Friday, April 30, 2010

Late Season Storm

Sleepless again. I'm not supposed to work on the computer when I'm battling insomnia, but I'm not supposed to lie in bed either, nor watch TV, nor read. I think the idea is for me to walk the floors like Marley's Ghost, like Miss Havesham trailing her rotting lace. Admittedly, no doctor has ever suggested anything like that, but what else is one supposed to do in the middle of the night?

It's been wild and wooly in southern Oregon this week. Two or three times a day, the sky cracks open and hails like the lord's own fury. Luckily it's not those pebble-size rocks produced by a summer thunderstorm that can smash a windshield. The weather man has a name for for this softer hail: gropple. Doesn't that sound like some kind of hideous Scandanavian pickled fish or something? Whatever it is, it's made for a weirdly beautiful night in the Colestin. Just enough hail gathered and froze to highlight the hollows when the moon emerges from the clouds. It's like looking at a film negative, the landscape in frozen relief this late in April. I'm happy to see it. There's been enough rain this month to bring the totals for the year back towards normal. They aren't all the way there, we're still 3" below average for the year, but we were more than 5" low at the end of March.

I'm playing some dinner music with Joe and Jesse at the Elks tomorrow night, another small line-up that has evolved out of Hamfist. Jimmy might sit in for a couple of tunes. I love the big show band feel of Hamfist, we have a great time up there rawkin' in our rose shirts, but I have to say these smaller, tighter, more focused sessions are really satisfying me musically.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Young'uns are Getting All Growed Up

This picture was posted on the University of California Men's Tennis homepage today. Recognize this fine young man? It's "little" Sky Lovill who ain't so little any more.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm listening to this amazing Elton John CD that Lowell turned me on to, Elton and his band playing for about 100 people in an NYC radio studio, circa 1970. Hotter than the hinges of hell. Wish I had a tiny percentage of his skill.

I played a little dinner music for a national convention of wildlife forensic scientists tonight, sort of the C.S.I. for the B.L.M. The drummer in Bathtub Gin Serenaders works at a wildlife forensic lab here in Ashland. He's an ivory specialist. Much like "blood diamonds," ivory funds conflict in Africa. Gangsters and so called militias poach elephants, sell the ivory and buy guns. What a world.

I was playing with the Bathtub Gin Serenaders and it was - interesting. Seriously ragged around some of the edges, but some nice moments. I just don't know about this band. I like the people, I like the material, but it's challenging. A couple of the people are much better than me, a couple are at my skill level and a couple are - well, I don't enjoy playing with them as much as the others, let's put it that way. It's tricky; it's not really "my" band, so I'm not comfortable criticizing. I know that my standards are not always realistic. I'm extremely critical of my performances, always finding fault. It would be easy to be paralyzed by all that second guessing, to give it up, but I keep plugging.

I will say this: playing music in public is much more fun when the performance is good, or at least acceptable. When the performance is bad, it physically hurts. I can feel every mistake and missed note in my body. It's visceral.

Speaking of visceral, Hamfist is going to play the Britt Festival in Jacksonville Oregon on June 13. This is a huge step up for us, a big deal. I've seen some amazing musicians at Britt The thought of standing on that side of the stage, looking up the hill at an audience - well, it takes my breath away.

Isn't it funny that all of this is happening now, at this stage of my life? I have to stand on that stage with all my flaws and imperfections, looking every single day of my 51 years and then some. My voice is a shadow of what it once was and NOW I get to play the Britt Stage?

Better late than never. It's never too late.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Hermit

And you know that it’s taken its share of me
Even though you take such good care of me

And you know that I’m looking back carefully
Cause I know that there’s still something there for me

I’m backing up Joe on the Jackson Brown song Something Fine and those are the four lines I have to learn. They’re almost like a zen koan, or maybe a coded message from the universe.

The Hermit came up in the reversed position in my tarot reading and I immediately knew what that was all about. Sequoia moved his 88 year old father into a residential care home in Medford and it has been a rough couple of weeks. Ken is much, much frailer than I realized. He can’t get up and down out of a chair, is having trouble walking with the walker. He can’t hear and can barely see. When he’s alert, he can track a conversation for one or two sentences before he gets confused and lost. Often, he can’t track at all. He is unhappy, depressed and wants to die. He keeps saying "I should just slit my throat." Of course, he was saying the same thing while he was in his home, but it still gets to us every time.

Here’s the inescapable truth: Most of us will get old, our powers will decline to the point that we can no longer care for ourselves and then we’ll die. That’s what happens if we’re LUCKY; the other option is to die young. I don’t look forward to being unable to care for myself, but I fully intend to make choices that acknowledge that reality.

Ken had the means and the money to make his own choices, but he didn’t. He refused to acknowledge the reality of his own decline. He thought of himself as a jock and never remotely entertained the possibility that his body would betray him. He also thought of himself as rich, but that was more self delusion. We pray to god we clear enough money on the sale of his house to pay for his care until the end of his life. He can’t take care of himself and he doesn’t have enough income to pay for full-time in-home care. I feel for him, I honestly do. Every time I visit him, I end up in tears. But, I’m also angry at him for not making responsible choices when he had the chance. Instead, he saddled Sequoia with the responsibility and the guilt.

Ken’s in a private room in a private home with his own TV, his own stereo, and round the clock care. It’s a nice, clean, fresh smelling home with attentive caregivers. He’s depressed and angry and I don’t blame him; I would be too. But, we are not responsible for this outcome. If you don’t make the hard choices in life, they will be made for you.

Remember the ant and the grasshopper my friends. Make hay while the sun shines or pay the price.

On Sunday, we took him to the early bird dinner at Marie Callendar’s. He always loved the Marie Callendar’s in San Ramon and we hoped the familiar setting might jog his memory, but no luck. Picture Sequoia and I, neither of us young any more, with his aged, decrepit father in a wheelchair at the early bird dinner. Yup, it was grim.

The bright spot in all this is my beloved Sequoia. He’s so incredibly patient with his dad, so compassionate. He listens to him repeating the same complaint over and over again without every rising to the bait. He cuts up his food and feeds him bird-size bites, combs his hair and washes his face, sooths his fears and anxieties. He put up photos of Ken in his WWII uniform, photos of the B17 plane he used to fly, photos of the grandkids he no longer recognizes. It makes me cry just to think of it. I’m married to a remarkable man.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Andrew Marvell