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Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

His music still plays, and his spirit still shines

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR


Emotional energies

I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Melody Beattie entitled Finding Your Way Home. This morning I read a chapter about emotions and dealing with them in a soulful way. And there was an exercise that consisted of picking out an emotional trigger from a very long list and journaling about it. The one that spoke to me was grief, but instead of journaling about it I found a poem coming through instead. As I see it, grief is a never ending journey; one with many twists and turns, shifting and changing as we deal with the often painful certainty of death in our lives here on earth.

An Arrangement

Grief and I

Have an arrangement now

I allow it to visit

But not so often anymore

And visitation time

Is much shorter than before

So we shake hands

And both agree

To this new arrangement

Finding “our” place – music story #4

Most couples seem to have a special place; be it a  favorite vacation spot, a restaurant they love, or maybe even a park where they sit under a certain tree and share each others thoughts. Memories are made in these locations, and they are claimed to be “their” places, where the energy shared is unique to each couple. This story talks about staking that claim, of a place where love was born.


The words shot out of him and lay at her feet – spent shells from the shotgun that had become his mouth. Sophia stared at Chad – shaking her head in amazement, she grabbed her purse and without saying a word she walked out the door. She got into her car and with shaking hands on the steering wheel she somehow managed to drive to the coffee shop. In a trembling voice she ordered a cup of coffee that she hoped would calm her down despite the caffeine. She sat down at a table, glancing around nervously, hoping she didn’t see anyone here she knew. Sophia looked around for something to write on. All she could find were the napkins in the dispenser on the table. Perfect – they were so perfect for writing out the words she had wanted to say for so long – it’s over, their marriage; Sophia no longer wanted to share her life with Chad. The pen tore through the flimsy paper of the napkin as she wrote the words.  For five long years she tried, she had tried so hard to make it work. But what she had really done was try to make him be someone he wasn’t. Chad could never be Joshua, her sweet Joshua – she missed him so much! It had been a mistake thinking that marriage to someone so different from Joshua would help blot out his memory. And they were so different from each other in every way. As far as appearance went Chad was a giant compared to Joshua, and not a Jolly Green Giant either, more like the fee fie fo fum type. Sophia had grown tired of Chad’s judgments of everyone and everything – Joshua had been so open minded. Sophia and Joshua could sit for hours, having deep philosophical discussions about so many things. Chad just didn’t find Sophia’s opinions or thoughts that important.  Every time that Chad acted like Chad, it just seemed to cause a voice in her head to scream how much he was Chad and not Joshua. But his biting words had finally become too much, although she couldn’t really blame him. Joshua hung like a specter in the air between them at times. They had become like a love triangle – Sophia, Chad and Joshua – and everyone knows that marriage needs to be a straight line between two people, not a geometric shape made up of three.

When she got home he wasn’t there. Good, Sophia thought and relaxed a bit. She knew that she owed him an explanation after walking out in silence, not bothering to stay and fight about it, but she was so tired right now. Oh my, Sophia swore she could hear his voice again – at times she wondered if her grief made her crazy. “Hey baby”, the voice said, “you need to get out of there. Come to me – you know – our spot. I’ll be there – I miss you.” It wasn’t really his voice, yet it was. It was the voice that used to speak to her so gentle, so tender – oh, it was Joshua alright. Sophia opened the hall closet and found the duffel bag. She threw it on the bed and packed what she would need for the next couple days – clothes, toiletries. Then she found the cds – hidden back in the corner on her side of the bedroom closet. Sophia grabbed them and saw his face staring back at her – “Please baby, sing to me” – she would always plead. She uttered that same plea to him now. She changed into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt that said UMD Bulldogs on it – a symbol of “their” time. Grabbing her sunglasses off the dresser, Sophia thought she better leave Chad a note, not just about where she had gone but about the end of their marriage as she saw it. But she was just so damn tired and wanted to get out of their house and out of town. There were too many memories here and she only wanted the memories from the place she was going to. It may have been an act of cowardice and a slap in the face as well, but Sophia took the napkins from the coffee shop out of her purse. They said all that needed to be said, except for this part that she added:  I’m going to Duluth for a couple of days and we’ll talk when I get back. Please don’t call – I’m really sorry it went down like this – Sophia. She lay the napkins on the kitchen counter, along with her wedding band on top of them and walked out the door; her heart already on the road miles ahead of her.

