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Living the Blues

Chapter one

When Mike arrived at the restaurant, he was escorted to the private dining room where his friends and family were waiting for him. They had all come to help Mike celebrate his great achievement. After studying music for six years at Julliard School of Music in New York, he had finally received his master’s degree in music.

Michael Howard grew up in Chicago, where he lived with his mother and grandmother. He had become interested in music at the age of seven when he began playing the flute. While attending middle school, he began playing the saxophone as well, and joined a jazz band at school.

As Mike entered the dining room, everybody began cheering and applauding for him and the party began. Mike was having a great time and was happy to see that his family was having a good time as well, especially his grandmother. However, his grandmother’s mood suddenly changed when Mike announced his plans for his future.

One of Mike’s friends asked him what he planned to do with his music degree. “I eventually plan to teach music to middle school students,” Mike replied, “but before I begin my teaching career, I plan to take a year or two off to go to New York City and play jazz music in the night clubs, and maybe even hook up with a band.”

Mike saw his grandmother grab her purse and after a short argument with his mother, they headed for the door. Mike headed over to them and asked “What’s wrong? Why are you leaving so soon?”

Mrs. Hunter ignored the question, but Mike’s mother replied, “I’ll call you later” and then the two ladies left the restaurant.

Mike spent the rest of the evening visiting with friends. He knew that he would miss them when he went to New York, but he also knew that it was something that he had to do, something that he wanted to do and if he didn’t do it right away, then he would never have the chance again.

Mike returned home around two o’clock the next morning and immediately went to bed. The next morning, when he woke up, he went down to the kitchen to get breakfast. His mother and grandmother were already at the table drinking coffee. Mike started to ask his grandmother a question when he saw his mother giving him a serious look that said ‘don’t go there Mike’. However, Mike wanted to know why his grandmother left the party so early, so he asked the question anyway. “Was the party getting too rowdy or too noisy for you, Grandma?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Then, what’s the deal?” asked Mike. “Why did you leave so early?”

Mrs. Hunter hesitated for a moment before she answered. “Because I do not approve of your plans to go to New York,”

“Why not?” asked Mike

“Because you will get sidetracked with playing in night clubs and you will forget about teaching altogether. You will forget about your family and friends because you will become so obsessed with some band just like your father did and just like my father did,” replied his grandmother.

Mike didn’t say a word. He was too angry and he didn’t want to say something that he would regret. He stood up, walked out of the house and continued to walk. He needed some time to calm down. Usually when Mike went for a walk, he was able to cool off, but not this time. The more he walked, the angrier he became. When he returned home, he confronted his grandmother. “Just because my father left my mom and me, and your father left you, does not mean that I will abandon my family,” said Mike “I am not my father and I am not your father. And for your information, I located my father two years ago and I confronted him about he did. He told me that it was not his music that caused him to leave. He left because at the time he was not ready to be a father. He apologized and I forgave him. We have both moved on, and are trying to build some kind of relationship. Maybe it’s time you forgave your father for something that happened over seventy years ago.” Mike had planned to leave it at that, but he decided to add one more thing. “If you really think that I would abandon my family because of my music, then you really don’t know me at all,” he said.

Over the next couple of days, Mrs. Howard tried very hard to smooth things over between her mother and her son, but they were both stubborn and refused to speak to each other. Finally, Mrs. Hunter decided to talk to her grandson. She had never seen him so upset before, and the two of them had always been very close. She was afraid that she would lose him forever. She apologized for making presumptions about his future.

Mike apologized to his grandmother as well and over the next few days, they talked quite a bit about his plans.

While Mike was attending school in New York, he had often gone to a jazz club called: ‘All That Jazz’. One of the bands that he really enjoyed was called ‘Blues Rhapsody’. The band members dressed in suits that were designed in the style of suits worn in New York in the 1930’s. Whenever Mike watched them perform, he felt like he was actually experiencing the early days of Jazz. Before Mike left New York, he learned that one of the band members was retiring and that the band was looking for a replacement and would be holding auditions two weeks later.

One night at dinner, Mrs. Howard gave her son an envelope. Mike opened it and found a train ticket to New York City. Mrs. Howard told her son that since he had the time, he should take a relaxing train ride to the Big Apple. Some of Mike’s friends had told him how much fun they had when they rode the ‘Lake Shore Limited’ from Chicago to New York City.

Mike’s grandmother handed him another envelope containing one thousand dollars to help him get started in New York. Then, she told him that she had something else that would help him land the spot in the band. She went up to her bedroom and returned with a cloth bag on a hanger and two old boxes. Mike unzipped the bag which revealed a suit that looked brand new, but it was not from the twenty-first century. The style was from the 1920’s.

“This is really cool,” said Mike. “Where did you get this?”

“It belonged to my grandfather,” said Mrs. Hunter. “He bought it back in 1927. He only wore it on special occasions. He called it his lucky suit.´

Mike opened the two boxes and found a pair of black dress shoes and a black hat. He learned that both had belonged to his great-great grandfather as well and both were in excellent condition.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” asked Mrs. Howard, “Go try them on.” Fifteen minutes later, Mike came down the stairs. He told his mother and grandmother to close their eyes. When they opened their eyes a moment later, they saw Mike standing with his back to them. He slowly turned around and began to play an old jazz tune on his saxophone.

