BACK FROM HELL
I just made it through seven days and seven nights of fever.
I got up to 102.8 degrees at one point. I'm a 49-year-old guy who is thick around the middle. I was wondering if I was gonna die. Well, I wondered all KINDS of things, because I was delirious most of the time.
Also, I'm a BIG BABY whenever I have a fever. I usually keep my problems to myself, but last week, if someone said, "How are you?" I'd say, "I'm delirious with fever." If I knew my current temperature, I would tell them. No one wanted to hear it, but I was a BIG, DELIRIOUS BABY.
I worked at the office anyway. PAGE X and CELEBS must go on! Luckily, I didn't have any big extra projects last week. (I'm making up for that THIS week.) I got it down to a routine where I would come in at 1 and catch about five more-or-less lucid hours. I was loopy, and dripping with sweat, but I could work. People would say, "What are you doing here? You should go to a doctor." I'd say, "If Kathy were alive, she'd never permit this. But what can I do? I'm frickin' delirious!"
After those five lucid hours, I would start to feel chilly, and then I'd start to shiver. Once I got the shakes, it was time to get home pronto. There, I would have hallicinatory daymares. I would stress about what I had to do the next day in order to make my deadlines. I could only sleep after popping a couple of "PM" pain relievers. It was not a restful sleep, but it WAS a sleep.
I told my brother I might not make the Mad Jack and Scream practices Friday and Saturday. The deal I made was if I still had a fever on Friday morning, I'd stay home. I went to sleep on Thursday with a 101.05 temperature. In the middle of the night, my pillow-case felt like it was soaked with a garden hose. A few hours later, I felt almost normal for the first time. "It's over," I thought. But that morning, I had 100.2.
Well, heck, 100.2 was a Jelly Krimpet compared to what I'd just been through. So I fudged a little on my "deal," drove to South Jersey and made both rehearsals -- sitting in a chair, singing at half-volume, with a beach towel around my neck.
Sorry I've been such a baby. But, as with all my Web columns, this is just between you and me, and I know you care about me.
I'M BURNING UP!
I apologize to my blog readers that I didn't post on Sept. 23 as predicted.
Even as I type this in, I'm burning up with fever.
But I have so much to talk to you about. While I was away from the office, I saw two theatrical releases, "The Brave One" and "3:10 to Yuma." (You know I'm in a two-year-plus Western phase, and you know I worship Peter Fonda.) I have rehearsals coming up this weekend. (God willing, If this thing ever breaks.) I had lunch with two old college buddies, one of whom I hadn't seen in 16 years. And I played my songs for Kathy on my acoustic/electric Takamine.
So anyway, please hang in there. Maybe by tomorrow, I'll have enough energy and brain power leftover to post a coherent blog. (When you see my PAGE X feature this Friday -- an interview with one of my favorite guitarists of all time, Earl Slick -- feel free to marvel at the fact that it was produced, writing AND design, in under five hours with a hot forehead.
And not the first time, baby. Don't cry for me. THE DEADLINE WAITS FOR NO MAN.
LAST POST UNTIL 9/23
(Program note: This will be my last post until Sept. 23.)
Yesterday, I said goodbye to my grief counselor.
It was my decision.
My previous session had been something like seven or eight or nine months ago. I honestly can't remember exactly how many months it had been; I'd scheduled yesterday's appointment that far in the future.
I'd known it was time to cut myself loose, but I made that far-off appointment as a kind of "lifeline." Not coincidentally, I scheduled it for around the time of the second anniversary of losing Kathy. Funny thing is, I didn't even call to verify if his office still had me on the schedule. I just nonchalantly materialized, as if I had been in the week before. "Your 1 o'clock is here, doctor," I heard the receptionist say.
To be sure, I'd had some rough times in that wide gulf between appointments. But as I told close friends with whom I might discuss my counseling, "He gave me the tools." I knew I could make it.
I naively thought that in this final session, he and I wouldn't have any "work" to do -- that I'd simply thank him for everything he's done for me (I will always be so, so grateful), catch him up a little on my situation and fade into the sunset.
But it was a fairly active session. I bawled, almost from the moment I walked in. He opened a huge book to fine-tune a definition. To the end, I was prescribed some exercises. So we were really going at it.
And then fade into the sunset, I did.
This week, I will visit Kathy. I'll bring my (rarely used) cell phone and try calling my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law from there. I'll bring a guitar -- my acoustic/electric Takamine, the same one I serenaded Kathy with at the Manasquan Inlet on our wedding day in 1986. (I sang Led Zeppelin's "Thank You.")
And then I'll try my best to get on with the rest of my life.
L.A. IN '87 (#2 OF 2)
More recollections of L.A. in 1987:
I had two touristy goals while visiting Los Angeles in 1987 -- one realized, one not.
I had been reading Errol Flynn's autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Ways." Flynn wrote that he and John Barrymore used to panhandle at Sunset and Vine as a lark. I SO WANTED TO DO THAT! I just wanted to mutter "Spare change?" and get someone to cough up a quarter, on the EXACT SAME SPOT that Flynn and Barrymore once did. But Kathy overruled me. "You idiot, you'll get arrested," she said. (Kathy was never one to spare your feelings.) I then pictured spending a night in an L.A. jail cell.
But I DID get to do "a spot of whittling" (that is, shaving a piece of wood with a knife) in front of the "Beverly Hillbillies" mansion, just like Uncle Jed used to when I was a kid.
