I guess I should make it clear at the
beginning that this
"blob" (so called because it's formless, shapeless and has no content)
isn't a regularly
event. I make sporadic notes here when the
spirit moves me, when it's not too hot or too cold, when I have
something to say,
when the planets are in the right alignment, etc. When it gets too
long, I delete the oldest entries; ahhh, how ephemeral is life. If I
don't post every
day it does NOT mean that I'm dead. :-)
Santa Barbara was its usual acres of fun - and Mark and I had dinner
after the contest with my dear friend Peter Feldmann and the lovely Ms.
Francine, at our usual stop, Harry's. I managed not to fall off the
stage at any point during the festivities, and the next day we
wandered around downtown, for awhile before coming home. I didn't buy
Have now had my fun with the Magic Castle - after several years of
membership it has become too costly, what with my reduced income and
all, so waved it a nice goodbye in company with Rex and Joan, Tom and
Claire, and Jim. A good dinner, followed by some magic shows, and
nobody got sawn in half.
Bluegrass surprise du jour - Loafer's Glory did a last minute show at
Viva Cantina last Monday, and Jennifer met me there for dinner. First
time I ever got to stay for two sets! (I used to have to leave early
because I had to be up for work the next morning, but no more. They are
pondering a second album, which is good. They sang me some gospel
songs; there's nothing like that three and four part gospel harmony.
Something went wrong with the web site. Apparently it was hacked, and
anyone trying to access it got a warning message that this site is
corrupted, or something like that. Between Claire, Josh and Steve
Shapiro I think it's sorted out, but it was a MESS to deal with.
Had a great time at the recent music biz meetings, visiting with
friends, having a huge dinner out with most of the gang, etc. Scott and
Johnette and Mark and I went to the Castle one night, and had lots of
fun (and nobody got sawn in half, which was a relief to us all).
Meanwhile, the Dodgers made the playoffs, but now they are losing to
the Cardinals. Oh well.
I volunteered at Eliza's school this weekend; they had one
of those schoolyard carnivals, with rides and booths and junk food and
balloons. The deal is that if a parent (or
grandparent) volunteers for a shift at school events, they knock
something off the tuition, and since I'm not working it seemed like a
good idea. Only after I got there did I learn that it was
90+ degrees all weekend. Sigh.
Jennifer and I went to the Pasadena City College Swap Meet last Sunday
morning; the kittens have managed to knock over and break several of my
old cups and glasses, and I thought I could find replacements there;
I've seen them many times, for
pretty cheap. Not this time; we saw exactly ONE, and it was stupidly
overpriced. On the other hand, Jennifer found something she wasn't
looking for, and had wanted for years! So that was a happy surprise.
Looking forward to my next, and maybe last, trip to the Castle in a
couple of weeks, with Rex and Joan and Tom and Claire and Jim. The
Halloween decorations are always amazing, so it will be a fun way to
say goodbye. I am letting my membership expire at the end of the year,
so I want to get my money's worth, so to speak, before then.
My Social Security is on hold, as is the whole government; my
application is in process, and I got a letter confirming that I was in
the system, but no actual money has shown up yet. Hopefully when
the government stabilizes itself they will resume processing
applications, including mine.
Looking forward to tomorrow, when I will get up early and head north to
the Old Time Fiddlers Convention in
Santa Barbara. Mark will drive up
with me, bless him; I am not sure how strong I am these days, and
standing on a stage for eight hours is harder than it looks; it will be
good to have him with me in case I need a boost from time to time. Am
staying overnight up there - no way I can drive back after that long a
day. A nice breakfast the next morning, window shopping along State
Street, and then a leisurely drive down the coast road. Ahhhh, fun.
I've moved my trip to New
Orleans to January, and then might make a separate trip to Kansas City
in February for Folk Alliance if they can manage to find me a hotel
room and comp my registration. (Hooray for Amtrak frequent rider miles,
which enable to me make both trips for less money than the cost of
The Dodgers won the west! Yee-haw! Josh is going to try to get tickets
to at least one of the playoff games. My secret hope is that the
World Series ends up being Dodgers vs Boston Red Sox - now THAT will be
So it turns out that there's a new deal these days with unemployment
I have never gotten it before, I thought that they sent you a check
each week or each month or whatever. But no. That's so yesterday!
Although I finally got my first payment, it wasn't a check - instead,
sent me a Visa debit card, pre-loaded with the amount of my stipend,
and they will re-load the card each week. After much back and forth on
the phone, I've learned that what this means is that I must take the
card to any Bank of America ATM, withdraw the total amount of the
payment, and then take the cash to my own bank and deposit it, in order
to write checks on it to pay my bills. A colossal waste of time, but
they own the playing field so they get to make the rules.
The other government beaurocracy I dealt with this week was much
easier. I applied for Social Security online. Fill in things, next
page, fill in more things, next page, etc. and hit submit. You'll hear
from us, they say. Gosh, this is exciting.
This seems to be a time of great change and many losses; it has,
of course, something to do with the fact that as I get older, so do all
my friends. Still, this is a particularly hard season. An old friend
from Ash Grove days, Rita Weill Byxbe, died yesterday of cancer that
moved so fast there wasn't even time to pursue treatment; another
friend, also from the Sweets Mill Music Camp family, mandolinist and
singer Kenny Hall, died at nearly 90 after having had a heart attack a
few weeks before. And a third, Gene McGeorge, a founding
member of the Scragg Family bluegrass band, is dying at home in hospice
care, tended by his wife of about 50 years, my dear friend Kajsa Ohman.
I will be making my final
trip to New
Orleans in January, and then to Kansas City for Folk Alliance in
Social Security doesn't allow for luxuries like travel and hotels, so
will be my last go round. It'll be fun - Tony will come over from
London, and we'll
do it up in style.
My newest granddaughter appears to be thriving in utero, Kate feels
Eliza has been proposing names. "We need to give my baby sister a FAIRY
name, Grandma," she says firmly. So far her choices are Rosetta
Aldin, Tinker Bell Lollipop Aldin, and Brontosaurus Rita Aldin. I
suspect, however, that one of the more conventional names that are
actually on Josh and
Kate's list, currently taped to the refrigerator door next to the
sonogram, will prevail. Jennifer narrowly escaped being named
Guinevere, as I was reading "The Once and Future King" while I
was pregnant with her, but sanity (and the thought of how she'd
be teased at school ) won out, and I gave her the Americanization of
that name instead.
Speaking of Jennifer (with
whom I am now
having lunch once a week - hooray!), she told
me today that Disneyland has quietly instituted a new
policy, without any publicity that I've heard of. Each person who buys
a ticket at their box office or online (that is, each person who enters
the park who is NOT an annual passholder) is photographed, in closeup,
and the photo is then attached via scanner to their ticket stub. This
is, they claim, to keep people from buying a ticket, using it for half
a day, then exiting and giving their ticket stub to a friend to use to
enter the park without paying. This is so "Big Brother is watching you"
that it has about made me decide that, sadly, I no longer need the
Magic Kingdom in my life. The kids will of course continue to take
Eliza to the House of Mouse, but I really feel invaded by this policy
and just don't want to
go there any more. Makes me very sad, and at the same time leaves a
very bad taste in my
Jim and I went to Ian's gig at Cantalini's - which was great - he is
getting better and stronger every time I see him. And next week is my
pal Billy Vera's Big Band gig at Catalina's (not the same thing as
Cantalini's). WHAT a social butterfly I am! Speaking of socializing, I
have Grammy committee meetings all next week, which means that several
of my good friends are coming in to town for them - folks that I don't
often get to see. My pals Scott Billington and Johnette Downing just
married (!) in Italy (!) and we're going to the Magic Castle on Sunday
night to celebrate.
Looking forward to October 13 and my annual drive up to Santa Barbara
to emcee the Old Time Fiddlers Convention. I'll stay overnight up there
and relax a bit - I can use it!
There have been so many endings lately, and here's another; my last day
at the company where I have worked for a quarter-century (and three
generations of one family) was Friday. I'm wondering how long it will
take my body to stop waking up at 4:30 every morning, ahead of the
alarm that I set for 4:45. In the annals of Many Things I Never Knew,
it turns out that one can now apply for unemployment insurance online!
Had (another!) eye operation last week, but unfortunately something
went wrong, and I'm not sure what the future holds for that eye. It was
always my "bad eye" anyway, being the one that had the first and worst
detached retina. Hopefully it will "clear" soon.
Jim and I visited our pal Ian in the hospital - something went haywire
with his heart, and he will need a corrective op. He seemed pretty
normal to me, grumbling about the food and the nurses and life in
general. Once a curmudgeon, always a curmudgeon.
The Dodgers knew I needed a boost, so they have very kindly been
winning every game they play, and are now in first place and 8 1/2
games ahead of the nearest competitors in the NL West. All this for me?
Thanks, guys! I don't need to go to any games; the kids have one of
those almost-covers-a-whole-wall television screens in the living room,
so I get a better view than I possibly could at the park, though
without the Dodger Dogs, alas. They need to send Puig to his room for a
time-out, ASAP. Sure, it's okay to be a hustler, and even a hot dog,
but he's so reckless that he
has potentially lost us a couple of crucial games, which were only
saved by his teammates. He lacks self-discipline.
Today is Fran's memorial service (at a Middle Eastern restaurant!); she
was an old friend (literally - I think she was 94 or thereabouts when
she died); then depending on my exhaustion level Jim and I *might* go
hear Ian at Cantalini's tonight.
Next weekend is Eliza' 4th birthday party; her actual birthday has come
and gone, but Kate (who's a lawyer) had a seminar that weekend so we
moved it back a bit. 37 people have RSVPd so far. I think I'll lock
myself in my room. For the next two weeks I'm on full-time Grandma
duty; it's Eliza's "gap time" - summer school ended Friday, and regular
school doesn't start until the day after Labor Day - and I am trying to
plan a lot of daytime activities that we can do together over the next
two weeks that will get her OUT of the house. Preferably free things
(the park, the beach) or very cheap things (the pony rides, etc.), but
I think she has her heart set on a day at the zoo. My
unemployment may take up to six weeks (!) to kick in, although I'm told
that once it does arrive they'll pay me retroactively for the weeks I
waited, so I'm just trying to be economical in the meantime. She has
fallen in love with the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (as did her
father before her at the same age!) and I am trying to find a store
that carries Whistle Pops or Toot Sweets; she wants them for the pinata
at her birthday party.
Doing prep for the radio show September 7th; I've been listening to a
lot of new CDs, and am VERY grateful for the invention of the iPod, to
which I downloaded (or is it uploaded - I never remember) many of my
favorite songs before my entire record collection went out the door
when I moved. Somehow I remained on the mailing lists of several
labels, so have plenty of material to put together a 2-hour show.
The Dodgers are knocking it out of the ballpark, literally. I'm back to
watching every game on TV just to see what Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel
Puig will come up with next.
Lots going on as my job comes to an end (in two more weeks) and the
chapter of my life begins. Will try to post here more often; sorry
about all the long gaps.
Kate has a weekend-long seminar over Eliza's birthday, so we are moving
the birthday party back a couple of weekends. There are 22 (!!)
four-year old on the invite list so far. I wonder whether there is any
way someone could invite me to be as far out of town as possible on
that weekend? We are also moving it so that everyone in our family can
go to Fran's memorial. I'm trying to write something, but may end up
just reading a poem.
Alive and Picking returns!
My radio pal Tom Nixon will be out of town, and has asked me to sit in
on his radio show on Saturday, September 7 on KPFK in the old time
slot, Saturday morning 6:00-8:00 a.m. I know I said I was done
with KPFK, but I guess I can sub once in awhile without the world
coming to an end. This means some prep time, but I think I'll put it
off till my job ends and I have more free time.
Jim and I went to hear our friend Ian Whitcomb's performance at
Cantalini's tonight. Ian had a stroke some while back, and although he
doesn't seem to be able to tell, I am seeing and hearing slow,
constant, definite improvement in his performing skills. His speaking
voice has always been understandable to me - I guess my ears are easily
attuned to English accents - and I don't notice any difference in his
speech, barring a little hesitancy, since
the stroke at all. He'll get there, as long as he keeps up the good
work with the rehab.
We've found a replacement for me at work, and she'll begin training
shortly. My last day on the job will be August 9th.
Josh, Kate and I took Eliza to Disneyland this week for a sort
of early-birthday celebration (she will be four years old on August
11th). She had a great time renewing her friendships with Minnie Mouse
and Daisy Duck, and the new Princess Fantasy Faire was right up her
alley. She saw a live stage production of "Tangled" (which was
hilarious), she went on all her favorite rides, and generally wore out
the grownups. This family time with her is especially meaningful and
precious to me
My pals Loafers Glory did two Monday nights in a row at Viva Cantina,
subbing for the vacationing regular band, and I was able to get there
both nights. BOY that live bluegrass is great stuff. I'm about ready
for them to put out a new CD - I've worn out their first one!
Tomorrow would have been Keith's 70th birthday. I still miss him.
Somebody said it would get easier with time - when does that happen?
Ahh, the Dodgers. Just as I was washing my hands of them for the
season, they made one of their mysterious comebacks, and are now
closing in on first place in their division.
I decided not to go to Berkeley for Chris' birthday party after all.
The weekend before I had driven to Santa Barbara for lunch with a
friend, and did just fine making that round trip on my own, but it made
clear to me that driving all the way north was going to be too much for
me to handle alone. I was very sorry to miss seeing my old friend.
Had a great time at the Castle recently with Tom and Claire and Jim.
Saw one of the best magic shows, and one of the funniest, in all my
years there. Unfortunately these days most comedians equate funny with
dirty, and I don't really care for that too much, but the ones we saw
this time around were just funny. And the illusions were the truly
magical kind that left us all saying "how did he DO that?" There's
usually one or two interesting things in each show, but this night
every trick was skillfully done and every illusion perfect. And the
company was great, the food was great - I'm SO glad we went. A few days
later I got a note from Claire that her mother, dear Fran, had died at
94 or whatever age she was. I can't be sad; she had not been well for a
long time. Just sad for Claire's loss.
Had our July second Thursday lunch - just four of us this time, but
just as much fun - at Izzy's Deli in Santa Monica. I guess when my job
ends we can range further afield in choosing where to eat; they have
all been kind enough to come to Santa Monica each month because I (the
only one of
our group with a full time job) have always needed to eat and then get
back to work right
away. But not for long!
Life seems to be all about big transitions anymore. On Monday I had a
talk with Mitch; after 25 years with the company, I just can't stare
at a computer screen eight hours a day any more because of the stupid
glaucoma. So they are finding someone young(er) and in better health;
I'll stay till they do, and help train my replacement. And then I guess
I enter the mysterious world of disability insurance and Medicare, or
unemployment and Social Security, or something. I
have been working full time since I was fourteen years old; I guess I
deserve a rest, but it's going to feel VERY strange not to be
self-sufficient any longer.
Father's Day is tomorrow; Josh said something about a barbecue in the
back yard. How all-American we are! I had hoped to surprise him with
Dodger tickets, but since they are playing in Pittsburgh tomorrow, that
didn't work out (and the way we're playing right now, who wants to
BOTHER going to a game). At breakfast this morning Jim suggested going
to see the Cucamonga Quakes (not making this up) which is the Dodgers'
AA farm team, and Art, a Dodger fan for longer than anyone I know,
agreed. Both Art and I go back to seeing them play at Ebbets Field!
Not sure about going to Berkeley. I really want to see Chris for his
birthday (and all my other friends up there) but it's a LONG
drive on my own, even with a car that will make the trip in good order.
Thinking about it.
Looking forward to next Saturday morning and the Antiques Road Show in
Anaheim. Have about narrowed down which four items I am going to take
to have appraised. Really looking forward to it!
The kittens are growing, cute, rolling around on the floor in play
fights, all those kitten things. Sweet Pea is (still) not amused.
Jennifer's husband, my wonderful son-in-law Bruce, has been laid off
his job, as have so many others in this economy. It was his full time
job that paid the rent and covered them both for medical insurance;
Jennifer works part time and has no benefits. There will be some
scuffling done, but I know they will be fine; our whole family will
pull together to get them through this hard time.
Had lunch with some of my guys yesterday - Andy, Mark, Jim, Billy - at
the Spitfire Grill, a restaurant at the Santa Monica airport. Tomorrow
morning it's breakfast with Art & Jim when they finish their radio
show at 8, then on to a myriad of other errands.
Eliza is out of school all next week, then summer school starts.
New members of the family: Josh and Eliza went shopping on Sunday, and
as luck would have it, there was an "adopt-a-kitten" organization set
up in the parking lot. You can probably tell where this is going; Eliza
gave Josh the Bambi eyes, and he caved. We now have two 7-week-old
kittens named Koufax and Drysdale Aldin. Eliza is in heaven, Josh
they're adorable, and Kate and I are....okay with it. We've both
pointed out, firmly, that kitty cleanup is not going to become our job.
really ARE kind of cute, though Josh's senior citizen cat, the
17-year-old Sweet Pea, is pissed as hell. She wants to eat them for
lunch. We are keeping them separated just now, waiting for that magical
time when Sweet Pea decides that they're okay after all; meanwhile,
guess whose room they sleep in at night? Last night I was used as a
human scratching post, when they weren't playing tag with my hair. More
fun than a barrel of...kittens.
Josh sold my old car today, via Craigs List, so that chapter is closed.
Nice of him to help me do that, as I had pretty much decided just to
donate it to some charity or other, but he said to let him try to sell
it first - and bingo!
Had a nice evening at the Magic Castle - my guests who had originally
asked to go ended up not coming after all, so instead Josh invited his
friend Mitch, and we were a foursome. GOOD show this time, although a
bit too theatrical for my taste - but all the illusions were
brilliantly executed, and dinner was good too! Probably going back in
July with Tom and Claire.
Topanga was great. It's one of my favorite things to do all year, along
with emceeing the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers Convention every
October. Shepherding little kids on and off the stage, some of them
staggering under instruments that are almost bigger than they are, is
SO much fun. But unlike Santa Barbara, Topanga is always so HOT - and
every year I forget how hot it is, and wind up overdoing it and having
to sit down and gasp like a beached whale.
Got my tickets to Antiques Road Show in the mail, but Jennifer won't be
able to go with me, as she will be out of town with Bruce at his
parents' 50th (!) wedding anniversary. Darn - it would be so much more
fun with her.
Lunch with Jim at Astro, as usual, and our pal Ray Campi showed up! Did
we talk about rockabilly? Heck no - it was all about old movies and old
An old girlfriend of Kate's is in town and staying with us - I went to
Target and bought a queen-size air mattress, with a little TINY thing
about the size of a thumb drive that you plug in to the wall and the
other end into the mattress and it blows itself up in about two
minutes? REALLY fast, anyway, but you have to pay attention: it doesn't
turn itself off, and if you overfill it, the resulting explosion could
take your head off.
Mother's Day today; note to self, go out and get some flowers for Kate.
The kids are fishing at Big Bear (Eliza has a shiny pink fishing pole
of her very own), so I have a peaceful weekend at home alone. We went
out to our usual family Mother's Day dinner last Wednesday, all five of
the kids and me squeezed into a booth at Torung for Thai food and a
good long visit. Late lunch with Jim and Art on Friday at Victors, and
with Jim again Saturday at Astroburger; I now realize that I have two
sets of friends named Jim and Art! There's Jim Dawson and Art Fein (who
gave me a joint Mother's Day card, despite the fact that I am not even
remotely their mother), and Jim Moran and Art Podell, my monthly
breakfast krewe at the Good Neighbor on Saturday mornings after their
KPFK radio show. I tellya!
Last night, Ash Grove reunion time (albeit at McCabe's). Roland White
was playing, and I finally got to see and collect my stash of CDs as
payment for writing the liner notes for his and Diane's new Kentucky
Colonels Live in Holland release; Ed Pearl, Ash Grove owner and my
former boss, was in the audience and came up to the dressing room to
visit, and Ry Cooder was there too, another Ash Grove friend, and he
and Herb Pedersen and Roland sat on the couch in the dressing room
singing gospel music, and I sat there entranced. I tried to get them to
cancel the show and just sit there singing all night, but darn it,
there was a full house downstairs waiting for them to go onstage,
so...I sat with Roland's sisters JoAnne and Rosemary, and had a
wonderful time. Tonight, more of the same, at Viva Cantina. And next
Sunday I emcee at the Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest.
Now that I have this shiny new car, I might drive to Chris Strachwitz's
birthday party in Berkeley in July instead of taking the train. Need to
see whether I can get the time off work.
Well, this is exciting! A long time ago (several months) I went on the
Antiques Roadshow web site and entered the online lottery for two free
tickets when the show comes here in June - and today I found out that I
won!! This is SO exciting; it's my favorite TV show by a mile, and now
I have to decide which items to take along to be appraised. I won two
tickets, and each ticketholder can bring two items, so that's four
items - hmmm. I can't take furniture or anything else heavy; too
expensive to rent a van, plus they have no one to help load/unload at
the other end, so I have to take only stuff I can carry. Might take my
old Martin D-18, now resident at Jennifer's house, and a couple
of old music posters, one of my grandfather's books; we shall see. I
hope that Jennifer can come with me, but she and Bruce are going to
North Dakota in mid-June for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and
may not be back in time.
In typical Aldin Family style, we're having our Mother's Day dinner the
week before, and on a Wednesday. That day works for everyone, so that's
when we're doing it. I don't care, as long as I get to be with all the
Our trip to San Diego was a big success. Eliza enjoyed the folk
festival, or at least the part about the swings and slides at the park
and the pinwheel her daddy bought her at one of the crafts booths. I
enjoyed hearing Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur on a small stage under a
treet in a park, Kate was
delighted to find a Starbucks right across the street, and we all had a
great time the next day at the San Diego Zoo. Eliza got to feed a
giraffe ("Ewww, Grandma, look, his tongue is all black and curly!") but
the highlight for her was the underwater view of the hippos, swimming
slowly and majestically around their pool.
Really loving driving to work and back every day in Patsy Prius. Have
made a bunch of car CDs and am humming my way back and forth. Gets
great mileage, too!
Vacation plans are hanging fire, waiting for the kids to find out their
vacation schedules at work. We are now looking at a series of shorter
trips (Big Bear, which I will probably not go along for, is up first).
I don't think Tahoe is going to happen. But you never know.
Okay, people can stop dying any time now. I was saddened when old
friend Richie Havens died yesterday, sorry to hear of guitarist Bob
Brozman's suicide two days ago, and sad again when Earl J.J. Pionke
(the Earl of Old Town, Chicago club owner and all around good guy) died
today, but when George Jones died this morning I was devastated. Well, for the first time in my life, I
have bought a new car. I think I've earned it. She's a shiny black 2013
Prius with 11 miles on the odometer when I brought her home; her name
is Patsy (as in Cline, Montana and Stoneman) Prius. Eliza's car seat is
installed in the back seat, and I am ready to rule the road. Look out
Had to go to work today (on a Sunday!) but only for a couple of hours,
not too bad. Work is busy, which in this economy is always a good thing.
Josh and Kate are talking about driving up the coast sometime soon;
they want to take Eliza to the Monterey Aquarium and see the sights
along the way. I may go along as nanny, depending on how much time I
can get off work. And I might ask them to add a day in San
Francisco/Berkeley, since we'll already be most of the way up there. I
have good friends there - Chris, John, John's new lady Sharyn whom I
have yet to meet, Kate and Jody, and many more. Maybe we could all have
lunch together somewhere...
Speaking of which, Jim and I had a delicious lunch together yesterday,
but in separate restaurants. He called, said, you choose where. I
chose, he said OK, and I went to the place I thought I had chosen and
he went to the place HE thought I had chosen, but they weren't the same
place. And since he doesn't have a cell phone (such a dinosaur), I couldn't call
him to ask where he was. I just went ahead and ordered and ate, and so
did he; I left a message on his home machine, but of course he didn't
get it until he got home. Grrrr.
Roland and Diane emailed me the CD booklet for the New Kentucky
Colonels, Live in Holland 1973 (the title they decided on), and it
looks great. My liner notes were necessarily short, since they had to
fit onto one page, but they found some great old photos to use and the
package looks wonderful. I stopped at McCabe's on my way home from work
and bought my ticket for the show.
Eliza LOVED "Beauty and the Beast." She is already asking when
she can go to another play.
So sorry to learn that fiddler Sue Draheim died this morning; she had
recently been diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer, so it
was no surprise, but very sad. Last week it was Les Blank, gifted
filmmaker, who also had been ill awhile; fortunately Suzy Thompson and
other friends were able to go over to Les' house the day before he
died, and play some of his favorite Cajun tunes for him before he left.
Went to the Pasadena swap meet with Kate and Eliza last weekend;
we met Jennifer there and wandered around for awhile, but Eliza ran out
of gas quite soon, so we adjourned to Conrad's for lunch, and then home. One of these days we're going to
park Eliza with daddy and spend more time there. Also had lunch
with Jim and Art recently, at Victor's Deli, where Art deconstructed
the cell phone world for us.
Am taking my new blood pressure pills and my cholesterol-lowering pills
every single day, without fail; I have to go back to the doctor shortly
so she can see how/if they're working.
My "Second Thursday" lunch krewe met today, for talk and food and
friendship. We do this at a different restaurant every month, but
always in Santa Monica to be near my office, as I'm the only one of the
gang who has a job that entails a restricted lunch schedule. So we
assemble from various points; it's a rotating cast of folks who are in
some way or another involved with music (writers, performers, record
label alums, etc.); we're all old friends, and there were six of us
today. It's *so* nice to be able to eat an entire meal without having
to cut anyone else's food up into small bites!
AND I finished my New Kentucky Colonels liner notes, and emailed them
off to Roland. He will be here next month to play McCabe's, and will be
bringing the CD with him to sell at the gig (although I understand that
there is a free copy in my near future).
