Monk at Lennie's


Thelonious Monk had just finished a set
at Lennie’s on the Turnpike. We two
college boys had followed him outside
at the break to impart we understood
his music to be intensely palpable yet
touching the ethereal.
But a local guy in string tie and western boots
stepped up and told Monk, "You sounded nice."
We hooted at each other, looked at Monk, who said,
" I sounded nice?" In the moment before Monk
delivered the lowdown to this rube, the guy,
twice our age at least, said "I saw you at Jimbo’s
on the coast with Horace Grimes."
Monk said, "You’re not that old."
" Clean-living," the guy said. "Did I hear Bartok
in Bluebeard?" Monk’s gold tooth glistened
in the porch-light. "Those were dissonant harmonies,"
said the rube. The tooth gleamed! We shrank back as Monk
clapped one of his great hands on the guy’s shoulder.
" I sounded nice," Monk said. "Oh, Monk,” the rube
said, "you were hurling your music into the heavens."