Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Have Arrived At Christmastime

video
Me with my son Alexander on glockenspiel

This is a song I wrote a few days ago. I've always wanted to write a Christmas song but it never quite happened. In December of 1995, eight months after Paul's TBI (traumatic brain injury), I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said "a song". I wrote a lovely melody and chord progression but only a few words appeared. This song is that melody and starts with the original first sentence, the rest is what came to me on Dec. 23rd, 2009.

On the second verse the line "There's nothing so rare as a fair day in June in December" is a quote from Paul.

I love how new words or melodies arrive. It's always a great mystery. Where do they come from? In this case I was on my way home from the Giacoletti Music School staff party (I'm a guitar teacher there). A few words came to mind : the songs and the sights, the colored glass lights, you have arrived at christmastime. I didn't match them up with the old melody from 1995 until I got home. It was a perfect fit. Then the rest of the words suddenly came down quickly. I didn't get to sleep until after 2am, which is quite late for me these days.

As a songwriter I love the process of how a song comes into being. I think the majority of the work is done in fallow times. Stuff like reading books or poetry, admiring the great songs. And then being ready for the lightning to strike. That means making the time for the muse, 'cuz those inspired moments when a song wants to be born won't wait for you to do your laundry. And it is a lot like having a baby really. I've always held the idea that no matter what the baby will be like, a lousy song or a good one, I commit to birthing it. My friend Steve Poltz once said to me, " It takes 3 bad songs to make one good one."

Impromptu performance aside, I think this is one of the good ones.

Happy Holidays to everyone reading. And a very grateful thank you to those of you that helped my family get through this year. x's and o's, cindy lee b

In the event that the video doesn't work here, it can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2nHBfI8cV0

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Wonderful Life

It happened!.... Paul was accepted by Medi Cal, as of Monday December 14th, 2009. We just found out today.

After twice being denied our attorney again sent them the additional information they requested. They wanted to see statements of an account that had been closed by me months ago, and we sent them that too. Steven Ratner, our attorney, requested a hearing with them this time and I think they got the message that we weren't backing off.

This whole thing started a year ago, last Christmas after returning from Disneyland and finding the remains of an oven fire Paul inadvertently started with smoke billowing out and alarms going off in the apartment building. The neighbor that I'd arranged to check on Paul throughout the day was spooning grease out of the oven and putting fans in the windows, calming the neighbors. That's when I knew it was time for Paul to move into a nursing home.

It was boxing day 2009, my mom, Alexander and I had had a full day at Disneyland, now I was jolted out of that supreme fantasy world into a shocking dose of reality. It really was time to find another place for Paul to live. I'd known it was coming, I knew the decision was close. I'd been able to put it off, but not this time.

I cried for three nights in a row. Late at night, just before falling into a hopelessly restless sleep I'd march out a parade of memories.

Times with Paul before his injury: meeting Lenny Waronker, VP at Warner Brothers in 1992 and playing him my new, soon to be Garage Orchestra, songs. Paul had arranged the meetings with Lenny and with the great David Anderle, head of A and R at A+M Records and friend of Brian Wilson's. I got to ask David a bunch of fannish questions about Brian Wilson's SMilE era. Then there was going with Paul to Science Fiction fan conventions, and no, no one we knew dressed like Star Trek, it was always about the readers and the SF books. The memory of a bike ride through Sonoma. Another memory: a lunch in the canyon with Doors producer Paul Rothchild a year before he died.

And memories after his brain injury: Paul's European lecture tour a year after he'd been released from the hospital, raging at the top of his lungs at the Belgian trains in the large echoing station, "I hate Belgian trains!!" I'd gone over to Europe a week before Paul to do my own tour in mostly Germany and Amsterdam I was to take a six hour train ride from south eastern Germany and meet Paul eventually at the big station in Brussels. Paul was taking a train from Frankfurt and somehow, outside my train window on a platform in a town an hour from Brussels I saw Paul! I hollered, he spotted me, clamored on board and we embraced so happy to share this oddly serendipitous moment. This couldn't have happened if we'd planned it.

(By the way the photo on the blog-banner above was taken on that tour, in Plankenstein, Austria. Paul had been invited to be guest of honor at a Dylan fan convention at an old castle near an ancient Roman Road.)

Back to now: Monday, three days after the Disneyland incident I was awoken, startled at four in the morning. My heartbeat surged to about 200 beats per minute it woke me from a complicated dream. I'd had these "palpitations" before but they'd always fallen back to the normal-slower beat within seconds. This one wasn't doing that. I walked around the apartment scared shitless, I'm about to die. After 15 minutes of no change I called the paramedics. They arrived and I told them I was having a severe panic attack. They checked my heart rate and a woman in charge had them put an IV in my arm and put some liquid stuff in. My heart immediately returned to it's normal rate.

One of the medics said "200 beats per minute?...that wasn't no panic attack" I asked the woman medic what it was. She said it's called an SVT, Supra Ventricular Tachycardia. "...and that IV we just gave you basically stopped your heart momentarily so it could come back on line at a normal rate."

