Dear Janis,

I watched a movie about you today. Actually a documentary. You died before I was born, but when I discovered you – your voice, your energy, your insecurity – I felt as if I’d known you. This film only cemented that.

I read your sister’s book, Love, Janis, in college and wrote an extensive paper about you for a class using many of your own words to tell your story. This film did much of the same thing. Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) narrated and read some of your letters that you’d sent to your parents.

There was stuff I didn’t know, or didn’t remember. Like that when you were in Austin, you were nominated and won the ugliest man contest. How awful and cruel. It’s a big reason you lit out for San Francisco. But you weren’t able to make it that first time. Your friends put you on a bus back to Port Arthur to get straight. You went to see a show with a friend and ended up back in San Francisco where you auditioned for Big Brother and the Holding Company. And that’s when your rocket started to launch.

You loved being on stage. You were smart. And man, could you sing. The film had interviews with former bandmates, friends, managers, lovers. They talked about your drinking and using. They talked about your charm. Your magic. Unspoken (for the most part) was that you probably got laid a lot, but the truth was that there wasn’t love. The soulmate kind of love. You loved everybody. You wanted everybody to have a good time. And you all did. But you were often by yourself when the party was over. And those were the toughest times – the down hours. Nothing could replace the high you felt when you were on stage. God, it was electrifying to even see the footage. I know people who saw you live, and they tell me it was incredible.

Here are some videos:

I have written several poem inspired by you. In one of them, “Kings & Pearls,” I wrote:

\ The way I AM Janis
walking down an L.A. street in October
after “Buried Alive” and Barney’s Beanery,
“I will not die tonight,
sidewalk’s dirty but my feet don’t care
my lips are cold from beer…”

then there’s that void
between the cigarette machine
& the hotel room where they found her.

It is a void darker than desert midnight.
No one knows
but me.

She wasn’t done. /

Watching the film, knowing that you were doing the “Pearl” sessions, knowing that Paul Rothchild was working with you, knowing that you didn’t really know how to be alone, how to come down without using, I believe it more and more. You weren’t ready. You weren’t trying to die. you just didn’t know how to put off using that night.

I’ve never been into drugs. They scare the shit out of me. Your Big Brother bandmates said that early on you hated drugs. You didn’t want to be around it, but I guess the party took you to it. It was part of the fun. It was rarely an escape, just more fun to be had.

It’s amazing to think that your career, your stardom, lasted only three years. The Monterey Pop Festival was in June, 1967. You were gone in October, 1970. What a ride.

The interviews with the people who knew you, who made it out of the 60s alive, they are all, obviously, older. If you saw them in the street, you might not recognize them. But one thing I thought about when I was leaving, having sobbed through the last part of the movie at how sad it was that you had died, was that it is quite a gift to be able to age. You would have been 72 right now, going on 73 in January. What would you be doing now if you had managed to stay clean? Would you have had the same success with “Pearl” if you had been alive? I think you would have. It’s a great fucking album. Would you still be hanging out with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead (as an aside, I am two degrees away from you: Han knows Bob and Bob knew you. Amazing.)? Or would you hole up in your house in Marin, taking in rescues and painting or some other quiet pastime?

There’s never been anyone like you in all these years (45!) since you died. You made it possible for lots of women to pursue rock ‘n’ roll, to pursue whatever the fuck they wanted, to have confidence.

When I see you on film or read something you said, but mostly when I hear your music, I feel so connected to you. Not that I want to be like you, but that I just know you. I know, in my own way, that feeling of being on stage and just killing it. That euphoria. And the post-show letdown. I know the girl who really just wants to know she is loved, even if her decisions may not be what others thought was best. I know the joy of the gathering of tribes, like-minded souls who just want to feel good, feel loved, and they do and all feels right with the world. I know the loneliness when the tribe is gone or moved on.

