“An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden” is excerpted from a work-in-progress entitled “The HipMan Letters, vol. 2: Dear Morty.”
photo via Picryl
Chicago, c. 1927
An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden
Lee Shamberg & Mark Shamberg
4736 E. Randolph Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60000
July 4, 2020
Mortimer Jones Finkelstein, III
Mighty Mort Management
I know that it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me, but I hope that you appreciate the fact that I’ve been very busy trying to steer ordinary Joes and Josies off the straight and narrow, to dissuade them from continuing to repetitively keep the beat on the beaten path and instead flow with the groove, and to persuade them that they really would encounter some extraordinarily hep happenstances as they thus perhaps dizzily traversed the miles they’d go before they lingered awhile. And to munch sensibly: life’s a slam regardless of whether you are or aren’t slim.
Anyway, I hope that this finds you well, and that your investment in that banana plantation is proving to be fruitful. And, actually, in the course of my researches I’ve unearthed a little tidbit, so to speak, that might help you along those lines, publicity-wise.
I call it The Kong Revelation.
I have conclusively established that King Kong, despite his cultural status as the most celebrated of all monstrous mammals, is actually the most misinterpreted character in the entire history of the cinema, if not in all of literature of all kinds.
It’s no secret that one of the reasons that people love to watch old black-and-white movies—horror flicks, creature features, and noir, in particular—is that the contrasting light, darkness, and shadows were manipulated for ominous, menacing, spooky, and otherwise titillating effect.
On the other hand, The Kong Revelation vividly demonstrates that color film—in addition to being iconic in the literal sense, much closer to unmediated reproduction of reality than black-and-white film ever can be—can have definitive narrative significance.
As you know, everybody has always thought that King Kong keeps trying to peel Ann Darrow’s dress off of her because of unrestrained carnal lust.
But The Kong Revelation establishes that he was motivated by a different kind of hunger, one which, it can be debated, is an even more fundamental human drive.
You see, Ann’s dress really is yellow.
I discovered this in some long-forgotten preproduction notes.
You obviously can’t see it in black-and-white, but the dress definitely is yellow.
Thus, it can be presumed that Kong was trying to unwrap her because his Great Ape tummy was growling.
He thought that she was a banana!
Which brings me around to the subject of this particular Message To Morty.
As I’ve explained in the past, in addition to having reinvented myself as a quintessential Chicago flaneur, I’m also a bit of an urban archaeologist: I dig in digs that even the triangles, septagonals, hexagonals, and all the other multifaceted nonsquares don’t dig in—yard sales, garage sales, and perpetual-going-out-of-business-so-long-the-sign-painted-on-the-window-has-faded sales.
And so, I pursued an ad in Trashfreak Week about a last-chance blowout “Extravagansale!” on the top floor—up in the attic, really—of a Southside manse reputed to once have been been the I-made-it-in-the-big-city dream palace of Machine Gun Jack McGurn’s on-site assassination modalities consultant.
His weapon schlepper.
Having scraped a considerable amount of urban detritus of both fin de siecle and otherwise indeterminate early 20th century vintage—match boxes, bent button hooks, and the odd fragment of whalebone corset stays—off of the soles of my footgear in the course of my ascent of the proverbially elegant series of staircases to the equally proverbially slope-roofed aerie, I followed some arrows chalked on the floor to a windowless room adjacent to the garret in which none other than Ben Hecht himself is reputed to have been ensconced during his salad days.
And there, under a stack of moldering cartons—one of which contained a half-gross of coasters and a passel of swizzle sticks from the notorious McGovern’s Liberty Inn—I’ll explain that hazardously connected nontonsorial clip joint to you in a future missive—I found the enclosed documents.
In less than ninety seconds, I was in Dissociation City—beside myself—with joy, and would’ve been even if I hadn’t been able to effortlessly negotiate the gracelessly aging Hipster—in the four-years-old, thankfully now passé sense of the word—who now holds the mortgage on those particular premises down to, let’s just say, a fraction of his original asking price. It just goes to show you that you can take the equilateral quadrilateral corporatist out of the Jivey League suit and pour him into designer lumberjack duds, but you can’t take the susceptibility to expertly slathered-on jive out of the Square.
Now, those are, of course, photocopies that you’ll be reading: the originals safely rest in the files of my attorneys, Wheedle, Bluster, & Bleed. Bear in mind that the letter was handwritten on what evidently was very expensive, and, I’m sure, at the very least reputedly elegant custom stationary. The vertical parallel lines joined by a curve at the top which appear in the upper left-hand corner are impressions which remained when I removed the rusted paper clip that held the layers together.
