Facing the music: My father, James Michael Mullin, "Jim," or Jazzmullin is gone.
Left living in Japan without a family to call my own, plus I’m so busy with my master’s program, the 42 Stories Anthology, and fulltime work that I'm pretty much left by my lonesome to feel sad.
Without a father for a week now
A 35-year-old orphan
Thoughts marinated with what he loved
(me yelling at a turkey)
Women, as in ALL OF THEM
and his children
(me, Jayson, Dad, Stacy: September 24, 2007)
His likes are the above in that order from least to greatest. Fun fact, Jim's birth name was Stevie, as were all orphans that were dropped off at birth like him at the center in New York. His mother, Rena, from Metuchen, renamed him James Michael upon adoption.
Wait, I digress. Jazz was his number one passion, owning countless CDs and records, which filled a house.
Jazzmullin never remembered my birthday, but could tell you Charlie Parker’s or Miles Davis’s in a heartbeat. Dad knew more about jazz than any living human on Earth.
Early December, I took a boat from Oita to Ehime, Japan, for the weekend. Got in so late that the hotels were closed. I found a jazz bar opened until 1am and felt like my father guided me from the freezing winds somehow to this place.
The bartender and I talked about jazz and my dad’s passion for the music beyond closing time. On my way out, he asked and played my favorite song, which was actually my brother’s. I don’t have one.
Throughout the song, the bartender rhymed the history behind the album, which I’d already known thanks to my father.
Dad had an addiction: If you rode with him in a car, you were going to get a dose of jazz jargon regarding whoever was playing at the time.
My problem with this was I’d try to listen to the song while he’d talk over the music. His friends and various girlfriends would complain that they just wanted to hear the songs.
One day, I gently told him, “I don’t hear a word. No one listens when you go on like this. I mean, who really cares that Miles Davis used to moon his fans and blamed it on a bad back?” Reflecting, that fact was funny.
Dad's face told a tale of sadness over my comment.
And so I added, “You’re not picking the right audience. Find someone interested in the topic and share the info dump with them.”
Later he told me, “You were right. Now I have this community of jazz friends and we get together and talk about the history behind the music. When we disagree, we’ll Google it. I’m never wrong.” He laughed, reassuringly. Then, my father thanked me for the suggestion. I loved how he would really listen to what people said and often consider trying the feedback out. I won’t get into how he didn’t listen when everyone told him to go do this and that for his health and hit the hospital or he would die.
They have a saying in Japan for this type of situation: 仕方がない.
Anyway, I used to test Dad’s jazz knowledge by playing a random song and having him name who and what. He always got it right, except one time when I played a jazz tune by a Japanese artist I liked.
He recognized Watanabe's name upon reflection.
Dad was a musician, writer, poet, and often inspired my writing including "How My Life Changed the Time I Almost Got Mugged," which won the Story of Excellence Award and he named characters in my featured story with Hamline Journal called “Day Off.” (Miles, Parker, Kelly Grace, and the villain, Gorelick after Kenny G.). Before you hated Justin Bieber, my father loathed Kenny G. He's not alone:
Dad would say G's crap wasn’t even worthy of being played in an elevator, or bathroom stall, and all records of it should be tossed into the sun by Superman.
Personally, I’d take John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk any day over that junk too.
I’ll never be a huge fan of jazz like my father was, but hearing it will make me think of something he loved, which is why the sax sounds will always spark a dim light of joy for me and those that knew him for years to come.
When he could lift his brother, and a truck. Dad was a bodybuilder and personal trainer for half of his life.
Dad loved jazz so much because his favorite uncle and childhood role model, Bertram who played the trumpet,
Secret Hidden Bonus Video
Love you, Dad. I'm convinced you found Stevie on your way to the afterlife, who left this world one month before you, and you two stopped by the pearly gates to let him take a piss.
DOD: 12-30-2018, 64.