Monday, September 26, 2016

LOVE AND THEFT AND JIM MORRISON (originally posted 1/6/2010)

So what does become of a Love Life when the spouse goes into a nursing home? And you aren't 70 years old. And you have an eight year old child. And you're not even old enough to look back fondly on all the years gone by from your retirement recliner (does retirement exist anymore for anyone out there, post 2009?).

Sometimes I feel ripped off. I used to think, when I was a young adult, that when bad things happened to people it was because they brought it on themselves somehow. I'm not sure how, but it was their fault. I got involved with a group of older friends that believed that thoughts can be things. So I quickly surmised that it'd been my fault somehow that my mom died of cancer when I was eight years old. Was it my fault then, that Paul fell in love with me, moved to Encinitas, rode his bike to the Post office to turn in our 1995 taxes and fell off his bike on the way home?

The sun rises on the good and the evil, and it rains on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45) Then there is this line from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. I don't think it's the hand of god, it's just the nature of things, like entropy-things fall apart.

Speaking of falling apart I'm worried about Paul's teeth. I got a look at his gums and now I realize he hasn't been brushing and no one at the nursing home is looking after his teeth. So I'm gonna have to go on the gentle war path again and set up a meeting and make sure they are standing over him while he brushes. I figure the home is used to the old guys in their 90s and who cares if they lose their teeth, but Paul is 61 and I'm sure he'll live another 40 like his parents, so lets keep them. And I made an appointment for him to get one of those damned root planings, that we all hate, but saves our teeth.

Yesterday I had to hustle Paul back to his nursing home after I took him out for a smoothie. I was in a rush so I could make it to work on time. I pulled him along to the car trying to get him to walk quicker. Do you remember the "old guy" in the Carol Burnett Comedy Hour, that shuffle walked with tiny little old man steps? That's what I'm dealing with. Paul got testy and yelled "Stop pushing me". It was the old Paul and I was happy to see the old temper flare up. He was never someone to push around.

There are a number of great stories of Paul's famously volcanic anger. My personal favorite was when he and Jim Morrison of the Doors were on a commercial plane ride together in the 1960s. Paul, very enthusiastic about a new Thomas Pynchon book, The Crying of Lot 49, he'd just read and had in hand, talked to Morrison about the book and then gave him his copy during the flight. The plane landed and they disembarked from the plane, down one of those outside staircases you see pictures of The Beatles waving from. As they were walking down the stairs Paul noticed that Jim Morrison didn't have the Pynchon book on him. Incensed, he screamed at Morrison and made him go back on the plane and retrieve the book. Morrison did as he was told.

Paul later got to march and cock rifles on Unknown Soldier. He actually liked the Doors quite a lot but thought of Morrison as a bit of an asshole and a drunk- but with amazing stage presence. And he was a very good friend of their producer Paul Rothchild. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Some reworking and editing of a post from 6/25/10

Paul's new glasses came in today. I'll take a picture this weekend and put it up. I was too tired and hungry after work to go over to the nursing home and put them on him, plus I'm going to need to put his name or his initials on the arms so they lose any potential "resale" value.

Do you ever wonder why it is that some aspect of your life turned out to be like a significant book you read as an adolescent? That would be Flowers For Algernon (Daniel Keyes) in my case.

In short, the story is told from the perspective of a man who had been born mentally disabled and undergoes an experimental surgery, which increases his intelligence. Through his journal entries you follow along with his increased abilities and eventually his slow deterioration back into his disability.

When I was in the eighth grade we had to read the short story, it was in our textbook and I was stunned that something so good could be in a schoolbook. (Apparently it won the Hugo Award for best science fiction story in 1960) I bought the full-length novel and dove in. Originally published in 1966 it became a joint Nebula Award winner for best novel. But I wouldn't have known or cared about that stuff then.

It was the 70s and I had arrived at the age where the first child of the family adventures out on their own into new and unknown radio territories. I must admit, though I loved music, I was very naive and unhip about what was going on in the world of pop. But I found a new station with the whirl of a dial that I dug deeply, and it became the soundtrack to Flowers For Algernon.

