Joey is a down-on-his-luck jazz trumpeter. He can’t get a gig because he is not dependable. He’s not dependable because he is an alcoholic. But addiction and jazz are intertwined. For Joey, booze fuels his flights of musical expression, in the rare moments when he can keep it together. Rejected even by peers who care about him deeply and only wish him the best, he’s hit rock bottom. He sells his horn for eight bucks and steps in front of a fast moving car. And, as Joey puts it, for once in his life he was successful.
But as in other episodes (“Mr. Bevis”, “Escape Clause”, “A Nice Place to Visit”, “One for the Angels”, ….), there’s an angel or a devil lurking, stepping in to redirect the causal order or to suspend it, providing another possible future for the troubled character. For Joey, it’s Gabe – Gabriel, who, of course, blows a mean horn. They talk, play the horn, and Joey gets a second chance, a pivot back into life, with a perspective on what he would have lost, and what he’s missed while living.
This is a classic morality play, about the choice to live, and the value of life. Gabe says that Joey can go back, “But no more stepping off curbs. You take what you’ve got and you live with it.” Gabe is wise, but his advice is straightforward and simple, though inaccessible until Joey stepped off the curb.