Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Had A DreaM:

I have finally made it out to the east coast for a visit. I'm visiting Ani DeFranco somewhere near Boston. There is a middle aged male friend of hers there and a female friend who is in a lab coat, I presume she is a doctor. I have brought Paul along and he sits quietly on the couch while the rest of us talk about art and artists.

I say to Ani, "I don't know why we didn't meet before, seems like we have a lot of friends in common." She says we did meet in New York City before her first album. I'd met a lot of artists in the mid to late 80s when I lived in New York so, I think, this could be the case.

We sip on herbal ice tea's in tall thin glass's that her female friend has brought in. "Do you think Paul would like one", she asks. "Looks like he's sleeping now, so no", I say noticing that Paul has slumped over on the couch and is taking up most of it. I think its kinda odd but nice that Ani's room has two sofa's, one of them a long rectangle the other one a large L shape. Half the perimeter of the room is lined soft sofa's.

I try to sit Paul up and ask him if he wants something to drink, but he pulls away and plops back down into the softness of the L couch. "Do you want to come see what I'm working on, I've been doing some work with charcoals?" I'm interested, and think about how much I liked Bob Dylan's book of drawings back in the 90s.

"Sure, I'd love to see them, but I don't think it's wise to leave Paul alone..," he stirs a little and tries to sit up as he hears his name. I think to myself 'what was I thinking bringing him out here, he would have been much more comfortable back at the nursing home, but I thought he'd like to see his family. I don't even remember how the hell we made it through the flight and the airport, that must have been so awful that I don't remember it.'

"He might get confused about where he is....," I try to explain. Ani's friend, the doctor who is administering a medical drip to the middle aged man says she can help. "I've got plenty of Haldol here," she pulls out white packets of the stuff. "If you're concerned about him getting out of line this can help." Grasping at something to help me with Paul I agree. She pulls out a fresh packet and I get Paul to stand up. "She's going to give you something that will help you feel better Paul," I say. It turns out the 'pill' is a spray she puts up his nose. It's quick and it's done.

Were walking down the hall now and I'm thinking 'crap, wait a minute, this is the stuff they gave Paul in the hospital during his brain injury and he came unglued one night. The nurses staff had threatened to put him in an emergency Four Lock, which were cuffs to hold his arms and legs down to the bed.'

But the time in the art room looking at Ani's finished and rough sketches is mostly uneventful. With this exception: Ani's doctor friend says to me, "You must know I've been reading your blog about Paul," she looks at me momentarily then busy's herself with straightening the pills and appliances on her nurses cart. "I've taken the liberty to talk to some publishing houses and there is an offer for your book at Harcourt". I look at her dumbfounded, then turn away and wipe away my tears. We head back toward the rectangular sofa room.

As we enter the sofa room I say to the nurse, "You know I'd forgotten that Paul doesn't usually do well with Haldol, but so far so good. Right Paul?" He grunts and then suddenly lunges at me, picking me up like a five pound bar bell. He doesn't throw me like I think, he actually places me down gently on the other side of the couch then rips open my shirt. Ani and her friends scramble around trying to decide what to do. They finally pry me away from Paul and we leave the room with Paul lunging for the closing door.

* * *

It's another day. Same room but our perspective is from above looking down. We see Paul scribbling something on the wall. His mind is working quickly and his hand is a blur as it writes down a series of glyphs. He has a tattered old tome of a book next to him with similar glyphs.

Ani's middle aged male friend comes into the room. He sees what Paul has been writing and his face goes white. "My god man, what are you doing." Paul smiles and points at a repeating line of symbols. "Where did you get....this, there's no way you could understand", says the ashen faced man. Paul looks at him fiercely and slowly sounds out "eee lau loo, eee lau loo...."
"No, no! exclaims the man, "Dear God, You have broken the code!".

The End.

"This is a work of fiction, and all names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s dream-time or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual medications or locales, sofa's, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Visions and Visitations

For many years as a writer Paul loved hearing from his readers, he still has overflowing files of both email and traditional mail. The interesting thing is that the fan letters addressed all of his writing subjects equally. The Das Energi readers would feel like he'd changed their lives with his practical philosophy. The Bob Dylan Performing Artist readers felt like his series had more minute details of Dylan's artistry. The Philip K Dick fans knew Paul had been Phil's friend and, after his death, the estate's literary executor and no one knew as much as Paul did about what was "in the vault". Paul also had fans of his general writing on rock and roll some of them became regular correspondents and friends and Paul would mentor them-encouraging them to write for the newer 1990s CRAWDADDY!

It always drew a great feeling of wonder out of me watching him juggle these various writings and careers. When he had his brain injury in 1995 his brain surgeon asked me what kind of work Paul had done, I told him about all the varieties of activities he did each day and the doctor said, " He won't be juggling these careers anymore, but because of his intelligence he could probably handle losing a few brain cells better than the next guy." Paul was able to juggle pretty well after all.