And come to think of it, speaking of layers…
Josephine Baker is prominently mentioned. Maybe we can somehow use her likeness—garbed, natch, in her signature tropical produce skirt—in an all-singing, all-dancing infomercial for your new agribusiness!
So read it, and, just like I keep telling you, Morty, you just keep on stickin’ with me and I’ll have us rollin’ in the big bigger biggest big bucks. The long longer longest long green. Los muchos dineros, los muchos dineros muy grande, los muchos dineros muy grande y mucho giganticos!
Your loyal client for life,
From the desk of Osbert Dillingham, Sr.
June 5, 1927
Palmer House Hotel
17 E. Monroe St.
My dear Johnson, old chum,
…..I am certain that you are more than absolutely thrilled that your Mr. Lindbergh has safely traversed the atmospheric avenue which separates the mystically munificent life force of the Sun from the damply deathly depths of the Great Pond, and that you, with characteristic meticulousness calculated to preclude the intrusion of any unforeseen phenomena, already have begun to arrange a commendatious cotillion, as it were, to formally present him to your nascent network of Nordic Nabobs, his societal debut as a techno-Daedalus who virtuosically managed both his symbolic and his physical proximity to said solar orb, and thus avoided the hubristically induced fate which, upon being meted out, melted the wings off of Daedalus’ own son, much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of Icarus’ own historically neglected Mommalus.
…..And, old chum, it seems that you also could fete him at a function of your Futurist Finaglers Forum.
…..Alternatively, should he prove not to share your and their enthusiasm for Mr. Mussolini—does that not remain to be seen?—perhaps your own dear Mumsie could arrange one of her salubrious soirees at our venerable Art Institute.
…..I, myself, also have an event characteristic of the decade in which we live to report.
…..You see, as I sauntered down a particular South Side Chicago thorofare on a recent balmy Spring evening attempting to divine the precise location where Blind Blake purportedly convinced a divine coed acolyte of the University of Chicago’s venerable School Of Divinity that he truly is the only person equipped to divine, and, thus, to fully envision, what Diddy Wa Diddy means, an energetic figure cocooned in a bearskin coat and swinging a stick festooned with a pennant emblazoned with the motto, “Doctor Jazz will examine you now!” bounded into my path.
…..In tone obviously modulated so as to foster an atmosphere of complicit confidentiality, he informed me that he could tell at first glance that I am a man of uninhibited explorational and scholarly inclinations, an unimpeachable geshtaltnik, a man of our era who is destined to emerge as a quintessential child of our century, and that if I wished to hasten my ascent to said prominence he could facilitate, and, thus, accelerate my journey to widespread adulation by allowing me to participate in a unique opportunity characteristic of what has, today, become our national pastime: to instantaneously realize a fantastical return on a tiny investment—in this case, all of five bucks.
…..Never being one to pass up the chance to participate in a quick killing when I’m not the one being killed, I allowed him to further explain that if I forked over the five smackeroos he would return to that very spot in a trice—taxis being exceedingly hard to hail in that particular vicinity—with an indisputably authenticated cultural artifact of irrefutable provenance, a veritable Jazz Age Rosetta Stone of historiographical musicological significance valued, as he had initially asserted, at many times my speculative investment of that measly fiver.
…..I forked over the moola and waited. And waited.
…..And waited, until, finally, my curiosity as to whether or not he really did intend to return got the better of me.
…..I repositioned my monocle, adjusted my suspenders, and otherwise girded myself for the possibility that my disputatiousness might be responded to with forceful physical measures.
…..I skulked into the alley.
…..I heard what sounded like a clicking noise.
…..Presently, a shimmery stream of light, a sliver of a pale pewter tint flashed across my field of view.
…..I rounded a corner and saw a game of dice in progress.
…..And there squatted my erstwhile business partner.
…..Muttering, “Poppa needs primary sources, Poppa needs primary sources,” he laid my five simoleons onto a low stack of greenbacks and coins plopped atop a grimy blanket.
…..Beside that meager pot lay an envelope—old, and wrinkled, and smeared with some undefinable substance.
…..Clearly, someone had wagered it, and the others, who I presumed to be unabashedly wayward academics due to the fact their taste in neckwear ran to drably shaded knitted cravats, obviously considered it to be of some value.
…..Pulling back the sleeves of the furry overgarment that a fiercely noble forest creature had sacrificed their life—involuntarily, I presume—to cloak him in, my treacherous former business partner amplified his invocation of his yen for unimpeachable info into a chant as he scooped up the dice and shook them.
…..“Desist, you blackguard!” I cried as he flung the dice onto the blanket.
