Two deaths, back in New Zealand, and having a soul.
Happy new year, my loves.
There’s so much right now, so much. Bear with me.
So….this post is more poem of thoughts. I’m very lost, very dreamy, and very very sad.
You will see two obituaries coming your way. What a way to start the year. Susi. And Lee. Two days apart.
Half-poem, half-hearted. Half accidental. Half pain. Full instrumental.
Part written on the metal bird, part on the ferry. Never mind the places and times.
We just got here, home to Aotearoa.
California to New Zealand. We did the New Years show then I slept and got on a plane with Ash.
This wide-small-world journey that I’ve done so many times, including this time last year, but now … everything feels different. Brighter and darker. Neon paint splattered on black matte cloth.
I’ve been at Lee’s dying side in Boston for the better part of 6 weeks.
He died a few hours ago while I was on the plane.
I got to say goodbye. Ash got to kiss his thumb one last time in the hospital.
I will need a moment to tell you what that means to me, who Lee is, and so much more, because I’m still a little in shock.
Many of you know.
I got a phone call from Susi Newborn’s son the morning of the New Years show.
I was going to visit her, my good friend Susi. We’d just been texting about Palestine, we had plans to visit the waiheke market together on Saturday, she sent me a counting down the days” text and I was hoping she’d join us on the beach tomorrow – but instead I’m going to sing to her body.
She just died suddenly of pneumonia.
So. I’m in double-shock.
I will be writing two obituaries at the same time, and mourning two deaths as I land on my old island home of Waiheke today.
There will be no intermission.
These two people. Lee. Susi.
I wonder if they were destined to go at the same time so that they could meet in some liminal speakeasy for iconoclastic weirdos.
My friends are dying, my son is playing chess on the plane screen
I am drinking red wine from a plastic cup. I used to fly first class, when I felt richer, now I’m in coach, and I feel, finally, actually rich.
Ash giggling to my right, watching Frozen 2. I’ve bought a new blank journal; it was a coincidence, it just happens to be the turn of the year as I close the last book. Michael is sitting in front of us, filling out customs forms.
My old love, Brendon, is sitting next to my left, trying to sleep, with his long legs cramped, with his beard growing out whiter than before, with his hoodie swathing his beautiful face. Our phones are charging. My backpack is full of chocolate and gifts for our friends on the motu. We can’t wait to see the children.
Grandpa Jack is going to join us in two days.
We stayed, for the last few days in the run-up to the Dolls New Years show, with the mom of one of my Woodstock musician friends. Her childhood home. The old swing still above the threshold of her closet doorway. A tiny sun-drenched apartment on a flowery street in Berkeley.
Her mom welcomed us in with a cheese board and a casual – too casual – apology. Her husband was sick; he just went to the ER. She’s not sure what’s happening. It’s probably nothing. But sometimes it’s something.
So here we all are on New Year’s Eve – everybody either Dying or Hopefully Not Dying.
The New Years Show was good, but hard to play.
I played the old songs and I missed the new songs. The new songs are what heal my heart, and we’d decided to stay away from them for New Years, for old-fashioned “people just want to have fun and they don’t want to listen to new shit” reasons. I think this was probably a mistake. I was full of grief, the audience was loud and distracted because New Years, the new material might have shut people up. Who knows.
I had a hard time finding the musical lock with my fumbling piano keys. Brian went into full clown mode and disappeared during the set to grab a 10 foot plant from the dressing room. We sang in the new year with the whole beautiful cast of Bay drag and performer weirdos. It all lifted off by the end. I think. It’s hard to tell. I was truly exhausted and half-heartedly held a plastic glass of champagne that I didn’t want to drink. I signed posters for the cast and venue. I thanked everybody. I went to say hello to the patrons and aftershow guests and found it hard to Brendon and Michael held me in their arms at various times so I could have a full sob. We took a Lyft home at 2am.
The Mom with the Dad in the hospital had left candles burning and cookies out on the table for us.
Brendon said to me, after raising his eyebrow and questioning why we would stay in the apartment of this near-stranger instead of the fancy Claremont Hotel where the dolls crew all stayed, he said….
I didn’t get it, but now I get it.
Because this apartment has a dog.
Because this apartment has candles left burning.
Because this apartment has soap on a rope and a little brass turtle in the shower.
Because this apartment had neighbors on the stoop all day, filling little
Because this apartment had a woman who has a husband in the ER, and she was worried, and we kept her company.
Because we only get so many nights to sleep, to dream in a bed, to choose where to lay our tired bodies down; we have only so many nights to feel alive in this world, because time.
Because it’s better to have a human story than a hotel story. Because the human story costs more time, but the hotel story costs more soul.
Because it’s better to have a soul.
We held each other tight, squished into the pull-out bed and we half-hoped that she heard us and half-hoped that she didn’t – one wall, one world, away – laughing in the darkness.