I was hustled off to the ER for a few hours of tests but I was gonna live. I had to leave the apartment with a sheriff watching the still sleeping Paul and 7 year old Alexander. I've since learned how to cope with my condition, which is relatively benign, but it means caffeine or alcohol or chocolate in moderation. Crap. But not having an SVT has been a great motivator.

So It's Monday I'm out of the hospital, I'm looking for a nursing home that will take and care for Paul and by Tuesday I find out that my seven year old son has contracted Lice from the local YMCA. Shit. That was the send off for 2009. And the rest of the country didn't fare much better.

All I can say folks is 2010? Bring it on! I'm happy to be done with 2009. And damned if it aint starting off good already. Wah-hoo, I'm living the Christmas spirit. I'm alive! And thank you Jesus, aint it a wonderful life.






Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portait of CLB by Ron Lemen







A Portrait of Paul Williams


Today was the Artists By Artists show in Encinitas. There was a portrait of me by Ron Lemen and a portrait of Paul by Drew Snyder. I couldn't go (boo hoo)... I had a recital to do with my guitar students, which was actually a whole lot of fun.

Now I'm 'knackered' as they say...Have you ever looked up the roots of that word? It's pretty scary, and has to do with a 'knacker' which is a person that renders animals that are unfit for human consumption. It's a far cry from the American version "I'm beat" which I always liked and makes me think of Ginsberg, Kerouac, "the beats". Probably they took the word 'beat' from the definition "overcome, defeated" which I always dug about their thing. There's a saying in Buddhism which is something like "being no one, going nowhere". You start with nothing so you have nothing to lose. I think after the invention of the atomic bomb in the mid 20th century, the beats felt like WTF we've got nothing to lose, just start writing. Hey, that could work for us now too.

And so here I am writing a whole lot of nothing, and going nowhere. G'nite y'all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paul Came For A Visit Today



Alexander and I picked up Paul this afternoon, stopped by for a few donuts at our favorite Cardiff bakery and came back to the apartment. I always have a maple bar, Alexander always has a cake donut with sprinkles and Paul never has the same thing twice.

I took this photo today when it was starting to get dark out so there isn't much lighting, and I don't like using the flash.

Paul was in a good mood today and pretty 'with it'. He marched right up to the nurse at the nursing home and demanded his hearing aids before we went out. I found the hearing aid batteries were dead as the night workers often forget to turn the devices off. So we had to finagle with them and figure out how to get the dang batteries out. I keep the spare batteries out in my car so I have some on hand in times like this, but these are new hearing aids and I'm just learning how to work them. A weird thing happened when the three of us got in the car and I started the engine, Paul's hearing aids started humming very loudly. I can't imagine what it must have sounded like in his ear. It wasn't feed back it was some kind of sympathetic frequency with the car motor. We drove a ways with that noise then I stopped and switched the aids to a different setting and it went back to it's normal squealing feed back.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

White-Face Had The Courage

I apologize for the big gap since my last posting. My computer was out of commission for weeks and only in the last few days have I been back up and running.

So much has happened in the last few weeks I barely know where to start. Firstly, I want to thank Werner Pieper for the wonderful letter and package that arrived in the mail today. Werner has been a dear friend of Paul's and a German publisher that put a few of Paul's books out in German, including "Rock and Roll: Hundred Best Singles". When I get my new scanner up and running I'll include a photo Werner just sent me of himself and Paul hanging out, looks like circa 1990.

I hope Werner doesn't mind me sharing a wonderful story with you when he and Paul went to see a concert together. He writes....

"One of my finest moments with Paul: when we went to see Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan together. All The Pakistani people dancing in front of the master, throwing money on stage. Then Paul getting up, joining the almost 100% Arabic crowd dancing in front of of the stage, throwing a note, Nusrat looks him in the eyes, Paul moves on to the side and then this big Arabic man comes up to him, a moment of fear, but this guy just hugs him full of joy that white-face had the courage to come up close to the front...I remember Paul coming back to us pretty excited.."

I love this story about Paul and it reminds why he's been such a hero to me. Thank you Werner.

* * *

So this week we found out that Paul was turned down by Medi-Cal for a second time. Fortunately we have an attorney helping us through the morass of the Medicaid system. When I asked him why they turned him down our attorney said " slow and sloppy work" . He says maybe 25% of his clients have to go through this a few times before the system gets that we aren't going to give up and they work out the issues.

When Paul was turned down the first time back in May it was because he needed to be in a nursing home for at least 30 days before we could apply for help. We finally got him in a nursing home in mid June and reapplied in July. It took them 5 months to get to the point where they could look at his chart and say, no. Whatever...

I know it will all work out in the end...... but in the meantime it puts a damper on the Christmas Cheer when there's a question as to whether you may eventually have to pay back all those months of nursing home stay (at $7000. a month!! ), where we didn't pay cuz we are "Medi-Cal pending". (you can stop paying your bill while waiting to get Medi-Cal and the nursing home will be paid by the state retroactively.).

So Merry Christmas to you too.

