Tag Archive | On the Road with Janis Joplin

Get it while you can

This should be a short and scattered post, if all goes as planned. I just have a little time, lots to discuss and lots to do. So, since you always need to get it while you can, here goes:

Last night I finished John Cooke’s brilliant On the Road with Janis Joplin. I knew the ending – lived through it – but, though I was shocked and saddened when JJ died right after my 16th birthday, reading about it as an almost 60-year-old was much more disheartening. So young and so talented.

Yet in many ways, so predictable. Damn. Who knows what she might have achieved had she lived past that unlucky age?

But overall the book is joyous, so don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. (Next on my list is her sister’s book, Love, Janis by Laura Lee Joplin. The two are said to be bookends, one business life and one family – and, since I’m a Laura Lea, it seems like the right thing to do.)

Before jumping to the next topic, let me just add that the link above, if you choose to listen/watch, is to one of Janis Jopln’s appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, her second of three, I think. My son got me a great DVD boxed set years ago of Dick Cavett’s musical guests – a super treat to own, and Janis truly is a pearl in her appearances.

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So, the reason it took me as long as it did to finish OTRwJJ is because I’ve been requiring myself to spend some of my off time studying Italian in preparation for the trip with Mother in aprile. Or indulging myself – it’s pretty fun. And, by the way, that’s not a typo. Months and days of the week are not capitalized in Italiano.

So much to learn. But I think I’m on the right track. Signs are pointing that way. Bear with me and I’ll try to make sense.

My great Zio Giovanni Blaiotta, who married my great Zia Opal, moved to the U.S. (and ultimately to San Francisco) from Italia when he was 10 years old. We always talked about him teaching me Italiano, but since he died much too young of emphysema when I was 15 – and didn’t move to Arkansas until a few years before that – we didn’t get to it while we could.

That always made me sad. Aunt Opal, whose ring I wear every day and whose cedar chest sits at the foot of our bed, had gone to San Francisco from Russellville to make a more interesting life for herself (and after four unsuccessful marriages in a time when that was scandalous, I might add). They fell madly in love and lived just off Haight Street for years before retiring and moving to Russellville.

berlitz Anyway, long story short, last night I got out Aunt Opal’s 1950 copy of The Berlitz Self-Teacher Italian to add it to my instructional pile – I liked to look at it at Aunt Opal and Uncle Johnny’s house as an adolescent but haven’t pulled it out in all the years I’ve owned it.

The inside is stamped in red: “A. Cavalli & Co. (SINCE 1880) 1441 Stockton, St., San Francisco, Cal. GArfield1-4219.” (That’s old-school for a landline phone number, for you younger readers.)

Oh, my goodness. That’s still the phone number at Cavalli Cafe.! If only I’d known that when Mother and I went to San Francisco for her 75th birthday and looked up Aunt Opal and Uncle Johnny’s former apartment, the one where she spent a couple of summers.

You can bet your boots I’ll go there next time John and I are in that great city.

The city where he used to work before coming to Arkansas. And where many of Janis Joplin’s happy times took place.

And the next time John and I go to Italy, we’ll visit the Calabria area of very southern Italy, from whence my dear Uncle Johnny came. And to Sicily, where I’ve dreamed of going since I was young.

Oh, well, makes sense to me.

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Let me wrap this not-as-short-as-I’d-hoped piece up by saying how thrilled we all are that Silas is thriving and growing now that his food allergies have been isolated and eliminated. Out, out, damned milk and eggs. Peanuts, be gone.

You can call him little James Brown much of the time now.

Buono notte. Until next time …

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Monterey

A little night reading ... my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I'm at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

A little night reading … my nightstand overflows with books, most of which I’m at least partway into. The guide to Italy and the two Italian language books are part of my preparation for taking Mother on our trip in April.

