Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like where your stuff is.
So what do you bring for eight months of driving through twenty-three physical states and untold metaphysical states, while updating a web site, performing live music, selling four kinds of merchandise (each with its own display), teaching a few classes, running a small business, and making occasional forrays into wilderness? If you are a Taurus, the answer is Everything. So, I am now perfectly equipped–for developing upper body strength.
The biggest challenge is remembering where a specific thing is, and not to space anything out when I change crash location. I acquired six suitcases, each a different color, all with wheels and pull-out handles. They have names by now: “The Tool Shed”, “The Steamer Trunk”, “The Costume Department”, “The File Cabinet” and “Supplies, Supplies!” I tried to put things of like use together and inventoried each bag.
The coolest item I bought for the tour is an inflatable bed that travels in a small duffle bag. I never have to wonder whether I have a comfortable bed anywhere I go. And, of course, I fitted it with purple flannel sheets. This is not a tour of motels. This tour exits only through the generosity of my fellow artists, who are putting me up in their homes as I travel North America. Somehow I am blessed with an absence of allergy to pets, a willingness to help out with the dishes, and a sincere appreciation of even rather humble circumstances.
How do you know if hippies have been staying at your house?
Mom and Ralph treated me to the Ahknaten exhibit at the L A County Museum of Art. I instantly loved Ahknaten. He revolutionized Egyptian art, religion and social politics. His artists portrayed people and animals with much more natural movements and shapes than the proscribed Egyptian stylized forms and poses. I particularly loved this stone carving of the royal family, inwhich the parents are cuddling and kissing their children. Archeologists believe he recognized his wife, Nefertiti, as an equal because she is depicted as equal in size to him in these images. This alone puts him thousands of years ahead of his time.
He was the only pharoah to worship only one god, Aten, the sun, and even that god was not anthropomorphized. He worshipped the sun as White Light that also shines from within, the creator of all beings as one family. This concept did not re-emerge until the advent of Judaism, and is still under discussion. Where previous–and succeeding–pharoahs demanded that royal artists depict them in physically ideal form, with perfect faces, square shoulders, muscular torsos, and slender hips, Ahknaten allowed his artists to reveal his slender torso, convex abdomen, full hips and oversized facial features. His faith must have imparted a humility unusual in a monarch. His innovations in art, architecture, religion and social form were immediately destroyed after his death, by his son Tutankamen. That’s King Tut as in King Tut’s tomb.
There are banners for the Pharoah of the Sun exhibit all over West Hollywood, just in time for Passover, the feast with a story inwhich the pharoahs are visited by locusts, lice, plagues, and other things you normally wouldn’t mention at the dinner table.
In 2000, I had been living on Maui since 1984, and, before that, from 1974 to 1981–most of my adult life, really. I had friends there that I’d loved for over twenty five years, even some “sort-of stepkids” (boyfriends’ children from previous relationships that I co-parented) who had already become parents themselves.
In 1988, I started a wedding planning business as a venue for my art, writing and music. I designed and made my own floral arrangements and decorations, sang and played guitar, designed and wrote my own advertising and promotional materials, even made commissioned paintings for my clients. It had been nearly impossible to get away for a vacation during those years, with multiple weddings in the planning stages, and sometimes multiple weddings to coordinate in a single week. I had promised myself that, when I got out of the wedding business, I would take a road trip around North America and visit the friends I had seldom seen since the 1970s. I sold the wedding business in July 1999, after 3000 weddings and untold hair-raising experiences.
The publication of the revised Living On The Earth provided another appealing reason to travel. Since the fans of my book are often of a bohemian persuasion, and the friends I would be visiting are as well, why not read from the book at my friends’ favorite bookstores when I visit them? And then, why not make a photo blog about the bohemian and communal worlds I visit as I travel around North America doing that? And why not sing the songs I wrote at the time I wrote the book while I am speaking at the book-signings? Shouldn’t I also make a CD of these songs for the people who enjoy the performance? Since I am selling books, why not also sell my art? Maybe I can sell enough swag to keep myself in tofu and gasoline for the whole trip.