* * *

Oh a happier note it was a banner week for my ego as I was asked to be a model for a new line of Taylor Guitars (their new acoustic Baritone series ...I want one... they tune like this B-E-A-D-F#-B). An established painter here in Encinitas (Ron Lemen) did a portrait of me, and I really like it. I was contacted by a Italian concert promoter and asked if I'd like to do a tour of Italy (yes). I had a really nice conversation with songwriter Peter Case about touring Italy. And, my friend Doc Paula said she'd love to go with me on that Italian tour.

All very good. Now I just need to summon the courage.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pictures Of This Weeks Paul




I had Paul over to the apartment for a pastry and tea on Monday. Then on Tuesday I took him out to Michael Jackson's This Is It. When Jackson died in June I asked Paul if he'd been a fan and he shook his head no. I wondered what he'd think about Jackson after seeing the new film.

On our way in to the theater we ran into two of Alexander's pre-school teachers from 2006 and we all decided to sit together. It was a 10AM showing of the film and maybe because of the time of day or maybe due to the content, I noticed that everyone in the theater was over 60!

At any rate, Paul made it through the movie and ate a bunch of popcorn and on the way back to the nursing home I interrogated him. What did you think of the movie? "Very real", he says. And do you think Michael Jackson had a vision "Yes, now I can see that he did". What else did the film do for you? "It was a little bit scary." Scary? why was that? "I was wondering if anyone was in charge."

That was all I could get out of him. So was it a cryptic way of saying Michael Jackson was losing it? Or did Paul get confused with all the images? Up to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paul and Alexander



Alexander was born mid October of 2001. Paul and I had been seperated for a year in 1999 and when we started dating in the summer of 2001 I was living in LA. For a while we continued living apart, me in Venice Beach, Paul in Encinitas (an art and surfing community in San Diego county).

I wasn't sure things would work out with Paul this second go-around and I didn't want to dump my super cool job in Santa Monica. I worked as a girl-friday for Lookout Management/Vapour Records a boutique artist management and record company that handled some hefty rock and roll clients like Neil Young and Jonathan Richmond. It was fun to show up at work and have someone interesting dropping by. I had to pick up David Crosby at the Santa Monica Airport once, I had boxes of my stuff in my 15 year old Toyota stationwagon and I'm picking up Crosby. I told him I was married to his old pal Paul Williams and we had a great conversation about the sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon and terraforming planets to make them livable, he told the staff at Lookout he was going to steal me away.

After about six months of "long distance" dating I suddenly found I was pregnant. One of those classic lack of insight moments "Geeze, I've been sick to my stomach for 4 days, I guess that salad really did me in". Then I got a grip and took the test. Paul and I were both happy and looked forward to our new life together.... with a baby! The other gals at Lookout, Bonnie and Cori helped me find a name I liked (once we knew it would be a boy). I brought the name Alexander to Paul that weekend and he said he'd thought about that name that week too. So it was decided.

Paul was a great husband during the last few months of the pregnancy, I quit my job at Lookout and moved back to Encinitas to live with him. The landlord put in new carpet and painted the walls and everything was clean and new. A fresh start. The baby arrived and Paul and I had lots of those sleepless nights that babies tend to bring. But we were happy and wanted to do things "right". Paul went into therapy and worked on his relationships with his two grown sons from his first marriage. He was really trying to fix what he'd broken and didn't want to repeat what he'd failed at before. He really did try to make things right with his past.

And he was a great dad to Alexander. The volleyball ladies at our beach still remember him as the dad that would go for walks with his baby in a sling, showing him off to whomever passed by. That first year he was in good shape and so I decided to start working, giving guitar lessons at our home. Then a year later, when Alexander was 15 months I picked up a teaching job at a nearby music studio and Paul stayed home and watched Alexander. Things seemed to work well for about a year, then slowly I began to see that something wasn't quite right.

One day Paul told me he'd left Alexander in the car when he went into Trader Joe's "for about 10 minutes. But I left the window down so it wouldn't get too hot". I was horrified. I told him to NEVER do that again, "you go in-he goes with you wherever you go". Paul agreed. Then I came home to a puddle of red goo being mopped up from the carpet "What's that Paul? " "Oh, Alexander got ahold of the cold medicine and spilled it all over the carpet". Alexander was watching us, he didn't appear to be losing consciousness, so I figured we got real lucky. Then when Alexander was two and a half we moved across town to a subdivision and Paul's mother moved out from Cambridge to live with us. It was an expensive experiment that failed. And Paul was beginning to show signs of something not being right. He wanted to sleep alot, like half of the day. He got angry. We tried anti-depressents. You name the brand- Paul tried it. When we realized that Paxel or whatever, wasn't working Paul slowly stopped taking them, just as the doctor recommended, but when he was off of them he had an episode and bit Alexander's arm.

He didn't tell me about it. I don't know if he forgot...But that night when I got home from work I noticed the bite marks on Alexanders 2 1/2 year old arm and asked Paul "Did you bite him?". He said he did because he was working on the taxes and Alexander kept reaching up for the papers and he didn't want to hit him so he bit him instead. I told my therapist, child protective services came out, by then I'd already made arrangements for Alexander to go to a friends house when I worked. I told Paul "you won't be able to watch your son anymore." I was furious. I just didn't get how sick Paul was becoming. He went from being the doting father that was trying to heal his past mistakes to a sleepy, sometimes angry guy that slouched whenever he walked. Why couldn't he see it and fix himself?