“You look like you just stepped out of the 1930’s,” said Mrs. Hunter. You look just like the photo I have of my grandfather. The suit fits you perfectly.” She got out an old photo album and Mike and his mother agreed that there was a strong family resemblance.

“Why did you keep this suit all these years?” asked Mike.

“My grandfather was a very peculiar man,” said Mrs. Hunter. A couple of years before the depression hit, he had a feeling that the country was going to be hit by hard times. He took all of the family’s money out of the bank and hid it. Unfortunately, he died a few years later without telling anyone where he had hidden it. My grandmother wanted to bury him in this suit, but I begged her to let me have it to remember him by, and she agreed. He was buried in an old worn out suit instead.”

Chapter Two

Three days later, Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Howard gave Mike a ride to Union Station to catch the train to New York City. Mike wore his great-great grandfather’s suit, hat and shoes. He even used an old suitcase from the 1920’s that his grandmother gave him. Besides his suitcase, Mike was also taking four instruments with him. Besides the saxophone, Mike also played the piano the clarinet, the trombone and the trumpet. Three of the instruments were fairly new, but Mike had purchased the saxophone from a pawn shop several years earlier and it was almost eighty years old.

Because of the way he was dressed, Mike could sense everybody staring at him, but he didn’t care. He was proud to be wearing a family heirloom. One elderly couple told Mike that he looked really snazzy.

Mike said goodbye to his mother and gave her a big hug. Then, he hugged his grandmother and said; “I’m going to make you proud of me, Grandma,”

“I’m already proud of you,” said Mrs. Hunter. Just be safe and have fun.”

When Mike boarded the train, he securely stowed his suitcase and three of his instruments. His saxophone, he kept with him, as it was his most prized possession and he never let it out of his sight. Mike loved the music that it played and he could only imagine the clubs that it had been played in over the years.

Mike wanted to enjoy every minute of the train ride, and he watched the landscape go past as the train headed toward New York. When it got dark, Mike decided to take a short nap to pass the time. He was soon awakened by a loud clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning that lit up the entire sky. Mike felt a strange feeling come over him, as he quickly fell back to sleep.

When Mike woke up a few hours later, he felt disoriented. He soon remembered that he was on a train headed towards New York, but as he looked around the train car, it seemed different. Then, he noticed that the other passengers in the car were all dressed in retro clothing like him. He thought that someone was playing a trick on him. He tapped the shoulder of the man sitting in the seat in front of him and asked him what the date was.

It’s June 9th,” replied the gentleman as he handed Mike the newspaper that he had just finished reading. When Mike looked at the front page, he did a double take. It was indeed June 9th, however the year was 1938. Mike decided that he was dreaming and would soon wake up. Then, Mike got the idea to check his wallet, because his driver’s license would prove that it couldn’t be 1938, but when he reached into his back pocket, he found it empty. At first, Mike wasn’t totally freaked out, because he thought he was still dreaming, but when he realized that he was wide awake, he began frantically searching for his wallet. He searched under his seat, and in all of his pants pockets. As he took off his suit coat, he felt something poke his hand. At first he thought it was a straight pin, but upon closer examination, he discovered that there was a hidden zipper under a flap in the inside lining of the jacket. As he examined it more closely, he noticed that the zipper went all the way around the inside of the jacket. He carefully pulled the zipper open and felt inside the lining. He found several hidden pockets, each of which contained several crisp dollar bills.

Mike looked around to make sure that no one was watching and then he took the suit to the restroom at the end of the train car. After he locked the door, he began to examine the money. The dates on the bills were all 1929 or earlier. Eight of the pockets each held twelve one hundred dollar bills. The 9th pocket held ten twenty dollar bills and the last two pockets contained ones, fives and tens. Mike quickly added it all up and realized it was more than ten thousand dollars. Once Mike realized that the money was real, he began wondering where it came from. Then he recalled what his grandmother told him, that no one ever found where her grandfather hid his money. The money had been in that suit coat for over seventy years. If Mike’s grandmother hadn’t begged to keep the coat, all of that money would have been buried with her grandfather.

Mike returned to his seat and began to think about the predicament he was in. He realized that the clap of thunder and the lightning bolt had sent him back into the past. If he had indeed traveled back in time to the year 1938, he would need the money in his jacket to survive on. He had already placed fifty dollars in small bills in his pocket. He opened his saxophone case and noticed that the saxophone looked almost brand new. That explained why he couldn’t find his wallet, because it didn’t exist in 1938, which also explained why he was no longer wearing socks or undershorts. Luckily, he was wearing a shirt from the 1920’s as well as his suit because it would be hard to explain why he was riding the train naked.

Mike was feeling hungry, so he picked up the newspaper and headed to the dining car. He hadn’t eaten in several hours and he was starving. He sat down in the dining car and ordered ham and eggs, toast, potatoes and coffee. When the food was served, he handed the waiter a ten dollar bill to pay for his food. The waiter asked Mike if he had anything smaller. Mike was surprised when he was told that the cost of the meal was fifty cents. Mike handed the man a dollar and told him to keep the change. The waiter seemed pleased with the small tip.

