Legacy: Happy Birthday, Barbara Jean


…this song was written for my mother on July 24, 1984 (but I dedicate it to all mothers – and I will post this for as long as this blog remains active). When she died in 1993, I looked at it again and remembered a brief conversation she and I had, shortly before her passing…about how she had forgotten what happiness was truly about, the mistakes she wished she could alter for her children, and how grateful she was to me for “rescuing” her (after years of a miserable existence with my father, we finally left; I saved up all the money I made while working at Tower Records, and found an apartment where we lived with my younger brother, two sisters and nephew). I often wish I had the insight to ask her to elucidate her sudden contemplation, but, sadly, I didn’t.

My mother wasn’t a saint, nor a sinner. She was a complicated woman, who lived a complicated, difficult life. She lived as only she knew how, and was as misunderstood by some in my family almost as much as she misunderstood the outside world. Being married to my father all those years was only a hindrance in that elusive illumination…

While it wasn’t her choice to die In April of 1993, I believe she waited until she was finally free…so she wouldn’t die in an unhappy microcosm…and, how, she may have finally found that long lost true happiness…or at the very least, the road toward it.

I loved her, then, now. Eternally.

Happy 76th Birthday, Barbara Jean Basso…Mother Hindsight…mother of us all…

Mother Hindsight

Silent mother cries in the rain
and asks will it stop coming
in her life the pain remains
No more loving

Quiet mother walks on the moon
bows her head in prayer
the struggle of her million runes
And the wish is still there

In her life nothing ever changes
Nothing remains to dream
When I see her crying in her pillow
I think of the streams
Candlelight in the night
Darken the light
Mother hindsight
Relieve your insight

I hear the echoes of her lifetime
Screaming in my mind
Her kingdom of candlelight seems
to slowly unwind
Quiet mother walks on the moon
bows her head with prayer
Cries for the litany
and wishes she wasn’t there

Silent mother don’t fade away
The tears will somehow pass
Mother Hindsight
Will your sanity last…

@SageSongMusings 1984

Legacy: For Adam, On His 36th Birthday

*****

(I wrote this in 2012 for Adam’s 34th birthday, upon discovering that he had died a few years prior, never having the chance to say goodbye. I’ll repost this annually for as long as this blog exists…)

*****

Adam and I met 18 years ago during a brisk and stinging winter morning. It sounds like a cliché, I know, but it’s actually true. I was standing on a near-empty underground subway platform at Church Avenue waiting for the F train, when, from the corner of my eye I noticed a young man (who vaguely resembled a young, handsome male version of Sandra Bernhard) bopping and sing-whispering aloud to Guns N Roses, with a pair of drumsticks protruding out of his back pocket. I don’t recall who initiated the conversation, or what our first words were, but I remember, after giving him the thumbs up for his pseudo-public performance, he smiled, took his headphones off and we started speaking. Soon subsequently, he and I were at my apartment – Guns N Roses was his favorite band, Axl Rose his favorite singer, and he was in awe of my massive CD collection that I ‘acquired’ while at my recent past tenure at Tower Records. As a fellow music lover he was enthralled spelunking the thousands of titles (especially those G ‘n R imports!) packed in my small one room apartment.

The above photo was taken on March 9, 1994 in that Bensonhurst, Brooklyn apartment on Bay Ridge Parkway and 17th avenue not too many months after we met. Unemployed at the time, living off my (ahem) “savings” from Tower, we spent limitless days lounging about. We kept each other company through that cold winter, lunching on microwavable hamburgers and diet Coke from the corner deli up the block on 18th avenue, traipsing through the snow to Manhattan to check out new CD releases from the copious import stores that saturated the East Village. We strolled to Bay Ridge in the springtime and sat along the water, people watching, dreaming. We excitedly talked of buying bikes so we could pedal to the Verrazano Bridge to enjoy the exercise and the view. I told him about my friend, Kenny, who took his life many years ago by leaping, and how the bridge has become, for me, a sort of sanctuary for contemplation, even amidst the clamor of the traffic above. I loved teaching him everything I knew about music, movies, life, politics, and I loved him, soul deep. Through this all, at some point between seasons, the eventual had happened.