I heard last week that Paul Williams had died; he was a rock critic
the first rock critic) and founder of Crawdaddy Magazine, which is
where I knew him from. Reading his obits I see that he was also so much
more; but what I am thinking about now is his wife, who basically gave
up her life for what was left of his. They had a son together, who's
now I think, but anyhow: some years ago Paul was riding his bicycle
*without a helmet* and was in an accident, and suffered a certain
of brain damage; over time this got worse, and also triggered
early-onset Alzheimer's. His wife, Cindy Lee Berryhill, had a singing
career, which she basically dropped out of to care for him and raise
their son with no money and no insurance and no nothing. She cared for
him devotedly at home for as long as she could (for several years) and
then finally had to
have caregivers, and then hospice, and then he was gone. All this with
*no* money. She wrote an amazing blog about caring for a loved one with
brain damage; it's called "Beloved Stranger."
Read a bit. This whole thing is profoundly moving to me; she took her
wedding vows (you know, that whole "in sickness and in health" thing?)
all the way to the wall. Regina Whitcomb is doing the same thing for
Ian, although his stroke caused much less longterm damage than Paul's
brain damage/Alhezimer's combo.
But this is what marriage is: a complete, unbreakable, sturdy,
unflinching sense of commitment to another human being. I never learned
how to do that, but I deeply
respect those who do. I honor these women and the many like them.
There's always a door, but they choose not to walk out. I have another
friend who faces that road with a spouse soon; will hold them both in
My car needed an oil change today - I called, and was quoted $29.95,
including the oil. OK, a $30 excursion, I can handle that. It's Easter,
the kids are gone to Kate's parents, might as well get it done. So I
drove over to the garage, left them the car and the keys and set out to
walk to the nearby Hollywood Farmer's Market. On the way there I passed
the famous Pantages Theater, and the marquee said that the Broadway
stage production of "Beauty and the Beast" was there for the next few
days. Well, there's this three-year-old granddaughter, you know. But -
a Broadway production? Probably too expensive, but it costs nothing to
ask, and the window was open. So I asked the young man behind the glass
how much the tickets would cost for one adult and one three-year old.
seats the same price, he said - $90 each. I flinched internally,
thought to myself, "do I *look* crazy?" and said, very politely, thank
you so much for the information, and was turning away when he said,
"but..." and I paused. "We do have a few selected seats at each
performance at $25." Ahhh. NOW you're in my ball park. I asked
him to check to see whether there were two $25 seats left for any
performance and he asked an odd question. "You want the two seats to be
together?" Well, since one of them is for a three year old, YES. He
hemmed and hawed and poked around on his computer and finally said,
"This Tuesday we have two seats together," and I was lost. I had to get
them. I had been absolutely enchanted in my own long-ago childhood by
the few live stage performances I'd ever seen, and when my own kids
were growing up the money just wasn't there, even for the cheap seats.
So I bought the tickets, and this Tuesday Kate and Eliza are having a
mother-daughter night out at the theater.
Continued my walk down Hollywood Boulevard to the farmers market, where
I spent $5 on honey for my office tea (that $30 oil change had
so far cost me $85 today, and I wasn't done yet!) Then was
hungry, so went to a neighborhood cafe and had lunch, another $10. Tips
to four or five of the musicians who were playing at the market, a few
more bucks (note to self: must learn more about the very impressive
California Feetwarmers). Ran into old pal Jonny Whiteside and got to
meet his new flame; bought a dozen freshly-made cinnamon-raisin bagels,
But the real fun came when I went back to get my car. Right on
estimate, the oil change was $30. But along with it they handed me a
"free" diagnostic sheet they had run on the car. That sheet shows that
there are things wrong with my car that I've never even heard of
(a front transaxle mount? a lower control arm? an anchor transmission
mount is broken?) and the total to fix everything is just under
$1000.00. Happy Easter. I thanked them, and said I would consult with
my son about having the work done and let them know (this is Aldin
family code for "is it worth having Grandma's pile of crap fixed yet
again, or should we just donate the car to a charity - assuming we can
find a charity desperate enough or stupid enough to accept it - and get
her a new used car to pour money into?") And worst of all, about two
ago the cassette player finally died, so I can't even listen to music
on my commute any more. Maybe it *is* time to let it go.
Jim and I had lunch and a good visit at Astro on Saturday; I called to
to join us, but he
was busy. Jim has settled in to the new job and is basically doing it
with one hand tied behind his back, as I knew he could.
Rex and Joan and I met at a "healthy" restaurant in Culver City last
weekend (oh goody, I've always *wanted* a tofu pizza) and had a lovely
dinner together before heading over to Boulevard Music to hear Robin
& Linda Williams. They were terrific. Hearing live music does me a
lot of good; I should try to get out more often, but am usually
defeated by my inability to drive after dark. Kate dropped me off
before, and Rex and Joan drove me home after, so it worked out well
this time. My old friend Noel Stookey is in town this week, and am
hoping to get to one of his performances.
Baseball season starts tomorrow! <pretend you can hear a sound clip
of "The Halleluia Chorus" here>. I've watched a lot of spring
training games, and the Dodgers are looking good. I know, I say that
I am losing the fight with my blood pressure. The doctor has been
telling me for years (literally years) that I need to start taking
medication to control it - it's off the charts too high. I have been
trying to control it by watching my diet. No sodium (meaning I never
pick up a salt shaker, ever), I buy low-sodium foods, walk a lot, stop
eating everything that tastes, you know, like food. And nothing is
working. It's getting worse. The home blood pressure cuff that Jim
bought me a year or two ago is nearly worn out. So this Thursday
morning on my way to the office I am stopping off at UCLA, and my
be glad to see me, and I will admit to her that I have flunked the "fix
myself" test and she will write me a prescription. I feel defeated; all
my life I
have never taken medicine for anything,
other than these various eyedrops that are supposed to be slowing down
the glaucoma. I mean, no aspirin, nothing. And now I have to take these
pills for the rest of my life? But Ian's recent stroke brought
me how close to that edge I am running, and Josh pointed out that he
really doesn't want me to have a stroke while I am driving his daughter
home from school one day. I did get one good thing out of it; Josh says
that if I get and take the blood pressure pills, he'll stop smoking.
a bargain that will save both our lives.
Was very sorry to learn of the death of record producer Phil Ramone,
one of the genuine good guys in the music biz. His producing
credentials are mostly big-name rock and pop stars, but I met him many
years ago when he was producing a Peter, Paul & Mary album. He and
Peter became good friends and stayed that way till the end.
Had several installments of birthday fun. On my actual
birthday, I went to lunch with some of the guys from my krewe: Bruce
Bromberg, Jim Dawson, Michael Ochs, Billy Vera and Andy McKaie, dear
and longtime friends all. We ate at the Spitfire Grill, a surprisingly
good restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport, and Andy, who knows me too
well, brought me chocolate! Got back to work to find a huge bouquet of
roses from Mitch and Matt, and that evening my kids all took me out to
dinner at the Stinking Rose, my favorite garlic emporium on LaCienega.
The next day Berta arrived; we went to dinner at her favorite Mexican
restaurant here, which let's just say isn't famous for it's great food,
but she has a sentimental attachment to the place; we stayed up waaay
too late talking, but it was great to see her and her growing flock of
grandkids. They're all at Disneyland today with Jennifer, so I expect
lots of photos soon. And now my birthday is over for another year, and
we'll see what tomorrow brings.
The pledge drive at KPFK went very well. Mark Humphrey, Jim Moran and
Art Podell raised over $2600.00, which I can tell you is no mean feat
at 6:00 a.m.!
I know I haven't written much here; haven't really had much to write
about. The move kind of took a lot out of me, and until very recently I
hadn't even heard any live music to report on. However, two weeks ago I
did get out to hear my bluegrass pals, Loafer's Glory, at a Venice club
I had never heard of called WitzEnd. Once I got there, I realized where
I was; it used to be a recording studio called Mad Dog Records, and I
had been to sessions there a couple of times. Anyhow, once the initial
feedback problem was adjusted, the sound was pretty good and the
performance was great, as usual. I got laughed at by all the guys in
the band, also as usual, for having to leave after the first set.
They'd understand better if they all had to get up at the crack of dawn
Jewel Akens died last week; in case his name doesn't ring a bell, in
1964 he recorded an irresistible little ditty whose opening line
was "Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and
the trees." I met him a few years back through my friend Jim Dawson,
who was a very good friend of Jewel's. Every year on Labor Day Jewel
and his wife Eddie Mae opened their home and back yard for a
picnic/music jam session, and I went to that a few times with
Jim. Jewel was a really sweet person, and the church was jammed
his funeral yesterday as so many friends showed up to say goodbye.
My dearest Peter Yarrow was here last weekend; he did a
booksigning of his latest children's storybook at the Barnes &
Noble at the Grove; Kate and Eliza and I met him there and had a good
before the show. He also brought his "baby" son Christopher, whom I
last saw at the age of about 4 but who is now way over 6 feet tall and
plays washtub bass with great flair. It was really good to see them
both, and to top it all off, just as I was leaving in comes Penny, who
was the nanny to Christopher and his big sister Bethany when they were
small, and who I haven't seen in 30+ years.
Then my pal Rex from the Caltech Folk Music Society (which will soon be
changing its name to the Pasadena Folk Music Society, but that's
another story) emailed to remind me that David
Mallett was performing
at Caltech last night. The glaucoma has gotten to the point
where I cannot drive in the dark AT ALL any more, plus my complicated
life was doing its best to prevent me from going, but finally a
solution presented itself; I drove to Pasadena while it was still light
out, early enough to have a
pre-concert Thai dinner with Rex and Joan, and after the concert I
stayed overnight out there until the dawn's early light (which was
discombobulated, as was I, by the time change), and then drove home,
way to have lunch with Jim at AstroBurger. I am so glad I went; David has long been
one of my favorite singer/songwriters (and by"long" I mean since I
first heard/met him when he was the opening act for Noel Stookey at
McCabe's in 1978 or thereabouts!), and his writing just keeps getting
better and richer and his voice and his guitar playing are just exactly
perfectly right for his songs, and the whole thing is just...sublime.
He did a new song that floored me - "Beautiful Rose" - another one of
his blessed masterpieces that makes my hair stand on end; fortunately
it's on the
newest CD he was selling at the show.
This week we all have birthdays at Casa Aldin. Jennifer was just 43
(!), Josh will be 36 this Tuesday, and I have a birthday this coming
week too. The kids are taking me out to my favorite garlic emporium,
the Stinking Rose on La Cienega, for my birthday. It's also Josh and
Kate's 5th wedding anniversary tomorrow, so they're going out together
to have a grownup dinner, and Eliza and I will stay home and snuggle
down with a storybook or two. Then on Friday I'll have a visit
from one of my old friends from Ash Grove days, Berta Benally, who is
bringing her children and grandchildren (total of 8 people) from
Flagstaff to L.A. so that the young ones can experience Disneyland for
the first time. She's in for some sticker shock when she buys eight
admission tickets at today's prices...anyhow, I haven't seen her since
they came in to town for Jennifer's wedding, so it will be lovely to
get all caught up again. Unfortunately Josh, Kate and Eliza won't be
here, as they are flying to Chicago on Friday for the christening of my
other son John's newest daughter, Maya Rose, to whom Josh and Kate will
be godparents, so they will miss the Benallys' visit.
Got a call from old friend Roland White last week; he will be coming
out here to play at McCabe's in May - hooray! But an even bigger hooray
was that he asked me to write liner notes for a forthcoming release of
a never-before-issued White Brothers live show from Holland with
Clarence, Roland and Eric White plus Herb Pedersen on banjo. Herb will
join Roland's band onstage for the McCabe's show, and if I get the
notes done in time (just joking - of course I will) the CD will be for
sale at that show!
To backtrack a bit, I realize that I never wrote anything about my
December trip to New Orleans. My dear Tony Russell flew over from
London and we spent a week together there, during which time we were
a few days by Amy Van Singel, who usually lives in Maine but wanted to
get out of the winter for a few days, and who could blame her? Scott
Barretta drove down from Oxford while we were there, and we met up with
Tom Piazza and Michael Tisserand and Bill Morgan and other friends, and
did serious damage to the oyster
population of the Gulf. Amy and Tony had never been to Commander's
Palace, so we had lunch there one day and I was amazed all over again
and how good the food is and how precisely and professionally the place
is run. Amy had booked herself on several guided tours, while Tony and
I are more of the "walk around and see things on our own" types, but we
usually managed to rendezvous for meals. Also saw friends Sarah and
Brian Simonson, and although I did not get to see her I did get to talk
to my goddaughter Nell, who sounded much better than she had the last
time we were there. I had booked the trip (pre-paid the train fare and
booked a non-refundable hotel) before I learned that I would have to
move, so although it may
have been insane to go on a mini-vacation just before the greatest
upheaval of my life, at the same time I think it was....a stress
reliever? My head was about to explode, but visiting with Kermit
Ruffins at his new Treme Speakeasy (and laying waste to his good
cornbread and fried chicken) was a great calm-down period that I very
This coming Saturday, February 23, the Saturday morning folk show hosts
(Mark Humphrey, Jim Moran, Art Podell) are going to be pitching
together on KPFK. Please call during their show (818) 985-KPFK and
support them. I'll be there answering phones. Your donations count!
Lots to report, but no time to report it! Thanksgiving was great: good
food, family, friends, etc. Packing for the move is coming along,
although of course none of my kids can help me because they're all
moving too! Elena and Victoria came up from San Diego and took some
pieces of family furniture, which will come back to Eliza in the
fullness of time. Josh and Kate found a great apartment for us to move
into, nowhere near here, alas, but it's a lovely place anyhow. They are
moving in while I am out of town, and then I'll move in when I get
back. Jennifer and Bruce found a place they like in NoHo and have put
in an application; I don't know how long these things take to get
approved, since the last time I moved was over 40 years ago!
Doc Watson's widow Rosa Lee died, just about six months after Doc's own
My good friend Ian Whitcomb had a stroke last weekend, the day before
Jim and I were going to see his regular show at Caantalini's. When Art
and Jim and I went to the hospital to see him two days later he was
sitting up in bed bossing the nurses around. He's home now, with lots
of rehab/occupational therapy ahead to get back to his usual full tilt
boogie, but I have no doubt that he'll accomplish it. His wife Regina
is taking the "in sickness and in health" part of their marriage vows
very seriously, and is with him constantly.
Leaving town this Friday for two weeks, more when I return.
And away we go. We all have to be out by January 7th. I am going to be
too busy to write for awhile, folks!
Well, neighbor Mike is all boxed up and about ready to go. He found a
place in Oceanside that he really likes, near family, so that's good.
The property management company sent a representative here to "discuss
my situation." I told them I had written them a letter, stating my
position, and did they get it? Well, yes. Okay then, says I, what else
is there to talk about? They offered me a small sum of money to move -
far less than neighbor Mike got, and I have been here 20 years longer
than he has. Do they think we don't talk to each other? I raised an
eyebrow at her offer, put one hand on Josh's arm to keep him from
getting angry, and said sweetly that perhaps they wanted to go back and
re-read my letter. She said we would hear from them Monday, which
is tomorrow. Then she went downstairs to talk to Jennifer and Bruce. I
am looking at storage units and pondering the future. A friend came
over today to buy some of my records and said something like, "so I
guess you are resigned to moving, then?" I thought about that for a
little while. I don't like the sound of the word "resigned" - makes me
the victim in this scenario, as if something is being done TO me. This
is what it is, folks; it's going to happen - and instead of being
"resigned" to it, I'd rather think of it as the ending of a part of my
life that I've really loved, and the beginning of an exciting NEW part
of my life - one that's going to be, as Peter Pan says, "an incredibly
big adventure!" It has been nearly 50 years since I lived with anybody
- I am used to being alone, having my own space, and having my
privacy. Now I get to share a bedroom and a bathroom with an adorable
three-year old who says things out of the blue like, "Grandma?"
"Yes, Eliza?" "I love you." <and Grandma melts into a puddle>
Jim and I went to dinner at
place up the hill - very good food, lousy atmosphere, too expensive.
But oh so handy when I needed his strong quiet presence, as I was very
stressed out after the conversation with the property management woman
and needed a break. His big news is that he has a job interview on
Monday! We also took Eliza to Astro the other night - her first time
there - she was fairly well behaved, and most of
her food went where it was supposed to go. Then he came back to my
and we tackled the crossword puzzle book. Now this may sound a little
out there, but to me, doing crosswords with Jim is like having sex with
our brains instead of our bodies. We put the puzzle on the table
between us, we each have a pen, and we start filling in the words. It
becomes almost a race to see who can figure the clues
out faster - these are big books of Sunday Times crosswords, the really
hard ones from the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the New York
Times. After we've done two or three of them I can FEEL my brains
stretching, as if we'd taken the top off my head, poured in a bottle of
champagne and closed it up again - my brain is all fizzy inside. This
is a Good Thing.
Tom and Claire and Jenny and Bruce and I went out to hear my dear
friend Billy Vera's show at Catalina's (not to be confused with
Cantalini's, the Italian place where Ian Whitcomb plays. That's an
Italian restaurant, while Catalina's is a jazz supper club.) Billy sold
the place out to the bare walls, and fronted an 18-piece orchestra with
great aplomb. His material is mostly songs written by the great black
composers of the 30s, 40s and 50s, and he does it proud. We stuffed
ourselves on the (very good, very expensive) food, and I took a photo
of Jen and Bruce with Richard Roundtree, one of many celebs in
Cleve Duncan's funeral was yesterday, but I didn't go. Am not driving
far distances to places I'm unfamiliar with any more - as the glaucoma
progresses, I am less willing to leave my comfort zone. Jim offered me
a lift, but he was committed to deejay at the repast, which would have
meant a all-day commitment of time for me (funeral at 11, then to the
graveside service at Inglewood Cemetery, then to the repast) and this
is the last weekend before Thanksgiving - and it's my last Thanksgiving
here, so I want to make it a specially good one. Did all the
non-perishables shopping, shifted some stuff around, and generally got
ready for this Thursday.
Had a nice breakfast with my radio pals Jim Moran and Art Podell after
their show yesterday morning, and we got caught up on our news.
Tomorrow morning is my first appointment with the new glaucoma
specialist, recommended by my "regular" eye specialist as she wants a
consultation to see how this thing is moving along.
Things are moving faster, seems like, every day. Neighbor Mike got a
call from the new owners, offering him a substantial sum to move, and
he is going to accept it, and be gone by December 1. That Damoclean
sword is inching closer - once Michael moves, the only tenants left
here will be my daughter Jennifer and her husband, and moi. Brrrr.
Josh and Kate are rearranging their apartment, on paper, to figure out
how to accommodate me and such of my stuff as can't be put in storage,
while they look for an affordable house to buy. Am probably going to
have Thanksgiving dinner here for my friends, as usual, and then move.
Wow. Rough estimate? I'm going to need about 500 empty boxes.
Spent a couple of days this weekend visiting off and on with Chris
Strachwitz, who was in town for a conference. We had some good talks,
and got caught up with our news. Every time I see him now, I treasure
our time together, as he is 81 and we generally only see each other
once a year at his birthday party, unless he's in town for something
else. So it was wonderful to get to spend time with him.
My friend Amy, who recently moved from Alaska to Maine, is going to be
in New Orleans in December at the same time that Tony and I are there!
Hopefully there'll be a few other friends coming in from Oxford and
points north, too, so our social dance card is going to be very full.
Eliza is really enjoying going to school; every morning she puts on her
little uniform and her school shoes and off she goes with her mommy,
lunch in hand; then I pick her up every day at 3 and take her home to
her place until Kate gets home from work. This gives me some Grandma
time every afternoon for a couple of hours, as well as whatever
babysitting I do on the weekends. Did you know they give three year
olds HOMEWORK nowadays? We had two milestone last weekend; first, she
rode a pony by herself - I mean a freestanding pony, not the ones that
are hitched up to those circular tracks. It was a very slowly walking
pony, but she was on her own the whole way around the ring. She sat up
very straight and carried it off with quite an air. Then she rode on
the train in a seat by herself for the first time. Instead of me being
in the same seat with her, I was gently but firmly instructed to sit in
the seat behind her.
Well, neighbor Sherry has moved, back home to Bakersfield to live near
her mother. We had a going away party for her at neighbor Michael's
apartment; we now have two vacant apartments out of five, and suddenly
there's plenty of parking in the carport.
Finally got paid for those liner notes I was grumbling about a few
It's always good to see old friends; I had dinner at an Indian
restaurant in the Valley with John Sinclair while he was in town. We
talked about blues musicians we both knew, and told each other stories
about our friendships with Robert Lockwood and Johnny Shines. Both men
disliked being constantly interviewed about their connection to Robert
Johnson, rather than being asked about their own careers. John really
surprised me by telling his own version of that story; I had no idea,
but he said that every time HE gets interviewed, the first question is
usually "So, Mr. Sinclair, what was it like to meet John Lennon?" I
came away shaking my head at the ignorance of those interviewers - John
S. has SO much more important stuff to talk about! (I guess I should
say here that if you don't have any idea who John Sinclair is, just
Google him). We'll miss each other in New Orleans; he is there now, but
will be gone back to Amsterdam, where he lives, by the time Tony and I
get there in December.
Gas prices - !! If I didn't live 25 miles from where I work I swear I'd
buy a bicycle, but at my age there's no way I can pedal 50 miles a day
round trip on surface streets. If I was rich I'd get one of those
hybrid cars, but unless I hit the lottery that's never going to happen.
Going to a jazz brunch this Sunday, and realized while planning it that
I haven't been out to hear live music in awhile. I'll soon be making up
for lost time, though; next Sunday (the 14th) I'll be emceeing the
Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Josh and Kate are bringing
Eliza up again this year, and we'll stay overnight and spend some time
touristing around Santa Barbara the next day. Then the weekend after
that I'll be at the Far West Folk Alliance Conference in Irvine,
hearing three full days of live music and watching my good friend Chris
Strachwitz get a lifetime achievement award. Then I see Thanksgiving
coming along a few weeks after that, and then I will disappear for a
couple of weeks in December to check our the Revillon meals in New
Orleans with Tony.
I did get to Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples' concert at the Greek,
thanks to Bonnie who very generously gifted me with tickets. (She
announced from the stage that she had 150 guests that night - I looked
at the $75 price on my ticket and did the math. Remember, folks, free
tickets aren't free to the performers!) Jenny and Bruce were supposed
to go with me, but they realized two or three days before the concert
that they had double-booked themselves. So I got to go with Tom and
Claire instead, which was great fun. By coincidence they had a friend
in Mavis' band, so they were able to visit with him after her set. As
we were going in the entrance I saw Billy Vera, and we hugged and said
"see you backstage after," figuring we'd never be able to find each
other in the
crowd (the Greek holds 6600 people). Well, guess who I sat next to? I
couldn't have wished for better company that night. Mavis tore the roof
off the place, and Bonnie nailed it right back down tight - a great
show. Saw lots of other friends in the dressing room afterward, too, so
even though I was really tired when I finally got home after midnight,
it was worth it! For those who don't have calculators handy, 150 x $75
= $11,250 in comp tickets, right out of Bonnie's pocket. Yowza.
No word on moving yet. Wrote a letter to the new owners, laying out my
position, and they haven't answered me. I mailed it the day after Labor
On Friday afternoon Josh called and said "So, mom, what are you doing
tomorrow?" Thinking he was going to ask me to babysit Eliza for
the day I said, oh, nothing much, why? Next thing I know he has gotten
online and booked adjoining rooms at a really spectacular hotel in San
Diego, and bright and early Saturday morning we took Eliza to Sea
World. She loved it, of course; she made friends with some dolphins,
decided she didn't want to be a penguin when she grew up because their
enclosure was too cold, stared with her mouth open at the leaping and
cavorting of Shamu and the other whales, and went on the kiddie rides
with her usual zest. At the end of quite a long day we went to check
into our hotel; Josh had booked it sight unseen on one of those web
sites where you tell them how much you can afford to spend and they
assign you to a hotel. Well, we hit the jackpot in a big way. We stayed
at the Paradise Point Resort, and it was elegant and gorgeous and we
loved it. We had dinner at one of the hotel's eateries, then
Eliza and I did her evening bath ritual and turned in early, while Josh
and Kate checked the place out. Sunday morning I took Eliza for
breakfast so Josh and Kate could sleep in, then went to the lobby and
asked where the swimming pool was. Turned out there were FIVE of them.
The one we went to, the main pool, was not the bright blue chlorinated
water we usually see at hotel pools; it was huge, all natural rock and
natural water and...had...ducks in it. I mean REAL ducks. I felt a
little weird about swimming in water that ducks were probably peeing
in, but Eliza loved it, and I gave her a good scrubby shower when we
got out, and we all seem to have survived.
My neighbor Sherry is moving; the new owners convinced her, with
fistfuls (or is that fistsful?) of greenbacks, and she will be gone on
October 1st. That leaves only three apartments occupied here. She'll be
having a yard sale soon.
I have several music biz committee meetings coming up, which will bring
some of my out of town pals here, and then my pal John Sinclair will be
in town next week on his way to New Orleans and we're going to try to
get together for dinner. Unfortunately, by the time Tony and I get to
New Orleans in December John will have gone back to Amsterdam.
I took Jim to Cantalinis' Sunday night for his birthday-a-day-early
dinner; Ian came over and serenaded Jim at our table.
And now I am on full tilt Grandma duty; every day when Eliza gets out
of school I am there, collecting her and her backpack and driving her
home, where we do the after-school snack thing, change her out of her
uniform into her playclothes, and sometimes walk to a nearby park where
she plays on the swings and slides till I am relieved by whichever of
her parents gets home from work first. All this gets me home much later
than I am used to, but it's all about learning to adjust.
My old friend Todd moved to Ventura recently, and yesterday Art
and I piled into Jim's car and we all went up there to visit him. For
somewhere that's so close to L.A., I really know almost nothing
about Ventura. My pals Chris and Connie live up there, and I think I
had lunch with them (on the Ventura pier, maybe?) some years back, but
I really am a stranger to the town; it's just a place I drive through
twice a year on my way to and from the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers
Convention. We Mapquested Todd's address and
found it with absolutely no trouble; he lives in a seniors' mobile home
park, where he owns a very nice place, landscaped, peaceful, and clean.