I will say, though, that I feel that I’ve almost always been okay being by myself. I’ve lived with Han now since 2006, but when he’s on the road or even just at gigs, I’m on my own. You would like Han.

Thank you. For who you were and for your music. For your unabashed joy on stage. For your imperfect skin. For your intelligence and your laugh. For being a muse.

with love,
Lizzie

 

Ghost Adventures, John Lennon, & other Saturday happenings

I just got done live-tweeting through the last episode of the show “Ghost Adventures” with Sandy & La. That was really fun! I love that show. For all the ways it could be faked to believing that what they experience is really happening, I just dig it. I’m a total believer in the paranormal. It was fun to tweet with them (and the many other people watching) as we watched.

This day has been pretty good. I got up and took my dad to dialysis. Mom & I went to lunch at a place in Brea called ChaCha’s that has some tapas-like food. Their potatoes are the best! I also had clams with chorizo. Very good. We also both had sangria. We stopped at the grocery store, then it was time for me to get Dad.

He, unfortunately, had some issues after dialysis so Mom helped him out. The late afternoon was very quiet.

We had dinner from Gondola’s, a pizza place that’s been here for years, but I’d never eaten from there. It was pretty good. I had spaghetti w/ garlic & butter. I enjoy noodles. I also ordered a heaping ton of garlic breadsticks. I didn’t know I’d ordered a heaping ton until we opened the box. There was a lot of ’em! They were good, though. And then of course it was time for GA.

In other news, I don’t think I’ve told this story here so I’ll sum up (it’s a good story, and it’s well-documented). A guy I know, John McCaw, unknowingly purchased a guitar back in the late 60s that turned out to be John Lennon’s lost guitar (!) Well, it was auctioned off today, and it sold for $2.4 million. Holy moly. I honestly can’t believe it. That guitar was in my house! Before the news was released, they brought it over and recorded “Norwegian Wood.” It’s a record-breaking, life-changing amount. I believe I read that John gets to keep half of the sale and the other half goes to Yoko who is putting it into her foundation. My oh my.

I’ll leave you on that happy little note!

the Shawnee saga is over

I’m happy to say that the saga with our previous house is finally over. We heard from the landlord late on Wednesday by email. He included a spreadsheet that listed all of the damage costs and the amount we would get back. It wasn’t as much as I’d hoped. Han was good with it. We talked about possibly pushing back on a few items he’d listed. Our tenant advocate also had some suggestions, but in the end, we decided to take the money and run, so to speak, and just be done. Who knows what kind of can of worms we might have opened with him by pushing back a little? I think this way is probably best. I’m not the litigious sort. If he had missed the deadline or said we weren’t getting anything back, I might have had a different attitude. We received the check on Friday so now we’ll consider that chapter officially over. Yay!

Yesterday was a day of errands and chores. Goodwill, bank, acupuncture. Came home and had lunch with Han. Then, I cleaned the house. We had someone come twice a month at our last place, but right now, it’s not in our budget, so I tackled it. Both bathrooms, sweeping, swiffering (both dry and wet). Man, our living room area was filthy! I even cleaned under the burners on the stove! All the while I had the first season of Gilmore Girls going on the Apple TV (fun!). I also did laundry, broke down a ton of cardboard, and unpacked the last couple boxes. They had been put into a closet, and I hadn’t realized it. They were photo albums and scrapbooks.

After all that, I let myself have a night out and went to see Han play at Java Joe’s. He opened for our friends, Frank and Cindy, aka Dead Rock West. It was a great show. It was also good to see some old friends there.

Today, I’m officially getting into Spain mode. I’m going to shop for some stuff (clothes, shoes), check out Mom’s itinerary, check out the places we’re staying, get my documents in order, etc. I also have to do some grocery shopping (not Spain related).

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Last day of April

Hooray! I did it! I posted every day, and every day I wrote a little something. Some were better than others. I’m very surprised by the reaction I got to yesterday’s poem. It was really nice what everyone said and those who liked it, too. It’s funny how something I just kind of pumped out would garner such a reaction. But I’m glad I’ve written these pieces, even the haiku.