Once when we were shopping at a mall, we spotted Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on "Welcome Back Kotter" and was then in the cast of "Cagney and Lacy." (I'd met Hegyes before at, of all places, my old alma mater Glassboro State College. Hegyes was a GSC alum, and one day in 1977, he visited the campus and taught an acting class I was enrolled in.)
At the mall in L.A., Hegyes and his lady were behind us on the escalator. I turned and started to say, "Hey, didn't you ..." Hegyes smiled and nodded. (He expected the rest of the sentence to go something like, "... used to be in 'Welcome Back Kotter?'") Instead, I said, "... go to Glassboro?"
Hegyes' eyes got wide and he busted out laughing. He probably NEVER heard that one before. I then said, "Just kidding, Robert. I went to Glassboro and met you there once."
One more memory: Kathy photographed me doing something rude with Marilyn Monroe's handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I'll leave it go at that.
L.A. IN '87 (#1 OF 2)
When I learned that MTV is amping up the 2007 edition of its Video Music Awards, I thought, "Where did the time go?" It was a reminder that it's been 20 years since Kathy and I spent a week in Los Angeles (during which time I covered the VMAs for the Asbury Park Press). Thinking about the trip brought back a flood of memories.
I remember we had an audience with Dennis Hopper while he was in post-production on "Colors," a gang-themed drama he directed starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. (One of Kathy's best friends, who hosted our trip, worked on the film.) I presented Hopper with the original artwork for a comic strip I had published about his drug-induced descent into madness and his then-recent comeback in the films "Hoosiers" (for which he received an Oscar nod), "Blue Velvet" and "River's Edge." Hopper laughed that crazy laugh of his at my (not altogether flattering) comic strip, and then autographed a reproduction of it for me, reading his inscription aloud: "To Mark: Life's a bitch, thank God. Love, Dennis Hopper."
When I spotted Ellie, the inflatable love doll from "River's Edge," decorating Hopper's office, I recounted the tense liquor-store scene in which Daniel Robuck pulls a gun on the cashier while Hopper -- with Ellie tucked under his arm -- casually inquires if a certain beer is in stock. As I quoted the line of dialogue, imitating Hopper, I guessed at the beer: "Heyyy, mannn, do you carry Miller?" Hopper corrected me without missing a beat: "Bud in bottles."
Then Kathy, her friend and myself had lunch in the Lion's Gate commissary with Hopper's daughter, Marin, who went on to become the fashion director of Elle magazine.
One night, four of us went to what was described as the hottest nightspot in L.A. at the time. (I can't remember the name of it, and I doubt if it's there any more.) It was a huge converted warehouse. Outside, it had the velvet rope and the security guards before those things became a movie cliche, so this elitist ritual was news to us.
You could only gain admittance three ways: (1) if you were a celebrity, (2) if you were extremely hot, or (3) if either a celebrity or someone extremely hot vouched for you. We got in via option #3. You'll never guess who vouched for us: Gerardo Mejia, who would later score a hit song/video with "Rico Suave." Gerardo wasn't nationally famous at the time, but he was known around L.A. as a hunky struggling actor and choreographer. He played a gang member in "Colors" and knew Kathy's friend. It's so weird to be able to say, "Gerardo got me into a club."
I just returned from South Jersey, where we had the first rehearsals for our planned Nov. 2 double-bill of Mad Jack and Scream.
To review: Mad Jack is my guitar quartet founded in 1976 that plays Foghat, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and originals written in the '80s. Scream is my band of high school outcasts founded in 1973 that played David Bowie, Roxy Music, '50s oldies and weird, primitive originals with titles like "The Crimson Cult" and "I Walked With a Humanoid." (One Scream member is flying in from California just for the gig. THAT'S friendship.)
The Mad Jack rehearsal was our first with newest member The Kid, who, come to think of it, is turning us into a guitar QUINtet. The Kid is quick on the uptake, and seems to be having a good time with us old men. (I've got 30 years on this punk.)
Mad Jack will again be playing "Wicked Ways," a Purple-esque original that the Burners took over and transformed via the Maestro's Purple-esque keyboards. I think the last time "Wicked Ways" was played live without the Maestro was in 1990, at a gig we call "Bepstock." I remember the year because I wore a "Dick Tracy" (the movie) T-shirt. Mad Jack is now reclaiming "Wicked Ways" as a guitar song. We're "fierce-ing" it up a bit. I was a little nervous about how it would sound (spoiled as we were by the Maestro's lush Hammond stylings). But once I heard the boys kick in, I was amazed and happy.
Mad Jack is working hard on the Outlaws' stoner epic "Green Grass and High Tides." All the ingredients are there; we just have to tighten up some transitions and sift in some dynamics. Sadly, though, I don't know if I'm "butch" enough to pull off the cowboy hat.
The Scream practice the next morning was strange but fun. It's just me (vocals and guitar), Brinie (bass) and Jazzy (drums). Vo (the dude in California) will get a "dirty" CD of our next rehearsal, and practice along with that. But in the meantime, we're laboring under the theory that if Brinie, Jazzy and I had a gun to our heads, we could do the show as a mere trio. When Vo comes in and adds his magic, it'll be (much needed) icing on the cake.
Much of the practice was devoted to the 11-minute "Scream Medley," which strings together 12 Scream originals. It sounds like a grand waste of time -- who in the world will care? -- but I know it's going to be my favorite moment of the night.
The funny thing about the Scream reunion is that we're exclusively doing songs we used to do from sophomore year on. Like, we decided not to challenge ourselves and suddenly start playing "Belexis" by Kansas. Of course, we're all better musicians than we were back when we tramped through the hallowed halls of Cherry Hill High School East. Hopefully.