Toshiko Akiyoshi, pianist, composer, and leader of a famous jazz big band, said in an interview that to do ambitious art projects one must be a little naive. Leap before you look. That is my credo, yet I am methodical. I packed my household goods into labeled boxes in a storage container. I spent hours on the phone booking gigs, lodging, media. I found a good home for my pets. It is the naiveté that things will work out that keeps me going. I have had setbacks galore, but I notice that I am often blessed with unexpected assistance along the way.
Rabbit Moving Day
We moved my rabbits today. The rabbits had been scheming to move to Haiku ever since I sold the wedding business. Through their powers of deliberate creation, they have managed to attract an invitation from the fabulous Diana Dahl, founder and president of the Maui Organic Farmers Association. They will live in their current spacious rabbit condo, but next to Diana’s garden, where they will turn her weeds into fertilizer, amuse her grandchildren, and meditate. I knew they would be cool there, but I cried all day during the move because I would miss them.
I wrote this letter of instruction to Diana and her partner Roy Smith:
Dear Diana and Roy:
I thought I would give you a little introduction to your two new houseguests-for-life.
Nijinsky, whose name was inspired by his light-footed movements and fawn-colored fur (harkening to Nijinsky’s most famous role in Afternoon of a Faun), is the personality rabbit. He prefers being petted to eating food, provided the food is being offered at his normal feeding time. He is a Libra, sociable, intelligent, even-tempered. He has a palpable sense of humor considering he is a creature who expresses all things in pantomime. He is six and a half years old, which, in human years, would be 65–a spry older man. He has lived with me since he was 10 weeks old (a Christmas surprise from Chip). He had a little stroke a couple of years ago, which is why his mouth is crooked, like Popeye’s.
Moonlight is a Taurus–stubborn, beautiful, slow on her feet, fond of food. I got her “free to a good home” at the age of one, already spayed after two litters. Now she’s nearly 5, or 50 in rabbit years, and still a bit traumatized from whatever occurred before she came to live with me, although much more trusting than she was four years ago. After I got her I had to get Nijinsky neutered because he was all over her and she wasn’t into it. He eventually forgave me. Sometimes he forgets and humps her anyway. She fights him off, which is why she sometimes has a bald spot on her back. Nonetheless, she loves him devotedly and bathes him frequently. He knows this and shoves his head under her chin to let her know when he wants to be bathed.
The reason I had walls put in around the bottom of the cage is to prevent cats and dogs from coming close and scaring them. I made the cage close to the ground with screen all around so that predators can’t nip at their feet from underneath. I suspect this is what Mrs. Bunny suffered from in her last home.
They need their water changed every day, so that algae doesn’t grow in their water container. They are accustomed to sharing one whole carrot and some greens each day. They crave variety. Whatever you weed out of your organic vegetable garden ought to please them mightily. They love ha’ole koa. They enjoy most flowers; here, I pick the hibiscus flowers and leaves from the hedge, and some cane grass. Mrs. Bunny is wild about her greens. Mr. Bunny likes sweets–banana chips, or an occasional slice of apple.
They also get three scoops of Kay Tee Rabbit Food, a sort of granola that has their very favorite treat, banana chips, blended in, along with a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried carrot slices. I buy it at Long’s. If insects try to get into the food, place the food dish inside a larger dish and fill the larger dish with water to form a moat. The best vessel for this purpose is a round, flat-bottomed plastic florists’ design tray, available at Of Land and Sea in Kahului. If that doesn’t discourage them enough, I sprinkle some pyrethrum powder on the wooden parts of the cage to kill the bugs. So far that has worked well.
They need their toenails clipped every month or so. This is something they do not like, but if you don’ t do it, they catch their long toenails on the cage floor and hurt themselves. It’s a two person job. One person wraps the rabbit up in a towel and holds it securely; the other person clips. The rabbit doesn’t mind being held as much as fearing being dropped, so support them well. You clip so that you don’t cross the pink part at the bottom of the nail where the blood is.
