Tuesday, June 21, 2005
It’s Tasty Tuesday at Not Lame Records, which means they’ve got a song from an upcoming release available for free download! This week, it’s The Toms’ Something Happened Overnight. Not Lame specializes in guitar-driven, indie power-pop. The download is only available today, so check it out!
Sunday, June 19, 2005
My house and yard look great today. I got the bushes trimmed and mulched, my flowerbed mulched, all my laundry done and put way, and all of my dad's stuff boxed up until my brother and I can look at it together.
I've basically tried to stay busy so I wouldn't think about the first Father's Day without Dad. For the most part it worked. It helped that I was getting to some things that had been undone while I was dealing with his illness. It seemed like getting my life back together was an appropriate thing to do on Father's Day. Dad always liked his small garden, so in a way I was paying some homage there.
A woman that I work with was talking to me last week about Father's Day. She lost her dad a couple of months ago, after a long hospital stay--kind of like me. She was telling me that she was having a hard time going into stores and seeing displays of Father's Day gifts. I'll need to be sure and touch base with her tomorrow to see how she's doing.
I suppose the first one is the hardest. A couple of times today, I had some of those odd moments where you stop and all you feel is the loss and the hurt all over again. Everything is going fine and the, all of a sudden it hits you.
I guess it really is a one day at a time process.
Roger Green was kind enough to share some thoughts with me in an email. He also directed me to this recent post in his own blog. He's not the only person who only knows me from the other end of a computer who took a couple of minutes to check in on me today. I appreciated all of them so much. I hope that I can return the favor some day.
What I need now is some supper, some lap cat time, and some time alone with Keith. If it weren't for him, I would not have been able to make it through any of this.
I also need to call my brother and see how he is.
If you haven't done so already, call your father. I know I wish I could.
Music/PoliticsAs Congress sets takes aim at PBS funding, looking to wipe it out, the little musical diversity that’s left on the air is in extreme danger. As usual, the Repblicans are using a smokescreen of disinformation, deceit, and out-right falsehoods to cloak their actions, including going so far as to suppress a poll showing 80% of Americans support public broadcasting.
I cannot imagine what the loss of Mountain Stage, Soundstage, and Austin City Limits would be like. They are about the only places left on TV where you can find artists who are not cut from the ClearChannel cookie cutter.
That list only scratches the surface of the huge mountain of names that will virtually disappear from TV without public broadcasting.
Even worse, the only outlet I have for local and regional music on TV is PBS. Shows like Jubilee, Kentucky Life, and Mixed Media regularly support and showcase Kentucky artisits. This is the kind of material that is found only on PBS stations in Kentucky, which brings me to another point.
If PBS goes, all traces of programming by Kentucky, for Kentucky, about Kentucky go with it. Our PBS stations here devote many hours each week to covering various aspects of Kentucky life. This is stuff that is found nowhere else on TV.
Turning to public radio, if it did not exist, then all that remains is a desperate sea of corporate ownership and mass market programming. No radio station in this town plays local artists, except the public radio station. No station plays any of the artists listed above, except the public radio station.
If you care at all about musical diversity*, then you need to stand up and be counted right now. Here are some places to go for more information.
Sign Move On's petition.
Look up your elected officials and contact them.
Read more about the effort to cripple PBS and NPR.
Do it now. This could come to a vote in the coming week.
Get involved now before we face the prospect of nothing but Britney Spears and Toby Keith on the radio.
*There are, of course, many other reasons to support public braodcasting, and other places are making those important arguments. I haven't seen many people speaking out for music though, so I wanted to take that approach here.
Friday, June 17, 2005
(Eddie-torial Note: I Eddie-ted this post and the one that follows on 6/18 and 6/19 to add links and fix some typos.)
When my dad took ill, Keith and I already had tickets to three concerts: two in Nashville and one in Louisville. My brother convinced me to go ahead and go to the concerts, since we had paid for them. We also went to a couple smaller shows here in town, just to take a small break. Music is one of those things that really comforts me, so I’m glad we ended up doing this. It’s one of the few routines that didn’t get disrupted.
