Thank you, Tom Petty

We someone famous dies, we talk about them. Everybody talks about them. If they are like Tom Petty, mostly we just extend our gratitude that we happened to hit this mortal loop at the same time. Tom Petty had a long career and an impressive body of work – listen to the whole catalog – the texture of his work is neither glam-rock smooth like Bowie nor quite as unwashed as Mellencamp.  There’s a earthy, sexy grit to it, a forward groove, and a feeling that everything will be all right.

There are gems like “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, arguably the best driving song since Golden Earring’s “Radar Love”. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” stands out with its creepy Alice in Wonderland video. His biggest hit, “Free Fallin'” started out as a way to make fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne laugh.

But when we praise the work of an artist, it is usually in terms of how their gifts affected us personally. What does the song mean to you? Which one got under your skin and cracked your heart wide open, leaving your brain in the dust?

“American Girl” was released in 1977.  The urban myth states that the song is about a college girl from Petty’s home of Gainesville, Florida who took LSD and jumped thinking she could fly.  I never read that part of the story til a few days ago. I’d heard the song hundreds of times, sang along, knew the words.

In the summer of 1989, on my first night in Paris, I was standing alone on a balcony at 3am. It was quiet, rainy and cool.

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My balcony at Hotel de la Cite Rougement in Paris.

 

Earlier that night, I had struck up a conversation in a cafe with a boy named Karim. He was swarthy and beautiful and looked vaguely like Jeff Healy’s drummer. We were both 20 and far from home – although he would not talk about his home. He asked if I would like to go to the Eiffel Tower.  Well, of course!  He had a car and we could be there toute de suite!

He was a very fast, very terrible driver. Worse than me when I started driver’s ed and nearly took out some trees. It was after midnight though and the streets were clear. He bolted down close alleys and jerked the gearshift. The little orange Citroen hopped and screeched. And then suddenly, there we were. We parked on the Seine side and got out. 1989 was the 100th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower (from the 1889 World’s Fair).  “100 ANS” was spelled out in lighted letters down one side. I had showed up in Paris at an auspicious time.

TE100ans

The air was heavy and sweet. And Karim kissed me and the clouds opened.  The rain drenched and pounded us, but we did not move from our place. We kissed and kissed because the moon was full and the tower was lit and the rain gods couldn’t stop us.

We both started to shiver. He drove me back to the cafe like a maniac.  Except now, he was a chilly, excited maniac. We agreed to meet for lunch in the same place. He kissed me goodnight and I didn’t want to let go, but I did.

I walked home slowly, cool insistent droplets pattering my head and hands.  Back to my hotel. Back to standing alone on the balcony.  Back to when I did everything I could just to be here.  I couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else. After all it was a great big world.

I stood there, stopped shivering, tasted the warmth of his kiss lemonade beer and Gauloises cigarettes.

I knew I would never see him again. Not my choice. My group was leaving for Alsace in five hours. I breathed in the night deep as I could.  God it’s so painful/something that’s so close/still so far out of reach. I wanted to make it last. Make it last all night.

I don’t play the what-if game. Life happens the way it is supposed to.  I am exactly where I need to be. Wherever Karim landed, I hope he is happy.  Whenever “American Girl” comes on, I sing along. It’s not about me, but it is. I appreciate what it means to me.

It got under my skin, cracked open my heart, left my brain in the dust for 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Thank you, Tom Petty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What The World Needs Now

So I had this song tickling the back of my brain..

In lieu of a complicated, wordy blog this week, I will simply present this video. It was made in 2 days. The artwork is my son’s – the awesome Connor McManis. He illustrated my story about Cougar: Fur Family. The voice is mine – such as it is. I’m literally sitting in the hot car with windows rolled up, singing into my iphone, downing herbal tea and ignoring my ear infection. Daz, my lovely artist boyfriend and skilled video editor, put it together for me. The words belong to the immortal Burt Bachrach – who is a master at finding perfect little niches in the human heart and celebrating them in song.

The world is full and busy and ugly sometimes.  I needed to do something quiet. And honest. And decidedly raw and from the heart. So from all of us here in our little house full of love and music and art, we send love. For everyone.

 

Poetry: The Decade of Impossible Love Between Frederic Chopin & George Sand

Celebrity couplings and breakups are fame fodder in the modern world. But in the early 1800’s it was not so common. Chopin the composer and Sand (writer Amantin Lucille Dupin who found it easier to publish under the male name George) shared nearly ten years of passion, creativity and connection.  The story goes that she would lie naked under his piano, smoking cigars and scribbling away while he composed his nocturnes.

It ended badly between them, spurring her to write Lucrezia Florioni in which the villain is a dead ringer for Chopin. He would die two years later at the age of 39, still a prolific composer. In fact, his last posthumous publication was “Devil’s Trill” in 2001.

