Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lost and Found

Before we start I'd like to put out a little request. If you are someone that is or has cared for a loved one in or out of a nursing facility I"d love to hear your comments. Several of you have written to me by email about your experiences and I'd love it if you felt free to talk about them here. It has always been my hope from the inception of this blog that we could create a kind of community to support one another through this passage of time....That being said, I'd love to hear about music too.


When I was 11 years old my sixth grade teacher discovered I could read (she tested me by making me read 2001: A Space Odyssey, goodie!) she had me borrow a book of hers acquired in college which had classic short stories and I took it home. After a week I'd read about 4 stories and thought the best was a fictional account of Paul Revere's ride narrated by a dentist from that era.

It was Sunday night, I had to take the book back to school the next day but I couldn't find it. It was lost. I'd looked everywhere. I remember that night standing in the bathroom staring at myself in the mirror praying that God would send me a sign and help me find the book. I knew it had some sentimental value to the teacher and would be irreplaceable. If God could just give me a sign somehow...Then it happened. I got a headache. I laid on my bed moaning to myself how I'd messed up big time and lost the teachers special book. I was on my bed when my mom came in the room she suggested I go get an aspirin, I did and it turned out the book was on the shelf next to the aspirins. Wow, just like that I was saved. The sign was actually there, the headache was the sign from God I was looking for.

I like it better when the signs from the heavens are non pain inducing.


After our white German Shepard, Duke, was either stolen or ran away, a new dog started showing up in our yard. We named her Lady. Whenever we'd take the horses out on trail rides up into the hills, going away for hours at a time, she'd come along. She was a yellowy mid size mutt and a happy girl. In contrast Duke had always been somewhat sad and brooding, probably because he'd been abandoned by the previous owners of our house. I imagined Lady to be like those 60s Lassie stories, an irresistible happy go lucky dog that people fell in love with and adopted for a month and then she'd be on her way a rogue at heart, ready for the next adventure.

Her adventure with us included puppies, which were born in the horses tack and feed barn. Within a month we had another surprise our new horse, whom we'd been surprised to find pregnant, foaled and we had a sweet little girl horse to play with after school. A time of abundance. Surprises abounded.

* * *
A week ago a friend of ours here at the blog passed away, . His name was Larry (L.A.) Johnson, he was at home on his houseboat in Redwood City, he was 62. He's picture is still on the list of subscribers.

I met Larry by phone in 2007 when I was organizing a series of shows at the hip Los Angeles venue, Largo. The shows were protesting the war in Iraq and at the same time celebrating the community of musicians that were featured at Neil Young's Living With War website. Several hundred of us had written songs about the war and they were up on the site for folks to listen to, each listen became a "vote" and one of my songs went into the top 10. Then a few months later a mysterious journalist wrote a rave review of the song and signed it RB Warford. Larry told me later it was likely a surprise attack from Neil himself, who apparently likes to cloak himself in the 'garb of the every man and wander amongst the natives'. Of course I was thrilled.

At any rate, Larry brought a film crew down to the first Largo show and interviewed me and some of the other musicians while we were doing our thing. It was alot of fun and I'm told that film still lives there in the official archive next to some valuable piece of Neil performance.

Larry was a film maker that was one of the primary cinematographers on the Woodstock film. I'm pretty sure he also helped film Dylan's film 'Renaldo and Clara'. But for many years, the last 20 or more, he was Neil Young's production manager and friend.

Larry and I stayed friends by email and phone and he was always supportive of my musical efforts and particularly my organizing of benefits, often calling it the "good work". He has a mother with dementia and we talked at times about our loved ones suffering from the condition. He will be missed.

* * *

A week ago Aviara, the nursing home where Paul lives, lost his hearing aids. I've been too upset to write about this. It's confounding, frustrating and infuriating. He can barely hear without them. And they cost a bundle, about two thousand dollars. I'd been afraid of this, so when they were new, before I even took them in, I put Paul's name on them with bright red fingernail polish. Bleh.

I looked through all the drawers all of his dirty laundry, which by the way has been piling up for over a week. I looked under and around his bed. Nowhere.