The highlight of my work day was the sandwich I had at lunch so that should tell you something. But let me tell you about this sandwich! A nice roll, not too hard, not too soft. Spread both sides with aioli, then avocado on one side, red onions on the other, add feta cheese to both sides, then cover both sides with a slice of provolone. Put that under a broiler so it melts, then add cold, crispy lettuce. Oh my goodness, so yummy!

I got home and had just missed Barbara in the studio. I hung with Han for a bit and we chatted about stuff. Then I was off to meet The Becky and Barbara for dinner. The original plan was Benihana, but we hadn’t made reservations and there wasn’t room for us. We ended up at a little kitschy place called Albie’s Beef Inn. It had wood paneling and those mirrors with the gold swirls running through them. It seemed a bit overpriced for steaks, and it didn’t seem like the kind of place that was going to be super stellar food. I got a burger, which was okay. Barbara’s steak was good. The fries were good, and that was about it. The Becky had chicken-fried steak that she said was fine. Anyway, it was the pleasure of the company that made it great. It was nice to catch up with them both and just hang out.

When I got home, Han was busy in the studio with Poltz and one Mr. AJ Croce. Wow. Really cool stuff they’re doing.

I will make no promises for May, but I have enjoyed the daily updating as I know my family has also. 🙂

And with that, I’ll leave with today’s draft

Daily Poetry

observation is a mighty tool
or it’s like a muscle
that requires constant work to build up

when you don’t work on it
its power fades
and it seems harder to bring it back
to peak condition

some muscles might not work as well
as you get older
it’s a challenge to even want to do it
to get even a semblance
of what it once was back again

but once you get into a routine
you might think it will get easier
for some it might, others may
want to take on a different challenge
work some other muscle

goodness knows there’s so many
that we all could stand to work on

well woman

Today I had my well woman exam and physical. The spot where they took blood is bruised and looks like a vampire or a snake bit me. Ouch. I’m sure this next statement is true of most women, but I don’t care for the lady parts exam. It’s so invasive.

I went to work, and it was tough to get motivated, but I forged ahead. I brought work home, but I didn’t make as much of a dent as I wanted to. Han had in a new client but an old friend, Steve Poltz. It was good to see him and hear him play. He left around 7:30 pm. Han & I got Chinese food and watched an episode and a half of the West Wing. Now he’s in bed, and I’m writing this post. Sh-doobie.

today’s draft

Lessons

there is something to be said for simple
easy laughter, a song you like on the radio
a clear sky, a bright orange sunset

on these nights, when it’s quiet
and sleep comes without asking
it’s important to acknowledge

because elsewhere,
or maybe even here tomorrow
it won’t be like this

there’s something to be said for difficult
tough conversations, terrible news on the radio
stormy skies, the darkness of a starless night

on these nights, when it’s too much to take
and sleep is nowhere to be found
it’s important to acknowledge

because elsewhere,
or maybe even here tomorrow
it won’t be like this

a full day

Before I tell you about yesterday’s SD adventure, I’ll tell you about today. I did a lot!

It started with volunteering at the San Diego Food Bank. At work, we have volunteer days for the whole company. We have them twice a year. This first one of the year was the food bank. I spent a good hour and a half bagging up tangerines. I met some nice people, and it was a great way to start the day.

After that, I went home and took a quick shower and was off to acupuncture. So heavenly. And it was awesome to tell her that I actually feel really good! All was well. Then it was time for a quick sandwich and then I headed down to Normal Heights to take in some of the Adams Avenue Unplugged Festival. I saw a bunch of my friends, The Lovebirds, Flan, Dead Rock West, then Han played a solo set. It was all good. The weather was chilly and it rained a little, but let’s be serious, I was wearing my Birkenstocks and just a jacket. It was cold for here, but nothing outrageous. In fact, it was awesome that it was so cloudy and moody all day. After Han’s set, I stopped at the grocery store and came home. I made a quick potsticker ‘salad.’ Han went to yet another gig. He’s been playing all day and will do so again tomorrow. It’s been a good day.

