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Archive for January, 2012

Admiration from the stage – music story #3

I remember watching the movie “The Doors”, about the rock group of the same name. And there was a scene in the movie where Jim Morrison serenaded his girlfriend with a song. That scene has stuck with me for years, a little fantasy I harbor, that I may find someone who will sing to me in that way. To me that is the joy of music; poetry with a melody, the perfect combination of words and sounds. This story is a twist on the usual scenario of  the fan who watches and admires an artist – sometimes the artist can also become the fan. I am also including a poem about how deeply music touches my soul, how moving it would be to have a private audience with an artist that I admire, wanting to almost melt into them as they perform.

More than Just a Fan

Maggie saw him there in the crowd – she had just finished her first song, mumbling a quick “thanks” to the audience – she was always so nervous until she got that first song out of the way. She had her head down, with the heavy red curls that made up her hair, draping around her face. As a performer she was one of the quieter ones. She usually didn’t watch the crowd too much but he kept gazing at her, and not in a creepy kind of way but with a genuine look that pulled her in. Maggie knew that a lot of her fans identified with the music she sang; her songbook was made up of songs about love in all its different forms – the joy, the heartache, the roller coaster ride that love could be. The word that came to mind as she tried not to stare at him was captivating. This man in front of the stage, in his plain black hoodie and baby blue stocking cap that covered his shoulder length brown hair – certainly not anything fancy but there was just something about him, a feeling every time she caught his gaze. Get a grip – she told herself, as she started in on the next song. Soon she found herself lost in the music, but the thought of meeting the man in the crowd just would not go away.

After finishing her set and the requisite encore, Maggie went backstage and set her guitar down in the corner of the dressing room. Normally she would sit down and unwind a bit, gathering her thoughts about how the show went. But this night her thoughts weren’t on the show she had just played, they were on the captivating mystery man – she had to meet him! Maggie walked through the backstage throng of people that always seemed to assemble after a show – a mix of music people and those who were hangers-on – the ones lucky enough to get back there past the bored security guy. She hurried out to the bar area of the club she had just played in, scanning the crowd for the baby blue stocking hat. The club she had just played in, Cacophony, was one of the smaller venues in town. But it had a warmth that seemed to embrace music, with posters pasted up on the walls from different people and bands that had played there since its opening in the late 70’s. The diminutive size of the club made it easy to find him. There he was! She found him sitting at the bar with a friend of his she assumed, and she breathed a sigh of relief to see it was a male friend. She walked up to the bar, standing in the empty space next to him, on the pretense of ordering a drink.

“Hi – I saw you there, in the front by the stage – did you enjoy the show?” Maggie asked him, trying to stop the quiver in her voice.

“Yeah, you were great! – just like the last time I saw you play,” the stocking hat stranger replied.

“My name is Maggie – well duh, I guess you already knew that. And what’s your name?” Good lord, she was coming off like a complete idiot!

“My name is Nathan – and I really love your music,” he replied in an understated fashion; but it was so lovely, Maggie thought to herself.

“Where did you see me play before?” Maggie asked him.

“I saw you a couple months ago when you played at Bohemia – you were wonderful. But with my crazy work schedule I don’t get out as much as I’d like.”

“Well thank you,” Maggie replied. “What do you do for work that keeps you from getting out?”

“I’m a firefighter – I love what I do, even with the odd hours – it gives me a lot of free time to work on what I really love,” Nathan explained.

“And what would that be?” Maggie queried.

“Well, I write and play a bit of music myself – but mainly just for me. I don’t know that any of it is good enough to see the light of day outside my window,” Nathan told her modestly.

“Would you consider playing something for me? It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone play for me – I’ve been so busy playing for everyone else. Please, come backstage with me – if you don’t mind – I would love to hear your songs.” What in the world had gotten into her – Maggie had no idea if this person was single, taken or just didn’t care, but she wasn’t going to let him get away without finding out.

“Sure, why not – if you’re sure you don’t mind. Sometimes I think my friends get tired of having to listen to me play all the time, but I love to play for people when I get a chance. But it’s been awhile, so I may be kind of rusty,” he said in a shy and humble manner.

What a refreshingly genuine person Nathan seemed to be – so many artists seemed to be full of ego and pretentiousness, especially around other artists – as if they were always competing against each other. But Maggie sensed none of this in Nathan. She was very anxious to hear what he had to offer in the way of his music; would it fit his down to earth demeanor, she wondered?  She was hoping so bad that it would, and soon she would find out.

They walked to the back of the club and through the backstage door. Maggie’s manager, Theo, was standing there and started to say something like “who the hell” before Maggie gave him the evil eye to shut the hell up. Even though she wasn’t big news on the national scene, she had gathered quite a loyal fan base in Minneapolis, and bringing a fan backstage was sure to cause a ruckus once the news got out. But Maggie didn’t give a damn what the local music papers said, she was captivated by Nathan already. She felt like he understood her; call it women’s intuition but they had some kind of connection – she felt it every time they locked eyes.

Nathan found a chair in the dressing room and sat down, while Maggie got her guitar from the corner of the room where she had left it.

“Would you like something to drink? It’s on me – they don’t charge me anything you know.” Oh for crying out loud, there she went again, sounding like a schoolgirl with her first crush.

“Thanks, that would be great – I’ll just have a beer – whatever they have on tap that’s the cheapest is fine with me,” Nathan told her.

He was so polite, in a quaint sort of way and he certainly wasn’t taking advantage of her hospitality. “Okay, I’ll be right back – that’ll give you time to tune the guitar the way you like.” Maggie walked out of the dressing room and almost ran to the bar; afraid that Nathan might sneak out while she was away. But he was still there when she got back, in the same chair, lazily strumming away on the guitar.

“Did you decide what you wanted to play?” Maggie asked him.

“Yeah, it’s a song called I Part the Sky – I wrote it for a friend of mine who’s gone now.” Maggie sat in the chair across the room from him and settled in – and she began to hear the most beautiful melody coming out of her guitar – how could he be so modest about this lovely music? He sang out a song with heartfelt, yet introspective lyrics – not like so much of the superficial songwriting she heard, even from some of her friends. Nathan finished his song and Maggie excitedly clapped her hands in appreciation.

“That was wonderful!” she cried. “How long have you been doing this and why haven’t you tried to put your work out there?”

“I’ve been writing songs since I was a teenager – I learned to play guitar and piano when I was a kid. I guess I just do it for the sake of doing it, you know. I never thought about doing it as a career but I love to play for my friends when they let me,” Nathan said.

“Let you!” Maggie exclaimed, “They should be begging you to play! You’re good – and I’m not just saying that – would you play something else for me?”

“Alright – here’s a song I love, and I really love playing it.” With that, Nathan played the familiar notes – the beginning of the song that Maggie remembered so well, playing it so often when she was still a member of Wildflowers, the band she used to be a part of until she decided to go solo. It was a song called Moon Love, and she had written it for a lover from so long ago – it was her song of loss; her love having died two years ago. Nathan strummed the last chord and Maggie was surprised to find tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry – that was lovely. It’s just a very personal song about someone I lost too – I miss him – we both loved the moon so much and I had forgotten that.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you. I miss my friend too – she was my best friend and funny thing is, we loved to try and find the moon at night – like hide and seek, you know?” Nathan reminisced.

Maggie wiped her eyes. “Well, enough of sad songs. You really need to bring your songs somewhere so they can be heard – if you want, that is. I’m good friends with the owner of Metronome Records, the label that released my solo album. If you want me to, if you have anything recorded, I could bring it over there and see what they think. But I have a feeling that you could be looking at a possible album in your future.” Nathan had real talent and Maggie liked to think she had a good ear for talent that deserved to be heard.

“Well, I have been recording some stuff on the 4 track equipment I have at home. It sounds a little rough around the edges, but if you really want I’ll get a copy of what I have so far. This is so nice of you – helping out someone you just met like this,” Nathan quietly told her.

Oh my God, he was so genuinely nice – Maggie was smitten! But besides that, he played such pretty music – he was a natural – why did people hide such talent away? Well, she was going to take care of that. But first, she had an idea.