But…how was I to know? Age never really mattered to me, up to some point (his age was definitely something I never pursued – my range was always a +10/-5 year circumference). But the age he told me he was upon our meeting – and appeared to be, in all his emotional and personable fortitude – was not what the truth was. But…? There was more than a decade difference between us, and he was too young, a teenager still. I was confused after I found out the truth – and angry (for a little while) – but…if it was beautiful, then how could it have been wrong? (It wasn’t.)

I never thought Adam was gay, despite our relationship – I knew he had been with other men, usually older, but he spoke so often about girls that I figured any same-sex dalliances were merely that of the heightened hormones of a horny teenager. He told me he was bisexual, and I accepted that, knowing even then that ours was a temporary sexuality – and one that was merely an extension of friendship rather than a torrid romance. I loved him, but I was never in love with him.

I started working shortly thereafter at Merlite Industries, a costume jewelry catalog company based in Chelsea, and our times together grew more fleeting, though we made our efforts to see each other whenever able. But it was purely platonically; once I started working, the sexual relationship had evaporated, as I knew it would and should. Over the next year or two, we saw each other as often as we could – even after I moved in with a roommate to a larger apartment not too far away from my previous one and sporadically beyond that.

Sadly, as time progressed, Adam had virtually disappeared. Our visits were more and more infrequent, our phone calls halted completely (it didn’t help that he no longer had one). The last time I had spoken to him, he was living with an older woman and her two children. He sounded happy, despite their age difference (funny, huh?), and I was happy for him. He was 18 at that time, I surmise. As I hugged him goodbye, I kissed his cheek and said, “I miss you, man!” He replied, almost bittersweetly, “I know. Me too.” We paused a little longer mid-embrace, and then he walked out the door, heading home. If I had only known…

Despite the years-long hiatus, I’ve often searched for Adam. I had no phone number for he had no phone; his previous address left no forwarding one. When I finally purchased a computer in 2000-2001, I began, in vain, my quest. I spelunked Yahoo and AOL chat rooms, on Guns N Roses fan message boards. With the advent of “social media,” I would peruse Friendster and MySpace then later Facebook and Google, all grasping onto the hope that Adam took to this new form of technology.

But the reason he was intangible breaks my heart, still.

In May of 2011, like an epiphany, I remembered Adam had an older sister – he talked of her fondly years before and I loved that her name was “Starr”. So I looked up Starr on Facebook on a hopeful whim and there she was! I eagerly wrote:

Hi Starr – forgive my intrusion but I was wondering if you were related to Adam Forgetta. He’s an old friend of mine from back in the 1990s and we’ve lost contact over the years. I know “Adam” is a common name, so let me describe my friend Adam – he was about 5’9 – reddish curly hair, a HUGE Guns N Roses fan (big music fan in general). He’d be in his early 30s now, as I knew him when he was a teenager. If Adam is indeed a relative of yours, can you please let him know that his old friend from Bensonhurst Jeffrey (the music man with 8,000 CDs) has been looking for him for a few years…and if he is indeed a relative, please let me know and I will give you my number so you can give it to Adam. If Adam is not related to you, please let me know as well. Thanx for your time…I hope to hear back from you soon. ~jeffrey

She replied with the worst words I never wanted to – or expected to – hear:

I’m his sister and he passed away in 2004. U can call me at xxxxxx

I momentarily froze. My hands quivered and I sobbed uncontrollably. Through the tremors, I responded:

I can’t talk…I’m in tears…I will call, but I can’t now…too emotional…how did he pass…?

Ur going make me cry! I loved my brother very much. He died from HIV and cancer and he left a set of twins behind, a boy and girl. They’re 9 years old now…

Oh my…I am so sorry for your loss…I didn’t mean to make you cry. I loved your brother…he was special to me and when we lost contact a piece of my heart left…I still have photos of him from a few parties I threw…Oh, Adam!!! I am weeping so hard… I’ve looked for him for years…I wish I never lost touch…oh, sweet, sweet Adam!

I called Starr after I composed myself and we spoke – and through our tears she told me the tale of her brother’s later life, of the woman who had given him HIV, his twins he loved so much, the AIDS-related cancer he had finally succumbed to. How it was 7 years since he died and how she misses her brother beyond comprehensive words and how she longs to embrace her twin niece and nephew, Adam’s children. She told me of the tattoo she had made in her brother’s honor so he would forever be with her. She told me if I Googled his name, I would find his death notice. I have Googled his name in the past, and always came up with nothing. After we hung up, I did so again. And there, like a serrated blade, it was. So I wept again.

