Up in Dodo’s Room

Aaron Gilbreath   

Author’s Note: I love music, and I often want to get to know the musicians who make the music that moves me. With mid-century jazz, there just isn’t always much information, or what info there is is a cold historical mix of biographical details, album titles, and recording session info—nothing that brings musicians’ personalities, achievement, or struggles to life.
As I listened to jazz during the sleep-deprived first year of my daughter’s life, I started writing these impulsive stories about overlooked jazz figures like pianist Carl Perkins and composer Gigi Gryce. I would create a fictionalized narrative in order to create a profile of their lives built from the historical record. I initially thought of them as hybrid jazz essays, because they were designed to convey the truth of the musicians’ realities, despite certain made-up narrative details. For instance, to tell the triumphant story of saxophonist Ike Quebec’s return to music, I invented a single night in his life as a taxi driver. In order to explore guitarist Billy Bauer’s preference for the background, rather than the foreground, I put him in a Manhattan record store where he found his only full-length album as a leader for sale. And I invented a moment with a fan to bring Dodo Marmarosa’s brilliant short career to life.
I thought I was filling in the gaps in the historical record, but really I was just humanizing while staying true to the historic record. These hybrid essays became part of a series. I finished four of them and sketched others. I guess I kept calling them hybrid essays because I’m an essayist, and these were meant to be factual, and I don’t think I’m a very good fiction writer. But people said this was closer to historical fiction than any kind of essay, so let’s go with that. The point is that so many of these musicians were visionary talents, but time has dimmed their presence, and I want to celebrate their artistic contributions and their humanity. To do that, I needed to bring them to life. Geoff Dyer’s book But Beautiful does this much better than me, but I hope these are some contribution to the literature of jazz and that they pulse with a fraction of the humanity that you hear in the music.    

Dodo was eating a hot dog on the Santa Monica boardwalk when a young goateed man approached him.
“Hello, sir, are you Dodo Marmarosa? I love your sides with Charlie Parker. Those are genius.” The kid paused for breath. He was riding a skateboard. “And I own your solo records.”
Dodo studied the man and thought about it. Was he Dodo Marmarosa?
Would he be again? He hadn’t performed since 1968. For seconds that stilled the waves and turned California’s golden light icy white, the Bebop pianist who’d resumed calling himself Michael stared at his fan through his dark sunglasses. The frame blurred. The tracking skipped. The strobe effect reminded him how it felt to wake after electroshock treatments, and that wasn’t a feeling he wanted to relive.
Dodo stood up. “Sorry, son. I think you’ve got the wrong cat.” Then he shook his hand and walked off.
The handshake confused them both. He hadn’t meant to do that.
Civility was a reflex. That’s how his mother raised him: hold the door for strangers, always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ He’d lived with his mother and sister in Pittsburgh, off and on, for most of his life. His mother died eight days ago, so that fall in 1995, sixty-five year old Michael Marmarosa left Pittsburgh for the thousandth time and drove all the way to Los Angeles in his copper Crown Victoria with a dented trunk that wouldn’t shut and a backseat wide enough to sleep on till he could get an apartment. Diabetes made his extremities itch. Pennsylvania’s cold hurt his bones, but California sun warmed his core enough to loosen some of the paralyzing sadness. Back when he lived off Santa Monica Boulevard in the 1940s and recorded with Bird and Howard McGhee, the sound of seagulls always soothed his turbulent mind, and the monotonous repetition of the curling waves put order to the chaos his song-writing often descended into. This beach was medicine, and he still needed medicine since he’d quit taking the pills the veteran’s hospital prescribed him. He hadn’t believed anything could hurt worse than not seeing his children. His mother’s death did. All he wanted this morning was a moment of peace.
Seagulls circled the overflowing trash cans as Dodo waddled down the beach in his blue Members Only jacket. How this kid recognized him despite the weight mystified him. Dodo knew he looked like a sixty-year old police dispatcher, with sagging cheeks and bulldog jowls that now connected his face to the once spindly neck that helped earn him his childhood nickname. He hadn’t released an album or photograph since 1962. This kid must be a true jazz fan, Dodo thought. He deserved an autograph, a polite conversation at least, but the thought of talking jazz immobilized him. When he’d stood, his lips sealed. Before he knew it, he was walking off as he always had, trying to escape the world he was unequipped to inhabit.
Ugh, he thought, you stronzino. How could you! Turn around and thank him. Stop, now. Turn around.
The opportunity passed. A hundred yards and countless palm trees now stood between them. Beside a souvenir shop’s rack of cheap sunglasses, Dodo turned to see the fan standing in the same spot, staring, mouth open, watching the flightless prehistoric bird disappear into the world he had supposedly gone extinct from.
Dodo frowned. Surely the word ‘cat’ had given him away.

Born in blue collar Pittsburgh in 1925, Michael Marmarosa wanted to play trumpet, but his immigrant parents made him play piano. Piano was a
dignified instrument, they said. Italians had a rich tradition of classical
composition and opera, and he needed to school himself in it in order to elevate himself in society. Also, they didn’t want to hear all that honking.
In their tiny rented house in the East Liberty neighborhood, the five Marmarosas lived on top of each other, jockeying for space on shared beds, for privacy in the bathroom, and clambering for bread at the dinner table. With the upright piano in the living room, there was no space to escape the noise, so they carefully chose the type of noise they could endure.
His parents Joseph and Carmella Marmarosa worked at a steel mill and a cracker factory. When they could afford it, they stocked their Zenith cabinet console with Bach and Tchaikovsky records and paid for Michael’s private piano lessons. Hours of assistance learning Austrian composer Carl Czerny’s techniques, followed by hours alone memorizing Charles-Louis Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises, working through chords and scales. Every child pianist did this. These were the standard texts, though his parents also liked Hanon because he was Roman Catholic. What differed was Marmarosa’s schedule.
Michael’s parents made the nine-year-old practice every day for hours. No school clubs. No team sports. When class got out, he came straight home. Little time for socializing with friends outside of church on Sunday. The sun set and moon rose over Paulson Avenue, and he remained on his bench. The sound of pasta boiling on the stove, the smell of garlic sautéing in olio dashed with fresh herbs his mother grew on the stoop—nothing broke his concentration. While the boys played stickball on his street and turned on the fire hydrants in summer, the metronome clicked in Michael’s ear. He loved music, but in a child’s symphony of activities, Michael’s piano became one note, played over and over until the key broke. He felt like the veal his Nonna Giulia cooked for them on Sundays: trapped motionless in a pen, denied nutrition, the anemic flesh turned weak and tender from deprivation, which made it prized. His parents raised a specialist, and like all specialists, this made him unfit to survive in all but the narrowest conditions. But when it came to piano, he excelled.