Anyway, I haven’t been able to blog much through the whole ordeal, so here are some belated thoughts about these shows, and a whole bunch of other musical stuff. Some of it is a little old, but I still wanted to include it. I’m going to catch up on musical blogging tonight, then tackle comics and other subjects in the next couple of days.
Speaking of comics, from time to time, Warren Ellis creates a podcast of music that he finds on the web—usually from new and unsigned bands. He lets folks on his Bad Signal mailing list know about them after he uploads them. They’re always interesting, and frequently very, very good. I know that many of the songs have intrigued me to find out more about the artists. You can find the archive of past SuperBurst Mixes here.
We saw The Duhks do an in-store at Ear X-tacy in May. They're another one of these young bands with old souls who are taking traditional tunes and older music and newer sounds and melding it all into something new that strikes the same kind of vibe as the older music did (usually dark and almost gothic) and honors the old traditions. Some of the groups are good enough to raise the hairs on the back of my arm-the Duhks are one of them. At the end of their performance, after they had talked to folks and signed stuff, they all went shopping, which I thought was pretty cool. And it was serious shopping too! I love to see folks supporting our independent music store!
You know, I really need to stay away from places where the CD's are a dollar or less.
We also went to Nashville in May to see Patty Griffin at the Ryman. Great show. I did not realize the level of rabid, cult, sing-along fans she has, nor how diverse her audience really is. There were heavy pockets of LGBT folks (that were heavy on the L), along with young female aspiring sensitive singer-songwriter types (who seemed to most like her earliest stuff-which is cut from that mold), their sensitive male boyfriends, and a large contingent of folks who have discovered her through AAA radio (where her last release got a lot of play) or through other artists who support her. It was a broad, eclectic sea of people and it packed the house.
She's gotten to the point now that she has too much material to possibly play everything one would want to hear. So, I didn't get the Rowing Song, or Mother of God, or Mary, but I did get Useless Desires, Making Pies, Icicles, Silver Bell, Top of the World, and more than enough other stuff to make up for their loss. And you just have to adore anyone who starts her show sitting alone at the piano and singing in French!
Her band is truly phenomenal, especially her percussion player, who pulls the most amazing rhythms from all kinds of materials, while never staying in one place too long. He was fascinating to watch. The opening act, Charanga Cakewalk, recruited the band to play a fun set of upbeat latin dance music. It was probably easy, since Michael Ramos, the mind behind Charanga, spent a decade playing for Patty himself. His material takes traditional musical forms, like the cumbia, mixes in enough electronic stuff to perk things up, but not enough to overpower anything and keeps the focus on traditional instruments like the trumpet and the accordion. It's a hard mix to pull off well, but they did it.
The only real glitch in the show was the real disparity between Griffin's music and the opener. I am eclectic enough to appreciate and enjoy both, but so many of Griffin's fans are locked into one style or taste of music that they just couldn't relate. One of my pet peeves is people who sit and talk during the opening act, and there was a lot of that going on. Luckily, since the songs were largely instrumentals, the band was able to overpower them pretty easily. Still, it's kind of funny how everyone managed to pay attention when Griffin joined them for their closing number. The same folks have probably forgotten that she's spent more than her share of nights as the opener trying to deal with people like them.
Has anyone bought to Ryan Adams’ new CD? You can stream the whole thing here. I like most of it a lot, but it feels to me an awful lot like one good solid album’s worth of songs blown up into a double disc set for no good reason.
I’m enjoying the hell out of the Ditty Bops CD. It’s just the right amount of whimsy to be clever and charming but not cloying and the old timey pseudo-vaudeville styling works well for the songs. It’s now part of my short list of best releases of 2005…
…Along with Fair and Square, the first new John Prine CD in ages and ages. It’s full of prime Prine insights on love, life, human relations, along with a kick ass cover the an old Carter Family tune, Bear Creek Blues. Awesome!