Here's a list of some of the songs I fell in love with: Eighteen With A Bullet, Me and Mrs. Jones, Using Me ('til You Use Me Up), Ben (especially poignant since it was about a rat and Algernon was a mouse), Shaft, What's Goin' On, Backstabbers....

The other station I listened to occasionally and when I wasn't reading the book had a few good songs but some dumb ones too. I liked The Needle And The Damage Done even though it was a scary song about drugs and I hated a song about a guy named Guitarzan. There was also a lady that sang about how terrible it was going to be to turn 17 (Janis Ian), dang it was gonna be depressing apparently.

So I stuck to my newfound radio station. I didn't realize at the time that it was for young black urbanites. For me these new songs were the sound track to this grand novel I'd discovered.

The parallel: When Paul had his bike accident way back in 1995,  I was with him through all of the various forms of rehab. Even then I thought occasionally of the book parallel. Paul's doctors said his recovery from such a devastating brain injury was miraculous.

I watched Paul go from his early days in rehab, answering simple questions about the date and the president to his later rehab days of having intellectual conversations with the cognitive therapist, her saying to me "There's no reason for him to be here".

Then in the past 6 years the slow, unstoppable descent into dementia. Flowers For Algernon the book had been my white mouse, doing a dry run before the real thing.

I don't see it all as a complete loss. We had eight years together after his brain injury where he lived a normal life as a writer, lover and father. And I don’t see it as a simple tragedy. Even the character Charly, knew he had done something very important for humanity, even in his final days of blissful naivete.

Paul enjoys looking at his books now and sometimes reads passages from them. Last year I asked him if he missed writing, he gave it careful thought and answered flatly, "no". And I could see he was alright with that.

He wrote more than 30 books. His words and perspective live on through them.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

PART 2: PAUL S WILLIAMS BIO PIC--The Crawdaddy Magazine Years

Paul starts CRAWDADDY! Magazine January 1966 out of his dorm at Swarthmore College. But by the fourth copy he has dropped out of college, moved back to Boston and gotten a little bit of funding from his grandfather Phil Williams, who wanted to support his grandson's burgeoning business. We pick up the story from there...

15. Paul sez “Jon Landau, certainly one of the best and most influential critics of the rock era, debuted as a rock writer in the fifth issue of CRAWDADDY!, September 1966. Paul now back in Boston was going to Club 47 three nights a week and hunting down rock and roll shows where ever he could,the rest of the week. Flipping for bands like The Animals’ two hour show at Rindge Tech, The Rolling Stones at Boston Garden and Lynn Football Stadium, The Beatles at Suffolk Down “plainly audible, beautiful to look at, and confirmation that we—and I—existed as a special body of people who understood the power and the glory of rock ‘n’ roll.” 

Jon Landau: "during those few short years we changed each other's lives--he certainly changed mine more than the other way around.  From the day he walked into the old Briggs and Briggs Records and Instruments store in Harvard Square, where I was a high school student with a summer job behind the counter, we started talking and talking and talking about music, music, nothing but music.  He was trying to get the store to carry the first issue of Crawdaddy! and I convinced my boss to let him put it by the register. When he came back the following week, I had read it and I volunteered.  With my classic teenage arrogance, I announced that I could do better than any of the writers in that issue, including him.  He responded,  'Ok, Mr. Bigmouth, give it a try'  Which is how I came to be a rock critic." 

16. Between the fifth and sixth issues Paul took a 2,200 miles “mostly business trip”, hitchhiking from Boston to New York, Cleveland to Chicago, and Wisconsin and back. In Chicago on a blues fan’s pilgrimage Paul stopped at Chess Records’ recording studios which resulted in a full page ad in CRAWDADDY! and an assignment to write the liner notes for new albums (each called More Real Folk Blues) for artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Sonny Boy Williamson. When Paul gets back to Boston a local magazine distributor has ordered 2,000 copies of the sixth issue, which now has a print run of 2,800 copies (up from 1,500 copies of the previous issue).

