looked over at Danny.  "Coming?"

Danny put down the bolts of fabric he had been carrying and started to arrange them on the shelf where they belonged.  "Give me a minute."

Neil came over and helped him and soon they were walking out the door.  Just before it closed, Harvey caught hold of it.  "I'm coming with you," he announced.  "Pop said I could."

Danny's shoulders slumped.  He did not want Harvey tagging along to see the Jimmy Wyble Quintet, and wasn't even sure they could really go, now. 

"You know where we're going?" Neil asked his younger brother, completely nonplussed by his statement.

"Nope.  But I'm pretty sure it's not the library this time."  Harvey put his hands in his jacket pockets and matched strides with the other two.

"Can we lose him?" Danny asked hopefully.

"Nah," Neil said.  "He won't say anything, anyway.  Let him come along.  You have any money?"

Harvey pulled some crumpled bills from his pocket.  "A few bucks.  Is that enough?"

Neil nodded and they kept walking on in silence.  When they reached a subway entrance, Harvey faltered for a half second, but then followed the two slightly older boys.  It was a very short ride; they exited only two stops later.

The small jazz club was not the same one where Neil and Danny had met earlier in the year; this one was much closer to the Brighton Beach home they now shared.  It was also smaller, and more dimly lit.  The three boys walked calmly past the bored-looking bouncer at the door.  He hadn't even looked up at them to notice they were just teenagers.

Inside, Danny immediately felt at home.  The relaxed atmosphere, the smoky room, and the musical notes coming from the stage put him at ease.  He quickly scoped out a spot near the back where they could just watch and listen and not be in anybody's way.  Danny listened to the arrangement as they walked across the back of the room.  The quintet was an unusual mixture of instruments: guitar, bass, drum, clarinet, and accordion.   Danny wondered what his father would have thought of the interesting sound they produced.

Neil must have been having similar thoughts.  "I don't think I've ever heard a quintet like this before," he commented.

"Jazz," Harvey said simply.  "I should have guessed."

"I like it," Danny announced, after listening for a few moments.  "I don't know if my father would have, but I like it."

Harvey stood against the wall, looking bored, but his face showed some signs of interest at that statement.  "What was your father like?" he asked Danny.  "Neil said he was a musician.  Was he any good?"

"Neil has one of his recordings.  You can judge for yourself," Danny responded.

"You do?"  Harvey looked at his older brother, astonished by this bit of news.

Neil shrugged, almost imitating Danny with the simple gesture.  "Harry Volpe really, but Timmy Mangan did the guitar work on that album."

"Wow," Harvey said, now looking at Danny with awe.  "When Neil mentioned your father was a musician, I just figured he dabbled a bit.  I didn't realize he was famous."

"Aw, he wasn't famous."  Danny smiled.  "He was still studying and learning from Harry when he got called to Korea."

Harvey looked down, not wanting to open up the other boy's wounds.  Danny looked down, too. The floor was littered with a few cigarette stubs and a couple of coctail napkins. He closed his eyes and let the musical notes coming from the stage fill the emptiness he suddenly felt.

"I saw him play in a few shows," Neil mentioned, breaking the uncomfortable silence between the two.  "About five years ago."

Harvey looked up at Neil, his dark brown eyes wide with shock.  "You've been going to jazz shows since you were ten?"

"Eight, actually.  Anyway, there was something about his style that grabbed me even then, and I started watching the billings, looking for his name."  Neil looked at Danny curiously.

"What?" Danny tried to take the biting defensiveness out of the response, but failed.

Neil shook his head.  "Just trying to remember if I ever saw you way back then.  But I was too focused on the band to have noticed you, or anyone else."

Danny smiled softly.  "I was probably there.  Dad started dragging me along everywhere with him when I was three."  He paused.  "How is it you started going to shows when you were eight?"

"Yeah," Harvey added.  "I don't remember you sneaking out way back then."

"I didn't sneak."  Neil grinned at his younger brother.  "And you were actually there, too."

"I was?" Harvey's tone sounded incredulous.