On Monday I left a message with the "social worker" at the home, I left 2 messages actually, and didn't get a return call. So I went in today and looked some more and brought home the papers to fill out a formal complaint. Whatever.

While I was there someone from the family of Paul's room mate, an elderly man in his 80s, talked with me about her experiences with lost hearing aids. "One was crushed, another set was found in the washing machine, the third and fourth just disappeared", I'm paraphrasing but you get the idea. "A pair specially ordered slippers" lasted a month.

Where do they go?

Things I found this week:
The new song about Haiti (see below), an upbeat email from my friend Lenny Kaye, A few new guitar students, Some chat room time with old friend Lynne Robinson, A new gig for February, My picture in the Taylor magazine arrived today, Some quality time with Paul doing a crossword puzzle together (he didn't have to hear me for that), Paul's son Taiyo will be coming to visit around Easter, Paul's friend Philip K Dick's daughter will be visiting early March, I remembered that I like to play music in front of people last week when I played at Ducky Waddles Emporium, being flirted with by a couple of guys, Alexander is writing a science fiction story.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Song For Haiti: "Almighty InBetween"

This is what we do as people, when we are faced with such utter horror as what we have seen from this safe distance, so many thousands of miles from Haiti. And after we have texted our 10 dollar donation and given at church for the disaster relief fund and we are still left with an aching that makes us question our deepest understandings of life. We pray. This is my prayer for the people of Haiti, inspired by their singing in the streets, the improbable and astounding tales of rescues, and a passage from the book of Kings (I Kings 19).

If the this video isn't working you can watch it here:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Love And Theft and Jim Morrison

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 flight together in the 60s. Paul, very enthusiastic about a Vonnegut book 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 Vonnegut 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 now I am fading, I must retreat into the shadowy land of sleep. xo, clb

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just Like Starting Over

I'm happy. Really, I can't remember the last time a change of decade made me so happy. It's like looking at the house you've been living in for the last 10 years-- on the outside-- for the first time, noticing its windows and doors have fallen off and it's on a cracked slab-- and wondering how you did it.

I really feel like I'm starting over, all over again. I've noticed, I do seem to run my life in 10 year cycles, though involuntarily, with the end of times happening on the nine year and
starting anew on the one.

For example, a New York boyfriend and I broke up at the end of 1989 and I started my new life in 1990 moving back out west. Or.... Paul and I broke up in 1999, lived apart for a year, I found a new life for awhile in Los Angeles, dated some interesting guys had some fun times, wrote songs and then a year later Paul and I found out we still wanted to be together.

The first time I crashed on a nine year was in 1979. I was in an unknown garage punk band and living in Hollywood (aka Hollow ood), we called ourselves The Stoopuds. I lived with the guitar player who was 23 and his girlfriend Jane, who was 45 in a studio apartment on Hollywood Blvd. Life sucked, but so what. I thought that was the "dues you must pay" to make it, or at least to be a real punk like our neighbor Darby Crash. The dues I paid actually turned out to be a severe depression I fell into after the bass player tried to kill himself with a safety blade razor and got into a car wreck because I wouldn't be his girlfriend. So much for making it at 20. I moved back home to little Ramona and tried to pull myself out of my first depression without medication. I did do it, but it took about 5 years. Antidepressants work so much better and you don't have to lose all those precious years. But I didn't know that back then.

At any rate, I'm at the start of a new cycle. I'm feeling excited and hopeful, things are looking up. In September I'll be touring Italy and in June Alexander and I are going to the east coast for a family and friend vacation (and probably a few shows). I've got the start of a new album brewing, having written about six new songs in the past six months. It's finally getting easier to do things for myself, having spent so many years care giving.

Some of my friends expected me to cut loose and start partying and dating once Paul got placed in a nursing home but it didn't work that way for me. The past six months has been a kind of inward journey which has been good for my writing. I think I felt bad, even guilty, living an independent life while my partner was losing it to dementia in a stinking nursing home. I suppose it's the survivors guilt syndrome. Just give me a year and maybe I'll become a celebrity party queen like Tiger Woods adulteress, Rachel Uchitel, who lost her first husband in the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.....or not. At any rate, life starts anew.

Happy New Year 2010.
hugs and kisses, cindy lee b