I just got another wonderful e-mail from the Bulgarian translator of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong. Here it is, verbatim and in its entirety:
I am writing to you again because I am wondering how to interpret Armstrong’s explanation of [Sid] Catlett’s irresponsibility: “He played the chicks, he ran with the cats, he played the horses, played the numbers” (especially the horses). I am not sure how to understand these metaphors, as well as how exactly they fit together.
Could you also explain to me the meaning of the title of Armstrong’s article “Stomping Piano Man”?
Also, I am not sure if I understand correctly the title “Keep the horn percolating” and the related statement, made by Armstrong. Could you say that in other words in order to get closer to the meaning?
And one more question related to a chapter title. Which one of the meanings of “sigh” has to be used in the context of “I don’t sigh for nothing”?
Believe me, I did my best…
UPDATE: Several readers have asked how I answered these questions, so here goes:
• “He played the chicks” means “He had romantic and/or sexual involvements with many women.”
• “He played the horses, played the numbers” means “He gambled.” “To play the horses” is to bet on horse races. “The numbers” was a slang name for an illegal city-wide lottery-like game that was popular in most American cities–and especially in their black ghettoes–prior to the introduction of legal state lotteries in the U.S.
• “He ran with the cats” means “He spent time with his friends.”
• In jazz, “stomping” means “hard-swinging,” and a “piano man” is simply someone who is known for playing the piano.
• In this context, “Keep the horn percolating” means “Keep me musically inspired by having sex with me.”
• “I don’t sigh for nothing” means “I have no regrets.”