"Well, you were only six.  You probably just don't remember."  Neil paused as the song on stage came to an end and a new one started.  "It's all Mrs. Armen's fault, really."

"Judge Armen's wife?" Danny asked.  He wondered how the Armens fit in to Neil's love of jazz.

Harvey merely nodded as if it all made sense.  "Of course."

"Mrs. Judge is a huge jazz fan," Neil explained.  "And she was also our babysitter when we were younger.  She had to watch me and Harvey once and didn't want to miss some show, so with Mameleh's permission, she took us along.  I can't remember which band was playing, but I still remember the guitar player.  Joe Cinderella.  I've been hooked ever since."  Neil grinned again. 

"Joe and Don."  Danny commented.  "Guitar and bass.  My dad was a big fan of theirs.  They're both good."

Neil nodded in agreement. 

Harvey rolled his eyes.  "I just don't get it, I guess.  I mean, I don't mind listening to this stuff -- as background music.  But, I don't know... I'd rather be listening to Elvis Presley, you know?"

Neil snorted.  "No, I don't know."

The trio remained silent through the next couple of pieces.  Danny switched back and forth between watching the musicians on stage and the two Diamond brothers.  Harvey remained aloof, looking bored and maybe even disappointed that he and Neil's "library" trips were just to hear jazz.  Neil, meanwhile, was obviously into the scene and moving and swaying along with the music.

"Hey, Neil," Danny called out softly.  "I still think you should go into music.  You obviously have the passion for it."

This time it was Harvey's turn to snort.  "Neil?  With a music career?  Yeah, right.  Mr. Doctor here is too practical for that."

Neil looked torn for a second.  "Harvey's right.  I'm the type who enjoys listening but I'm no good at actually playing."

Danny shook his head.  "I just can't believe that.  I've seen you tapping out the rhythm to music when you study.  It's in you.  Don't ignore it."

Neil grunted derisively.  "Sure."

Danny didn't let go.  "What's the harm in trying?"

Neil didn't answer; Danny let it drop. 

"We actually had this guy come up at summer camp," Neil said rather suddenly.  "Pete Seeger."

"That communist folk singer?" Harvey asked, interrupting his brother.

Neil slapped Harvey on the back of the head, albeit gently.  "He's not a communist.  He's a pacifist.  Anyway, yeah, he came to camp and talked to us about music.  For a while there I started thinking about it pretty seriously."

"And?" Danny asked, his interest piqued by Neil's renewal of the conversation.

"And what?  Pop will never let me pursue a music career."

Danny gave Neil a pointed look.  He knew Mr. Diamond well enough to know this was only partly true.  Mr. Diamond might not like the idea, and he'd probably push Neil to stick with the doctor route, but Danny couldn't imagine him actually preventing Neil from following any career choice he made.

"Besides, even if I did try it, I'd still need something to fall back on," Neil said defensively.

"Forget being practical for a minute," Danny said.

Harvey snorted again.  "That's impossible," he muttered.

Danny ignored him.  "Seriously, if you could, what would you do?"

"Sing, write songs, play guitar," Neil answered.  "And piano.  I've already had piano lessons so I know I can play somewhat decently.  And Mr. Seeger let me practice on his guitar quite a bit.  I tried the banjo, too, but like the guitar sound better."

"Hmmm." Danny grinned as a plan started to form in his head. 

"What about you?" Neil asked.  "I know I've asked you before, but why don't you want to go in to music?"

Danny shook his head. "Nah.  I told you, I have no musical talent at all.  Even Dad gave up on me, in that respect."

"And in other respects?" Harvey asked quietly.

The question took Danny by surprise.  Then it angered him.  Danny glared at Harvey until Harvey started to squirm.  Finally he answered.  "My dad supported me, in everything.  Even music.  What I should've said is that he respected my decision to give up trying to learn guitar from him and stopped pushing me."

"Sorry," Harvey mumbled.  "I just thought... I meant... "

"Yeah. It's cool."  Danny turned back to the stage and let the music continue to heal his wounds.


chapter V: love's a gift that's made for givin'