Home > 1, Music > BOOK 1. Mud’s Birthday…Jazz Heaven…The Great Tanasha.

BOOK 1. Mud’s Birthday…Jazz Heaven…The Great Tanasha.

BOOK 1.

Mud’s Birthday

Today is my dear Mudder’s birthday, she died on November 17th 1977. She is alive in my heart. I miss her and I love her.

Mud was an identical twin, born in Green River Wyoming in 1924, that would have made her/them 89 today.

Lelia, ( Le-le ah) my Mother, and Lea, my Aunt, had a fairly rough time in their childhood, their Father. Frank Kelly, worked for the Union Pacific Railroad in Green River Wyoming, and after he lost his job in the depression, he stopped his car on the railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train. Why? Depression? Alcoholism and Depression? Ultrawackizoidism?

 I have recently been given photographs of Mother and Lea when they were little girls and they are so beautiful and vulnerable looking. It breaks my heart. And I know that my heart-break is only the most distant echo of their own.. Dear God Awmighty what a thing.

Mud and Lea graduated from high school and left home at 16. They moved together to Washington DC to go to secretarial school. They had been living in Kansas City and were musically, pretty hip girls. In Washington, they gravitated towards the Jazz scene and in that scene, Lelia met a good-looking young tenor player from New York, Frankie Fagan. They fell in and poof! Little Abigail was born. By then the four jazz babies (Lelia, Lea, Abigail and Frankie) were in Chicago, and shortly after, New York.

 Frankie was born in Harlem in 1921 to a 21-year-old barroom singing orphan girl, from Scotland by the name of Sally (or maybe Sadie, we don’t know) Travis. 

His biological father was a married small time Irish politician from the Bronx whose name was Frank Galvin. Galvin denied that the child was his. An Irish longshoremen by the name of Fagan came forward an offered to marry Sally so that her child  would have a name. Sally died on welfare island of tuberculosis at 26, leaving little Frankie with no one to take care of him.

The Christian Brothers took him in as a charity case. But Frank Galvin’s mother wouldn’t stand for it. She brought him home to raise him in her apartment in The Bronx. Her oft-repeated statement to her own son was “Of course he’s your kid, you stooopid! Look at him!”

 She was a hundred caret character herself having grown up as one of eight in a candy store in Hells Kitchen. Her Irish Mother had been a Novice Nun in the convent of “The Little Sisters of Charity” in New Orleans, her father was  a sailor from Marseilles,  working as the Convents gardener. They fell in love and fled the convent for Hells Kitchen , where they had eight children and ran an old-fashioned New York City candy store.

My gather Frankie spent the greater part of his life trying to be accepted by his father Frankie and his family. He had his name changed legally to Galvin in his mid forties and gained some acceptance from his brothers later on in life.

He was always after me to change my name to Galvin but there was not one chance in hell that I would change my name to the name of a man who was so scared of his wife that he would deny his own child. Of course that kind of righteous, self-righteousness can come back on you in many ways, and of course, it does, it do, and it has..The question of name changing was a sensitive issue for me well before the Galvin tangent.

Mother eventually married eight times, and I would have been Scott Fagan, Smith, Hodge, Lindqvist, Wilson, Somethingoranother, and Somethingotherorother, McTiernan, Galvin. It happens though, that the name “Fagan” (which I thought was my father’s name and connected me no matter what, to my “real” father), was often the only thing that I had to hold on to in the world.. I was so unhappy to hear this bs about changing my name to Galvin after all that I had gone through to hold onto and to “be” Scott Fagan.

 I was born on to Jazz Heaven (West 52nd street) in what they say was an exceptionally good year for Jazz and Jazzing. 1945. Frankie was up and down playing with his heroes Lester Young and Chu Berry, and with another singer who had struggled with the name Fagan, Billie (Eleanor Fagan) Holiday. Gale was baptized at St. Malachi’s (The Actors Chapel) on West 49th Street. Dizzy Gillespie was her Godfather.

My first conscious memory is standing in a hospital crib at 2 years old, watching Mother, Frankie and my sister Gale walking away and leaving me. I could not understand why they were going and why they wouldn’t take me with them. It had never happened before and I just couldn’t understand it. I was so sad. (However, I would have been a lot more than sad, if I had known what was coming next. I was there for surgery to repair an un-descended testicle) I then remember riding the bus uptown in Frankie’s arms and coming home to our hep “Jazz baby” basement apartment.

Shortly after that, Mud and Lea and Gale and I, moved up to 82nd east of Amsterdam, and Frankie wasn’t around as much anymore. 82nd Street became a real “Jazz baby” pad. I remember the living room furniture was nothing but stripey mattresses all over the place (I’ve since learned the stripey stuff is called “Ticking”) and Mud had some pants and shirts made of the same material. It seemed like it was party time all the time. Jugs of wine, Jazz and jive talk The joint was “swinging” and Gale and I of course, were often on our tippy toes peeking out of our cribs to see what was going on.

 When not peeking at the party, We spent a lot of time sitting on folding chairs at the modern dance studio watching Mother and Lea (and lots of other young women) in black leopards doing variations on a Swahili fertility dance, or Martha Graham movement exercises.

Alternatively, we spent a lot of time sitting on folding chairs in rehearsal halls where Frankie (and lots of other young men) were doing their variations on the latest be bop riffs. It was all very interesting for two or three minutes and then…but Gale and I were very well-behaved, and well-mannered “good little children” I don’t know why, we just were.. (but stuff like that takes it to the limit)

 How I wish that I could sit there and watch it all again, not only because they are all gone now and I miss each of them and would love the opportunity to be with them in any context, but also because I’m much more interested in the dance and the Be Bop than I was, and I would be intrigued and excited by it all. I would love to say Wow Mud that was beautiful, or Wow Pop, that was amazing!, or Wow Gale what a wonderful girl and a wonderful sister you are..

