Happy new year. normally i am quite indifferent to the passing of a calender year, but for some reason as new years eve approached i felt that 2007 was going to be a really high times year. dont' know why. infact everything was going pretty swimmingly until thursday night, as i rode home from looking for max on campus about 11pm. i always meant to write about the really amazing ride from campus to home, about 2 miles of gently sloping road, so you can freewheel the whole way if you build up speed in the right places and corner well. i got a new racing tire on the front of my bike (the back has a fat mountain bike tyre so i don't know if the overall effect cancels itself out) and was going pretty fast, making the deadly mistake of trying to ring max one last time incase he had appeared in an area with signal, but no he didn't answer and then i looked up at the moon and wondered whether it was full or not and then i looked down and at that moment smacked into the high curb and went flying over my handlebars and landed hard on my face. and what do you know, my mouth is wet and i have lost at least one tooth. wank. so some guy pulls up and asks me if i want a ride to the hospital, which i hadn't considered (i do fall off my bike now and then, and usually it is ok, and i was a bit dazed) but said ok, and then we stopped to ask directions from a policewoman, who entirely overreacted to my mashed up face and insisted on calling paramedics, and within 10 minutes there were 2 police cars, a fire truck (for some reason paramedics are linked to fire engines aswell as ambulances) and an ambulance around me, and wasn't i quite the celebrity.
so in the ambulance they rang ahead to the hospital to see if their trauma unit was open, because if it wasn't i was going to have to be airlifted to san jose instead. fortunately it was open, cos the paramedic was like 'yeah i have just saved you $15000 right off the bat', then hospital and a young doctor who looked out to prove that it is actually possible to be cooler than the scrubs cast, strutting around the place with too much gel in his hair, and 6 people stood over me as he rammed two teeth back into my mouth and checked i didn't have any back, head or neck injuries. that bit hurt, but not as much as the realisation that i wasn't going to be able to play clarinet at the gig i was meant to have the next day, friday, that i had been practicing for in literally all the free hours i had that day and the day before. FUCK. i tentatively asked the doctor how long i woudln't able to play for, he gave an entirely unhelpful wry smile and said at least a month.
then they xrayed one of my fingers, cleaned me up, gave me some vicodin (like off that stone roses song Feel Good Hit of the Summer) and sent me on my way. fortunately, rose emily and isa, my three flatmates were all waiting for me and drove me home, i was so glad i hadn't elected to stay by myself in the old house (as i will explain), being ill and lonely is the worst. i wasn't really convinced with the work they had done at the hospital, cos i was still bleeding and one of my teeth was about 2 mm lower than all the others so i couldn't close my mouth. and they were all a bit wobbly.
then yesterday i got an emergency appointment with a REALLY NICE dentist (i know, i didn't think it was possible either) , who genuinely felt sorry for me and who i seemed to win over with a PMA. first though i had to fill in a load of forms (how many times a day do YOU floss?), and i had no idea about whether iw as covered on insurance. the dentist looked at me in disbelief when i told him that the doctor had just shoved the teeth back in, cos he sad one of the teeth was dirty and another had a crack right up it so obviously wasn't going to be able to regrow. so in the end he had to take 3 teeth out (there was even an infection starting behind one of the teeth already), my two main top front teeth and one of my canines next to it. whilst the hot mexican nurse was cleaning me up he came back in and was like 'you don't have insurance do you?' and i was like 'er...i dunno' and he was like 'well you don't. mmm...a learned musician with no insurance, don't see many of them, maybe i can cut you a deal' and then he has properly sorted me out, charging me for about 1/3 of what he should have, so basically $800 instead of over $2500, what a nice man, i woudl have been fucked otherwise. he even rang me later that day to see how i was. he had eric clapton posters on his wall and said i was the worst case he had seen in his 6 year career except for an old woman who fell down the stairs into her washing machine.