So yesterday. I left the house around 11 am, after cleaning up the kitchen and taking care of some other chores. My first stop was Postal Connections. I needed to get some ink refilled, have a passport picture taken, and get some stamps. I love that place! Then a quick roll through Starbucks for a little breakfast and a water and I was on my way.

The weather was like today, overcast, rainy and moody. It was great. The drive out to Julian takes a little over an hour. But it actually took longer because it was SO FOGGY! The roads are windy enough, but when you can’t see more than 10 feet in any direction, things become a little slower. And it was so disorienting because I had no idea where I was half the time. Highlights included seeing two deer right by the road. I’m lucky they didn’t run out in front of me. Once I got into town, I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d brought appropriate clothes but it really wasn’t hiking weather much less walking around weather. I decided I was hungry. It was 1 pm. I drove to a place I’d seen online, Jeremy’s On the Hill. Super good. I had a cup of lobster bisque and the fish and chips. Very tasty. After lunch, I figured I’d walk around a little. I went into a bookstore and looked around a little. Then I went across the street to the Julian Pie Company and got a slice of Dutch apple with cinnamon ice cream and a hot chocolate. Yes, my no sweets streak came to another end. But man, it was good. I took a call from my dad who, unfortunately, was at the ER. He’s okay, but I needed to pass a message to my mom from him because he couldn’t reach her. I texted her but didn’t hear back. I finished my pie quickly, bought a whole pie to take home, took it to the car and headed to the cemetery. On the way, I called my mom and gave her the message. Then, with hot chocolate in hand, scarf on my head, I climbed up to the Pioneer Cemetery, one thing I had never done but always wanted to do in Julian. It was cold. Foggy and rainy. As I went up the stairs that were really just railroad ties, I saw what I think was a wild turkey walking through. I just looked up images of a wild turkey, and this thing didn’t look like that but I have no idea what other kind of bird it could be. Anyway, I walked around for a while, checking out the old headstones. I find cemeteries to be rather comforting for some reason. I never want to be buried, I want to be cremated, but I do like seeing the headstones. Makes me think about the people they were and their stories. After a while, I made my way back to the car and headed down the mountain. I guess by then it was about 3:30 pm. On the way back, I made a turn and took the Sunrise Highway up to Mt. Laguna, somewhere I’d never been. Of course, again, with the fog, it still feels like I haven’t been there because I couldn’t see any of it! And after I’d gotten to the summit and passed the visitor’s center, I was slipping into a bit of a food coma. I had to pull over. I pulled over into a closed lodge/saloon, the Blue Jay Lodge. I don’t know why it was closed. It kind of freaked me out more than the cemetery! Anyway, I pulled into the turnout in front of the lodge, and the next thing I knew I was waking up suddenly! I hadn’t been asleep long, but I was startled a bit. I decided to get out and walk around a bit. I just went up to the lodge and looked in the windows of the restaurant. Then I changed my socks to dry ones and took off my jacket and got ready to get back on the road. The rest of the drive was smooth sailing. It stayed foggy pretty much until I got back to the freeway. I was cruising the 8 west by 5 pm. From there, I stopped at the grocery store and went home. Han was already gone for his gig. I made that kale, sausage, white bean soup and then I watched some TV. I went to bed around 10 pm.

It was a good day, but I think I’d like a do-over of this adventure when the weather’s better.

today’s draft

Shroud

it is fitting that fog covered everything
I was hoping for a breakthrough
but like my memory
the scene was obscured

it doesn’t feel like coincidence
that I ended up here now
I was expecting to confront ghosts
but all I got was a cemetery in the mist