Anyone could hear it. The tin-eared friends, the off-key old ladies, the neighbors who couldn’t hum a tune to save their lives, they all marveled at the boy with the percussive left hand and fast right fingers. Soon Michael could play Offenbach’s “Orpheus in The Underworld” and Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” He performed at school and church. His proud parents beamed. He’s gifted, people said, a prodigy. This boy has genius in him. He used to agree. When his singular focus helped ruin him for life, he had his parents partly to blame.
In one sense, staying indoors initially protected Michael from the pains of the hostile world. School kids had named him Dodo for his supposedly beaky nose, squat posture and big head—he had a scrawny neck like a fryer chicken, too, but bullies focused on that nose. His parents cursed the children. Don’t speak that way, they said. Do people call you Pigeon Toes? Dodo didn’t care. Instead of fighting the insult, he drained it of power by claiming it for himself, wearing the nickname like a winter scarf, draped in its descriptive possibilities, so that soon everyone called him Dodo as if he had decided it.
The more his parents tried to protect him from the world, the more likely his extinction became. Also, things penetrated their defenses, like jazz. The Marmarosas’ small industrial city boasted a staggering amount of jazz talent, on par with Chicago and Detroit. Pianist Mary Lou Williams grew up in Dodo’s neighborhood where locals called her “the little piano girl of East Liberty.” Fatha Earl Hines, one of modern jazz’s most influential pianists, the man credited with unlocking the instrument as a jazz instrument, also lived in town. Jazz was everywhere. Another young pianist named Erroll Garner introduced Dodo to it.
The boys met in high school. Garner was only two years older than Dodo, but he’d been playing piano since age three. He even performed on riverboats full of booze and gambling, and did shows with an older saxophonist around town. Just like Mary Lou Williams, Garner’s piano helped support his family. One day Dodo heard him playing a new kind of music on the school piano, and he told him, “Erroll, that’s good. I want to play.” The pianist was impressed to see an Italian kid so interested in this black music. So after school Garner occasionally took Dodo to pianist Tootsie Davis’ house to play. Davis didn’t seem to have a job outside of music. He and his wife survived on welfare. Dodo and Garner would visit around four in the afternoon, and he’d stay as long as he could without arousing his parents’ suspicion. Garner stayed as late as he wanted.
Davis taught Garner. Dodo mostly listened to them play. His classical background made him feel out of place, but he started secretly practicing jazz at home.
Tuning into whatever radio stations played jazz, Dodo stayed up late absorbing Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Philadelphia guitarist Eddie Lang, even transcribing their melodies on the pages of school notebooks in order to learn this new music. Classical music taught him technique, to appreciate crispness and precision, the brilliance of charted, complex music mapped in distinct movements. That’s why he liked Benny Goodman’s pianist Teddy Wilson. Wilson was meticulous and swinging. He was popularbecause he was mid-tempo, inoffensive, tasteful in an almost classical way, with no hard or avant-garde edges to upset mainstream America. Dodo absorbed Wilson’s reliable careful twinkle, but Wilson eventually sounded too sedate for his growing taste. Dodo’s mind contained a fire that urged him to speed up all the classical songs he learned and turn their melodies on their heads. Once he heard Art Tatum, classical and Wilson became history. Many pianists worshipped Fatha Earl Hines, but Dodo preferred Tatum’s imaginative takes on standards. He liked his clutter and wildness, the way Tatum could swing and sound dissonant in the span of two bars, play with a distinctly classical delicacy then challenged listeners with very demanding creations.
When the 16-year-old Garner was scheduled to play on local KDKA radio, he told Dodo to come to the station in the Grant Building downtown. Even as a teenager, Garner was wise and worldly. He regularly played on radio. This was the first studio Dodo had visited. He wanted to stay in it the rest of his life.
During intermission, Garner walked Dodo around the studio and showed him the station’s jazz records.
“I’ve been listening to Earl Hines,” he told Garner.
Garner smiled. “If you like Hines,” he said, “you gotta hear what’s happening up in New York.” Garner was planning on moving up there eventually and suggested Dodo consider it, too. “Those cats up there will blow your mind,” he said.
He and Garner stayed in touch, even invited Dodo to after hour jam sessions in all black neighborhoods, staying in the bar to play long after the customers left, and sneaking into his own house with a duplicate key he had made. On weekends, Dodo bought more Tatum records at a small record store on Broad Street with money his Dad gave him. At home up in his room, he listened to Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Billie Holiday records he smuggled upstairs under his winter coat. He especially loved Benny Goodman’s quartet recordings, like “Poor Butterfly” and “Air Mail Special,” the way the pianist spread mazes of chords with his energetic left hand. He marveled how Basie could travel the length of the keyboard so quickly and accurately.
As he was trained to, he had mastered Bach’s Two Part Inventions. Now Dodo turned it into jazz, speeding up the song as fast as he could, and playing it in double time. He moved the metronome in the kitchen to free himself from his training, because the instrument couldn’t keep pace. Now he could try to play like Tatum. Soon he became a modernist. His parents were not happy.
He played jazz at home. They complained. When he quit playin classical, they moved the piano into the basement. The skill he showed with classical blossomed with jazz, but it came without the compliments. No more gossip about genius. No more kudos from neighbors. The little old church ladies didn’t appreciate the new sounds they heard spilling from the Marmarosa house. If he’s going to play jazz, they said, why couldn’t he play the kind you can dance to? That wasn’t the jazz he liked.
Dodo soon became proficient enough that word of his talent spread. As WWII raged, the draft enlisted young men into the military, which drained music of its players and shrunk the big bands down into small combos. The empty bandstands created opportunities for those who didn’t get drafted. In 1941, Johnny “Scat” Davis’s orchestra arrived in Pittsburgh without a pianist. Garner and others suggested Dodo, the high school miracle. Scat auditioned him before the concert. Dodo should’ve been studying to get his driver’s license. He was the only Italian Scat had ever played with. He was also the only pianist he’d auditioned that night; he trusted Garner. “You play like you’ve got music in your bones, son,” Scat said. “Where you from?”
