On June 26, 1960, you came into this world. It was the beginning of one of the most puzzling, exciting, and challenging decades in recent memory and, while U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower represented all that seemed good and stable about “life as usual” following WWII, a mere five months later he’d be replaced by the young and progressive John F. Kennedy, who ushered in a new focus on youth and vitality. Out with the old and in with the new! It’s no wonder you chose to be born at this precise time so I put together this entry to celebrate the occasion! Lynette, when you were born…
For those of you who read my posts in Facebook, this will be yesterday’s news so I grant you leave to back out right now. But for those of you who aren’t on Facebook, I just have to share what happened yesterday. Actually, I have to go back a couple of weeks. No, let’s go back to 2009 when we moved into Bookends Cottage. It was a day much like today, actually. Blistering hot—in the triple digits—too damned hot to be moving a five-bedroom house into a smaller three-bedroom cottage that’s about 1500 square feet smaller than the other house. Even with the help of sons and friends we all about killed ourselves.
In the garage there’s a set of those pull-down stairs that lead up to a nice-sized attic, and while putting stuff up there I noticed a set of drums that had been left behind, probably by some college kid who’d lived here years before. I didn’t really look at them. All I saw were three drums in disrepair: bass, floor tom, and mount tom. They were black, unmarked, and looked pretty neglected. I’m surprised I didn’t check them out; I come from three generations of drummers, after all. I guess I figured that if someone left them up there to brave Oklahoma’s weather extremes, they must not be anything special. Just some cheap set a kid bought when he felt a solitary, short-lived pang of rock star envy.
A couple of weeks ago when I was in the attic looking for my boxes of journals, I took a picture of the drums to share on Instagram and Facebook. Nothing special, just a nice little picture. My son Micah even suggested we might make some patio and living room tables out of them. It was then that my old SoCal friend (an amazing drummer, prolific songwriter, and seasoned performer), Wade Johnson, spoke up: “I WANT!” I blithely replied that he could come get them. Wade lives in the Fort Worth, Texas area these days, only a four-hour drive from here. We made our plans and I brought them out of the attic and into our music room to clean up and rescue from one more spell of excessive heat. Wade explained to me that they were a Ludwig “Hollywood” set from the late 1960s. (There are actually four drums, not three. Another mount tom was hiding inside the floor tom.) Wow! Vintage drums like Ringo played! To make this story a little more interesting, Wade told me that when his band, Gunpoint, played in Oklahoma City back in 1978 (they also played here in Stillwater, another little coincidence), his drums were stolen. His drum set? A Ludwig “Hollywood” set just like what I’d found in my attic. We laughed about that, saying wouldn’t it be weird if these were his drums. Not likely, but fun to pretend all the same.
Wade came up to Stillwater yesterday and although he spent only four hours, it was full and fun. He took Lynette and me to lunch at Eskimo Joe’s, where we sat at the bar and had a good time with the bartender. Lynette was on her lunch break, though, and had to take her meal to-go. After lunch we drove up the Strip to see if Wade could locate the place his band played in 1978. Back then, it was a place called Whiskers, which is no longer in existence. Afterward, we came back to the Cottage and broke out our guitars to enjoyed sharing our songs with each other. Now, if you know anything about me at all, you now that this is something I most love doing and I’ve often bemoaned that fact that I’ve had NONE of it since I moved here 16 years ago. For about an hour I was in heaven. If you’re a musician you understand the importance of this kind of fellowship.
“Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You can’t do it by pushing buttons and watching a TV screen.” Keith Richards
It’s no wonder my music has had such a difficult time surviving the past couple of decades. With no one around to do this with, I’ve been completely isolated from my peers. It think it’s time for this solitary confinement to end. I’m consciously creating certain voids in my life so that the Universe can fill them with what I really love, that is, music and musicians. Sure, I’ve never lost the music, but it’s been a daunting struggle. I’m finally inviting the vast, earthly pool of musicians into my life so that I may learn from them while sharing my own work. Not an unreasonable request. I mean, when you want 20 people to come to a party you invite 50, right?
THIS is what this living room was meant to be. A place where musicians can get together to share their creations. And I think the best way for me to get this ball rolling is to start getting serious about holding some house concerts. I may invite Wade’s duo, BillyWade, to perform since I’m nowhere ready to do my own concert. That one will coincide with my CD release party. By the way, Wade and his band, The Metro Rocket Band, will be performing at the House Of Blues Dallas this Friday night, from 9:00 to 11:30 pm.
My feelings about these drums are this: I was given so much last year during my recording equipment fund drive (almost the exact amount these drums will we worth once they’re fully restored), I feel that giving these drums to Wade is a way of showing gratitude. Sort of a karmic pay-it-back. When he said he’d get me back for it I told him there’s no need. It’s my pleasure and honor to give them to him. His plans for the drums are to get them restored to their former glory. I’m really looking forward to his photos of their metamorphosis.