The radio station was fading out; along with the anger and sadness that Sophia had felt when she started on the road to Duluth. Now her emotions were from a time past. Remembering was bittersweet; bitter because Joshua left her, yet sweet because he had been with her for a time. And the time they had been together was only sweet – not bitter. Sophia reached across to the passenger seat where she had put the cds. She slid the plastic disc into the cd player and waited for it – the first notes of the song and then that voice. It was just like the first time she heard him sing, how something touched her heart and she felt some sort of connection, crazy as it seemed at the time. Sophia allowed her mind to drift and play the movie in her head that had been her and Joshua. She remembered with a smile how they met – and how he had gently teased her – she actually blushed thinking of it.

The trip to the Platter Palace was her reward to herself for getting an A on her first college research paper. Sophia had cried tears of frustration over writing that paper, but they were worth it after seeing her grade. She loved psychology and wanted it to be her major, but her professor for Intro Psych was so tough! So when she made it past that first paper with flying colors, she felt she deserved a little something. The Platter Palace was the name of the record store in Duluth were you went to buy your music if you were a true music lover – not like going to Best Buy where you were in and out of there in 5 minutes, and most of the music department staff could have cared less about music. Sophia loved the atmosphere at the “Palace”, the name given to the record store by the regular customers. It was quaint and quirky; they not only sold music but also incense, clothes and  jewelry that reminded Sophia of the 60’s, and the display cases that held the “paraphernalia” that so many of the college students seemed to have money for. The people who worked there knew everything about music and not just the top 40 stuff. Sophia had engaged in many long and deep discussions with the staff there about different artists and their music. And there was always great music playing in the store. She was looking for a cd by someone she had heard on the college radio station – his name was Joshua Walker. When Sophia heard his song on the radio, she felt as if her heart was taken over by the lovely voice she heard – it was incredible! It was the strangest reaction, as if she knew him. She shook that aside for the time, but had made note of his name. Now as she scanned the aisles for Joshua Walker in the cd bins, she just couldn’t find him there. Sophia went up to the counter and asked the clerk for some help.

“Who are you looking for again?” he asked her.

“Joshua Walker – I think he may be a local artist but I don’t know. I heard him the other day on KUMD and I just loved his song – and most of all his voice! He has the most beautiful voice – I hope you can find his cd for me.” Sophia thought she had better stop talking or else this guy helping her would think she was a flake and she was finding him rather attractive. He was not too tall, kind of skinny with straight jet black hair that almost hung in his eyes. Sophia was barely five feet tall and she preferred being with someone who wasn’t towering over her.

“Here it is – we have a special section for local artists – you know, so people can find them easier – at least most of the time it’s easier finding them there. But I don’t mind helping you out at all. I really like this guy too. And I hear he puts on a great live show. In fact, he’s playing at The Thirsty Sailor this Saturday night if you really want to hear him sing. I’m planning on being there for sure so maybe I’ll see you there if you decide to go.”

“Thanks for all your help and for the heads up on the show. I’ll see if I can talk my roommate into going with me so maybe I’ll be there too.” As Sophia paid for her cd she secretly prayed that her roommate Laura didn’t already have plans for Saturday night. She wanted to get to know this Palace guy better.  As she drove back to her dorm Sophia realized she didn’t get his name – oh well – she wouldn’t forget what he looked like. When she got to her dorm room Laura was there and Sophia told her about Joshua Walker and the upcoming show he was playing. She also mentioned the attractive guy from the Platter Palace who had invited her – kind of.

“Yeah, why not,” Laura said when Sophia asked her about going to The Thirsty Sailor on Saturday. “It might be fun and maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a thirsty sailor.” Sophia was sure that Laura’s main objective of college was not getting a degree but getting a man. She was cute and perky, and always dressed as if she were going out somewhere, unlike Sophia who preferred jeans and a t-shirt, which usually had a band or musician on the front of it. Laura left to go to class and Sophia had the tiny room to herself. Good, she thought, now I have some time alone to listen to the Joshua Walker cd. She opened it and saw the picture inside the case- he looked familiar. Now she recognized him – it was the clerk from the Platter Palace – there was no mistaking him. Oh, that was really cute – the way he led her on and didn’t tell her who he was. Actually, it was kind of cute and now she was intrigued. Was he just being humble? Or had he been flirting with her? Well, she was going to find out Saturday night. Sophia was going to make sure she let this Joshua Walker know that she caught on to his little game – and she smiled a little smile thinking about it.

The Thirsty Sailor was one of those bars that had been around forever it seemed. Years ago it had been full of the workers off the huge ships – the freighters that came through Duluth on their way to either load up or unload cargo. But then the college students took over the bar and on the weekends the stage was frequented by the local music talent. Sophia and Laura walked into the small tavern and took notice of the obvious nautical theme – pictures of ships everywhere, stuffed seagulls on the walls along with thick rope strung across the front of the bar.