“East Liberty,” Dodo told him. Scat nodded his head. “Not for long. We’re hittin’ the road, and if you want, you can come with.” Soon the flightless bird left the roost for the big bad world, and he found the freedom exhilarating.
While his high school classmates took dates to movies and interviewed for their factory jobs, Dodo played through the night in smoky clubs on the edges of cold East Coast towns. He was sixteen. It was illegal; so were most of the alcohol sales. Only his parents minded. Touring felt liberating. Venues gave him more inspiring views than the same living room windows he’d stared at since childhood. But a new anxiety mixed with the excitement: a sense of exposure. Without those four house walls to shelter him, he could see the horizon, and its vastness terrified him. He missed home as much as he loathed it.
Jazz immediately became his home. It was where the artists lived, the freaks and oddballs who fit nowhere else. He was the gangliest kid Scat’s orchestra had ever seen: long, wiry, more a green bean than a Dodo, with an Adam’s apple as prominent as his nose. As he grew into his features, his body elongated and face became handsome. Women found him attractive and treated him like their kid brother. Some complimented his prominent nose; they called it ‘ethnic.’ “Italian,” he’d correct them. Now when people called him Dodo, it felt like a compliment. Anyway, all his jazz idols had nicknames: Hawk, Prez, Lady Day, Duke, Dizzy, Bird. Dodo fit squarely in the jazz lexicon.
Soon, the jazz magazine Down Beat noticed him when one of the magazine’s journalist saw him at a jam session in 1942. Touring brought him to cities and late-night jam sessions he never imagined existed, but Scat Davis was small-time. He didn’t play the inventive stuff Dodo liked. When the band fell victim to military drafts and shrinking audiences, Gene Krupa poached Dodo. Krupa had been Benny Goodman’s animal of a drummer, known as much for his fevered rhythms as his wild stage personae—and now he had a band of his own.
Krupa’s band toured constantly, driving from Iowa to Texas in a night to make a gig. The crowds loved them. Dodo befriended an up-and-coming clarinetist named Buddy DeFranco. Maybe his trouble started after that. They’d barely come off the bandstand in Philadelphia in 1943 when the crowd surged and Dodo and DeFranco took the first hits. The beating came in hazy fragments: fists pounding, the smell of beer, looking up at hanging lamps from the ground, circled by sailors’ boots. Someone yelled, “You draft dodgin’ bastards, you’ll get yours!” The sailors thought the jazzmen had dodged the War. They didn’t know Dodo hadn’t yet turned 18. Someone dragged him from the mêlée. His sight went dark before waking up in the hospital from a coma. Band-mate DeFranco got beaten badly, too. Dodo remembered reading a quote from DeFranco in a magazine years later. “Dodo was always a little off,” DeFranco said, “but he seemed different after that beating. The head injury didn’t affect his playing, but I think it created psychological problems for him.” Was he off? Had he always been? Things had seemed fine before the beating.
When Dodo awoke from his coma, he vowed never to waste any time. He had a job to do, and that job was writing music. The sense of uncertainty, of violent instability, fueled his achievements. Unwittingly, it also pushed him indoors into the shelter of rehearsal spaces. Life was fragile, and so was he.
After Krupa’s band fell apart in 1943, Marmarosa migrated to Ted Fio Rito’s band for the summer, then made his first studio recording with Charlie Barnet’s big band in 1943 on a song called “The Moose.” He was still 17. Starting in April, 1944, he joined Tommy Dorsey, playing in a quartet with his friend DeFranco and in-demand drummer Buddy Rich, and playing in Dorsey’s orchestra when it appeared in MGM’s Thrill of a Romance. Dorsey was the teenage pianist’s biggest score yet. Everyone listened to Dorsey. That job made even his parents proud. All their hopes for his future, they told each other, all their investment in his tutoring, had paid off. Unfortunately, Dodo grew tired of playing traditional. He wanted to play the Bop that Garner had introduced him to. When he started slipping some of that modern style into their concerts, Dorsey fired him in November 1944. The pianist’s arty, Bebop elements conflicted with the band’s traditional style. They weren’t making art, Dorsey said, they were making money.
Dodo bounced back by landing an even bigger gig with clarinetist Artie Shaw. People called Benny Goodman the King of Swing, but they called Shaw the King of Clarinet. He might have played traditional music, but Shaw was deeply experimental, too. He’d form a band, record a slew of records, then dissolve it to form a new band—just to experiment with the sound. Shaw’s creativity was impatient, and he liked how Dodo’s innovative approach breathed life into the small band he’d assembled, the Gramercy Five. Dodo’s parents were thrilled. “Artie Shaw?” they said on the phone. “You topped yourself. Now you’re in the big-time.” His parents couldn’t understand why he’d ever give up a job that big after a year. The further he moved from them geographically, the freer he felt to make his own decisions.
Shaw didn’t like touring. So instead of one-night stands across the country, he arranged long engagements in a single region or city. When the band played a November 1945 gig at the Casino Gardens in Ocean Park, California, something about Los Angeles spoke to Dodo. The way the palm trees swayed had secrets to tell him. The seagulls’ squawked in codes to translate. California was exotic new terrain, and he quit Dorsey’s band to explore its sonic possibilities.
LA didn’t have the modern jazz scene that New York did, but he quickly fell right in with the small group of hipsters who were turned on to New York’s new music. A clique he met had Bird and Diz’s records. They love Art Tatum and Billy Eckstine, and those in-the-know smoked Mexican weed and jammed after hours at Central Avenue joints like the Last Word and Downbeat. A cat in a beret and circular sunglasses played Bop better than anyone, so he and Dodo hit it off. His name was Howard McGhee. McGhee grew up in Detroit and landed here on tour, and he quickly brought the few able boppers together in Los Angeles’ first modern jazz band, which led to gigs nearly every night—which he invited the pianist to join if he wanted. He did initially. Freed from the tyranny of swing, Dodo finally found the people who spoke his musical language and had the chops necessary to keep pushing the music in new directions. Dodo’s playing impressed them all. Central Ave had fast pianists, but they’d never seen a pianist play with as much facility and melodicism at that speed.