After he gave us the tour, we all went to downtown (Main Street)
Ventura, where we had lunch at a faux 50s diner called the Busy Bee,
with a great jukebox and generous portions of completely adequate food.
Then a short driving tour of the hood, during which Jim and I fell in
love with the Victorian houses in old town, and then home.
So, glaucoma. Yes. We deal with these things as best we can as we get
older. It is what it is, not much point in whining about it.
The December trip to New Orleans is coming along well. Selling records,
slow but steady, and other things too, and saving up my pennies for the
trip. Josh and Kate are dealing with paperwork for applying for a loan
to buy a house, not sure how that will go yet. Eliza's swimming lessons
are progressing well, and she can now put her face under water - "I am
very brave to do that, Grandma!" she announced yesterday. She starts
school next week sometime.
My half-sister's daughter came to visit L.A. last week with her
boyfriend and her best girlfriend. We met for dinner at Josh and Kate's
so they could see how big Eliza is getting. Meanwhile, my "other son"
John and his wife Jeanine have shared the big news that their November
baby (due on John's birthday) wil be another girl - hooray!
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the day that my
oldest friend and I began the adventure that would last our lifetimes -
well, so far, anyway. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and our
relationship has morphed several times through the years, but the close
and loving friendship that I value above all else has outlasted every
other relationship in my life. It's difficult to love a musician,
because he's never going to be there - and I mean *never* going to be
there - when you need him most. But I knew he was a musician when I met
him, and it seems pointless to complain because he doesn't keep an
accountant's hours, or leave the job at the office at 5 p.m., or
remember my birthday. And last night he called, to officially mark our
half-century JUST before it turned midnight in New York, which would
have made it tomorrow and yet another milestone he had missed. Of
course it was only 9 p.m. for me, so he was actually in plenty of time.
We talked about friends long gone, adventures long past, and our
children and grandchildren, the true treasures of our lives. He says he
is content, grateful for what life has given him, and not planning to
slow down any time soon. I told him about the inexorable glaucoma, the
probably-moving-soon, reminded him about some tapes I'm still holding
for him that might see release someday; and I told him how much I
appreciate what life has given ME, and we agreed, mutually, that we
think it's been so good so far that it's definitely worth trying for
another fifty years of friendship. The real secret to our success, I
told him, is that we live 3000 miles apart; when we see each other now
and then, it's always a joyful reunion, the short time we have together
is never long enough, and we certainly never fight - there isn't time
to waste on that. And it has taken us fifty years to finally
acknowledge the perfect balance that has actually been there all along:
he's always going to be the one standing onstage under the bright glare
of the lights, and I'm always going to be the spirit out there in the
darkened auditorium, singing harmony inside my head. He's always going
to have a flight to catch to go somewhere else, and I'm always going to
be the one waving goodbye at the airport.
Went out to visit Marian at her seniors assisted living facility in
Pasadena last weekend. Wow, what a *gorgeous* place - completely
opposite to everything I had heard (and feared) about these places.
Elegant, lovely, huge airy apartment, spacious grounds, lovely gardens,
a pool, a sauna, a restaurant, art classes, two movie nights a week -
she is SO happy there, and I'm happy for her.
Looking forward to a bunch of good music coming up soon; Loafers Glory
on the 11th, then a couple weeks later Geoff Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and
Suzy Thompson, all at McCabe's. Yowza. Muldaur shares a curious
distinction with Doug MacLeod; they are the only two living musicians
whose albums I have written liner notes for, out of, last time I
counted, nearly 300 albums I've annotated.
I need New Orleans. I mean, I just NEED New Orleans. So last week I
consulted a calendar and my always uncertain finances, emailed Tony and
said, can we meet there in early December? And bless him, instead of
telling me that I've lost my mind, he just said "sure, I think so." I
mean, is he the perfect man, or what? If only I was 30 years younger
and he didn't live 8000 miles away...I've been having good results
selling off my record collection, and there is a pool of money (not
very deep, but a pool) sitting in Josh's PayPal account. When it hits
the amount I need for my round trip train tickets I'm going to go for
Eliza stayed with me overnight again on Saturday night. We snuggled
together, and read her favorites about Cinderella and Snow White and
Sleeping Beauty, and other such hapless heroines. I pointed out to the
girl who will be three years old later this week that nowadays women
don't actually need a
Handsome Prince to come along and kiss us and make everything all
right, and that she is perfectly capable of owning her very own
beautiful white steed some day if she really wants one, but that on
the other hand, the whole thing about staying away from poisoned
apples? Is legit.
From Garrison Keillor, whose mother passed away last night:
Mark Humphrey came by my place last night, and together we raided my
record shelves for material for the Woody Guthrie radio special we're
going to be doing this Saturday on KPFK. (Noon-2 pm Pacific Time, by
the way, on 90.7 FM in L.A. and www.kpfk.org everywhere else). Jennifer
came up while we were working, and started in to help me clean. So
we're listening to the music, and she's cleaning, and a siren comes
up the hill. I cocked a worried ear, as I always do - ambulance?
Police? And then went back to the music. Thirty seconds later, another
siren. And then another. Then we heard helicopters coming over, and
then a fire engine, and then another, and then another, coming up the
hill as fast as I can type this. I ran ouside and looked around the
hillside, and as I did so, more fire engines came up - but I didn't see
or smell any smoke. Neighbor Sherry called neighbor Donna, who lives
across the street and up a ways and has a better view of the whole
canyon - she didn't see or smell anything either, but thought that
someone might have fallen off a cliff (idiot tourists are always coming
up here to try to climb the Hollywood Sign, an activity that's both
illegal and dangerous), so we turned on the news radio and heard that
there was, indeed, a fire. Meanwhile, more fire engines. Thankfully,
our heroes at Fire Station 82 had it knocked down in 30 minutes. It was
a brush fire at the view point at the top of our little local park,
which we call the dog park because so many people walk and run and
exercise their dogs there, and quite near the lake. We're so lucky to
have these amazing firefighters always on call when we need them - no
structures damaged, no one injured.
My ex-landlady moved into her assisted living facility today - her
apartment now sits empty and quiet, waiting for the new owners to come
in and clean and paint and upgrade and then re-rent it at three times
what I'm paying. She'll be back tomorrow evening to meet all the rest
of us and go to a farewell dinner together. And with the possibility
always on my mind that at any moment I may be forced out, I sent three
more packages of stuff to Tony today to be auctioned on eBay. Slow and
steady wins the race!
The 4th of July radio special was...okay. I was greeted when I walked
into the station with a full set of shiny new CD players, that worked
NOTHING like the old ones, so I had a few technological glitches, and
that always distracts me from the "flow." But it was nice to hear from
folks that they were enjoying it. Now doing prep for the Woody Guthrie
special, on what would have been his 100th birthday this coming
Saturday, July 14th from noon-2 p.m. Luckily for me, Mark Humphrey will
be co-hosting it with me, and he is very organized and good at
prep. Unlike me...
No news is no news about the move, but I am still determined to
"liquidate" some of this clutter, and have been working on that. Things
are going out the door, slowly but surely; a few friends have been over
to choose mementos, and a few other things have been sold for me online
by my friend Tony, who has an eBay account. We'll get there.
Eliza is growing like a weed - well, a very decorative weed - she's
tall and leggy, and we are reading to each OTHER on the futon now. She
is beginning to think about what things mean, instead of just repeating
what she's told, which is such an interesting thing to watch develop.
She may be going to be gifted for sciences and math, which God knows
she didn't inherit from me, but she puts jigsaw puzzles together with
great precision, and has a her little routines and orderly ways she
wants things done; it's fun to see her turning into a person. Hard to
believe she'll be three next month; and there is a future sibling being
discussed very seriously.
Took the train to the Bay Area last weekend to help my old friend Chris
Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records celebrate his 81st birthday. Unlike last
year, when we went the bus/train inland route, I decded to take the
Coast Starlight this tme, and let me tell you folks, after half a
century of Amtrak travel I have to say that this train is the best one
in the system. Comfort, elegance, great food, a gorgeous vista (from
Oxnard to just north of Santa Barbara the train runs alongside the
ocean!), and even a complimentary wine tasting - alas, as a non-drinker
that didn't do me a lot of good, but I went in there anyway just for
the experience. Cheeses, crackers, and generous pours of four different
vintages - I had a lovely glass of ice water and gritted my teeth! Once
in the Bay Area it was food, friends and great music for three days -
my pals Kate Brislin and Jody Stecher turned me on to a great
Pakisatani restaurant in the Tenderloin (an area of San Francisco which
has so many Indian and Pakistani places now that local food writers
call it the tandoorloin). Jody, being the expert, ordered for us all,
and every dish was perfection! Then I wandered around SF being a
tourist - went to Chinatown, and took a trip through the lobby of the
elegant St. Francis Hotel, where I can't even afford to PARK, let alone
stay, but it's free to look around. Dinner that night over in Berkeley
with my pal Johnny Harper at a Cajun restaurant, and again, having a
local with us was SO helpful because he knew what they did well and
what to avoid. Sunday midday had coffee with Bill Evans, aka the
Handsomest Banjo Player in the World, and got caught up on all his
doings; then went to Chris' party, a multi-hour extravaganza that was
held at his store, Down Home Music in El Cerrito. Chris, a good friend
of mine for over 45 years, has lots of *other* good friends, some of
whom can cook, and some of whom who can play music, and some who can
both cook AND play music (great raita, Jody!) so I just hung out with
Chris and ate and listened. Los Cenzontles was a great revelation
(Chris calls them his Singing Angels), Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum were
wonderful, there was a Cajun pickup band, and upstairs in Chris'
apartment there was a singing session with Kate, Jody, Johnny, Richard
Brandenburg and a few other folks. Richard should be a LOT better known
than he is - but so should they all, really. More comfort and elegance
on the return train journey, and I am now actively looking for excuses
to go back up there before Chris' next birthday!
Uncle Lionel Batiste, leader of the Treme Brass Band, died in New
Orleans today at age 81. A good long life well lived, and fortunately
he wasn't sick for too long, and they were able to make his passing
Jim and I do crossword puzzles at my kitchen table and go to
Astroburger now and then, and make the occasional trip out to hear our
friend Ian Whitcomb at Cantalini's - ahh, the mad social whirl that is
Phil Alvin is home from Spain, recovering well. A happy ending, thank
Work is really busy. My part-time assistant is on a 7-week (!!)
vacation, due back late this month, so I have been pulling double duty
since the beginning of June. Now our really busy time approaches: hair
is being pulled out, unladylike language being used, etc.
Music biz committee meetings coming next month; a few visits from out
of town friends are projected over the summer; then in October the
Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers Convention and the Far-West Folk
Alliance Conference on consecutive weekends, and Chris will be coming
to town (well, Irvine) for the latter. Too much good stuff, as my pal
Well. it's been a complicated time since I last wrote anything. And the
more complicated it gets, the harder a time I have trying to write
Doc Watson died. This was not entirely unexpected, as he had been
failing for awhile, but from the day he fell at his home and couldn't
get up to the day he died was only eight days, so when it was time for
him to go, at least it went fast. But losing one of the great legends
of American music, who was also a longtime friend (we first met in
1963!) was hard. I produced a box set of his music for Vanguard, and a
live recording of his Newport Folk Festival performances from the early
1960s, and when I was working on both of those he was incredibly open
and helpful. And I heard his voice at least once every two weeks or so
the last 23 years, as he would call in to the office pretty often, and
he always said "is that the Telephone Girl?" (which was the name of a
song he recorded long ago). I will really miss him.
And Doug Dillard died, he of the blinding smile and flashing banjo
runs. And Eric White died, brother of my friends Roland and the late
Clarence, founding member of the Country Boys, later the Kentucky
Colonels. The older I get the more friends I lose; this is how it
happens. But it's never easy.
And Phil Alvin is in a hospital in Spain (where he was on tour with the
Blasters). Holding a good thought.
And. And. The building I have lived in for the last 42 years has been
sold - the owner, in her late 80s, is moving into a retirement
community - and the new owners, a property management corporation, may
"develop" the property (i.e. throw us all out, tear it down and convert
apartments to condos); or, they may not. Not knowing is the hardest
part. If I have to move then I have to move, but....I have been happy
here. My son was born here, my daughter, an infant when we moved in,
got married here. Our lives are entwined with this place; the kids have
spent every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every Mother's Day, every
Easter of their lives in this place. Even after they grew up and moved
out and made lives of their own, they have always come back here for
holidays; they have never known any other home but this. As David
Mallet says, "This is where I learned to use my hands and hear my
heart." And there are other fond memories here, especially of my dear
Keith and my dear Robert Palmer, both of whom stayed with me here at
But one small good thing has come out of this; I have at last realized
that the time has come to get rid of all the "stuff" I have spent my
life accumulating. Because whether sooner or later, I *will* eventually
have to move; if sooner, I will need to drastically downsize, as when I
lose this rent-controlled apartment I will have to move into a *much*
smaller place, and there simply won't be room for it all. If I am
able to stay here a few more years, I will still have to move
eventually, when I am no longer able to work and it becomes time for me
to retire, take my Social Security, move in with Josh and Kate and
become a nanny to Eliza and
her future sibling. And one room in their home, grateful as I am to
them for offering it, will also not hold all this stuff. So,
the time has come to start letting go. I've sold a few things already,
via the internet; Tony has an eBay account and has been selling things
for me that way, and money is arriving in Josh's PayPal account almost
daily. I don't need all these records now that I no longer do a regular
show, so out it will all go. Changes, changes, changes.
RIP Duck Dunn.
Our family day at Disneyland was a
big success; Eliza went on lots of
rides, spent some quality time with Minnie Mouse and Piglet, and
announced that the Ariel Undersea Adventure ride was "too scary" and
she wasn't going to go on it any more "until I am 8 years old!" I also
saw the California Adventure park for the first time - fortunately they
let me take the motorized wheelchair from one park to another - and
just didn't feel the magic. That night I gave her a bath in the motel
room, and we snuggled down together with a book while the four big kids
closed down Disneyland.
Lost a(nother) good friend this week. That's how it happens; you
blink, and they’re gone. Take a breath in, and they take a breath out
and are gone in that heartbeat of time. Thomas Henry “Hal” Freeland III
died of a heart attack at age 82 at his home in Oxford, MS. Just
sitting talking quietly to his wife Judy, and in an instant he was
I hadn’t seen Hal for awhile; the last time I was in Oxford, a year ago
February, he wasn’t in the law office when I went by to visit Tom and
Joyce. I fell hopelessly in love with him the minute I met him, however
many years ago that was – twenty? more? – because that
courtly-Southern-gentleman-lawyer thing that he had going on just
charmed me into instant friendship. I loved talking to him – all those
Freeland boys have voices like warm maple syrup, and Hal’s Mississippi
drawl was the best because he was the oldest. When his son Robert died
the voice got a little bit raspier, but he still stood up every time I
entered his office and he still pulled out chairs and opened doors for
me and asked after my kids as if they and I were the most important
things he could possibly want to talk about right at that moment. He
was a big man with a big laugh and a straight wide open innocent stare
that said he had nothing to hide, although of course he did. And I
can’t believe he’s gone, just like that; I blinked, and he died, and
that’s all there’s ever going to be.
Next Sunday (the 20th) I'll be emceeing the Topanga Banjo Fiddle
Contest - they'll
be dedicating the beginners stage to the late Frank Javorsek, a lovely
The kids all took me out for a great Mothers's Day dinner a couple of
days early. Friends, most of my time these days is spent with Eliza or
little time any more to tend to this blob. I'll write when I can.
Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are in town, and last night we all went to
the Magic Castle together; my pal Mark came over that afternoon and we
all met up at the Castle for dinner. We saw a couple of good magic
shows, which made it a later night than I like on a weeknight, but this
morning I didn't have to go to work; my good friend Ed Archer's mother
Thelma died last week at 103 (!) and today was her funeral. The weather
was certainly appropriate; pouring really hard with rain and very
gloomy, perfect for a funeral. Tomorrow I will have my darling Eliza
overnight, and then on Sunday morning I'm taking her to breakfast and
then to McCabe's, where Cathy and Marcy are doing a childrens concert,
before returning her to her parents.
Here's a story and some video of my friend Peter Feldmann paying
a visit to Earl and Louise Scruggs in their home - Peter got to
play Uncle Dave Macon's banjo!
Sunday was a busy day; Mark came over early and we went out to Pasadena
to the swap meet, where we immediately ran into Billy Vera, who was
clutching a handful of 45s. I really didn't think there WERE any
records Billy didn't already own! During our wanderings we found a lap
steel guitar that had
once been owned by a musician I remembered from the late 60s or early
70s, John Forsha, whose widow was selling off a few of his instruments.
I got a chance to visit with her a little bit and she refreshed my dim
memory of him; I remembered that he had played on Fred Neil's
"Dolphins" album, because I went to the sessions at Capitol, and I had
seen his name on Judy Henske's High Flying Bird LP and on Tim Buckley's
debut on Elektra. On the way home I said to Mark, "You know, I think he
played on a Stone Poneys session, too." And I checked when we got home,
and I was right, there he was! Mark took the lap steel home to his
place, gave it a new set of strings, and
wrote a little tune for it. Anyhow, after the swap meet we went to
a Thai Music
and Culture Festival - Hollywood Blvd. was blocked off from Western to
Normandie and there were booths, stages, food, etc. Rather than deal
with traffic and parking, we had Jennifer run us down the hill to the
Metro station at Hollywood and Vine, got off one exit later at
Hollywood and Western and there we were! I had the *best* mango and
sticky rice I've ever tasted, and took some photos which, you're tired
of hearing about this, I can't figure out how to post here. Got home
from that, put my feet up for ten minutes and then went right back out
again. Jim and I had dinner at Astroburger the other night, and during
the meal our pal
Ian Whitcomb turned up to join us; he had an appointment that got
cancelled and found himself at loose ends, so he drifted over to
hang out with us. We had a lovely visit together, and he reminded us
about his upcoming Cantalini's gig, so last night we went out there.
the usual really good Italian food and the usual really fun Ian music;
half the meal ended up coming home and being my lunch today. Us
Italians are all about the big portions!
We are figuring out Easter; the holiday really belongs to Kate's
parents, who are devout Catholics and go to church and so forth on that
important day, so I will keep Eliza overnight the night before, and
after she falls asleep I'll pretend to be the Easter Bunny and hide a
few eggs for her to find early Sunday morning before Josh and Kate come
to get her and they all go off to spend the day with Kate's family. Not
real eggs, since she is
allergic to eggs, but chocolate marshmallow bunnies or whatever I can
pick up this coming week. Farther on up the road, as Bobby Blue
Bland used to say, we have a family day planned at the end pf this
month at the House of Mouse.
Jennifer and Bruce, Josh and Kate and I will all take Eliza there for a
day - it takes five adults to ride herd on her when she gets to racing
around. She is looking forward to visiting with her close girlfriends
Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse.
Well, the trip report is done, but I am having a hard time posting
photos. If I can't sort it out myself I'll send up a flag and Claire
will come and help me.
Meanwhile, it has been a time of bad news and hard losses. My old
Javorsek died of a heart attack this week; I first met him when we
both did radio shows on KCSN back in the late 1970s. I am shocked and
saddened. Many generations of music students passed through his capable
hands; I have strong memories of Frank at both the Topanga Banjo &
Fiddle Contest and the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddler's Convention,
shepherding his students on and off the contest stage and backing them
up on guitar when needed. Another old bluegrass buddy, Doug Dillard, is
in Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, semi-conscious and intubated,
suffering from emphysema. And the great Earl Scruggs passed away;
most wonderful opening paragraph of a story by Steve Martin, published
earlier this year in The New Yorker, describes him so perfectly:
Some nights he had the stars of North Carolina shooting from
his fingertips. Before him, no one had ever played the banjo like he
did. After him, everyone played the banjo like he did, or at least
tried. In 1945, when he first stood on the stage at the Ryman
Auditorium in Nashville and played banjo the way no one had heard
before, the audience responded with shouts, whoops, and ovations. He
performed tunes he wrote as well as songs they knew, with clarity and
speed like no one could imagine, except him. When the singer came to
the end of a phrase, he filled the theatre with sparkling runs of notes
that became a signature for all bluegrass music since. He wore a suit
and a Stetson hat, and when he played he smiled at the audience like
what he was doing was effortless. There aren’t many earthquakes in
Tennessee, but that night there was.
Sunday was our annual Party
Gras, and despite a storm that wouldn't have been out of place in New
Orleans, many friends splashed their way to our doorstep in the pouring
rain to eat jambalaya, wear the silly Mardi Gras beads I passed out,
and help celebrate our family birthday party with us. Jennifer came
over a couple of days before and helped clean, and everyone pitched in
to make it happen. It was lovely.
My hillside cafe, radically renovated, has reopened. But I
haven't been there, and most likely won't go back. Jim has reported in,
as has Jennifer, that the food is very good but the ambience has been
totally destroyed; it's no longer the cozy local cafe with slightly
chintzy old-fashioned decor; it's now industrial-looking, stripped to
bare floors and bare walls (I am told it's very LOUD in there now) and
has no warmth at all. So Jim and I go to Astroburger, an inconvenient
distance away, and when we do crosswords now, it's here at my place.
I'm home - and it was great. Will write a long "trip report' and
post some photos here as soon as I can get everything organized. Before
then, however, mountains of laundry are staring at me. You know how
Very sad news today. My old friend Dick Kniss passed away; he was the
longtime (40+ years) rock-solid bassist for Peter, Paul & Mary, and
also did about ten years as John Denver's road bassist while PP&M
were on hiatus. He was one of the nicest people I ever knew, and will
be greatly missed.
Good things are happening in radio land. You can all go back to
listening to KPFK on Saturday mornings; a whole bunch of my pals are
shows in the old Alive & Picking slot, taking turns - Tom Nixon,
Ben Elder, Mark Humphrey, John and Deanne Davis, and I hope one other
(still waiting to hear about that one). I'm really pleased that it all
NAMM was great! Ran into a bunch of old friends, heard lots of
plucking and strumming and so forth - my feet hurt and my ears are
ringing, but it was worth it! Will try to upload a photo here but have
been having a struggle with it lately.
Now: do NOT worry if I don't write very often any more. Getting ready
to leave on my trip soon, and also working on THREE writing projects
that must all be done before I go. So, you know. I'll be baaaaack.
January 8, 2012
Yesterday was the first morning the alarm did not go off at 4 a.m. for
the radio show. I didn't notice, of course, being asleep. When I did
wake up at about 6:30, it was to find a small person burrowed tightly
next to me under the covers, one tiny fist clutching the sleeve of my
nightgown and the other holding her (stuffed) kitty. I watched the
miracle of her breathing in and out for awhile, till she stretched, sat
up and immediately, with no yawning wakeup period allowed, started
chattering full tilt about what we were going to do that day. This,
folks, is why I retired from the radio show. I would not have missed
those precious early-morning minutes with this two-year-old angel (who,
in case you hadn't noticed, has me completely
wrapped) for anything you could offer me. She will only be two for a
minute - we will only have a heartbeat of time in which to have splashy
baths and hair combing and princess nightgowns and bedtime rituals
together. Do I love the music? You betcha. Do I love her more? Don't
When her mommy came to pick her up we all went to breakfast together at
Victor's; she inspected the science of pouring syrup into the open
squares on grandma's waffles, then decided she was big enough to drink
ice water out of a real glass. When we got that mopped up and she
recovered from the shock of her ice water bath, we all read "The
Monster at The End of This Book" (and how well I remember reading that
exact same book to her daddy 34 years ago!) and then I was dropped off
at home and started my day. Errands, shopping, and my big treat: a
matinee bluegrass show! Loafers Glory sold out their evening show, so
they added a 3:00 p.m. set, and I called Bob Stane at the Coffee
Gallery and pleaded to be allowed to switch my ticket to the earlier
start time. Loud cheers! They were great, as always, and even greater
was the fact that I didn't have to make that long drive back home alone
in the dark. I find that as I get older, driving in the dark become
more and more challenging, so I am trying to cut it way back.
My pal Rex has some adorable little kittens he is trying to find homes
If you know anyone who wants one (or two), let me know via email and I
forward it to him. He and the kittens are I think, in Pasadena/Altadena
Trying to schedule our annual Party Gras, in order to have it in hand
before I leave on my trip. Oh, I like the sound of that - let's say
that again. Before I leave on my trip. I am leaving soon for my trip.
Ahhhh. Memphis (folklore conference, barbecue, visiting friends) and
New Orleans (food, music, music, food, food, music. Sleep, not so
much.) And this year will be most special because not only is Tony
coming over from London, but Josh, Kate and Eliza are coming too! Can't
wait to take Eliza to the Audubon Aquarium
of the Americas.
Disappointing news: Tony has decided not to come to L.A. for the
Grammys after all, but
is reverting to our original plan, and we will meet in Memphis and
travel together to New Orleans, as in previous years. Sigh. Meanwhile,
Neil's plans for a visit are proceeding on schedule.
Did my last radio show this morning. Last? Well, last for NOW anyhow.
One never knows, do one, as Fats Waller used to say. Lots of nice calls
and emails from listeners saying goodbye. As soon as I got home the
kids brought Eliza over to play with me, and also brought my new
"smart" phone, their Christmas gift. So far I have figured out how to
program numbers into it, I think; at this point the phone is still
smarter than I am but I expect that will turn around soon. Eliza and I
have had a lovely day together, and she is now freshly bathed, wearing
her Disney Princess nightgown, sitting on the futon in my office
watching her perennial favorite, "Lady & the Tramp." At 8:59 we
will turn on the New York Times Square celebrations, count backwards
from ten, and retire peacefully to bed, looking forward to whatever
adventures the new year may bring us.