“God I hope this Joshua Walker isn’t going to sing any sea shanties,” Laura commented.

“Very funny,” Sophia replied, “If you had listened to his cd like I told you to, you’d know what kind of music he sings. And it isn’t sea shanties!” Joshua Walker probably fit best into the singer-songwriter genre; a bit of folk, a bit of rock – kind of Dylanesque but with his own style.

Laura took off her coat, revealing a tight, low-cut purple shirt along with the very tiny denim skirt she had on, paired with black boots that went to her knees – “hooker boots” is what Sophia called them.

“I feel out of place here – how long do we have to stay?” Laura said as she took a seat at the bar.

“We just got here and we are staying long enough so I can talk to Joshua Walker and tell him ha, ha, very funny,” Sophia said defiantly. They both ordered a beer and turned toward the stage; someone with a guitar was making his way out. He came and sat down on the empty chair that was in the middle of the stage. It was the familiar face that Sophia recognized from the Palace – she was trying to decide if he was the type who would mess with her or if he was just being humble. He played around with his guitar as if he was trying to tune it to perfection. Finally, Joshua Walker spoke into the microphone.

“Thanks for coming. Here’s a new song I wrote for someone I just met this past week. I don’t know if she’s here, but I hope she decided to come.” And with that he launched into a song called Who Am I.

“Oh my God!” Laura said to Sophia above the music, “He already wrote a song for you! How romantic!”

“How do you know it’s for me?” Sophia replied. But she knew – somehow she knew he had written it for her. But he still needed to explain himself, why didn’t he just say who he was from the start? She didn’t like playing games. He played a few more songs and then announced that he was taking a short break. Good, Sophia thought; now I can try and corner him.

Joshua came out to the bar area, looking to order a beer. They spotted each other and Sophia left Laura with the new friend that she had just made. He gave Sophia a smile and said, “Thanks for coming to hear me play. I guess my secret’s out, huh?”

“Yes, the secret’s out alright. Why didn’t you just tell me from the start?” Sophia asked him.

“Sorry – I guess I just didn’t want to come off like some kind of egomaniac. It was too embarrassing to tell you “yeah, that’s my album and why don’t you come hear me play?” I’m always surprised when people come in and buy my cd but I shouldn’t be – after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Putting my music out there? I just love writing the songs for the sake of creating them, and being able to record an album and play for people is the icing on the cake, you know?”

“Well, you shouldn’t be so humble about your music – it’s amazing! You have the most beautiful voice. And your songs – they are so touching,” Sophia gushed.

She could have sworn he was blushing, even in the dim light of the bar. “I was inspired to write that first song after I met you – after I realized what I had done, not telling you who I was. I’m sorry I wasn’t completely honest with you. Hopefully the song makes up for that, maybe?”

Sophia didn’t know what to say. “It was lovely,” she said in a quiet voice that made her wonder where it came from.

It was time for the second set to begin. Joshua walked out and gave a quick wave to the audience before sitting down on the lone chair. His slight figure seemed to be swallowed up by the stage, even in this small venue. He played his quiet songs and while Sophia listened the noise from the people around her seemed to fade away. It was just Joshua and her. He played songs with such lovely melodies and words full of meaning. Sophia watched him as he sang with his eyes closed, gently touching the strings of the guitar. It was as if he made love to her, his guitar, and she rewarded him with luscious sounds. Then it was over and Sophia came back to life as the lights came on all around her.

“Are you about ready to go?” Laura had made a new friend, male of course, and she was anxious to go somewhere else and keep the party going.

“Just hold on – I’m finishing my beer.” Sophia was trying to drink it so slow, hoping that Joshua would come out again. She got her wish when she saw him come through the backstage door. He was obviously looking for someone, and Sophia realized that someone was her when their eyes met.

“Hi – did you enjoy the show?” he asked her.

“It was great,” Sophia told him, “I didn’t want it to end.” She wondered if maybe that sounded a bit too forward.

“Can I buy you a beer?” Joshua offered.

“Well, my friend who drove me here is anxious to get going.”

“I can give you a ride home if you can wait around a bit. I like to hang out for a while after I play,” Joshua explained. Sophia almost ran to Laura. “I have a ride home so you can leave anytime you want.” That was fine with Laura as she seemed engrossed with her new friend.

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Sophia told Joshua after she hurried back to him.