In LA, Dodo grew the goatee that he kept for the rest of his life. He combed the thick wavy locks he inherited from his father back on the top of his head, styled so it looked like he’d just stood in a wind tunnel. Word spread rapidly: was he the heir to Art Tatum? The Charlie Parker of the piano? When Parker and Dizzy first came on the scene back east, Kenny Clarke played Bop on drums, J. J. Johnson turned the trombone into a Bop instrument. A guy named Julius Watkins did it with the French horn. People wondered who could play the piano like Bird played the horn. All signs pointed to Dodo.
He and his new friends performed all the time, bouncing till sunrise at Jack’s Basket, a Black-owned business on 32nd and South Central that served fried chicken with fried potatoes. It took a lot of gigs to earn a living, but by circulating among bands, even playing two or three clubs a night, everyone made their rent. At first Dodo crashed on musicians’ couches, but he needed his space.
He rented a two-story house by himself in West Hollywood off Santa Monica Boulevard. The ocean was miles away, but he could sense it, and one quick drive down the Boulevard took him there. He liked going late after a gig, when traffic was mercifully light and only winos walked the beach.
One night he parked beside a huge bushy palm in Santa Monica, seated himself on the storm wall and watched the morning light turn the blue Pacific pink. For as built up as the city was, this beach somehow felt primitive. The ocean stretched forever. The dimensions seemed eternal, like his music’s potential. Darkness unnerved him as a kid. Here it felt inviting. At that moment, the smell of salt in the air, he knew he’d found the most beautiful place on earth and he planned to never leave.
He walked across the soft cool sand down to the water, focusing on the waves that the thick night had concealed. Crash, swell, crash, swell, over and over since the dawn of time. Performing spun your motors, and if you didn’t drink or smoke, you needed something else to calm your nerves before bed. The sound evened Dodo out. Facing the Pacific, Pittsburgh lay behind him, a piece of his professional past that he’d outgrown. The east lay in the opposite direction of his future, which was a place still emerging from the mist.
He’d never lived alone, just like he’d never traveled so far from home. His rental was tiny, narrow and drafty, and one day demolished to make room for a less shoddy construction, but for Dodo it was a castle. Rent was cheap, and he used his jazz money to put an upright piano in the living room and decorate with dinged thrift store tables and chairs. There was no place to sit in the dining room. Nobody complained. He invited no one over. Bachelor life was easy and as free from restrictions as modern art should be. As he had in childhood, Dodo made his bedroom upstairs. Up there he could watch people pass on the street without them noticing, and could see the morning birds land in the Eucalyptus tree outside his window. Their songs were erratic, but he tried to translate them into jazz compositions. All he ended up with were abstractions of mood without song titles, but he kept trying.
The upstairs bathroom had white tiles and a clawfoot tub painted dull green. Dodo quickly developed habits. His favorite ritual was laying in a tub of steaming water and watching the afternoon light tint the whole room green. Duke Ellington had popularized a song called “Rose Room,” which Dodo had once performed on LA radio. In the bath, he worked through ideas for an original called “Green Room,” but the song never took shape. Instead he wrote one even better called “Up in Dodo’s Room.” He planned to record it when he could afford to.
His other ritual involved playing piano all night so that, in the morning, he could step barefoot into the small grassy lot next to the house, dig his toes into the native soil that so far no one had built on, and listen to the morning sounds. He’d become obsessed with sounds. Rumor said that he once rolled a piano off a hotel balcony just to hear what chord the crash made. He didn’t deny it. Dodo heard songs in the honeybees, songs in the traffic patterns, in public buses’ hissing breaks, the rhythmic squeaking of old car motors that passed on the street. Some sounds sent him messages. For instance, rain sounded like peace. Crying babies sounded like apologies. Leaky pipes, barking dogs, passing planes: the sound of gratitude, fear and despair. Everything became the raw material of songs, though he told no one about these messages. He jotted everything in a notebook, which he tried to turn into songs at home.
The Santa Ana winds moved through the city one night, and from the eerie feeling of the hairs standing on the back of his neck, he wrote “Trade Winds.” The city was a symphony, and his job as an artist was to translate the noises into music others could hear. In the yard, he could collect sounds easily. It was December. Winter grass filled the vacant lot. As the birds moved tree to tree, he marveled at his good fortune. You couldn’t collect material barefoot like this back East.
His freedom proved too free. He couldn’t walk anywhere quickly. Sometimes he stopped every few feet on the sidewalk to listen to something.
Musician friends thought it was funny until he started making them late for appointments.
“Hurry up, Dodo,” they said. “Let’s go man.”
Guys would stand back on the sidewalk, studying him as he stood outside some mechanic or barber shop or yard full of playing kids, staring into a tree.
Friends didn’t know what to make of it. “What’s he listening to?” they’d say.
“Man, you got me. Noises in his head? Noises in the stars?”
The putter of a dying lawnmower engine fascinated him one afternoon, and he jotted notes for a song as his friends walked off. It got so bad people only agreed to travel with him if they got to drive him in their car. It wasn’t weird, Dodo told himself, it was work. Everything was work. Productivity was one more reason he preferred to live alone: no one there to judge him or tell him what to do. Once he landed a stable job as the house pianist for the local Atomic Records label, he wanted to quit playing clubs and quit leaving the house entirely. When he tried to turn his notes into songs, the whir in his head made that difficult, and few bird songs or motor rhythms became compositions. It frustrated him. He heard so much that he couldn’t get it all out. It was tragic: he had the hands to play, but even the language of jazz broke down at a certain point. Music had the letters but not the words to articulate every melody in his head. One morning he got so mad trying to turn certain notes into songs that he punched the living room wall and bruised his knuckles. Another time he took a hatchet to his piano, chopping the irritating instrument into pieces he had to pay the trash men to haul from his house. He hid the remains but splinters littered the edges of the floor for weeks. He bought a new piano before friends noticed, but rumor had already spread of the event.
The city was a symphony, he repeated to himself. It became hard to tell where the sounds in his mind ended and the outside world began. Eventually he couldn’t tell the difference, and he didn’t want to. His whole life was jazz. That was the problem.
When Bird and Diz came to town to play in December 1945, Central Avenue’s jazz underground went nuts in anticipation, and all those hep cats made every gig. It didn’t matter if they had to miss their sister’s wedding or quit their jobs. They came. Not that half of them had jobs.