“Here’s my number – please give me a call and let me know when that demo tape is ready and I’ll take it to my friend at Metronome. And before you go, would you do me one other favor?”

“Sure,” Nathan said, “what is it?”

“Would you walk outside with me so we can play hide and seek with the moon?”

Nathan gave her the most beautiful smile as she reached for his hand; Maggie knew, she just knew that Nathan was going to turn out to be more, oh so much more than just a fan.

May I?

 

When I hear your music

I am mesmerized

It pulls me in

I glide along with the melody

Your songs touch my soul

They sing to me

Others sing yet I feel nothing

I only feel your passionate voice

You play your guitar

Caressing so gently

I am awestruck watching

May I touch you while you play?

You stroke the piano keys

Melodies so angelic

Floating

May I touch your fingers while you play?

You breathe out the words

Full of passion

Full of meaning

May I touch your lips to taste the words?

You live and breathe

The beauty of music

Take me with you

I am carried away

Surrendering

I am finding lately that the more I let go of the control I feel I need to have in my life, the smoother the path of my life is. Once I realize that I don’t always know what is best for me, the Universe steps in and blessedly opens doors, sometimes even closing others. And the things that we think of as “coincidences” are really just the dominoes of our lives here falling in perfect succession. It feels good to know that I don’t have to keep such a tight grip on the reins; my soul knows exactly where to go.

Letting Go

The absolute trust

Of a snowflake

As it leaves the sky

Letting go

Free falling

Through the atmosphere

Its path unknown

Yet it trusts

An unseen guidance

Knowing

It will land softly

Safely

Exactly where it needs to be

Water washes over me

During my life thus far, I have experienced water in all its forms; rain, snow, sleet, hail – all the conditions that encompass the oath of the ever faithful mail carrier to complete their appointed rounds. I was born and raised in water friendly Minnesota, lovingly described on its license plates as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. It makes for a stunning landscape, all those lakes, with Lake Superior calling to me with its siren song of immense beauty. But I soon grew tired of the frozen form of water, the snow that would blanket the ground each winter, and the winter of 2010/2011 was like some kind of cruel marathon that Mother Nature seemed to be running. After cleaning snow off my car in mid-April, I wrote a poem lamenting the endless winter and set my sights westward. I could now hear the ocean calling me, just like when you hold a shell to your ear and hear the roar of the waves. And I had a vision of the Oregon coast, so clear in my mind. It wasn’t pretty and sun drenched like the Southern California coast. No, my ocean was cloudy and windy, with waves that angrily rolled in, all cold and foamy. And once I moved to Portland, and made my first trip to the coast, I saw my vision revealed to me in all its splendor. Yes, there is plenty of water here, in the form of rain. And yes, there has even been a bit of the white stuff too! But as I make my way through the rainy season here, I just remind myself that all those lovely drops of water falling down are what brings the green of the leaves, the colors of the flowers, and I drench myself in the luscious color palette of this place I now call home.

Whining About Winter

The snow, the snow

The endless snow!

In December, white crystals fall

Like jewels from heaven

In March, angry pellets of white

Are shot from hell

Pristine mountains of gathered flakes

That once glistened pure and bright

Are now dreary gray burial mounds

When will the melting commence?

To reveal the earth’s hidden palette of colors

As days march triumphantly towards spring

The sun cautiously creeps closer to the earth

It dares to stay a little longer

With each passing day

Come! Stay awhile!

Don’t be shy, we implore

And the sun finally agrees

To stop hiding like a frightened rabbit behind winter

And leaps like a graceful deer into spring

Chasing the snow into the ground

It lifts up sleeping life from once frozen dirt

The Pull of the Waves

How is it that I feel

Deep within my being

This pull of the waves

A body of water

Ocean, sea

Miles away

From my body

Yet my soul

Plants its feet in the sand

And I wait

For the water to rush over me

Rolling waves

Now I float on them

Rocking in a cradle

 Swaying in my lover’s arms

The waves enfold me

A wet, salty blanket

Drifting off in a daydream

Blissful remembrance

Of how the water

Delights

The Changing Moods of Water

 

Water

Changing forms

Liquid drops of rain

Flakes of snow

Blanket of fog

Billowy clouds

Icy sheets on the river

Water floating upon water

Seared by the sun

Water warms

Water melts

Fondled by winter’s breeze

Droplets cease to fall

They hang suspended

Moments frozen

Tousled by the wind

Waves leap and cavort

In fits of rage they destroy

Yet water is liquid life

Nourishing our bodies

Quenching our thirst

It mimics the goddess Kali

A bearer of life

A destroyer of life

When made aware of its duality

We gain respect for water

And it’s ever changing moods

Up to the challenge

I found a fun thing for us writers – a 100 word challenge presented by Julia’s Place blog site. The idea is to write a story using only 100 words from a weekly prompt. This week the prompt was “you bought her what” – intriguing – could I do it? Well, I did it! So thank you Julia for a new exercise in writing.

A Perfect Pair

Mom grabbed the next present from the pile on the floor next to her; the gift was from my sister.  She unwrapped it and opened the box, her eyes sparkling like the lights on the Christmas tree. “Oh my Jenny, it’s beautiful!”Yet I gasped in horror as I whispered under my breath to my sister, “You bought her what I bought her!” But as Mom opened my identical gift, she said with such heartfelt grace, “Oh Julie, it’s perfect! Now I have another sweater to wear when the other one is in the wash.”

Music of the streets – story #2

Like most places in winter, my city is quiet, her streets not so full of people. I miss the sounds of the street musicians, the buskers, as I walk in the rain. I can’t blame them for taking a break during the inclement weather. But I am assured in the coming months when the rain abates and the sun shines, that these wonderful troubadours will be on the street corners, in the parks, serenading all who pass by.

Dreams of a Busker

To busk means “to entertain by singing, dancing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.”Henry Dewar was a busker, and he entertained on the street by singing. Busking is a profession that really isn’t a profession but more like a volunteer position that struggling musicians find themselves in when trying to become noticed. If one is lucky, or good enough to be noticed for more than a few passing seconds, there may be a bit of pay involved. But more times than not, being a busker is just putting on a free show in whatever locale is available for whoever happens to walk by. Actually, it was Dylan Jameson who was the busker – that was Henry’s busking moniker. He had decided that Henry was a totally inappropriate name for someone who sang songs like the ones he wrote, full of heartfelt meaning, sprinkled with an idiosyncratic nature at times. He arrived at Dylan in a clear cut tribute to Bob Dylan, the most famous of buskers. And in keeping with the whiskey theme attached to his last name, he chose Jameson instead of Dewar. And besides, he much preferred a shot of Jameson over a shot of Dewar’s any day. Not that he should have known the difference, since he was only 20 years old and not quite legal drinking age. But who didn’t drink before that time anyway? Only dorks and geeks and nerds, and he wasn’t one of them, although at times he felt like one. But when his friends passed around the bottle of whatever they could find in their parent’s liquor cabinet while they were out of town, Henry gladly took a swig. The warm glow of  whiskey or whatever was in the bottle he held in his hand  took away all the insecurities and especially the voice of his mother, asking him once more when he was going to put away that silly guitar and find a real job or go to college or really do anything but play music. Henry would hold the bottle in front of his face and speak to it, pretending it was his mother and that he actually had the courage to tell her, “Mom, I’m not going to college and I am going to find a real job – a job as a musician – I just wish you would believe in me, but it doesn’t matter because this is my future, this is my dream and it is going to come true because I believe in me.” And with that he would take an extra long swig and wait for the liquor to fill him full of the golden glow of that belief.