then, high on vicodin and still bleeding, i went into battle with the UCSC insurance monolith. stealthily, and with steel in my eyes i demanded the cheaper generic versions of the brand name anti-biotics and more vicodin i had prescription for (i got it), then, with all the charm of prince william on horseback in the colonies, justified to the gloomy insurance people that my teeth were an emergency procedure and that i definatily was not drunk or high when i crashed my bike (i wasn't). how can you argue with someone with a lip as fat as their highlighter? but still the whole thing is bollocks, imagine if i had had to be airlifted to san jose, or if i had had to have surgery or something (max's grandma's heat bypass cost $700,000, about £375000 just for the actual time in the operating theatre) and just couldn't pay, imagine having to risk your own life conciously because you could n't pay for healthcare in the immediacy!!!!!!!!!!! or worse, if you were an illegal immigrant and you couldn't even go to see a doctor because you knew you would be deported! at any point i could have been like 'no i don't want an ambulance ill get a taxi' or 'no i dont' want an xray ill just risk it' or even 'no i won't go to hospital ill just wait to see a doctor in the morning'. and this is a microcosm of a huge question that must be faced by people all the time here. say you had a relative in a on life support and your heath insurance maxed out (which it can, even if you have the best plans)- do you let them die? and if you were that patient, you had to choose between your life of your families' financial stability? how do the people of the 'richest', 'most advanced', 'most comfortable' and 'god blessed' country tolerate this? apparently, unless you are in a really really bad way you can actually just be put out on the street.
but this is all part of the american dream that i am here to find. the logic goes that if you WORK HARD and LOOK AFTER YOUR FAMILY you can AFFORD heathcare and it is NOT AN ISSUE. and adam smith and the Trickle Down theory explain the rest. but come on america, open your eyes, the only thing tricking down is the scared piss down the leg of a million salesmen not meeting their monthly quotas. this is at the same time, by the way, as freedom fried france declare that housing is a human right for everyone and promise to build hundreds of thousands of homes to accomdate the country's homeless.
but i digress. the situation now is that i have lost the endearing wonky front teeth i had, dried blood up my nose that i can' get out, look pretty silly at the moment (noone told me to ice my lip, so it is still really big on one side) and cant play any bastarding clarinet or saxophone for minimum a month, maybe much longer. i am actually pretty gutted abotu this, it is going to really disable my jazz theory class which i was so excited about and also (even yesterday) when jamming i can just hear these clarinet lines over whatever music is going on and i just can't realise them arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but i guess i will get a bit better on the piano in the meantime. for a while i thought i wasn't going to be able to smoke (and for at least a few seconds considered this a good thing) but now i have adapted a hollowed out biro into a sort of catheter so the smoke bypasses my stumpy gums, then i blow out through my nose. foolproof.
before this fiasco though my holiday season had been lovely. mum came over on the 16th for 2 weeks, she was pretty tired and jet lagged when she got here but the santa cruz sun soon sorted that out, and before christmas we went down the Big Sur, a stretchof national park with the infamous Highway 1 winding down it, exceedingly beautiful, then through LA, hollywood, beverly hills, nightmarish LA highways with 8 lanes and MENTAL drivers and me navigating, down to a fruity international hostel in san diego, next to the mexican border (my mum travelled loads when she was younger, and had been in plenty of these places, and i had too in various situations, but we had never been there together, so it was quite interesting) nightmarish LA highways with 8 lanes and MENTAL drivers and me navigating, then back up to malibu where we stayed at a hotel with its own beach, la wrapped around the coast glowing orange in the distance and almost as many plane lights flashing as stars int he sky. i sat for a long time late at night on that beach. that night actually the housing fiasco that was brewing last time i wrote to you came to a head- turned out rose and emily's mum had been swapping bitchy emails with our landlord and wanted to move out without notice, and in the end i got an email (after i had written him a nice one saying i probably wanted to stay please) saying that he wanted everyone to move out unless someone was prepared to take on full lead tenant responsibilities, which i wasn't, so i decided to take up the girls' offer of the garage of the house they were moving into, and that is where i am sat now. this new house, which i moved into on new years eve morning, is closer to campus than the old one, is quite new, 50 years old, and is a big change from anything i have lived in before; it has a swimmign pool, hot tub, massive manicured garden and a sort of balcony terrace that looks over the garden and gets sun right till sunset. then a minibar, a fireplace, 2 living rooms etc etc. i feel a bit intimidated actually, like i am living in scalby. im not allowed to drink wine over the white carpets and the house is so open plan that i can't, for example, listen to the radio whilst the TV is being watched. but as soon as spring comes and i can make full use of the garden and swimming pool i think it will be worth it. my garage was already divided into one big bit and two small bits so i have put my bed in one and will put max's synth in the other and hopefully it will end up quite homely, if chilly. just need to get some carpet...
