We started rehearsing this week… I don’t much like rehearsing. It’s work. But the getting to know each other as we play can be fun… I enjoyed playing with Mike Dillon this week. He has some kind of language that is architectural. Some people, they lay paths, they prop you up, they spin you around… you can make images and movement of your own. Some musicians, they don’t do that. They lean on you, learn on you, you cannot build because they will fall down if you turn away. Build, what do, I mean. Well, I mean… he plays on the two, a chord with some … 11th or 9th to the 4th degree… a this over a that, and that caused me to skip to the whatever and sing it That way… it’s a reaction and a conversation. Sure, we have decided to discuss the “Last Chance Texaco”, but then… how we do it on any given day is fun for me, for I have had to paint the same thing over and over for many years. I look forward to the theme, and putting out something new from my end…
Mardi Gras yesterday was so beautiful. I have never really gotten the spirit before. Stood out there in the freezing rain looking at a bunch of goofballs in costumes, thinking why are we/you doing this? I want to go home. But I forced myself to walk along and even though my heart was heavy, walk along in the revelry and Participate.
Now, I walk easily in my giant pink wig and my mask and my extraordinary 100 year-old Masonic-type coat… and I feel a part of it. My friends were not far away, I caught up with them quickly and we walked slowly through the Quarter, and up and down, running into more parades of all manner. A disco parade where young men jumped upon street excavations and danced, a parade of beautiful masks and wigs walking to the river to put ashes in. I deposited a little bit of mom. Time to let go. I know I should not make a joke but, mmm… she’d laugh too. Anyway I only let go of a finger. Letting someone’s ashes go… that’s a big deal. Doing it with a thousand strangers, that’s a big deal too, and one might feel isolated at such a private public moment. Or public private moment. But… I sat there by the mighty Mississippi, where Mark Twain’s invisible hero watched invisible boats go by, and watched real boats go by and said, why not mom? This river is as good a place as any. I sat her down there with a bit of rose.
Her death was accidental on purpose. They gave her the wrong medicine, she had a stroke, then they took her off all her meds, so she’d have another stroke and die, and no one would be the wiser for their mistake. Then when I realized what was going on and said put her back on her potassium, the nurse said…. you have to go out while I do this. And an hour later suddenly mom was dead, and the potassium chloride dissipating from her system.
By the time you gather your wits, what can you do? I kept her body on ice trying to figure out what to do. But also because I was thinking about Christ, and the old dead people, and thought maybe we need a month before we really vacate the body. I want her to be gone first.
These traumas, they sit on our shelves like so many pieces of pottery. Here is where I got in that car wreck in ’73. Here is where someone killed my mother and my little sister said ‘thank you.’ Little sister, whether or not mom was incapacitated, we do not say thank you to murder. Well that’s how crazy my family is. And that there is the main problem with euthanizing human beings. The family is always going to have a lot of issues that come out in that hard, hard time. And some of them are gonna say Pull the Plug because I don’t like to see my Mother this way. While mom, in there, she might be thinking – hey I can Hear You!!!
Who is to say where life is no longer viable for another human being? Not me. I know I hate to see suffering, but when it is I who is suffering, I would not want someone to kill me to stop me from suffering. If I want to die, I will do so. Don’t you kill me because you don’t like hearing me wheeze!!!!
Our discomfort with death makes us turn away from it. It’s a process. We want to stop that process and just kill them, dog or dad. I understand, of course. But I know this is a slippery slope. You put your dog down today, in ten years someone will be putting you down.
So seeing my mother killed as she had a series of strokes because of a medication she was given during a routine bladder infection … was hard. I loved her. She was dying yes, she’s already had three strokes and could not speak much. But she was still knitting perfectly, laughing at jokes, and cooking soft boiled eggs. I miss her every day, and just because she could not do what she once did does not mean she wanted to be killed. But I grant you, I would not have kept her in a nursing home half dead. I’d have had to kill her myself if she didn’t die.
What? You just said you are against that kind of thing?!! Yes I did, and that’s the problem. The emotion brought up with our family makes us unable to make a clear decision. It’s important – Make your death wishes be known!
Make this stuff known, right it down, this year, I’m talking to me as much as you. If you are over 60, or even if you aren’t, don’t leave it to your poor daughters, or your brother, or your sister-in-law to devise your end. Buy your coffin, choose your plot, and make it clear:
Code Blue or NCB (‘sorry I forgot to breathe there,’ or ‘fuck off and let me die’). So anyway. I put her ashes in a soft breeze that blew her slightly back upon the rock and the quiet water, and me. I laughed. Of course, Mom. Gotcha.
As I set out now for a, let’s see, 37th year of touring, I cannot help but have a certain sense of humor about all of this. I love every single day, every single hardship and glory. Sure, I can’t figure out where the money went, really, but I can figure out how to make a little more now. I have held glory in my hands. On stage, yes, but also on strange spring mornings, when the fog was full of ghosts, and I could almost hear… something… a drum… Today is Ash Wednesday, when we put ashes on our heads to signify the… hmm. What? Death of Christ and his humiliation? He wasn’t cremated so… why do we do that?
Anyway, we wear the ashes to be a part of Him, part of his past, his life, here and now. And to show… solidarity with a kind of… abasement. Well for whatever reason, it’s a good ending to the weeks of weird marching and music that goes on in the city of New Orleans. A cross on your head made of dust. A prayer, time to contemplate a world where no hero or savior had crossed the beachhead. In the war for our souls, it’s Normandy every day. Hold to whatever you can, whether it’s Big Chief from the 9th ward, or the Big Chief from Nazareth. Make a joyful noise. And then be quiet. Contemplate. Make room for more joy.
I was beautiful yesterday. The drum that woke me, the parade to the French Quarter and the sore-footed walk home. Friends who were safe in their houses, and at night then my daughter called to say she was learning to scat. Learning to scat don’t get better than that! Well life just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
We are on a rising wave of incomprehensible order of too much and too little. While new ideas whirl around us we search for new sounds to express new concepts.
At night when all is quiet, you can hear the distant birds of the unknown, warning each other of our approach. Soon we will watch their flight above our heads. A bird of a different color.
Here are the Mardi Gras faces I saw yesterday. Enjoy!