At Billy Berg’s club up on Vine in Hollywood, everyone played it cool on opening night, but seeing their idols in person had them raging inside Pianist Hampton Hawes and saxophonist Sonny Criss took the bus up to watch Bird play, rapt. The first night, Bird missed the first two sets because he was in back eating two huge complimentary Mexican dinners, indulging himself and creating anticipation. Dizzy had saxophonist Lucky Thompso sit in until Bird finally emerged, shuffling through the crowd playing “Cherokee,” the song whose chords he’d used to create part of his own masterpiece “Ko-Ko.”
Backstage, Bird talked to everyone and poured them gin. His probing eyes landed on one of the only white fans there. “Hey brother, what’s your name?” Marmarosa shook his hand and told him ‘Dodo.’ Parker laughed. “Another bird, huh? One more and we’ve got a flock.”
Bird didn’t remember that Dodo had jammed with him and Diz up in Harlem back in 1944, when Charlie Barnet’s trumpeter got sick, and Dodo didn’t remind him. He invited the pianist to sit in with them on one song the next night. “It’s a new one called ‘Ornithology,’” Bird said. “For the two birds.”
The band played Billy Berg’s for eight straight weeks, and Bird made the rounds jamming after hours and eating all night. His enormous appetites would destroy anyone else, but he’d built such a tolerance it didn’t diminish his playing. Only a disruption in his heroin supply did.
When Bird’s train arrived downtown at Union Station, a fan named Dean Benedetti picked up the band. Benedetti played saxophone, and had become such a disciple that he’d followed Bird show to show, taping his solos on amateur equipment and skipping the rest of the song, so he could study the solos. Now he warned his idol about Los Angeles’ expensive unreliable heroin. “It isn’t like New York,” Benedetti told him, “but I got you connected, dig?” He introduced him to a man named Emery Byrd, who everyone called Moose the Mooche. Moose sold dope from a shoeshine stand on Central Avenue, along with weed and 78rpm Bebop records—all the equipment a bopper needed.
Bird was strung bad, and after the band’s eight-week club engagement, he sold his plane ticket to The Mooch for dope right before the rest of his band flew home. Dizzy was annoyed but not surprised. That’s Bird. Left behind, he was without a band, and he couldn’t make money without performing.
Parker asked Dodo to be his pianist for after-hours shows at the Club Finale in the Little Tokyo district near downtown. Local radio broadcast one of the shows. There Dodo found himself sharing the stage with Miles Davis, who’d come to LA on tour. Offers for gigs abounded, but Dodo kept shrinking from view, preferring to focus on studio work and composing. Fortunately, Dial Records scheduled Parker to make a recording on March 28, 1946, so Bird gave Dodo the piano slot over pianists like Jimmy Bunn, who ended up in San Quentin, and McGhee’s sideman Vernon Biddle. No one who heard Dodo expected otherwise.
Parker’s first session for Dial took place at Radio Recorders, a studio on Santa Monica Boulevard not far from Dodo’s house. Miles Davis joined them and tenor Lucky Thompson in the studio. The four songs they recorded would influence players for generations and remain some of the most famous songs in jazz: “A Night in Tunisia,” “Ornithology,” “Yardbird Suite” and “Moose the Mooche,” named for Parker’s dealer. Things went haywire after that.
Bird signed over half his royalties to the Mooche for heroin, and then Mooche got thrown in prison. With Bird’s supply cut off, he took to booze to endure withdrawal, fumbled through an infamous July recording session where he barely managed to play on “Lover Man” and “The Gypsy.” That night he wandered into his hotel lobby naked then lit his room on fire. That got him locked up in Camarillo State Mental Hospital, and it seemed the musical fires that had just started were in danger of being extinguished.
Dodo kept himself busy in other ways, recording tons of songs with Slim Gaillard, Barney Kessel, even Lester Young when he passed through Los Angeles. His best paying work was with Artie Shaw and Mel Tormé, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which thrilled his parents when he actually called them to talk. He did sessions with the tenor Wardell Gray, and in October, 1946, he cut sides with his friend McGhee and finally recorded his own compositions: “Up in Dodo’s Room” and “Dilated Pupils.” He’d written them in his bathroom. The first one was about his bathroom. Everyone agreed they were masterful, which pleased him. But he didn’t want to play commercial with Shaw. In fact, he no longer wanted to play in public at all. Improvising on stage made him anxious, and jazz was all about improvisation—dancing on the blade of a knife, McGhee called it. Every night jazz musicians had to make a new masterpiece from a completely new set of solos, and they had do it in front of an audience. In the studio, if you bombed you had time to record the song again. Live, you played it well or played it badly, and everyone heard. The stress took a toll. That’s one reason some people used drugs. Dodo took the edge off by hiding indoors.
During his childhood, his parents had pushed everyone out of Dodo’s life so he could play. Now he spent his days pushing people away. The problem was that he also loved people and loved when they appreciated his music, and he could never reconcile the opposing impulses to get close and get away. As the title of one of his new songs said, this was “Dodo’s Lament.” For now, studio work was less stressful, and there were enough pedestrians on the street that Dodo didn’t get too lonely at home. When the neighbors complained enough about the incessant piano playing, the landlord kicked Dodo out, and he found another house with his drummer friend Jackie Mills.
Inside the house he and Mills shared, Dodo practiced nonstop. He ignored calls, turned down visitors, missed sleep and friends’ performances. For twelve hours, for days turned to months, he practiced and shed all sign that he’d ever had a California tan. “Dodo was the most dedicated of players,” Mills later told friends. “He practiced an incredible amount of hours, often all day long. He wouldn’t stop to eat. He would eat at the piano with one hand and keep playing with the other. He had no other interests that I was aware of. He could play forever.” He surprised Mills. Everyone had cigarettes hanging from their lips, an ashtray on top of their piano. Dodo had a glass of milk and a sandwich. He didn’t like the flavor of sandwiches as much as the way their compact structure let him eat them with one hand without cutlery. That freed his other hand for the keys. Mills said, “Dodo was just a big kid... He never really grew up because he never allowed anything but the piano to be important to him. The piano was his life.” Days disappeared. His life became an unending monotony of practice, composition and listening to records, a world unregulated by the clock and defined by one thing: the piano. McGhee’s song “Night Mist” became his soundtrack, capturing the ethereal dreamscape of a life lived out of time.
He didn’t sleep enough. His diet suffered and his belly started sticking out from his wiry frame. You could detonate a bomb beside him and he wouldn’t flinch. Mills’ friends came over, partied in the basement. When they left five hours later, Dodo still sat on the bench playing. Visitors would ask Mills, “Is he always like this?” Mills would nod. “Yep, always. He’d sleep on that bench if his body fit.”
