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Posts tagged ‘writing poems’

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.

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