…..Two single dots stared up at the assemblage with herpetological finality.
…..“You foul, mangy cur!” I exclaimed.
…..Stunned by the evidence that the vicissitudes of fortune had not played the particular études that he had requested, the duplicitous dastard looked up at me.
…..Dumbfounded. Chagrinned. Crestfallen. Utterly stymied.
…..“You villainous varlet!” I further proclaimed, “You absconded with my hard-earned capital in order to indulge your weakness for the vice of gambling.“
…..“But no!” he cried. “I fully intended to win and then repay your investment of faith in me with the promised contents of that envelope.”
…..“You gambled. Gambled, you inexcusable knave,“ I retorted. “You betrayed not only me, but mankind’s salvation, faith in faith itself, by placing your faith in the most faithless possible object of faith. Mere chance.“
…..“But you underestimate me, elegant sir,” he replied, “for when I cast the die it was to be it was no game of chance at all. For those symmetrical ivory sextuples that you see staring up at you, mercilessly unblinking, are not the die I intended to cast. For my customized cubes are weighted to invariably display five dots on the one, and two on the other, for a grand total of a triumphant seven!“
…..The next sound that I heard was that of the exertions of the others gasping in unison, and then, subsequently, I heard a veritable Neo-Eisensteinian sonic montage of passionately propelled epithets—gadzooks/scoundrel/Modernist-Bolshevik mommzer/antidisestablishmentarianist bunco artist/neo-Dada crybaby—and other, even more damning behavioral and aesthetic indictments, some both positively revolting in their anatomical precision and otherwise too distasteful in their clinical evocativeness to be recounted in literate company.
…..And then one of the others, clearly not yet another bourgeois scholar on an expedition to ascertain how the lower classes frivolously fritter away their evenings at moments when they should be assiduously tracking their investments, but an obvious blackguard—the motheaten bowler hat pulled down over his bloodshot hepatitic eyes was the surefire tipoff—reached under his sweater.
…..Instinctively divining that he was the crook who crooked the crook, the traitor who pulled a switcheroo on my own personal traitor, and that he was not, this time, reaching for yet another pair of loaded dice but, rather, for a weapon—a roscoe, a rod, a Remington pistola—I smoothly reached beneath my waistcoat, extracted my own gat, and fired one shot, a warning, an expertly aimed round which neatly propelled his headgear off of his stubbly skull without disturbing so much as a single strand of the sparse follicular growth that was Brillanteened there.
…..But, demonstrating that he might actually have been every bit as resilient as his ragamuffinesque demeanor sullenly signified, his hand emerged from beneath his jumper to reveal a massive hammered blade that would’ve prompted Jim Bowie’s R&D and merchandising specialists to cut loose with backwoods hollers of anticipated year-end profit sharing delight.
…..My instantaneous alternative analysis of the particular interpersonal dynamic being evidenced during that hyperadrenalized instance of conflict resolution attempted by metallic means established that, for all of his calculated conniving, he had neglected to foresee the possibility of the most basic—and, hence, dominant—power-based oppositional polarity operant at the moment.
…..The dumb shmuck brought a knife to a gun fight!
…..My finger directed the trigger of my hand cannon one tiny increment rearward.
…..The red, white, and blue flames characteristic of the specially formulated gunpowder that I’d loaded my cartridges with in anticipation of celebratory marksmanship competitions the previous Fourth of July erupted once again from the muzzle of my mini-musket.
…..A hole appeared in the varlet’s sweater next to his obviously wellfatted ribcage.
…..“You danged monstrous mountebank,” he cried! “You have now ruined my fondest possession, the topmost portion of the costume I absconded with in the aftermath of my sole of experience of modish celebrity, my employment as an extra in the saloon scene in David Wark Griffith’s seminal underworld extravaganza ‘The Musketeers of Pig Alley,’ yes, you have woefully warped the woof of the now woebegone woolly wrapper I wore when I wobbled and weaved through Wark’s wondrous work.”
…..“There will be no more missals of warning,” I replied, “for you now have exhausted my prodigious patience. And make careful note of the fact that I would’ve said to you what I am about to say to you even had you not proudly proclaimed that you have no humane, Enlightenment-driven compunction about assisting in the elevation of avatars of unreconstructed traitorous values to the status of secular royalty. Do not make light of the inescapably abrasive fact that I strongly recommend that you while away the rest of this evening attempting to mate with a rusted sump pump.”
…..“You truly are a man of cruel intentions,” he ejaculated, and then, characteristically, he once again demonstrated his singular lack of character by acting as the lead canine, the cowardly cur at the head of the pack, as he led the others in their unimpeded stampede out of the alley.
