As most of you who read this blog regularly know, Judy and I are taking care of two birds from the flock who have injuries and cannot be released. They’re both eleven years old now. Big Bird was brought to us just a few weeks after leaving the nest. She’d smashed into a plexiglass windbreak, knocking herself out and messing up the vision in one eye. Parker was a year old when he fell out of the sky with a nervous system disorder. Parker knows a lot more about being a wild parrot than Big Bird and is more attentive to the flock whenever it flies by the house. A few days ago, we had an unusual event when a few of the wild parrots noticed Parker sitting in the window sill and came down for a visit. It ended up lasting around an hour. Parker was quite calm about their presence, but I have to assume he was pleased with it. He has never become truly tame. He’s still essentially a wild bird.
Archive for April, 2012
I was one of those people whose life was immediately changed by the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was one way before I saw them and another way after. For the next ten years I completely immersed myself in rock and folk. The songs were my literature and, in a way, my religion. The musicians were my heroes. Over the years I gradually became disillusioned. There are very few left that I have much enthusiasm for. A week ago, one of the few I still respected died: Levon Helm.
I liked Levon because it was always the music that mattered to him. He wasn’t into show business or being a star. He was into being a player. And he did what musicians are supposed to do (but rarely do anymore): He listened to the other players. You could see him listening. Nothing escaped his attention. There’s a lot on the Internet about Levon right now, and I don’t really have much to add. Just this story and a link:
I used to sing a song called “China Girl,” which was on one of his solo albums after The Band broke up. I no longer have the album, and it’s out of print. Every now and then I want to play it on the guitar, but I’ve forgotten most of the lyrics and a chord or two. On the day Levon died I thought to check whether anybody had ever posted the song on YouTube. Someone had—a live version taken from a television show—and what I heard floored me. To me, it’s a real find. It’s so much better than the album version, and I’ve been playing it over and over and over. It’s not that it’s such a great song. As a song, you could say it’s kind of mediocre. (He didn’t write it.) But Levon gives the song something that makes it great. His performance has joy and it has triumph. It’s how I want to remember him. You can watch it here if you like.
I just finished Chapter 29 of my second draft of Street Song. I have three fairly brief story-chapters and then one summing-up-type chapter left to go. Then I take a much needed break before starting the final—the final—draft. I’ve been looking forward to it for years. It’s where all the real fun begins.
I’ve been trying to get to this blog to write about “what’s happenin’,” but the situation in the house is still making it difficult. Judy and I are “camped in the back.” I have gotten a bit of a start on an essay that I call “Economics 98.6.” But I may take my time with that one and post on some other topics first. I hope to get back to this soon.
Since resuming work on the second draft, I’ve finished Chapter 28 and I’m about a third of the way through Chapter 29. Both chapters deal with the first four-year stint I spent living on the roof of an SRO hotel here in San Francisco. Up to this point, each chapter has dealt with much briefer time periods. But I’m into an extended denouement now, a gradual winding down of the story, where events began to happen at a much slower rate. But there’s no point in torturing the reader with all the details. I spent much of those four years simply pondering the previous twelve months, which had been extraordinarily difficult. I’d spent four of those months living right on the streets of Panic City.
From homeless to home owner.
The sheet rockers are gone now and the painter has begun work. Then the floors will either be sanded and refinished or totally replaced, depending on the condition of the fir boards under the current layer of decaying cork. It’s going to be another month or so before peace is restored around here. There was one strange discovery during the sheet rocking phase. Our house is shaped something like a barrack and was originally divided into a series of “stalls”—that is, small, individual rooms. At some point, a previous owner tore out the walls to make one big room. The wall behind our bed was made of old, cheap fiberboard, and when the sheet rockers pulled it off they discovered that it was a false wall thrown up over the original outside wall to the building. The wall contained two doors, both of which had been entrances to separate rooms. Before putting up the false wall, the previous owner wallpapered over one of the doors, but left the other as is. The curtain was still on the door. (Today, behind the wall is another room.) A lot of the older places here on Telegraph Hill were built like this. Completely improvised. They are funky, but they do have soul—something that you can’t buy, as the floor guy reminded me.