Come, fly with me

Come, fly with me

In Old Manhattan,Michael Jackson,and cousin Tessa,too…have fun with books,and booze
Tessa should have told me herself. All she had to say (quietly, in my ear) was: “Michael, your fly is open.” Would that have been so embarrassing for her?Tessa, sweet, embarrassable you. We are cousins, but sufficiently removed to have fun together.“You don’t look alike,” observed a suspicious soul at Whisky Live in New York - where Tessa was my date for the evening. I think his view of English people was formed by films about Notting Hill.The real Notting Hill displays a statue of a Ukrainian hero, and is better known for its celebration of Trinidadian culture.Tessa is part Trinidadian, and my blood is thickened with borscht, but the spirit of our friendship is neither rum nor vodka. Tessa’s discovered the power of whisky when she was 15; I experienced its glory at 18.Before Whisky Live, we met over a Manhattan at our usual rendezvous, the bar at the Algonquin, to wait for the limo. It took us five blocks uptown to the Radio City Music Hall, looped round Rockefeller Plaza and decanted us at NBC studios. We were hustled through a crowd that had gathered in false expectation of the Neverland Kid.The ‘Michael Jackson’ billed on the canopy outside - and on the dressing room door inside was me. The child in me is still swells with pride at the temporary possession of my own dressing room, especially one with a door decorated with a silver star.I never know, though, what to do with such a facility, as I usually arrive fully dressed. Adjusting my dress might be an idea. What does anyone do before appearing on television - or making a speech, or going into an important meeting?A call of nature is a precaution. Tessa did notice the lack of closure but, instead of telling me, mentioned it to the public relations handler (an unfortunate term in the circumstances, I grant you). He forgot to tell me.I was at NBC to appear in Late Night With Conan O’Brien.This is the fastest and sharpest of networked chat shows in the United States.Conan himself, charming off camera, plays the smartass on screen. From the moment he somersaults through the opening credits, no one’s reputation is safe. On a previous occasion, he seemed determined to destroy mine by drowning me in an American drink called malt liquor. Now, he picked up the perverse theme for a second time.What is malt liquor? I have defined it in more than one of my books as being notably deficient in malt, and not a liquor.It is technically a beer, but of a compromised style: made with as much corn, or other adjuncts as possible (making for a low price) and fermented as far as possible, sometimes with added enzymes.I was warming to my theme when Conan observed: “Your fly is open.” I implied that this was a deliberate tactic to throw me off course. This seemed to tickle fellow guest Lucy Liu. When the show ended with theatrical hugs all round, Lucy told me she would like to come and live in London.Tessa insisted that it went well, She and I will be seeing each other again, soon, in London and Edinburgh. She was due to do fates at the Edinburgh jazz festival in early August, and to perform in London soon after.Tessa has a hot new book, Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better.It is hard to imagine a better title, but the publisher unblushingly did. A sub-deck explains: “How to unlock your creative dreams and change your life.” Tessa did. She surrendered the precipitous insecurity, the megalomaniac bosses, the counterfeit promises, the delusions of grandeur, the exploitation of talent, the capricious decisionmakers, the graveyards of dreams that were Fleet Street, and the universal, underlying fear that one day there would be insufficient whisky to go round.Having escaped all of that, she took up a new career offering identical opportunities. She is now a very successful jazz singer, based in New York.Having discovered that writers cannot escape their fate, she has extended her range to eloquently literate lyrics, with the power to stir and sometimes shake.She has set her words to the music of Wayne Shorter and Milton Nascimento, among others. The mood is often Johnnie Walker Blue. Her sound is as smooth as Maker’s Mark.
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