Christmas was great! Josh did all the heavy cooking - a huge pot
of spaghetti, a huge salad, and I made a pan of garlic bread. Apres
djeuner, Eliza was the focus of attention, as she enthusiastically tore
open all her presents. Her favorite, we think, was a Disney Princess
tea set I gave her, with little cups and saucers and spoons and a
teapot and a sugar and cream set, all in solid, unbreakable, very pink
plastic. The kids gave me a cell phone - I know, I already HAVE a cell
phone - however, this one, apparently, can waltz, count to a hundred,
etc. as it is a "smart" phone. It may be smarter than I am - I don't
know - it hasn't actually arrived yet. It's being shipped to Josh's
office and will be here any minute now, providing it's smart enough to
find its way to my house.
Not only is Tony coming over from the UK in February, but I just got an email from Neil telling me that he is coming back too - in a couple of weeks! London comes to L.A.!
The epiphany du jour is that without the radio show, I no longer need
to keep all these CDs. Many of them can go! Not all, of course - but
I've started pulling stuff off shelves and putting it in stacks to sell
off. Perhaps my daughter and her husband can be persuaded to load
several boxes into the back of their giant vehicle and take them all
down the hill to trade in at Amoeba Records after the holidays. I have
*got* to get rid of the "but I might need this for something someday!"
mentality that has made me the Clutter Queen of Hollywood. The kids
have threatened to make me watch a show called "The Hoarders" or some
such title, about people who have so much junk in their homes that they
can't walk from room to room. I'm not THAT bad....yet....am I?
An old friend sent me a lovely Christmas gift in the mail, which is
greatly appreciated. But even better was the kind note about our
friendship that she wrote in the card. There are a handful of people in
my life that I have known for a long time - Peter, of course, with whom
I'll be celebrating our 50th "anniversary" this coming August. Berta,
and Vicki, whom I've knows since Ash Grove days - the mid-60s, so that
would be (hastily counting on fingers) 46-47 years now. Same for Chris
Strachwitz, whom I met when he used to come into the club in the
mid-60s, and I went to his 80th birthday party this past July. I first
met Esther Crayton back in the late 60s when her late husband Pee Wee
used to play at the Parisian Room regularly, and we've stayed friends
all thsee years. And my friendship with Dick Waterman, who once mistook me for Jackie DeShannon
- no, really! - is also
well into its fourth decade. Jim O'Neal, let's see, we've known
each other since the mid-70s sometime, so that would be...35 years?
Mark, whom I met in the late 70s when he moved out here from Oklahoma -
and we had been "pen pals" before that! And the friend who sent the
card and gift, with whom I go back at least 35 years now. But that's
not many; the older I get, of course, the more of them go on ahead. I
thought that Keith and I, and Stevenson and I, would be lifelong
friends; and so, I guess, we were, only that their lifetimes ran out
long before mine did.
It's the holidays, so am busy doing Christmas prep for Eliza, whose new
friendship with Dora The Explorer needs to be appropriately acknowleged
(i.e. gift-wrapped). I had the postponed surgery, finally, which was
not any fun at all but did bring out the hero I always knew was in
Jennifer, who has been rising every morning at 5 to clean and dress the
wound and change the dressings before I go to work, and the same again
when she gets home from work each night. Stitches come out on the 28th,
and as far as I know she will be off the hook after that. Then
there is a new writing assignment - liner notes for a forthcoming CD -
and another, possibly, in the New Year if certain licensing glitches
can be overcome. And, lingering in the background, the need to put
together my final radio show, which will happen on New Year's Eve. So
what with one excuse and another I haven't written much here.
Tony may be coming out here; he's been nominated for a Grammy Award,
the ceremony is here on February 12th. He is investigating flights from
London to L.A., etc.; we were already set to meet in Memphis and travel
to New Orleans together later in the month, but now it seems he will
need to come out here the week before. Well, that would be lovely, but
am holding off any hilarity until he actually books his tickets. Oh,
Lord, houseguests = if this comes true I must draft Jennifer to help me
clean the place!
We're busy at work right now, and will be till the end of the year,
after which I should have time to breathe. I was very proud of myself
for going back to work the day after the surgery, but now think maybe
that was a mistake. I should have admitted that I needed a day or so to
and am paying for it with a slower recovery time than I expected. I
don't think my mind has caught up yet with the reality of just how old
body really is.
Here's a promo
video for Ralph Stanley's new album.
Had 50% of my guest hosts on the show this morning (Jim and Art) and
they did a great job. Then we went next door for breakfast and then my
weekend really began. Kate and I took Eliza Christmas shopping, and
then Kate and Josh left her with me overnight so we could bond. The
usual bath and bedtime rituals were observed. This morning we got up
and and went to - ugh - Denny's for breakfast. Without my coffee shop
up here I have to completely redo my decades-long eating habits; now
that I have to go down the hill to find food, I really HAVE to find
somewhere decent to eat!
Had my first Cuban food before the Loafers Glory show at Boulevard
Music last weekend; the restaurant is right across the street from the
club, and while the Loafers were doing their sound check Mark and I
walked down the block and had dinner. Reasonable prices and really good
food! The guys were great as always, and sang me some of that wonderful
bluegrass gospel, also as always. They dropped tantalizing hints about
their new CD, which *may* be done in time for me to play it on the air
on December 31. Or may not.
The news appears to have leaked out that I am leaving KPFK, and in
addition to receiving several kind emails and calls from listeners, I
have had some email discussions with station management. There may, and
I use the word advisedly, be some news for you. If there is, I
promise I'll let you know.
Time and change are getting me down. The coffee shop on my hillside,
where I have been eating for forty years and more, has closed. All the
workers are out of a job (but fortunately they are all eligible for
unemployment insurance, since they were laid off due to closure); a few
of the waitresses have already found other work. I don't know what
do; at nearly 80 he's going to be a tough sell to modern restaurants
who want their cooks to be young, sexy and CIA graduates, and he's none
of the above. I scraped
together a tip for him that I hope will help tide him over, and I saw
other regulars slipping Christmas cards to him too during the closing
week, so with that and his unemployment I hope he will be okay for
awhile. There's already a sign in the window showing that a liquor
license has been applied for - my Lord, are they turning our coffee
shop into a BAR? This is a quiet, residential hillside community; I
don't know what a bar will do to us in the way of traffic, noise and
drunks going home at closing time. Yikes. Jim and I have been doing our
crossword puzzles together there for ages; we are trying to find
another place to do them, but Dennys is so soulless, and the few other
places we can find aren't set up the way we need them. Oh dear.
Have been doing some Christmas shopping, from local small stores and
merchants and mom and pop places whenever possible.
waves goodbye: A major decision, but oddly, not a hard one.
I've been doing a radio show in one form or another for over 35 years
now, and all this time I
have always said that when it stopped being fun I would hang it up. And
that time has come; it has stopped being fun. Getting up at 4:00 a.m.
on Saturdays? Not fun. Working every single weeknight evening on prep
for the coming Saturday's show, instead of playing with my
granddaughter or visiting with friends or, you know, just having time
to read a book? Not fun. Listening to countless recordings of mediocre
singer/songwhiners to find the few jewels that I just love and really
want to play? Not fun. Going in to the radio station to find missing or
broken equipment, the control room a mess, and things not being done
that should be? LONG ago stopped being fun. The fundraising pledge
drives, so essential to the radio station's continued well-being but so
incredibly draining to do? NEVER were any fun. When I wrote the note to
Maggie (the station's Music Director) last week, telling her that I was
ready to go, I saved it in my unsent mail for a couple of days,
wondering if I might just be a little tired or momentarily depressed or
something, and it would pass. Nope. When I finally hit that "send"
button yesterday afternoon, I promise you I felt nothing but an immense
relief. I am SO MUCH looking forward to returning to a life in which I
*can* go out to hear live music on Friday nights because I won't have
to get up at 4 the next morning, and for that matter can go out to
shows on Saturday nights without falling asleep during the first set
because I have been up since 4 *that* morning. I can go away for a
weekend. Did you hear me? I can go away for a whole weekend, yes,
starting on a Friday night if I want to, without having to say, no,
sorry, can't leave till after I do the show Saturday morning. For 35
years I have been planning my entire life around the obligation of
doing the radio show, for which, of course, I not only get paid
nothing, but which actually costs me anywhere between $2,000 and $3,000
a year to do. I get a lot of records for free, yes, but I have to BUY
at least as many more.
But the most important thing is this: listening
to music, which I used to love, has become a chore and an obligation. I
HAVE to listen to this huge stack of stuff that comes in the mail every
week, knowing that most of it is going to be garbage but it all has to
get a fair hearing. If listening to music has become a burden; if my
favorite part of doing the radio show has become having guest hosts sit
in with me so I don't have to program anything that week? Wow, REALLY
time to let it go. I have enjoyed it, mostly; but now it's time to say
There are some folks in public radio who hang onto their shows with a
death grip, because it's all they have. I feel sorry for them; their
entire identities and
lives have become wrapped up in doing their radio programs. Me? I have
a whole big huge busy exciting wonderful life. Terrific kids (and
grandkids) whom I adore and who adore me, a full time day job, a vast
circle of friends I rarely get to see, projects producing and
annotating reissues, my occasional freelance writing work, my annual
trips to see my "second family" of friends in New Orleans, my work on
the Grammy committees, and a lot more. I don't need to hear my name on
the radio every week; I already know who I am. And frankly, my life is
winding down now, and I am becoming acutely aware of what time I have
left, and the need to spend it wisely. I'm not getting any younger - au
contraire - and I want my children and grandchildren and old friends to
get as much of my time and attention as possible. So I am leaving
radioland in order to give myself time to enjoy being alive while I am alive, and there it is. Last
show: last Saturday of the year, December 31. New year: new
I have loved serving the music all these years. Thanks for listening.
Oh: I'll continue to maintain the calendar on my web site.
Thanksgiving was great - I fed 22 people, at two sittings, and Casa
Aldin was crowded all day and evening with good food and good friends.
I am going to be washing dishes for a lonnnng time to come.
Tom Sauber was a champ on this morning's radio show, although we had
some technical issues that made it something of an adventure.
Then I drove out to Santa Monica, had lunch with Mark, and then went to
Music to buy my tickets for next Saturday's Loafers Glory show. Can't
Am working on my February travel to Memphis and New Orleans, making
sure all the reservations are in place and everything is booked. Josh,
Kate and Eliza are coming too.
Another member of my New Orleans family of friends has gone. Quick and
clean, the same way Keith went.
Coco Robicheaux, New Orleans hoodoo bluesman, has died
Updated: Friday, November 25, 2011, 10:15 PM
By Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune
Hoodoo bluesman Coco Robicheaux collapsed Friday evening at the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street and was taken away by ambulance. He was reportedly pronounced dead after arriving at Tulane Medical Center. He was 64.
Robicheaux was not performing at the time; he frequented the Apple Barrel on his off-nights.
Known for an especially gravelly voice, a swamp-blues guitar style and a fascination with subjects of a spiritual and/or mystical nature, Robicheaux lived an especially colorful life, even by the standards of a
New Orleans musician. He released several albums over the past two decades. He was a mainstay of the Frenchmen Street entertainment district, a familiar figure both on- and off-stage. He was also a
regular on the schedule of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Robicheaux made a memorable appearance during the opening scene of the second episode of the first-season of the HBO series “Treme.” In a fictionalized incident, he sacrificed a rooster in the studio of
community radio station WWOZ-FM.
He was also a visual artist, sculptor and painter. He created the bronze bust of Professor Longhair that stands near the entrance of Tipitina's.
I love this video.
Can't help it. Three girls, three voices, three empty cottage cheese
Eliza came over right after my radio
show on Saturday and we spent the
day together. Jennifer and I decided it was time for a trip to the mall
(my Lord, three generations of Aldin women turned loose in a mall -
look OUT!) and needless to say Eliza especially enjoyed the Disney
store. Jennifer got new contact lenses and we did some pre-Christmas
looking and touching but not yet buying. Then we had lunch (the child's
menu included Eliza's favorite, macaroni and cheese) and when we got
home I tried to put her down for a nap. That didn't work out so well.
Dropped her off to Kate at home and then headed west for dinner with
Mark and a visit to McCabe's, where I heard Roland White's band again.
It was great; Roland and I went into a tiny room off the lobby and he
recorded a promo for my radio show, AND, best news of all, Tom Sauber
(who sat in with the band on fiddle) agreed to come in and do the show
with me this Saturday!
and Kate and I went to the Skirball Cultural Center on Sunday, where my
old friend Peter Yarrow was doing a concert and book-signing. Hundreds,
literally hundreds, of children under the age of about 8 were bouncing
up and down, singing, clapping and running around screaming. Before the
concert we went into a side room where there were about 500 copies of
Peter's newest book in boxes, and we (well, Kate and I - Eliza wasn't
really much help) unwrapped them all out of their cellophane so that
Peter could sign them, then re-wrapped them for sale to the public.
About a third of the way into the concert Eliza decided that running
around on the outside patio chasing bubbles was more fun than sitting
in an auditorium, so she and Kate went outside, and after the show
Peter sat a a table signing yet more books, doing the shake and howdy
thing, and having his picture taken with (it seemed like) every single
person in the place. MANY hundreds. Then, finally, we had some quiet
family time to get caught up on news about our children and
grandchildren. It's always a treat to get to visit with him, and
although Eliza was in restless squirmy mode, I was able to get a photo
of them together.
Then it was bluegrass time, as another old friend, Roland White, came
into town for a few gigs. I went to the Viva Cantina show last night,
where I got to meet some radio show listeners because Roland outed me
from the stage and they came over at the break to say hello; and
the music was so wonderful that I'm going to see the band again at
McCabe's this Saturday. The show was grrrr-eat. And there were more
musicians in the audience than onstage. Seriously? Just at my table:
Pat Cloud, Ross Landry, Harley Tarlitz, Blaine Sprouse (until he had to
get up on stage), Bill Bryson (ditto), and David Naiditch; next table,
Tom and Patrick Sauber (Patrick got press-ganged by Roland to help with
the sound, and I understand that he played some in the second set, but
I had to leave, as usual, due to my relentlessly early wakeup time) and
lots more. The band is Roland on mandolin, his wife Diane on rhythm
guitar, Herb Pedersen on banjo, Bill Bryson on bass, Blaine Sprouse on
fiddle. And they can flat get it! Can't wait to hear them again on
Saturday night, especially since I don't have to get up early on Sunday
morning so can stay for both sets!
Spent the last two days in Santa Barbara. The Fiddle Contest was great,
as always; it's a chance to visit lots of old friends (including one,
Barry, who I hadn't seen in decades) and I get to spend the day hopping
on and off the stage, herding youngsters. Mark Humphrey won First Place
in Advanced Singing and Second Place in Advanced Guitar; alas, his
prize money and more was left right there in Santa Barbara, as he
bought a banjo with it the next day! Josh, Kate and Eliza arrived
mid-afternoon; Eliza skipped around at the front of the stage saying
"Grandma, look! It's me!" Had dinner that night with Peter and
Francine, as is our tradition, at Harry's
Plaza Cafe, also our
tradition. Then back to our motel, where Josh and Kate brought Eliza
over from their room and deposited her on my bed and went out to their
own dinner. Eliza and I played with flash cards and then she fell
peacefully asleep. This morning she deliberated her wardrobe choices
after which we all went to breakfast at a great place on the beach
Boathouse. Eliza frolicked on the sand for awhile and
then we took her to Chaucer's
Books, where she wanted to bring the
entire children's room home with her! When the kids left for home
I went to Folk Mote Music,
where Mark bought the aforementioned banjo,
where I didn't buy anything, and Book
Den, where Mark
bought a book on Nepal and I passed up a copy of Stan Hugill's book on
sea shanteys because it was $50!
A whole month since I last wrote! Web site problems, which never
did get fixed by the ISP but which somehow presented me with a
complicated workaround option that I am still using, are one
excuse. I've also been very busy with music-business meetings for the
last six and next four weeks, after which it will ease up. And things
are busy at work, too (which is good!) and Eliza takes up what little
time I have left.
Well, what have I been up to...have had some good visits from out of
town friends, and we've broken bread together and gotten caught up on
our news. Alas, as I get older the "news" is more and more about who
has died since I last saw them! Bert Jansch, founding member of
Pentangle and an amazing and gifted guitarist, died earlier this week,
way too young. Folk and bluegrass singer Liz Meyer finally lost her
decade-long fight with cancer last month. And so forth. There's some
good news to balance that; Roland White called to tell me that he will
be out here next month to do several shows (see the calendar page) and
that his band for this tour will be himself on mandolin, his wife Diane
Bouska on guitar, Blaine Sprouse on fiddle, and Herb Pedersen and Bill
Bryson from Loafers Glory/the Desert Rose Band! I am *so* there, as the
My son in law Bruce's birthday is around the corner, and Jennifer and I
concocted a great surprise. We started dropping hints a couple of weeks
back about how I was thinking I really should join the rest of the
world and get a "smart-phone" or I-Phone, but don't really know enough
about them. We strung that out for a couple of weeks while Jennifer
emailed his family in North Dakota and we all put in for a collection.
Set a date for him to come with us to the Apple Store where, he
thought, he was going to help me learn about the new I-phones. Got him
there and sprung it on him that we were really there to buy HIM an
I-Pad for his birthday. He about fell over. We had him SO fooled.
Jennifer had her camera on him when we told him the truth and he looked
stunned! (But in a good way.) He is now playing with his new toy 24/7
and doesn't answer Jennifer when she talks to him.
My car had, I thought, kind of squashy brakes and was making a weird
skreeking noise, so I took it to the mechanic. Three days and MANY
hundreds of dollars I don't have later, it's home, skreeking noise is
gone, and it has a bunch of new innards, and new windshield wipers,
tires have been rotated, oil changed, new transmission fluid and a new
pulley put in BUT the brakes were fine. Grrrr. Bless it's heart, this
thing is really an old crock. Soon as I hit that lottery I am going to
get a new(er) car.
Am thinking longingly about my annual vacation in February. It hasn't
been decided yet whether I am going to Folk Alliance in Memphis or just
going straight from here to New Orleans and back. Josh and Kate may
bring Eliza to New Orleans for a couple of days while I'm there - she's
a tad young for the Bourbon Street sleaze, but is the perfect age for
the Audubon Aquarium and the Zoo and the St. Charles Streetcar ride
and....my pal Tony is going to fly over from London and join me either
in Memphis, if I do go there first, or in New Orleans. I am *really*
looking forward to it.
On Halloween I am having some things removed that shouldn't be there.
Very minor, nothing to worry about. I did have a thought that the
doctor might show up dressed as Frankenstein - in which case he is NOT
cutting me open!
Radio in the morning, so I should probably go pull some records! Sunday
I am emceeing the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers Convention; if anyone
is going, come to the contest stage and say hi! Josh and Kate are
bringing Eliza up for it and we will all get to stay overnight and
spend some time together up there on Monday, hooray!
Too much sad news today. Andy Cohen called to tell me that old time fiddler Paul David
Smith died this morning at 77. I was lucky enough to
get to meet him last February at Folk Alliance, where I presented him
with the Mike Seeger Scholarship Award; I think there are a couple of
photos of him on my trip page. Here
he is playing.
And this, from my New Orleans pal Ben Sandmel:
Guitarist, singer and emcee Glen Croker, the last surviving old-time
member of the Hackberry Ramblers, passed away on August 23 in Lake
Charles, LA, at age 77, following a lengthy illness.
Born in Lake Charles in 1934, Shuler began playing steel
guitar in the early 1950s with Eddie Shuler and the Reveliers. On
the way home from engagements with the Reveliers, the young Croker
would stop by the Silver Star Club in Sulphur, LA, to hear the
Hackberry Ramblers. "And it's a funny thing about that," Croker
recalled; "I can remember saying to myself: 'Self, one day you'll be
playing with that band!' And thus it came to pass."
On the other hand, I did have a
wonderfully interesting afternoon. (Takes deep breath, thinking how to
explain with the least amount of tangle). Well. My friend Bill Ferris
wrote a book about blues musicians and their lives, called Give My Poor
Heart Ease. One of his students subsequently wrote a musical play based
on that book, and this afternoon at a recording studio in West L.A. a
group of folks sat around a table with copies of the playscript and
read it aloud. I hasten to add that I was one of a handful of invited
guests - NOT a participant; it was great to see Bill again and visit
with him a little bit. Among the active participants at the table
were Joe Henry, Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina
Chocolate Drops, Colin Linden (who played guitar throughout), T-Bone
Burnett, the woman who wrote the script, and three other actors whose
names I either never got or can't recall. I parked on a comfy couch
with my pals Larry Cohn
and Mark Humphrey - and Bill introduced me to Carolyn Dockery
(granddaughter of Joe Rice Dockery!) Powers. I had never heard people
just sit and read a script before - seemed odd that there were no
gestures, no movement or "acting" as there would normally be if one saw
a play onstage - just people sitting at a table reading the words - and
they had never done it before so this was quite a "loose" casual
reading. Quite a test of the words! Anyhow, I know nothing about
theater or plays or scripts, so it was quite something to be suddenly
immersed in that creative process, coming to it with no understanding
of what was going on. And the bonus delight - as I was going down a
hall to the water cooler, walking toward me talking on his cell phone
was Graham Nash! I gave myself an unusually
long lunch break from work (two hours!), but it was worth it - and most
days I never go to lunch at all, so I figure it's okay to do it once in
awhile if it's a special occasion.
Croker joined the Hackberry Ramblers in 1959, 26 years after the band
was co-founded by Luderin Darbone and Edwin Duhon. Croker stayed
with the Ramblers through their final performance in November of
swaggering, soulful style and use of electronic amplification brought the Ramblers a post-war honky-tonk
tinge that added blues, R & B, rockabilly, and classic country
songs to their already-diverse repertoire. This stylistic
incarnation was the sound most often heard when the Ramblers started
touring nationally in the late 1980s, following an appearance at the
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. When first founded in
1933, the Ramblers had embodied the acoustic string-band sound of that
era, and then evolved, during the ‘40s, into a large western swing
orchestra. Despite his modernizing influences, Croker always
stayed connected with the band’s traditional roots, in part by singing
in French on many Cajun
Croker appeared on the Hackberry Ramblers albums Jolie Blonde (Arhoolie,
released in 1963), Cajun Boogie (Flying Fish, released in 1993,
re-released by Hot Biscuits in 2003), and the Grammy-nominated Deep
Water (rHot Biscuits, released in 1997), and on the anthologies Boozoo
Hoodoo (Fuel 2000, 2003) and Christmas Gumbo
(Flambeaux, 2004.) Croker was also prominently featured in the
PBS documentary film Make ‘Em Dance: The Hackberry Ramblers’
directed by John Whitehead of Fretless Films, St. Paul, MN. Make
‘Em Dance which was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent
Lens in 2004. He enjoyed the fulfillment of a life-long dream
by performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1999. The attached song,
“Poor Hobo,” captures all the best elements of Croker’s style as a
guitarist and singer.
In addition to his musical talent, Croker was known, as the band’s
emcee, for his snappy patter. His shamelessly corny bandstand
jokes elicited groans around the U.S. and in France, Holland, and
Canada. "I really am a nice guy, once you get to know me," Croker
often said; then, after a dramatic pause, he would add,"…but that
getting-to-know-me part is rough." He will be sorely
James Glenwood Croker is survived by his devoted wife, Nell, two sons,
two daughters, three step-children and numerous grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements, which have yet to be announced, will be posted at
Spent the weekend in San Diego - the Summergrass
festival, which I had not been to before, turned out to be a great
event. Loafer's Glory stole the show, with the Grascals running a close
second and Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa representing the suits and ties
tradition. All the bands were really good, and even the "not quite
ready for prime time" kids groups showed that in a couple of years
they'll be there too. I walked about a hundred miles on Saturday. Okay,
maybe only fifty.
Sunday morning had lunch with my half-sister and her son in Carlsbad,
then went to - now wait a minute before you laugh hysterically - the
Richard M. Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. I can hear a chorus
of WTH?, so let me explain. Mark came to San Diego with me, he wanted
to see it, and it was right on the way home. End of story. By the way,
have done an amazing job with the place - the 9 acres of property
includes the house he was born in (still in its original location), the
side-by-side graves where the former President and his wife Pat are
buried, the Air Force One helicopter that flew him away from the White
House for the last time (and had earlier been used by Presidents
Kennedy and Johnson), and a Presidential limo that he had used. The
grounds are gorgeous - apparently Mrs. Nixon loved roses, and they have
some seriously good gardens there. The gift shop? Exactly as you would
There's been lots of Grandma time with Eliza lately; Josh and Kate went
out of town for the whole weekend, so I had Eliza at home with me from
Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. Mark invited us to enjoy the luxury
of his apartment building's swimming pool, so we did that on Sunday
afternoon, and she splashed happily in the cool water. There was a
petting zoo at the local farmers market, where she warily eyed
first up-close goats, chickens and two rather large white ducks. We
tried the pony ride again, and again no luck. Anyhow, the kids skated
home just in time to pick her up and give me fifteen minutes in which
to get showered and dressed before Jim came along and collected me and
our neighbors Alessandra and Jimmy to go out to Cantalini's in Playa
del Rey to hear our pal Ian Whitcomb and his band. We all had
a lovely time (always nice to eat with people whose food I don't have
up into small bites), and then last night I went, for the first time in
ages, out to Ian and Jim's weekly Monday night "salon" in Pasadena, at
which I again got to commune with people older than two. Lovely to see
Regina after so long! And Opal and Ellen Nations were visiting from the
Bay Area, so I got to see them briefly, which was a nice surprise.