Keith and I saw Prine at the Louisville Palace at the end of April and it just amazed me how well the new material fits in with all the Prine standards that one expects to hear him play live. He sprinkled the new stuff throughout the set, doing some solo and some with his band, giving everyone a good taste of the new work, while depriving no one of the classics, some of which never sounded better. They slowed Angel from Montgomery down just enough to let it sink deep down inside every listener. The result was the most powerful and moving version of the song I have ever heard. They took the same approach with Prine’s standard encore, Muhlenberg County, which is typically a raucous affair. A slightly slower tempo and a more low-key approach helped re-focus the song’s energy back to the loss of childhood memories and environmental devastation, which made it much more powerful than I have ever heard it. All in all, it was an evening not to be missed.
We also had the pleasure of attending our first concert at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville and seeing Guy Clark with Slaid Cleaves. We hadn’t seen Slaid before. In fact, Keith was not that familiar with his music, but that changed really quickly. He did a great set of his hard luck stories and songs and left everyone wanting more.
Guy Clark is an incredible songwriter and a darn good guitar player, but what impresses me most every time I see him is his graciousness and wit. As usual, Verlon Thompson played with Clark, and Shawn Camp was there to add a fiddle to the mix as well. Twice during the evening, Clark ceded the stage to allow each of them to perform, which was a real treat. Thompson is a helluva songwriter in his own right, and watching him and Camp trade licks back and forth on guitar and fiddle was amazing.
Everyone in the audience had the dubious pleasure of being entertained by a drunk in the second row who kept shouting to Clark. (And this guy was totally waster, during the intermission, he stumbled past Keith and I and nearly fell in our laps!) Clark bore the interruptions patiently, using his sly sense of humor as a buffer to both quiet the guy for a bit and calm the audience.
Keith bought the new Robert Earl Keen CD in May and is, of course, in heaven right now. Between a new Prine and a new Keen, he’s a pretty happy camper at the moment.
The Americana Music Award noms are out now. I wouldn't want to be the one to have to make any of these decisions. Someone is going to have to make some tough choices. I mean Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, and Mary Gauthier are all nominated for Album of the Year. I wouldn't be able to decide who to vote for!
Has anyone tried this service? Their selection doesn't seem too deep in the areas I am interested in, but I still think I could create a queue with them that would last me at least a year. I pay six bucks for used CD's all the time, so getting a new one for that price, plus free shipping, doesn't sound bad at all to me. Oh dear! More online shopping!
And, finally, one of the world's coolest music stores shares the way one of its customers celebrates his birthday. I wanna be one of this dude's friends, too!
By the way, CMT has a 20 question thing with REK. Some of the questions are really dumb, but it is CMT. He takes it all in stride and manages to get in a great plug for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Speaking of HSB, the expanded performer list is up. Sigh! Doc Watson, Rodney Crowell, Rhonda Vincent, Eliza Gilkyson, Split Lip Rayfield, JD Crowe, Kevin Welch and Kieran Kane, Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, plus the festival regulars and several good old favorites. And we can't go! This is the sound of my heart breaking.
As far as I am concerned, Kentucky Homefront needs to schedule Dale Ann Bradley to do a show. It's ridiculous that I'll miss seeing her because I cannot get to SF, when she's an hour and half from Louisville.
However, They Might Be Giants is (are?) coming to Louisville! So is David Olney. TMBG conflicts with opening night for Kentucky Music Weekend. Oh dear. What to do? It would help if KMW would post their schedule. We might very well end up at KMW regardless. I can't get TMBG tix until next payday (this coming Friday), but they go on sale tomorrow. Since it's actually a part of Lebowski Fest, they could sell out before our coffers are refilled.