I know it’s a cliché to say it, but there really aren’t words to convey the prodigious size of the hole in my heart. I had prayed to a god I don’t believe in that the aforementioned hiatus would be just that…that I would find my long-ago lost, itinerant child…that I would embrace him and feel that breathtaking hug of his, and to again smell his hair while doing so (which he always thought was weird, and we’d laugh); that, speaking of laughs, we would have a few good ones at the expense of his favorite singer’s eccentricity (though there’s no doubt Adam’s love for Axl would not have waned). I had always expected that I would see him, rocking down the street, air-drumming with those drumsticks he was rarely – if ever – without (they were his security blanket, his constant thread to his reality. And you wouldn’t recognize it instantly, but he’s twirling those beaters in the photo above). I anticipated the ensuing day I would hear the tales of his happy life, perhaps of a wife and kids, or a partner or husband. I fervently awaited the tales of how he had filled the missing years that separated our tangibility, but not our brotherhood or bond.

I just assumed that, given time…he would just…be here.

But, these are now evaporated aspirations, jolting evanescences, discarded dreams. Oh, if only I had tried much harder…used any resources at my disposal, extended my searches. I never should have allowed those expanses that life jettisons at us to allow him to slip away. If I tried more powerfully, perchance he would still be here.

Maybe, if we remained tangible, I could have, at the very least, held his hand when he left us.

I recently dreamt of Adam, almost a year after receiving the news, and one of a myriad of dreams he’s haunted for years and years. These dreams were always surreal, unexplainable, but commonly; they very rarely altered – they were of Adam and I doing what we’ve always done as friends, as if time were not merely a ghost. This time was different, though. I remember reaching out, imploring to him, “Don’t go…stay, Adam…” And he smiled that goofy, glorious grin, enveloped me in his arms and said, “I love you man. Always have, always will…”

Drenched in tears, with the sunlight bathing my face, I woke up smiling.

I don’t believe that dreams are anything other than our subconscious minds working overtime to get us through the night. But…that embrace…maybe, just maybe.

So, Adam, here’s to you on your (34th ) (35th) 36th birthday. You are forever tattooed on my heart, and will always reside within the storehouse of my soul, for as long as I shall live…and beyond.

On your grave, I will lie, it’s the closest I will get to touching you again. I will kiss the dirt, make love to the stone…I will always remember you…

Especially during those cold November rains.

Legacy: Happy Birthday, Barbara Jean

…this song was written for my mother on July 24, 1984 (but I dedicate it to all mothers). When she died in 1993, I looked at it again and remembered a brief conversation she and I had, shortly before her passing…about how she had forgotten what happiness was truly about, the mistakes she wished she could alter for her children, and how grateful she was to me for “rescuing” her (after years of a miserable existence with my father, we finally left; I saved up all the money I made while working at Tower Records, and found an apartment where we lived with my younger brother, two sisters and nephew). I often wish I had the insight to ask her to elucidate her sudden contemplation, but, sadly, I didn’t. My mother wasn’t a saint, nor a sinner. She was a complicated woman, who lived a complicated, difficult life. She lived as only she knew how, and was as misunderstood by some in my family almost as much as she misunderstood the outside world. Being married to my father all those years was only a hindrance in any elusive illumination…

While it wasn’t her choice to die In April of 1993, I believe she waited until she was away from him…so she wouldn’t die in an unhappy microcosm…and, how, she may have finally found that long lost true happiness…

I loved her, then, now. Eternally.

Happy 73rd Birthday, Barbara Jean Basso…Mother Hindsight…mother of us all…

Mother Hindsight

Silent mother cries in the rain
and asks will it stop coming
in her life the pain remains
No more loving

Quiet mother walks on the moon
bows her head in prayer
the struggle of her million runes
And the wish is still there

In her life nothing ever changes
Nothing remains to dream
When I see her crying in her pillow
I think of the streams
Candlelight in the night
Darken the light
Mother hindsight
Relieve your insight

I hear the echoes of her lifetime
Screaming in my mind
Her kingdom of candlelight seems
to slowly unwind
Quiet mother walks on the moon
bows her head with prayer
Cries for the litany
and wishes she wasn’t there

Silent mother don’t fade away
The tears will somehow pass
Mother Hindsight
Will your sanity last…

@SageSongMusings 1984

Lady of the Harbor

It’s hard to believe that, as a native New Yorker, it’s been over 3 decades since my first – and last – visit to the Statue Of Liberty. It was during a 4th grade class trip, years before it was closed (from 1984 – 1986) for a much needed face-and-body lift. As someone who’s loath to tourist attractions, I’ve avoided revisiting. Now, it’s set to close again this week for further multimillion dollar (re)construction. (After the September 11 attacks in 2001, it was closed for reasons of safety and security; the pedestal reopened in 2004 and the statue in 2009, with limits on the number of visitors allowed to ascend to the crown.)