…..I scooped up my fiver, and the envelope, and, justly leaving behind the remainder of the wagers, and, of course, the blanket and its coating of hardened grease—perhaps some flower girl or other manner of urchin in the direst of all dire straits could ignite one of the protruding threads and use it as a candle—repaired to my rooms.
…..Once there, safely ensconced among the furnishings I’d plucked from among the floor samples at the showroom of the Ned Buntline Collection, I counted up my take.
…..First, the legal tender generated by the Department Of The Treasury and the United States Mint: the sum of $9.42 in greenbacks and coin—nothing to sneer at even in these times of economic boom and unabashed opulence.
…..And then I considered the envelope.
…..I laid it on my desk next to the Conklin fountain pen I’d purchased in emulation of its spokesman, Mark Twain.
…..I picked up the Opinel pocket knife I’d purchased in emulation of both Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, and unfolded the blade.
…..I slit open the envelope, and, as I did, I became aware that, in addition to the anticipated sheets of paper, there was a loose object inside.
…..I inverted the envelope and shook it.
…..Out fell a green-stained rectangular object with striations oriented parallel to the long sides, and a piece of paper stuck to it—undoubtedly by some sort of effluent, as I was unable to ascertain the presence of any kind of tape.
…..I gingerly picked it up.
…..The scrap of paper affixed to it was a note which explained that the mysterious rectangle actually is a sliver of bamboo; that it is a saxophone reed which once graced the mouthpiece of one Milton Mezzrow, the Chicago native whose family legally purveys pharmaceuticals via their network of apothecary emporia, and whose nom de la jazz hot is The Mighty Mezz; and that it is believed that one needs only to hold it in close proximity to one’s nostrils and inhale deeply in order to achieve what is known in the psychopharmacological vernacular as a contact high.
…..Since I intended to to remain sound of mind and pristine of physical body in anticipation of my scheduled assignation later that evening with a lanky chorine who currently graces the proscenium at Rudy’s Ruckus Room with her lissome limbs and bounteous bazoozums, I set aside the reed, extracted the papers from the envelope, and examined them.
…..And, thus, I learned that they bear a list of the delicacies served each Sunday between 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. at Jack’s Tea Garden, a local chophouse of considerable repute both as a purveyor of heated and chilled gourmet comestibles, and of invariably scorching, syncopated, syncretic—albeit largely African-American—American music.
…..Since my own dear Mumsie succeeded in her efforts to impress upon me the wisdom of retaining and safely securing artifacts which might, at some future date, prove to be of monetary as well as historical and aesthetic value, I have had my personal secretary transcribe the text of the menu: you will find that faithful duplication below.
…..I have taken the liberty of entitling it,“An Archaeologically Authenticated Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden.”
…..There is, of course, more than mere cultural enthusiasm involved here on my part.
…..You always have encouraged me to approach you in the event that I were to happen upon some opportunity which might prove advantageous to both us were we to explore it in partnership. And it seems possible to me that your family could now endow a Fellowship Chair at one of the many educational institutions to which you so lavishly contribute, and dictate that I be the beneficiary of your largess in order that I might be able to further explore all of the ramifications of everything which I have described above, thus further securing the Dillinghams’ reputation as visionary proponents of our unique way of life. The possibilities have no limit: as you are well aware, the ability to generate verifiable torrents of fantastical intellectual gymnastics—my facility for indefatigable geshptritkheit—is my greatest God-given gift: I could verbalize about this particular situation alone until long after Gutenberg‘s successors run out of lead with which to cast movable type, the forests are denuded of trees to pulp, and William Randolph Hearst runs out of ink with which to attempt to manifest his vision of our national destiny.
P.S. I sincerely hope that you don’t still believe what your cousin Ginevra said about me. I never believed even half of what she told me about you.
An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden
“Everybody Speaks Easily At”
Jack’s Tea Garden
“Where The Elite Meet To Eat To The Beat”
“Enjoy A Refreshing Cocktail Prepared With Only The Finest Spirits Distilled In Real Factories In Foreign Countries While You Peruse Our Very Special Menu For Today”
Jimmy Cobb Salad
Art Pepper Steak
Sautéed Dave Pike
Veal Oscar Peterson
Beef George Wallington
Rock Cornish Henry Threadgill
Louis Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
Lou Donaldson Duck
John Hammond Eggs
Veal Jimmy Marsala
Chicken Marty Marsala
Gerry Mulligan Stew
Lester Young Carrots
Arnett Cobb Corn
Buddy Tater Tots
Potatoes Hod O’Brian
Charlie Parker House Rolls
Chilled pats of Butter Jackson
Cornbread Hal Singer
Stevie Wonder Bread
Ed Cherry’s Jubilee
Don Cherry Pie
Johnny Mince Pie
Hot Cross Teddy Bunns
Sonny Fortune Cookies
Clifford Jordan Almonds
Louis Jordan Almonds
Sheila Jordan Almonds
James Cotton Candy
For a taste of ancient Rome, Candied Finches (Mr. Otis regrets that he is the lunch today!)