“Great!” he said. “I wanted to ask you – do you like watching the ships coming and going out of Canal Park? I was going to go down there and see if I could catch the one coming in about an hour from now. Do you want to join me?” Canal Park was the area of Duluth where the huge cargo ships came in and out of Lake Superior. There were two piers on either side of the canal, with a lighthouse at each end. The street was lined with eclectic shops, a variety of restaurants, as well as places to stay – inns and hotels – and then there was the Lakewalk – the walking trail that ran alongside the lake with wooden benches set on the rocky shore. Sophia loved watching the freighters coming and going – the massive ships of crimson red steel that seemed to move at a snail’s pace never ceased to fascinate her.

“I’d love that,” Sophia told him. They finished their beers and he told her to wait while he grabbed his guitar from the backstage area. Joshua had the sweetest smile on his face when he came out to meet her, guitar case in hand. “Let’s get going so we don’t miss it!” he said with such enthusiasm. It was so infectious and Sophia found herself wanting to skip out to the parking lot, wondering what had gotten into her. She was usually more reserved but Joshua had seemed to find a place in her that she had kept hidden. It was the place of sheer enjoyment; the place of letting go and having fun! It was the place of not caring about what anyone else thought of her.

He came around and opened the door of his rather beat up car for her – such a gentleman! She had to kick aside the empty fast food bags and papers by her feet as she got in – he wasn’t a neat freak like her by any means.

“Sorry about the mess,” he apologized, “I was going to clean it up tomorrow – I’m not scheduled to work. If I had known I’d have such a pretty passenger I would have taken care of cleaning it out sooner.” Oh, he had quite a way with words, Sophia thought. Was he really sincere or just trying to get somewhere with her? She didn’t want to be so cynical, but too many guys just wanted only one thing and she was tired of that game.

“Well, thank you – it’s just fine. I tend to be a bit obsessive about neatness myself, but I don’t judge anyone by their messiness,” Sophia told him.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, but Canal Park was only a five minute drive from The Thirsty Sailor. In the early hours of the morning, the main street of Canal Park was deserted; all the shops and restaurants were closed and the mood was one of a dark calm. Even so, Sophia didn’t feel unsafe with Joshua. Her intuition told her that he would be a perfect gentleman and he had already shown that in the brief snippet of time that they had spent together. Joshua parked the car and they got out and went to check the shipping news monitor that continually flashed the arrival and departure times of the big ships. They didn’t always run true to schedule and Sophia hoped that they hadn’t missed it.

“It looks like we have some time to kill – the James R. Barker arrives around 0200 – that’s 2 a.m. in regular time – and it’s a little after 1:00. How about if we take a walk down the Lakewalk a ways until we see the lights of the ship?” Joshua offered.

“That sounds great, but I’m not really dressed for the weather.” Sophia hadn’t worn her warmest jacket and even in summer the breeze off the lake dropped the temperature quite a bit.

“I have an extra sweatshirt in my car if you don’t mind wearing it – sorry if it isn’t the cleanest but I just keep it around just in case, you know – the weather here changes in an instant sometimes.” Joshua went and grabbed the well worn Platter Palace sweatshirt and offered it to Sophia, who gladly slipped it on underneath her jacket.

“Thanks – I would have dressed warmer had I known I’d be outside watching the ships.”

They started off down the wooden planks that made up the Lakewalk. It wound around the lake until it veered off into downtown Duluth. Sophia had never been down to Canal Park this time of night, morning actually, and it was pristine silence. She could actually hear the lake. It had a sound, all its own – a roar like the ocean. The waves slapped against the rocks on the shore and she could hear the splashing of the water. And the moon was a golden reflection on the water that shimmered as the waves came in. They walked a ways and then started back towards the pier as they spotted the lights of the ship, barely discernable but like a firefly on the water. The ship moved slowly so they still had time to kill before it made it to the pier area and through the canal. And besides, the liftbridge would have to be raised and that was an audible signal that no one could ignore.

“Why don’t we sit for a bit until the ship is a little closer?” Joshua found a bench on the shore for them to rest on. They sat there, in silence again and Sophia hugged herself tight, despite the extra clothing Joshua had given her.

“Are you still cold?” Joshua asked. “You can move closer to me – I don’t bite, you know.” Sophia sidled a bit closer to him and he gently put his arm around her, almost as if he were afraid she would break. But Sophia didn’t mind at all; it felt so comfortable with him. She relaxed into his arms and felt her heart start beating, so strong. As if she knew exactly what to do, she lifted her head to his and their lips found each other in a sweet kiss – nothing intense, nothing passionate, just a kiss full of innocence. But they both felt more than innocence underneath that kiss and knew there was a connection building between them.

“You are so special – I felt it when you came into the store. Call it instinct or intuition but we have something. Don’t you feel it? Even though we’ve just met?” Joshua was pouring his heart out to Sophia.