When Mike began to eat his meal, he was amazed at how good it tasted. The toast was made with homemade bread. It was the best meal he had ever eaten with the exception of his grandmother’s cooking. While he ate, he contemplated his situation. He learned that the train was headed for New York City, which was his ultimate destination, just seventy-five years earlier than expected. He became quite excited at the prospect of living in New York when jazz music was just taking off. With any luck, he would be a part of that experience.

Mike began reading the newspaper that he had brought with him to the dining car. It was a copy of the Chicago Tribune. He began catching up on the news of the day; the biggest story was about the tension in Europe involving Germany, which Mike knew would turn into World War II in a matter of months. After he finished his breakfast, Mike returned to his seat. On the way there, he checked on his luggage. All he found was an empty suitcase. All of his clothes, his toiletries, cell phone and other electronics had disappeared as well as his trumpet, trombone and clarinet. By this time, Mike began to realize that anything which had not existed after 1938 had disappeared when he was transported to 1938.

Mike’s head began filling with many thoughts at once. He wondered if he really had traveled back in time, and if he had how he would ever get back to his own time. Mike talked to the conductor and learned that the train was going to Penn Station in Manhattan. Mike decided that he could spend all of his time worrying about how to get back to his own time, or he could make the most of his situation and have some fun on his adventure. He was headed to New York City where jazz as in its infancy. He would be able to gain experience by playing jazz with some of the great musicians he had studied during his years at Julliard.

Three hours, the train pulled into Penn Station. Mike collected his empty suitcase and his saxophone and followed the other passengers into the station. During his six years at Julliard, Mike had been all over Manhattan, and had been to Penn Station many times; however it was nothing like he remembered. He had seen photos of the train station in a book about the history of the history of the city, and he was overwhelmed to be in the grand old train station in its heyday.

After looking around for a while, Mike bought a newspaper and then stepped outside of the station to hail a cab. With each new thing that Mike saw, he was continuously amazed. As he watched all of the old fashioned cars and trucks and busses go by, he became very excited. He got into a cab and asked the driver if he knew of any place where he could rent a room in Manhattan. The cab driver told him that there were several boarding houses. Mike asked if the driver would recommend one and he drove Mike to one a few blocks from downtown Manhattan.

The boarding house was a three story red brick house. When Mike got out of the cab, Mike noticed that the fare was only $1.15. He thought that it must have been a mistake and handed the man a five dollar bill and told him to keep the change. The driver was so grateful and Mike guessed that they didn’t get many tips in the 1930’s.

Mike went to the front door of the boarding house and knocked. The door was opened by a short stout woman in her mid-fifties. She greeted him in a pleasant manner and Mike detected a Polish or German accent. When Mike asked if she had any rooms for rent, she told him that she had vacant rooms. The rate was five-fifty per week, which included three meals per day. Mike thought the rate was a little steep and told her so. He thanked her and started to leave, when the woman told him “I can go as low as five dollars per week.” Mike had thought the rate was five hundred and fifty dollars per week when she actually meant five dollars fifty cents. Mike took out five dollars and paid for a week in advance. He suddenly realized why the cab driver was so pleased with his tip. He probably earned only fifteen dollars in an entire day. Mike realized that he had to be careful with the way he spent his money. Mike only paid for a week’s rent, because he planned to find a job in the nightclub district and then find a room closer to his work.

When the owner of the boarding house saw Mike’s saxophone case, she told him that she expected him to keep the noise down and not to play his instrument too loud after eight o’clock in the evening.

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Mike. “And if I get a television, I will keep it turned down as well.”

“Ha,’ said Mrs. Luczak, “If you could afford a television set, you wouldn’t be staying here. And anyway, television is a waste of time and just a passing fancy. It will probably be gone in twenty years.”

It was a short while later, that Mike truly began to understand the value of the dollar in 1938. In that year, an average house cost $4,000. A new car cost around $800 and the average person only earned $1,700 per year.

Mike’s room was furnished with a bed, a nightstand, a lamp and a small chest of drawers. There was also a small closet. The room had a lock on it. Mike had a key and he guessed that Mrs. Luczak also had a key. He trusted her not to enter the room when he was not there.

Mike realized that he needed to buy some more clothes, especially underwear and socks and decided to go shopping the next day. That night, after eating a home-cooked dinner, he decided to turn in for the night. The bed was very comfortable and he slept like a baby.

Mike woke up early the next morning and decided to take a shower while everybody else was still asleep. The bathroom was in the hall and was shared by four rooms on the same floor. When he went into the bathroom, he saw that there was no shower, only an old fashioned cast iron bathtub. Mike locked the door. Filled the tub with hot water and then undressed. As he soaked in the tub, it brought back memories of taking baths when he was a small boy.

After his bath, Mike got dressed and went downstairs to the dining room, where breakfast was already on the table. The food was just as good as the night before, except for the coffee which was much stronger than he was used to.

After breakfast, Mike got directions from Mrs. Luczak to the stores in the neighborhood. He took two hundred dollars from his secret stash and left his coat in his locked room. He didn’t think that he would be able to buy many clothes with that money, but at least he would have a few sets of clothes. He was very surprised to discover that he was able to purchase several complete outfits with underwear, socks, belt, shoes and a couple summer suits for a total of seventy-five dollars.