This weekend I'm going to the Summergrass bluegrass festival in San
Diego. No, Vista. Well, somewhere down there. Note to self, Mapquest it
before the weekend. This is actually going to be a nice bit of
serendipity, as I was disappointed at not being able to hear Loafers
Glory's show in Pasadena because I had the baby all weekend, and
they're playing at the festival, so I'll see them there. No, wait. I
had ELIZA all weekend. She
is two now (as of August 11th), has graduated to pull-up diapers (if
she was MY kid she would have been potty-trained six months ago, but
that's a whole nother issue), and I am trying to get out of the habit
calling her "the baby." Anyhow,
I have a half-sister (and her two grown
kids) who live in Carlsbad, which apparently is quite close to
festival is, so we are going to have lunch together Sunday before I
drive back up to town. I hope the kids can come too, but it all depends
on their work schedules. I have almost no living family other than my
own kids/grandkids, so it's nice to get to see my half-sister every now
My friend Pete Howard's wife Cheryl died this morning. Devastating
news, even though expected.
We have coyotes up here in the foothills, and tonight they are louder
than usual, and out much earlier than usual. I often hear them between
1 and 4 a.m. (love that insomnia!), but it's not even 9 yet and they
are already yodeling in (dis)harmony. Maybe it's the heat bringing them
out earlier; and there are more of them tonight. They are howling at
each other across the canyon, and the way that everything echoes up
here it sounds like there are twenty of them! Unlikely, though.
It has been hot, and I haven't really been moved to write anything
much. Eliza will be two next week, and there are some party supplies in
the offing (Ariel paper plates, Mickey Mouse paper cups, an Elmo
balloon, and so on). Not sure what the kids have planned or when, as
the weekend of her actual birthday they are going out of town and I
will have her here all weekend. Am thinking about taking her to the
beach. Mark can swim really well, so I will plant him firmly beween her
and the ocean and let her dig in the sand and get her toes wet and so
forth. Sun block, floppy hats, and away we go. I had hoped to get to
the Loafers Glory show in Pasadena that weekend, but can't really take
her out to a sit-down formal auditorium concert. Not fair to the
musicians (all good friends of mine), nor to the folks who paid good
money to hear a concert undisturbed by a two year old!
Less success last weekend at the pony rides. I got her up on a pony, no
problem, but for some reason it decided to shake its head back and
forth several times, and she was off that critter like a rocket,
clinging to me and screaming. I got her quieted down, and we gave away
her ticket to a grateful mother with six kids (!) and removed ourselves
to the more serene atmosphere of the choo choo train, which she enjoyed
Even though it's on a weeknight, I'm going to a Hank Williams Sr.
tribute at Joe's in Burbank coming up Labor Day weekend. Billy will be
playing, as will a couple of other friends, and Jim will be there. Mark
may come too! Don't know how late I'll be able to stay awake, though.
Getting ready to re-start the engine for the radio show, which resumes
September 10. Picked up a huge pile of CDs that had been collecting for
me at the station, and am planning my first show. I have always said
that when it stopped being fun I would hang it up; the idea of getting
up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays is already not fun, and I don't even have to
do it for another month. And no, I don't want to do the show on tape.
Sure, I could go into the station some weekday afternoon and tape the
whole thing, but there is something about talking to a dead microphone
vs a live one that just doesn't work for me. If there is no one out
there when I'm doing it, I don't feel like I'm really doing it. I know
that's not the most logical sequence of thought in the world; you'll
just have to believe me. It's live or it's nothing.
My radio pal Joe Frazier is in the hospital; send good thoughts his
way, please. I have the guys booked to come in and do a show on October
1, by which time hopefully all will be well. But he had to cancel a
Chad Mitchell Trio concert, so I KNOW he's not feeling right! Musicians
*never* cancel gigs unless they absolutely have to. I personally know a
musician who broke two ribs in a car accident one afternoon, and went
on stage that night, did a full show, and THEN went to the hospital to
get his ribs strapped up. I do think there may have been a bottle
of whiskey in play in the dressing room during the intermission,
strictly for medicinal
purposes, of course!
Went to lunch with Billy
today at the Farmers Market; he's feeling a lot better, and we both
enjoyed our outing. Because his house is so near Josh and Kate's, I
went over to the little park by their house on spec, and sure enough,
there was Eliza, choogling down one of the slides, being carefully
watched over by her longtime nanny Rita. The huge smile that erupted
she saw me walking toward her was a real heartwarmer. "Hi Grandma! I'm
on the SLIDE! I'm at the PARK! I played in the SAND!" That little girl
has me so wrapped, I can't even tell you.
Sad times for Jennifer and Bruce. They had to have Smudge put to sleep
tonight. Bruce got her when she was just a tiny kitten about 6 weeks
old, and she was well over 17 when she just couldn't make it any
longer. That's a good long life span for a cat, but it's so hard for
them, especially Bruce, to say goodbye.
This weekend was crazy busy and lots of fun; yesterday I got to spend
the morning visiting with a musician friend who is recuperating at home
recent prostate cancer surgery. We joked, we talked, we ate lunch, we
had a great
time. In the afternoon I drove home and then went with Bruce and
Jennifer in their car to Disneyland, where Josh and Kate and Eliza
already were. We all had lunch together (and how did people ever find
each other in a place that big before we had cell phones?), and Eliza
got to see a parade,
complete with uniformed marching bands and cheerleaders/dancers in
sparkly costumes. After lunch we went on some rides, and then I took
Eliza back to the hotel (Josh
had booked us adjoining rooms at a nearby place) and the four "big
closed Disneyland (and then a nearby Tiki bar) down while Eliza and I
snuggled down to read bedtimes stories. This morning, while Josh and
Kate had a rare chance to sleep in, Eliza and I patronized the hotel's
coffee shop ("PANcakes please, Grandma!") and then -- oh boy -- the
swimming pool! Resplendent in her Ariel bathing suit, she splashed, she
kicked, she jumped in (to the shallow end, of course), and she had a
great time. Then we climbed out and she stretched herself out to
drip dry on her Mickey Mouse bath towel on one of the poolside lounge
chairs, looking for all the world like a miniature movie star. This
afternoon, when they dropped me off, I went to the coffee shop and did
crossword puzzles with Jim, and am now writing this instead of doing
laundry and prep for work tomorrow.
So Tom and Claire had a party, and I made a big pot of jambalaya for
it, and then the kids dropped Eliza off and I got to stay home and play
with her instead of going out. Jim, kind soul, offered to deliver the
jambalaya (and I had a momentary unworthy thought as to how much would
actually be left in the pot by the time it got there), and Eliza and I
had a lovely evening together. Bath time included a small plastic boat
and several miscellaneous fish, swimming around her as she washed. She
sang a tuneless little bath-time ditty ("my ARMS are clean and my NECK
is clean and my HAIR is clean") and then we dried her off ("my MICKEY
Mouse towel, Grandma!") and got her into her pajamas ("there are
RAINbows on my pants, Grandma!"), and since dinner hadn't quite filled
her up she ate a box of raisins and a cup of organic yogurt (brought
here by her parents, I assure you!) and we had a private screening of
Lady & the Tramp, sitting together on the futon in front of the TV,
with her head burrowed into my shoulder giving me a running
commentary. She sang along to "Bella Notte," and again I despair
complete lack of pitch; she must get her singing talents from some
long-ago tone deaf ancestor. Jennifer, at this age, had perfect pitch
and sang like a lark.
My pal Chris is going to be 80 next weekend, and despite the long,
expensive and arduous journey (a bus, a train, another train, another
bus, and a subway: 15 hours one way!) I am going to his birthday party.
He will only be 80 once, after all, and we have known each other since
the mid-60s! Fortunately my office is closed that Monday for the 4th of
July, so I can do the 15-hour return trip that day and I won't miss any
Got an email today telling me that one of the long-ago Ash Grove
waitresses had died. I hadn't seen or spoken to Annita since I stopped
working at the club in 1971 or thereabouts, but of course I remember
her, and those days, and those times. She is frozen in time in my
memory now, a short blond funny very bright girl with rimless glasses,
full of enthusiasm (oh well, we were ALL full of enthusiasm in the
60s!), and a good worker. I am sorry she is gone. According to the note
I got she died of cancer, but it was a very short illness.
Yesterday morning I did my last Alive and Picking radio show of the
summer; am now on hiatus until September, when I am supposed to return
to radio ranch the Saturday after Labor Day. A whole summer of not
having to get up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays; a whole summer of not
having to spend at least part of *every single* weeknight listening to
recently-arrived CDs for potential airplay. Gosh, what will I do with myself?
The question answers itself: Eliza came over yesterday afternoon and
stayed overnight. She will be two in August, and is now talking
incredibly fast, rattling off long sentences of which I understand
about five words out of every ten, and singing and dancing around the
room. She drags my guitar over to me and says "SING, Grandma!"; she
strums my dulcimer and my autoharp and giggles at the sounds they make.
Bath time last night was enhanced by the presence of Nemo swimming
around her in the tub, to the accompaniment of much giggling and
splashing (lots of water on the floor, not so much in the tub, the sure
sign of a successful bath). After a viewing of "Snow White" and
a peaceful night's sleep we walked to the coffee shop this
morning (she finished off her impeccable ensemble with her Disney
Princess sneakers, which light up) with Jennifer and Bruce, and Eliza
wrapped herself around some pancakes. So my Grandma time, plus my promised
visits to sick friends, is going to do it for me this summer. I am
supposed to go to North Carolina in February, and if that works out
I'll do my New Orleans trip at the same time, but till then I am
sticking close to home.This does NOT, however, mean that I intend to
take up housecleaning, or anything. I will still be much too busy for
Sorry to hear that Clarence Clemons passed. Big man, big heart, good
musician. Speaking of musicians: Ian, just *five days* after brain
surgery, is making his gig at Cantalinis tonight. English people are
CRAZY. If it wasn't Father's Day I'd go out there and give him stick
about it, but the place is going to be slammed crowded so I'll just
keep the nag on hold till we see each other again.
Living right underneath the Hollywood Sign has its good points,
although I can't actually think of any right offhand, and its bad
points. Tourists are insane, did you know that? They stand out in the
middle of the street with videocameras, shooting footage of an
immovable object. VIDEO cameras! The thing just sits there on the
hillside; it doesn't light up or move around - and they stand out there
with traffic whizzing past them in both directions along the narrow
canyon streets and take VIDEOS. Then there are the ones that try to
drive up here to get closer to the sign; despite the clearly labeled
street signs that say "NO access to the Hollywood sign" and "Dead end:
not a through street," every weekend they drive their rental cars as
far as they can up ever-narrowing dead end roads until, guess what,
they get stuck. They can't turn around, and there are other morons
right behind them hemming them in so THEY can't turn around; and then
the police have to come and unsnarl them and get them out of there.
Meanwhile if (God forbid) there was ever a fire up here, they are
blocking the access roads so that fire trucks can't get through. Oh,
and they leave trash all over the place while they're waiting to be
rescued. This rant was occasioned by the recent publication of a new
book about Hollywoodland (which is what this canyon area used to be
called); lovely historic photos, interesting stories about former
famous residents, and you know what? It's going to make it WORSE,
because it's going to bring more traffic and attention to the
neighborhood. There is now a "For Sale" sign on my next door neighbor
Katie's house; she has lived there ever since I have been here, and
that's well over 40 years. She SAYS she is moving to Orange
County to be nearer her children and grandchildren, but in real life,
she is tired of picking up trash and shooing away tourists who
illegally park in her driveway while they're trying to find a good
angle from which to take photos of the sign. Anybody want to buy a
really nice little house?
My pal Ian is going into the hospital Tuesday morning for brain
surgery. And this is what it costs us to get old. I shake my head in
disbelief as one friend after another falls prey to cancer, cataracts,
hip and knee replacements, prostate surgery, brain surgery and breast
cancer, and as friends younger than
I am die. I sit at bedsides, empty catheter bags, hold hands,
read, sing, rub backs, cook, or sit quietly, as needed. And glad to be
able to do it.
Last weekend Josh and Kate and I took Eliza to Griffith Park, where she
went on the pony ride by herself.
This was a big deal. She sat up straight on her pony and looked very
elegant (I was half expecting a Queen Eizabeth-type wave), and although
Josh walked around the ring with her a couple of times she clearly
didn't want or need him to, so he dropped back and let her do it on her
own. We also went on the Griffith Park Railroad, a toy-train that
chuffs around the perimeter of the pony rides, and she seemed to enjoy
Mark's surgery went very well and there were no complications. I stayed
with him for a few nights, and then he was able to manage on his own,
so I came home. Now I am off nursing duty until the first week of July.
And the hits just keep on coming. A friend of mine in New Orleans is in
the hospital following a suicide attempt yesterday.
People commit suicide for so many
different reasons, and it's almost impossible to stand on emotional
guard duty all the time for every single person that we know. Easier by
far to be there when we're needed (need help moving, can you spare a
weekend? Need to borrow $50 til payday. Need some post-op nursing help.
My car's dead, can you run me to the store and back?) Any of those can
be done by any of us at the drop of a hat; but how do we tend to needs
that are unexpressed until it's too late?
For some folks, and I can kind of understand this one, suicide is a
free pass. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, with AIDS, with the long
living death of Alzheimer's Disease, they do it to spare those they
love from months or possibly years of emotionally draining, incredibly
expensive care. I get that. Really, I do. But to be young, in good
health, okay financially, and with a wide circle of friends to reach
out to, it's a very dark place indeed that makes you pick up a gun or a
needle or a bottle of sleeping pills instead of picking up the phone.
And how can I be there for them if I don't know where they are?
Sometimes I just want to say SHIT, but I'm not supposed to swear around
Eliza. Just learned that another close friend has cancer, though it
seems to be operable, and he says (and more to the point the doctor
says) that he will be fine because they caught it early. He has already
scheduled his surgery for early July. So Cheryl has a terminal
malignant brain tumor, Mark's going in early next month for another eye
operation, and now here's another pal with cancer. I am going to be
doing a lot of live-in nursing over the summer.
NOT for that reason, but anyhow: I am taking the
summer off from doing my radio show. The station asked
for volunteers to take a summer hiatus to give some new shows a chance
to be heard, and I raised my hand and offered. I'll have my hands full
with nursing sick friends (which means packing a bag and literally
moving in with
them to look after them post-surgery), then with an eventual funeral in
San Luis Obispo when Cheryl passes, and also with more and more Eliza
care, as the kids hope to travel some this summer. The station
management took great pains to assure me that the show *will* be back
in late August/early September. Am going to be on the air as usual for
the next couple of Saturdays, then will be taking this break.
On a happier note, last year or the year before I got an email asking
if I would donate the use of some of my photos to a book project. I get
these requests all the time, and nothing much usually ever comes of it
- but the guy just wrote me back to say that the book is now finished
and ready to be published in August, and he will be sending me the
agreed-upon free copy as my photo usage "fee." Also asked me to write a
blurb for the back of the book. I said, well, um, you do know I'd need
actually READ the book first, right?
The word that I was waiting for has come, and it's not good news. My
friend Pete's wife Cheryl has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain
tumor. They have three young children (one with special needs),
and the whole family is
devastated. I live *just* too far away and am *just* too old to be able
to be helpful, so I sit here feeling useless. Of course in cases like
this we are *all* useless, really. She will have the best possible
hospice care at home, and it won't be long. I am profoundly sad.
I'm very worried about good friend whose wife is seriously ill.
Trying to monitor the situation at long distance is nervewracking. Some
major tests are set for tomorrow, after which I hope to get a chance to
Lots of pals in town this weekend; Friday morning I had breakfast with
my old friend Bill Ferris, who was here briefly for a conference. It
was great to catch up with him on all his news. Saturday, radio, and
again the show did well in the fund drive - better than last week! -
and then Jim and I
had lunch with John Broven and Joe Bihari. Today I emceed the Topanga
Banjo & Fiddle Contest (Eliza loved it, but Jennifer's allergies
were driven insane by the ragweed), then had dinner with all the kids
and Eliza. You have no idea how tired I am! Onward to the coming week,
which will also be very full.
know, I know. Long time no blob. Things at Casa Aldin have been really
busy (and you don't even want to HEAR the saga of how my car has been
in the shop four times in four weeks for totally unrelated problems,
nor do you want to know what that cost me). My primary excuse for not
having time to write is that Josh and Kate went to
Hawaii for a wedding, stayed a week, and left Eliza at Grandma's house.
This was a lot of fun for Eliza (Disneyland with Grandma and Aunt
Jennifer!) but Grandma is *really* tired. That little firecracker ran
me ragged. The kids brought her back a bright pink ukulele from Hawaii,
and I understand that there is a fridge magnet in my near future. And
now that they are home, Grandma gets to rest? Not so fast; we're (all)
taking her to the zoo tomorrow to meet some of the characters from
Also have been having some minor-league health issues, which seem to be
resolving themselves - another excuse for not writing. And then there
are the old friends who have been dropping like flies:
Posted: Tue., May. 3,
2011, 12:09pm PT From Daily Variety:
Byrds manager Jim Dickson dies; Key folk-rock figure
also worked with Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers
Dickson, a key architect of the '60s folk-rock sound and the original
manager of the Byrds, died of unknown causes April 19 in Costa Mesa,
Calif. He was 80.
Born in Los Angeles, Dickson worked as a record
producer in the early '60s, cutting proto-folk-rock sides by
singer-songwriter Hamilton Camp, progressive bluegrass units the
Dillards and the Hillmen (which included future Byrds member Chris
Hillman) and singer-songwriter David Crosby.
He took up
management of Hillman and Crosby's fledgling new band, which was
styling itself as an L.A. equivalent of the Beatles. Employing free
studio time cadged by Dickson, then a staff producer at World Pacific
Studios, the group cut early tracks as the Beefeaters and the Jet Set.
1964, Dickson received an acetate of the unreleased Bob Dylan song "Mr.
Tambourine Man" from the singer-songwriter's publisher. His charges, a
quintet now known as the Byrds, recorded it for Columbia Records
(employing backup studio musicians), and it became the band's
breakthrough No. 1 single.
Dickson and management partner Eddie
Tickner handled the Byrds, who became the preeminent folk-rock band of
the era, through a bitter split in June 1967. The pair subsequently
worked with the Flying Burrito Brothers, a country-rock unit including
Hillman, Byrds drummer Michael Clarke and latter-day Byrds member Gram
Dickson produced the group's A&M albums "Burrito
Deluxe," "The Flying Burrito Brothers" and the live "Last of the Red
Hot Burritos," and is credited with helming some of Parsons'
post-Burritos solo recordings.
In 1972, Dickson helped ex-Byrd Gene Clark re-record and remix his 1967
album "Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers."
Dickson later moved to Hawaii, where he became a competitive sailor.
Went out last night with Jennifer and Bruce to Joe's, a club that I
have been hearing about for ages but had never been to, where they
participated in swing dancing and I exercised my undeniable expertise
at observing others, and was assigned to take pictures of them in
action for Jennifer's Facebook posts. I like the club very much - a
relaxed atmosphere, surprisingly good and cheap food, and thank
goodness pals like Ray Campi and Jim were there too, so I wasn't as
conspicuous as I otherwise would have been as the only member of the
gray-haired contingent. A big part of my staying out til midnight was
the fact that I didn't have to get up and go to work this morning -
have I mentioned that my office has cut all jobs by 20%, so I am
working (and getting paid for) only four days a week now instead of
five? Yes, well. So Wednesday being my "day off," I was press-ganged by
Jennifer into going out on a Tuesday night, and actually had a lovely
"You should try swing dancing, mom, it's fun!" says Jennifer. Hell will
freeze, says I.
Eliza and I had a lovely visit
Saturday evening. After the kids dropped her off we played with her
flashcards, then she had some macaroni and cheese and we followed that
with the brush-teeth-put-on-pajamas ritual, and then she watched her
Pinocchio DVD for awhile. When I informed her that it was time to go to
bed, she carefully carried all her stuffed animals, one at a time, of
course, to delay the bedtime thing, from the living room back into
Grandma's bedroom, and lined them all up on her pillow and covered them
with a quilt before getting in herself and fixing me with That Look,
which meant that she wanted me to get in with her and snuggle till she
fell asleep. So I did, except that I fell asleep too, and we woke up
together Sunday morning in a tangle of blankets and with her Big Bird
doll wedged firmly under my chin. I left the lights and the computer
and everything on - just fell asleep and slept straight through, which
hardly ever happens, so that was wonderful. She announced that she
wanted pancakes for breakfast, so we got her dressed ("And NOW my Snow
White socks and NOW my shoes and NOW my sweater," she chanted) and then
I manuevered the heavy stroller and her down the two flights of stairs
to the street and pushed her to the coffee shop. Best exercise I got
all week! While we waited for our breakfast she colored on the paper
placemat, explaining to me that "THIS one is pink and THIS one is blue
and THIS one is green." She's talking a mile a minute these days, can
count to twenty and say the whole alphabet - at 19 months old! What a
And another milestone in Grandma getting
older: I tripped and fell this noon,
really hard, on the sidewalk between the Post Office and my car. Two
good-looking young men raced to my side, helped me up, braced me while
checked for broken bones (none, thankfully), picked up my busted specs
and asked whether they should call someone for me. I was just a
few feet from my car, so I pointed to it and they helped me into the
driver's seat. This getting old stuff is not for sissies. My left knee
is badly bruised, my left wrist is quite painful, and
the heels of both hands have asphalt burns and scrapes where I put them
out to break my fall. But I was able to drive myself back to my office
and gimp my way to my desk, so it wasn't nearly as serious as it could
have been. And did my life flash before my eyes during those seconds
while I watched in surprise as the pavement rose up to meet me? Not at
all. I was thinking, "Not my ankle again, not my ankle again, PLEASE
not my ankle again." And Someone Up There was listening. I had a
sprain of my left ankle a couple of years ago, and believe you me that
NOT something I ever want to repeat; aside from the hassle of getting
up and down the stairs of my apartment building on crutches, ever since
then that ankle has been
chancy to put too much weight on, and it tells me things every time
it's going to rain. I quite welcomed the searing pain in my left knee
when I hit the ground, because it meant the ankle was okay.
Couldn't very well undress in the office, so waited till I got home
tonight to inspect the damage - the knee is already an interesting
color, but I think I'll live. Put peroxide on all the scrapes and
bruises, and we'll see how it looks tomorrow.
Got a really unusual post-birthday present today; Kirk came over and
grouted my kitchen sink. Most guys just give me chocolate.
AND, it's raining again.
We had a great birthday/Mardi Gras party on Saturday. All the
kids came over early and helped get it together; Eliza napped through
the first hour or so and then joined us, decked out in Mardi Gras beads
and adorableness. I made jambalaya as usual, and lots of friends
brought things to share and lots of food (lasagna! steamed fresh
vegetables! home made tamales! pear and walnut salad!) And Jim brought
a huge chocolate cake, personally inscribed to the three of us who were
the official celebrants.
And a few hours after the last party guest left, the skies
opened and we had a deluge that lasted nearly 48 hours. I was sitting
at the coffee shop on my hillside having a late lunch on Sunday when
everything went dark. They had to close, of course - not only were
there no lights in the kitchen, so Larry was having trouble seeing what
he was cooking, but with no power the credit card machine wouldn't
work. Jim lost power, though I didn't - he must be on the same circuit
as the coffee shop, since he lives just a block away. He brought his
laptop over and plugged it into my cable line so he could submit
something that was on deadline, and then we went to the movies - a
program of early 1940s Soundies at the Hammer, along with a Jimmy
Stewart-Paulette Goddard musical film called "Pot O'Gold" that included
every Irish stereotype in the book.
nice to be back
on the radio after many weeks away, and I got some nice calls and
who've missed me (!). There's a fair amount of new stuff to sort
through, but this coming Saturday John and Deanne Davis are at the
controls, which gives me an extra week to listen to all the new
CDs that have come in. And although I've been home for over a week I am
Jim and I went out to Cantalini's last night to hear our friends Ian
Whitcomb, Fred Sokolow and Dave Jones entertain the masses. They were a
lot of fun, as always, and most wonderfully for me, their show always
at 6:30 p.m., so I get home early. Food was good, too: chicken marsala
and a salad for me, and something pesto-pasta-ish for Jim, and for
dessert a giant slab of chocolate cake and two forks.
Speaking of cake, it's birthday time around Casa Aldin, and all the
kids are celebrating theirs and mine. Our annual family birthday dinner
will be Wednesday night, a date purposely selected because it's no
one's actual birthday, and because we all get paid on the 15th of the
month, so will have enough money to go out to dinner and have a good
spread by then! Jim is
dropping hints about a birthday cake to be delivered this weekend.
March 8 Here's the
link to a temporary journal and
some photos of my trip. 2011
Six years ago today my dear Keith died. Hard to believe it
has been so
long. His good friend Justin went to the cemetery and left flowers from
us both; Keith isn't actually buried there; it's his mother's grave,
but his ashes were scattered there, and it's all we've got, so that's
where the flowers go. This year's are lovely, bright and cheerful.
Had lots of fun last night doing the interview with Jett Williams and
her husband Keith Adkinson. I took some photos in the studio of Jett
with Mark, who was wearing his nifty Hank Williams t-shirt. She looks a
*lot* like her daddy. Turns out Jett and Mark were born within a few
days of each other, a few days after Hank died.
Mark Humphrey and Jett Williams at KPFK, 2/10/11
Today was my last day at the office before vacation, and now am
packing and prepping and all the usual. Am babysitting Eliza tomorrow
night so that the kids can go out to dinner, and will probably keep her
overnight for some Grandma snuggle time. When they bring her over, Josh
is going to install a web-cam on the laptop I've borrowed from Claire
so that I can talk to Eliza and we can see each other while I'm gone.
The miracle of Skype! And on Sunday, I get on the train and ride.
Jennifer will mind the fort here at Chez Aldin, the station will cover
the radio show with Fund Drive stuff, and Mark is ready to fill in if
by some miracle the fund drive ends before I get back. Yeah, right.