 I miss them each, and spent nowhere near enough time listening to who they really really were (although I will argue that at one time or another I feel who each of them  really really were, in me, in the way I feel) it’s very odd to be  in the world without them. Though we were never really a family under one roof, we were. We are connected in a deep and timeless way. I hope they knew how much I loved and love them.

I feel like I did when  they left me there alone in the Hospital, except this time they didn’t all leave at once and I know, they didn’t go on purpose.

And now Dejavu all over again today (next day)  is my brother Lonnie’s Birthday (Mahlon Lindqvist) aka “The Great Tanasha” or simply “Beloved”. He would have been 49 he died at 43.. He is buried in the Cemetery directly across from the recording studio, in a grave that waits for its stone. God willing, “it soon come”

 Lonnie is the second of two children that Mother had with Howard Lindqvist, Howard was the only son of Mahlon Sr. and Grace Lindqvist. The Lindqvist family (at that time) was one generation removed from greatness and one generation ahead of losing it all. They were the wavy haired, golden skinned, golden children of the Cinnamon Bay Plantation and the House on America Hill, on the Island of St. John.

 Mahlon Sr. had fallen from a horse as a young man sustaining a chronic injury that manifested as a bent back and hunched shoulders, on the other hand, his brother Louis Lindqvist, was a tall dashing fellow with long streaming white hair. Louie looked for all the world like a bronze Buffalo Bill or a Kentucky fried, Colonel Sanders. Larger than life Louie, owned the Ford dealership in St. Thomas.

Louie had two children, a son Ken and a daughter June,

Mahlon Sr. had two children, a son Howard and a daughter Dorothy.

Somehow the family’s extensive land holdings (actually an enormous ranch) on the east end of St. Thomas (a stones throw across the channel from St. John) were in the hands of Louie and his children, while a respectable three-story Danish brick house in town was what Mahlon had to hold and where he and his children lived.

Louie’s daughter June became a spinster librarian, at the Edith Baa Public Library in Charlotte Amalie, and her brother Ken an egomaniacal alcoholic who first ran the dealership into the ground and then actually lost every square inch of dust that had been the Lindqvist families pride and joy. (Ah..I hesitate to say it, but after Ken was no longer my “Uncle” we actually became good friends)

Howard, was also an egomaniacal alcoholic with nothing to run into the ground but his potential as a graduate of Howard University (where I thought I would go when I grew up) with a degree in Civil Engineering and his reputation as a human being capable of delivering a full days work. . (Ah..I hesitate to say it, but after Howard was no longer my “Father”, we actually became good friends)

Howard spotted Lelia in her bikini at “The Lindbergh Bay Beach Club” and made a bet with his friends that he could “get the white woman”. He may also have known that Mud was already.. at that moment, married to his next door neighbor Jerry Hodge. Jerry was a very cheerful finger clicking younger fellow who played the squeeze box, ah..ok,  Accordion, Gale and I liked him well enough for having seen him only once or twice before they married. At the time, Jerry was away in the army.. (Mud had married Jerry perhaps a year earlier, and Jerry had gone off to “get his education” in the service.)

 Jerry was stationed in Georgia and being trained as a cook. One day in the kitchen, Jerry (who was very dark-skinned) whipped out this photograph of his white wife and children back in the Islands (Mother and Gale and I) a southerner soldier, freaked out and threw a meat cleaver at Jerry’s head. When Mud first told Gale and I what had happened, I remember thinking to myself “Boy, why would he do something like that?” .

I vaguely remember meeting Howard, he was just one of many who flocked to Mother whenever she showed up wherever..he just seemed like another insincere bs artist trying to impress her. I guess he did because before we know it, Mud was asking Gale and I whether we thought she should marry Jack (her current boy friend) or Howard.

I think Gale and I were caught a bit off guard, she had already married twice since Frankie, without consulting us (While we were living on 82nd Street Mud had gotten married to a fellow by the name of “Jack Smith” a “war hero” with a drawer full of combat medals and beautiful silk ribbons). They got married at the “Manhattan Towers” a hotel on the West side at 76th and Broadway, made famous by a suite of romantic music by the same name.

It was a big to do..after the festivities, Gale and I were sent up to Connecticut to stay with his Mother and her big licky, scratchy, hairy, scary dog (In fairness, I have to say that after the hospital event, I was scared of everything, but most especially, thunder and big licky scratchy, hairy, scary dogs) in her trailer, while they went away to honeymoon. Shortly after, it came to light that Jack Smith, was a big fat liar,..ah I mean a pathological liar, and that poor Mud had been had, her money and her love.

Nevertheless when she was asking our opinion on who she should marry this time, I distinctly remember thinking, “why is she asking us, certainly she knows what to do about these things”..We didn’t have much time to make up our minds so because we knew Jack, and he had taught us how to play poker, we said Jack. To us, Howard was just another insincere guy being nice to her at the beach.

In retrospect, I think that Mud just deep down fully believed that if you were  intimate with someone, you were obliged to marry them.

Needless to say, Mud divorced Jerry, jumped over Jack, and married Howard. (Jack would later marry Muds’s twin sister Lea, and stay with her the rest of their lives…However, Lea had no bed of roses with Jack as evidenced by the fact that after moving from St. Thomas to Jamaica, to New Orleans, they lived in Vegas for over 20 years and their ashes are buried under the infield at The Delmar Racetrack, in Delmar, California. Yep.

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