Passage for Trumpet
Joey Crown – Jack Klugman
Gabriel – John Anderson
Baron – Frank Wolff
Nan – Mary Webster
Truck Driver – James Flavin
Pawnshop Man – Ned Glass
Trigger Warnings: Thoughts of suicide, attempted (and partly successful) suicide.
A passage for self-pity might be a better title for this episode. Prepare for heavy snark incoming. I’m not in a humour to tolerate stupidity this Tuesday.
We hear the ubiquitous jazz music (what else did you expect with an episode entitled ‘Passage for Trumpet’?) It looks like we’re in a back alley with old signs and I really hope some old statues. Either that or there’s a ballerina frozen in place in the alley.
Joey Crown. Musician with an odd, intense face. Whose life is a quest for impossible things. Like flowers in concrete, or like trying to pluck a note of music out of the air and put it under a glass to treasure.
The music stops and Joey Crown grabs his trumpet out of it’s case and looks very nervously anxious. Some well-dressed people come out and look with uncomfortable disdain at Joey. The man who had been playing comes out soon after them to have a smoke in the alley. Joey squares his shoulders and seems to gather his courage to talk to the dapper man. The man, whose name is Baron, seems very glad to see Joey and shakes his hand vigorously. Joey says he brought along his baby (his horn and I long to make a rubbing your brass joke here but I’ll restrain myself) and wants to know if Baron needs a horn for the night. Baron looks a bit uncomfortable and tells Joey that he doesn’t need a horn that night. The last time Joey played for him the alcohol got in the way. Joey replies, “Psssh! Booze! Don’t remember what it tastes like! He’s way up on the wagon now!”
Baron doesn’t look like he believes him. Joey gets affronted and says he’s not an old coot. He acknowledges what booze does to him. But he’s not an old man and he and his trumpet have a lot of years left in them. Baron softens a bit. Joey flings an arm about Baron’s shoulders. He assures Baron that he wouldn’t throw his talent away on a bum habit. Joey rattles on, trying to convince Baron, telling him that when he plays he can make people cry. Which might sound weird but listening to certain music can affect me the same way. Except jazz. It’s one of the few musical genres I have no interest in. I don’t mean to slight those that do like it, everyone has their own taste.
Anyways, back to the story. Alas, as Baron sits down on a nearby crate Joey snatches up his case and a bottle of whiskey, Golden Delight, falls out and shatters on the ground. Baron looks disappointed and Joey looks ashamed. Baron says, “Don’t do it.” I’m not sure what he means, exactly. Don’t lie? Don’t go onstage? don’t be ashamed? Baron slips some money into Joey’s pocket, telling him it’s for when he had a magic horn. Harry James, Max Kaminski and Butterfield. Taking a quick tip-toe through the internet I find that these are actual, well-known jazz musicians. Baron tells Joey that he had a little of all their talent rolled into one. Joey traded it for some booze and got the crummy end of the stick. Baron wants to know why? What happened to him?
Joey says it’s because “he’s sad, because he’s nothing, because he lives and dies in a crummy one-roomer with dirty walls and cracked pipes.” So? Some people have it a lot worse. Clean your walls, fix your pipes. Sheesh. He doesn’t have a girl, he’ll never be anybody. Since he’s decently good looking I’m thinking his attitude is probably what keeps the ladies away. He goes on to say that the horn is half of him. He can’t even talk to people because the horn is half his language. But when he’s drunk, oh boy, he doesn’t see the crummy apartment and doesn’t see the hours going by because then he’s Gabriel with the horn. Baron is exceedingly patient throughout this speech. Joey puts his trumpet to his lips. I think the actor screws up but I don’t play the trumpet so I’m not really sure. At first he puts the whole mouthpiece in his mouth, then takes it out. I only played the flute (for one year and very, very badly, sadly my dreams of being the next Ian Anderson were crushed). So i thought maybe it’s something players do to wet the mouthpiece.