As far as other upcoming shows are concerned, things look pretty good. See what I mean:
6/25 Garrison Starr at Phoenix Hill
7/16 Lyle Lovett at the Ky Center
7/18 Johnny Berry at Headliners
7/24 Tim Krekel at Headliners
8/12 Kasey Chambers at Headliners
10/28 Greg Brown at Headliners
Kasey Chambers and Mary Gauthier in the same year! I can die happy….
I know we can't do all of them. In fact, I'd probably put Garrison, Krekel, and Johnny B. into the "probably not" category. Garrison conflicts with the free Tim O'Brien show, for one thing. (See below.) Kasey's a definite. I'm going to lobby for Brown. I wish I could see Lovett happening, but the tix are outrageous. We're both already pretty bummed that the Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson tour is coming through town (with the Greencards opening!), and the 50 buck ticket price has pretty much knocked it off the list. The Lovett tix are even higher!
Speaking of the Green Cards, they have a new one coming out on the 21st.
The Lonesome Pine Specials are bringing some cool stuff in too, including the Austin Lounge Lizards, Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys, and a Windham Hill deal that sounds interesting.
Now, we just need to get the new Michelle Shocked!! (Due out on the 28th!)
Amazon now has a section featuring music recommendations from a variety of artists, including Lucinda Williams! It's interesting to get an insight into the musical tastes of people whose music I like. The inconsistent formatting is annoying though.
One great source of new music I've been enjoying lately is InRadio. Every other month they send out a mix CD of great, unheralded music from all sorts of genres. A year's subscription (6 discs) is twenty bucks. I enjoy every one of them, and usually find one or two acts that I have to learn more about. The current disc, May-June, is themed "Old Friends." It's devoted to new releases from people they've featured in the past, including Josh Rouse (with a live cut) and Kathleen Edwards.
Rounder Records is creating a new label, Rounder Archives, to showcase titles from their huge back catalogue that have been out print. Anything that brings out more roots music is okay with me.
Billy Joe Shaver was on 60 minutes not long ago.
Here's a fun little web page: Candye Kane CD came out on June 7. I've not budgeted for it, however. What to do? She's another one that NEEDS to do a tour that includes Louisville. I'll have to include her in a future mix, if there are any more past this one. Oddly, Ear X-tacy doesn't have it yet.
Tim Krekel's newest one is out too.
Carrie Newcomer just announced that her newest CD will be out August 9.
And, finally, John Hiatt's latest comes out June 21.
Whew! That's a lot to listen to! And I just got Amy Ray's new solo album, Prom.
Speaking of Amy, there's a message from her on the Indigo Girls site about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I haven't read all the interviews yet, but this is a difficult topic, and I'm glad to see someone like Amy looking at all sides of it.
Oh yeah, and the Indigos' Rarities is due out soon!
Here's a place that will create a tracklist for a mix on any topic you submit. One of my faves is "I lied to a priest yesterday, several times. Make me a mix tape to accompany me during my time in hell." The eternal torment mix is especially well-chosen. I always knew that damn song from Titanic would be playing in hell! They also have a whole lot of music news.
New video from Chuck Prophet.
E-card for The Bills.
Also, E-cards for Dwight Yoakam and John Hiatt. I have to say that Mr. Yoakam still looks and sounds mighty fine these days. I used to think he was the sexiest thing. And I still do!
If we must have cheesy music, let it be liberal cheesy music! Seriously, I've been absolutely unable to get that chorus out of my head all day. Makes me proud to be a card-carrying bleeding-heart liberal, now that I have a theme song. I must include it on a mix CD some day.
That link comes courtesy of folksinger Christine Lavin's page. It's not regularly updated, but she devotes a lot of space to plugging other musicians and sharing music-related news. Check it out!
On the other hand, not all cheese is created equal. At least the liberal song doesn't have a terrible video to go with it. Link courtesy of Mark Morford at SFGate.com.
The goddess of music speaks out for animal rights.
Links to photos from the shows we've seen this spring
Pics courtesy of Keith, of course!