Despite his sobriety, he had a skewed artistic vision that gave his original compositions a freshness that attracted attention. He was in-ventive. Musicians liked how he comped behind them. His tunes were the opposite of milk and cookies, but he didn’t record enough of them. Guys who shot dope wrote boring predictable tunes of reheated Bop phrases. Here was this sober loner with more imagination than all of them combined. But his perfectionism started to take its own toll.
Maybe the trouble started not with the coma but with LA. Seeing Parker hospitalized saddened many friends, but it traumatized Dodo. He worried he was next. Staring out at the ocean once felt like starting into his boundless future. Now it felt like staring at a whirlpool that was sucking him in.
He’d been fine as a kid. He hadn’t had what neighbors later called “mental troubles.” He never heard voices or anything like that. One of his great-aunts back in Naples had what Carmella called “fits.” She would rage for days, blame loved ones for imagined transgressions, sweat and swear. Then she’d go back to volunteering at church. Dodo wasn’t like that. His illness came as silence. It started in the back of his neck, where it met his head near his collar, and it spread through his chest till it held his heart hostage. He spoke so little that no one could tell if it started. Everyone called him the quiet type. He was, until he played. The spells came and went and at first few noticed. Blues, but no depression. Spells scrambled his thoughts and directed ire internally. Worst, it made him doubt his playing. You’re no good, he told himself. You could do better. You’re wasting your time. Keep practicing and maybe you’ll be good one day. LA pianist Hampton Hawes said that Bird had that effect on people. “Bird was so overpowering that he destroyed lesser talents. No matter how many good ideas you came up with, Bird had better ones. Whatever you played, he topped. You wanted to give up. A lot of guys did.” But it wasn’t Bird. It was Dodo. His toxic perfectionism raised the bar for his own performances to an unachievable height. On top of that was his dismorphia. He thought his hands were too small to ever play as well as Tatum. Once he got this idea in his head, Dodo started to curse his hands out loud to musicians who understood the limitations short fingers imposed on a pianist. “Put’cher hands against mine,” a friend once said, “and let me see.” They pressed their hands together. Dodo’s hands were average size, the friend said, not small. “You’re blind,” Dodo said. I will never play like Tatum, he told himself. I will always be good, not great. Even if people said he already was, he wasn’t great enough for himself. All he knew how to do was to keep practicing. Practice, practice, practice. It made things worse.
One night at the beach, overwhelmed by frustrations and the music trapped in his mind, Dodo threw his composition notebook into the dark water and watched it sink. After a year of trying, over and over and over obsessively, he’d failed to turn most of those notes into songs, and he felt imprisoned in his anger. He needed to crawl out from inside it. He thought destroying the notebook would set him free, but he regretted it minutes later, and he collapsed on the sand sobbing, weighted by the sense that some part of him had died and would never recover.

After Bird got out of the hospital in January 1947, Dodo felt some relief, and Dial booked him another recording session in February. Dial wanted new originals. He wrote a song called “Relaxin’ at Camarillo.” Again Parker chose Dodo.
The band rehearsed, but all the musicians struggled to learn the song’s 12-bar head melody. It was Bird, so it was complicated. No one figured the tune out by nightfall. Dial’s owner Ross Russell drove Dodo home from rehearsal, and the pianist fretted the whole way, talking about how he couldn’t figure out the line, how worried he was that Bird made a mistake picking him for the session. “He kept talking, talking, talking about it,” Russell remembered years later. In the studio the next day, Dodo admitted that the line kept him up all night. He hadn’t slept a wink. Once the band practiced enough to figure it out, they recorded “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and it became another Bop classic, along with other new ones like “Carvin’ the Bird,” “Stupendous” and “Cheers.” While in the studio that February, Dodo and his old friend Erroll Garner crossed paths. Parker used Garner in the studio for some Bop tunes like “Cool Blues” and “Bird’s Nest,” and for a surprising vocal number called “This Is Always.” It was an unusual choice, more commercial than anything he’d done in ages, and was a favor to the vocalist who was an old friend. Dodo played Bop. Garner had found success in New York by a more traditional route. At the time, Dodo was working on some strange new compositions, experiments in tone that aimed more for mood than rhythm. They didn’t swing. They featured no drummer. He called them “Tone Paintings.” He only completed  two. Garner’s playing on Bird’s tunes had more boogie woogie in them than Bop, which wasn’t something anyone expected behind Parker. The LA musicians were talking about it, afraid their idol was selling out and abandoning his roots.
“Hey brother,” Garner said. “Good to see you mixed in with all these cats.”
“I found my people,” Dodo said. “Thanks to you.”
They slapped each other’s backs. Garner recorded a few vocal numbers with Parker, then he both headed back to New York. He and Dodo never saw each other again.
With Parker, Dodo had etched himself into the grooves of music history. Things went well after that. Musicians found him for their sessions. He cut sides with tenor Lucky Thompson and then Lionel Hampton. He was in demand, yet nothing assuaged his self-doubts.
That year, Esquire magazine published its annual All-American Jazz Band feature, where music critics assembled their ideal band from the country’s most promising musicians. This year’s featured Miles Davis, singer Sarah Vaughn, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Ray Brown and Dodo Marmarosa. As part of the package, Esquire gave Dodo their New Star award. He was 21 years old.
In mid-1947, Dodo booked some studio time in an effort to get some ideas down while they were still fresh. He recorded them for himself. They weren’t meant for anyone else to hear. Like his time, even his music had started to become private. But the studio engineer heard genius in them so he made copies for a couple jazz musician friends. The mood and odd structure of “Tone Paintings” reminded the engineer of Bix Biederbecke’s 1920s song “In a Mist,” which is what Dodo soon disappeared into.

He didn’t know when he quit smiling in photos. His early images show him seated at pianos, hands on the keys, beaming like two love birds in an embrace. At a certain point his photos all started to carry the same mix of vacancy and unease, as if the photographer had caught Dodo off-guard, and after discovering the lens, he could only muster the energy to wait for it to do its business and turn away.
