Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

30 October 2012

I Say A Little Prayer For You, Joe Z.

In the summer of 2004 my father and I drove to the headquarters of an auto dealership to pick up the first car I personally paid for (though never paid off, as I have developed a habit of shedding cars before the last slip is torn off--remember the payment book?).

On the way I stopped at a convenience store to fill up the gas tank of my soon-to-be old car.  (Altruistic motives, I guess.)  On the way home, Mom called to let me know that the authorities called the house because a car registered in her name drove off without paying for the gas.  The matter was settled without incident, though with embarrassment.

While Dad and I were having a pleasant conversation, we were listening to WRTI, Temple University's classical and jazz station.  Dad was a captive audience (captive to the songs, not the son).  A few miles before reaching the Wawa, a rather enjoyable song came on.  I kept listening for a while, digging the melody and the percussion; but we didn't have all day, so the song had to go on without me.  After fueling, however, I was pleased to hear that it was still in process. The pianist tagged on an old song, which I recognized as "Poinciana"--a clever inclusion!  After the song ended, the DJ continued an enlightening conversation with the producer of the song, Joel Dorn; but what was it?  When I got the chance, I went online to find out the title and artist: "Maleah," by Les McCann.  It was part of an old album newly released on CD, entitled "Les is More," which I summarily purchased.

The McCann CD came with a sampler of other music compiled by Dorn, including a tune played by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, whom I'd never heard of before.  What a piece of work--the song and the artist! Some time ago I discovered a YouTube video of Kirk and Co. giving a live rendition of a different song: the Bacharach/David standard "I Say A Little Prayer."  Judging by the arrangement and the audience, one wonders whether everyone in the video was on drugs when it was filmed.  Mind you, one doesn't need drugs to enjoy the video, either from an artistic standpoint or for the entertainment unwittingly provided by the morbidly serious onlookers.

You will notice that Kirk plays at least two instruments at once.  Several members of the saxophone family surround him, and he deftly dispatches tight harmony with an aggressive groove.  Note, too, the capable sidemen, who along with Kirk put an interesting spin on an otherwise placid piece (placid according to the signature style of Dionne Warwick).

I have fond memories of the day I heard "Maleah," not only because of the song itself and the many others that have come my way as a result, but more importantly because it was one of the best and last extended conversations I had with my father, who died three months later after a protracted battle with lung cancer.  I was going on 28 when I embarked on this exercise in personal responsibility.  Dad shared his appreciation at being asked to join me in picking up my first new car.  This was pretty neat, coming from a man who, like many of his age, expressed his feelings with stoic reserve.  In addition, it was not the first time that he noted my ability to navigate major highways without causing undue concern in the passengers.  (This was before the awful temptation of txtng while drvng.)  One of Dad's real gems in an automotive context: "It's not you I worry about; it's the other [fool]."  Neither Dad nor Mom wielded/wield a college-level vocabulary, but they had/have a way with words.

At the Serra Club's dinner in honor of the 2003 sacerdotal harvest

Joseph Robert Michael Zelonis, I say a little prayer for you:

Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth finds its origin, have mercy on your son and servant Joe Z., who in his days pleased God.  Forgive his sins and weaknesses.  In Your good time and according to Your good pleasure, may we reunite joyfully in the Kingdom of limitless love.

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