Perhaps out of respect to Henry and his dreams, maybe he should be referred to as Dylan from this point on. Oftentimes an artist in bloom requires a new identity, even when that new identity continually gets slathered over by naysayers, like Dylan’s mom. Like most moms she meant well, and as a single mom she meant even more than well. She worried about her son, as she watched him try out different hair styles and different hair colors, ranging from blue to green to the jet black that he seemed to have finally decided upon. And couldn’t he just cut it to a more respectable length, above his shoulders at least? How would he ever get a decent job with long, stringy, black hair? And his clothes, well she couldn’t complain too much, he certainly didn’t spend much of her money on his wardrobe. Dylan’s closet was only half full at best; a few pairs of well worn jeans, various t-shirts in plain colors or those with different bands or musicians on the front, and a meager collection of hoodies for the cooler weather he endured while playing outside in the Portland, Oregon winter. It was all a struggling musician needed as far as clothes, but Dylan’s mom envisioned him in business attire, at the very least in a button down shirt with a pair of dress pants and shoes that weren’t made of canvas. She hated to keep nagging him but she couldn’t stand the thought of her son, her only child ending up like his father – living in some remote seaside town on the Oregon coast in a rundown ocean weathered house, still chasing the artist’s dream, still trying to make a living out of driftwood he found on the shore. When they had first married she found it charming and thought it was just a phase that he would grow out of and learn how to properly provide for his family. But that never happened and now Dylan’s mom painfully watched as her son began to travel down the same dead end road, with the same glazed over, starry eyed dreams as his father had followed.

Dylan liked to think of the buskers in Portland as a family of sorts, a community unique onto themselves. They were like the Impressionists from 19th century Europe, who came together to put forth their art that was so misunderstood at the time. Of course there was a vibe of competition among the buskers, how could there not be? They all wanted the same thing, to be discovered and catch that elusive fame and success, to sing for more than just the passing people on the streets. But they encouraged one another, and listened to one another. Sometimes partnerships were formed and other times they were broken. But there was an unspoken rule of no backstabbing or stepping over another to achieve their time in the spotlight. Many times precious guitar strings were shared, as well as information leading to a treasure like find of really cheap instruments for sale. In Portland the Willamette River divides the city into east and west, and Dylan knew most who played on both sides, although his home turf was the west side. Those on the east side would proudly proclaim that their area was “the real Portland”, with the hip and quirky bohemian flavor that most musicians seemed to thrive in. But as Dylan would come to find out, serendipity didn’t choose sides of a river, it went both east and west.

The battered and duct taped black guitar case stood in the corner, like a soldier waiting for its assignment. Inside the case was Dylan’s most prized possession, the Yamaha acoustic guitar made of light brown wood, covered with stickers of all sorts from the different bands around town who gave them out, to one from Jackpot Records, his favorite record store in town, to one proclaiming “Keep Portland Weird”. The precious guitar was a gift from Dylan’s father, on his 12th birthday, when his father was still around. His father understood him, he understood the musician in him, and he understood Dylan’s need to follow his passion. It is exactly what Dylan’s father had done, followed his passion, even though it had cost him his family. These days Dylan didn’t see him very often and talked to him even less and missed him even more. But life wasn’t always easy or what we thought it should be, as his mother reminded him time and time again.

“I’m out of here,” Dylan shouted to his mom as he grabbed his guitar case, his coolest pair of sunglasses, and a bottle of water for his busking session, this time down by the waterfront of the Willamette.

“Will you be home for dinner?” his mother shouted back.

“Don’t plan on me,” Dylan said as he walked out the door.

“I never do,” his mother muttered under her breath.

It was Saturday, and that meant the Saturday Market was in full swing. It was a perfect summer day and Portland was full of visitors who made it a point to visit the huge weekend gathering of artists that they had heard so much about. It was a different energy than the artists who showed their work in the Pearl District, which was much more upscale and catered to people who bought expensive works of art that transformed their homes into art galleries themselves. The artists of the Saturday Market were more of the arts and crafts feel, many of them creating their works as a hobby and not as their profession. But during the summer months when the crowds were full and fierce, the tourists gobbled up many of the unique treasures offered and the artists fared well. Many different varieties of food were also offered, as well as different types of music being played everywhere throughout the market, and there were even break dancers once in awhile who moved like taffy being pulled, to the sounds coming from a nearby beat box. Dylan made his way to the market by first walking through the nearby Farmer’s Market that was also held every Saturday. He could hear the echoing strains of the sax man as he neared the site of the Farmer’s Market. Dylan wondered how long the old man had been playing on that same corner; his saxophone a dull gold color now, but the notes still coming out clear and bright. He stopped to listen as he heard the moaning melody of the blues being played. When the sax man finished, Dylan shoved a dollar into the glass jar he always had, the one with the sign in black marker that said, “Bless You”. “Thanks son,” the old man said with a tired smile. The sax man was the only one that Dylan gave money to; he kind of felt sorry for the old guy. But he never could find the courage to ask him about his life or his experiences as a long time busker; at times he was afraid of what he might hear. Dylan moved on to the park outside of the Farmer’s Market and spotted his friend Tyler, playing his brand of heavy rock music with his cheap electric guitar and amp that he hauled around town.

“How goes it man?” Dylan asked him.

“Not bad, I’ve made a few bucks but it’s mostly head banging highschoolers coming to listen. What I really need is the music people to come, you know? Not just a bunch of wanna be kids.”

The “music people” that Tyler referred to was every busker’s dream, that someone of some importance from the music community would take notice and tell someone else of some importance and so on and so on, and then they would be discovered.

“Yeah, but don’t forget about all the attention you get when a crowd gathers. And don’t forget about your fans,” Dylan reminded him.

“Yeah, well alright. Where’re you headed?”

“I’m gonna set up down by the Market, by the waterfront. A great day like this brings everyone out and hopefully the music people will be out too.” Dylan was thinking about all the famous musicians who had been discovered playing on the streets, like Bob Dylan of course and in more recent times there was Beck. To Dylan it was not just a pie in the sky dream, to be a famous musician. Music was his passion, his life; it was the only thing that he wanted to do. But reality had begun to sink in lately, the reality of being unemployed and living at home, and along with that was the constant sound of his mother’s voice reminding him of this. But for now he just wanted to find his favorite spot by the waterfront, under the shade of a tree and play his heart out to whoever wanted to listen.

With the guitar case in one hand that held his most prized possession, and a half empty bottle of water in the other, Dylan made his way out of the sprawling grounds of the Farmer’s Market and turned north towards the Saturday Market. This event took place in the area known as Old Town, a part of Portland that was a bit grimier than others, but Dylan loved the feel of the area. He made his way past the many booths set up, where people sold a hodgepodge of arts and crafts; everything from soaps to nuts, jewelry to junk made into treasures. Every type of artist opened up shop, with art done in every imaginable medium. Dylan always thought of it as the perfect showcase for Portland’s strong art community. And mixed in with all that was for sale were the musical offerings, from those who were asked to play on the small stage set up by the food area, to those who were uninvited, like Dylan. But there was a level of tolerance for all the buskers; they never seemed to be harassed by the police for playing their music. Dylan weaved his way through the throngs of people gazing at the dazzling array of arts and crafts offered until he got to the waterfront area. He had a favorite spot, a corner with a large oak tree that provided him with much appreciated shade on the hot summer days. It was one of those hot summer days and Dylan was glad to see that no one was sitting there. He sat down on the grass and laid down his guitar case. Opening it up he gently lifted his guitar out, and also found his cheat sheet of lyrics and chords to the songs he had been working on lately. Dylan had discovered his mom’s record collection from her youth, and he was surprised to find that he actually liked a lot of the music his mom used to listen to. His favorite of late was The Slider by T. Rex, and he had been working hard to perfect the songs from that album. He strummed through the six strings of the guitar, one at a time, in an effort to make sure he was in tune. One last gulp from the water bottle, a check to make sure his guitar case was opened and close at hand to any passersby who would want to throw some money in, and on with the cool white rimmed sunglasses – he was ready. Dylan got into the place where the music came from; a place where he could feel the joy of singing and playing the music, a place where he seemed to be in a world all his own. So it came as a surprise to him when he looked up for a second and saw the woman standing there in front of him. She looked old enough to be his mom but she was into the T. Rex song he was playing. When he finished she clapped her hands excitedly and said, “That was great! And you even remembered to shout out “rock!” in the right place.”

“Thanks,” said Dylan shyly, “I found this album in my mom’s record collection – it’s a great album, like a classic, and one of my favorites.”

“When I was in high school I remember hearing T. Rex on the radio, but all they played was Bang a Gong.  I didn’t realize until years later how much other great music they have. They never really got a fair shake in the US,” the mom-like lady replied.