Enjoying the hell out of lately
Bill Morrissey, Inside: There's just something about the way he spins a story. He's my latest quest, in terms of tracking down all his work. He's on my Mixed Bag 2 CD.
Ronnie McCoury, Heartbreak Town: Wow! I guess talent runs in the genes. At least, Del McCoury's son seems to prove it.
Demolition String Band, Pulling Up Atlantis: Anybody that does a twangy alt-country cover of Madonna's Like a Prayer is okay in my book! That song would have been on my Mixed Bag CD, if I had found it earlier.
Otis Taylor, Respect the Dead: It makes the hairs on the back of my arm stand up. Wow!
The weird things you buy when they're a quarter
A Parade of Dusty Hobos: I thought, "Cool. Probably folksy, traditional-style music, just the kind I like." But no! It's weird music from the hearts of space experimental jazz instrumentals!
The Desert Fathers: Really strange spiritual shit. The liner notes are overloaded with all kinds of pseudo-mystical blather. I think this is actually supposed to be some kind of concept CD, but the story is muddled and obtuse. Nevertheless, there are several interesting tracks here.
I think we're too old for Uncle P's any more, sad as that is to say. Too crowded, too smoky, and too small for comfort. Still, I'll go anywhere to see Mary Gauthier, who was making her first appearance in Louisville. She seemed to be having a good time, as she told the crowd: "The radio appearance went well. The hotel is nice. And the place is packed. What more can a songwriter ask for in the middle of her life?"
There are not enough words for me to say how awesome I think her latest, Mercy Now, is. She may very well be the best chronicler of the miserable depths of the human condition since Prine and Kristofferson. No Mercy takes you into those dark places where our demons, both personal and societal, dwell. But, she manages, through the prayer-like lyrics of the title tune to leave us with a small ray of hope. Yeah, we all need a little mercy now, but we have somebody like Mary Gauthier on our side calling for us to get it. That’s more than good enough for me.
Gauthier's set was too short for my tastes, but she chose her material well. The songs largely came from Mercy Now, but she threw a couple of surprises in too: Our Lady of the Shooting Stars (from Drag Queens and Limousines) and Christmas in Paradise (from Filth and Fire). I had about a half dozen more that I wanted to hear, but she was only the opener, not the headliner. So, I had to take what I could get.
Nevertheless, she held the crowd spellbound, hanging on to every note and word. There was none of the typical noise and rudeness that opening acts typically have to endure. It was awesome to experience. For a few minutes, a room full of complete strangers let this woman take us all on a ride to some of the darker corners of life. Like I said: Awesome.
She had one guitar player with her and their stripped down playing and singing was all she needed to carry us all along. In the end she got a greater ovation than the headliner would later. Gauthier promised to return to Louisville to headline a show. I intend to hold her to that.
Unfortunately, Kathleen Edwards couldn't build on the energy and enthusiasm Gauthier left her. She's talented. Her band was good. She's written some good songs. But the show was largely average with a few moments of brilliance tossed in.
Part of the problem is Edwards' voice. It's too fragile and hollow to front a band as loud as hers. Until the end of the show, she was completely lost in the mix, the vocals completely muddled and slurred. I don't have her new CD yet, and based on what I heard at the show, I have no clue if there's anything on it that I would like. It's obvious she wants to be a rocker-chick, but she just doesn't have the chops to pull it off.
I think her material has a good edge to it, but she needs to present it in a way that showcases that edge instead of dulling it. The show only came together in the last four or five songs, which included Six o'clock News and One More Song the Radio Won't Like from her first CD. She didn't tamper with them or their arrangements and as a result, everyone could hear and experience with wit and skill of her writing. I just wish the rest of the show had been like that.
To give Edwards credit, she got a good stage presence when she's not striking rocker-chick poses and is at ease with the audience. She's got a quick, dry wit that serves her well when she's chatting in between songs. There's tons of potential there, but she has a lot of work to do on her live performances.