At work today I sat transfixed in front of my computer, watching the
world change before my eyes. When I was a child there was no TV, but we
had a big cabinet radio, and younguns, guess what - in those days the
radio WAS the internet. We sat transfixed on the floor in my
grandmother's living room and listened to news bulletins, soap operas,
comedy programs, western serials and music; but I never thought that
the day would come when I could watch a revolution happening in real
time halfway around the world. Nor, for that matter, did I ever dream
that I would watch airplanes flying into towers in New York, or watch
New Orleans drowning, or wave at my granddaughter on a computer screen
from halfway across the country. The times, they are a-changing.
Trying to do too many things at once. I thought that the radio
on hiatus for a few weeks due to the Fund Drive, but then I got an
opportunity to visit with Jett Williams, who has co-produced a 16 CD
box set (!) of old radio broadcasts by her father, Hank Williams Sr.,
and I couldn't say no. Thank God Mark is a Hank expert and is helping
me organize the Q&A, which happens this Thursday. I guess the
station will broadcast it at some point during the drive.
Eliza is speaking in sentences now ("Give Grandma big hug!" is one of
my favorites), and wearing me out with her boundless energy. I
just *love* the grandma thing!
Sort of a non-stop
New Year, so far. On New Year's Eve Mark and I went to downtown L.A.
and rode on Angels Flight (which cost us only a penny each, as it was
the 109th anniversary of their opening, at which time it cost a penny
to ride it). When we got to the top Jim was already up there,
autographing copies of his Angels Flight book at a table, and Bill and
Lynne from the Monday nights at Conrads were there cheering him on.
Then Mark and I walked across the street to the Grand Central Market,
where we found blueberries for $1 a basket, and tangerines for $1.50
for a three pound tub. After that it was off to Chinatown so Mark could
buy some ginseng and cough syrup, and then to lunch at the Empress
Pavilion, where I had my first encounter with dim sum. Dim sum, in case
you too have been living under the same rock I was, is a style of
service whereby you sit down at a table and they bring you tea, and
they put a long paper ticket on your table. Then servers walk around to
all the tables pushing huge carts of appetizer-size portions of all
different dishes. They swoop the lid off and let you look at it, and
they also tell you what it is, but in Chinese, which wasn't too helpful
were the only non-Asians there and neither of us speaks Chinese. Well,
I can say "ho la ma hon yin" but that's not very helpful since it means
"how are you, elder brother" in Cantonese; it's the only phrase I know
and I'm not sure any more why I know it or where I learned it). So we
just shrugged and said "sure!" to everything they showed us. Every time
a server put a little plate on the table he or she punched our ticket
with a little stamp. We had no idea how much money we were spending
(nor what we were eating, in most cases!) and I was getting nervous
when we finally called it quits. We had eleven different dishes, most
of which were excellent and only one or two of which I didn't much care
for, which is a pretty good average, and all that food cost us only $34.
On New Year's morning I was up early and off to do radio, then came
home and dismantled and chopped up the Christmas tree and put it into
the recycling barrel. I should have worn work gloves for that, and
would have if I had any, so my hands are telling me things today. Then
Josh and Kate came over and picked me up and we took Eliza to the zoo.
She communed with the elephants, the giraffes and various other
critters, and seemed to really enjoy it. She looked at a huge Bengal
tiger, then looked at me and said very clearly, "Meow!"
Today Claire came over and helped me with some web site stuff - the new
year means new files are needed so I can post my 2011 playlists. Then
we went to the coffee shop and had lunch with Jim. And THEN it started
raining, again. Jennifer and Bruce, who went to Bakersfield to visit
friends for New Year's Eve, are now stuck there, since the Grapevine is
closed down in both directions due to snow! So I am feeding their cat
till they get home, which I hope will be tomorrow.
Sad news on which to end the year. An old, old friend died on
Christmas Day. Her name was Kate Rinzler, and you can see/hear her
talking here. But long ago,
before she was married to the late Ralph Rinzler, she was married to Ed
Pearl in the early 1960s at the time that he owned the Ash Grove and I
worked there. I used to babysit her little daughter Marni, now a
grown woman in her late 40s or early 50s; Kate was one of the kindest
people I ever
was especially good to me during one very hard time in my life, when
her gentle kindness and understanding was the most helpful thing on
earth. I will miss her.
The holidays are here. Tree is up and decorated, with lots of help from
my neighbor Jim (at 6 feet 6 or thereabouts, getting stuff down off my
top closet shelves is a breeze for him, no ladder needed, and he
reached over and put my treetop angel on without even stretching!).
What presents there will be are all taken care of. Not much, but not
much is needed. I *was* going to go to a holiday party at Tom and
Claire's tonight, but Eliza has been pretty sick (ran a fever of 103,
poor mousie) and I stayed overnight last night at Josh and Kate's
trying to get her to go to
sleep and stay asleep. Not
much luck! So I only had about four hours myself last night - she did
go to sleep at about 11 and was wide awake and raring to go at 4:45
this morning, and I took care of her till Kate woke up at 8, as both of
them were short of sleep from being up with her the night before last.
I am so tired that I'm afraid to drive in the dark and the heavy rain
we're having, so I'll miss their soiree. I sent Jim with an apology and
the items I had offered to bring. But Eliza does seem to be feeling
better today; she ate some soft food, and the fever has completely
broken. I did only the most rudimentary stuff here at home today, and
plan to turn into a pumpkin around 8 tonight!
Another reason for no late night for me tonight is that tomorrow the
most complicated part of my job starts; a procedure that we do twice a
year, and it takes a lot of time and a lot of concentration, and is really
the only part of my job that could be called even a little stressful,
because it's exacting, detailed work that *has* to be accurate. So lots
of sleep for me tonight, then lots of mail runs tomorrow (my pal Mark
has gone home to Oklahoma for the holidays, so I am collecting his mail
from both his P.O Box and his home, and storing it all till he returns,
plus there is another regular mail drop I do for another friend) before
Fooling around on the internet, I Googled Maps-ed my pal Tony's address
in the UK. The photos Google uses are apparently quite old; I was
hoping to see his house covered in a perfect English fairytale
Christmas blanket of snow, since the weather reports tell me that there
is so much snow there that
Heathrow Airport is closed! But although I found his house, there was a
car he hasn't owned in years parked in front, and a clear blue sky
above. Then I did the same to my own address, and saw this building
before the most recent repaint job, and that was right after the last
big earthquake! So yes, old photos, but still fun to get to see where
It's raining, it's pouring. Actual conversation overheard at the coffee
Customer (clearly a tourist visiting Hollywood): "You know, I'm
actually kind of digging the fog and rain."
Exasperated waitress, who's tired of it all: "So go visit England!"
Speaking of weather and rain: For those many friends in far-flung
places who read this blob as a way of keeping up with how our family is
doing, yes, there *are* mudslides in the Hollywood Hills, but not my Hollywood Hills. The mudslides
that are on the news are in Nichols Canyon and Laurel Canyon, to the
west of us, and in
another hillside area far to the east. Our canyon is pretty safe, being
built primarily on granite, and with this amount of rain we are
probably safe from fires for a long time too! And, touch wood, I have
no leaks - yet!
Sad to note the passing of
photographer and filmmaker George Pickow, husband of folksinger
Jean Ritchie and co-founder with her of Greenhays Records.
NEW YORK, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Photographer George Pickow, known for his
album cover photographs of musicians such as Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong, has died
in New York, his son said.
Pickow died of respiratory failure, his son Jon said in a New York
Times report. Pickow was 88.
Pickow, who died Dec. 10, photographed the cultural ferment of New
York City, particularly Greenwich Village, where he and his wife, folk
singer Jean Ritchie lived after their marriage in 1950.
Pickow helped his wife collect traditional songs from singers in
Appalachia and Britain, and contributed photographs to many of her
books, among them "The Swapping Song Book" (Oxford University, 1952), a
volume of songs from the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky.
His subjects included Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Dizzy Gillespie,
Tony Bennett, Louis Jordan and dozens of other musical performers in
the last half of the 20th century.
Originally trained as a painter, Pickow also photographed many
distinguished visual artists, including Thomas Hart Benton, Chaim Gross
and Edward Hopper. Many of his most striking photographs were shot in
black and white, and they show people plying their trades.
He was also an independent filmmaker and from the 1970s until
shortly before his death, he ran a small record label called Greenhays
Pickow was born on Feb. 11, 1922, in Los Angeles. He was raised in
Brooklyn and studied painting at the Cooper Union. He made training
films for the Navy during World War II.
Survivors include his widow, Jean Ritchie, and sons Jon and Peter.
© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Thanksgiving at Casa Aldin was great. Food, friends, family, fun. Took
me three days to finally finish washing the last of the pots and pans,
but it was worth it!
Somehow it seems as though KPFK is having a fundraiser about every
other month any more. I mean literally. We just had one in October, and
I already had the entire month
of December booked with guest hosts when they announced another pledge
drive for December. Fortunately the station was willing to compromise,
so instead of me having to cancel and reschedule all my guests (which
would have been a DRAG, since they all wanted to do Christmas shows,
and somehow those are much less timely in March), we are going to have
a solid block of 45 minutes of music followed by 15 minutes of
fundraising, and then another solid 45 minutes of music followed by a
final 15 minutes of fundraising. But don't worry - there'll be another
fund drive in February! (See? I mean, LITERALLY every two months!)
I've been spending a lot of time with Eliza, which means not a lot of
time for this blob or anything else. But so worth it. She's talking a
blue streak, walking and running everywhere, and we are having Fun With
Flash Cards at Grandma's house as she learns new words every day. My
weeks are full of work and radio prep, and my weekends are full of
radio and errands and Eliza. No wonder I am falling behind with the
Went to the coffee shop tonight, where Jim and I did our usual
crossword puzzle together, and was stunned to learn that John, one of
our "regulars," was found dead at home this morning. He was at the
coffee shop on Sunday - I saw him and we exchanged our usual hellos -
and <insert noise of finger snap here> just like that he is gone.
Two of the waitresses went up to his house when they heard the news,
and stayed there with him till the coroner's van came. So sad. What a
Speaking of so sad - Elizabeth Edwards. Man. She did not for one second
deserve what she went through in her life - losing her young son in a
car crash, facing the glare of publicity as her husband had an affair
with and then fathered a child by another woman, learning she had
cancer and then fighting it - but she handled it all with dignity and
grace and class. I really respect the way she lived her life.
My plans for the trip are coming along well. Chicago, Memphis, New
Orleans - and Tony is flying over from England to meet me in Memphis,
so I'll have a traveling partner again. I really like it both ways -
I'm perfectly happy wandering around on my own, and I also like having
someone to wander with.
Got a new digital camera; Jennifer recommended the one she uses, and lo
and behold I hit a sale at Target and got that exact model, very cheap!
She came up tonight and gave me a quick tutorial, but like anything
else it's about fooling with it awhile and seeing what it can do.
Fortunately, Eliza provides us with an endless supply of funny faces to
practice on. Oh! Did I mention she has learned to say Grandma?
A good friend had a detached retina last month, so for awhile there I
was pretty busy taking him back and forth - to the hospital for
surgery, home from hospital, back for followups, etc. He went back home
for Thanksgiving and during that time was able to drive some, so I
guess things are improving.
LOVED that so many of my friends got Grammy nominations! (Didn't so
much love that so many of them are competing against each other in the
The wedding was great. Everything was perfect, the cake was gorgeous,
the food was delicious, the music was perfect, the ceremony was short
and sweet and a great time was had by all. Jennifer is floating three
feet off the ground with happiness. In addition to about 100 of Bruce
and Jennifer's friends, Jim came, Mark came, and my friend Berta and
her kids drove across the desert from Flagstaff to be with us, then
turned around and drove back again as they had an obligation there the
next night. Bruce's parents and one of his brothers flew out from North
Dakota for it, and the day after the wedding we took them to the
Pasadena City College swap meet. Jennifer found a great pair of vintage
shoes and two dresses, Bruce found some Star Wars toys, and I didn't
buy a mandolin (but it was a close shave.) Now the kids are settling in
to married life and deciding where to put all their gifts, and I am
coasting toward Thanksgiving. I ordered the turkey and the ham today!
This Saturday Josh and Kate are going to a friend's party, and I get to
have Eliza overnight again. Yippee! She wore her pretty-pretty party
dress to Jennifer's wedding, and assuming that she hasn't outgrown it
by then it will also do for Thanksgiving.
Well. Election is over, and it was 100 degrees downtown today. Yoo hoo,
weatherman this is November, dial it back please. The wedding
this Saturday is coming together thanks to Jennifer's inherited habit
of being incredibly organized, making extensive lists, and checking off
everything as she finishes it. Got that from me, you betcha (hello,
apple? This is tree.) I spent two nights in her apartment putting the
favors together (and trying not to eat all the chocolate before it ever
got into the boxes), and we did some extensive shopping, buying white
material by the yard and various other odds and ends. Mark is covering
the radio show for me this Saturday, and I am taking Friday off work
all day to help her with any final prep that may be needed. I have
ordered some roses to be delivered as a surprise on Friday, and the
tables and chairs will all be delivered Friday night (and stored in my
apartment overnight, yippee!). Don't expect to hear from me for
awhile; I'm too busy having fun.
musician Zachary Richard has suffered a stroke.
Wedding plans proceeding apace. Stuff got bought last night, honeymoon
hotel got booked today. Invites are out, RSVPs are in, as Jennifer
says. Casa Aldin is rocking!
Report from the front lines: Jennifer's wedding is coming together
nicely, the first weekend of the KPFK Fund Drive went fairly well, and
I had a great time emceeing the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers
Convention last Sunday (and have a natty new t-shirt to show for it).
Eliza is coming to stay for the weekend, and Jennifer and I are taking
her shopping on Sunday - my gosh, three generations of Aldin women at
the mall. Look out world! Next up, getting my mind wrapped around prep
for Thanksgiving dinner, which is the Next Big Thing after the wedding
- I bought Eliza a darling little party dress to wear to both her aunt
Jennifer's wedding and Thanksgiving dinner, and maybe Christmas too if
she hasn't outgrown it by then. How is it possible that I can see the
holidays right around the corner? This week's mail brought me and
election ballot and a Grammy ballot, coicidentally on the same day.
Wedding plans at Casa Aldin; busy, busy, excited.
It's also so hot that I can't even sit in the room where this computer
is for very long at a time (no A/C in here), so will write more when it
The radio show fundraiser did terrifically well this morning - as I
said to Music Director Maggie, I guess this means I have to keep doing
it, then? I'm going to officially ban Mark Humphrey and Rex Mayreis
from donating any more money for at least a year, though. Rex is going
to have to get a second job to support his donating habit; he gets up
at the crack of still dark out and drives to KPFK from wherever the
hell far east of here he lives, answers phones in the pledge room
during my show, and
then pays money for the privilege? Nertz, as Jimmy Durante used to say.
I really appreciate all the regulars who loyally call in every time
there's a fund drive. But these guys have to cut it out for awhile.
Then errands, shopping (Jennifer starts a new job Monday so I picked up
some things for her) and this afternoon I had a visit from my (much)
younger half sister and her two children, who live in Carlsbad; she is
the baby of my large extended family, born after I was already grown
and gone, so we never really spent much time together, especially as
she was raised in Italy and I was born and raised in New York. Anyhow,
they had been living in Texas, as her husband's work took them there,
but he died of cancer a few months ago, and they've now relocated
"home" to California. Kate and Eliza met us at the store where Josh
works in Hollywood, and we all went to lunch at a nearby restaurant,
where Eliza charmed all comers as usual, and at the end of the meal
Josh and I had our standard discussion about tipping. He thinks I
overtip, and maybe I do by a buck or two here and there. My take on
this is that servers stand on their feet eight hours a day for minimum
wage, at the beck and call of people who often treat them like lackeys,
and they usually have to divide their tips with bus boys and etc., so I
don't think that the extra buck or two will break me and it might make
a difference to them. For all I know these folks might be single
parents, working double shifts to feed their families, and so forth.
Anyhow, I always toss in a bit extra. Josh says that they make plenty
of money and that I grossly overtip. It's not grossly - I might round
up instead of doing an exact percentage, and then might add in a couple
more bucks when, like today, we had a really good, helpful and
cooperative server who went out of her way in the matter of refills and
extra napkins and setting up Eliza's highchair and all that. This is
Not A Big Deal to me, but Josh is always on my case about it. However,
it was my credit card so I got to decide the tip. So there. (He'd have
a FIT if he saw how much I tip in New Orleans!)
President Obama made me miss visiting with Eliza tonight. I was on my
way from work to Josh and Kate's house to hang out with them for the
evening, when I ran smack dab into the street closures for the
fundraising event the President is hosting tonight. EVERY street that
could have taken me to their house was closed and guarded by police,
and I had to go waaay out of my way just to get home. It took me FOUR
HOURS to do what should be a 45-min.drive. Oh, Mr. President,
after I voted for you and everything, how could you let your mean
Secret Service detail keep me from spending time with my beautiful
I was all the more sad because I had not seen her for awhile. I usually
let her babysit me every Saturday night, but I worked all weekend - and
when I say all weekend, I mean ALL WEEKEND, because this was The Big
Move. We rented a U-Haul, packed our business lives of the past 35
years into boxes, and shifted it all to the new office on Saturday;
Sunday was spent unpacking, and trying to cram twice the stuff into
half the space. This morning we learned that, oh joy, the phone company
very promptly disconnected our old phone lines just as they were told
to, but didn't connect our new ones at the new office. This meant, not
only no phones, but no internet access on our computers (no DSL lines)
and no fax machine. MANY frenzied phone calls later, we were able to
persuade them to put a recording on the old office phone line giving my
cell phone number as the new company number until we can get our
permanent phones installed. This Has Not Been Fun. The rest of today
was more unpacking and head scratching, and a little bit of the fun
stuff (putting posters and photos up on the walls and so forth).
Tomorrow, more of the same, and so forth, until we are finally settled
The one non-work thing I was able to accomplish this weekend was to
call my pal Tony in the UK on Sunday, and leave him a Happy Birthday
message on his answering machine. I knew he wouldn't be home - he was
out frivoling, exactly as he should have been - but I wanted him to get
to hear my voice on his birthday.
Hard to believe that when I wake up tomorrow morning Eliza will be one
year old. Like all grandmothers, I think it's gone by too fast. The
first year has been full of adventures for all of us as we got to know
the new person in our lives. Together we've been through colic,
teething, learning to sit up by herself, holding her own bottle,
learning to crawl, to eat (semi) solid food, to pull herself up to a
standing position, to stand all by herself - and taking a bath in the
big bathtub, with a great deal of splashing and giggling. She can't
talk, but she can make herself known - da means daddy, ba means bottle
(and sometimes banana), and keys, oddly enough, clearly means keys. And
puff means, not a magic dragon, but a baby food item called puffs. She
can point to things, and she knows her books and lots of the words and
pictures in them. She's already, in just her first year, been to
Disneyland, had a limo ride, and is
close pals with both Elmo and Minnie Mouse. She loves her Baby Einstein
videos, and to sit on my lap and play patty-cake and sing "the itsy
bitsy spider." She loves to play in her bouncer and to go on walks
(well, she rides in her stroller like a princess while the rest of us
walk) to the park near her house or to the coffee shop on my hillside,
where she sits on Jim's lap and charms the waitresses and gets
carrots all over herself and anyone else who ventures too near. She
her mommy and her daddy and her
aunt Jennifer and me, and we love her right back. This is the best
adventure; as I see the winding down of own my life coming slowly
around the horizon, watching this little girl grow and play is a lot of
fun. I used to say that my children were my stealth bombs to the future
- that I had raised amazing kids who were good human beings and would
make the world a better place. I was right about that - and now they
are carrying it on with yet another generation. I sent Eliza home the
other night wrapped in a blanket that I had wrapped her father in 33
years ago; Jennifer found an old photo of Josh strapped into his
with that same blanket keeping him warm.
Parenting has lots of ways it can go, and I was very lucky that my kids
turned out so well despite, or because of, their slightly unorthodox
single-mother upbringing. You have a lot of choices in parenting; if
you are abused as a child, you can choose to perpetuate it by handing
it down to your own children, or you can choose to break the cycle of
abuse by giving them nothing but love. I chose to look very hard at the
way I was raised, and to take from it every good and fun and wonderful
thing that happened and pass those things along to my own children; and
I then took every bad thing that happened and made a specific and
concerted effort to eliminate the negative stuff from my vocabulary of
parenting skills. For instance, my maternal grandmother, whom I adored,
was a racist from the word go, and I am grateful that her frequent
verbal expressions of prejudice never became part of my own mindset. My
own children never heard those words until they started school, and it
was a point of pride with me that they had no idea what the words meant
when they first heard them, and had to come to me for a definition!
Babies are not born hating babies of other races. Prejudice and hatred
are learned behaviors, and babies learn them from their parents. We are
responsible for who our children are; when they are born they are like
blank pieces of paper, and what we write on them is part of who they
will become. I am incredibly proud of
the people my children have grown into. And now Josh is taking every
good and fun and wonderful thing from his own childhood and giving it
to Eliza, and is also remembering my frequent mistakes and vowing not
repeat them. At this rate we will have perfect children in just another
generation or two!
Any minute now Eliza will be learning to walk, and then look out,
here she comes!
Had a good time on the radio this morning; did a birthday set for
Eliza, who amazingly will be one year old this coming Wednesday. She is
standing up by herself these days! Then tonight she came over and
babysat me. We watched the Dodger game together, and Vin Scully's
velvet voice lulled her to sleep in her carseat. Josh installed a
program on my computer that is supposed to download my radio shows onto
my computer so that I can post links to each show on the playlists
page, but honestly? I can't figure to how to actually do that yet; he
will show me more next time he comes over.
Went to Phillip Walker's funeral on Monday, and then got home to the
news that Mitch Jayne of the Dillards had died of a very fast-moving
cancer. The obit said he was 80, which is as hard to believe as that
Eliza is 1.
Jim and I are getting very good at communal crossword puzzle solving.
It seems that the gaps in my knowledge of everything are pretty neatly
filled by his intelligence and vice versa. Had fun at the coffee shop
this afternoon doing the Times puzzle; the waitresses, bless their
cotton socks, save them for me whenever a customer leaves a paper
This weekend is going to be -- not fun. My office is moving, for the
first time in 35+ years, this coming Saturday and Sunday. I have been
shifting boxes of stuff over to the new place a few at a time for a
couple of months already, but this weekend is the
rent-the-truck-and-do-it experience. I am told that I am too old to be
doing this. However, none of the people who tell me I am too old to do
it are offering to do it FOR me, so there we are.
Bluesman Phillip Walker has died at age 73. A good musician, and long
ago a good friend, although I had not seen or spoken to him for some
years. A great gentleman. Funeral arrangements are pending. His
HighTone Records album "Some Day You'll Have These Blues," produced by
Bruce Bromberg, is one of the all time best postwar blues albums I've
After work today I went over to Josh and Kate's, watched another
of "Treme" (still trying to get caught up on the first season), and
played with Eliza for awhile. I was feeling kind of low today - this
would have been Keith's birthday, and while I miss him every minute
every day and with every breath I take, still, it's a little extra hard
on his birthday and on March 6, the day he died. So it was great that I
was able to romp with my granddaughter, whose laughter makes it
impossible to stay sad for very long.
Taked to Joe Frazier today; he'll be my guest on the show Saturday, so
we went over the game plan and I gave him directions to the station.
Spent the morning moving boxes from old to new office, and doing
paperwork, then had lunch at a Mexican restaurant way out on the end of
the Santa Monica Pier with some friends from Maine and England; because
the restaurant is directly over the ocean on the end of the pier, they
were absolutely astounded to see dolphins swimming along just below us.
Among the many new-since-I-was-having-kids developments is something
called Puffs. Nothing to do with Magic Dragons, sorry Peter me darlin'
- these are some kind of air-puffed little bites which pretty much
dissolve in the baby's mouth. Banana flavored, apple flavored, sweet
potato flavored. Reading the label, always a big mistake, I see WAY
more sugar than I would give a baby; why don't we just cut up a real
banana, a real apple, and so forth? Grandma is SO old fashioned.
Anyhow, this weekend will be Eliza's first visit to the House of Mouse.
My kids all loved Disneyland, back when it was more affordable (do you
know, it costs $73 for adults these days?!?) and I guess they loved it
so much that it "stuck" (Jennifer has for many years purchased their
annual pass, which admits her 365 days a year and includes free
parking, and honey, she wears that thing OUT.) So Josh and Kate and I
are driving down there right after my show Saturday morning, and Jenny
and Bruce will meet us there sometime later (but not a LOT later, as we
have 11:45 lunch reservations) and Eliza will get indoctrinated into
the magical world of all things Disney. Josh has a video camera, I have
regular camera, and my friends can expect to get bombarded with
pictures shortly after we return.
The Dodgers have no offense. Oh, and their pitching's no good either.
And Manny Ramirez is about over; can't field anything other than pop
flies and seems to have lost his hitting since they made him stop
taking steroids ;-)
Jim and I went out last night to hear our pal Billy Vera's show at
Vitello's Restaurant (no Robert Blake jokes, please. The restaurant has
heard them all, many times.) We were originally going to be joined by
Jim's radio partner Ray Regelado, but he felt kind of puny so decided
to stay home. When we
got there we were seated at a table with a bunch of Billy's other
friends, right at the front of the stage. I had chicken cacciatore,
good, and Jim and I split a salad, ditto, and a cannoli (no Godfather
jokes, please. I've heard them all, many times), and I forget what
Jim's entree was but he said it was very good. Billy's show was SO much
fun, and very interesting; I've known him for many years now, but
somehow parts of his long music-biz history and many of the songs he's
written had slid past me. I sure got a good education last night! We
had to leave early because the alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. on
Saturdays to wake me up for the radio show. I must be crazy.
Eliza is getting another tooth, and we're all hearing about it; between
the fussing and the drooling she's not too pleased right now. It used
to be pretty common to rub some whiskey or rum or whatever kind of hard
alcohol was in the house on babies' gums to ease the pain, but that's
gone out of favor; my own trick was to take teething rings and
pacifiers and whatnot, as well as teething biscuits (the really hard
ones) and put them in the freezer overnight, then give them to the baby
to gnaw on - the cold numbed the pain. Now the trend is to give them
over the counter medicine! I dunno.