As he walked back towards the boarding house with his purchases, Mike stopped at a drug store to buy some personal items, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, etc. When he saw a soda fountain, he ordered an ice cream soda that he had heard his grandmother mention. It was the best ice cream soda that he ever had. Mike also decided to purchase a few newspapers to look for a job as well as a few magazines to catch up on current events and fads of the 1930’s. While browsing through the magazines, he noticed a rack of comic books. Mike had not read any in many years, but read many as a young boy. As he looked at the titles, he knew that several comics from the 1920’s and 1930’s would become very valuable in the far future. Since they were only ten cents each, Mike decided to get a dozen copies of every comic book on the rack. When he saw the curious look on the clerk’s face, Mike told him that they were for the kids in his neighborhood.

When he returned to the boarding house, Mike took his purchases up to his room. He changed into some cooler clothing. He was about to remove the rest of the money from the hidden packets when he thought about something. The money had been safe there for over seventy years, so he decided to leave it where it was. He hung the suit up in his closet, after taking some to keep with him.

After putting away the rest of his new clothes, Mike began scanning the newspapers to catch up on the news for 1938. Then, he began scanning the classifieds for an apartment that he could afford near the nightclubs. He was shocked to see that the rent was only twenty-five dollars per month. He also searched for any job openings in the clubs. He found an apartment near a club that was looking for someone to work as a waiter, and who could also setup the music and sound equipment on stage. Mike knew that he would have to work is way up to actually playing music on stage, whether he lived in 1938 or in 2013.

Chapter Three

Mike took a bus to the area where he wanted to get an apartment. After he got off the bus, he waked a few blocks until he reached the apartment building listed in the ad. The landlord told Mike that he did have a vacant apartment, but it wouldn’t be available for a week because he had to make some repairs. He promised Mike that the apartment was his and Mike signed the lease before heading over to the ‘Blue Trumpet Jazz Club. It was still early afternoon and the club was not yet open for business. Mike knocked on the door and told man who answered the door that he was interested in the waiter job. A few minutes later, Mike met the owner of the club and was given a tour of the club. Mike was honest and told the owner that he had never worked as a waiter, but that he was a quick learner. Because of his honesty and his enthusiasm, Mike got the job. The job paid twenty-five cents per hour plus tips. He would be working between fifty and sixty hours per week and could start that night.

After Mike left the club, he walked around the neighborhood. When a bus went by, it reminded him that he would have to take the bus to and from the boarding house for the next week until his apartment was ready. As he was contemplating his situation, he noticed a quaint little coffee shop. He had been there in 2013, but in the future, the café would become a hardware store. Mike walked into the diner and sat down at an empty table. He was looking at the menu when the waitress came to take his order. “I’ll have a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, please.” When he looked up from the menu, he saw the waitress for the first time. He had never seen such a beautiful woman before. She had long brown hair and hazel eyes that lit up the entire room when she smiled.

When the waitress brought his order, she asked Mike if he wanted anything else. “Why don’t you join me?” asked Mike “I’m new in town and I’m sure that you could tell me were the best shopping and entertainment in the area is.” Mike suddenly remembered his manners. “I’m sorry,” he said, “My name is Mike Howard.”

“I’m Vicky Davis,” replied the waitress. “I can’t join you right now, because I’m working, but if you can wait, I get off in thirty minutes and then we can talk,”

Thirty minutes, two slices of pie and several cups of coffee later, Mike and Vicky were sitting at a table, talking about the neighborhood and getting to know each other. Vicky was nineteen years old and hoped to one day become a doctor. At one point, Mike politely interrupted Vicky and said; “You have beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile.”

Vicky blushed and quickly changed the subject. “Do you live around here?” she asked.

“Well, currently, I am staying at a boarding house across town,” said Mike, “but I just signed a lease for an apartment one block from here.” Mike told Vicky about his new job at the Blue Trumpet. He also told her of his dream of one day playing in a real jazz band.

Vicky also lived in the neighborhood and two hours later, Mike walked her home before he headed to the Blue Trumpet for his first shift.

Mike quickly learned that he had a real knack for being a waiter. By nine o’clock, that evening, the club was packed and when the band began playing, Mike felt like he had died and gone to Jazz Heaven. By the end of his shift at two a.m., Mike had earned two dollars and twenty-five cents in wages, five dollars in tips and he had learned quite a lot about his job, especially the things that he was doing wrong. He learned that he was not to ask the customers for their ID’s when they ordered drinks. The boss told him that he shouldn’t serve alcohol to children, but if an occasional teenager drank a beer or two in the club, it wasn’t a big deal. He also learned what the popular drinks were in the 1930’s and how to make them. He often helped the bartender mix the drinks.

After work, Mike caught a bus that took him across town to the boarding house. He went up to his room and he was asleep within minutes.

When Mike up, it was past ten a.m. He had slept through breakfast. But, when he went down to the dining room, Mrs. Luczak had a plate of freshly made doughnuts on the table and poured Mike a cup of hot coffee. Mike felt guilty because he had to tell Mrs. Luczak that he would be leaving at the end of the week, but he didn’t need to be. Mrs. Luczak genuinely cared about all of her boarders. She was very happy that Mike had found a job and an apartment near his job. She even offered to use her truck to help him move his belongings to his apartment when it was ready.

