Nov 19

Back To The Garden

an excerpt from I’m Trying To Reach You by Barbara Browning

I was in Woodstock the day that Les Paul died. Ellen and I were nearing Randy and Jeremy’s house when we heard it on the radio.

So this time I was the one who texted Sven with the big news, but he just answered: “vem är det?” I explained that he was the inventor of the electric guitar. Sven acknowledged the magnitude of the loss: “ufb!”

Ellen was also taken aback: “Wow. Les. Paul. It’s like the fucking name of the instrument.”
But they really had no concept of how hard this news was hitting me, considering the recent emergence of the electric guitar as a singular bone of contention in my alternative YouTube universe. Could the carper – or should I now be calling him the email jerk? – be going to such extremes of retaliation? Had the shift from uke to Les Paul really precipitated the taking up of the musket?
Of course I didn’t go into the whole story with Ellen. I just expressed the vague and general disbelief that many people must have been feeling that day. But I had a darker preoccupation. Something felt badly wrong.
I know, I know, Les Paul was 94 and he had pneumonia.
 

Randy and Jeremy weren’t there when we got to their house, but they’d left it open with a note telling Ellen and me to make ourselves at home. To her, that seemed to mean preparing herself a vodka tonic, lighting up a joint, and stretching out on a lawn chair in the backyard. To me, it meant tapping into their wireless connection on my laptop and getting some information.

 
Les Paul was somebody I knew of but had never paid a lot of attention to. But given the circumstances, I felt compelled to do a little research on him. As you surely know, he’s as well known for his talents as an inventor as for his musical gifts. It wasn’t just the solid-body electric guitar, either. He pretty much came up with multi-track recording. Some of his ideas came to him when he was very young, horsing around with his mother’s radio and telephone parts. I found a recent interview he’d done with Esquire, in which he told a story of being sick with the mumps at the age of five: “They threw me in a crib so I wouldn’t roll out onto the floor. And there’s a big bay window in my house, and that window stayed perfectly still until that train started to chug. At a certain speed, I could reach up and feel the pane, and that glass pane would vibrate. I said, Doggone, there’s got to be a reason for this. So I go to the kindergarten teacher, and she takes me to the science teacher, and the science teacher takes me to the library and reads it off to me – ‘This is called resonance.’ That was the beginning.”
 
Obviously, Les Paul was a genius, but he was always saying things like, “Doggone.” Then when I actually started to watch the videos of him on YouTube, I realized that his music was like that, too.
 
I also read a little bit about his relationship with Mary Ford, who was his wife and musical partner for many years. Her name was Colleen Summers when they met, but he encouraged her to change her name to Mary Ford. Why in the world would you encourage somebody to change her name from Colleen Summers to Mary Ford?
Les Paul was from Waukesha, Wisconsin. So was my mother.
 
 
Randy and Jeremy got home around six. They were coming back from the farmers’ market. I heard them pulling into the drive. Ellen appeared to have fallen asleep on that lawn chair, so I went out front and introduced myself, and then helped them in with the bags of produce. Randy had clunky black glasses and nearly shoulder-length blond hair which he tucked behind his ears. There was something very youthful and springy about him although I gathered from what Ellen said he was almost my age. He and Ellen had been at Princeton together. Jeremy was a little taller, and marginally less animated, though they both seemed pretty excited.
 

“Oh. My. God. Can you believe these heirloom tomatoes?!!!” Randy said as he began pulling them from a bag. “Jeremy, take a picture for Facebook!”

Jeremy couldn’t find his phone right away so I pulled mine out and snapped this:
 
“I LOVE THESE!!! YUM!!!” While Randy arranged the vegetables in the fridge, Jeremy began opening a bottle of red wine. Randy asked me how long I’d known Ellen and then told a funny anecdote about a performance art piece she’d done in 1990 at the Princeton Quad inspired by Carolee Schneeman’s Meat Joy.
 
“Oh, speaking of performances, you wouldn’t believe what you missed at the farmers’ market today. Brian Madden and the Neo-Trio – look, we bought the CD!” Jeremy passed it to me: Bi-Saxual in Woodstock. Brian Madden plays both tenor and alto. The photo on the back showed three white-haired guys with two saxes, an upright bass, and drums. One of their tunes was called “Mr. Al Fresco, the Outdoors Type.” Brian Madden had included some self-effacing comments on the back of the CD indicating that he didn’t consider himself to be in a league with the Charlie Parkers and the John Coltranes of the world, but that he hoped he spread a little pleasure by blowing his horns.
 
Jeremy said that after the Neo-Trio, Phil Void and the Dharma Bums had taken the stage. “Get it? Phil. Void. It’s very Zen!”
Randy widened his eyes and looked at me. “Oh. My. God. Ellen would LOVE Phil. We invited him and the Dharma Bums to swing by later.”
 
