SUMMER OF 1973. The newspaper headlines were all about the Watergate scandal. The Vietnam War had officially ended in January, but American planes were still dropping bombs nearby in Laos and Cambodia. There was lots of baseball news, too. Nolan Ryan pitched his second no-hitter; Hank Aaron hit home run number 700.
But it was Jasmine McKenzie who made the biggest headline in my life, a girl who happened to be my first cousin. I never dreamed that I’d fall in love with her when she visited us from Hawaii, but that’s what happened.
Jazzy loved all kinds of music: folk, pop, rock, traditional Hawaiian, big band, and jazz, too. She explained to me how jazz is different from other music. Many jazz musicians don’t play music that’s been written down ahead of time. In jazz there’s something called improvisation, where the musicians decide what to play right then, spontaneous, unplanned. They bounce off notes the other musicians play. They follow the spirit of the music, letting it carry them to a new place every time. They make it up as they go along.
I guess that’s what Jazzy and I were doing that summer. We were in brand-new territory, at least I was. I couldn’t fall back on what I knew about girls. With Jazzy I had to make it up as we went along.