Now I look back and see that it was I that was amiss. Why didn't I see those earlier signs as Paul becoming sick. I knew he had a brain injury. I made allowances for his eccentricities, he was a genius right? But I didn't see the dementia until it hit me with a two by four. The biting incident happened in 2004 and I'm thinking Paul just needs the right anti-depressants and he'll be more like himself, by 2005 my mother and others that have been around loved ones with dementia or Alzheimers are telling me Paul looks like he has It. The doctors keep telling me he's fine.

When we moved back over to the beach in 2005 I thought the familiarity of the apartment and location might bring Paul back, instead he continued to slip further away. Alexander now eight years old doesn't remember his dad carrying him on the beach in a sling, he doesn't remember his dad watching him while I was at work, or the biting incident. What he knows is a father that needs to be watched and not left alone. In kindergarten I overheard Alexander explaining his father to his friends like this, "My daddy has a brain injury and then he got sick."

Now that Paul is in the nursing home I can see it's a relief in some ways for our son. Alexander and I can go out whenever we want, we couldn't leave Paul at home when he was here and it was hard taking him anywhere. Alexander gets more of moms attention now, we read books together and I'm not as stressed out as I was when Paul lived with us. Our lives are simpler, less complicated and their is now time to dream and from dreams come things.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Those Funny Guys With Sad Eyes and Glasses

Scene 1: We see the outside of a hospital and then a shot of a sign:  Brain Injury and Spinal Injury Rehabilitation. Nurses are scurrying about with usual routines, patients are being walked to and from rooms. Some patients are in sitting slumped in wheelchairs around the nurses station. We follow a sterile hallway to a community room where a group of recovering brain injury patients are relearning how to bake brownies with a therapist.

They are a small group, about 3 or 4 men.  They all have surgery haircuts and you can see several have visible stitches in their scalps. They all look a bit too skinny for their clothes. Several are not steady on their feet. One suddenly shouts, "I want my brownie". Another, "Aren't they done, I don't remember them taking this long". The first, " I want my brownie now". Another, "Shut up and sit down". "I wont shut up! I wont!" He tears off down the hall screaming "I'm hung-ryyyyy" he's followed by several certified caregivers. He runs out the front door screaming "Noooooooooooo! Noooo,  I wont!!"

He's raving mad. He's about to run out into the street, he's out of control waving his arms around. "Noooooooo!" Then, as suddenly as his screaming had started it ends and he stops at the curb looks both ways access's there are no cars and walks across the street in an ordinary fashion. Two men watch from a short distance away, one comments to the other, "They're doing a great job helping these guys get back out into the real world."

Scene 2: A loved one is visiting her spouse, sitting in his room she overhears a commotion outside the door. Nurse: "..He's climbed out his window again, they're on it though. He did it the other night too. Took all of the individual window slats off the window pane, very meticulously and climbed out. Then he went screaming around on the grass outside till security caught him. By then he'd pulled out half the staples in his head. They took him to psych, he was way too much for us. Did you see his wife and kids? They're out of their mind with worry coming in everyday to be with him and then she finds out a little something more about his motorcycle accident. He had a girlfriend on the back! She was okay But he aint gonna be okay no matter how well he heals. That man was a dentist, super smart, he'll be okay but I'd hate to see his face when he realizes his wife is filing for divorce! Mmm mmm, the things you see. "

Scene 3: Doctor:  " You see m'am the brain is like a series of roads. All of these little bits of information are moving down neural pathways. Only now that the pathway is gone or under construction the driver has to find a new route. Look at Freeway 5. You want to get to LA but you find a portion of the freeway in Orange County is closed for repairs, you'll have to drive down side streets and frontage roads. It's going to take alot longer. "

Scene 4: Doctor " Your husband has been here two weeks. Physical therapy and occupational therapy both agree that it is time for him to go home now. We will be discharging him tomorrow to your care." Spouse: "But doctor I just saw him run out of the hospital stark raving mad, like a screaming banshee two days ago. How do I know he won't do that at home? How do I take care ....." Doctor: "He's ready to go we can no longer hold him. He knows who the president is, what day it is, and who his mother is. You're really lucky, he's gonna be okay." Spouse: "Great news, but he's not okay now and I can't take him home like this. He puts his shirt on backwards and has to be walked around with me holding his 'safety belt' you guys have on him. How am I supposed to go to work? Plus last night before I left here he got out of bed and went to the other side of the room and pee'd in a trash can. How am I..."  Doctor: Patting spouse on the shoulder, "Paper work has gone through, it's a done deal. You'll work it out, somehow. "

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bound to California or California Bound

I feel guilty. We didn't go see Paul today. I've been home this weekend fighting off some kind of bug. Gawd knows, probably Swine flu. Anyways now it's passed. 

I know I'm not gonna be able to be there for Paul as much as I think I should be. As much as I'd want someone to be there for me. So I've invited the help of friends. Some of them knew Paul before he became ill with dementia, some of them have only known him  a year or two, since he's changed. Some I pay to go see him. Some I bribe.

