A long narrative follows, but with a point — for patient readers.
I attended two jubilant jazz parties in November 2011: the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party in England; the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Fest. Both made me feel like a mountain goat with a video camera, leaping from one figurative musical peak to the next. I came home from each with a small notebook, its pages filled with personnel and song titles, exclamation points and check marks. I had recorded twenty-six sets at Whitley Bay, twenty at San Diego. Since my camera in each case would not hold all the data I was gathering, I carefully transferred it to an external hard drive, one guaranteed for durability. When I resumed ordinary life in December, that Western Digital drive had nearly four hundred videos on it, which I gazed upon in the same way the miser leers at his treasure in cartoons. I knew that, come the end of the semester, I would begin to transfer the best performances for my readers. Could any mishap befall this hoard of gigabytes? Not to me, I assured myself. I’m careful. I know what I’m doing!
Readers even faintly aware of Greek tragedy will be aware of the concept of hubris, or pride unsupported by evidence. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Readers should know that I was not the lone videographer at these two festivals. At Whitley Bay, my friendly colleagues were Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye; at San Diego, the high priestess of West Coast hot jazz, Rae Ann Berry. More about those focused people later.
Now on vacation, with a dining room table in someone else’s house a a makeshift video studio, I set up my tangle of wires and began to transfer the Whitley Bay material — and aimed the first performance at my friend Nancie Beaven, who holds the Hot Antic Jazz Band close to her very substantial heart. The video had an ornate metal structure in the left of the frame, and it began with the usual HAJB “gab,” but I was pleased with it, as was Nancie:
But Chance comes into our lives, bringing along its sibling Accident, and cousin Gravity. I tripped over the tangle of wires, not once, but twice, sending the plastic drive crashing to the floor, and when the wreckage was tidied up (superficially), the hard drive whined and blinked, but something in it had been wounded. I remained calm and didn’t fume — for, after all, getting angry at yourself isn’t all that satisfying. And I have been practicing my “acceptance” in light of several disappointments in the last few months.
What also tempered my emotions was that I could have prevented this debacle had I paid attention to the quiet counsel of Byron, my computer expert, who had said to me that everything I had on these hard drives and elsewhere should have a separate backup. The thought made me nervous: I saw my apartment turning, even more, into a storage space for little black plastic boxes — no more clothing and goodbye food and dishes and pots! — in pursuit of data protection, but when the WD box hit the floor, I thought of just how right he had been.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spent her time characterizing stages that were much more serious, but I think she would have recognized something similar in the emotions I passed through when imagining the loss of what I had captured in those videos. (Today a local computer expert told me that the drive was dead, and if I wanted to spend over a thousand dollars I could recover the data — a steep price to erase the incident.) But I knew that I had not been the only person with a camera in the room, and I emailed my videoing-friends to ask if I had their permission to repost a selection of their videos, crediting them, on JAZZ LIVES. They all generously said YES. Because of them, my readers will experience some of the delights that we all did.
1) Generosity created results in generosity received.
2) BACK UP YOUR DATA. One never knows, do one?