The couple were painted by their mutual friend, artist Eugène Delacroix. It hung in Delacroix’s studio until his death. His estate curator split the portrait in half in the belief that two paintings would sell better than one.

And so they are now forever separated. Sand’s half hangs in the Ordruppgaard Museum in Copenhagen.  Chopin’s half is in the Louvre.

 

I wanted to bring them back together. To imagine the heady frangrance of her cigar smoke, the uncertain touch of piano keys, the sweetness. So I wrote this:

Poor Fred

It is too much sometimes in the nocturne,
Too personal. She
Lies beneath his piano in her own
World. Making her own
Wanton heroes and villains. Unaware,
Untouchable and
Unbearably close. So he sits above
Her banging on his
Instrument. He lets his hand find their own deft caress.
Body rigid, his
Heart beats secrets into the stricken keys.
White keys are pearl planes
Of her body, her skeleton, the curve
Of her neck when she
Dozes, arc of her hip when she dances.
Black keys are the blaze
Of her eyes, the dark of her lashes. Her
Fathomless, boundless
Imagination where he cannot quite
Follow, the endless
Sorrow he can never quite possess her.
Major chords are tight
Clear resonant words. Her lovely words drive
Him, her willing arms.
Encircling
him, her laughter and sly wit.
Minor chords are deep
Violent, frustrated echoes, swallowed by
Her written page, her
Beautiful naked peach shell body just
Out of his reach. Her mind and
Spirit utterly lost in the world of
Her own dark scribbling.
7th chords are maybes…
9th chords are what-ifs…
The Nocturne is now–tonight–here–with her.
Inches apart with
The world between them. The same music and love
Will survive them both…
When Lucrezia Florioni is
Written and he has
Become her villain. When hisPreludes
have become interludes,
And he has abandoned her. When they fade
To shadow and dust.
For ev’ry lover in divine passion,
Suspended between
Desire and art, between true love and its
Pale written ghost, on
The sheerest edge of desolation, in
His dying heartbreak
Transgression of shattering her perfect
Reverie to Live
The romance she writes,
To break her dream and take her beyond pages,
Beyond her story,
To his aching bed and into history.

Poetry: The Decade of Impossible Love Between Frederic Chopin & George Sand

Celebrity couplings and breakups are fame fodder in the modern world. But in the early 1800’s it was not so common. Chopin the composer and Sand (writer Amantin Lucille Dupin who found it easier to publish under the male name George) shared nearly ten years of passion, creativity and connection.  The story goes that she would lie naked under his piano, smoking cigars and scribbling away while he composed his nocturnes.

It ended badly between them, spurring her to write Lucrezia Florioni in which the villain is a dead ringer for Chopin. He would die two years later at the age of 39, still a prolific composer. In fact, his last posthumous publication was “Devil’s Trill” in 2001.

The couple were painted by their mutual friend, artist Eugène Delacroix. It hung in Delacroix’s studio until his death. His estate curator split the portrait in half in the belief that two paintings would sell better than one.

And so they are now forever separated. Sand’s half hangs in the Ordruppgaard Museum in Copenhagen.  Chopin’s half is in the Louvre.

 

I wanted to bring them back together. To imagine the heady frangrance of her cigar smoke, the uncertain touch of piano keys, the sweetness. So I wrote this:

Poor Fred

It is too much sometimes in the nocturne,
Too personal. She
Lies beneath his piano in her own
World. Making her own
Wanton heroes and villains. Unaware,
Untouchable and
Unbearably close. So he sits above
Her banging on his
Instrument. He lets his hand find their own deft caress.
Body rigid, his
Heart beats secrets into the stricken keys.
White keys are pearl planes
Of her body, her skeleton, the curve
Of her neck when she
Dozes, arc of her hip when she dances.
Black keys are the blaze
Of her eyes, the dark of her lashes. Her
Fathomless, boundless
Imagination where he cannot quite
Follow, the endless
Sorrow he can never quite possess her.
Major chords are tight
Clear resonant words. Her lovely words drive
Him, her willing arms.
Encircling
him, her laughter and sly wit.
Minor chords are deep
Violent, frustrated echoes, swallowed by
Her written page, her
Beautiful naked peach shell body just
Out of his reach. Her mind and
Spirit utterly lost in the world of
Her own dark scribbling.
7th chords are maybes…
9th chords are what-ifs…
The Nocturne is now–tonight–here–with her.
Inches apart with
The world between them. The same music and love
Will survive them both…
When Lucrezia Florioni is
Written and he has
Become her villain. When hisPreludes
have become interludes,
And he has abandoned her. When they fade
To shadow and dust.
For ev’ry lover in divine passion,
Suspended between
Desire and art, between true love and its
Pale written ghost, on
The sheerest edge of desolation, in
His dying heartbreak
Transgression of shattering her perfect
Reverie to Live
The romance she writes,
To break her dream and take her beyond pages,
Beyond her story,
To his aching bed and into history.