“I felt it the first time I heard you sing, crazy as that sounds. Like I knew you, even though I didn’t at the time,” Sophia confessed.

“Would you get up for a minute? I want to do something.” And with that, Joshua took out his car keys and carved into the wood of the bench, Our Spot – Sophia and Joshua.

“There – now this is our spot – to come to every time we come here.” What a touching romantic gesture – Sophia was genuinely moved by what Joshua had just done.

“Oh, look!” Sophia cried, “The ship is almost here!” She started running towards the pier where the huge mass of steel was slowly making its way. She was jumping up and down and had forgotten all about Joshua in her excitement, but he was close behind, smiling at her enthusiasm.

“You really love watching this, don’t you?” Joshua smiled at her.

“Oh yes!” Sophia gushed, “I can’t explain what it is, but I never get tired of watching the ships – it is so exciting!”

Joshua stood back and watched Sophia with a fondness that he knew would grow to be much more than that. After that first night watching the ship at Canal Park, they came back when they could to their “spot” – the bench with their claim on it – until that fateful night when Sophia’s sweet Joshua left her.

Sophia came back to the present – the undeniable present of no Joshua on this earth any longer and now her marriage in pieces that could never fit back together. She tried to turn her head as she came closer to the spot – she knew it so well even though the flowers that used to mark it were no longer there anymore. Those damn ice storms that came to Duluth and all because of that damn lake that blew in storms of large proportions – storms that not only caused cars to slide off the road into  road signs that could kill but could also sink ships – ships as big as the ones they had loved to watch. Sophia knew that the endless tears could never bring him back but they came anyway. She tried to push them down as she drove so she could see the road as she drove to Canal Park. When she got to the familiar area, she pulled into the parking lot of one of the hotels, hoping against hope that she could find a room at such late notice. But first, she had one place she needed to go to. Early on in their marriage, Sophia and Chad had come to Duluth a couple times. Chad knew how much Sophia loved to watch the ships, and he tried to make it “their” place, as if he could wipe away her past with Joshua that seemed to cover them like a light mist at times. But it was never the same with Chad, even though Sophia tried to make it fun. It would always be “their” place – her and Joshua – and now she walked to the familiar bench. She found it easily and ran her fingers over the words, now worn but still visibly carved into the bench. With a weary sigh she sat down on the bench, grateful that there were few people around.

“Joshua, can you hear me? Baby, I came – just like you asked – to our spot. I’m reclaiming Duluth as ours again, it always was. I was wrong, and I hurt someone trying to make them be you. There can never be another you. I miss you! I miss you so much. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, except just sit here and hope that you’ll help me. Tell me what to do sweet baby, what do I do now?” Sophia heard only the sound of the waves for a time, no voice speaking to her. She had almost fallen asleep when she heard a voice. “Excuse me, but do you know where I can find out about the ships coming in? I just moved here and everyone says I have to watch it at least once.” Sophia looked up to see a ghost – the voice came from someone who looked just like him – they could have been twins!

“I’m sorry,” the Joshua twin said, “I didn’t know you were sleeping.”

“No, no – I was just resting. Let me show you where the shipping schedule is. I love watching the ships – your friends were right, it’s something you just have to experience. My name’s Sophia by the way, and what’s yours?” She got up from their spot and Sophia knew that everything was going to be alright.

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.

The reality of cloudy days

Just like the rain pouring down on my skylight, the tears came this morning, pouring from my eyes. Grief is part and parcel of the human experience, a great sense of loss when our loved ones leave us, and we feel utterly alone without them. And even though my beliefs tell me otherwise, assuring me of their continued love, life and presence all around me, I fall into the deep despair of wanting to be in the same world. Then I realize that truly, grief isn’t sadness for the one who is not here on earth, but sadness for ourselves in having to be here without them. It helps to think of them in a wonderful place full of love, free of any earthly pain or burdens. But still, grief has its constant cycle, a rhythm all its own, that will play out with me until I am reunited with my love.

The Visitor


It wasn’t on my calendar

This appointment with grief

So sure I had cancelled it

But grief arrived anyway


It stands at the threshold of my soul

If I ignore it, will it go away?

I’ve tried that

It always stays

I find its patience intolerable

I give in and open the door

Letting it enter my home

It walks inside with muddy shoes

Such a rude guest!

It shows no manners

As it shoves my heart aside

And proceeds to turn me inside out

I am a tolerant hostess

I weep as it sits at my table

I try not to feed it

Hoping it will leave

I must have dozed off

For now my home is peaceful

Grief no longer sits at my table

In its place

Is a vision of myself

Colorful intensity

Now brilliant

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