After breakfast, Mike was on the first cross-town bus. He had at least six hours before he had to be at work, but he wanted to explore downtown Manhattan. He had another motive as well. He wanted to see Vicky again. He felt so comfortable around her, as if he had known her his entire life.

Later that afternoon, when Mike walked into the diner, he saw Vicky and he began to get a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was a good feeling, one that he hadn’t felt in a very long time, not since he was a teenager. He sat down at an empty table and when Vicky walked over to take his order, she was smiling at him. Mike ordered coffee and asked Vicky to recommend a sandwich. A few minutes later, she brought him his coffee, a tuna salad sandwich and a cup of homemade chicken soup.

When Mike finished his meal, he continued to drink more coffee, just so he would have a reason to stay at the diner. He and Vicky made small talk as she worked. He told her that if she ever wanted to visit him at the Blue Trumpet, that he would really enjoy seeing her there. Mike stayed at the diner until Vicky’s shift ended and then he walked her home. This time, hey held hands as they walked. Mike knew that he had only known Vicky for two days, but he felt a strong attraction to her.

When he arrived at the club, Mike was in a very good mood. He started whistling as he set the tables and began getting the club ready for the evening. As it got closer to six o’clock, Mike noticed that Marty, the owner seemed on edge. When Mike asked what was wrong, Marty told him that the band that was scheduled to perform had not yet arrived and the club would soon be packed. When Mike learned that Louis Armstrong and his band was the entertainment for the evening, he became very excited. Mike would get to hear the legendary jazz great perform live.

By six-thirty, the club was packed and still no band. He customers were beginning to get a little restless. That’s when Mike got an idea. There was a piano in the room and he told Marty that he could play the piano. He offered to play some jazz until Mr. Armstrong arrived. Marty was uncomfortable with the idea, but he really didn’t have any other choice, so told Mike to start playing.

When Mike realized that there was no sheet music for the piano, he began to get a little nervous. He knew quite a few jazz tunes by heart, but a lot of them were written after 1938. Then he got a brilliant idea. He told the audience that Mr. Armstrong had been delayed, but that he would play for them until the band arrived. Then, Mike asked if anybody had any requests. As they shouted out song titles, Mike picked a few that he knew and sat down at the piano and began to play. First, he played ‘Summertime’ by Gershwin, which was a big hit and he received much applause. Then someone asked him to play something that they could dance to.

There was a large dance floor and Mike obliged, by playing “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing (If you Ain’t got that Swing)” by Duke Ellington. Soon, there were several couples out on the dance floor, swinging to the music. When Mike had finished playing, there was much applause, but not just from the audience. Mike looked across the stage and saw the great Louis Armstrong himself applauding Mike’s piano playing. Mr. Armstrong walked across the stage and shook Mike’s hand and told him that he’d like to speak to him after the show, if he had the time. Mike told Mr. Armstrong that he would be honored.

As Mike began serving drinks to the customers, Marty told him that they needed to have a chat after closing. It made Mike a little nervous, because he didn’t know if he had done something wrong. Throughout the rest of the evening, as Mike waited tables, he got a lot of compliments from the customers telling him how good he was, as well as a lot of good tips. For the rest of the evening, Mike was in a trance-like state listening to Louis Armstrong play on stage.

That night after the club closed, Mike counted his tips and he had received three times more than the previous evening. As he was putting his tips in his pocket, Mr. Armstrong walked up to him and thanked for entertaining the audience until he and his band arrived. Mr. Armstrong told Mike that they had mechanical difficulties with their car and that was why they were delayed. He also told Mike that he was impressed with his piano playing and would like to get the chance to play with him some day.

Mike told Mr. Armstrong that he was a big fan of is music and then he almost made a big mistake. He told Mr. Armstrong; “When I was younger, before I became interested in music, I used to get you confused with Neil Armstrong.”

“Who’s Neil Armstrong?” asked Mr. Armstrong

“He was the first person to step foot on the...” said Mike. He almost said moon, but caught himself and said “stage in our grade school gym”. That mistake would have been hard to explain, since man would not step foot on the moon for another thirty-one years, and the space program didn’t even exist in 1938. Before Mr. Armstrong left the club, he signed a napkin for Mike at his request.

When Marty and Mike were the last two people left in the club, Marty told Mike that he was impressed with his musical talent and asked if he could play any instruments besides the piano. Mike told him that he could also play the clarinet, the trombone, the trumpet and the saxophone, and had his own saxophone.

“How would you like to play a few songs before the scheduled entertainment plays?” asked Marty. “I would still need you to wait tables and serve drinks later, but the crowd loved you tonight. What do you say?”

“I’d love to,” said Mike. It was the break that every musician dreams of.

Chapter Four

The next day, Mike was floating on cloud nine and he just had to share his good fortune with someone, and he knew who that someone would be. He went to the diner to see Vicky. She was genuinely happy for Mike and accepted his invitation to hear him play that evening. Mike told Vicky that he had some shopping to do before returning to the diner for a late lunch.

Mike went to several stores before he found what he was looking for. He purchased an Argus AF 35 mm camera along with film and accessories. He also bought a Kodak movie camera and film. Mike wanted to take pictures and movies of Vicky as well as of the jazz artists who would perform at the club. Those items set him back more than thirty dollars, which by that time, Mike realized was a lot of money for the 1930’s.