A month after he came out of the hospital and he was still in out-patient rehab Paul was offered a job as music editor for a new high fidelity glossy zine out of the bay area. As I recall I answered the first call to the publisher and told him about Paul's recent injury. He asked Paul to call him and he offered him the job and that was that. Paul held the position for almost a year and it paid well. For the first time we were able to afford to buy a few things. We got a video monitor to play video's but not a TV, Paul paid a friends wife to set up his new computer and get his books for sale on line, we bought a Cannon camera, and we went to Europe. Within a year he was fired from the magazine.

Only five months since his injury and we were flying to Frankfurt and attending its annual book convention and Paul doing a full fledged lecture tour on Dylan and the Rolling Thunder shows. It was nuts. But it worked and he did an amazing job as a speaker.

I somehow knew that if Paul could get back into his way of life quickly he wouldn't have time to ruminate on what had happened to his brain. And getting the attention for his writing, via a lecture tour, gave him some positive strokes. And in Europe he had full houses of listeners, fans of his words and ideas.

* * *

It used to be visitations from fans and distant friends were a positive reinforcement for Paul and reminded him of his relevance as an author, business partner and friend. Now, he has forgotten not so much who he is but what made him feel satisfied, after the writing was done. The friendships and new adventures, the discussions and disagreements, the flirtations and the admirers.

Now, as his caregiver, I 'm at a crossroads. This past month he has had a bevy of visitors. Very suddenly for some reason. All very lovely people. And they've wanted to visit their friend, family member or the Great Man. And I've watched him carefully to see how to handle these requests in the future.

What I've observed is that he is having difficulty remembering friends he made in the past seven years or folks he only marginally knew. For instance, he doesn't remember becoming a member of our local UCC church. He doesn't remember the family we befriended and have traded child care with on a weekly basis since 2003. He knows he knows them somehow, but doesn't remember the how.

He does remember his family. His two grown sons Taiyo and Kenta who both came to visit him this month, and was very happy to see them. He remembers most of his history, when I ask him pointed questions about CRAWDADDY! , but doesn't remember enough to help a Dylanologist who came to ask Paul a few questions for his own Dylan book.

I can see now that some of these folks confound Paul's memory of himself. He wonders out loud are they related to him or how does he know them, though he'd agreed to see them ahead of time. So for this reason, with the exception of long time friends and family I'm telling Paul's fans that he is not up for the visit.

So much of what Paul wanted to say to everyone is in his books, almost 30 to choose from. And as he once said to me, "I am writing these words for my future readers. When I write I can feel their presence". And I believed him to be telling the truth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Letter To A College Student

"Hi Cindy Lee, Still I wonder what has been your experience as a woman in the music industry as it is predominately occupied by men? Gender and women's journeys since the right to vote and then some prior has been the picture of this coursework. You've come a long way baby! What's memory of you standing up for your powerful femininity shall you share, my love?"

* * *

I'm not sure what I have to say about it these days. I'm so out of the loop of the music business now. I worked very hard for many years, putting my music work before all else then when Paul had his brain injury accident in '95 things started to slip. Maybe they slipped before...who knows.

My first album came out Nov. of 1987, I went on the road and the whole thing began to take off, in an underground kind of way. I had been courted by Rhino Records since 1985 and it took over 2 years for the negotiations and their offer to come about and things started cranking for women in music by then. Suzanne Vega's first album came out in 85. Then Sinead's came out in mid 87. By the time my album came out two other women songwriters in my area, Los Angeles, also had albums released, Victoria Williams and Lucinda Williams. It seemed like we were compared alot in those early years. We were all informed by Americana type music, folk music, rock and roll somehow.

By 1990 my second record had come out but the indie music world had changed and was fueled by indie boy bands that had a tube-distortion-pedal sound, so it was harder to find a place for me on the college radio circuit. I had to find a new record company too. I had a manager guy that carted me from one company to the next only to hear stuff like "You should sound more like Liz Phair" or "Your music sounds like christmas music" or just plain old "I don't get it ". It's true my sound had changed in the years since the Rhino releases I had rediscovered the music of my youth, the Beach Boys, and had uncovered the hidden music of Brian Wilson (SMiLE, Surf's Up, etc.). While living in Taos, NM for five months I'd had a dream that directed me to go home to San Diego and write music with love in it. I had a vision that I ought to use orchestral instrumentation and then... Garage Orchestra was born. Certainly not 'womens' music and didn't sound like Liz Phair, or grunge, maybe there was a little christmas aspect to it.

Though I've written songs like Damn I Wish I Was a Man, I can't say that I've tried to come across as political or topical. There have been times where a song like this has popped out suddenly and then I'm a 'topical songwriter' again in some eyes.

I have to admit that I've, at times, gotten some attention for being a female songwriter when some of my male counterparts couldn't get the time of day. Wearing a little black dress, combat boots and singing Damn I Wish.....Man got me some attention to be sure. But in other ways it was a struggle being a girl musician. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like women have to be better vocalists then men songwriters do. I never wanted to sound like any other female singer but I've been told over and over by music executives that that is the game. Maybe, if I could I would...but who told Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Lou Reed to sound like Perry Como?

