On a hot summer’s evening in June, Susan and I had just exited the bookstore, laden, as was our custom, with a bit of French Symbolist poetry for her, perhaps, and maybe some Faulkner or Nietzsche for me. It was the late 1960s. We were on Third, waiting for the Cinema 2 to let us in, having earlier purchased our tickets. There were four separate theaters on the block. It was quite a summer scene in New York City. As we all waited in the four lines, we had quite the view …

Miles Davis performs in Antibes on the night of July 26, 1963, several years before Jan Wejchert and his girlfriend saw the jazz trumpeter pull up to the curb in Manhattan in a red Ferrari coupe. Mallory1180, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

All manner of humanity strode by. The tall, the short. Thin, fat. Some holding hands; some bickering. Comical, tragic. Much could be inferred from a passing glance, a snippet of borrowed conversation. Whether we were correct or not, that was another affair.

I was lost in my reverie when I heard the snarl of a race engine, which made no sense. Why a race engine, here in Manhattan? I craned my head, and saw a gleaming red Ferrari coupe pulling over to the curb. A V-12. Out slipped Miles Davis, the jazz trumpeter, clad in black slacks, shiny black shoes and a white turtleneck. A small red scarf encircled his neck. He leaned against the hood in a slouch, looking at no one in particular. The light from the streetlights reflected from his face. He was spectacular.

Then, a green Morgan showed up with a roar. A truly atavistic machine only the British could have produced, the Morgan was a roadster. The frame was built of wood. You added an engine, transmission, suspension and wheels, seat and body of minimal sort, and away you went! Light and fast! Don’t crash! But were they ever exciting!

This Morgan was clad in British racing green, a deep, not-quite-Kelly green. The color of many recent Grand Prix world champions. The wheels were painted bright yellow, as were the wheels of those World Champion racers. Again the Morgan roared. Perhaps to remind us that the green British Lotus Formula One cars had been besting the red Ferraris of Italy for awhile.

Miles stayed cool; I’ll say that. He was very cool. He just maintained his pose. Didn’t bother to look. Only when a bright yellow Yamaha motorcycle screamed up were his interests aroused. But not for long.

He knew what he was about. No question. Cool.

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