17. The Sixth Issue of CRAWDADDY! was published Oct 20, 1966 (the first issue of Rolling Stone debuted November 1967), in a print run of 2,800 copies, up from 1,500 copies of the previous issue. Paul writes, “….sales of the fifth issue had been good enough to attract the interest of a local magazine distributor who ordered 2,000 copies of the sixth issue. Tim Jurgens, a young subscriber from San Francisco moved to Boston to help out as an editorial assistant. Paul wrote, “ I don’t think I could have made it through the next few months of the magazine’s progress and rapid growth without Tim Jurgen’s friendship and hard-working support”.

18. In mid November CRAWDADDY! moved to New York City. Paul writes in The Crawdaddy Book (Hal Leonard), “The new office was a big second-floor room overlooking Greenwich Village (I used to spend a lot of time sitting on the ledge of a large open window with headphones on, watching the endless parade of people walking across Sixth Avenue and Third Street)." The room had previously been a guitar shop called Fretted Instruments, and the walls “were pleasantly lined with natural-looking pine planks installed by the former tenant”. “All of us (additional staff persons came along soon) did much of our work on a huge table in the center of the office. There was a small back room with no windows (halfway up the stairs from the street) where Tim Jurgens (the assistant editor, also from Boston) and I slept,” Paul writes in the Crawdaddy Book. An article was written in the Village Voice of CRAWDADDY’s arrival, it was just the beginning of a lot of press attention.

Paul in Newsweek

19. Ralph Gleason from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on January 1967, “The most interesting publication in the U.S. covering the rock scene is a magazine called Crawdaddy….it is devoted with religious fervor to the rock scene.”

20. The seventh issue of CRAWDADDY! came off the press the first week of December ’66. There weren’t many ads yet but there was a new look. The typeface inside had changed, Paul was now leasing an IBM “Executive” typewriter, the resulting page looking more like other magazines of that era, “Instead of looking like a letter from a friend typed on an ordinary typewriter”, writes Paul. 
The seventh issue is notable in hindsight for its opening sentences raving about the Doors (“the best new band I’ve seen this year...”)—the first mention of the Doors in a national publication. Paul had been given an acetate of the Door’s forthcoming album after he watched them make a promo film at the Elecktra office for their first single, Break On Through to the Other Side”. Paul had befriended their producer Paul Rothchild, at a Loving Spoonful show back in Cambridge at Club 47. 
The list of writers that wrote for CRAWDADDY! expanded. Paul said, “Crawdaddy! didn’t have any money to pay its writers, so writers wrote for us mostly as a way of communicating their enthusiasm for, the music they loved”. Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer both came from Stony Brook, Long Island, Peter Guralnick and Jon Landau from Boston, David Hartwell was a childhood friend from the world of science fiction, an illustrious list of writers, rock producer/managers and editors that would all make their mark in the world of popular culture.
In the Crawdaddy Book, Paul writes: 
“Before we finished putting the next issue together, I made my first ever visit to California (thanks to a mid-sixties phenomenon called Youth Fare, which provided half-price airfare to those under twenty six). In LA I met the Buffalo Springfield and saw them do a great show at the Whiskey A Go-Go, and I spent a few days with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and attended a recording session for the never-finished SMiLe album. In San Francisco I was very impressed by Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Arc in Sausalito, and Moby Grape at the Avalon Ballroom, and Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead New Year’s Eve at the Fillmore. It was a good time to be a young music lover.”

In December Paul spent several days as a guest at Brian Wilson’s home in the Hollywood Hills. It was during the wildly creative Smile era and Paul stayed in Brian’s tent, which was in a sand box in his living room, next to the piano. The first time Paul smoked pot was with Brian in this oriental style tent. Brian played Paul the early acetates of Heroes and Villains and some of the other SMILE songs, which were never officially released. One day Paul spent time with Brian and the Beach Boys at the studio and remembered singing odd sounds and noises on one track (probably “Barnyard”-ed). And Paul was witness to this moment: “I was visiting a Beach Boys recording session in Dec. 1966 when Carl Wilson walked in with a record he’d just bought, something he’d fallen in love with during the group’s recent trip to England (Gimme Some Lovin’ by the Spencer Davis Group). He put it on a turntable eager to hear it--stopped after a minute and tried again--then grabbed the record and broke it over his knee in fury. He’d just discovered that the American record company had remixed the song in an attempt to make it more appealing to the U.S. market.”