christmas itself would have been a complete non-event if it wasn't for chirstmas day at rich and ernie's. they delivered their usual jamboree of festive spirit and taste-bud defying food, notably hot sun dried tomatos with stilton, melt in your mouth ravioli and the fattest joint of beef i have ever seen. the company was great too, old bob gave me a couple of dixieland cds and their context and there was a chinese girl from austin, texas, who told me all about growing up in the heart of the KKK (not nice). oooh and on a side note i have found an amazing mbira player in berkeley, a couple of house away who was a white american teenage girl in turbulant colonial zimbabwe in the 70s (then rhodesia) who ran into some of the zimbabwean legendary mbira players and who has written really helpful and interesting articles on the problems and solutions of teaching mbira to westerners, a music completely wedded to its cultural heritage to the point where even the concepts of music, its function, time and relationship between performer and audience are fundamentally different. check out www.mbira.org to read her theories. so anyway she put me in touch with another mbira player who lives not very far away at all that i am going to go play with as soon as my lip gets a bit smaller and i don't have a lissssp when i tsing.
before my mum left she got chatted up by this guy who invited me and her to an open mic, so we went and drank hot chocolate and it was mainly poetry, this guy who smelled in a beret who delivered improvised poetry like allen ginsberg, an silly middle aged new aged woman in sweattrousers and a purple bandana to cover her graying hair, who read ok poetry and then sang a crappy long song, and when her 7minutes were up and she was signaled to get off the stage she finished and then stuck her middle finger up at the MC and shouted at him,a nd then there was a slagging match 'dont' give me any shit today terry, i can't deal with it' like they had been at it before, and then i played mbira and clarinet and it was ok, but i was aware of the time limit and so didn't properly lose myself in it. but it was cool actually, i said after the mbira, as i unpacked my clarinet, that it was nice to get into the spirit of things and so this was going to be an improvisation of the spirit in the room, and then i played a bit and it was far too mellow and bouncy for the room, so i got atonal and then stopped and was like 'this represents the bit where eveyrone got aggro' and the played a howlingly grating note and then carried on, but then ended without flourish, but everyone semed to like it. embaressing stuff viz mike- he was trying to tread a fine line between being friendly with me and hitting on my mum, but i knew that he wasn't going to get anywhere, so played along, and then there was the extra dimension of 'if mike is hitting on this woman, and she has a son, where is the father'? which i think is what some people were thinking, it was a small well lit room, the kind that sometimes noias me ouit totally, but mike looked a bit noiad so i felt ok (funny that, isn't it? like when really drunk peoplego on abot how drunk the most drunk person is as a kind of salvation for themselves).
so my mum left on new years eve and max picked me up from the airport in san fran where i said bye. we went to his home village of kenwood, sonoma county, famous for its wine, rugged coastline, good food, and hippie attitude. we went to a funk show, les claypool (from primus), a bit like synergy in london with trippy visuals, kids running around, stupid drink prices and lots of silly hats. not everyone was on class As though and you could smuggle beer in quite easily, and when the bouncer tapped me on the shoulder and told me i couldn't smoke weed inside he didn't kick me out and was very cordial. but mainly it was about the FUNK all the time- first the new orleans social club who were old school and great, then les claypool witha sax going through effects, a sitar player with a headress and a theramin called wendy lala and two really spectacular percussionists. all this for free cos shelley, max's friend, knew one of the organisers. i realised i had only been to one show since i got here, and was well up for a little dance, especially after being with my mum for 2 weeks straight. so we smoked and drank and danced and i totally almost pulled and then, surprise surprise, got too noiad to make any sort of dignified move. but i did borrow shelley's access all areas pass and went backstage, blagging around and eating and drinking for free. then i went to the bar i thoguht was for the people with the passes like me, but it wasnt so she tried to iD and charge me, but i just showed her my pass and was like 'errr...i am with the first band, the new orleans 'social club' and she was like 'ok there you go!.
then the next afternoon we with max's parents to this almost literal castle owned by a guy who has just published a leadership self help bookm for new age businessmen, capitalism is allowed ofcourse, we ate amazing food, made small talk with plastic surgeons, ate more food, then went back to max's for a jam. and what a jam it was- max's little brother, only 15, is a really special guitarist, already gigging solo at his age, and a bass player and another guitar player came around and we based our first jam on that sigur ros riff- doo dooo doo do do do do do do do do do do doooooooo dooooo , which went really nicely with piano, synth and the usuals, and then on and on and on for about 5 or 6 hours, then sat in max's lavender field and he gave me my christmas present, a genuine native american flute, and we played together and i was exceedingly happy.
gosh this email is getting long, perhaps i shoudl finish it here. tito, one of the new flatmates and rose's boyfriend has brewed me up a shitload of stalks cos i can't in theory smoke, and the smell is wafting even into the garage. my new address is
209 Fridley Drive
if this is all really boring let me know