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.


  1. There must be a reason why Olga sits down in damp weather. Could it be related to soothing her rear end? Perhaps its itchy. Also, I imagine that damp weather enhances natural aromas in the woods so perhaps she is simply sitting in order to take in all these heightened odours.

  2. Oh my goodness! You've been filling your senses, haven't you? Walking, reading, remembering, watching.
    It's okay if you don't love The Band. They were given to me at a very early age by a very dear and beautiful friend and because of him I fell in love with them and continue to be so to this day. As a matter of fact, I woke up with one of their songs in my head this morning which is not unusual. And of course I love Joni Mitchell too. She spoke to so many of us, didn't she? But as with you, as her music became more complex and jazz-influenced, it lost some of its ability to speak to me as personally. I will always respect her genius, her ability to hold herself away from trends and to go where her own soul took her.

  3. Those photos of Olga made me chuckle. I can't imagine why she sits like that only when it's rainy or damp. She certainly didn't sit down the day I walked with you and her. She was on the run the whole time.
    Lately I've been thinking about all the sexual abuse cases going on and wondering how I avoided much of that and then little bits of memories started popping up. Nothing as egregious as what we've been reading but, there were a few uncomfortable incidents that I am starting to recall. you are right, memory is very selective. The funny thing is, I didn't take any of them seriously. In other words, they didn't affect my career or self esteem.

  4. I love all those photos of Olga, who seems to be in a contemplative state. Wouldn't it be interesting to know what our pets are thinking, if they're thinking.

  5. It's so funny that Olga sits so much in the damp. Maybe she has to be very quiet to hear the whisper of the drops ...

  6. Olga is cooling her butt....Winnie does it

  7. That really is interesting doggie behavior, and very sweet photos of Olga. I stopped listening to Joni around the same time you did. Her music changed, and it went off in a direction that didn't appeal to me. I still listen to her earlier stuff and love so much of it.

  8. YP: I think she is soothing it somehow, but she gives no indication of itchiness. I think she's either keeping it warm or, as John suggests, cooling it off. It's anybody's guess!

    Ms Moon: I feel somehow guilty for not liking them, because I know how important and influential they were as musicians in that time period. But yeah, not my thing. (I also wanted to rent the movie to see if I could detect Neil Young's famous "cocaine booger," but if it was there I couldn't see it!)

    Sharon: I've thought of incidents in my own life, too. The question for me is, when does an unwanted advance become true harassment? I can honestly say I don't think I was ever harassed, though I was hit on once or twice by people I'd rather not have been!

    Catalyst: I really think a mental picture of her brain activity would mostly look like snow on a TV screen. Maybe with occasional squirrels running through it!

    Jenny-O: But couldn't she be quiet standing up?!

    John: Interesting that Winnie does this too! It's a dog behavior I rarely see!

    Robin: I came back to Joni when she released "Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm" in the late '80s, and I loved "Night Ride Home" in 1991 or so. But yeah, those middle albums, not so much.