| Visiting Jonesy's Gallery - 5/29/04
Jonesy has the second-largest Joe Teller collection in the world on display at his new house.
A few months ago, he mentioned how much he'd like to have my parents over to see Joe's work on display.
Yesterday morning Pad called and said, "I'm feeling pretty good today. Should we go to Jonesy's?"
I confirmed with Jonesy and drove across town to pick up my parents, who are living at an assisted
living cottage. At first Mam was reluctant. She'd been out on a bus trip that morning seeing the sights
of Vegas, and she was tired. But Pad said, "Make her go," and when I told her that Pad really had his heart
set on her coming along, she relented, somewhat uneasy that she was going out without a chance to refresh
When we arrived, Jonesy shook hands with Pad, and Pad hung onto Jonesy's arm for an extra few seconds,
admiring his tattoos. Pad grew up in an age where he knew a relatively primitive tattoo art.
He has a snake on his left biceps and a butterfly on his thigh. The intricacy and colors on Jonesy's
arm made him smile, and the fact that Jonesy has tattoos makes him automatically an okay guy. Pad also
grew up with all his friends nicknamed things like Snakey, Shooie, Leapy, and Yappy, and really enjoys
calling Jonesy Jonesy.
Jonesy's brand-new New Englandish house is the perfect Joe Teller gallery. Tall white walls, soft but
bright indirect daylight. The pictures just glow. Pad entered and looked. Since his cataract surgery,
colors are vastly more vivid than they were before. "I never saw them before like this, with the bright
colors," he said, staring up at the enormous abstracts. Now, Pad often makes it a point of style to pretend
he forgets each painting the moment he finishes it. But when Mam said, "Do you remember doing them, Joe?"
he said, "Sure I do. I remember that one and that one and, yes, that one."
Jonesy's house has two stories, and the upper one is a very, very long flight of stairs up.
Pad's not as agile as he once was, so Jonesy offered to bring down some of the ones on display upstairs.
But I asked Pad, "Wanna go up and see them on the walls?" "Sure, I'll go up." So he took the stairs
slow and easy (the second set of stairs he has climbed in the last year) and when he arrived at the top,
Jonesy had a rolling office chair for him to rest on as he showed him around. From upstairs I could hear grunts
and laughs of approval.
I stayed downstairs with Mam, who was thrilled to be so near a real grand piano. Mam's mother had
been an active amateur pianist when Mam was growing up, always the center of attention at parties,
and even in her old age, there was always a piano in her Atlantic City summer house, even years after
she'd gotten out of practice playing it. I showed Mam Jonesy's bountiful CD collection, which featured
some of Mam's favorite performers. When I flashed the Louis Armstrong cover, Mam remarked, "He just
shouldn't have died."
Pad took his time, came down the stairs, full of compliments for Jonesy's decor and took a seat in
Jonesy's recliner. Jonesy said, "Joe, I know you don't like music much, but I'm going to play one
song for Irene, okay?" Pad agreed. Jonesy played. He is an amazing man. Watching him play is like
listening to Penn do interviews. One just can't imagine how thoughts can move so swiftly and deftly
from the brain to the expression. Mam watched and listened, straining to see Jonesy's flying fingers,
until I moved her right next to the piano bench. She is, I believe, Jonesy's purest fan. There is
no evaluation of him in comparison to other pianists. She simply loves him.
She was not surprised when Jonesy told her he started playing at age three and learned to read music
before he could read words. But she did seem amazed to learn of his extensive training at famous music
schools. To her, the whole thing is very clear. Jonesy plays the piano and she loves him.As Jonesy played,
Pad couldn't help but tap his foot. And Mam danced a little from the waist up. Jonesy finished,
and, detecting that Pad wasn't running away did another number. Then another short one.
We all applauded and Pad said he'd had a great visit. While I brought around the car, Jonesy snuck
in one more song, to Mam's delight, and another while I helped Pad to the car. When I came back in,
I said pointedly, "I need to pee," and Jonesy managed to time one final song to the exact length of my
When Mam was all seatbelted in, Jonesy gave her a hug and invited her back, and shook Pad's hand
and said, "Thank you for visiting, sir," and Pad thanked him back. We sped back to my parents'
assisted-living cottage, with both my parents remarking on the omnipresent new home construction
and Mam humming "The Sheik of Araby." Pad mused, "And that whole trip took less than an hour and a half,"
and agreed, as he settled in for a nap, that it was absolutely perfect.