“I’ll play you another if you’d like,” said Dylan and with that he launched into Spaceball Richochet but kind of faded out towards the end.

“Sorry about that,” Dylan mumbled, “I’m just learning these songs.”

“That’s okay, it sounded great. And by the way, my name is Sharon Waters. I’m actually here for a reason – I work for Aberrant Records and we’re hosting a kind of “battle of the buskers” called The Buskers Ball. We got talking one day about all the great music we hear on the streets but realize how hard it is to get noticed and catch a break. So we’re having a talent show of sorts at the Roseland Theatre in two weeks. Here’s all the information about signing up and other details. The winner will get free studio time with a producer and engineer provided, and Aberrant will press the cd and distribute it. But even if you don’t win, there will be plenty of Portland music industry people coming to listen, and the possibilities are endless!”

Dylan didn’t know what to say, with this opportunity just falling into his lap. “Thanks, I’ll be there!”

“I’m counting on it,” Sharon said as she moved on to find the next busker to bestow good fortune upon.

Dylan spent the next two weeks feverishly practicing and perfecting his music; broken guitar strings became a common occurrence and he bummed new ones off the other buskers when he could. According to the small white piece of paper he got that fateful Saturday, he had to go online and register his name, so of course he registered as Dylan Jameson; and each person got one song, one chance to show what they’ve got. Since the lady from Aberrant liked his T. Rex material so much, he chose a song off of The Slider to perform. He had some original material; songs he had written but he wasn’t sure how they would go over – better to play a cover that people would recognize. He could play his own songs after he got the ball rolling and found a record label to put his stuff out there. But for now, his hopes were on this Buskers Ball, hoping against hope like all the others that they would be noticed or even better, be the lucky winner.

As Dylan walked down Burnside Avenue, guitar case in hand, he neared the Roseland Theatre and saw the lineup of others just like him. Wow, there must be every busker around from east to west, he thought as he took his place in line. He was so nervous! He had never been on a stage before; this wouldn’t be like playing outside, now he got to play inside in a proper venue. The line slowly snaked towards the backstage door. Dylan felt the nervous anticipation and started singing to himself – would he get up there and forget the words? He wished he could take his guitar out of the case, right there in line to make sure he remembered the chords. But after two weeks of constant practice he felt like it was second nature, the song he had picked to perform. Now he was up to the door – he could see the table set up where everyone had to sign in and get all the new details about what was going to happen and get the number that they had to wear so the “judges” knew who they were. Kind of like a talent contest, kind of corny and kitschy but hey, it was a chance to strut your stuff that may have never happened in a million years so Dylan was willing to play the game. Now it was his turn – “What’s your name?” the lady at the table asked. “My name is Dylan Jameson,” the old Henry Dewar replied. He got his number and found himself in the backstage of a real club, a real place to play. And as he moved around the backstage area, and found himself looking at the stage where he would be playing, he realized that his dreams, the dreams of a busker, had a very good chance of turning into his reality.

Age is just a number, that I don’t always remember

I have a friend who’s birthday is in a couple of days, but for the life of me I really don’t know exactly how old she is going to be. I know it’s 40- something, and does it really matter? I’ll probably ask her, she will understand. Now if she were in her 20’s, I would imagine my inability to remember her exact age would be considered a slight in our friendship. But honestly, when asked my age, there are times when I start to do the math in my head before I can answer – take the year it is now, subtract the year I was born and recall the month it is too, to figure in if I add another year or not. And I’m not slow on the uptake, I’m not losing my mind, not just yet anyway! But at this stage of my life, 50-something, age really doesn’t mean a whole heck of alot. All I know is that number one, I am glad to be getting older. I most certainly do not want to relive the days of my youth in any way, shape or form. Who wants to make those mistakes all over again? No, I am gathering what they call “wisdom”, and it is very good to have. And number two, I like the eras that I grew up in, and do not wish to be a young person in the new millennium – I’m used to my old ways, thank you very much! And number three, I can say with all honesty that I am not afraid of death. I may be a bit leery of the process of dying – does it hurt? I hope it is quick and painless, what we all wish for. But I believe that life goes on after this “life” on earth, so what is there to be afraid of? And from what I hear, it’s a pretty cool place too. So I welcome each year that I can add on, more wisdom, more experiences, more love and life to gather here until I find out what’s on the other side of life.

Age

The blooms in the blue vase

Transition

Softness of the petals

Drying

But still bright

With color

Some hold their heads high

Others become weary

Heavy and drooping

Leaves fade

From youthful dark green

To the yellowing of age

Transition of form

Yet within each bloom

Life continues to radiate

 

Poems from my inner child

My first few poems were born from a tidal wave of emotions coming out, after going through some major life changes. But as I began to heal and started to feel more alive, I wanted to play with the words, not just use them as an outlet for my troubles. So one day I was thinking about my car, my amazingly reliable, always there for me Honda Civic (which I had named Little Car), and out came the words to a poem about my friend made of black metal. And I found it coming out in rhyme, with a rhythm like the jump rope rhymes I remembered from my childhood. My inner child had revealed herself! On another occasion, I was thinking of favorite foods, things I really crave at times, and realized they all begin with the letter C. Voila! Another tiny, simple and childlike poem, just for the sheer fun of it. Who says that all our writing has to be deep and profound? A bit of silliness is needed every now and then to remind us how to play, even in our writing.

 

Little Car

 

Little car, little car

You and I, we go so far

Traveling near or traveling far

Having fun no matter where we are

The road ahead looms large and long

But you and I, we sing our song

Of taking a chance on roads unknown

Then coming back to our sweet home

Without you I fear

I would have to stay near

And not venture to places

Where I can meet many new faces

So I thank you always

For taking me all those days

To new places I’ve longed to see

Traveling onward – just you and me!

The Letter C

Things I love

That begin with C

Cupcakes

Coffee

Chocolate

Cheese and

Crackers

There it is

Nothing fancy

Just some things

That I

Crave

Beginning with

C

 

Enlightenment can be a dim light at times

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

                                                                                – a Zen proverb

It took a lot of soul searching before I could finally understand what that ancient Zen proverb meant. To me, enlightenment was something to be achieved, a state of being that maybe I would be lucky enough to touch, but really believed was only available to highly exalted Masters of any given spiritual path – not a common person such as myself. I looked at the “light” part of that word only, thinking that if I did touch any part of enlightenment, it would be a glorious path free from any pain or discomfort. How wrong I was in that assumption! Being enlightened does not equate to perfection, as we may think of it in our limited human way of thinking. We are in a place of duality here on this earth, and realizing that and experiencing the “bad” along with the “good” is the only way on the path to enlightenment. Now I don’t particularly enjoy the meltdowns; the box of tissues nearby, curled up in a ball, trying to figure out what precipitated the flow of tears and emptiness this time. More times than not, I find it is something seemingly trivial, something that bruised the fragile peach-skin of my ego. But once I recover and step back to assess the situation, my soul comes through loud and clear to remind me how strong I really am. Enlightenment is not a goal to reach and then sit back and bask in – it is a constant way of being. It is a state of grace that we still have when we stumble, it is finding love in all situations, it is respect for all people – remembering that we are all here to learn, and to learn from one another. And I find that the more I can touch my soul, the more I realize how blessedly imperfect I am! What a glorious revelation…

Success and failure are seen as part of a seamless, joyful whole.

Each is accepted and fully lived.

                                                                – Lao-Tzu from the Tao Te Ching

The music stories

When I first rediscovered the joy of writing, finding my creative voice and playing with the words, I started out writing poems. Poems came to me so shy and sweet; just a few words to put down on paper, and eventually share with others. But then I began to hear stories in my head, and they all revolved around music, which is my heart’s delight. Short stories are not as easy to share as poems, in the publishing sense anyway. So now that I have my blog, I have decided to post them weekly – I have only five of them, but I want them to be in a place that is accessible, even after I am long gone from this earth. This first one is longer than the others, but it is my first born and I do not want to edit it any more than I already have – it was a lesson in editing, something that seems to be a never ending process. So here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.