I don't care what it takes. I need people to see him and it can't all be left to me. And It's lonely in those rooms. Most of the old folks living there don't have visitors. I saw a new guy on Monday, looked young. Brain injury I thought. 

The home has been spending money fixing the place up. They have nice floors that are fake wood, but mop-able on a daily basis. And they've put green and brown pastoral art on the wall. New wall paper and paint. And new counters at the nurses station. 

What's up, are they getting ready for a sale? At any rate, it creates a pretty nice atmosphere for visitors.  A new student nurse stopped me the other day, " I know you! You used to teach my son guitar. Is that your father? This place is sooo much nicer than the other homes I've been in around here."

This week Medi-Cal finally gave Paul a case number and put in a request from me for various documents. You know, car registration, pay stub, bank statements. They want to know how much money I have. I'll bet there are a lot of people suddenly trying to get disability or Medi-Cal now-a-days. And the state of California is doing everything in its power to get rid of us. 

Paul was turned down for Medi-Cal in June. It was a blow. We'd applied back in February and after all that time and money, Paul was still living at home and I was paying for a sitter for him, and then we get rejected. It was back to the drawing board. 

They turned us down on a technicality. I'd heard about a program here in California that protects spouses  from impoverishment. The social worker told me it's not a well known program and that the state doesn't want you to know about it, 'cuz they lose money. A spouse is allowed to own a home and have a limit of $109,000. in the bank. Plus, if your monthly pay check is not over $2700.00 a month , you are able to keep some or all of your husbands disability check. 

What could be better for a starving artist? If we end up qualifying for the program, which an elder advisor of mine is certain of, I'll be bound to California. (Weren't we all California Bound in the last depression?) And so will Paul and so will Alexander. 

So there goes the living on the east coast: touring up and down the eastern seaboard-doing a show every night in cities where people still read books and newspapers. And there goes Alexanders early entrance into MIT (he wants to be a Lego Designer and an Astro-physicist when he grows up). And Paul being near his brothers and mother. 

I don't know that I really would have moved us, it takes guts and a lot of money. And my family has been in California since the 1800's. But I did a little dreaming and a little checking on realtor.com regarding the plummeting prices of homes in Chapel Hill, NC  or Boston (I love going to realtor.com ). Maybe someday I'll have money for one of these here foreclosed dream deals. In the meantime, 

I don't feel too guilty. I paid a friend to go see Paul tomorrow. I'll be in better health by Tuesday and Alexander will be over his Swine flu live vaccine by then.  And the documents will be copied and off to Medi-Cal.  And I'll have qualified and won the lottery. I've worked it all out now. I feel better already. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big Red Ball

Today Alexander and I took Paul out to the park, just like last Sunday. When we got to his nursing home he was dressed with his lunch sitting on a table beside his bed but he was sleeping. It's a bummer when you tell folks to be sure to get him out to the cafeteria to eat each day and then find him sleeping away at 1pm. Look I know they have a lot tougher wheelchair cases to look after so Paul is easy to ignore. Nonetheless, he needs to get up and walk around. 

We took him to a local park and brought Alexander's big red bouncy ball. Last week Alexander and I threw the ball around a bit while Paul sat on a bench. When Alexander grew tired of this he sat and read his Jedi Masters book for awhile and I tried throwing the ball with Paul. It was a hit! 

For you that don't know Paul's condition currently, he has little energy for walking , though he does it okay, he's not too steady on his feet but he certainly isn't ready for a wheelchair. He also has a thing where he often has one eye closed at all times, something the neurologist calls a tic. 

Once Paul and I started throwing the ball back and forth that eye suddenly opened. He stood up straight and was a whiz with the big red ball. All of his bending over stopped and he was a good judge of the spacial relationship between us, throwing the ball at appropriate speeds and lengths on every pass. It was pretty remarkable considering his deteriorated physical condition. 

I had an idea: if his brain worked better while playing ball maybe we could expand it into the verbal realm. We played a game he now calls: word association catch. Throw the ball say a word and the next thrower returns the ball with a word or phrase related to the first. He sounded more like Paul then the attempts I've had at conversing with him.  Beach became Brian Wilson, San Francisco became Grateful Dead and so forth. 

We've actually stumbled on a way to talk. Today we brought little Alexander into the mix and everyone got involved. 

*  *  *                                               

Yesterday I got an email from an artist that has been asked to do my portrait for a city sponsored event. He wanted to know what the three most influential artists have been in my life. These kinds of questions are always difficult to answer and the decisions often change. I picked three artists that have been with me since I was a child, and somehow still move me. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, The Beat Writers: primarily Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and a painter named Chesley Bonestell.  

When I was five years old my mother bought me a piece-meal collection of encyclopedias from the local Lucky's grocery store in Hermosa Beach. Several of the books included some of Chesley Bonestell's work. One of my favorites was his depiction of the Earth's early days with oceans full of red lava and asteroids falling into the atmosphere. Who wouldn't like that? But my favorite, the one that inspired a great deal of wonder, was a picture at the end of one of the books. It's an imagining of the Beta Lyrae star system which includes two star bodies toiling in a difficult relationship, they exchange material and share a common atmosphere. It's an eclipsing binary with one star basically pulling all the material from the other. 