Funny post-Katrina story from a friend in New Orleans:
Part of rebuilding New Orleans caused residents often to be challenged with the task of tracing home titles back potentially hundreds of years. With a
Thomas Hoyt "Slim" Bryant, the last
man to have played on record with
died yesterday at the age of 101. Mind you, his mother lived to be 104!
community rich with history stretching back over two centuries, houses have been passed along through generations of family, sometimes making it quite
difficult to establish ownership.
A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of
property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the
information to the FHA, he received the following reply:
(Actual reply from FHA):
"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we
compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the
proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."
Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:
"Your letter regarding title in Case No.189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 206 years covered by
the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know
that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of
uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from
The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted
the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella. The good Queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful
about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus's expedition.
Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore,
I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His
origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it, and the FHA. I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now,
may we have our damn loan?"
The loan was immediately approved.
This is terrific: the Philadelphia Opera Company does a "secret
shopper" surprise perfomance at a farmers market. The looks on
people's faces are priceless!
We (Josh and Kate and I) took Eliza to her first baseball game at
Dodger Stadium on Saturday. (She had actually been to a Dodger game
once before, when they took her to a spring training game in Arizona,
but this was her first one at Chavez Ravine). She was fine, except for
not wanting to go to sleep - there was just too much going on! She did
the wave, sort of, and sat on daddy's lap while mommy fed her some
squash, and then I put her in her stroller and walked her along the
concourse, but every time I thought she might go to sleep there was a
home run, or a close play, and the crowd erupted in roars, and she woke
back up. Due entirely to her presence there we won the game. Of course
she immediately fell asleep in the car on the way home. I'm still not
sure how I got out of there without buying her a cute Dodger t-shirt.
Every time I go out to Viva Cantina to hear Loafer's Glory they're
better. Well, the name is a bit of a head scratcher, but musically
they're just wonderful. And last Saturday Tom and Patrick Sauber (who
are members of LG along with Bill Bryson and Herb Pedersen) came down
to the station and did the show with me. I thought that they would
bring a stack of CDs and a playlist and we would do as we did last time
they came on the air. But no, they had a big surprise for me, which was
that they brought banjos and guitars and fiddles and mandolins and
played LIVE on the air in between playing records. Just so much fun!
Woke me right up.
Eliza is crawling now; she does about 25 mph from room to room like a
little rocket. Have to watch her every second. Today Kate and I (Josh
had to work) took her to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which
she enjoyed despite not being able to, you know, actually read yet.
Peter Yarrow was performing on the children's stage, and she sat in her
stroller and surveyed the territory while he sang Puff the Magic Dragon
and This Land is Your Land and Going To the Zoo and so forth; then Kate
and I found a shady spot on the grass and played with her while Peter
autographed about 500 books for people who were standing in a really
long line to meet him and get their pictures taken with him, and THEN
Eliza had her first limo ride. Not bad, eight months old and has
already tasted the lap - well, the back seat - of luxury. Peter had
never met her (last year at this time he sang to her when she was still
inside Kate's tummy, but he had never actually met her as a person) so
we all went back to his hotel (hence the limo ride) and then went to
eat in Westwood; Eliza charmed him, flirted with him, posed for
pictures with him, and then promptly fell asleep just in time for the
three grownups to get some good visiting time in over a late lunch.
Peter is, I think, my oldest friend (not because he's 72, but because
we are coming up on fifty years of friendship soon); gosh, it seems
like only yesterday....
Went over to Josh and Kate's tonight to watch the premier episode of
the new HBO drama set in New Orleans, called "Treme." Terrific writing,
cast and acting. I think they’ve got their ears sharply tuned to the
post-Katrina despair, anger and frustration, along with an adamant
refusal to surrender, that was and is the prevailing theme of the
ongoing recovery efforts in New Orleans. The Mardi Gras Indian theme
“won’t bow – don’t know how” runs through the show like an
undercurrent, informing the script and the players.
I think that the Elvis Costello
storyline will continue in future episodes. It’s based on real life,
since he and Allen Toussaint recorded an album about the whole Katrina
experience called “The River in Reverse” – I think we are going to be
seeing some of that in the next episode, if I understood the “coming
Does anyone else think that the
restaurant owner character is playing it like Susan Spicer, headband
Great music – great to see/hear
I was stunned by the dialog,
though. I don’t have HBO at home, so was not aware that the really
strong language (and the full nudity!) was so commonplace on cable
TV these days. While I don’t know anything about the nudity, of course
:-), the language actually is accurate! That's how the musicians really
talk in New Orleans. But I was sorely tempted to cover Eliza's
ears! And people actually have sex on television now?
Loved the show. Can’t wait for the
next episode! I now know what my Sunday nights are going to be spent
doing for the foreseeable future, as long as I don't wear out my
welcome at Josh and Kate's house. Maybe I should offer to bring pizza
HBO has put up a web site for "Treme"with
lots of links explaining more about New Orleans music and culture here.
Joe Liggins doing "The Honeydripper."
Great dinner last night with Jim at The Stinking Rose. I'm sure no one
will want to come near me today - I bet I am extruding garlic odor like
crazy - but so good! I was supposed to spend a couple of hours after
dinner working on Saturday's show, but just fell into bed, too tired to
move. Another day.
Tonight - BLUEGRASS! At Viva Cantina - going out to hear Herb and Tom
and Patrick and Bill. Drat that early morning alarm clock - I can only
stay for one set!
After a couple of decades at the same location, my office will be
moving in a couple of months; much planning, measuring of both the old
and the new places, much figuring out how to fit everything into the
new place, and where; I will need a vacation when this is over!
Unfortunately it's not moving any closer to home so I will still have
the long daily commute.
Went to hear Noel Stookey's show a McCabe's last night. He was
it was great to get to see/hear him. Also at the show was Joe Frazier
(remember the Chad Mitchell Trio?) and we visited quite a bit.
Joe has a book in him, and it needs to come out. I plan to nag him
unmercifully until it does.
John and Deann came and made radio with me this morning, after which I
ran errands, came home, cooked a huge vat of jambalaya, ate, and
visited with friends. Eliza
did her usual trick of working the room with charm oozing from every
tiny pore. No visit to Viva Cantina tomorrow night for me; turns out I
am taking care of Eliza all day and part of the night so that Josh and
Kate can spend the day with friends at a (belated) party for Josh's
birthday. Tuesday night Jim is taking me to The Stinking Rose, a
restaurant on La Cienega Blvd. that is all garlic all the time. This is
a late birthday dinner present, so he's treating. He took Leo (his cat)
to be fluffed and folded and blow dried this afternoon at the kitty
salon; Leo's a Persian with incredibly long hair, so this was his
Turned on the radio this morning to hear the news guy say, in a
dolorous tone, "Dodger broadcasting legend Vin Scully..." and I stopped
breathing. Stopped. Breathing. Until he followed with "...was
hospitalized overnight after a fall in his home, but should be released
in time to call Sunday's exhibition game." Big exhale. I have been
listening to his voice all my life. May he have as many more years as
WHAT a weekend. Josh and Kate went to Las Vegas to celebrate their
second anniversary, and left me holding the baby, literally. Lots of
grandma/Eliza bonding went on, and I now know or re-learned many things
I had forgotten, including that when you are spoon-feeding a baby
squash, if she sneezes right as it goes into her mouth, everyone at
the table will be covered in bright orange goop and she will have a
pleased smile on her face.
And all our birthdays are over for another year; Jennifer, Josh and I
are all early-March babies, and we closed it out by them taking me,
last night, to a Thai restaurant for a huge meal. Leftovers were
distributed on the usual Aldin Family basis of whoever could grab the
most got to keep them. Jennifer bought me a large bouquet of roses,
which is adorning my table and making the room smell great.
Monique, long time (like, multi-decade) weekend hostess at the coffee
shop on my hillside, gave her notice a couple of weeks ago and yeterday
was her last day. It was, coincidentally, my birthday, so when Eliza
and I arrived for breakfast there was a chorus of "Happy Birthdays," a
cupcake with one candle (very tactful of them) was brought to the
table, and a card signed by all the staff was presented. I pulled out
my "goodbye and thanks" card and handed it to Monique, and when it came
time to pay the check there WAS no check; the girls had pooled their
tips to buy me breakfast. Jim (who I think was absent from school they
day they gave out Romantic Gestures) says there is a trip to
Astroburger in my near future, and that his new book will be out next
month. One of his OLD books, on the history of local landmark Angels
Flight, may soon be seeing a substantial bump is sales, as after many
years of being shut down Angels Flight (a small funicular railroad
track in downtown Los Angeles that used to go up and down Bunker Hill,
before they leveled Bunker Hill to build part of the new courthouse) is
reopening today. They've moved it a couple of blocks from where it
Happy birthday to my wonderful son Josh!
Last night was bluegrass night. Todd and I drove out to Burbank to hear
Herb Pedersen, Bill Bryson, and Tom and Patrick Sauber play at a
Mexican restaurant called Viva Cantina. Oh man, these guys are
wonderful. I had forgotten how good it feels to sit there and let that
music wash over me. They did mostly the Monroe/Flatt &
Scruggs/Stanley Bros. songbook, with a few of Herb's tunes and some
instrumentals thrown in. I could only stay for one set (that dratted
alarm that goes off every morning long before dawn means I have to turn
in early on weeknights) but it was terrific. The food is, well, not the
greatest, but the music makes up for it. They are there every two
weeks, so I will be back on the 24th for sure, hopefully with Jim.
While I was there I drafted Tom and Patrick to come back and do Alive
& Picking with me again, April 117th, and also while I sat with
Harley Tarlitz I talked him into doing one too, June 26th.
Today is Josh and Kate's second wedding anniversary, and on Saturday
morning right after my radio show they are bringing Eliza and all her
worldly goods over to my house and going to Vegas for the weekend to
celebrate. Hooray, a whole weekend with my granddaughter! And when they
get back on Sunday evening they, and Jennifer and Bruce, are taking me
out to Thai food for my birthday. We do NOT discuss how old I am. Shut
Happy birthday to my wonderful daughter Jennifer!
The Grammys are tomorrow, and as a result there are a lot of friends
coming in to town. My pal Jurgen is here from Austin, and he spent some
time yesterday going through my stacks of old 78s and finding a few
things to buy
from me for his jukebox at home (yes, he has a jukebox that plays 78s.
Or maybe he has several.) No sooner was he out the door than Chris
Strachwitz called, in town for the Grammys, let's have dinner. He had
heard of a Oaxacan place on Olympic near Normandie, so we went there,
and thanks to the magic of cell phones Jurgen was able to join us
there; he and Chris hadn't seen each other in quite awhile so it was
nice to be able to make that happen. The food
was not as impressive as other Oaxacan places I've been, but the
company was great!
I'm babysitting Eliza tonight. Eliza is teething. Nuff said about that.
Jim Capaldi emailed me the sad news that John Seeger has died.
John's son Tony is a friend of
mine, who teaches in the Ethno department at UCLA. Hard going for him,
losing his uncle Mike just a few months ago and now his father.
Although -- born in 1914, that makes him (counting on fingers) 96? No,
95, would have been 96 in February. What a good long life!
born February 16, 1914
for decades a Bridgewater resident, died January 10th in New Milford
after a short illness. He was a popular teacher at the Dalton School in
Manhattan in the 1950s and served as principal of the Fieldston Lower
School in Riverdale, N.Y. from 1960 to 1976. He and his wife, Eleanor
purchased Camp Killooleet, a residential summer camp in Hancock, Vt.,
and ran it together for more than 50 years as a place where they could
implement their philosophy of education and child development. He
retired from teaching in 1976 and divided his time between Bridgewater
and Hancock. He inherited the Bridgewater house, his father and aunt
had lived in since 1959, and like them enjoyed walking the roads and
pathways of town. His wife, Eleanor, who died in 2003, was a member and
officer of the Garden Club. John was active gardening, running camp and
organizing lunches of friends. John and Eleanor were members of the
choir of the Bridgewater Congregational Church and singing was one of
the great joys of his later life. For years his holiday cards were
sketches of buildings in Bridgewater, including the store, the school,
the library and both churches. He is survived by a brother, Pete
Seeger; two half-sisters, Peggy and Barbara; a son, Anthony; a
daughter, Katherine (current Director of Killooleet); and two
granddaughters, Elizabeth and Hilï¿½ia. Celebrations
of his life will be held at 2 on Sunday, February 14 at the
Congregational Church in Bridgewater and Saturday, August 28 at
Killooleet Camp. In lieu of flowers, donations for summer camp
scholarships may be made to the Seeger Bartlett Foundation, P.O. Box 1,
Hancock, VT 05748.
in News Times on
January 17, 2010
Hilarious video du jour. The Ross Sisters sing a song about potato
salad, and then.... you'll see, though you may not believe.
Hint: make sure you watch past the
first 45 seconds or so, as it gets more unbelievable the farther in you
get. I am pretty much speechless, except to say that these girls sure
are, um, flexible! Thanks to Tom F. for the heads up.
Well, so, the holidays. Yes. On Christmas Eve I had a little gathering
here, starring Eliza In Her Christmas Dress; she was passed from lap to
lap and greatly admired by all present. Other than Eliza, there was
also a bounteous repast (hey, I can open cartons as well as the next
person) and lots of good conversation. Then Christmas morning Josh and
Kate went off to visit her family, and I drove Jennifer and Bruce to
the airport, where they caught a plane to Bismarck via Denver. Or so
they thought. In actual fact they got to Denver just fine, and are
still there, having spent last night in a motel near the airport and
tonight is looking about the same. There's weather, there's flights
being cancelled, there's all that stuff. On Christmas evening Todd and
I went to Andy and Ria's Christmas gathering, where I saw some of the
same folks who had been at my place the night before (small world !).
This morning was the wonderful world of radio, so I was up at four, and
tonight I went to Tom and Claire's for their Boxing Day party. Jim was
supposed to come with me, but he had gotten an infection in his foot
which turned into cellulitis, so he spent Christmas night at Kaiser's
ER getting it looked at, and is now home communing with a bottle of
antibiotics. I took him a plate of goodies from Tom and Claire's feast,
so at least he won't starve to death. Tomorrow I hope to do absolutely
nothing, but of course I'll do it creatively.
Wow, Paul Butterfield on To Tell The Truth.
Thanks to Geoff Muldaur for sending me this link. I had no idea this
I'm a grandma again, for the
second time this year! Olivia Reed
made her debut in Chicago today, coming in at just over five and a half
pounds and 20 inches tall. I am starting a collection of beautiful
granddaughters! Everyone's doing fine. I wish they weren't so far away,
but I will get to meet her in February.
Mike's memorial service was Sunday.
I couldn't go - defeated by time,
distance, money, and the need to have at least one hand on the wheel at
my office, since Mitch DID go. He is bringing me home a copy of the
program and greetings from many friends. I tried to write something to
be read at the service, but that got away from me too; so many
memories, but hard to put them down on paper in any way that would have
Still no news from my "other son" John and his wife Jeanine in Chicago,
who are expecting their daughter any minute now. They promised a full
report as soon as she made her grand entrance; well, Eliza was twelve
days late, so I won't start worrying for awhile. Two granddaughters in
the same year - three, if I count my goddaughter Jeneda's daughter, who
was born in late October on the Navajo reservation outside Flagstaff.
Josh and Kate took Eliza to Palm Springs for the weekend to visit
friends, so I had a nice leisurely time of it. Did errands, did
laundry, did radio (although since John and Deann were the guests hosts
I didn't really have to do anything beyond push a couple of buttons.)
Then on Sunday I did a favor for a friend and helped him shift things
around in his apartment some. The manager of his building had to let a
workman in to do some kind of repair a week or so ago, and when the
the state the place was in he backed out, mumbling under his breath
about the Health Department (I think the phrase "death trap" was used.)
So I went over to his place to help, although most of what I did
involved sitting in front of a shredder, feeding things into it. These
men - ! Although, in fairness, it's not only that. The guy, who
really good person and good friend, is plain and simply a hoarder. Some
men are hunters, some are gatherers - this one gathers, and gathers,
and gathers. A lifelong bachelor, he has so much
clutter in his place that it makes my place look neat and clean by
comparison! Many hours of work later, things looked a bit better; I
agreed to go back this coming Sunday and help some more, at which point
he will make The Big Decision about whether he will rent a storage unit
simply shift some of his clutter to another location. I hasten to add
that he is NOT a "pig" - there are no dirty dishes in the sink or bugs
in the bathroom, and he
is scrupulously clean about his own person - there's just so much
"stuff" in his apartment that it has taken over his life. Sometime last
year I helped another friend, also a bachelor, in his mid-sixties, who
same problem. He DID rent a storage unit, and moved quite a lot of
into it, and so "passed" his apartment's inspection by the board of
health. He paid
his storage bill for a year in advance, and just the other week got a
bill for the second year, at which point he realized that for an entire
year he had never once been to the storage unit and couldn't really
remember what was in it. There's a lesson there somewhere. I hope he
doesn't pay the second year. I hope he calls Out of the Closet or
Goodwill and tells them to meet him at the storage unit with a big
truck and two strong men, and that he turns his back and shuts his eyes
and lets them take it all.
I’ve been thinking about Robert Palmer a lot the past few days, as the
anniversary of his passing comes around, a new book of his collected
writings has just been published, and yet another year goes by
without him. Nobody will ever know how lucky I was to have this
incredibly special person as a friend. He had the most open ears of
anyone I’ve ever known, and did his best to pry mine loose (without,
I’m sorry to say, ever really succeeding). “What the HELL is that
noise?” I’d ask as he played some foreign-sounding stuff in a language
I didn’t recognize. “Oh, Mary Katherine, it’s pygmy rain chants,” he’d
reply, evidently expecting me to react as if it was the Holy Grail,
which maybe to him it was. I’m a four-four person, and he was way out
there in the land of seven-nine where I knew I was never going to be
able to follow. Fortunately, he spoke my language even though I
couldn’t speak his, so we communicated in what was probably the musical
equivalent of baby-talk to him, although he was always too kind to say
Bob was a good friend, and I cared
a great deal
about him, but his addictions scared the crap out of me. I was
two small children, and was dead set against them coming into contact
with drugs of any kind; during the many times he came west to stay for
weeks at a
time at my apartment in Hollywood, he drank cough syrup by the pint to
ease the uncontrollable pain without violating my rules. When that
didn’t cut it he went out to score, never bringing anything back with
him beyond the glazed look in his eyes that told me that at least for
the moment he didn’t hurt any more.
And drugs or no drugs, he could
came pouring out of him like water out of the Grand Coulee Dam. As
chief pop critic of the New York Times he
wrote record reviews, live concert reviews, chapters on whatever the
current book in progress was and still found time to write me four,
five, or six-page single-spaced typed letters, all of which I still
have, talking about whatever wonderful music he was listening to, shows
he was seeing and people he was meeting along the way.
His enthusiasm was contagious and
love of music was profound. He also had the most amazing ability to
write in his head without benefit of (in those days) a typewriter. We
went to the first night of Bob Dylan’s Saved tour, up in San
Francisco, and after we got back to our hotel room he said, “Okay, now
I have to turn in the review.” Neither of us had taken notes during the
show, and we had driven up from L.A. with no typewriter, so I expected
to see at least a notebook come out and the process begin. Nope. He
picked up the phone and called a number at the New York Times, spoke
for a moment to someone he knew, and then was connected to a tape
recorder, into which he began dictating, cold, with no notes. “Bob
Dylan D-y-l-a-n comma whose current concert tour opened last night at
the Warfield W-a-r-f-i-e-l-d Theater in San Francisco comma displayed
an unusual sense of…” and on it went, a long, at least ten-paragraph
review into which without pause or hesitation he inserted punctuation
cues, paragraph breaks and created a little literary masterpiece. I was
frozen into silence, afraid to break the flow, but as soon as he put
the phone down he casually resumed the conversation we’d been having
before he made the call. I was floored, and humbled. If that’s what
being a real writer meant, I knew I’d never get there.
I got particularly lucky when, as he was working on Deep Blues,
he came to stay with me during a dry spell and I offered to compile the
discography that would accompany the book, to take that laundry-list
chore off his hands. He lit up like a Christmas tree, and we sat
crosslegged on my
living room floor pulling albums off my shelves and sorting them into
piles of “yes” and “no.” But then things went really dry, and he went
back to New York with no sign that the book would ever be finished. A
few phone calls later, I was getting really worried; the publisher,
unreasonably enough, was demanding the finished manuscript, which was
already months late. I went to New York and stayed with Bob and his
ginger cat Snooky, who were, for the moment, living like two crusty old
bachelors in a penthouse apartment that looked like it had been through
The manuscript was in chaos. Two lately-finished
chapters which he had sent to me for proofreading I had brought back to
York with me and were sitting in plain view on the coffee table, but
where was the rest of it? Ah. Part of it was on top of the
refrigerator. Of course. And another chapter in the bedroom, having
evidently been thrown against a wall, because the pages were all over
the room. My role was clear: den mother, nanny, whatever you want to
call it, he needed to finish the damn book, and I simply refused to
leave New York until he did. And then, a miracle. A week later it was
done, all was in perfect order, and I typed the final pages of the
discography on his machine, trying to pretend I didn’t see the
hypodermic needles in the trash can.
Then I got really lucky; I got to work with him. When I was asked
by MCA Records’ Andy McKaie to compile and annotate a box set of the
Chess Recordings of Muddy Waters, I agreed, but suggested Bob do the
notes; he had done so much research on Muddy during the writing of Deep
that I figured he could write them in his sleep. I sent him a list of
the tracks I had chosen, and he made a couple of excellent suggestions
for changes. Then we waited for the notes. And we waited, and waited.
In desperation I started to write them myself, figuring that when his
finally arrived we could dump mine.
What kind of mojo he used I don’t know, but when his notes
finally showed up they were an absolutely perfect segue from what I had
already written; not a thought duplicated, not a redundant sentence in
the lot. Andy simply used mine and his, side by side, a perfect fit.
The resulting Grammy Award nomination for Best Liner Notes was, Bob
assured me, for both of us, but I knew better. The Grammy certificate
my wall has both our names on it, but it was his words that made mine
When he was in L.A. he often guest-hosted my blues radio
show. Since his own collection was three thousand miles away, he’d go
through my shelves, pulling out albums I’d forgotten I owned and
choosing tracks that I had no idea were on them, always bringing
something fresh and insightful to the studio and revitalizing my own
programming style for weeks after each visit. If I was working on liner
notes while he was here he’d make helpful suggestions, untangle
sentences, offer comments, but never condescendingly, from the New York
Times/Rolling Stone critic to the neophyte. He did me the honor of
always treating me as a colleague, and sometimes made me believe I
When, five or so years before his death, he moved to my
favorite city in the world, New Orleans, we saw each other more
regularly. I’d make the cross-country train journey a couple of times a
year; we’d meet for lunch or dinner, and I’d fuss at him for not taking
better care of his health as we walked, ever more slowly, through the
streets of the French
Quarter. I knew he had abused his body pretty thoroughly for many years
but had no idea, until quite near the end, that he was so seriously
ill. He always brushed aside my concerns and questions about his
health, and insisted instead that I
tell him what
shows I had seen, what new records I’d gotten for review, and what
reissues I was working on.
And then one day he simply told me the truth. We were sitting
on a park bench in Jackson Square in the pale New Orleans winter
sunlight, and he
looked me in the eye and said that he wanted me to know how much my
friendship had always meant to him, and my heart stopped. I knew, but I
didn’t want to know. He was very reassuring; I was not to worry, Yoko
Ono had offered financial assistance, and he was going back to New York
to have a liver transplant. Everything would be fine.
We talked regularly from then on, and two days before he died I spoke
to him for the last time. He
had recently married JoBeth Britton, an amazing woman who had somehow
managed to get him to clean up his act, eat healthier food and take
better care of himself, but she couldn’t work miracles. His body was
disintegrating before her eyes, and the doctors wouldn’t, couldn't, do
a transplant until
his health stabilized.
From his hospital bed he told me that he loved JoBeth and that
she was aware of his end of life wishes and would see that they were
carried out. We said all the things that old friends say to each other
when they know it’s for the last time and are given the chance. I
somehow kept my voice steady as I agreed with him that it was probably
not necessary, and yes, he was probably going to be fine, but that it
was good, nonetheless, to say them. I was surprised to find, as I hung
up, that tears were pouring down my face. Two days later JoBeth called
to let me know
that she was honoring his wishes and taking him off life support.
And then I got the phone call that he was gone, and a call
asking me for a quote. Then another, and another, and I took the phone
off the hook and sat down to work on some liner notes. It seemed
somehow the right way to remember him. Still does.
After work today I
went over to Josh and Kate's and babysat Eliza for
awhile; came home tired, and was trudging up the stairs when Jennifer
called me back down to her door, opened her screen and stuck her hand
out -- with a ring
on it! She and Bruce are now officially engaged. Their rings, why am I
not surprised, came from one of those machines where you put a quarter
in and a plastic bubble comes out with a toy inside it. Bruce said that
the first two quarters he put in each came out with a different ring in
it. Hers actually looks like one that I got many years ago in a
Crackerjack box. My favorite ring ever was one that I made back in the
Sixties by braiding one
of Peter's old guitar strings as I sat in his dressing room watching
him change to a new set before a concert. I wore it until my finger
turned green, which was about an hour after the concert ended...anyhow,
their wedding date is not set yet, but will be sometime this spring,
perhaps sometime around her birthday in March. We can celebrate at
when I get home from my "big trip" to Chicago (to meet my "other son"
Jeanine's daughter, who will be born in December) and Memphis (for the
Folk Alliance Conference) and Mississippi (talk talk talk) and New
Orleans (eat eat eat). Turns out that KPFK's next Fund Drive will be in
so I should be here for about the first two weeks of it and then gone
till it's over. No, I am NOT doing that on purpose. Course not. Heh heh.