Key Change

     I always hoped for a key change in him – from a minor key to a major key. And yes, there were times when he did play his life from a major key. He had the driest sense of humor, and the most infectious laugh, and a smile that could melt my heart! But he much preferred the sad, dissonant tones of a minor key life. At times I felt that he had no choice, but other times he seemed to bathe in the sadness. I understood this side of him and for a time I lovingly accepted it. But once I started to shake the stars from my eyes, I saw his ship beginning to sink. His crew of friends had long since jumped overboard and I almost went down with his ship myself. So now I tell the story of how Edgar Allan, the musician and tunesmith of beautiful, troubled songs, sank his own ship.

Oh, how I loved watching him play! I loved watching my sweet, sensitive Edgar command the attention of the crowd with his quiet songs and gentle ways. They would become mesmerized by him – a quiet hush would come over whatever venue he played; large or small, it didn’t matter. Attending an Edgar Allan show was almost a religious experience at times and his followers loved him no matter what. They loved him through the missteps that occurred, which occurred with more frequency as his world around him started to shatter. They forgave him the missed chords or forgotten words and he would charmingly laugh it off. Such unconditional love from complete strangers! But I was able to see behind the façade of the untroubled troubadour, shaking off whatever bothered him, for the crowd anyway. Edgar was a troubled soul to those of us who were close to him. I knew of his melancholy ways and at first I found it attractive and intriguing. We all seem to have a dark side that we court at times. When I first met Edgar he was not all darkness. He was the sympathetic messenger who played the bittersweet songs of life. Haven’t we all suffered lost love and disappointments? At first, I painted such pretty pictures of our life together. It would be blissful and I would help him get past the melancholy. I would be the sunshine in his life to wipe away the dark clouds! Little did I realize that the paint on the pictures never dried, it only became smeared after constantly repainting them over and over again.

My name is Ellie, short for Eleanore. I was named after my grandmother but thankfully my mom started calling me Ellie. I find Eleanore to be such a tired, old name and I am nothing like that! I like to think of myself as full of life, even though I have a side of me that is quiet and introspective.  There was a time when I felt old and tired like an Eleanore, constantly listening to the song in D minor that had become Edgar. I grew weary of dealing with reel after reel of the movies playing in his head; the dramas, the horror movies he played over and over. It’s funny how love can make you feel old and tired sometimes, when I always thought that love should lift you up.

I have a career that I enjoy with a passion; I work as a recording engineer in the music industry. I have worked with some amazingly talented people and I get to help them create some great music. My job consists of working the mixing console in a recording studio, helping the musicians who come in to record their music come up with the best sound for their finished product. Of course this was my first link to meeting Edgar but more about that later. I haven’t always worked in the music business though. After graduating from high school I went on to college and received a degree in nursing, following in the footsteps of my mom. But I grew weary of dealing with people who were sick and hurting; maybe I’m selfish in that regard but I didn’t want to be around all that pain.  I realized that I did not possess any type of inherited passion for nursing; my true love was music. I remember the conversation that ensued when I told my mom of my plans to change careers.

“I thought you loved being a nurse the same as I do,” said my mom.

“I tried to put my heart into it, but it is draining my soul,” I replied.

“So now what do you think you are going to do?”  my mom asked.

“I want to go back to school to become a recording engineer,” I said.

“And what type of job is that exactly?”  she asked.

“Well, a recording engineer is the person in the recording studio who helps musicians find just the right mix of sounds when they come to record an album,” I explained.

“And you expect to support yourself with this newfound career? What kind of job is that for a young woman to have?”  my mom exclaimed.

“I will make more than enough money to support myself – don’t you think I’ve looked into that already? It shouldn’t matter that I’m a woman– more women should be in professions like this!”  I shouted.

With that I ended our conversation and stomped out of the room. Thus began my pivotal turn in my life’s new direction. And I was turning unwittingly toward the love of my life.

I have always had a love of music and I can thank my mom for that. She always filled our home with such a variety of music from Elvis to Tony Bennett to Pink Floyd to Barbra Streisand. It was a musical indoctrination into many different genres. And then there were the musicals that she loved so much. She would play songs from different Broadway shows on the piano and sing along. I would enviously watch her long beautiful fingers dance so easily over the piano keys. I recall when I first watched Edgar play the piano that I noticed he possessed those same beautiful fingers and he played with the same graceful ease. I myself have what I would call “sausage fingers” which are not conducive to playing music very easily. I would stretch from thumb to pinky trying to reach the desired keys – a frustrating ordeal at times. When it came time to practice, I would sit on the piano bench and pout. I wanted to be outside playing with my friends! After eight long years of piano lessons, my parents finally realized my talents had peaked and released me from what I saw as “piano prison”. After the piano debacle, I decided the guitar was the instrument for me. But once again, the curse of my short fingers plagued me. And besides that, I had to cut my beloved fingernails and the strings hurt my fingers! I found my musical aspirations of playing any type of instrument were cut short, literally, because of my short fingers.

After my failed attempts at trying to play music, I turned my attentions to listening more intently to music. And listen I did! I amassed a large collection of music, and I would listen over and over in great detail. I began to notice little subtleties in each recording – the different ways that each instrument played a unique part in a song – the individualities of each artist, each producer. I would implore my friends to listen to music with me this way but most of them just didn’t hear what I was hearing. Then I bought a receiver with a built in equalizer and now I could adjust each song to the way that I felt it should be played – more bass on this one, more vocals up front on another. I loved recreating the songs I listened to in this manner. I felt that I had an ear for this and wanted to turn this gift I believed I had into a career. I started looking into schools that had programs in sound engineering, but somewhere along the line I graduated from high school and found myself enrolled in the nearest college that offered a nursing program. My insecurities got the better of me – I just went along with what my mom thought was best. That is, until I couldn’t take anymore of the sights and smells of the hospital where I worked. I found the world of music embracing me, holding me so close, like a lover. This was where my passion lay, not in the depressing hospital atmosphere where I was currently working. I knew I needed to make a change before I became too comfortable in the security of being a nurse. Once I found my voice and spoke up about my change in careers, I was energized! I would be the one in the recording studio to help each artist achieve exactly the sound they were looking for. They would thank me over and over for understanding the vision of their music. It would be perfect!

Going to school this time around was a blast! Not like attending college for my degree in nursing – I went through that half heartedly at best. At that time I was only doing what I felt I was pre-destined to do, following a path carved out for me. But now, in this new venue of learning, I was full of enthusiasm! When I first saw the recording studio at school, it took my breath away. I felt like I was finally in my element. I never really felt like I fit into the world of medicine – I had talked myself into thinking it was where I belonged. But this, this studio – with all the recording equipment and instruments in it that looked like beautiful works of art to me – it felt so familiar, like an old friend. I looked all around at the mixing consoles and sound boards we would learn to use and hoped I could learn to make sense of it all. But I shouldn’t have been so worried – the first time we were allowed to work with the equipment, I knew I was home! I took to it like a duck to water – my fingers swam and swam around all the knobs and buttons on the mixing console. It seemed as if I knew all along that this was my path; the world of music was resonating with my very soul.

The last phase of my education consisted of 40 hours spent in an actual setting outside of school. This had to be in both a recording studio and a club, and we had to divide our time between them so as to experience each setting. Finally, to be out in the real world where I could shine and show off my skills. What I didn’t count on was a big reality check. As students, when we messed up something in school, it wasn’t such a big deal. Our instructors were patient and we had all the time we needed to work out the kinks. But in the real world, time is money and many artists have little patience using up their precious and costly studio time trying to explain to the engineer the artistic vision they have for their music. Then there was the club scene. Going to a club as a paying customer to listen to a band is worlds away from dealing one on one with a band during their sound check. My first exposure to this world was with a band from England called Tie One On and I wanted to do just that after dealing with them.

“Say luv, can you adjust the vocals just a bit?”  the lead singer asked.

“Which way – up or down?”  I asked.

“You’re the expert – what do you think?”  he sneered.

I wasn’t sure if he was serious or just messing with me, so I did what I thought was best.

“Hold it, hold it!! Are you serious? I can’t even hear meself sing – don’t be so daft and let’s get it right this time!”  he screamed.

