Saturday, March 21, 2015

Memory Lane

The Trip Begins

Taking a look back at the first song I composed with the aid of an electronic device is a trip. Well, the beginning of a trip. It began as just picking out notes on the piano, of course, and then experimenting with the cello, which has always been one of my favorite instruments. I'm convinced that loving music and the cello go hand-in-hand, and if you don't love the cello, you're dead inside. The Liverpool-style electric bass guitar is what really got this song going, though, and adding a dance beat came naturally after that.

The aim of making a digital album was already on my mind when I named this song and declared its original incarnation "finished." I already had the title Nothing Left To Lose picked out, inspired by the Janis Joplin song "Me and Bobby McGee," with an image of myself holding a patriotic coffee mug inscribed with the words "Freedom isn't free!" on it picked out for the cover. The theme of the album was to be my own personal journey through darkness, after the loss of my husband, my home, my job, all of my finances, and then no longer being able to care for my dog. Quite literally, I was at the point where I had "nothing left to lose," and I was drinking myself to death, which lead to my stay in the hospital and my current health issues.

"The Trip Begins" was meant as a dual meaning: the trip that music takes you on, and the trip of my personal journey into darkness and beyond. After beginning to write "A Determined Snail," with that gastropod's happy image and relentless forward motion in mind, the title took on a third meaning, which of course was the beginning of the Snail's journey. As the first song I had written as well as a starting point for the Snail, my intention was to make this the first track on Nothing Left To Lose. Of course, with the manifestation of "A Minor Distraction," I felt I had to release some of my material before I had enough for a full album. I felt I had to release a Progress Report.

When it came to figuring out which songs I would include on the EP and what order they would be in, it seemed as though "The Trip Begins" was the natural choice to start off the track list. I rewrote it into the version above for that purpose. Unfortunately, I no longer have the original version. I lost it during these revisions. And when the track list was coming together, I decided I didn't like beginning the EP with this song or how it led into "A Determined Snail," which resulted in me writing a whole new song ("Introducing...") to begin Progress Report with. Looking back, I'm still glad I made that choice. I'm almost embarrassed by this song now, and I feel "Introducing..." is much more representative of my music as a whole. But who knows? I may take some of the new ideas that went into this version of "The Trip Begins" to create a new incarnation which might still end up starting off Nothing Left To Lose when I finally get around to releasing it.

Amicus Fidelis Vale

This song I wrote for a very dear friend when I learned of his passing. Since he was four months old, Theo the Dog was not only my companion, but an extension of my soul. We became so close over the course of our eight years together that we could communicate nonverbally, and there were times when I should have paid attention to his signals and instincts that I did not realize until later. A leash was never needed, but tolerated. He loved me fiercely and jealously, and was sometimes ready to bite the head off of anyone who came between us. I could wrestle with him, tooth and claw, looking to others like he was mauling me and I was struggling to defend myself, and he would never hurt me or leave a mark. If I said "ouch," he would immediately stop what he was doing, sit, and wait to see if I was alright. Anyone who knew him knew he was the world's biggest sweetheart and a marvel of a beast. Those who didn't would not dare to fuck with him.

Unfortunately, after I had already suffered much loss, there came a time when we had no choice but to live in a situation that wasn't ideal for either of us. We lived in the home of an abusive control freak, someone who I learned after we had already lived there for a couple weeks was a habitual abuser of methamphetamine, and he restricted Theo's access to the home more and more, until he forced Theo to live in the garage. I had lost all of my finances and couldn't find any work anywhere in Portland. I was feeding Theo canned food purchased with food stamps, and he was losing a startling amount of weight. I had to admit to myself I could no longer care for him. I had to find him a new home.

Through a friend, I met a wonderful woman with a hippie-ish lifestyle and beliefs, who already had  very well-treated dogs and lived on several acres of land. Theo immediately took to her. I watched him jump into her vehicle with that huge goofy grin on his adorable, wrinkly face. I said good bye, and I had tears when we parted, he still had that smile, and I felt I unquestionably that I had done the right thing. He lived a year longer in the company of this woman and her dogs, romping happily on her land, and I am happy that that was the way he spent the remainder of his life.

Of course, I will always miss him, and I thought about him every day after we parted. I still think of him quite often, and feel the pain of his absence, particularly when I mistakenly use his name to address a new friend of mine named Rocko. When I learned of Theo's death, I had two choices: I could withdraw into myself and be miserable and sad, wrapping my inner being around an antimatter-like ball of grief, or I could focus on fond memories and creation and express myself in a constructive way. I chose the latter. I chose music. And it was indeed a wonderful way to process the finality of Theo's absence and a cathartic tool for moving onward.

I love this song. It's cheesy, it's beautiful, and it perfectly captures what I had in my mind's eye while I was writing it: a montage of grainy, home-movie like images of this magnificent beast happily galumphing through whatever landscape he found himself in. I don't believe I'll be including this song on any of The Lady anoNYMous' releases, but I think I will include it on a page dedicated to Theo's memory on this blog. A memorial for a friend, a companion, and a soul mate. Please share this post or the page with your friends, particularly those who love dogs, and help #TheoTheDog to trend.