Sunday, November 19, 2017
Sitting Down, Journals and Joni
Yesterday the weather was "soft," as the Irish allegedly say, with mist that eventually turned into a gentle rain. I took Olga on our West Heath walk before the rain really got going, and she seemed to enjoy it, but she did this peculiar thing that she does sometimes when it's rainy or damp -- she sat down.
She did it over and over, in between chasing squirrels and running after her Kong and her tennis ball. Whenever the action paused, she'd take a seat. This is a dog who almost never sits down while on a walk.
I am at a loss to explain this behavior, unless she's just keeping her rear end warm. It's very strange.
When we weren't walking I was transcribing my journals and reading my Joni biography. The journals continue to be pretty darned entertaining. I'm at a point in the fall of 2000 when things were ending with a longtime friend/love interest, who I memorably described in one entry as unfeeling and "a styrofoam cut-out of a man." I was also casually dating a 22-year-old Bosnian Muslim and angsting over a fling with a Brazilian bank employee who helped me set up my new account in Manhattan. (He went on to become a friend.) Let's just say it was an eventful period.
The Joni book is fascinating. Initially, as I read it, I lamented leading such a tame life compared to La Joni, but in rereading those journals I see things weren't so tame after all! Memory can be quite selective.
The book takes a fine-grained approach to her albums and songs, explaining the genesis of many of them and recounting certain memorable lyrics. I'm learning a lot I didn't know. For example, I'd never heard that the song "Hejira," from the 1976 album of the same name, alludes to Camus:
I'm porous with travel fever
But you know I'm so glad to be on my own
Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger
Can set up trembling in my bones
Apparently Camus, in his notebooks, wrote: "What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country...we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being."
I love both his description of travel, which strikes me as absolutely truthful, and Joni's adaptation of it.
It's going to be interesting to see how the book maintains its momentum, now that I'm finishing the part of her life when she did most of her best known (certainly to me) work. At this point she's recorded and released "Hejira" and she's moving on to records that I just never really clicked with. At some point I owned them all -- "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" and "Mingus" and "Wild Things Run Fast," but they never really spoke to me.
Also, the book motivated me last night to rent "The Last Waltz," Martin Scorsese's movie documenting the final concert by The Band in 1976. Joni appears in the film, and I managed to hang on until those parts -- but I have to say, and I know this is sacrilege in the music world, that I didn't enjoy the movie at all. In fact I turned it off after Joni sang "Coyote." I'm generally not a blues fan or a country fan and The Band, for all their undoubtedly excellent musicianship, are heavy on bluesy stuff -- at least, to my uneducated ear. They're just not my thing.