There are no elaborate celebratory plans to commemorate this 125th birthday milestone, so I decided to pay tribute myself by posting the celestial Patti LaBelle (accompanied by the late, great Billy Preston on organ) saluting Lady Liberty in a great 1986 July 4th concert that aired to fête the 1986 re-opening, which coincided with her 100th birthday. It’s an other-worldly gospel performance so joyful it almost made this atheist a god-fearing believer! (I said almost!)

Happy Birthday Lady Liberty. I promise to visit you soon, that is, once you’re available for company…

Legacy: Fly Away, Skyline Pigeon, Fly…

Kid of Courage

*****

On April 11, 1990, 1500+ people attended Ryan White’s funeral. It was a sad chapter in American history (I previously wrote about it HERE).

In times of sheer darkness and despair, you shone brighter than the most brilliant star and displayed a bravery rarely matched.

Happy 39th birthday to the little boy with the bright smile. Happy birthday, skyline pigeon…

Turn me loose from your hands
Let me fly to distant lands
Over green fields, trees and mountains
Flowers and forest fountains
Home along the lanes of the skyway

For this dark and lonely room
Projects a shadow cast in gloom
And my eyes are mirrors
Of the world outside
Thinking of the way
That the wind can turn the tide
And these shadows turn
From purple into grey

For just a Skyline Pigeon
Dreaming of the open
Waiting for the day
He can spread his wings
And fly away again
Fly away skyline pigeon fly
Towards the dreams
You’ve left so very far behind

Just let me wake up in the morning
To the smell of new mown hay
To laugh and cry, to live and die
In the brightness of my day

I want to hear the pealing bells
Of distant churches sing
But most of all please free me
From this aching metal ring
And open out this cage towards the sun

For just a Skyline Pigeon
Dreaming of the open
Waiting for the day
He can spread his wings
And fly away again
Fly away skyline pigeon fly
Towards the dreams
You’ve left so very far behind

~Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Music Box: John Lennon ~ Still Watching The Wheels

John & Yoko (Canvas Print) Courtesy of obeygiant.com

*****

I cannot remember a time in my life where I could sleep in silence. To drift into timelessness, there must be the delicate sounds of human language…music never helped either, and still doesn’t…it has to be conversations in the dark, like angels converging in my timespace. Now, and since the genesis of my adulthood, I sleep with the television playing old reruns through the night (until Rob comes to bed and shuts everything down), but as a teen, with no TV in my room, I would drift into dreamland by listening to talk radio or, in many cases, the local all news station.

And I heard it in the middle of the night, awoken while listening to New York’s all-news 1010 WINS…and I was paralyzed. Was this a nightmare? I tended to drift between reality and dreamscape, sometimes unable to momentarily grasp the difference between the corporeal and the intangible dreams…

No, this had to be merely the night terrors, brought on by the incessant tick-tick-ticking of WINS’s archaic background sound effects. I jettisoned out of bed, ran to the bathroom, splashed my face with water and sighed, lumbering back into the sanctuary that was my bed on the floor. But I had to be sure. So, I listened again.

And I wept in the silent hollow of the night. How can John Lennon be dead?

The next school day was a day of mourning, as students and fans sat around the piano in the auditorium singing the songs the world knew.  No one could believe that he was gone…murdered…why a man who lived his life for peace and love would be so mercilessly executed. In hindsight, and to anyone not born of that time, this might all seem a bit idealistic, but it served the youth of the world back in the prehistoric, pre-Internet era of 1980.

It’s unfathomable that almost three decades have passed since madman Marc David Chapman put a bullet through the very fabric of an era.

The world lost not only a philanthropist, but those who loved his music, his philosophy and his inherent goodness also lost a fabric of their innate being.

And, more tragically, a woman lost a husband and a little boy lost a father.