Mike also found a music store that sold sheet music and he purchased the music for several jazz songs that were poplar, so that he would be prepared for his next performance, that evening.

Though Mike had only been living in 1938 for less than a week, he was adjusting to his new life rather nicely. The hardest part was the loss of technology from his old life. Being without his laptop was hard enough, but he felt naked without his I-phone and his I-pod. Mike was always very careful about what he said around other people, especially around Vicky, because he couldn’t talk about future events (which were past events to him). He was also careful not to use slang words and phrases that weren’t around in 1938.

That evening, when Mike worked at the club, he played a few selections on the piano and a few on his saxophone. He could tell that the audience loved him. He also noticed that Marty was very impressed as well. When the featured band for the evening began playing, Mike began waiting on the customers and serving drinks. Vicky had seen his entire performance and told Mike that he was wonderful.

On Sunday morning, Mike met Vicky’s family when he joined them at their church for their weekly service. Mike didn’t understand why he was so nervous, until he realized that he was seeking their approval, because he was falling in love with Vicky.

That evening, Mrs. Luczak kept her promise and helped Mike move his belongings into his new apartment across town. She even helped him carry everything upstairs into the apartment. Before she left, she handed Mike a large bag filled with sandwiches, fruit and her homemade cookies. She gave Mike a big hug and wished him much success in his new home and his new job. It made Mike think about his mother and grandmother, which he had not thought about since arriving in 1938. He suddenly felt very homesick.

The rent of his new apartment was seven dollars per week, which was higher than the average rent, not only because of its proximity to shops and entertainment in downtown Manhattan, but also because it had modern appliances (or at least modern for that time period). The apartment consisted of four rooms; a bedroom, living room, bathroom and a kitchen. The apartment came fully furnished and included an electric stove and refrigerator. It also had modern plumbing, steam heat as well as hot and cold running water.

After Mike unpacked, and put the food in the refrigerator, he took a bath and changed into a suit. Then he went down to the street to wait for Vicky to arrive. Marty had given him the night off and he and Vicky were going to go out to dinner and then go to another nightclub to celebrate his new apartment.

When Vicky arrived, Mike couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She looked like a movie star that Mike had seen in the movies of that era. He had never seen such a beautiful woman before. They caught a taxi and went to a Chinese restaurant that Vicky had always wanted to try. She had heard many good things about the food and the ambiance. Mike had eaten quite a bit of Chinese food in his life, but none was as good as dinner that evening.

After dinner, Mike and Vicky took another cab to Harlem, where they had reservations at the Cotton Club, to see Count Basie and his orchestra. Mike was very relaxed, because he didn’t have to wait tables, or perform. He was not only entranced with the music, but with Vicky as well. When she suggested that they dance, Mike became a little nervous. When he was nine or ten, his grandmother had taught him some dance steps such as swing and ballroom dancing, but it had been years and he didn’t know how much he would remember.

As soon as Mike and Vicky were out on the dance floor, the dance steps started coming back to him and it felt like he had been dancing his entire life. During the slow songs, Vicky put her head on his shoulder and Mike was in Heaven.

It was after midnight, when a taxi dropped Mike and Vicky off in front of her house. Mike took his time walking Vicky to the door because he didn’t want the evening to end. As they stood on the front porch, Mike was surprisingly calm, and not at all nervous as he thought he would be. Mike looked into Vicky’s sparkling eyes and said; “This has been the best night of my life. I had a really great time and I want to keep seeing you.”

Vicky didn’t say anything for a moment. She just gave Mike a big hug and held onto him tightly. “I’ve never met anybody like you either,” she said. When Vicky finally let go of Mike, he took a chance. In all of the years that he had dated girls in his own time period, he had never felt nervous about kissing them, he just did it. But now was different. He had never felt so much love for a woman as he did with Vicky. Mike held her in his arms, slowly reached in and kissed her soft red lips. His kiss was very soft and gentle. As he pulled back, he said; “I love you Vicky.”

Vicky didn’t say anything at first, but after a moment, she said; “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mike,” and she had a big smile on her face.

The next day, when Mike went to the diner for lunch, he asked Vicky if she had a good time on their date. She told him that she couldn’t fall asleep for a long time that night, thinking about what a great time she had. Then, in a soft voice, she said, “I love you too, Mike,”

Over the next several weeks, Mike and Vicky continued to date, and they grew closer together. They had fallen madly in love. Mike ate lunch in the diner each day so that he could see Vicky and on each of the six nights per week that Mike worked at the club, Vicky sat in the very front table to watch him perform. On Mike’s night off, they would go out to dinner and afterwards, to various nightclubs throughout the city to see different bands and singers.

In his own time period, Mike had become accustomed to eating a lot at fast food restaurants, but in the 1930’s, they really didn’t exist. Mike knew how to cook somewhat, from watching and helping his mother and grandmother cook at home. He and Vicky went shopping for cookware, including cast iron pans, mixing bowls, cooking utensils, etc. Mike bought the best set of porcelain china that he could find. He bought a complete service for twelve, plus some sterling silverware. Mike found some cookbooks as well. When they weren’t eating out at different restaurants, he and Vicky would cook dinner in his apartment. Mike didn’t think he could ever go back to fast food again.