I'm not sure what drew me to these torrid pictures at age five. Sometimes art can speak for us in ways that words can't.  And help us process complex feelings. So too with music. And sometimes with playing ball. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Doubter and the Manifester

A couple of days ago I heard that Texas folksinger Steve Earle was coming to town and playing at a tavern near our place. I've rarely gone out these past 3 years, which my old friends can attest to, but I had an epiphany Sunday night and realized I need to get out to see some music more often. Even if it costs me my hard earned cash, from giving guitar lessons. 

Epiphanies come in multiple doses, so if you don't get it the first time you might get it the third. I can point to several instances this week and they come from odd angles (er, angels).  I read some interview quote from Guy Richie, Mr Ex-Madonna saying his wife was an "Number one Manifester".  Manifester? Wow, what a word, I haven't heard talk like that since the New Age-isms of the 1970s. But it's a good word for what some folks can do. 

So I asked myself,...what have I "manifested".  These past six years since Paul's memory began to fail and his body began to slow and bend, like a battery operated doll winding down, I have put all of my Manifesting powers into trying to fix him, to not much avail, and then to find help and a nursing home for him . So I did it! It took alot of Manifesting really. 

I went to New York City last year and met with friends of Paul's that wanted to help us, they put up  the donation website for Paul ....www.paulwilliams.com     which generated enough money from Paul's fans and friends to help us get him into the home he's in now. All these wonderful friends helping us out, it has been remarkable. And if you are one of them, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

After the Manifesting thoughts, I thought If I can do that for Paul maybe I can help myself in some way. That's when I realized that getting back to playing my own music and maybe earning a few new fans of the new songs wasn't utterly hopeless. 

Here's where Steve Earle comes in.  I decided on Monday that I really needed to go to that show. I know his music to some extent, but I've mostly been listening to his new album of all Townes Van Zandt songs. And its very good. I've turned on a few friends to its particular charms. 

Steve Earle got to know Townes when he was a teenager growing up in east Texas, apparently Townes went to a show of his and heckled the young Earle with "play Wabash Cannonball!" between songs. Until at last Earle admitted he didn't know it, then proceeded to play Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold. A complex song, by Van Zandt,  that is essentially a riddle asking the listener to guess what card game is being played. 

I went backstage and gave Steve a copy of Paul's "Dylan: Performing Artist" book and talked to him a bit about finger-picking. I said "How fortunate for you to have had such a great mentor as Townes". But later I realized that the fortune was mostly Townes for having Earle as a torch bearer, carrying on his vision and songs well after his death. 

In these past few days I've come to realize there is hope. As Paul once told me, early in our relationship, I am a doubter. It's true. I doubt until I'm shown what's real. I even often expect the worse. And that I believe is something I learned from having a mother die on me at age eight. 

Maybe my music will one day have it's own Steve Earle. Someone that can carry those songs to a place I can't see.  

I had a conversation with a music friend a few weeks back and we were assessing and complaining about the music industry and how it's so easy for a songwriter to feel unsupported. I told him that after I write a cycle of songs, get them on an album and get it out to the public it's hugely deflating to see that baby go unnoticed, which makes it hard to get it up for another set of new songs. 

Here's where my inflated ego comes in handy. I admit to having a voice that takes some getting used to (so does Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle etc), and I'm not reeling off astounding licks on my guitar at Van Halen speeds, and I don't have big budget sounding production. I do have songs that I can listen to a decade later and still believe in. I can put them up next to any number of my peers (Alejandro Escovedo, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, etc) and still feel great about them. And that is the thing that keeps me writing again. (Of course it certainly helps when someone writes a fan letter). 

And now, it is time to write another collection of songs. Where they end up nobody knows. But I've got four new ones already and an inflated ego and I'm a Manifester

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Most Recent Project

Now that Paul has been placed in a home, and hopefully that dang Medi-Cal Insurance will kick in sometime relatively soon, it's time for me to find a new place to put all of that energy I was using to get him situated. I'm sort of at a loss. 

I've always been a very focused person, there's always been a musical project needing assistance or some kind of writing (my mom recently found a copy of a 60 page script I wrote as a sequel to Star Wars written in 1978, haven't read it since then), and in the past 8 years raising our son Alexander. Neither Paul nor I were into vacations, it seemed like a waste of time away from our projects. My idea of vacation was playing 20 dates on a tour of England and having a day off to visit Stone Henge (the next day I had just enough time to climb the Glastonbury Tor). 

I've spent the most of the last six years trying to figure out what was wrong with Paul. He'd made such a marvelous recovery from his brain injury in 1995. In fact, within six months he was on a book tour in Germany (I went along to supervise the arrivals and departures) and lecturing about Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder period, to full houses, and effectively! *gasp* It was thrilling to see his recovery and the doctors called him a miracle, saying, "he was obviously such a genius he had brain cells to spare". 

