Monday, December 04, 2006

Here and now

Warming but not warm sunshine, faded blue sky, pale patches of clouds like bleach stains on well-worn Levis, a brown, strong coffee and Ottmar Liebert's guitar coming from the speakers of my computer.

Leafless trees ouside my window stand as quiet obseververs of the world, only the barest hint of a breeze moving them.

Snow is piled up by the roadsides. A newly painted garbage truck rolls through the neighborhood gathering the piles and bins of recyclables.

This is my morning.

Forty minutes - forty miles - away my Dad is lying in a bed under the same old-Levis sky. The beeps of the monitors sounding nothing at all like flamenco guitars, evoking no thoughts of Spain and summertime.

While I sip my coffee and savor the flavor, he may be coming out of a slumber and hoping that today they will remove the plastic tube from his throat and he might be able to speak. Worrying around his bed, my Mother has no thoughts beyond the hope that her husband will soon be coming home.

I'm torn between talking about my Father and talking about the many times that Liebert's 'Nouveau Flamenco' has played the part of background soundtrack in my life.

Maybe both, or maybe they're the same thing - even though they're not at all the same.

I first remember hearing Ottmar Liebert at a little restaurant and bar a couple of friends ran in Bend, Oregon, called Monet's Garden. Gene and Jane spent countless hours remodelling and painting before they were ever ready to open the doors. It was their dream to serve nice, light fare, good wines and have live music on weekends. My Dad was helping them as a consultant - setting up their books and setting up business accounts.

Gene was the music fan - or fanatic. He loved most music, but saved a special place for reggae. Nice enough, but Gene was the prototype for the credit card hippy - a guy who wore the trappings of the Woodstock generation but put his bar tab on a gold card instead of paying with change dug from the seats of a ratty VW bus.

Jane was different. She was an artist. Beautiful, tall, blonde - a girl who you could either imagine twirly barefoot in a field or floating into the sitting room to welcome you to the family manor house.

While Dad coached Gene as best he could, Mom became friends with Jane helping her with the menus, decoration and hanging Jane's paintings. I was, of course, dragged in to help pound some nails and frame some of Jane's stuff. That's when I first heard Liebert - helping out at Monet's Garden.

Then, when the place finally opened, Jane would often play Liebert's music in the afternoons. I would stop in and have a wine with her and we would listen to the music and fold napkins for the dinner rush.

It was nice.

I enjoyed just being around Jane. She was one of those rare, ethereal souls that seem ill-made for the real world and belong in a novel, a poem, or a song. I think she welcomed the break from the looming clouds of a marriage doomed to fail.

Occasionally, over the years, Ottmar would come out and I would listen. It always soothed, but rarely transported me to a better place anymore. Gene and Jane were divorced and Monet's finally closed it's doors. Liebert was quiet memory tucked in the back of my mind.

Until I met Stephanie that is.

Steffi was another soul out of place when I met her. In the heat of a sunny California day at a yoga ashram in the Sierra foothills, Steffi appeared like a dream. She took shape slowly, from the edges of my sight - a warm glow that finally focused when we found our way into the same room to watch a video about the place.

We started talking, tentatively at first, like shy schoolkids. Soon though, the video was forgotten and the words tumbled out. She was stranded it turned out - or nearly stranded to be more exact. She was travelling by car with a couple who were feuding and making life miserable. All she wanted was to get back to Los Angeles, pick up her bags and go home to Germany.

Sometimes you meet people and know it will be okay. I guess this was one of those times. I knew I had to help her and she knew that she was safe with me.

She stayed at my bare place in Grass Valley. I had just moved there for a newspaper job and almost everything I owned was in storage. We bought food and wine for dinner and I snuck utensils up to the register, unwilling to let her know I didn't even have forks or spoons at home.

We spent one night and one day together - twenty four hours that changed my life for the better. She both healed and broke my heart.

Later, when I went to see her in Germany for the first time, she played Ottmar Liebert while she cleaned the vegetables we had bought at the local market. The same album I had listened to several years before. It became part of the tapestry of that trip. We listened to it a lot. Food, wine and Ottmar Liebert colored everything for two weeks in Bavaria.

Like a familiar smell that returns me to childhood or a sight that sparks a thought or memory, Nouveau Flamenco has gained the power to move me somewhere not here, not now. We all, I think, have things that do this for us. And, sometimes, we need to have them - need to be not here and not now.

Outside the pale blue sky has turned dull grey and large flakes of snow are falling and rising and floating sideways in the air.

And in these moments before the sky starts to really release its white bounty, I can't help but wonder if my Dad would like Ottmar Liebert. Back again in the here and the now, I wonder whether I'll have the chance to ask him and hope quietly that I do.


tshsmom said...

OMG Shawn, I'm so sorry!

Certain music brings back smells and memories to me too. I'm happy that you have a way to de-stress during this ultimate stress time in your life. My thoughts are with you, my friend!

dbackdad said...

My thoughts are with your dad (and mom).

Great writing.

thephoenixnyc said...

Beautiful Shawn. Be well amigo.

Jurgen Nation said...

This is beautifully articulated, Shawn. My thoughts are with you. Many, many hugs.

Miranda said...

I am sorry to hear the sad news.
My thoughts are with you as well.
*brings you more coffee*

Wendy said...

Thank you for that.