I’ve never been to Monterey, though I’d love to go there, but Eric Burdon and the Animals’ classic description of the Monterey Pop Festival has been playing in my head for days. That’s because I finally let myself jump with both feet into On the Road with Janis Joplin, one of my Christmas presents from John.

janis It’s super fabulous if you’re a Janis fan – and, really, anyone who enjoys reading history and about pop culture should enjoy it. OTRWJJ is no adequately written lightweight memoir; au contraire, this book is a literary delight. John Byrne Cooke, the multi-talented author (he shot most of the photos and also worked on the filming of Monterey Pop, the excellent documentary, among other accomplishments), is a Harvard graduate and excellent writer, as well he should be as the son of well-known British journalist Alastair Cooke and the great-grandnephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson on his mother’s side.

That’s plenty to give him literary cred. But most importantly for this book, he was Janis Joplin’s road manager from shortly after she played the pop festival with Big Brother and the Holding Company until her much too youthful death – a gig that couldn’t have been easy.

For whatever reason, I was mildly (possibly a lot-ly) obsessed with the Monterey Pop Festival as a kid – I was 11 when it happened, but it just seemed so fantastic and fantastical that I was and always have been drawn to anything about it. I got The Animals’ 45 as soon as it came out and played it over and over. So I was in a literary swoon reading Cooke’s descriptions of the event, including the logistics, the crowd, the performances, even the newspaper reviews.

I’d read some nugget aloud to John from the treadmill (where I do lots of my reading) every time he came within earshot. (Side note: I know I drive John crazy at times, but my Myers-Briggs personality inventory says I can’t help sharing things I’m excited about.)

(Side-side note: I was tickled to read in her recent Rolling Stone cover story that my girl Stevie Nicks was reading OTRWJJ, too.)

This is the third book in a reading cycle of sorts. One of the books I took on our recent trip to Washington, a gift from my 10Songsexcellent friend Susan Garner, who thought I’d like it after hearing about it on NPR, is Greil Marcus’s History of Rock ’n‘ Roll in Ten Songs.

Was she ever right! I read the whole book on the return trip. This is not your standard R&R fare – Marcus takes readers on many side roads, tangents and flights of fancy as he discusses the music we love through some of the more obscure songs in the genre.

If you’re serious about music and like books that don’t walk the beaten path, I highly recommend it. I found myself at times thinking of Sarah Vowell’s books, with their sidetracks and tangents.

Telegraph_AvenueAs soon as we got home I started in on Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. If you love Chabon’s writing, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’d love a good, quirky story set in and around an Oakland record store (vinyl, not CDs) – with midwifery, family tensions and coming of age themes – then you’ll enjoy it, too. We’re talking literary fiction, not pop fiction, but Telegraph Avenue is easy to read and hard to put down. And it’s nowhere near Chabon’s best work.

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books form the overflow stack. I'm an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip ...

This is my overflow stack on the dresser – and one reason the nightstand is in such disarray. I keep cheating and grabbing books from the overflow stack before finishing the nightstand books. I’m an addict; what can I say? But the top two books are for the trip …

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I was thinking today that perhaps we should have named Zuzu “Shadow” or “Curious Georgeanne.” Wherever you are, there she is, and whatever you’re doing, her nose is in it. She’s precious and has an exuberance for life, but, dang, she can be an obstacle.

But look at that face.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She'd been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

Zuzu takes a break from dogging Mom. She’d been my shadow or stumbling block all morning. But we love her madly.

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One last note about the damned shower and this will be the end of it, I promise. First, I moved all my stuff back downstairs and took a heavenly debut shower today. Ah, the pleasure of not having to stand on a stool to get wet. It’s just my size, has nice water pressure and the river rock floor is like a foot massage.

So, ultimately, whatever. As Tom said, it’s the little things.

But the “grout” is definitely more concrete than grout – we just can’t figure out what those guys were thinking/doing/hoping to accomplish. I’ve a bit of trepidation over how it will hold up, since it won’t take the sealer (even though said sealer is made for grout OR concrete – but evidently not a mix of the two). And, just to show that I’m not an insane woman, as John said I might appear, one last photo to show where he had to patch some areas with the grout we chose.

The chosen color was “Dark Taupe.” We’ll live with “Driveway Gray,” if it holds together. Fingers crossed.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm ... letting it go.

See?! I told you it was the wrong color and texture. The dark area is the pure grout. OK, ohmmm … letting it go.