This scenario played out back and forth until I finally left it all to the house engineer and ran off in tears. Not quite the exciting time I had envisioned in the fun and glamorous world of music!

After those first humbling experiences in both the studio and the club, I learned a thing or two and I finally graduated. I was now a full – fledged recording engineer! I had a ceremonial cleaning out of my closet, getting rid of the scrubs that I had to wear working in the hospital; clothing that had felt all wrong against my skin. Now I could dress in real clothes! I also decided to start growing out my hair, letting it actually grow down to my shoulders – or longer. I didn’t have to worry about tying it back anymore for work if it was too long. I wanted to dress fun and look fun! And then I went out and bought the most outrageous colors of nail polish I could find – green glitter, fuchsia, bright red and even black. The world of music was all about being yourself, no matter how outrageous, and shouting it out. Well, I was certainly ready to shout it out!   But first I needed to find a job. Although Minneapolis had a thriving music scene, I longed for a more exciting area to live in – and one with no snow and no cold weather. So of course like many other new, enterprising and naively ambitious recording engineers, I decided to make my mark in Los Angeles.

My choice of moving to LA was reinforced by the fact that I have an aunt and uncle who live in a suburb not far from the city, and they graciously opened their home to me until I could find a job. Ah yes, a job-of course hoping for something in my new field but not so naïve to think that it would happen right away. In another gesture of kindness, my uncle, who is a physician, gave me a temporary job in his office. Granted, I had ended up in the medical field again, but this time I knew it was only for a short time. I helped out at the front desk – answering phones, filing, checking in patients – just basically doing whatever was needed. Now I had money coming in to save towards rent for my own place. And I planned on finding that place just as soon as I could find a job in my chosen field, which took up most of my time outside of work. Oh, there were plenty of jobs, but for every job there were multiple applicants. And I heard the sad refrain of “well, we would really like someone with more experience”. How was I supposed to get experience if I wasn’t even given a chance to begin with? It was the age old conundrum of the recently graduated student looking for employment. What I needed was a connection, a lucky break to get my foot in the door. Then I could show them what I’ve got!

Luck paid me a sweet visit one day at work. I was covering the front desk one day when the drummer from one of the local bands I had gone to see quite a few times came in for an appointment. I told Daniel I recognized him from his band, Laces Out, and had listened to them at Petrol, a club they frequently played at. We got to talking about all things music and I told him about my dilemma in trying to find a job. It just so happened that he had a friend who had just opened a small studio not far from the clinic where I was working. I got his friend’s name and number, and Daniel said to mention his name and maybe I could at least hang around the studio and pick up some pointers. I wanted to drop everything that very second and call! My fingers were itching for the feel of the mixing console and I missed the embrace of the recording studio.

When I finally got up the nerve to call Matt Jones at Loose Change Studio, I was a nervous wreck! But he sounded so nice and told me to stop by when I had some free time. I made sure I had free time right after work that day. I headed over to the studio to see what was in store. It wasn’t a huge space; Loose Change Studio was actually in a strip mall, in a space that used to be a realtor’s office. But as I stepped inside, the familiar rush of being in that element I loved so much came back. The walls were painted in a bright blue that gave a feeling of radiant calm, and there were pictures on the walls of the various artists that Matt had worked with.  Around the corner from the front door was a small lounge, which had a large, comfy sofa, a TV, a video game player and a refrigerator to keep food and beverages in –  most musicians didn’t have extra money to spend on food after paying for studio time – this way they could bring their own stuff to eat and drink. Matt showed me around and I saw all the rooms that comprise a recording studio – the control room, where the engineer spent most of their time, the studio itself where the music was actually played, the isolation room that can be used to keep out any unwanted noise from showing up on a recording, and a mic room with a wide array of various microphones. Matt explained the visions and dreams he had for Loose Change. He shared his stories of working with various artists and their sometimes demanding personalities. That didn’t scare me – I was confident I could deal with just about anyone. I just wanted to be back in the land of music and out of the land of medicine.

Loose Change Studio soon became my second home and I spent all the free time I could there. Matt was very patient with me and he taught me things I hadn’t learned in school – those things that come only from experience. If there was studio time that wasn’t booked, he would let me play around with the sound boards – I was in heaven! And once in a while when there was an artist or band there actually recording, he would ask my opinion. There were times when what I came up with was something the artist actually liked – they used my ideas! After awhile, it was time for the big test that Matt felt confident I could pass – my first solo venture at the mixing console. Matt had a friend coming in to record his first solo album. His name was Edgar Allan and he had been playing in a goth band called Cold Dark Souls. But Edgar found he wanted to record what was truly inside of him – quieter, acoustic songs. Matt knew him well enough that he thought he would be the perfect artist for me to work with all on my own. I wasn’t getting paid for this but I didn’t care, and Matt assured me he would be close by if I needed any help. As confident as I was in my skills, I was still so nervous! Would I know what to do with this person’s precious songs so they would be exactly what they wanted? I was to find the answer to that question the next morning. I sat in the studio waiting for this Edgar Allan almost Poe for crying out loud, picturing another pretentious artist with a seemingly pretentious name. Those assumptions quickly shattered when in walked a small, unassuming man with guitar case in hand, shyly glancing in my direction. He looked to be about my age; I was 25 at the time. He wasn’t much taller than me it seemed, maybe a few inches more than my five feet, three inches that I claim to be. His clothing was casual, to say the least – a well worn pair of jeans, a t-shirt with a picture of a clown on the front, and the craziest pair of red tennis shoes I had ever seen. And on his head was a navy blue bucket hat; like the kind of hat that Gilligan wore on Gilligan’s Island.

“Hi, I’m Edgar. I’m here to record some tracks for my album,” he said, eyes averted downward.

“Hi, I’m Ellie. I’ll be your engineer. When is your producer coming?”  I asked.

“Oh, I’m going to be producing this myself so I guess we’ll be working on this together,” he said oh so quietly. He was so adorable!

“Alright – well, I’m ready whenever you are,” I said with a shy smile.

And so it went – the first few words spoken between us were enough for me to know that there was something very special about this Edgar who was not pretentious by any means. And I found that the more I worked with him, the more I realized I was falling in love with him – and I believe he was coming to that same conclusion.

Edgar and I found we were spending time together not just in the studio but outside the studio as well. We would go to the clubs around town to listen to different bands play, some of which his friends played in. Edgar had such an adorable child-like quality about him and he was so silly at times! I told him I was sure he must have been a court jester in a past life. We would go to Disneyland where he would ride and ride and ride, never seeming to tire of it. This was not the shy, quiet Edgar that most people saw – he liked to laugh and have fun! And he had such a dry sense of humor. He would tell me the corniest jokes over and over again – just to hear me laugh he said. Then there were the quiet times. At night we would walk hand in hand and just gaze at the moon – it seemed to follow us as if it knew how much we both loved it. He would bring me roses, each one a different color – he said I was like a rainbow of colors to him. I told him, write me a love song. But his songwriting seemed to take on the darker side of his being. No matter how much he professed his love for me, he had no love songs in him to write.

Things in my life started to fall into place like a perfectly set up string of dominoes. Business at Loose Change was booming, and Matt offered me a job. Of course I eagerly said yes! Now I knew I could stay in LA and that was a good thing. I was deeply in love with Edgar and couldn’t have stood the thought of being away from him. So now with a decent job, doing what I loved, I was able to find a place of my own to live. It was only a tiny studio apartment – it’s all I could afford at the time, but it felt like a castle to me. Oh, life was good! I had the perfect job, my own place to live and I had found the love of my life. My love; he was this amazing man who wrote and sang the most achingly beautiful music I had ever heard. I couldn’t believe that he had ever played in a loud, dark band. The music Edgar played now was so precious and quiet, yet dark in a subdued sort of way. And it was around this time that I started to learn of the ghosts that Edgar had tucked away in the closet of his mind. He had demons dwelling there from a time past – he had hidden them from me up until now. And these were demons that he could never quite seem to fully exorcise.