Another old friend from Ash Grove
days has died - the incredibly
brilliant, talented, gifted guitarist Steve Mann died on September
He was a good friend to me in the old days, but I have to say that he
ingested more drugs than any human being I have ever known, and they
took their toll. The drugs destroyed his health, his talent and
sanity, and left him a rambling, homeless, hollow shell of who he
had been. I am amazed that he lived as long as he did. All thanks to
the patience of Janet Smith, who cared for him in his later years and
did so much to help him along. A sad loss.
Spent the afternoon making a huge pot of jambalaya, then Jim and I
drove over to Josh and Kate's so he could meet Eliza. I tried to teach
her to pronounce "parallelogram," but I guess four days old is still
too young. Then we went on to Claire's party, at which we ate a
lot of great food and visited with Ellen and Art and a bunch of other
folks. At some point during the festivities I backed Tom Nixon into a
corner and breathed fire at him till he agreed to come in and do a
radio show with me <g> so my goal of getting all these excellent
old music programmers back on the air by hook or by crook is working!
Am just waiting to hear from Tom Sauber; everyone else has said yes!
Tuesday August 11
Eliza is here and all's well. 7 lbs. 2 oz., 21 inches tall.
Sunday August 9
Went to dinner and a show at the Magic Castle last night with Chris and
Janet, bluegrass pals from San Diego, and violated the
club's rules by leaving my cell phone on all night, hoping that I
would get The Call. But no. My granddaughter is taking her own sweet
about being born; she's is now ten days past her original due date of
August 10, 2009
Mike Seeger, Singer and Music Historian, Dies at 75
By BEN SISARIO, The New York Times
Mike Seeger, a singer and multi-instrumentalist who played an important
role in the folk revival of the 1950s and '60s, died on Friday at his
home in Lexington, Va. He was 75.
The cause was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, said his wife,
Although a quieter voice on the national stage than his politically
outspoken, older half-brother, Pete, Mike Seeger was a significant
force in spreading the music of preindustrial America during an
increasingly consumerist era. In 1958 he helped found the New Lost City
Ramblers, whose repertory came from the 1920s and '30s, and in his
career he recorded or produced dozens of albums of what he called the
"true vine" of American music, the mix of British and African
traditions and topical storytelling that took root in the South.
Mr. Seeger's dedication had a strong effect on the young Bob Dylan, who
wrote fondly of him in his 2004 memoir, "Chronicles: Volume One."
Although only eight years his junior, Mr. Dylan called Mr. Seeger a
father figure - for helping the under-age Mr. Dylan with his paperwork
- and rhapsodized about him as the embodiment of a folk-star persona.
"Mike was unprecedented," Mr. Dylan wrote, adding: "As for being a folk
musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through
Dracula's black heart. He was the romantic, egalitarian and
revolutionary type all at once."
But Mr. Seeger made his mark less as a star than as a careful, steady
student of his beloved Southern music. He was born in New York to a
prominent musical family. His father, Charles Seeger, was a well-known
ethnomusicologist, and his mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, a composer and
folk-song collector. Besides Pete, Mr. Seeger's sister Peggy also
became a noted singer.
The intellectual pursuit of folk music was part of Mike Seeger's life
from an early age. At 5 he made a recording of the old British folk
ballad "Barbara Allen," his wife said in an interview on Sunday.
Mr. Seeger played banjo, guitar, autoharp and other instruments, which
he learned from old records and in some cases from the musicians who
played on them. A dogged researcher, he sought out musicians who had
been lost for decades and introduced them to an eager (and young) new
audience. One was Dock Boggs, a banjo player from western Virginia
whose records were prized by folklorists. Mr. Seeger brought him to the
American Folk Festival in Asheville, N.C., in 1963.
Mr. Seeger's most recent album was "Early Southern Guitar Sounds"
(Smithsonian Folkways), in 2007, and he played autoharp on Robert Plant
and Alison Krauss's Grammy Award-winning album "Raising Sand"
(Rounder), also released in 2007. In his career Mr. Seeger was
nominated for six Grammys.
In addition to his wife, his half-brother Pete, of Beacon, N.Y., and
his sister Peggy, of Boston, Mr. Seeger is survived by three sons, Kim,
of Tivoli, N.Y., Chris, of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and Jeremy, of
Belmont, Mass.; four stepchildren, Cory Foster of Ithaca, N.Y., Jenny
Foster of Rockville, Md., Joel Foster of Silver Spring, Md., and Jesse
Foster of Washington; another sister, Barbara Perfect of Henderson,
Nev.; another half-brother, John Seeger of Bridgewater, Conn.; and 13
grandchildren and step-grandchildren.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
Friday August 7
My dear friend Mike Seeger died tonight, in hospice care at his home,
at peace and not in pain.
Tomorrow I'm doing the radio show early, then to breakfast, then coming
home and hanging around here for awhile because I'm having a new
mattress set delivered. Unfortunately I can't lift the old mattress and
box spring by myself, so tomorrow when the delivery guys come, you KNOW
they are going to pull the old ones off the frame and be overwhelmed by
all the dust bunnies that are under there (or in my case more likely
dust kangaroos), plus a miscellanous sock or two and who knows what all
else. The new bed is a big surprise - Josh and Kate bought it for me,
thinking that it was probably time mom had a new one, as I've been
having trouble sleeping for quite some time and it may be the fault of
the lumpy mattress. How old is
the incumbent set, anyway? Hmmm, let's see now (counting on fingers);
well, it's at least 35 years old, so yes, I guess it's time.
Thursday August 6
I'm told that Mike is mostly sleeping now, making his transition
inexorably, quietly, and painlessly. Hard to be so far away, but
there's nothing I could do even if I was there except help Alexia
around the house, and believe me, my domestic skills aren't much help
to anyone! And as one goes, another comes; the doctor today said that
both Kate and Eliza are in good health, everything's normal, and we'll
see her when she decides it's time to be born.
Some friends of Mike's went to play music for him this weekend; he
enjoyed it, but asked that no more visitors come. He wants to be quiet
now, in what time is left. Because he lives so far away there was no
way I could have gotten there in time anyway, but we have said what
needing saying, and since then I've been forwarding him literally
*hundreds* of emails that have come pouring in to me for him and
Alexia. This is really hard; as I counted up the years I realized
that he is one of the few friends I have left from Ash Grove days; we
met in the early 1960s when he and his group came out from the east
coast to play there, and in one way or another we have been in touch
ever since. He was incredibly helpful when I was preparing the Newport
Folk Festival reissue series for Vanguard back in the early 1990s, and
then of course these last ten years I have been his "booking agent" so
we've been in very regular contact. And in between there have been lots
of meals together (Lebanese food in Westwood, yum!) and other
adventures, like the time we sat around a conference table in the UCLA
Ethno department some years back and he tried for a solid hour to teach
me to play the jews harp (he was stunned to finally realize that he had
met someone who just couldn't do it!). My ex, Mark, of course, sailed
through the lesson, because he has been field collecting recordings of
jews harp playing for years and is an expert; Mike eventually decided
to blame it on my plastic dentures, which alter the natural shape of my
mouth. Yeah sure. Anyway, if he lives till then his 77th birthday will
be on August 15th, and whether he is still with us or not I'm going to
do a tribute to him on my radio show that day.
It was a hard day at work today, as the news of Mike's final illness
has made it onto the net via emails being passed around, and I was
swamped with phone calls and emails. Did not speak to him or to Alexia
today, as it was their last day at the hospital and they are retuning
home tomorrow morning, and the hospice care will be there for them. But
have forwarded them over 100 emails of well-wishing from folks near and
Had dinner tonight with Josh and Kate; just three days till Eliza is
due! We ate at a Chinese place, and I suggested that Kate have some
kung pao chicken (one of the hottest Chinese dishes I know) in hopes of
getting things moving along, but she sensibly passed.
Tuesday July 28
My good friend Mike, who has been battling leukemia for some time,
was recently diagnosed with an additional cancer, called multiple
myeloma. And he called today to say that he has now decided to stop the
treatments, and is entering hospice care. After we hung up I
wrote him an email that said everything I needed to say and I hope was
everything he needed to hear from me. Selfishly, it's hard for me to
let go, but of course I respect his decision. He's in his late
70s, has had a good and productive life, and it's his choice to
make. He knows better than anyone what's right for him. And as sad as I am about this, I'm glad
that he is able to end his life in the same forthright manner in which
he has lived it.
It's a (nother) girl! My "other son" John and his wife Jeanine, who
live in Chicago, just had their first ultrasound, and it's a
She's due in December, and that means I get two granddaughters the
A funny story about how I met Dick
action takes place sometime in the mid-1960s, I don't remember
exactly when. Let's say it was 1965, but that may not be quite right,
and Dick can jump in and correct me if he remembers more precisely.
I was then
working at The Ash Grove, which at that time block-booked
artists for 6 nights, Tuesday-Sunday, and was dark on Monday, or
occasionally there would be special events (political gatherings, art
community events, whatever) on Monday nights. So if an artist came
out from Texas or Mississippi or the Appalachias or wherever, they
could play a little network that existed back then, 6 nights in San
Diego at the Sign of the Sun, Monday off as a travel day, 6 nights in
L.A. at the Ash Grove, Monday off as a travel day, 6 nights in Berkeley
at the Jabberwock or the Cabale, and so forth all the way
north to Portland and
Seattle, and then home. This made the long journey to the west
coast more financially workable for them, back in the days when most
travel, especially by folk and blues musicians, was done by Greyhound
Dick Waterman was then a respected booking agent in Cambridge, running
his Avalon Productions and representing a lot of traditional blues
artists (this was before he became Bonnie Raitt's manager and also
before he started handling Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells). Many of the
artists he booked would play at the Ash Grove, and the pattern was that
he would call up and say "I have Son House (or Skip James, or Fred
Mississippi John Hurt, or whoever) coming to the west coast; can you do
a week in June?" and then
the financial terms and contract issues got done between him and Ed
(the owner of the club).
years went by, the conversations that we had when Dick would
for a booking got longer and longer and ranged over more territory than
just the subject at hand, and I would always end the call by saying
something along the lines of "if you're ever on the west coast be sure
to stop by the club so we can meet."
I need to insert
a note here, not at all egotistically I assure you,
that my speaking voice (the voice he heard on the phone, without being
able to see me) is very sultry, and deep, and could be (mis)taken
for sexy by some people. A good voice for radio, in fact, which is what
I would go on to do some years later.
I also have a good *face* for radio. :-)
All right, here
it comes, or as Ron Thomason would say, I told you that to tell you
long last Dick Waterman tells me that he will be coming in to
town with one of his acts (by that time it might have been Bonnie) and
will be coming to the club on such and such a night to hear whoever
was playing, and could he buy me a drink? (I did used to drink
some in those days). And I said, okay, you will recognize me
because I'll be the woman at the ticket desk in the front lobby
the money - just introduce yourself when you get here and I'll comp you
and your party in.
walks into the lobby, looks for the ticket desk, and standing
there is a vision of loveliness like he has never seen. Dick is is
heaven. Oh my God. Blond hair, blue eyes, cute white go-go boots and a
shape like whatever a man's fancy turns to. He straightens his
figurative tie, runs a hand through his hair and strides over to the
desk and says to her in his deepest voice: "Hi, gorgeous, I'm Dick!"
she says: "Who?"
he says "Dick Waterman!"
she says: "So what?"
turns out that I had left the ticket desk for a minute to go
into my office for something, and he was talking to Jackie DeShannon.
are still laughing about that 45 years later.
Well, I guess this qualifies as a Happy Easter, all right. My other son
John and his wife Jeanine, who live in Chicago, are in town; they came
over tonight and we met Josh and Kate for dinner at Miceli's, and I was
presented with yet another sonogram and the amazing news that they're
going to have a baby too!!! So I am going to be a grandmother twice
this year, on July 31 and again on December 3 (all dates approximate).
Oh my God, the diapers I'm going to be changing!
Jim and Guy and I were sitting at the coffee shop on my hillside
this afternoon, and the
conversation wandered around, as it does; and Jim and I shared some
apple pie, as we do; and after an hour or so Jim got up to go have
dinner with Ian and then go with him to the noir film series at the
Egyptian, and Guy got up to go off for a walk, and I came home. And
these quiet little times that don't have any heavy meaning, that are
just the everyday connections that I make with friends, have become
part of the brightly colored patchwork of my life. I have been sitting
in almost the same spot at that same coffee shop for nearly forty
when I first started going there my daughter Jennifer (42 on her next
birthday) was barely old enough to sit up in a highchair, and she
drew patterns in her cracker crumbs on the highchair's silver tray. It
was just one long
soda fountain counter then, with one waitress, my dear old friend
who later, when I was alone and pregnant with Josh (35 on his next one) threw me the baby
that brought me so much that I needed. Addie, by then in her seventies,
still came trudging up the hill to unlock the place and start the
first pot of coffee at 6:00 every
morning, until the day she didn't, and her sister-in-law Frances the
cook and Milton,
then the assistant cook, called and called but got no answer so finally
went down the street to her apartment and
found her on the floor, all dressed for work with her apron over her
arm, blown out
a candle by God before she could get out her front door. And I remember
when they expanded the place after Addie died, put in tables and chairs
and booths, and how Berta, my dear friend from the Village who had come
out to L.A. to join me in working at the Ash Grove, went to work at the
after the club closed, and she taught Milton how to make eggs Benedict,
and being a New York woman
she made them put egg creams on the menu too, and eventually they
hired a bunch more waitresses, who've come and gone through the years,
each with a life and a story someone should write. I've known every
waitress by name; I know which one worked extra shifts so that she and
her husband could put a down payment on a house that had to be near a good school for
her son; I know which one worked two jobs and single-parented a
kid, which one came in to work on even the warmest days wearing long
sleeved tops that
didn't always hide the bruises on her arms, and which one has been
for over a year now, and how hard that is for her. I know that
European tourists aren't used to tipping, because they don't have that
custom there, and how when you stand on your feet eight hours a day for
minimum wage, every dollar that you don't get makes a difference. I
weekend hostess/cashier, who lost her dearly-loved father to cancer and
cared for her mother for years, seeing her drift ever-further
away into the long goodbye of Alzheimer's Disease until she too finally
died, and how Monique watched the Neptune Society boat out of sight and
then straightened her shoulders and went to work
to get her Extras Union card so she could make some money, and now
every time she has a few flashing seconds of film (even way in the
background) on a network TV show,
everyone in the canyon tunes in to watch. And I know Milton and Miguel,
the cooks, and I know that Milton has diabetes and isn't supposed to
eat sweets, so when I bring back pralines from New Orleans for everyone
I just break off a tiny bite of one for him instead of giving him a
whole one. And I know that his wife Margo had surgery recently, but is
doing better now, thanks, and I know that he has an adult daughter
a quadraplegic in an assisted living facility, and that paying for her
care is a big part of why at long past retirement age he still stands
on his feet ten hours a day in a tiny kitchen where in the summer
it's over 100 degrees every day, and although he has never taken a
vacation day in thirty years he always has a smile for everyone
and always remembers that I like my french fries well done and my fruit
salad without any canteloupe. And I know
Miguel's son Ernie, who
used to work there on weekends when he was in high school, handing out
menus and seating people.
And I know the busboys and the dishwashers and their families and their
stories; Rafael has a small son back in Mexico, and he sends home money
to his wife every week. I know many of the "regulars" who eat there
every day (and I
remember the ones who've died, too, like Paul Pepper, who couldn't stop
smoking until it was too late, and John Nolan, a really good writer who
wooden sign that hangs over the door, and
John Milford, who built the booths when he was between acting jobs).
It's a community in the best sense
of the word, because
somebody in the canyon sells a story or sells a painting or gets a
places a script or gets an advance from a publisher or sweats out an
audition for a role in a tiny
non-Equity theater, everyone congratulates them
success. And when there's an occasional celebrity sighting (Kevin
Costner used to stop in now and then, and Jennifer saw Jessica Simpson
and Lord help us all Lindsay Lohan used to live just two blocks up the
and having paparazzi and helicopters there every damn day made it hard
to get through the one lane canyon street I live on, so nobody wass
thrilled about having her there, but we all agreed that it was better
when Madonna lived up here and built a helipad on her front lawn,
because when she sold her
house and moved away
practically had a block party to celebrate) everyone is very cool until
pay their check and leave, and
then it's "wow, did you see
who was here?" And I know that most late afternoons when I get home
from work Jim will be there, and
we'll talk, or share sections of the paper, or I'll bring him the
issue of Blues & Rhythm,
or we'll do the crossword puzzle
together (in ink, of course!), and he'll drink too much coffee and I
won't drink any, and on winter days he covers my
always-cold hands with his warm ones and we're always
comfortable together; and whenever I
walk in the cafe door on a weekend morning there's a chorus from them
all of "good morning,
Mary Katherine!" that makes me feel, as I am, at home.
Photos and details of my trip to Chicago, Memphis, Oxford and New
Orleans can be found here.
This was my birthday weekend and boy, am I exhausted. Jennifer took me
to Disneyland yesterday, where I put in several strenuous hours (and
did something painful to my right shoulder and lower back) on the
rides. She also treated me to a spectacular lunch at the Blue Bayou
restaurant there. Boy was that great. Crab cakes, shrimp remoulade,
mahi mahi, steak, salads and veg. Urp! Then we went out to the Deeper
Valley to her and Bruce's soon-to-be-old apartment and I spent a couple
of birthday hours packing her kitchen into boxes; we wrapped everything
in newspaper, and taped up and labeled all the boxes. As a gesture of
thanks for my help, she and Bruce then took me to dinner at Victors -
so, TWO free meals on my birthday. This morning Claire came over and
tried her best to hammer some computer skills into my head so that I
could get the photos from my recent trip up onto a web site so people
could see them. It was only partially successful; as long as she was
here, standing over me, things seemed to go fairly well, if slowly, but
as soon as she left and I tried to do some by myself....anyhow, we
interrupted the tutorial to go to my hillside cafe and have lunch with
Jim, and a plan was hatched whereby Tom and Claire and Jim and I are
all having dinner together next weekend to further celebrate my
birthday. Tonight Josh and Kate took me to a great place on LaCienega
called The Stinking Rose; as you can figure out, the primary theme is
garlic. Since garlic is one of my five basic food groups (along with
chocolate and a few other disreputable things), I was a happy camper. I
should keep a running total and see what's the maximum number of free
lunches and dinners I can stretch out of one birthday.
The internet is a truly amazing thing. I have been thinking for quite
some time about someone I knew as a child, and wondering whatever
happened to her, as she had a really rough time of it when she was
young. Tried Googling her, but never found anything. Lo and behold, she
found ME, because of my web site. Incredible.
I haven't written much here about my friend Stevenson Palfi, but I've
been thinking about him a lot lately. He was a good friend of mine, a
smart, funny, devilishly handsome guy who became like a brother to me.
We met and fell passionately in like while he was shooting his
Professor Longhair documentary called Piano
Players Rarely Ever Play Together, a prizewinning film that's
just recently become available on DVD, and if you've never seen it and
love New Orleans and its music I highly recommend it. Stevenson had
moved from his native Chicago to New Orleans after spending a summer
there working at the front desk of the Maison DeVille Hotel in the
French Quarter. The hotel was close to Preservation Hall, and he found
himself drawn to an 80-something year old banjo player named Manny
Sayles (Emmanuel, really, but everyone called him Manny) who was a
longtime member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Manny
subject of one of Stevenson's earliest music documentaries. He met
wife Polly Waring there, and not long after I met them they rejoiced in
the birth of their daughter, my darling Nell.
Anyway, Stevenson and I became close friends, joked and flirted our way
through the possible pitfalls of a relationship that was always
determinedly platonic, and whenever he was in L.A. or I was
in New Orleans we spent a lot of time together. Life went on, things
changed, he and Polly separated and eventually divorced, but our
friendship continued, with one hiatus, for about twenty years. When my
dear friend Keith and I would visit New Orleans the two of
them would go off to visit the local bars together, and I was really
glad that they, too, ended up with a friendship that enriched both
their lives. When Keith died of a massive heart attack in March of
2005, it was
Stevenson who let me cry, and cry, and cry, and in a series of late
night phone calls he helped me start to heal from that awful loss.
And then, barely six months after Keith died, came Hurricane Katrina,
the levees broke. Stevenson's
house was on Banks Street in Mid-City, the area which other than the
9th Ward was hardest hit in all New Orleans. He was forced to evacuate,
ending up in Tunica, Mississippi for several weeks. When he was finally
allowed back into the city it was to find that his home, which was also
office and editing facility, had taken eight feet of standing water,
and nearly everything he owned was destroyed.
He had homeowners insurance, he told me in a series of breathless
was having a hard time trying to
collect. He spent every morning for over two months wearing hip boots,
rubber gloves and a protective mask, cleaning out the filthy, stinking,
toxic, mold-covered mess that had once been his home, and then spent
afternoon on the phones to various insurance companies, trying to slog
his way through the bureaocracy and put through his claims. It was
enough to make anyone depressed, but Stevenson had other problems as
well, which long predated the flood. He had not been able to work for
quite some time; two car accidents, one close upon the other, had left
him with a shattered collarbone and shoulder that never really healed
lifting the heavy videocamera with which he made his living became
first painful, and finally impossible. He had a half-finished
documentary in the works about New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint,
and it was becoming clear that he was not going to be able to finish
it, despite having gone into debt and borrowed money to make it. The
medication that the doctors had given him for a lower back injury also
caused by the car crash had unintended physical side effects which left
depressed than before.
Since the flood, with his own home unlivable, he had been staying with
his former wife Polly, and one evening in December 2005 while she
was out of the
house he stole the gun she kept for protection. A few days
December 14, he went back to his house; after writing a four page
longhand letter in which he
absolved those he loved of responsibility and railed against FEMA and
the insurance companies for their lack of understanding and assistance,
he left the note on his desk, went upstairs, lay
down on his bed and put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
There's no good way to find out that kind of news, but I found out
about it in maybe the worst way possible; an anonymous email from a
stranger, the morning after his death, saying something along the lines
of "sorry to hear about your friend Stevenson." I was stunned, and
scared - wait, what? sorry to hear WHAT?? - and then began the long and
quest for solid information. Less than three months after Katrina, few
people in New Orleans had working telephone service yet; I called his
house line and
his home-office line and left increasingly frantic messages on his
Polly's phone wasn't working, and Nell wasn't answering her cell, but I
finally reached Barry Smith at the Louisiana Music Factory, who
confirmed that it was true.
Parents who commit suicide leave lasting scars on their children; it's
a deep, dark, harsh, hardly forgiveable sin, and it casts a shadow over
subsequent generations that never really goes away. Even when
someone says, "My grandfather committed
suicide before I
was born," the statement itself speaks of enormous, somehow contagious,
incurable, inheritable pain. Those
left behind feel profound guilt and self-reproach (how could I have
talked to Stevenson
less than a week before he killed himself and heard nothing in his voice, even though
at that point he had already stolen the gun he was going to use? How
could I have been so self-involved that all those times he told me how
hard it was to throw out the accumulated possessions of a lifetime
because the mold had rendered them untouchable, I didn't hear the cry
for help behind the words? Why did someone so popular and with so many
friends -- there were hundreds
of people at his memorial service -- pick up a gun instead of picking
up a phone?) and eventually anger at someone I once
loved so much, ranging from "how could you do this?" to "how could you
do this to me?" to the ultimate unanswerable question, "how could
you do this to Nell?"
Nell was the joy of his life, a bright, shining, goldenhaired child who
was not supposed to live. When she was born, with a combination of
birth defects any one of
which would have stunned most new fathers into
Stevenson refused to believe the doctors who said she wouldn't make it
(they had been right the two previous times that Polly had given
birth, first to their stillborn son and then to a premature daughter
lived only an hour). He paid no attention; he went into the
pediatric emergency room and picked up the tiny child who, in her baby
pictures, has so many tubes and wires attached to her that you cannot
see a human being at all, and he said "this child will LIVE." He
held her, talked to her constantly, willed
her to live by simply refusing to believe that she would die. For the
first three months he and Polly never left her alone. Nurses and
doctors came, shook their heads, and went, but Stevenson and Polly
stayed with Nell, praying constantly, calling specialists all over the
country, and telling her and everyone else
who'd listen that everything
that was wrong with her
was going to be fixed and that she was going to be fine.
Fourteen staggering operations
six years later, the child who had been pronounced brain-dead at birth
started first grade, right on schedule with the other children her age;
child who doctors originally said was in a permanent vegetative state
and would never be able to walk, talk, read or write ended up
dancing her way
lightly through elementary school, then high school, and finally
entered LSU in
Baton Rouge; she
would have graduated college with honors with the rest of her class if
her father hadn't derailed
her education and her life by putting that gun in his mouth. She was only eighteen when he
she will never get over it.
She will never be the same person again;
she adored her father, and when he killed himself the light in her eyes
just went out. I still
see her every
time I go to New Orleans; we maintain the tradition that we started
when she was just a little girl, of having one nice "dressup" dinner
together in a fancy retaurant during my stay; but she doesn't want to
Stevenson. She doesn't want to hear how much he loved her or how
she was to him. She sits quietly, always unfailingly courteous to her
father's old friend, looking at her plate, picking at her
food, and occasionally glancing at her watch under the table where she
thinks I won't see her, wondering how much longer she'll have to stay.
When I ask her, with the easy familiarity of someone who has known her
all her life, what her own plans for the future are, when she might
start looking for a job, or when she might
be going back to college, she just shrugs and doesn't answer.
The last time I was there she gave me a reliquary with some of
Stevenson's ashes in it, and a
of more of his ashes which, when the time is right, I'll be putting
into the ocean at Malibu, where we loved to go for long walks. I'm
trying to think of the right words to say when I release his
into the water, maybe some perfect poem or song lyric, but all these
years later the only words I can find to say to him are still "how
could you do this?"