No doubt there is a predictable madness about the days we live in, as there has always been, give or take a few notches up or down. There are forever things to lament about or regret. So, these days I’m inclined to focus my gaze on events that have been and remain meaningful in my life. Here is a short story that I have revised, contained in Stardust in the Sand.
In January of 1976, we moved from our dingy, dollhouse cottage in West Hollywood to a more respectable two-bedroom bungalow in Ventura County. It was a peaceful suburban neighborhood called Newbury Park. The driveways were painted with old Buicks and Chevrolets, with only the occasional foreign car scattered here and there. Every other house had a camper with Old Glory flying full mast on the antenna. Although it seemed as if we had moved a thousand miles east to Anytown, USA, we had, in fact, taken only a few steps north.
I remember being sized up by wary eyes from the outset of our move to Maplewood Drive. Neighborly hellos never rose above medium pitch. The smiles were pleasant, respectful, church-going smiles, but I could feel the prickly barbs of apprehension running up my arm with every handshake. However, I can’t say that I blame the neighbors very much. These were mostly older post-war folks, the ‘greatest generation’ some call them, with the sole desire to be left alone and live out the rest of their lives in relative peace and harmony—in other words, keep the volume down.
Sometimes when I glance at old photos, I can see how people like us could have been cause for concern for a neighborhood like this. Patricia and I did, in truth, fit the classic image of landlopers or carpetbaggers, or some kind of community agitators. (To some we were dead ringers for Buckingham and Nicks.) In time, although for different reasons, as folks realized that Patricia and I were just as insistent upon our own silence and privacy, the wariness faded—but just shy of any invitation to a backyard barbecue. The neighbors would never know how happy Tricia and I were, and how much we loved our humble, cookie-cutter castle—how much we appreciated our own little garden under the sun, far from the absurdity of the record business.
An inventory of our possessions was as follows: one king-size bed, an unfinished oak table and four unfinished chairs, one cat tree that came with two neurotic Himalayan kittens, a small Maytag fridge, a washer/dryer, a red Volkswagen (with 3 eventual burned clutches) and one brand new black satin Yamaha C7 piano I had just purchased at David Abel’s for $6,000. As far as I was concerned, the house was fully furnished.
At times I don’t know how Patricia coped with the constant hammering and singing for hours on end. I’d lose myself at the keys deep into the night and if I came up with something worthy, I’d stir her gently from a deep sleep and ask her to listen. She always did so without protest, leastways none visible to me. Once, I snapped a photo of my Sleeping Beauty just as I was about to play her a tune I later recorded on the ‘Brother to Brother’ album called, The Wheels of Life.