Jeremy handed me a glass of red wine, and another to Randy. We all tapped glasses and took a sip.
Ellen stumbled in, bleary eyed, and hugged her friends. She filled a large glass with water from the tap and leaned against the counter as Jeremy put me to work shucking corn. As I removed an ear, I noticed a flyer stuffed in the bag, and pulled it out. It was from the Woodstock Farmers’ Market Festival: “Super Fire Woman The Roller Dancing Super Hero of The Heart™ will be at the festival on September 2nd to sing an original rap song on her favorite subject, yes you guessed it, love and the power of self love on the main stage at 5:45pm. Tommy Be will be accompanying her on the frame drum.”
 
I was asking myself why I’d dawdled so long in coming to Woodstock.
We had those tomatoes with basil, olive oil, and sea salt. Delicious. Randy grilled some big bloody steaks. We boiled the corn, and Jeremy made a salad. We drank a lot of red wine, and Ellen asked Randy what Joan Acocella was like. She was asking for my benefit, but as I’ve already mentioned, I’m not a big one for professional gossip. Still, I was enjoying Randy’s storytelling.
 
Then Jeremy began giving us tips about skincare that he’d just learned from Nicholas Perricone and Jessica Wu, the celebrity dermatologists. Jeremy was a journalist, and he did some pretty heavy-duty stories – he’d recently been on the road with Hillary Clinton for a profile in Vogue – but on account of his job, he was also privy to some beauty secrets. He’d spoken with several research scientists as well: the truth was, antioxidants and other micronutrients could indeed have a beneficial effect on the skin’s elasticity and clarity, but there was no reason to think they could actually be absorbed through the epidermis.
 
“The moral of the story is,” he said, looking at Ellen conspiratorially, “eat your face cream.”
I looked at the remnants of the heirloom tomatoes on my plate and imagined them slathered with face cream.
 
Later in the evening Phil Void and the Dharma Bums showed up. They played some Grateful Dead tunes and we all drank more red wine. Ellen did an interpretive dance. I got pretty drunk.
Before I went to bed I texted Sven the following incomprehensible message: “hanging w hippies wish u wr here eat ur face cream xoxo.”
He just answered, “?” I was already asleep.
 
 
The next day I woke up with a headache and the unnerving sense that I’d been neglecting something.
 
Ellen was snoring. We were sharing the guest bedroom. She had the bed, and I’d slept on a piece of foam wrapped in a sheet on the floor. That may sound uncomfortable, but I actually like a hard sleeping surface. It was Ellen’s basso honking that woke me up. I pulled a t-shirt and a pair of shorts over my underwear and tip-toed out to the living room.
 
Evidence of the prior night’s party was strewn around the house: wine glasses with crusts of wine like dried blood in the bottom, a skanky bong, some pretzels ground into the rug. I looked at the kitchen clock: 7:45. Fuck. I began to clean up, as quietly as possible.
 
Randy and Jeremy had thoughtfully prepared the coffee maker and left an index card propped against it explaining how to turn it on. I found some ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet of the guest bathroom. After dosing myself with analgesics and caffeine and downing a large glass of water, I settled down with my laptop and got to work.
 
It will not surprise you to learn that by “work” I do not mean revisions on my academic manuscript. Nor, in fact, do I mean preparations for my upcoming talk at NYU.
I mean Les Paul research.
 
I found a somewhat informative, short documentary on YouTube. It was narrated by a young woman who seemed to have control of most of the basic biographical facts, but it was a little irksome that she kept mispronouncing Waukesha. She said, “wauKESHa.” The correct pronunciation, of course, is “WAUkesha.”
 
Just a day after Paul’s demise, the page was already filling up with “RIP” comments, as well as the usual pontificating, gay bashing, and existential philosophizing. Some of this (like my own, above) seemed to have been produced by that Waukesha pronunciation problem.
 
handdancinIts: not wa-KESH-a,_ its WAH-ke-SHAW.MaCro1319R.I.P. i cired when i_ heard he died man i fucking cryd my eyes out lik a little bitch
 
idahovandal: walk-a-shaw
Necrolokost: Même en France on sait que vous étiez un grand monsieur. Allez en paix_ !
There was a particularly testy exchange between x3min3nt-pwnagexand some other musicologists regarding Paul’s purported influence on Led Zeppelin which I reproduce here in part:
x3min3ntpwnagex: Maybe its just me, but I don’t hear the influence on Pagey. I_ know just about every Zeppelin song there is to know on guitar and I just don’t see it or hear it. Page was influenced more by the blues than the jazzy licks from Les.
Grefintiuk: he play very good and original
 
jdlewis60: On the solo’s. Page minces the chords with the leads. Achilles Last Stand is a good example. Though the progression is hard rock, the technique remains the same (no pun intended). Also,_ the speed.
 
brttfarvroools: faggit u suck dick
 
beenohopps: she says it funny, where_ hes from. waukesha. its pronounced wah keh shaw. not wa ke sha.
 
x3min3ntpwnagex: There is still no evidence of Les Paul’s sound coming through with Page. He influenced Pagey personally, but didn’thave a major effect on the sound of Page’s music.
 