At the nightclubs, Mike always brought his camera and his movie camera. He would film the performances and he could usually persuade the jazz greats to pose with him for a picture, which Vicky would take. Mike was in ‘Blues Heaven’, as he watched the greatest jazz legends in history perform on stage. He met Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and many others. He also met other musical artists as well, including Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. He and Vicky went to all of the top clubs, including the Apollo Theater, Savoy Ballroom, the Renaissance Ballroom and the Cotton Club.

Chapter Five

Mike Howard was having the time of his life. Not only was he experiencing the early days of jazz, but he was sharing the experience with the woman that he loved. Mike and Vicky attended other events besides going to night clubs. They also attended the premiers of several historical movies such as ‘Boy’s Town’ and ‘Snow White’.

Mike was also made frequent purchases. Every time he saw an item that he knew would have historical significance, he would buy a few, including the first nylon toothbrushes, ball point pens as well as several copies of each comic book that was published, as he wasn’t sure which ones were the important ones seventy years later. He made most of the purchases in private, as he couldn’t tell Vicky why he was collecting the items. In fact, He had no idea how he would take the items back to the year 2013 with him if he ever returned to his own time, but that was the furthest thing from his mind. One thing that shocked him was when he saw Adolph Hitler on the cover of Time Magazine as Man of the Year.

Mike and Vicky both loved baseball and they watched the New York Yankees play the Chicago Cubs in 1938 World Series.

Mike spent the Christmas holidays with Vicky’s family and it helped keep him from being so homesick for his own family. Shortly after New Year’s Day, 1939; a big opportunity fell into Mike’s lap. As he finished performing at the club one night, the main event band for the evening arrived. There were five guys who appeared to be in their twenties and thirties. Mike thought they seemed upset about something. When Mike had finished playing, one of the band members introduced himself to Mike. His name was Happy Jack Carmichael. The other guys in the band were Bill “Pretty Boy” Jones, John “Sticks” Jackson, Greg “Smokey” Thompson and Ricky “Shorty” Butler.

Jack told Mike that another guy had just quit, and that they were short a saxophonist. He asked Mike if he was willing to play saxophone with them for the evening. Mike asked Marty if he could, and after getting permission, he agreed.

As the band performed, the audience went wild with applause and for the first time, Mike felt like he was finally living his dream of playing in a jazz band. Later, when they were packing up their instruments, Jack asked Mike if he would like to join the band on a permanent basis. He explained that they mostly played around the city, and occasionally in different cities and sometimes in other states. Jack told Mike that he could really make his saxophone come to life. Mike mentioned that he could also play the piano, trumpet, clarinet, flute and trombone as well.

Mike told Jack that he would have to talk to Marty before he made any decision, since Marty had given Mike his first break in the music business. Jack and Bill told Mike that they admired his integrity.

When Mike told Marty about the opportunity he had, Marty shook his hand and told him that he would miss him, but that he would not be the one to deny the world of Mike’s talent. “You have a gift for music, kid” said Marty. “I know that you will go far with that talent. I’m not saying that I won’t miss you, because that would be a lie, but you have to follow your dream.” Then, Marty gave Mike a big bear hug and wished him the best of luck and success.

Vicky was at the show, and Mike asked her for her opinion. She was very happy for Mike and told him to follow his dream. Mike told Jack and Bill that if they were serious about their offer, then they had a new member for their band.

Jack gave Mike the directions to an old warehouse where they rehearsed. He also told Mike that they had to pick out a stage name for him. When Mike seemed confused, Jack explained that he was known as “Happy” Jack Carmichael when they performed and that each of the other band members had nicknames as well. Jack told Mike that by the end of their first performance, they would have a nickname picked out that would fit him.

Over the next several days, Mike became more acquainted with the rest of the band. Jack was the oldest at 38. The rest of the members were in their early to mid-twenties like Mike. When Mike asked Jack what the name of their band was, he noticed that he had hit a sore spot. It seems that the five of them had been arguing for months about a name for the band, but they couldn’t agree on one. Bill suggested that they let Mike pick the name for the band, since he was the newest member. Everyone agreed to go with whatever name he chose. Mike said he would give it some serious thought and come up with a great name.

Mike thought about a name for the band over the next couple of days. He finally decided to take the name of a band that he had seen a few times while he was going to school. He decided that he wasn’t actually stealing the name, because the other band wouldn’t be formed for several more decades. When Mike told the rest of the band the name he had come up with, they all liked it and agreed that it would be the name of the band from that day forward, and that they would announce it to the crowd at their next gig on Saturday night.

When Saturday arrived, Mike still didn’t have a stage name. It bothered him more than it did the others. Jack told him to relax, that the name would come in time. However, Mike couldn’t relax. He was deep in thought while he was helping to carry their instruments into the club, when he bumped into an elderly man. “I’m so sorry,” said Mike. “Are you okay Sir?”

“I’m fine, Sonny,” said the man. “I may be old, but I’m sturdy. I won’t break.”

Later, just before they were supposed to go on, a woman tapped Mike on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me Sonny, could I have some iced tea?” Mike explained that he wasn’t a waiter, but told her that he would find a waiter for her.