In the spring of 1948, he got sick and moved back to Pittsburgh. “Sick” was a euphemism. When Dodo’s family said it, people assumed that his diabetes had worsened. Only he knew exactly what had happened. His parents never asked. Mills found Dodo rambling in the bath one day and called Dodo’s parents. “Bring him home,” they said. They had always wanted him back, safely in their care and out of jazz. “We told you this would happen,” they told their son on the phone. “We told you this was no good.” He drove himself to Pittsburgh, unwilling to put himself in their debt by accepting a plane ticket. He blamed them the whole way.
He remembered driving east. The late-night coffee shops. The ham and eggs in towns with no names that emerged from the corn. The smell of cow manure filled his Chrysler. When a radio station played jazz, he turned the dial. He remembered the day he arrived so clearly, the way the Grant Building came back into view as he rounded Mt. Washington east of downtown.
The shame of pulling his stuff from his car trunk and storing it in his parents’ basement felt like another beating. The house looked the same, except now he saw it from underneath. He became the basement dweller, the creature in the cellar, the family shame.
Initially, his sudden departure felt easy to justify. He told friends he needed a change, that the East Coast had more opportunities. After Bird went back to New York, the West Coast scene became a bit cold and stale, but his California friends could see through the ruse and the spirals in his eyes. Late at night, unable to sleep on the hard, borrowed mattress, he stared up at the wooden beams that composed the underside of the first floor, and he liked to imagine that Jackie Mills still had his piano in their old LA living room, and that the tub still reflected that beautiful prismatic green. He needed to dream. Reality was cold. Since he didn’t sleep, all he had left were visions, but now they featured birds pecking at bodies in place of the old visions of his recording career.
Back on Paulson Avenue, he tried to maintain momentum, but a short fall tour with Artie Shaw in 1949 fell apart. They’d played Shaw’s hit “Frenesi” at one Midwest concert, and when the crowd yelled for it again, Shaw played it again. After opening the second set with a third rendition of “Frenesi,” Dodo threatened to quit if Shaw played it again, and when Shaw appeased his screaming fans with a fourth performance, Dodo stormed off stage during the first chords and took a bus back to Pittsburgh. Shaw and Dodo never discussed it, but Dodo later read Shaw’s comments in a magazine article. “Dodo was gentle and fragile,” Shaw recalled, “[he] never learned to deal with the world of a musician.” Shaw did, but he didn’t like that world. His own perfectionism eventually started to wear on him, too. He once said, “In the world we live in, compulsive perfectionists finish last. You have to be Lawrence Welk or, on another level, Irving Berlin, and write the same kind of music over and over again. I’m not able to do that, and I have taken the clarinet as far as anyone can possibly go. To continue playing would be a disservice.” Shaw retired from the music business in 1954. It put the thought in Dodo’s head that maybe retirement wasn’t such a bad fate.

The Army drafted Dodo the year Shaw retired. Dodo was a thin-shelled egg and the military cracked him. Marching and scrubbing rifles and leaping from his bed at the first sound of “Reveille,” he often thought of Lester Young, who was never the same after his stint in the military. Instead of building Dodo into a warrior, the Army’s draconian regimen of insults and sleep deprivation ruined his last nerves. After his discharge, he spent months inside a Pittsburgh veteran’s hospital, getting electroshock therapy that failed to be therapeutic.
From then on, he moved between his parents’ house and his sister Doris’ house, then back in and out of the hospital. They did things there he chose not to remember. He forgot a lot after that. Like, he couldn’t remember exactly when he’d met his wife at the church function that his parents insisted he attend. He couldn’t remember if she spoke to him first or vice versa. He forgot how he convinced her to move their young family to Los Angeles when he had no job, but he clearly remembered the day they got married, and the day she sent a telegraph stating that if he let her change their kids’ last names back to hers, he would no longer be obligated to send child support. Signing the papers was the last time he remembered crying and the first time he remembered drinking excessively. The years passed with a bad bourbon taste in his mouth. He couldn’t believe anything could hurt as bad as not seeing his children. So he sank bourbon shots and beer chasers all day. And drank and drank, and somehow still managed to play the piano for other patients at the veteran’s hospital when they needed cheering up. They liked Count Basie and classical, which grew on him as he quit listening to new jazz.
Jazz had been his joy, but now it reminded him of heartbreak, so he tried to forget it and his kids. He couldn’t forget either. He’d never felt done with jazz.
Dodo decided to lay low instead of laying out. He got a trio together to play local schools, and the Midway Lounge gave him a regular nightly slot throughout the late-50s. He missed his kids and even occasional visits couldn’t dull the pain.
Once he got out of the hospital, he tried to drive back to California in 1960, but car problems stranded him in Chicago. Chicago wasn’t a bad place for a jazz musician to get stuck. The local Argo record label set him up with a recording date. They were the ones who recorded Ahmad Jamal, but Dodo got drunk and bailed and went to California. The warm state was a magnet. He couldn’t leave it alone. He was drinking heavily then: wine, gin, whatever people poured him. He couldn’t remember what he expected to do there, or when he drove back East. It took a full year for Argo to get him to the studio.
He had been self-medicating. He understood that now. Back in those day, people didn’t talk about mental health the way doctors did now. Dodo’s parents hid it out of shame, but neighbors talked. Folks at church knew the man was off. Publicly, the family wouldn’t discuss it. Privately, they blamed jazz. It was a corrosive influence, they said, devil’s music, full of drugs and late nights in places good Catholics shouldn’t go. Dodo knew the music was fine. His friend Buddy DeFranco came over once to convince Dodo’s parents to check their son into a hospital for therapy, which he argued had proven clinical benefits, but that visit ended in a yelling match between Mr. Marmarosa and DeFranco, and Dodo kept living with his sister.
In 1962, Argo invited him back to Chicago to play on a record with saxophonist Gene Ammons. Jug and Dodo turned out well but no one seemed to notice. Dodo never recorded again.

Outside of Pittsburgh, jazz fans assumed he’d died. In Pittsburgh, people knew where to find him: the Midway Lounge, the Colony Restaurant in Mt. Lebanon in the ’60s, high school auditoriums. Performance paid his bills. Hardcore jazz fans love nothing more than a recluse. They enjoyed chasing the extinct bird. Dodo sightings became folklore. News of appearances traveled fast. Fans doubted their accuracy. They said, He’s dead. He’s moved. He’s in a mental hospital. But fans who chased him down found that it was him. If he left town, sightings carried more value and allure among record collectors, so he avoided New York. The good news was that the older he got, the fewer fans remembered his name. Since fans didn’t know what he looked like, each year life returned more of his anonymity, and he craved invisibility. By the time he would die, he figured all of his fans would have died too, and he’d be free—or so he thought until the kid on the beach spotted him. That surprised him. He was so young for a jazz fan. Thirty-one, thirty-two maybe. He hadn’t expected that.