Anyways, Joey goes on to say that when he’s drinking he’s Gabriel with his golden horn. When he puts the trumpet to his lips, it comes out jewels, a symphony, the smell of fresh flowers in the summer. Beauty. I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for his neighbors. But only when he’s drunk. Joey wanders off and Baron looks like he feels very sorry for him. He doesn’t wander very far, in fact, I can’t see that he’d really be even out of sight of Baron. Joey throws a bit of a fit and chucks his case down, settling himself down in the scaffolding. Then he calls himself a plain, nothing, nobody. He decides to let out his misery in a melancholy trumpet riff. As little as jazz thrills me (although I do like the trumpet in some songs, Johnny Cash’s ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ has some excellent horns in it) I do get the reason behind his doing so. As the great philosopher Jem says, music is magic. And weirdly, when I’m bummed or annoyed, depressing music actually cheers me up. Either that or metal. Whichever.
As Rod talks, Joey continues to play. It does look like he’s actually playing. So maybe I was wrong earlier.
Joey Crown. Musician with an odd, intense face. Who, in a moment, will try to leave the Earth and discover the middle ground. The place we call…the Twilight Zone.
Joey wanders into a pawn shop and sets his trumpet down on the counter. The pawn shop guy greets him by name and Joey calls him Nate so I’m guessing that this isn’t the first time Joey’s pawned something. Joey says that this time he’s selling the trumpet. Nate offers him eight and a half for it. Joey starts to argue but says fine. Eight and a half. Nate says he’d give more but he has enough instruments there to provide two sousa bands and he needs another trumpet like he needs his taxes raised. Which, if Joey weren’t so caught up in his own misery, should make him think that he’s not the only one with unfulfilled dreams of music. Joey takes out the trumpet to touch it a bit more before he sells it. Why bother selling it? He obviously loves it, he’s not getting much money for it so he might as well keep it. He does the mouth thing on it again so now I’m guessing it is actually something trumpet players do. Any of you guys know?
Joey took his newfound wealth to a bar. He bows to a lady walking by but when she doesn’t pay him any attention he changes it to a hand gesture that’s not quite a flip-off but close. Joey walks over to the pawn shop, which looks like it’s right next door to the bar, so Joey didn’t go far. He watches as Nate puts his trumpet in the window with a price tag of $25.00. A far cry from the eight bucks he paid for it. Joey taps on the window to let Nate know that he sees him. Nate has the good grace to look embarrassed and shrugs and tells Joey that he won’t get that price for it that quickly. Nate says he’s got an overhead that he has to meet and that guys like Joey wouldn’t understand that. They don’t have anyone to be responsible for. Which is generally how pawn shops work so you’d think that Joey would know that. Joey agrees with himself that he has no responsibilities, no nothing.
As he stumbles from the window he leans against a post for a minute, chewing on his nail. Weirdly the light looks as though it’s turned from night to day. He watches a truck hauling down the road and at the last minute throws himself in front of it. Great. Traumatize the driver because you want out. Don’t worry, I’m not going off too much here but that’s a pretty crappy thing to do, since now the driver will feel guilty about hitting him.
Joey bounces off the hood and back onto the sidewalk. There’s a very nice shot of Joey’s face reflected in the pawn shop window. It’s night again and Joey wakes up and gets up. There’s only one person around and that’s a police officer, talking on an emergency telephone. When he gets off the phone Joey talks to the officer and tell him that he’s not a real drunk, just ask the officer who’s normally there, Officer Flaherty. The officer is making notes in a notebook and doesn’t appear to hear him.
Joey walks off, asking a passer-by for a light but the passer-by ignores him. Hmm, wonder what’s going on? A guy is combing his hair in the reflection of a window and Joey asks him for a light. The Comber ignores him, too. He asks the ticket cashier at a theater if the movies are any good. He sounds like he’s getting a bit frustrated now. He says he’s “not a masher” but he knows the girl that usually works there. a girl named Gracie. Can someone tell me what “masher” or “mashing” means? I also came across it in Robert W. Chambers’ ‘The Yellow Sign’, in which a young lady says that she “made a mash”. The only thing I could think of was a flirter or flirtation?