MusicAbout 40 or so people turned out a while ago to hear the Ditty Bops play. I had a great time and thought it was a good show. Keith was somewhat less enthused, since it was a tad out of his musical comfort zone. Not too far, really, but sometimes the smallest step can seem like a great chasm. Nevertheless, it was a good show. (And he is awfully sweet to indulge me like that...)
The Troubadours of Divine Bliss opened, which made for an excellent fit between the two acts. The Troubs are as eccentric as the Bops are quirky, so they matched up quite well. Aim Me and Renee did a good mixed set of some of their more folky, guitar-driven material and some of the accordion-centered stuff. It worked well and was really enjoyable. They're a fun act to watch, because they can be so versatile. They tend to use that versatility as a strength to give their sets an eclectic, but not schizophrenic, feel. While they did stay pretty close to the Ditties' cartoon cabaret style, they threw in enough other stuff to keep things balanced.
It was good to catch up with Aim Me and Renee, whom we had not seen for a while. We need to catch more of their free shows on Sunday nights. (Consider this full disclosure—we do know the performers personally.)
The Ditty Bops took the stage almost as soon as the Troubs stopped playing, which I appreciated. I hate the lag between acts, as it sometimes gets to be unnecessarily long. Changing out gear is one thing, taking your dear sweet time is something else.
Throw a little bit of vaudeville, a dash of old-timey music, a healthy heaping of Betty Boop cartoons, a pinch of the Carter Family and other early country acts, and just a touch of modern irony and cynical humor and you’ve got the Ditty Bops. It's a concoction that works so well for them, resulting in quirky, catchy little tunes that they perform with enthusiasm and glee. Relationships never seem to go as expected in their tunes, and the worldview can be a little off-kilter, but everything is so fun to listen to and watch!
Their harmonies are impeccable. In fact, I was surprised to see them trading off lead vocal duties. From the CD, I had guessed that one of them did the lead, while the other provided the harmonies. They also have a really tight band, with an upright bass (any group with an upright bass is okay in my book), a drummer, and a guitar/violin/lap steel player. The guitarist/etc. was a little too annoying for me—not his playing, but his personality. Thankfully, He didn't say too much, but what he did say was truly aggravating. I really could have done without the part of the show where he made up a “poem” on the spot. The idea is a nice vaudevillian touch, but he doesn’t have the style or the panache to pull it off. That was the only real flaw in an otherwise fun show. The set was a great mix of stuff from their debut CD and things that aren't on it. I hope they record and release the other material soon!
The last Homefront of the season was last Saturday, and it was stupendous! Irene Kelley set the stage with a great selection of her heart-ache soaked country—including “Bluer Than That.” The woman knows how to wring every drop of honest emotion from her songs without ever tilting over into sentimentality. She also paid homage to Dolly Parton with “Coat of Many Colors.” How can you not love a set like that?
Curtis Burch (formerly of Newgrass Revival) was next up with his wife Ruth, and a couple of friends. They did a great range of bluegrass and other styles of music. Ruth has one of those slightly dusky/smoky voices that I just love, and no one can play dobro like Curtis.
The second show opened with Chip Andrus and his band. They do an interesting take on adult contemporary music, by adding a dash of spirituality to their lyrics. They keep things from being overtly religious and end up being thought-provoking, instead of preachy. Most of their set was stuck in the same tempo, however, which made all the songs sound too similar for my tastes.
Louisville band Fire the Saddle closed the evening with their catchy, spooky blend of folk, rock, and old timey music. They fit nicely into the Gillian-Old Crow-Duhks niche. I'm starting to think a whole generation of musical old souls has burst on to the scene in the last couple of years. Excellent stuff.