Oscar Pettit Fours
Jimmy Heath Bars
Percy Heath Bars
Tootie Heath Bars
Ted Heath Bars
Marty Napoleon Brandy
Andrew White Owl Cigars
Executive Chef Emeritus: Will Marion Cook
Chef: Willie Cook
Fry Cook: Fats Waller
Pastry Chef: Chet Baker
French Pastry Chef: Josephine Baker
Culinary Intern/Sous Chef: Jr. Cook
Poultry Chef Intern: Henny Youngman
Sommelier: Herbie Steward
Food prepared on an Ornette Coleman Stove
Table lighting: George Coleman Lanterns
Musical entertainment by the Harlem Hamfats
Theme Song: Kitty On Toast
Master Of Ceremonies: Soupy Sales
Staff wardrobe courtesy of Illinois’ Jacquets
Security services provided by Sheriff Jimmy Nottingham
Location recording by William Savory for Tomato Records
Announcer’s cough button courtesy of the Smith Brothers
“And don’t forget your Special Password to gain Instant Entry to next week’s Festive Banquet: Satchmo Sends Me”
Mortimer Jones Finkelstein, III
Mighty Mort Management
July 7, 2020
4736 E. Randolph Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60000
Did I get to be The Mighty Mort without being able to make like Fats Waller when he went out shopping and ran into Joe Turner‘s cat?
As in, “What’s that smell?”
There are people named on that menu who weren’t even born in 1927!
Is this another one of your pranks? I know that you want to be Joe Venuti when you grow up. I know that that girlfriend of yours used to wear a red white and blue picture of Kate Smith for a tramp stamp and shmeerd honey all over herself while she jumped up and down shrieking The Bear Went Over The Mountain and called the performance artful, but did you really think that I was going to swallow this one? So to speak?
So what are you up to? If this is a hoax you two cooked up, it’s even more underdone than Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes shtick and the Hitler Diaries combined.
Are you now going to tell me again that you O.D.’d on an augmented bowl of Slim Gaillard’s recipe for avocado seed soup like you did that time when you missed the deadline for the article about the role of maize cob imagery in pre-Columbian management system hieroglyphs and had that purported doctor friend of yours, Bazooka Birnbaum, write an excuse letter on the back of a place mat from Terrific Tacos with burrito goosh stuck all over it? That once again you were still in a weakened state when a real hustler posing as a prefab hepcat palmed it off on you because the effects of the other seeds, those Morning Glory seeds your cat accidentally knocked into the seasoning mix hadn’t worn off and you were still psychedelicized silly?
If that’s the case, then you need a new riff to blow.
You really want to repay my faith in you? Then get back to work on LoxTopus Versus HamAconda. You’ve got me seriously wondering what a flying bagel with an eight-headed set of bongo drums ringed around it looks like, and between your fabulistic chops and my consummate negotiating skills I’m sure we won’t have any trouble persuading Warner Animation Group and Warner Music Group to produce a superhero yarn with an origin story rooted in Catskills Cubop that creates ancillary multicultural fusion foodstuff merchandising possibilities.
Think about it.
As soon as you’re capable of thinking straight again.
In the meantime, I have a fruit farm to run. It’s lonely, being top banana. Remind me about The Kong Revelation if you can have your documentation certified by at least three experts who don’t also gig on illusion-of-reality shows.
Your Primary Primate,
PS Jackie and Tina send their regards. They’re looking forward to connecting with you again.
Chicagoans Lee Shamberg and Mark Shamberg are brothers. Screenwriter-Producer Lee has produced jazz and blues concerts, and been a disc jockey. His career began with his stint as the Film And Music Editor of a magazine published by Chicago’s legendary Hull House Theater. Mark presented New & World Music as a founding Nomad Of Modern Music and Producer for their Southend Music Works. None of these entirely legal activities necessitated the wearing of masks: rather, the Shambergs now strive to set an unimpeachably cool example for those among us who still need to be convinced of their necessity after having read Lee’s piece, “The All American Girl Next Door Writes A Letter To Santa,” in Jerry Jazz Musician. “An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden” is excerpted from a work-in-progress entitled “The HipMan Letters, vol. 2: Dear Morty.”