He keeps talking to the lady. It sounds like he’s trying to convince other people (and himself) that it was an ‘accident’ not attempted suicide. She continues to ignore him. He tells her that she could at least be courteous. He yells at her to look at him. It’s finally dawning on him that it might have actually been successful rather than an attempt. Although I always had an issue with the phrase “successful suicide”.
He looks at the window the Comber was looking into but does not see a reflection. So he’s either dead or he’s a vampire. He starts getting a little worried and falls back on the favored Twilight Zone fallback of “someone’s pulling a gag”. I truly believe you could make a drinking game out of how many times that phrase is used. He tries talking to the girl again and then back to the window/mirror. He sees a man reflected behind him and runs over to him. Joey again asks for a light and is relieved when the guy pulls out a matchbook. Joey thinks that he’s finally heard but the joke’s on him. The guy lights his own cigarette and walks on. I always said that would be hell. Cigarettes a-plenty but nothing to light them with.
Joey’s cigarette falls from his mouth as the truth finally sinks in that he’s dead. He yells to some people coming out of the theater that the truck worked after all. As a woman comes up to purchase a ticket he tells her that he’s haunting her – Boogee booggee (really, that’s exactly what he does). I’m not sure if he’s freaking out about being dead or enjoying it. He says that at last in his short life he was successful at something.
He walks back into the bar and asks the bartender if Charlie’s off. Then he yells if anyone hears or sees him. He’s looking a bit bored with his newfound ghosthood. He says he used to come in there a lot but he doesn’t know any of them and they surely wouldn’t have noticed him. It does strike me odd that everyone’s different. Shouldn’t they be the same people? And if they’re afterlife people shouldn’t they see him? Even though he’s a ghost and nobody sees or hears him, he’s able to pick up the bottle of Golden Delight whiskey and pour himself a drink. Without the bartender noticing a floating bottle right in front of his face. I don’t know why but I feel like there’s something to the name of the whiskey, Golden Delight, that makes me think it’s not a random name but for the life of me I can’t pin down what it could be referencing.
The bartender is so studiously looking away from Joey that it looks a bit unnatural. I’d think that he’d glance in his direction once by accident, even if he doesn’t see him. And I don’t know what the bartender is doing behind the bar but the hand motions look…odd.
Joey says Charlie was a really nice guy and would sometimes give him a drink on the house. He also went out and got an old Tommy Dorsey record from way back, when Joey was playing with him. On that same record was a long passage of Joey playing the trumpet, solo. Charlie ordered it just for him and put it on the jukebox. Charlie does seem like a very nice guy. After cuddling the jukebox a bit more, Joey wanders back to the club from earlier.
As he’s checking out a blonde who apparently went outside to take two puffs of a cigarette and go back in, he hears some soulful horn music from somewhere nearby. It draws Joey like a magnet and he soon finds the player. He watches, enraptured as the player (who’s half in shadow) plays. When he stops, Joey begs him to continue, it’s so beautiful. The player says thank you. Joey gets all excited because the Mysterious Trumpet Player heard him. Joey asks him if he’s a ghost, too, and the player laughs and says “not really”.
I know it’s not, nor is it supposed to be, but damn. The Mysterious Trumpet Player looks like Abraham Lincoln. Joey says he is, he stepped in front of a rather large truck that morning so he’s not fit for “The House”. It doesn’t seem to trouble him much. Abe Lincoln asks Joey, by name, if he’d like to blow on his trumpet for a bit. I…will say nothing here. Either way, is that normal because I know how wet mouthpieces get (this is killing me) and it seems a little icky to me to share a mouthpiece. Joey catches that the man called him by name. The Player replies that yes, he knows Joey, has known him for quite some time. Joey says they’ve never been introduced. The Player says that’s true but he does know him, Joey plays a pretty good trumpet. He says he should know, he’s a pretty good expert on trumpets. Joey says The Player is no slouch. He tells him to go ahead. Joey plays a bit (I notice he doesn’t stick it in his mouth, though). The Mysterious Player watches with pleasure.