Shortly after seven o’clock, the band began to play and they didn’t stop until after ten. There was a small dance floor and it was packed all night long, with people getting their groove on.

Before the evening came to a close, Jack addressed the crowd, “You have been a great audience. We hope to play for you again soon. The name of our band is “Blues Rhapsody” and we just love jazz. I am ‘Happy’ Jack Carmichael. Please give it up for the rest of the band. On drums; ‘Sticks’ Jackson, on piano; ‘Smokey Thompson, on bass; ‘Shorty’ Butler, on trombone; ‘Pretty Boy’ Jones and our newest member, on saxophone; ‘Sonny’ Howard.” Mike loved his new stage name, and the crowd loved him.

Jack and Mike had something in common. Both of them could play several instruments, including saxophone, trumpet and trombone.

The following week, Blues Rhapsody played at the Blue Trumpet Club, where Mike used to work. One afternoon, while they were rehearsing, a man and his young son walked into the club. The man said that he had heard the band play the night before, and that he loved the music. He told the band that he used to play jazz many years earlier, and that it was an honor to meet them. Jack looked at the man and asked him what his name was. The man introduced himself as D.T. Howard. “Well I’ll be damned,” said Jack. “I’ve seen you play. You’re Blue Eyes Howard. How would you like to jam with us tonight?”

“It would be an honor,” said Mr. Howard. “Do you have someone who can keep an eye on my son, Tommy?”

Before Jack could reply, Mike said; “I would be happy to keep an eye on him for you. I could use a night off anyway.”

Mr. Howard introduced Mike to his son Tommy, who had just turned ten. Tommy was sitting at a table doing homework. Tommy told Mike that he was having trouble with math and science and his dad insisted that he do all of his homework before he could play and relax. Mike told Tommy that he was very good at math and science and could help him with his homework.

While Mike and Tommy worked on the homework, they chatted quite a bit. Mike learned that Tommy wanted to play in a band like his father used to, when he got older, but that his mother didn’t want him to. Mike told Tommy that he could play music without working in a band full time. Mike knew that being a musician could tear a family apart, from his personal experiences. He asked Tommy what else he was interested in. Tommy told Mike that he might like to be a cop or a lawyer. Mike told him to work hard and get the best grades that he could and he might one day become a lawyer. He also told him not to give up on his dream of playing music.

When the homework was finished, Mike let Tommy try playing his saxophone and he was impressed. Mike told Tommy that he had talent. Later that night, while Blue Eyes Howard played with the band, Mike and Tommy sat at a table enjoying the music and drinking sodas. Jack told Mike to join in on the last song. Mike stood on the stage next to Blue Eyes and the band played their finale; ‘Lizzie’. Before Blue Eyes and his son left the club, Mike mussed the boy’s hair and said, “You behave yourself, Tommy.”

Over the next couple of weeks, “Blues Rhapsody” had several gigs around the city. Mike was having a blast. When he wasn’t rehearsing or performing, he was spending as much time with Vicky as he could. On their free evenings, they went to see movies, went to the opera, or to clubs to see other bands or singers. Often, they would just take long walks in the moonlight. Also, Vicky began showing Mike all of the sights of the Big Apple.

Mike had lived in New York City for six years while he attended school and he had never really taken the time to actually see the city. Vicky had lived in the city her entire life and her parents had exposed her to the culture of the city since she was a small girl.

Mike and Vicky went to the Empire State Building, to the Bronx Zoo, to Ellis Island, to the Metropolitan Opera House and to all of the museums, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also visited the major bridges of the city, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, The George Washington Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge.

Mike took his camera and his movie camera everywhere they went, and either he or Vicky was in every picture. Once, when they were taking photos of the Queensboro Bridge, they were approached by a man who told them it was nice to see young people taking an interest in the architecture of the city. Vicky took several photos of the man. Later, after he had gone on his way, Mike asked her why she took so many pictures of him. “Don’t you know who that was?” she asked.

“No, should I?” asked Mike

“That was Mayor LaGuardia, you know, as in mayor of New York City!” said Vicky.

“LaGuardia, as in LaGuardia Airport?” asked Mike.

“What are you talking about?” asked Vicky. “There is no LaGuardia Airport.”

“Well there should be,” said Mike trying to cover up his slip of the tongue. “From what I’ve seen, He has done a terrific job so far.” Mike would have been okay if he had stopped there, but then he proceeded to put his other foot into his mouth as well by saying, “There should be another airport besides JFK International Airport.” As soon as he said it, he realized that in 1939, John F. Kennedy was only twenty-two years old and nobody had ever heard of him.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Vicky. The only airport in New York City is the New York Municipal Airport.” Mike quickly changed the subject by saying how beautiful the East River was with all of the boats on it.

Chapter Six

One week later, Mike was exploring the city on his own. He was walking along the Hudson River, when he saw two children thrashing around in the water. Mike could see that they were in distress. He looked around and when he so no one else nearby, he quickly removed his coat, shoes and socks and dove into the cold river. By the time he reached the children, one of them had stopped moving and was barely breathing. It took Mike a few minutes to get her back to shore, because he was fighting the undertow. Once he got her to shore, he quickly returned to get the other child. By the time he returned with the boy, he was nearly exhausted. The children were around ten years old and they had worn him out while pulling them to safety.


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