It’s said that the skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave. I’ve never been very good at that. I always arrive as close to time as I dare and I’m usually the last to leave. I just don’t want the fun to be over, you see. I don’t see any merit in leaving when there’s still a good time to be had, and who knows what can happen after the crowd disperses? Many, many times, I’ve had the best time after a party’s over and just a few people linger to sit back to talk while finishing the food and drink. That’s when it gets intimate and insightful. When I was a kid my mother used to say about me, “Oh, she’s just afraid she’s going to miss something,” and it’s still true of me today. I just don’t understand parties where everything closes down before midnight. It’s like when I went to my first pub in England. Pubs close at 11:00, and when I went to my local that first time I was only getting started when I suddenly heard the barman ring the bell for “last call.”
On a deeper level I’ve always hung around life’s parties far too long, too, even when things started to turn ugly and, every time, I overstayed to my own detriment. Eventually, though, I’d see the convoluted mess around me and I’d up and leave without notice, without warning, without regret. Not all “parties” that begin with promising fanfare end prettily. Oftentimes, life’s floor is strewn with the bodies of those who couldn’t hold up. I’ve never enjoyed that kind of thing; for me it’s about developing relationships, not numbing out or looking the other way.
I’m finding as I get older that my ability to hold up has lessened a great deal. Sure, I still don’t want the fun to be over, but some things haven’t been fun for a very long time. All I see is bodies, trampled confetti, and a huge mess that no one has the strength or the will to clean up. The fun has turned into pain and anger so I’m out the door. I refuse to be a casualty of those who, through their rage, lash out at each other as well as everyone else in the room. I won’t stick around for the fistfight; when the accusations, backstabbing, shaming, hexing, and dragging everyone at the party through the mud begins, I leave.
“Photo beauty gets attention and her eye paint’s running down, She’s got a rose in her teeth and a lampshade crown; One minute she’s so happy and then she’s crying on someone’s knee, Saying, “Laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release.” I wish I had more sense of humor, keeping the sadness at bay, Throwing a lightness on these things and laughing it all away.” (Joni Mitchell, People’s Parties)
This probably is a character flaw on my part; I’m willing to accept that I can no longer hold up. But I’ve finally learned the art of leaving at the right time, or at least I hope I have. When the music ends, the overhead lights come on, and people are passing out, it’s time to assess the situation. The party isn’t pretty anymore, and it never will be ever again. It’s time to go. I must add that I try not to react to the immediate actions of others. I sit back and observe over a long period of time, and when I make the decision to leave it’s because I’ve pondered the situation, its causes, and the repercussions of my leaving. Should I stay and help cleanup the broken bottles and confetti? Should I help someone to bed? Should I call cabs, the police, or should I call for an ambulance? Sometimes it makes more sense to just go home. If I’m lucky, I have only about twenty years left on this small planet. I don’t want to waste what time I have left at a party where the fun is over.
Let’s just say it. Writing a fiction is cookies and milk compared to writing an autobiography. It’s freaking hard. I don’t mean it’s hard as a form, although it can be, or even that remembering a lifetime of people and events is hard, although it certainly is, especially at my age. What I mean is sitting down and staring into a mirror day-after-day, night-after-night, facing all of your foibles, sins, regrets, suppressed pain, lies to yourself, missed opportunities, lost loves, and everything else that makes up the not so pleasant parts of our lives. There’s so much that we hide from; we have to in order to just get out of bed some mornings. Of course, there are the good things too, I’m not disregarding them, but writing about triumphs, celebrations, and accomplishments is the reward for weeping and wailing through all this other stuff.
The thing is, I can’t write this thing if I’m not willing to revisit the dark places that I chose to gloss over in my past. For every self-administered pat on the back there’s a relative self-denial that demands to be reckoned with. And, man, do they crawl out from the woodwork! Perhaps denial is a river in Egypt and the stench of all the stagnant pools I conveniently ran past is now wafting downstream. The past week has been emotionally excruciating, and I can’t count the tears I’ve shed and the old friends I’ve grieved, but what a life I’ve lived! Before I began writing this book I knew my life was interesting; if it weren’t, I wouldn’t have decided to write about it. But I had no idea, no freaking idea of how much I chose not to deal with when I was younger.
Like traveling by car through the Mojave Desert, it’s easy to nap through that 240 or so miles, or to read through it, or sing at the top of your lungs through it. Everyone just wants to get the hell through it, but the driver has to actually stay alert through the tedium and the heat while trapped in a car with people singing “This Is The Song That Never Ends”. Writing this book is like being the driver when I’m used to being a passenger.
The unexpected benefit of all this is the purging of so many unacknowledged emotions and the release of a lifetime of misplaced guilt. I feel more connected with myself, more integrated. All the fractals of my kaleidoscope are settling and adhering, bringing into focus a picture of my life as a whole. It’s beautiful and it’s healing, but it’s also painful, and I know I have to go through it. I’m dedicated to that, whatever it takes. I just think I need to invest in the Kleenex company.