Joey wants to know how The Mysterious Player knows him. He’s not a ghost, and not dead. The man replies no, he’s not dead. And neither is Joey. This strikes Joey and he doesn’t look particularly pleased about it. The player says nope, by no means. Joey wants to know why the other people didn’t see him. The Mysterious Player says that they are ghosts. They just don’t know it. Sometimes they have to work it that way to make it easier. They let them go on in a life that they’re familiar with.
Joey says he stepped off the curb and the player says yes, he did. Joey’s in a kind of limbo. Neither here nor there. The Mysterious Player asks which Joey prefers? Joey mulls over the question. He says he always felt that he was getting dealt from the bottom but then says that maybe he just forgot how much there was for him. And maybe he forgot about how much he loved playing the trumpet and going to Charlie’s and talking to people and movies. He says he never won a beauty contest but he had friends. Good friends. as evidenced by Baron, earlier. And, really, I do think he’s rather good looking. Maybe not dazzling eye candy but handsome. Twilight Zone must think so, too. This guy shows up on a lot of them.
Joey says somewhere along the line he forgot about all of the good things. Just forgot. I think a lot of people do, myself included. The Mysterious Player says that Joey has a choice. Joey looks excited at this. He says if he really has a choice then he wants to go back. The Mysterious Player says, ok, you go back, then. He tells him no more stepping off of curbs. Impressing upon him that this is his choice and will be the only chance. Sometimes life is sweet and sometimes it’s sour and goes down hard. Since I like sour stuff I think I’d compare it more to a rock being shoved down your throat and being kicked in the gut while you’re down. But hey, that’s just me.
Mysterious Player tells Joey that he’s got a good talent. To make music, to move people. To make them want to laugh, to cry, to tap their feet, dance. It’s an exceptional talent. I’ve got to agree with him. Any art form is a true talent and shouldn’t be slighted. Drawing, painting, music, computer graphics, all of them. He takes back his trumpet and tells Joey not to waste his talent. He says he’ll see Joey around and walks off.
Joey yells after him to “Wait! I didn’t get your name!” The man with the trumpet yells back that his name is Gabe, short for Gabriel.
Joey runs after him and ends up in front of the pawn shop. He hears tires screeching and a scream and turns to look. Suddenly he’s on the sidewalk, with the man from the truck leaning over him. The guy says he’s sorry, he didn’t see him, Joey just stepped right out in front of him. Joey’s lucky he only got grazed a bit. Joey says it’s ok, no harm done. The truck driver says he hasn’t had an accident in fourteen years and he’d be much obliged if Joey didn’t call any ambulance or insurance companies or anything. He thanks Joey for being a pal and shoves some money in his hand. Well, since Joey deliberately stepped in front of the truck it is the least he could do.
Joey looks at the money in his hand and runs into the pawn shop to reclaim his property. Later he’s playing on the rooftop of an apartment building, presumably the one with his crummy room with the dirty walls. A lady appears out of nowhere and compliments Joey’s playing. Joey tells her that he gave it up this morning but now he’s taking it back. She tells him that she just moved in. Joey tells him her name and she surprises him by asking him to play some more. He says he’ll play whatever she wants for as long as she wants him to. He tells her it’s a pretty nice city. The lady asks if maybe he can show her around. Methinks Joey’s gonna get a girlfriend. Maybe he’ll clean his walls if he’s got a lady friend. He starts telling her all about the cool things he can show her. We leave with him excitedly talking to the lady and pretty assured that things will be looking up for Joey.
Joey Crown, who makes music and who discovered something about life. That it can be rich and rewarding and full of beauty, just like the music he played. If a person would only pause to look and to listen…Joey Crown, who got his clue in the Twilight Zone.
Another Serling lesson about slowing down and smelling the roses. At least it’s not an escaping to the past episode. Not to sound annoying but this episode does have a pint. Life’s just a tad too short to be too ‘cool’ to not enjoy stuff.
Join us next week for yet another life lesson in being happy with what you are and/or have: Mr. Bevis