Like the fan on the beach had said, jazz critics and fellow musicians called him a genius, but he wasn’t sure about that. Charlie Parker was a genius. John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and Albert Einstein were geniuses. Maybe it was like his mother said, and he was just blessed.
People say creativity is a blessing from God, but to Dodo it felt like a curse. He couldn’t tell if genius caused his illness, or if genius resulted from the illness. He couldn’t tell a lot of things. And he wasn’t the only one who suffered. Pianist Bud Powell had spent more time in psychiatric institutions than any other jazzer he knew of.
During his many stays in the hospital, Dodo thought of Bud Powell enduring the same torturous indignities, between the electrodes and breezy gowns and the fans who only wanted to have a story to tell about encountering genius, and he comforted himself by thinking back to his sunny days sitting on the Santa Monica stormwall, watching seagulls hover on drafts while he curled sand in his toes. Those were soulful days. Sometimes he wondered what other masterpieces he would have written had he stayed in LA. That kind of thinking got him nowhere.
With few exceptions, the fans who sought him out in Pittsburgh didn’t follow him home or heckle him for autographs. They listened from a polite distance. Some approached him after the show to compliment his performance, or to tell him how much they loved his work with McGhee and Bird. But once, near the spot where he ate his hot dog in Santa Monica, three hippies surrounded him in the early 1970s, asking him questions about Charlie Parker and jazz and what he was doing all the way out there and would he autograph these papers, and as they formed a circle around him, it felt like a noose. In his mind they were screaming, but he could see now they weren’t. He tried to politely decline; soft voices, he told himself, soft voices, please and no thank you and sorry guys, but they wouldn’t leave him alone, so he ran—just poof, up and ran from them like the brush rabbits that lived in the coastal canyons where he sometimes parked along Highway 101 to clear his head, and he didn’t look back. The cup that dropped from his hand sprayed coffee across his ankles. After that, he feared autograph-seekers, but few ever approached him back East. Everyone was looking for Aerosmith and Elvis, no one expected history to still be walking under the palm trees in the sun.
As jazz came back into favor in the 1980s and legends kept dying off, people started bugging Dodo for interviews. Journalists called his home. They cornered him when he went out to listen to live music, begging to please talk with them: Why’d you stop recording? Will you record again? They wanted the exclusive about why such a talented guy chose to leave the scene. Dodo declined all interview requests. “I’m private,” he told them. Sometimes he said, “I said enough.” The fact was he didn’t have all the answers. Why? Who knows why. You can’t tell that to journalists.
Nobody paid him to talk. When he did talk, he did so by choice. In 1995 he recorded a 41-second spoken word segment for a live trio album entitled Pittsburgh 1958. He simply introduced the recordings, which he’d made at the Midway Lounge on March 5 and 6, 1958, at one of those regular gigs. To fans, that didn’t count. They wanted new music. They wanted answers. He didn’t have either. Some days it was hard enough to speak in full sentences. Talking had mostly failed him anyway. The music should be enough. Of course it wasn’t. You needed words sometimes, too, but he’d always struggled with them, the one or two-word answers he favored irritated anyone who pressed him for info, and he could represent all his moods more accurately and immediately in music than he could with descriptions, so what if he couldn’t convey all the details? One composition he could never get right was called “Dodo’s Moods.” He’d worked on it for years and finally threw the charts in his mother’s trash, buried under egg shells and coffee grounds at his
sister’s house.
This one cat kept hounding him for an interview. He was a fan from London who’d somehow gotten Dodo’s home phone number, and he knew what a coup it would be to land an interview with the recluse no one talked to. Dodo refused. What made him so special? The guy called and called. The phone rang constantly, interrupting his concentration as he tried to sketch ideas on the piano, crowding out the dialogue on Cheers and M.A.S.H. reruns. For a guy who people called nuts, all this ringing was driving him nuttier. When it rang one day in 1992, he answered.
“Yes,” a British man said, “hello. Is this Mister Marmarosa?”
“No it is not,” said Dodo. “This is his cousin Daryl.”
“Daryl, is it? I see. Is Mister Dodo around? I’m trying to reach him about an urgent matter for a newspaper here in England.”
“Dodo? No, son. Dodo’s dead. About five days back we pulled him out of here on a stretcher, hard as a stale Christmas fruitcake. Only one Dodo’s talking to is St. Peter up in heaven.”
The line went silent. “Dodo?” said the man. “Dead? How—I mean, what was the cause?”
Dodo tried not to laugh.
He cleared his throat. “He had an accident playing one of those new electronic keyboards,” he said. “Fried him to a crisp. His cats ate part of his eyes out.”
Before the man could speak again, Dodo said, “You take care,” and hung up.
The next day The Independent in London ran the obituary with the headline: “Reclusive Jazz Pianist Dodo Marmarosa Dies.” That made Dodo laugh, which wasn’t something he did much anymore.
After that phone call, he decided to move again. Three years later, here he was, as far as he could get from his family and the jazz fans who knew his old address.

On the sunny California boardwalk, the skater with the goatee stared as Dodo waddled south.
When his friend returned from the bathroom, the kid told him, “I just saw Dodo Marmarosa.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Bebop legend. He’s supposed to be dead.”
His friend followed his eyes down the sidewalk, trying to spot someone unusual in the hordes of scantily clad tan people who swarmed the boardwalk on sunny fall days. Kids rollerskated past them. Surfers on beach cruisers weaved between tourists, cutting dangerously close to their shoulders as if daring them to say something. The friend didn’t see anything.
“He denied it, but I know it was him.” The kid pointed to a parked car behind them. The plates said Pennsylvania. He wondered where Dodo was going since he eventually had to come back for it. He wondered if he should wait.
Dodo looked back over his shoulder, checking to see if the kid had followed him. The fan just stared, watching the short shadows of palm trees cross Marmarosa’s face. He watched Dodo move down the sidewalk, shuffling like the sasquatch in that 8mm footage he’d recently seen on television, before the pianist disappeared behind a store selling cheap t-shirts and sunglasses. 

Originally published in Moss: Volume Five.
moss logo