Small Gifts, Writ Large

Sometimes blessings come in small packages. Little things that don’t seem to mean much when you first notice them, but take on greater significance as time passes.

It could be a random act of kindness, or a wildflower that blooms in your backyard and keeps growing for days and weeks against all odds, or a fawn that wants to follow you around even though you are walking to a commuter train station, along a busy road, and you keep telling the fawn to go back into the woods and avoid the heavy traffic – for like days in a row, until you finally have to physically walk back into the woods and tell her to stay put, hoping she would understand.

I’ve had experience with all.

Three years ago, almost to the week, London and much of the rest of the world went into COVID-19 lockdown. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Transit closed. Everyday life closed. People were instructed to stay inside, work from home, not venture out. London, a city of some 10 million souls, resembled a ghost town.

We obeyed the orders (okay, I did take bike rides – but with my mask on!). Our family was confined together for months, which was a blessing, as I look back on it now. The girls home schooled – which gave me a chance to teach them about American history, in addition to the assignments they got from their school. We shot basketball in our little back yard and played catch and got exercise. The family played games and watched movies and made the best of it.

Honestly, as hard as it was to not be out on the town, it was great to have that family time together. I will always consider that something special.

Our lives, your lives, everyone’s lives, came to a standstill. The Daddy’s Night Out adventures I so enjoyed stopped on a dime. No more pub crawling. No more jazz shows. No more sitting in a casino in Leicester Square watching people gamble – but not me (promise).

Mommy’s Night Out was Susan hanging in the bedroom doing crafts and enjoying wine. Daddy’s Night Out was me hanging in my office, blogging, and consuming malt beverages.

It was during these nights that I decided I still wanted to hear some live jazz. I poked around the internet, and happened upon a Facebook page called “Live from Emmet’s Place.” Emmet turned out to be Emmet Cohen, a talented jazz pianist originally from Miami who grew up in New Jersey.

During the 2020 lockdown, Cohen launched “Live From Emmet’s Place,” a series of weekly performances by his trio and special guests livestreamed from his New York apartment that “recall the Harlem rent parties of yesteryear,” according to his website.  The concerts received millions of internet views worldwide and were “noteworthy for employing sophisticated production values that set the standard for live internet jazz performance” (again, per his website).

I started tuning into these sessions on my iPhone during the lockdown, sitting at my desk. They featured videos of Emmet’s trio – himself as well as bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole – and a revolving list of guest artists that ranged from veteran musicians to contemporary vocalists. All of the performances were first-rate, not just in terms of the quality of the music but the quality of the production. The Jazz Journalists Association voted Cohen their 2022 “Live-Stream Producer of the Year” for these mini-concerts.

“Live from Emmet’s Place” became something of a musical lifeline for me. Like millions of others, I was able to enjoy live, original music from my home even though I could not venture out. I cannot tell you how much difference this made. I’ve probably gone to see live jazz at least once a month since moving to London in early 2018, at many different venues. Seeing a show on a handheld electronic device isn’t exactly the same, but when it’s all you have, it’s like a gift from on high.

Well, I kept tuning into the performances even after the lockdown lifted. When London opened up again and I could once again venture into the city for Daddy’s Night Out, I would spend a couple hours blogging and listening to “Live From Emmet’s Place” before leaving home. To this day, I still listen to it.

Things have now come full circle. As I blogged about recently, I fractured my knee in a bicycle accident six weeks ago, and am now pretty much stuck at home while it heals. And so Daddy’s Nights Out once again takes place at my desk, with malt beverages and blogs. And once again, I tune into “Live from Emmet’s Place.”

Emmet & Co. didn’t have to do this. But they are musicians, and musicians want to make music. The fact that they shared it with the rest of the world, when the world most needed it, is all to their credit.

They recently performed their last installment of the series. The world is now pretty much past the pandemic, so life has returned to semi-normal. Musicians can now go back to their usual performance schedules, so they no longer have to perform at home.

But I still tune into the old “Emmet’s Place” performances. They give comfort when comfort is in short supply. That’s about the best gift you can give. Thanks, Emmet.

Here’s a YouTube video of what I believe is his last show, recorded last month.

Note: The image is from one of the “Emmet’s Place” performances.


  1. It’s a chapter I think we’ll always remember. Dark days overall, but filled with so many blessings and lessons. And I think for creatives, it was a time ripe for our best selves to emerge… whether we go paid for it or not. In a perfect world, money wouldn’t matter, and everyone would just freely share their gifts the way it was done in those times. And the audience would actually have the time to truly take it all in… appreciate it and enjoy it, instead of being under constant pressure to get to the next thing in the outside world.

    I don’t wish another pandemic on us at all…but I just really appreciated that element of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, Yacoob. As bad as it was from a health standpoint, it also gave the world a chance to reset, slow things down, and appreciate the here and now instead of thinking about what we might be doing in a week or month or year. And the family time together will always be a blessing.

      I know it was tough on people who lived alone (though not the ones who prefer the solitude), but in a way it also opened up other avenues for communication. You hear about people doing Zoom or facetime calls with their loved ones, when normally they might just fire off text messages. And it gave us all a chance to explore our inner creatives. The world should reset every couple of years, only for less tragic reasons.

      Liked by 1 person

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