Cage cleaning: put the rabbits in a travel cage (together), and hose down the inside of their condo. Let it dry a bit before putting them back in. Keep the caged rabbits out of direct sunlight; it can kill them.
If they need a vet, the rabbit specialist for Maui is Dr. Cindy Krach at Animal Care Hospital in Kula. She neutered both of them. Hospital records show Moonlight under the name Babette, a name she hates, that I gave her years ago. Her former owners called her Roxy. Her mother belonged to Candle Summers.
The whole rabbit dance requires about ten minutes per day, plus the monthly toenail and cage cleaning time of 30 minutes. Of course, they are happy for the break from boredom any time you want to get into the house with them and pet them, unless it’s nap time (mid day and mid night), in which case they will let you know they feel you are imposing.
Thanks so much for your time and love in undertaking this mission. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Today, Ralph, world’s best husband to my lucky mother, drives me out to the Valley to pick up my mom’s 1984 Peugeot 505 station wagon from the Peugeot specialist who has been fixing it up for my tour–this is a gift from Ralph and my mom. I have never seen so many Peugeots in one place at one time. I feel as if I have joined a club. Rene, le mechanique, is so charmante. He shows me the engine and the dashboard. I take notes.
The West Hollywood neighborhood where my alma mater, Fairfax High School, stands, was once known as the Borcht Belt, and was colorful in a shtetl sort of way.
Now it is part of the Design District, peopled by creatives working in the film, recording, home decor, restaurant and fashion industries. The boho scene on Melrose Avenue “began” with the establishment of Aardvark’s Odd Ark, a used clothing store in the 1970s. Now Melrose is shoulder to shoulder coolness, with dozens of small, unique businesses, for example, Shrine, which sells what the staff calls “club and rock and roll clothing”, but which is, more specifically, goth couture.
I awoke from my two-day stupor long enough to drive over to West Hollywood to have a sauna and massage at Brooks Baths, which have been part of LA since the ‘fifties. The three young women I met in the sauna all had movie jobs–writer, costumer, actress. Massage erased the week of packing, cleaning, and airport shlepping. Bliss.
I did not sleep the night before I left Maui. I kept organizing and packing all night. I knew I would be traveling non-stop for almost a year. The whole week I had hardly slept, working against the deadlines of the moveout and the plane ride. Early in the morning, my friends Laurel Murphy, Gil McCrary, and Kitty Olsen gathered around me with help, flower leis, visions of success. The whole tour is a group effort, created through the cooperation of dozens of old and new friends. I am buoyed by their generosity, hospitality and love.
My partner, Joe Gallivan, himself preparing to leave in two days for London to record two more CDs–he recorded two others there in March–walks me to the gate. We feel jet streams rustling our wings. Joe makes recordings with a minimum of rehearsal, no retakes, no overdubs. His improvisations soar effortlessly. He works with other musicians who compose and perform simultaneously. Mastering this art form takes more training than brain surgery.
I will see him again in June, in New York City, when he plays (drums and percussion) at the Knitting Factory as part of the Bell-Atlantic Jazz Festival with his group, the Rainforest Initiative, with saxophone luminaries Elton Dean, Evan Parker, Charles Austin and John McMinn, wonderful Marcio Mattos on bass, and two great Hawaiian chanters, Lei’ohu Ryder and Mahalani Poipoi.
You can check out Joe’s works at joegallivan.com. He is the only musician based in Hawaii whose works are reviewed (all favorably, I might add) in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, the authoritative work on the subject.
Joe’s trio at Pacific O’s in Lahaina, Maui, includes Shiro Mori on guitar and Gene Argel on keyboards
My mother and stepfather meet me at the gate in Los Angeles. They radiate kindness. We gather up my flock of luggage and extract ourselves from the artificial reality of LAX. After I get to their comfortable home, I sleep for two days.