Of course, Edgar Allan did not begin life with that moniker. He was born Paul Allan and shortly after his birth, his parents divorced. This left his mother, Margaret, on her own trying to raise a baby on her meager salary of a nurse’s aide. Her plan had been to finish school and become an RN, but those dreams were put on hold. So when she met a man who would accept a readymade family, she accepted his proposal of marriage. But soon after the vows were made, Margaret found that James, her new husband, was not who she thought he was. He was kind and considerate during their courtship, but then his true colors came to light. He ruled the house with a heavy and authoritarian hand. He especially had it in for Edgar, feeling that he was an overly sensitive boy that needed to toughen up and become a “man”. Then Margaret found she was pregnant. She thought that if James had a child of his own it would bring out the loving paternal instincts in him. She was right – he doted on their daughter, Amanda. But he continued to take out his frustrations on Margaret and even more so on Edgar. Edgar would never be good enough in James’s eyes and Edgar grew to hate the sound of his given name, Paul. James would constantly berate him in that drill sergeant voice of his – teasing him and chiding him for his love of music and his dreams of becoming a musician. He told Edgar he should think about a “real” job, one where he would actually make some money, not just playing out what he saw as a useless fantasy. But for Edgar it was never about the money. He was always generous beyond belief – he would help out a friend in need and never worry about getting a penny of it back. Material items for him were of little importance. Edgar and some friends from high school had put together a band, like so many do, dreaming of making a living from playing music. Once he had made it through high school and graduated, Edgar had had just about enough of his abusive home life. He found a job doing construction work during the day, and at night he played music with his band at the local gigs they were starting to pick up. He and his band mates managed to find a house to rent and set it up as their rehearsal space as well as a place to live. They dubbed it The Raven’s Nest, borrowing from the Edgar Allan Poe poem The Raven. With his creative mind in full gear, Edgar took a cue from their house name and changed his name from Paul Allan to Edgar Allan. He didn’t want to hear the echo of his stepfather’s voice in his head every time someone called him Paul. Edgar had now begun a journey that unknown to him at the time, was to thrust him into the world of being a professional musician.

The band that Edgar played in, Cold Dark Souls played just that – cold, dark, gothic music. And for a time, that was fine with him. They were playing quite often in the local clubs now and garnered a following of fans. But as it often seems to happen in a band with a number of inflated egos, the personalities started to clash. They managed to keep things together during the recording of their first album, agreeing to disagree. The record was released and was met with moderate success which afforded them a bit of the rock and roll lifestyle – bigger places to play and touring around the country. It was a kick for them and Edgar seemed to enjoy their success. But all the while, the quiet songs keeping residence in him were screaming to come out. Edgar had a gentleness and sensitivity of someone way beyond his years and beyond the obnoxiousness of his band mates. He had been writing his own songs, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar or piano. These were songs of pain, of sadness, of frustration that were born out of his childhood. He would try to drink those memories away at times and later on in his life he turned to drugs to find that numbing effect. But the memories haunted and it was evident in his song titles: My Visitor Named Despair, I Wish I Was, My Muddled Thoughts and Death Is a Luscious Dream. Although the song titles sounded ominous, the melodies didn’t always reflect the melancholy lyrics. Edgar’s songs were often a perfect slice of pop perfection, even though the lyrics could be dark and deep. It was not difficult to hear what artists caught his ear – The Beatles were a big influence, as were more obscure 60’s groups like The Zombies and The Left Banke.  Edgar wanted so very much to write what he called “pleasant songs” but found that for the life of him he could not. The pain in his heart seemed to be all he knew.

After the second album, Cold Dark Souls decided to call it quits. This was perfectly fine with Edgar, as he had been busy writing his own songs and now had enough to put together his own album. This is where the story of Edgar and I begins, when he came to Loose Change Studio to record his first solo album. He had yet to find a label to release it for him, but the small label, Guava Juice, who had released the Cold Dark Soul albums, was more than happy to help Edgar out. One of the local radio stations that played alternative music got a hold of Edgar’s cd and started giving it some airplay. He did an interview with a dj at the station to promote his album, but it was painful for him to talk about himself. He liked it best when he could talk about the music only. Then in an act of serendipity, someone from a major label heard one of Edgar’s songs and was intrigued. He got in touch with Edgar and to make a long story short, offered him a recording contract. With a major label like Syndicate supporting him, he now had the financial backing to record in a bigger and better studio. And along with this came the extensive touring, the videos, and the television appearances on late night talk shows. It was a roller coaster ride and Edgar had always loved amusement parks. But for someone who carries low self-worth and doesn’t feel deserving of such success, the surreal world of fame is not the best environment for them to be in. He had people doting on him and doing things for him but the battle in his head ensued – who was he to have been given this success? Edgar saw his friends who were in bands struggling to break outside of the local arena. Weren’t they as good as him or maybe even better? When the arms of depression wrapped around him, Edgar couldn’t help but feel that his success was somewhat of a fluke; dumb luck, not something he actually deserved.

I couldn’t get past the groupies – although Edgar, with his lack of self-worth, could never understand what they saw in him. I always told him how handsome I found him, but he could never see it himself. And then there were the wannabes, the one on the internet blogs asking all kinds of questions – what kind of cigarettes did Edgar smoke, what books did he read , where can I get the t-shirt he always wore with a picture of Edgar Allan Poe on it and even what did he prefer, boxers or briefs. It was a freakin’ circus and he was the dysfunctional ringmaster. He was always so damned polite to all of them with their odd and probing questions. And then there were the fans at the shows – shouting out to him “Edgar, I love you!” He would shout back in his sweet and quiet way, “I love you too”.  And the song requests during his shows seemed never ending. Of course he would oblige their requests at times but more often than not he patiently gave a reason why he couldn’t perform their requested song at the time. It was a subdued sort of mass hysteria at times, but through it all I loved him with a passion that surpassed anything I had ever felt before. And the good times with Edgar were so good! He had a love of hats and took to collecting all variety of hats as he traveled around the world. It was always the same question – “Do you like my new hat?” Of course I liked his new hat; he was my ever charming Edgar! But his moods were so inconsistent – they changed like the tides of the ocean – and I never knew if it was high tide or low tide.

After the initial success of his first album, Not Poe, and the touring that followed to support it, Edgar was anxious to get back in the studio and start work on his second album. I was still working at Loose Change Studio, but Edgar liked to have me around when he was writing or recording. He valued my opinion and I was touched by this. I saw him as nothing less than a musical genius. Edgar could play just about any instrument and play it well – he had a natural musical ability. He also possessed a way with words that I envied – writing in metaphors became his forte. Yet I still secretly wished he could find some metaphors of love and write some love songs to me, but there was still too much hurt inside of him. He was always hardest on himself and would spend hours trying to get something just right to his sometimes impossible standards. Even though it seemed just fine to me, I learned to leave well enough alone and not make waves. But the ever present demons in his head were becoming louder and present more often. He would try to drink them away more and more. I begged him to slow down his drinking but he was so stubborn. His friends were not quite as patient and were starting to grow tired of his tales of woe. When the drinking started to affect his performances, I knew his ship had hit an iceberg and it slowly started to take on water.

His second album was to be titled I Am a Hunger Artist, named after the story by Franz Kafka. He told me to read it early on in our relationship as he said it would help me to understand him better. Well, I did not understand the story, and I was beginning to understand Edgar less and less. We started to argue more and more. I wanted to go out once in awhile, to dinner or a club but he began having bouts of paranoia. Edgar felt that people would think he was a “freak” for some unknown reason, so we stayed holed up at home far too often. Then he started to lose confidence in his album and had delusions of the record company dropping him. It was a never ending tape loop of imagined judgments and opinions and misunderstandings. Yes, the boat he was sailing in had a huge hole in it and the water was pouring in fast. But never fear, my dear Edgar had the perfect solution.

“Let’s move to Venice!”  he exclaimed one morning.

“Venice-are you out of your mind?”  I cried.

“Why not? I can work on my stuff there and find a studio to finish recording. I’m tired of everyone here – they’re always on me about things that they don’t understand. They don’t have a clue what I’m feeling and I’d like to see them cope with my problems!”

“But we don’t speak a word of Italian and we have to find a place to live and a million other details that I’m sure you haven’t even thought of,”  I tried to explain to him.