His family was pleased. I was a saint. But not everything was hunky-dory. His driving had taken a distinct turn for the worse. I was shocked that following his release from the hospital and then the out patient rehab that no one showed the least bit of interest in his possible inability to drive a car. The doctors didn't even have to tell the DMV about his brain injury and so he received his new drivers license without a hitch. Not to mention the fact that he now had a large bit of black out on his left peripheral vision. A doctor friend checked him on it and told him "just make sure you give an extra look on that side to make up for your vision loss". That was it. I got scared when he drove. Sometimes he'd lose sight of the main highway and go off an exit thinking the highway had just made a right turn. I went to a Kaiser therapist and she told me " he's just like a lot of old folks on the road, I think you should just relax and let him drive". She was an idiot and obviously had no experience dealing with someone with a brain injury. 

.....Ah, now you see I've gone off on this tangent regarding the driving....and so I must take a break and leave it for the next entry. It has become too late and I am fading into the cast of stars...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Kind Of Intellectual Elation

I met Paul in May of 1992 at a Dylan show at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. I was on a date with a friend of a friend, a nice guy, (and I still feel guilty about how I kinda ditched him that night). I knew I'd see friends at the show and I kept making excuses about needing to go to the bathroom or needing a drink from the bar and I'd leave him sitting there waiting for his date to return and Dylan to begin.

Out in the lobby I did run into folks I knew,  but I was surprised to see my friend Andy Paley, one of Brian Wilson's co-writers and ex-best friends, among them. I was on a big Brian Wilson/Beach Boys music jag at the time. I'd always say that it was " informing my new music" and it was ...but mostly Brian's music and life story was a great narcotic for a girl still reeling from a broken New York romance (and lost record deal and lost-stolen car, lost booking agency, manager,...) . The smokey phantasm of Brian's great music lead me down a yellow brick road into an enchanted forest of weird dreams which included some Beach Boy "visitations"; new friends related to the Beach Boys story (Andy being one of them) and a brand new song-cycle of tunes having nothing to do with the lost New York boyfriend. I still remember zoning out alone, after my funky VW bus was stolen (along with all my belongings as I'd just moved back to San Diego from New York) listening to the Surf's Up CD, the song Feel Flows captures that hazy rapture perfectly, you don't even need the hash pipe.

Along with Andy, Dominic Priore was in the lobby and Wes (John Wesley Harding), and Paul Williams. It was remarkable meeting Paul, I'd just read his old CRAWDADDY! pieces on Brian's SMiLE period. We hit it off right away. I was very happy to talk to another Brian fan and asked him if he'd join me for lunch at Canters the next day. I wanted to ask him a million questions about what it was like smoking pot in the tent at Brian's house back then or what did the SMilE music sound like on those original acetates. 

We met the next day and shared a pastrami on rye and then proceeded to talk through the rest of the day. Paul then invited me to come back to the Dylan show two days later, on May 19th and join him and his wife Donna. It would be Paul's birthday. 

I wouldn't say I fell in love with Paul that day but he made a huge impression on me. It was just such a pleasure to meet and talk with another lover of music and not feel the least bit geeky about it and have it parlay into discussions of Stephen Hawking's theories of black holes and Science Fiction or whatever. It's always a great kick to meet a fellow traveler. 

Later I was to realize that this experience I'd had with Paul, a kind of intellectual elation,  was not particular to me, others had had it as his friend or through reading his books and essays. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meanwhile Back at the Back-story

Back to the back-story: Though I wasn't there when Paul fell off his bike, I was able to catch a ride with him in the ambulance to the hospital. It was surreal. Paul in the back, the EMT kept asking him questions and he always answered with his name, Paul. About a block into the ride the guy in the back said to the driver "lets take him to trauma". That was a decision made due to Paul's quality of consciousness, which wasn't very good. I couldn't believe how calm the driver was, she explained every move to me. Like, why the sirens weren't on while driving down the freeway( something I'd never really noticed before) and how they don't drive too fast and what made them decide on the trauma hospital. 

At the emergency room the doctors aids calmly took Paul out on his gurney and whisked him off to another room. I sat in the waiting room answering questions about our health insurance in a daze (Paul had just received his first Kaiser card in the mail two days earlier). Presently the neighbor that had ran up and fetched me when Paul took his fall, arrived and sat with me in the emergency waiting room. She was an astrologer, but a compassionate one. She asked Paul's birthdate and did some quick calculations. Apparently there was a planet that made a transition of some sort that day, April 15th, tax day, and it was a game changer for some people, like Paul.  

The good news was there was no for-see-able death knell. 

When the brain doctor came in a few hours later to tell me the results of the MRI I thought I was ready. He started the conversation with "sit down". That's always a bad sign. The good news was he would live. The big question was, what kind of life could he live. They wouldn't know until the brain surgery.  He asked if I felt faint. No, but I was having heart palpitations, I had to bend over. He had me sit on the floor and proceeded to tell me how they have to take precautions with loved ones as heart attacks are known to happen. That was unnecessary information. He would send a Companion Volunteer in to see me so I'd have someone to talk to. 

Now I had to wait. Of course at this point I got on the phone to everyone I knew that was close to Paul. It was one of those old wall phones and you had to have coins or a phone card. I called his ex wife first, then his oldest son, then my band members. Hours later, who knew what time it was- I was in that Las Vegas Casino land of timelessness, several of my friends came by and stayed with me that night. 