It was a great Homefront night and a great way to end the season. The only real kink to the evening was featuring Col. Bob Thompson as the storyteller. He’s mildly annoying, but tolerable, as the host of the storytelling segment, but did nothing for me as the featured storyteller. I know he has a local rep as a storyteller and a passion for preserving the artform, but he tries way too hard to be clever for my tastes. Still, he usually does find interesting folks to come to the show and share stories. Hopefully, next time, we'll hear one of them.
Next weekend, there's a special road trip Homefront, as the show goes to Corydon Indiana to tape the Bluegrass on the Square show, which is totally FREE and features Tim O'Brien. I wanna go!!!!
I get to be one of the cool mix CD kids!
I’m excited about it because I wasn't sure that I’d get into this round. Seems people who don't update their blogs regularly are questionable characters or something. :-)
Seriously, I've enjoyed reading all about the first Mix CD exchange and various folks' opinions about the music they selected and the CD’s others made. Just from reading their blogs, I've found several artists I want to try. One of my favorite things is finding new music to enjoy, so I'm really glad to be a part of this round.
When organizer Chris Brown emailed me that I might or might not get in, depending on how many slots were taken by the regular-updating bloggers, I started thinking about my own mix anyway. I think I've come up with a fun one, filled with interesting music, that covers the gamut of my own music collection. We'll see. Once I get them sent out, I’ll wait a month or two to my next update and post my list and the thinking behind it. :-)
I am hoping this might give some more exposure to this blog, which will then motivate me to post more. We'll see, I guess.
I was also hoping that the experience would be a nice distraction from the situation with my dad, but it didn't work out that way. In fact, I'm late sending my CD's out because of the funeral. I hope to get that done soon. I'm running late!
A couple of years ago, I created personalized mixes for a bunch of friends and family for Christmas. I also made a mix of a bunch of different instrumentals from different genres for people at work. I got a lot of good comments, but burned out on the idea. It's time to give it a try again! (A couple of years ago, I created personalized mixes for a bunch of friends and family for Christmas. I also made a mix of a bunch of different instrumentals from different genres for people at work. I got a lot of good comments, but burned out on the idea.)
Oh yeah, the CD's I've gotten so far have been pretty cool. More on that later.
Speaking of Chris Brown, his wife had some pretty major surgery recently and is still recovering. Get well soon wishes from Eddie-torial Comments, Kelly!
Monday, June 06, 2005
My father died about three hours ago.
It's now six in the morning and I have to be at work at 8, so I'm trying to do anything, like, say, blogging, to take my mind off of things.
We have a major event happening on Thursday, and I have to go in this morning to put the finishing touches on things and get everything I was supposed to do that day parceled out to three (!) other people. Then, I can get into funeral planning mode, once I figure out what that's supposed to be.
In the meantime, I am blogging.
It's kind of fitting, since it's been caring for and dealing with my father that has kept me away from blogging for the last couple of months. (Yes, I finally had a good reason!) I have scads of half posts and notes all over the place, but all I've really been of the mindset to do online lately is surf. Spectating was about I could do. Participating took too much energy.
I'll blog in more detail later about the course of Dad's illness later on. For now, let me just say that he took ill (seriously) with heart/brain problems as I was coming back from San Francisco and had been in three different hospitals since April 12. The capitalist bastards at the last hospital were preparing to discharge him one day this week, citing "guidelines." Medicare guidelines, that is. Meaning, of course, "We can't get any more money off your father's illness, so go find a nursing home." My father decided to draw up his own discharge plan.
Keith and I spent Saturday visiting nursing homes and I was trying to mentally and emotionally prepare to juggle my work event, getting Dad assessed by a nursing home and then moved.
We visited him last night for a couple of hours and he was agitated and breathing roughly. The nurses said he had tried to get up and had fallen. He had not been upright since April 12. He kept telling us that he had to get ready to go. He wanted socks, because he couldn't go bare foot. He asked what time he was supposed to be there.
Ever since he had started talking again a couple of weeks ago, he had been increasingly disoriented. A neurologist at the hospital had started to suspect Alzheimer's, aggravated perhaps by the other conditions he had. He was never sure where he was, and we could not explain it to him so that he understood. The confusion made him anxious and he had been given some sedatives to calm him down.
