At the Yoshi’s benefit, I was approached by J., a beautiful young woman who had studied with me last year. At that time she was undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. So anyway, on Tuesday, she brought me a journal, which she had inscribed along with a heartfelt poem she had written. I was preparing to go up on stage in 10 minutes when she hit me with the news: the cancer has spread all over her body. I looked at this gorgeous black-eyed beauty, so quietly determined, hardworking and subtly funny and the waterworks started. When I watched the movie Young at Heart I was struck by how sad I felt when one of the octogenarians would die . Natural order of things my ass. The loss of a bright soul is hard no matter the age. Then this. It DOES smart worse when it’s someone so young and full of promise and possibility. I don’t know how I got on stage at all. All I could do was cry and stroke her hair.
I had a thought in the middle of the night, which was “I’m going to phone J. and see if we can’t think of a bucket list adventure we have in common and go do it pronto.” I think I’ll do that and report back here.
So the night at Yoshi’s was a complicated mix. On stage I had a ball. If I could live on stage I think I’d be happy almost all of the time. I have the most awesome band and my dear friend Andy did a couple of duets with me that rocked. Mac as usual brought the house down with his singular wit and rapping. It was his birthday, which had to suck for him. All the attention on me once again.
Off stage in the audience it was a delight – watching the embarrassing wealth of talent up on stage, laughing, grooving, drinking it all in. Talking to some of the musicians, especially the guys in my band was awesome and my amazing friend Kaila was a radiant light on stage and the rock of Gibralter off stage. I don’t know how she makes that transition so seamlessly.
The day before had been rough – 4 hours at the ALS clinic dealing with heavy stuff, worrying about where the hell I’m going to live which has become a more urgent concern with the recent health developments and just dealing with the general fatigue and challenges of this disease. I thought at about 6pm that I’d have to not go on but somehow it happened and I pulled it off. Talking with Stephanie (treasured friend and wife of the aforementioned Andy) I came to the conclusion I pulled it off because I was bathed in the beams of love light from the audience which included the Driving Miss Craisy crew, College of Marin and Los Medanos College students and faculty, Albany school people, yoga people, theater friends, musician friends and even a large contingent of the folks from the Forbes Norris ALS clinic!!
My ex organized all the musicians and ran the event and Christina, Edith and Kaila among others did an amazing publicity effort. Thanks to all of them and the participating musicians we netted almost 6000 bucks not to mention cd sales for another 500 bucks! Stephanie and Andy are going to help me get the cd on Itunes and it will be available on the website in a week or so by the way.
SO the performers: David Allen Moss, actor, friend and funny man presided over the event and Mike Zilber ( my ex) pulled together a first class big band for me to sing with. There are too many of them to mention in this blog but they were something else. My dear band from the new cd and the upcoming cd were there being their brilliant supportive selves ( Jon evans, John R. Burr and David Rokeach) Roy Zimmerman – greatest living folk political satirist was there bringing down the house (check him out on youtube and at royzimmerman.com), Kaila Flexer and Gari Hegedus, aka Teslim played a couple of magical and haunting numbers from their brand new remarkable cd, (kailaflexer.com) Mike (michaelzilber.com) brought two bands to the stage – his tribute to wayne shorter band and his Billy Collins Project which has mighty writing in it plus the vocal gifts of Andy Kirshner (andykirshner.com). One of the songs made me ball my eyes out during sound check and made Andy cry on stage during the show was a musical rendition of On Turning Ten by Billy Collins. The musical accompaniment for the song is perfect and Andy interprets it beautifully. It’s a poem which made Mac cry when I first read it to him when he was ten and he said “that’s how I feel sometimes.” It goes like this:
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
I love a funny poem with a lethal sucker punch.
Our life is so fragile and so brief and we really are only sustained, held up, buoyed, etc by one another. I have felt that so acutely lately. Yesterday Wendy presented me with a dress she’d made for me out of bubble wrap – a gesture to indicate her desire to protect me from all of the falling down. It’s a divine dress (which makes me feel like a POP star!) but in reality, it is all of you – from the nurse I’ve never met who commented on the blog, to my parent’s high school friends, to former colleagues writing in, to my intimate circle, to my family and all of the aforementioned groups who supported me at Yoshi’s – all of you are bubble wrap for me and for each other.
Here’s how it works: I can’t possibly thank you all in a way that does justice to your efforts – I already hear the Academy Awards band playing me off the stage now. Just know how much I love and appreciate all of you – including those I have yet to meet.