I love some of the great female rock singers like Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Byork (sp), Jefferson Airplane. I never tried to sound like anybody else however, I just never learned how to do that. I'm okay with my own weird sound, but it would have made me a few more bucks I think, if I'd had the pipes of Sheryl Crowe or Lady Gaga.

Now I'm in a place where I can accept what tiny bit of success I've had and except the loss's without feeling regret. I've also made some tough decisions along the way that took me away from the single minded, purpose driven, career carpool lane. I helped my husband Paul gain his strength and confidence after his injury in 1995, I had a child in 2001 and have made my life with him a major focus. And, I did everything in my power to try to help Paul keep from falling into what we now know is early onset of dementia. Trying out different suppliments and vitamins, anti depressants, anti dementia pharmaceuticals, exercise and various health regiments. Only to find none of these could hold back the flood gates. Eventually I came to see that the disease was winning. If I hadn't taken the time to help Paul I would have felt lousy that I hadn't tried to make him okay.

So maybe I gave up a few years there, did the mommy track, played nurse. I'm older now and I don't give a Flyin' Rats Ass that I don't sound a thing like Celine Dion. That's the beauty of gettin' on and doing things your own way.

Hope that helps you Shell, clb

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Pleasure of Ruins

Earthquake update: I was at a kids/parents Easter party today at 3:40 here in Encinitas. We'd played 2 hours of super-soft ball (with a tennis ball) and we were setting up dinner at a friends home. I was in the bathroom washing my hands when a feeling of vertigo came over me and I thought, 'wow, I'm woozy, low blood sugar, better get something to eat soon' then it occurred to me that it was a rolling earthquake. It lasted almost a minute and felt like I was on a boat on rocking seas. The sensation was very much like an inner ear infection I endured in 1999 where I had a sustained sense of vertigo and always felt like I was on a gently moving boat. The kids were playing Foosball and none of them felt a thing. Young Jake said he knew something was amiss when he saw the kitchen chandelier swinging.

When I came out of the bathroom I expected a lot of excited talk but it took a few minutes for the other parents to realize what had just happened, everyone looked a little disoriented. The pool water was still sloshing about. Then we had dinner checked the news and saw that it had actually been quite a big quake, 7.2 just south of Mexicali.

I grew up in Southern California and my first awareness of earthquake action wasn't the quake itself, rather its after effects. I must have been about 3 or 4 years old when my parents took me on a drive to view the damage to a dam in the Silver Lake district. It had a big crack in it and the water was gone. I remember hearing the news reports of flooding on the big boulevards. We drove around the lake singing "One little fishy and a mama fishy too....and they swam and they swam all over the dam.." The idea of a big cement thing like a lake breaking was a stunning visual realization at age 3.

Perhaps that dam bursting was the beginning of my fascination with cataclysms. By age ten I was playing guitar and writing my first song, Cretaceous Times, an ode to the demise of the dinosaurs. Twelve verses and a one line refrain..."So had come an end to Cretaceous Times"...which outlined the three or four popular theories on why the dinosaurs went extinct so quickly. I had made a dinosaur file in my desk which summed up the variety of fossils found and sound bites on the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

It kept my mind off of things at home, reading about far away time periods and cataclysmic events beyond my control. In some ways those times were more under my control then my own life, I could read for as long as I liked and then put the book down and be done. This I could control.

After I'd satiated my interest in dinosaurs I found archaeological sites to be a new passion. My favorite sites of destruction were Pompeii, Easter Island and Troy. Like visiting the broken Los Angeles dam of my youth, I got a jolt of electricity from reading about ancient ruins, cities and societies of people that once existed and no longer were.

Then I wrote my second song, Pompeii, which became a family hit. Much later, In the mid 90s I opened a Largo show for the wonderful producer/entertainer Jon Brion and he asked me to join him during his set and play my first song. I played Pompeii and the audience went nuts. It was still a hit.

When I was eight years old my mother died in October, just before Halloween. I remember the time period well because my dad bought me a shopping bag full of ghosts, witches and ghouls to hang around grandma's house in Laguna Beach. Two significant things came to my attention just prior to her death one of them was a program on Dr. Leaky and the work he was doing in the Oldivai Gourge with the excavation of the newly discovered Australopiticus skull. And a program about Stone Henge.

A few months after my mother died dad picked me up from Grandma's house and drove me home: past Los Angeles ( Griffith Park pony rides), past the Tar Pits, over the Ridge Route (Techachipi Mountains), through Bakersfield and into Delano, I had a revelation of sorts. I decided that my mother had been an archaeologist working at an important ancient American Indian site and had contracted Valley Fever (sometimes called San Joaquin Fever) a fungal disease that can live dormant in the dust for years, and died a noble death in the line of work, while digging up ancient artifacts. I read * recently that this kind of myth making is common in children that lose a parent.

My mother wasn't an archaeologist, I came to understand, but I loved ruins just the same. There's something lovely, serene and sad and compelling about them all at once. So long as they stay 'long ago and far away' and disappear when you put the book down.

*The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father by Maxine Harris, Ph.D.