“Well, you know I love you, but I’m doing this so you will have to decide where your heart lies,” he boldly replied.

Well, of course I knew where my heart was, regardless of the craziness of it all. It was always with this crazy guy, my Edgar. And at this point in the game, I would follow him to the ends of the earth. So that is exactly what I did.

I managed to sub-lease my apartment for 6 months – I didn’t expect this fanciful idea of his to last much beyond that. Edgar actually owned a small house in a suburb of LA and found a friend to live there while he got this latest whim out of his system. Of course, he thought of this as being more of a long term thing, despite the fact that we were like fish out of water living in a foreign country. The language barrier alone was a day to day frustration.  And as you can well imagine, it was not quite the successful venture that Edgar imagined it would be. He was starting to delve into the world of drugs now to silence the ever present voice of his stepfather and depression was grabbing a hold of him harder and harder. I knew this move was an escape plan for him but the demons had crossed the Atlantic right along with him. He came up with utterly ridiculous ideas, such as the time he announced he was going to be a gondolier and sing love songs to lovers like us. Of course once he sobered up, that plan was forgotten, just like all the other crazy schemes he came up with – the studio he was going to open, the guitar lessons he could teach – it was one thing after another. It’s not that he was totally dysfunctional by any means. He worked on his album while we were there and managed to get it written and recorded. No matter what state he was in, the music always seemed to come through. And shortly after we settled there, we did all the touristy things and saw the sights and wonder of Italy. But then dear Edgar found the local bars and became a frequent visitor, leaving me to wonder where he was quite often. I sat most days, becoming bored with a routine I never found. I wasn’t working as Edgar made enough money for the both of us, but I needed that stimulation of work and I missed being in the studio. So finally, he gave in and we headed home, to America, where we belonged all along.

After the release of his second album, there was the requisite touring and normally I would have wanted to be by my baby’s side. But our little stint in Italy had me wondering about myself and about myself with Edgar. His addictive nature just seemed to fan the flames of my co-dependent nature and I was growing tired of it. And I was so happy to be back in the studio again – Matt had welcomed me back to Loose Change with open arms after we returned from Italy. So when Edgar announced his tour schedule to me, I begged off and told him I was staying home this time.

“How can you not want to be with me?”  he asked.

“It’s not a matter of not wanting to be with you, but I want to work again and I think maybe we need some time apart. I am tired of enabling you and being so co-dependent with you. I need time alone to think things through and this is a good opportunity for that.” It broke my heart to say this, but I knew I had to step back from him as he was starting to sink again into the world of whatever would take away the pain.

“Alright, I guess I understand. I’ll respect that and I’ll show you that I can clean up my act. You won’t need to keep taking care of me. And if you want, you can meet me somewhere along the way – whatever city you like and it will be like the old days – I promise! Please don’t think about leaving me Ellie, I love you – you are my true love!” By this time he was crying and it broke my heart. But something inside of me had become stronger and I held fast, even though I was crying my own tears right along with him.

Edgar would call me from each city he played, but it was obvious that he was not cleaning up his act as he had promised. I read the reviews about the shows – the slurred words, the odd rants he would go off on between songs, the lyrics he forgot to songs he had played so many times. But I never said anything to him about this. I was letting go and I was not going to continue to be the one to pick him up every time he fell. He was going to have to decide if and when he wanted help all on his own. I missed him though; thank goodness I had work to keep me busy and keep my mind off Edgar – most of the time anyway. Yet through it all, I loved him more than ever. But I had decided that I loved myself just a little bit more.

When he finally finished up the tour to support I Am a Hunger Artist, I found I was gaining confidence in being able to be on my own. But as I waited for him to meet me at the airport after his tour wrapped up, I was so anxious to have him back home again. When Edgar could find that elusive happiness that so often slipped through his fingers, I felt as if I were spending time with my best friend. I finally saw him as he came down the concourse, the familiar smile on his face that could melt my heart. I welcomed him with open arms and he was as loving and sweet as always. I realized I had missed him so much! It always felt so right in his arms no matter what was transpiring in his world. Being on tour without me had given him plenty of time to think about things. He came up with the idea of setting up a place for abused children where they could be helped through music – he wanted to call it Stretch Beyond With Music. I thought it was a wonderful idea! Edgar was such a generous and caring soul, and felt such sympathy for those young souls who had suffered any kind of abuse. He also wanted to do shows in which the proceeds would go to a scholarship fund for kids who wanted to pursue a career in music but could not afford it. I was so impressed by his thoughtfulness and it made me love him even more.

Things were good for a time. Edgar was starting work on his third album, tentatively titled The Viciousness of Money. He could never get past what he perceived as the hateful nature of money and the power it seemed to hold. This album was going to be different than the others – full of swirling noises and cacophonous sounds – he had all kinds of ideas. And some were very good but the drug and alcohol fueled ideas were starting to frustrate his producer. Finally, Edgar told him to go to hell and he would do it himself as once again he felt that no one understood him and why wouldn’t they just leave him alone. So now he was at home recording with the equipment he had amassed over the years, doing it all on his own and not bothering to ask my opinion on any of it. And the available stash of drugs he had at home was becoming more of a constant companion as of late. My sweet baby started to change into someone I didn’t even recognize. The things he would say to me – “you’re here again? Don’t you have anything else to do?”  It broke my heart. We used to love spending time together and couldn’t get enough of each other at times. Now he was treating me like I was some kind of annoying insect. As much as I loved Edgar, I was no longer the scared, insecure young woman I was when we first met. I had confidence now and wasn’t afraid of being on my own, although I preferred to be with him. But he was sinking fast and I was not going down with him. So when I decided to go back to Minneapolis and work in the growing music scene there, I know I broke his heart but mine was breaking just as bad.

Those first few months back home were hell. I missed Edgar with a passion but I had to stand firm and let him go. And as I was to find out, it was a good thing. Almost six months to the day I left him he was found dead in his home – the result of an unintentional lethal combination of drugs and alcohol. Now my sweet Edgar has finally found his key change.

Free time

I love being retired! And with it comes a welcome and refreshing amount of free time; time to do the things I had always dreamed about doing, and sometimes not really doing much at all. Either way, it is my choice, what I decide to do with all my time – my treasure chest of free time.

My answer to a question

 

The question was asked of me

“What do you do with all your time?”

 

Well, today I journeyed to the park

I packed a bag full of books and filled my water bottle

And after I grew weary of reading

I lay down on the carpet of lush green grass

Closing my eyes, I saw my surroundings with my ears

There were cars driving by, and buses loudly humming

The bicycle man drove by shouting out “ice cream!”

Wind enticed the leaves into conversation

I heard flashing lights of red and blue from the frantic fire truck

Then I opened my eyes

I saw the trees waving hello to me

Their long branches heavy with abundant leaves

Creating a canopy over me, gently shading the sunlight

And I saw people like me, in the park

Doing what they will do with their time

 

Once more I was asked

“What do you do with all your time?”

Well, today I journeyed to the river

I sauntered along the river walk for a time

Then I grew weary and retired to a bench

And I watched a yellow kayak float by

It reminded me of a banana floating on the water

I listened to the gulls

Complaining to one another

About the lack of food the tourists feed them nowadays

And I noticed the bridges

Lined up like stiffened arms reaching across the water

The one made of dark black steel beckoned to me

So I accepted its invitation of safe passage

And crossed from west to east

My view of places is altered

I see where I was; downtown buildings dot the landscape

The esplanade I walk down shifts and floats with the river

And I see people walking along, just like me

Doing what they will with their time

 

The persistent questioning continues

“What do you do with all your time?”

Well, today I grabbed some money and a credit card (just in case)

And I journeyed to the mecca of quaint shops, eateries and other delights

That make up my neighborhood

I zig zag in and out of stores

Some offer such pretty summer clothes

But look! I found a new hat!

The tea shop up the wooden stairs has the most delicious teas

But today was hot, and I had a cold beer instead

Sitting at a sidewalk table

And one more stop before I go home

The bakery – with the macaroon cookies – their specialty

I wait in line behind all the people

Doing what they will with their time

 

So now I have a question for you

What do you do with all your time?

 

 

 

 

 

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