Because of his recent history of confusion and agitation, we didn't think anything about it when we left. We were concerned, yes--I always hated to see him upset and not be able to comfort him in a way he could understand--but certainly not worried about him lasting the night.
Then at 2:47 this morning the call came. He had completely coded and was in the process of dying. When we got there, his heart had stopped and he was taking his last gasps of breath. I held his hand, called my brother, and then watched him go. He took one last big gasp, and then didn't move any more.
I've never seen anyone die before. Never thought I would either, much less my own father.
Right now, I'm a jumble of confused feelings and thoughts. I need to get through today, and then I can be with family and start our collective grief.
I am glad that, despite several heart attacks and strokes, he was able to live on his own for the past seven years, until this April 12, where he wanted and how he wanted. No one in the family approved and we all worried, but it was what he wanted to do. I am glad now that we did not force him into assisted living or some other facility.
I am glad that we did not have to put him through the confusion and stress of moving to the nursing home, where he would have forever been mentally and emotionally lost, confused and miserable.
I am glad that I do not have to go through the court hearing that was scheduled for July 11 to become his guardian. To do that, he would have to be declared incompetent by the court. I was dreading having to do that when he was not in a state to contest or fight back.
I am glad that we all got to have these last two months with him, that we all got to talk with him (even if he didn't always make sense), and that, in the end, he was the one who picked how and when he left the hospital. (I called the discharge planner and left a message on her voice mail that she didn't have to worry about her guidelines any more.)
I don't know what I believe any more about what happens to you when you die, but I do hope he's somewhere with his parents and siblings (he was the last survivor), and that he is at peace.
I sat with him for a long time. Keith said good-bye to him and left us alone. I told him how sorry I was for all the stupid shit that kept us apart for so many years. I told him that I hoped we had made up for that over the last decade or so. I apologized for being a bad son and forgave for the times I felt he was a bad parent. I told him that, in the end, we were what we got, and it really wasn't that bad after all. I told him I was glad that he lived long enough for me to realize that.
I thanked him for loving Keith the way he did, because I love him too. I thanked him for the miracle of a man with no high school diploma, who came from a working-class, Depression-era, Catholic family and had spent a lifetime in the army who didn't bat an eye when his oldest son finally said, "Dad, I'm gay." And then proceeded to make that son's male partner feel welcome every time they were together. In his more coherent moments, if I was there alone, Dad always asked about Keith. As he started to slip a bit, he asked me if Keith was "ever" going to come see him again. (Even though, usually, Keith had been there the day before.)
Then I took the little monitor thing off his finger. It had always bothered him, but he could never figure out how to get it off. I put his arms under the cover, tucked him in, kissed him on the forehead, turned out the light, and said good-bye.
The hospital that he was at used to be a Catholic hospital, and the private company that bought it out has left the chapel intact. I had taken my mother there a while ago, and she had filled out a prayer card for him and left it on an altar. (They provide them in the chapel for this purpose.) There is a banner in the chapel placed there by a local parish that provides some services there. It reads "Spend time with the Eucharistic Jesus." My dad was born and raised Catholic and then later baptized into the Baptist church (which was Mom's faith). I looked at the Eucharistic Jesus and said, "I don't know if you get him or if the Baptist Jesus gets him, but take care of him, whichever it is." Then I filled out a new prayer card requesting prayers for his soul and left it in the altar beside the one Mom filled out.
After we left the hospital, Keith and I went to Waffle House to eat. It was Dad's favorite place to eat and the place we always went whenever we visited. I wanted some coffee, and it seemed like the only fitting place to get it.
Now, it's seven, and it's time to try and get Keith up. He laid back down a while ago. I've cried and typed my way through the past hour and now it's time to get ready for work. God, I hope that I am ready for this week, but I don't know how I can be.