The compassionate astrologer had left hours back. I saw her only once after that, she moved away by the time Paul and I were back at the apartments almost a month after the accident. A day or two later when I was waiting to see Paul in ICU, the waiting room TV sputtered acres of footage of the Oklahoma bombing and then another day Christopher Reeds spinal injury from the fall off of his hunt horse. It must have been that bad bad planetary transition. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

No One Feels At Home In Them

Today, I felt the best I've felt in about a week. Some may say it's because Mercury is about to un-retrograde. I think its because I felt an inkling of hope today. 

I took Paul out for breakfast at 8:30 this morning we went to the Panakin Cafe. Paul has this weird thing he's been doing for about 5 years now and that is bending over like he's bobbing for an apple but there's no reason for it. People always look out the corner of their eye at him like 'what's wrong with that guy? He got a really bad back?' At any rate its just a compulsion he has nothing wrong with his back. So we got some of those looks. 

It was great getting him out of that life sucking nursing home, not to get me wrong, he lives in a relatively nice one where I and his friends can visit him regularly, but there's something innately wrong with nursing homes. No one feels at home in them. That seems like such a simple fix. 

I could see Pauls mood lighten being out in the sunshine, er overcast sunshine, and seeing all the regular folks waiting in line for their morning coffee. While eating I texted our friend Lenny Kaye who's in the studio with one of my favorite musicians Patti Smith. So Paul dictated a nice hello to them and rah rah in the studio sort of thing. That was fun. 

Sure its great knowing a well known musician like Lenny but the real fun of it for me was the comm exchange with someone outside my daily routine someone in that fun place of all fun places New York City. (I used to live there, it really is that fun). It made my day just picturing my friend tooling around on the subway heading up to the studio in the city. 

I think the hardest thing for me in my life has always been to put my name down on a dotted line and commit myself to a person, place or thing. A contract. A paper or statement of responsibility. I didn't even want to sign with the first tour booking agent back in the late 80s and my manager made me do by saying, "contracts are made to be broken" and hey he was right the booking agency broke the contract a year and a half later. 

Now I'm under contract with myself to be a "good  person", make sure my son goes to his school each day and stay in a town where Paul can be in a nice nursing home where a few of his friends can visit him. 

A few years ago I imagined myself moving to the east coast where a musician like me can tour easily because the distances between big cities aren't so  huge. Now I have many reasons to stay here in this town I've lived in for 15 years. But I long to venture elsewhere. 


Thursday, September 24, 2009

More back-story another time

Today was a difficult day. I dropped in to see Paul this morning at his nursing home near our home and Alexanders school. I worked pretty hard for many months convincing the local nursing home to admit Paul, but that story is for another time....I like the home pretty well the staff are nice and seem on top of things mostly, but today I came in to find Paul's glasses gone. Not on his face. They were nowhere to be found. Me and a social worker looked everywhere for them. Nowhere to be found. Paul never goes anywhere without his glasses, just takes them off at night and puts them on the floor by his bed. Then, first thing, back on in the morning. 

It really bummed me out. He can't see a thing without those glasses, he's NEVER without them, blind as a bat. So dang sad. I am not a highly emotive type but that got to me, I mean Paul's glasses are a sort of iconic representation of him and his brilliance. That sort of Issac Asimov, mathematician, horn-rimmed nerd guy thing that I always found adorable. Gone. 

Where do things go when they're lost at nursing homes. I've heard others tell me its a common occurrence. I know Paul, even in his current state of dementia, is not far enough gone to throw them in the toilet. Where do they go? Who would wanta pair of Issac Asimov, coke-bottle lens with prisms glasses? 

The rest of the day was better. I finally did find an old pair he can use temporarily. And now, too tired, must sleep now...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First a hello and then what...

Hi, my name is Cindy Lee. This is the first of a hoped for, batch of thoughts and musings on this weird life I've been living for well, a whole bunch of years. 

My husband Paul Williams(more on the cool stuff he's done later), had a bicycle accident in April 15 1995, he was riding his bike home (with no helmet) and it was tax day, he'd finished our taxes and his ex-wives taxes, delivered them to the post office on time and fell off his bike going down a hill too fast. 

It was a weird day, I'd been at a band practice with my group the Garage Orchestra, we were preparing songs of the next album. Afterwards I drove home and had the inclination to stop for a bite to eat, I was starving but something told me to get home sooner. These were the days before rampant use of cell phones, no one I knew had one, expect my booking agent John in England.  But I wanted to wait to eat with Paul and see what he'd been up to this day.

I arrived home and no one was there (we've lived in the same apartment building by the beach since 1994.) A neighbor came by and hollered for me to go see Paul at the end of the street, he'd fallen off of his bike and an ambulance was there. I  ran down the hill just in time to catch a ride with the paramedics. Paul looked dazed and there was blood coming out of his ear. The EMT's decided it was the job for the big hospital which has ICU's and big time surgeons. Remarkably, Paul and I had JUST started taking Kaiser Health insurance and were accepted a week before his traumatic brain injury.

A couple of friends just now came by and waylaid me from the finishing of this here first blog, now I'm tired and I've gotta get my son off to school at 8AM so I'll sign off for now. More to come.