Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Have Arrived At Christmastime

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:

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.