Sunday, May 13, 2007

But That Dream Is Your Enemy

Last night, Todd and I searched the house for one of Dad's guitars. Todd cased the music room and couldn't find this most important one; I heard strain in his ordinarily even tone of voice. We found this guitar in the upstairs room to which we banished ourselves after Daddy declared Shut Up Time every night for the last weeks of his life. Todd calmed visibly when he opened the case and sat down to tune. It had been a long day but finally we were alone in Dad's and Darla's house. Children ran around us in pint-size throngs. Dara and her new boyfriend sat in the living room five feet from Todd because doors were open and we left the teenage lovebirds alone. Daria, her husband Tyler and I cleaned up after the memorial party until we finally sat down exhausted.

Todd: Two months ago, Dad closed his eyes and said, "I love that guitar."
Daria and Tata: Mmmm.

Our earliest memories revolve around Daddy sitting in New Jersey living rooms, tuning and playing, tuning and playing. Sometimes he sang for us. Sometimes we sang along. We knew the words to Greenback Dollar, King of the Road and half the Weavers' catalog before we could read. Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan were our heroes. And last night, Todd found himself at a loss. What to play? What did he remember whole? Then, Todd laughed and started the intro something from just before Dad left us: Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard. Daria and I swung around and stared at each other for just a second. The children looked around like when she and I spun around and danced, singing at the tops of our lungs. Todd's wife Bette sang along. The teenagers stared. Then Todd accidentally El Kabonged his toddler and six adults pretended we weren't laughing hysterically. After the tears dried, Todd opened the Jim Croce songbook and played Operator, which our parents used to sing together in the kitchen more than thirty years ago. This means nothing to you. To us, it meant that our parents made music, made sculptures, made gardens and grew vegetables, and if they'd loved each other, our lives would have been very different.

Finally, the children lost patience with us. Todd put away the guitar, where I found it this morning and took this picture. All of Dad's guitars will eventually go to California and be Todd's.

This poster hangs in my living room now. When I left Virginia in April, I accidentally left this behind. I literally ached for it. In a way, it is nothing. Little holes in the plastic, faded spots and tears in the paper make this an unbeautiful object that tells a remarkable story. Dad moved to Europe in the spring of 1973, when I was ten and he was thirty-one. At thirty-one, I committed art crimes in the streets of New York; Dad, at the same age every bit as impetuous, peeled this poster off a wall in Paris because he liked it. The featured dancers are Jacques Marsa, Arlette Thomas and Pierre Peyrou - hoo! google that name and see the gossip in French - all of whom have enjoyed long artistic careers. That's comforting. This poster came to symbolize for me everything that made Dad different from other people: he was curious, adventurous, interested in everything, less fearful than most people, wildly unconventional and capable. This image is exuberance, vitality, strength. This is just one story. And here is one ending.


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