The abundance of tracks that were recorded during the sessions that begat the John Lennon/Yoko Ono classic DOUBLE FANTASY were supposed to be released  successively as sort of companion pieces, and in January of 1984 – four years after Lennon’s slaughter – Ono finally released MILK AND HONEY, accumulating John’s songs from those sessions with her (mostly) new songs.  Musically it was a strange dichotomy – Lennon’s sonically unfinished tracks were hardly masterpieces, though there were some gorgeous moments. Ono’s newer tracks hinted at a more contemporary feel while subsiding (though not totally) her usual avantgardism for a more Pop sheen (though hardly Pop).  Juxtaposed as the same call and response schematic as DOUBLE FANTASY, MILK AND HONEY, at times, loses a coherency.  And I admired the collection for these exact reasons. Reviews were mixed, and many pondered the motives around Ono releasing this material (she talks about such in the interviews below).

For over four decades, Ono’s unfairly been a pariah to psychotic Beatles fanatics, Lennon-ologists and journalists, and still, to this day, by muttonheads who stupidly continue to espouse the “SHE BROKE UP THE BEATLES!!!” mantra like the 33 of “Revolution #9” played on 78 (forget that some of Lennon’s finest musical seeds were nourished after the dissipation of the Fab 5, thanks to Ono as inspiration).

What was – and is – almost always overlooked was their happily-ever-after. If anything at all, it was indubitable that John & Yoko were passionately in love with each other and  their son, until sadly, what transpired was their Till death do us part.

Certainly, Ono was (and is) not unaware of the conspicuous disdain the majority of the public feels at the mention of her name or the mockery at the suggestion of her musicality – though I’m apt to believe most negative connotations, especially these days, come from a force of habit, as if it were merely common knowledge to loathe her – but she rarely, if ever (and certainly not during this interview) lets her guard down or lets the toxic forces imbibe her tightly sealed bubble (at the time of this interview, she’d had almost two decades of such barrages to have already built up massive invisible force shields).

Some also scoffed because this was a paid interview – Robert Christgau, the Dean of American Rock Critics, was commissioned to interview Ono by Ono herself, for this promotional film for MILK AND HONEY.  In his weekly Village Voice Consumer Guide, dated March 24, 1984, Christgau wrote:

“* * * Attention * * * Disclosure * * * Attention * * * Before the goddamn Times finds out, I’ll do the apparently honest thing and note that I was paid by Yoko Ono to interview her for a promotional film she’s making about Milk and Honey. I took the job well after (and only because) I’d fallen for the album, though the interview clarified my ideas about it. For a while I considered not reviewing Milk and Honey, or keeping my opinion off in some discreet corner, but in the end it seemed stupid, not to mention ethically dubious…”

Christgau gave MILK AND HONEY an “A” grade in his Village Voice Consumer Guide.

Besides Yoko, Christgau also interviews Sean, who at the time was a precocious 9-year old, wise beyond his youth. But these interview segments are fairly brief, and woven with home movies of Lennon and Ono and Sean (some of the footage I’ve never seen) that are both wondrous and heartbreaking. They exist as aural and visual paintings – from “Nobody Told Me” to “Borrowed Time,” to “Grow Old With Me” to “I’m Steppin’ Out.” Presented almost as music videos, these are rare glimpses of a sojourner’s happy past and present that numbs in the realization that he – and we, and Yoko, and Sean – were robbed of a spirited, almost assuredly monumental, enchanted future.

Happy 70th Birthday John~

Part 1 of MILK AND HONEY:

Part 2 of MILK AND HONEY:

Happy Birthday, America

Happy Birthday America. It’s been a lot of work and will take a lot more perseverance, but you’re (slowly) getting back on track after nearly a decade of being the town drunk. You’re still making erred decisions that are frustrating, but it’s paradise compared to Dante’s Inferno and the death and destruction of the previous aughts. Still, despite your shenanigans old and new, despite you rwanton ways, and despite the fact that there isn’t really “justice for all”, no matter what the claque says, we’ll always love you and always be thankful that it’s YOU we call home (also, you look fabulous! You’re what, twice maybe three times as old as Joan Rivers and you still look better in stars and stripes!) I’ve never lived in any other country in the world – and I have no desire to – but I might not be wrong declaring you the greatest nation.  And on this day, let us all remember the heroes…those who have fallen, and those who rise…our military, for allowing us our great luxuries.

My Patriotic Baby!