“The interesting thing about ‘Potato Head Blues,'” I said to John Pancake, the man who edited my old “Second City” column for the Washington Post, “is that it’s one of the few really popular Louis Armstrong recordings that has no vocal.” Then I blinked my eyes, realized that I was in bed, and looked at the clock. It was four-thirty in the morning, and John was nowhere to be seen.
I’d been dreaming about my Louis Armstrong biography, which I restarted on Wednesday after a six-week hiatus. The realization that Satchmo had invaded my dreams woke me all the way up. Instead of rolling over and trying to go back to sleep, I descended from my loft, booted up my MacBook, and started writing. Six hours later I was within spitting distance of wrapping up a not-quite-polished draft of the seventh chapter.
Do I like writing? Sometimes. Most of the time, to be perfectly honest, except that very often there are other things I’d rather be doing, like reading a book or taking a walk or hanging out with Mrs. T. But this morning was one of those blessed occasions when there was nothing else in the world I wanted to do but write. Hilary was fast asleep, my head was teeming with ideas, and no sooner did I start clicking away at the keyboard than I could do no wrong. I was, as jazz musicians say, in the pocket, and it felt good.
Needless to say, the person from Porlock eventually came calling. He always does. I had an eleven o’clock appointment with my trainer that I’d already rescheduled once, so at ten-thirty I sighed, shut down the shop, pulled on my sweats, and headed for the gym, thinking about Louis all the way there and all the way back.
Now I’m sitting at my desk, about to gun my mental engines once more. In my head it’s November 4, 1931, and Louis Armstrong is about to record Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust.” For the next hour or so, my job will be to come up with exactly the right words to describe that amazing performance–and I’m soooo ready.
How lucky am I?