Dad has always been a real talker, and not just a gabber, but an informed conversationalist. He loved to talk while he was driving and he could drive and see everything around and note all the changes in the landscape. He would always know what crop was growing in the field, what new construction project was going up, how the water was transported from one place to the next and where it came from, to name just a few things he could talk informedly about. If there is one thing I miss most about who dad used to be before the Alzheimer’s, it’s that.
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
I dedicate this song to William Tell Mitchell who passed away one year ago this coming Thursday. At 1:08 Stevie gets so choked up that he can’t sing. Nothing like having a great band to have your back when this happens. Like all of William’s friends.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my teachers from my “college years,” and I started searching the UCSC Professors via Google. I come to find out that in the 18 (!) years since I took Beth Stephen’s 3-D Art Installation & Performance Class, she married Annie Sprinkle, and just recently received a $20,000 Rydell Fellowship grant! It makes me feel so privileged and grateful to have had some truly great teachers in my life.
So… tonight my mother is sitting with me at the dinner table and we’re listening to Sibelius and I’m asking her how Dad got exposed to all this music, all this *culture*
and she said, well, we both enjoyed the Classical, and I said, but he was the one who introduced the stuff like Jazz… like Miles Davis… how did he learn about that? And she said, his brother Richard, which I already kind of knew, and then I was curious about Richard..
because, you see, they all grew up in Indio, California. A small desert community where there was a Chinese section and a Mexican section and well, the blacks, as mom put it, weren’t “allowed” to live in town so they lived out in the country.. “In a shantytown?” I asked, yes, in a shantytown..
So how did Richard get to know black music?
My mother looked at me squarely and without a tinge of irony in her voice she asked, “Is Miles Davis *black?*”
Um… yes, mom, Miles Davis is about as black as black can get. I laughed; I cracked up. I was in complete shock and awe that my mother, after all these years of listening to Miles, she never knew the dude was black. I got the pictures off the web and showed her. Hm. Yes, he’s black alright. “He looks like he should be running around naked on an Island somewhere.” Yup. “He looks *mean.”* Yup. Pissed. I said, Miles was a little pissed off, to say the least. But he wrote and blew the most beautiful ballads imaginable. Among other things.
Saturday, my favorite day. This is probably one reason why, whenever I’ve gotten a job doing “customer service,” be it in a Hotel lobby or a restaurant, it’s lasted about two weeks, but then I miss my Saturdays. Retail, too. It’s the same. Today, my Saturday is uninterrupted, and thus sublime. I get to multi-task, but on the things I like: cooking, music, beer, dog. Not necessarily in that order. Currently, I’ve been downloading Dad’s wonderous CD collection. I see now where I got my love of music of all kinds! Lots of classic jass and “classical” of a broad range. Lots of fabulous female vocalists. I am at this moment listening to Victoria De Las Angeles singing Duparc. A harp chimes in. It is heavenly. This music has sat her for a long time unlistened to. I am bringing it back to life and “ripping” them onto my Mac.
The one “smart playlist” lacking in anything is the “Rap/Hiphop” genre. I plan to look into that and find something worthy of sitting in the same company with the greats of Jazz and Classical. I know they must exist. I have a smart playlist for Marvin Gaye because he is in a category all his own. I also need to add more to the Rock genre because most of what we owned were albums. Doors, Beatles, Zepplin… and to Country, of which I really only like the classic Country artists, and to the “Singer-Songwriter” category as well. But for now, I’m adding Dad’s stuff. Sinatra, Tony Bennett, lots of Jazz, Opera, and Classical. Stuff I doubt exists in most music stores anymore. So, I’m ripping it, for the love of God.
Negronis go quite well with Carmen McCrae. My mother comes home and tells me to turn the light off that’s over my computer because it “wastes a lot of electricity.” I have been in a flow all day, cooking roast chicken, indeed, setting up a candlelight dinner for my mother’s arrival, and she tells me to turn off this light because it will waste electricity! Mothers. Well, I am listening to Tony Bennett now and suggesting we get dad an iPod. She finds many ways to dissuade my suggestion, but finally it comes down to cost. I tell her how much time I have spent ripping these Cd’s onto my computer, and how she could fit all of these Cd’s on a tiny device, not only for Dad, but for herself! She finally, begrudgingly admits that I “have a good argument.” But she still won’t let go because, as she puts it, she is “saving” money “just in case” Dad lives longer than three years, so she can continue the care he has now. This, it turns out, is what dominates my mother’s waking hours– how to keep up Don’s care as-is after the three-year-just-in-case-scenario.
I give her the imprudent advice to just give it up to the Universe. NOW is the time that she should begin her life and skirt the fray of EXTRAVAGANCE. She tells me she doesn’t want to be “extravagant.” I said, I don’t mean in the way of Oscar Wilde extravagance, but just in the way of Marylyn Villeneuve letting go of control extravagance. I said, “Like Jewel– be more like Jewel!” and she said, “I don’t want to be like Jewel! I think Jewel is ridiculous when she’s that way!” and I said, so? Be ridiculous! It’s time to let yourself be ridiculous!
We both need to be more ridiculous! Here here for ridiculousness!