b1llybrown: “Now thats where I heard feedback first from Les Paul. Also vibratos and things.Even before B.B. King, you know, Ive traced a hell of a lot of rock and roll, little riffs and things, back to Les Paul. I mean hes the father of it all: multi-tracking and everything else. If it hadnt been for him,_ there wouldnt have been anything really.” Jimmy Page 1977 …stupid boy… i hope you are enlightened, asshole.
 
wifebeater79: i have the utmost_ respect for this dude cuz if he didn’t invent the electric guitar i dont know how i could exist in this shitty world
 
x3min3ntpwnagex: Well then, enlighten me. What Led Zeppelin songs do you hear_ a Les Paul influence? Also, please let_ me enlighten you. “your” ≠ “you are”. Asshole. =)
 
b1llybrown: your_ an idiot. i hope your kidding.
 
I wasn’t sure if b1llybrown was persisting in misspelling you’re on purpose.
It was vaguely disconcerting to me that the most heartfelt and least pompous comment on this page was produced by somebody called wifebeater79.
 
 
Randy and Jeremy had a place in Manhattan. Usually Randy stayed in the city during the week on account of his job atThe New Yorker. Jeremy would sometimes go up to Woodstock if he wanted to get some writing done, and Randy would join him on the weekend. This week, though, Randy came up early. The whole town was gearing up for Sunday – they were holding the 40th anniversary of the famous 1969 rock concert. There was going to be a Heroes of Woodstock show that Sunday at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which overlooked Max Yasgur’s farm where the original muddy party took place.
 
Ellen and I had thought we’d just spend one night up there – we hadn’t even made the connection about the anniversary – but now Randy and Jeremy were urging us to stay, and after that night of rocking out with Phil and the Dharma Bums, we were sort of getting into the spirit of things. Also, of course, this seemed strangely felicitous to me, given my new preoccupation with distortion guitar. I didn’t mention this to my friends.
 
When Randy and Jeremy got up around 11:00 that morning, I’d pretty much gotten the living room under control. Randy started frying bacon, and Jeremy asked me if I wanted a Mimosa. It was very sweet of him to offer but for obvious reasons I declined. Ellen soon emerged, and of course she accepted.
 
She asked Randy how far it was to Phoenicia. He laughed and asked her if she had a hankering for a little action with a biker. Phoenicia was just about a ten-minute drive away. It was evidently a slightly more testosterone-soaked corner of Ulster County. But it turned out that Phil had told Ellen about a Buddhist retreat there where they did Reiki. They also had somebody who did craniosacral massage. Ellen wanted to check this place out. She thought maybe she could pick up some bodywork clients there, at least on a seasonal basis.
 
Randy had some gardening he wanted to get done that day, and Jeremy was editing a story on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Although I would have been happy to sit in the guest room with my laptop doing more Les Paul research, I thought it might be good to get out of our hosts’ hair for a little while, despite their hospitality. I told Ellen I’d go along for the ride to Phoenicia.
 
Ellen’s car was a dark red 1988 Hyundai Excel. The passenger-side door made a slightly worrisome rattling sound when she went over 30 MPH or so. I strapped myself in. She had the radio tuned to Cruisin’ 93.5, Good Time Rock ‘n’ Roll. They were playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Ellen was driving barefoot and when we got to a light she put one foot up on the dashboard, leaned her head back, closed her eyes and sang, “In Birmingham they love the Gov’nor. Now we all did what we could do. Now Watergate does not bother me. Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth…” This was weird because Ellen is, like me, a brown person from a northern state. Minnesota, to be exact. I assumed she knew the “Gov’nor” in question was George Wallace.
 
I said, “You like this song?”
She looked at me sideways and said, “Gray, you take things too literally.” I was starting to wonder about the wisdom of driving to a biker enclave in the Catskills with Ellen. I was hoping she was not going to get pulled over by some Phoenicia traffic cop for having her bare feet up on the dashboard. If I knew Ellen she also had some pot in the glove compartment.
 
When we got to the Buddhist retreat center, the guy at the front desk appeared to be a college intern. He was very young and a little spacey. I wondered if he went to Bard. It seemed likely. The craniosacralist wasn’t in that day, although the Reiki practitioner had an appointment that afternoon. Ellen asked him if they ever needed more seasonal staff, but when he explained that the pay was basically room and board and free admission to the spiritual transformation workshops, she just looked at me.
 
We decided to get lunch in town. One of the main attractions in Phoenicia is a place on Main Street with outdoor seating called the Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina. It wasn’t entirely clear to me what the relation was between the three parts of that name. Phoenicia is the water tubing capitol of the Catskills, and people also go there to fish, so I thought maybe that’s what they meant by Sportsman. But why the Alamo, and why a Cantina? A laminated card on the table said, “At the Alamo you have the choice of ordering from either the Brio’s Pizzeria and Restaurant menu from next door or our unique Mexican menu.” I found the option of two cuisines confusing. Go Italian, with Brio? Or pretend we were in an authentic Mexican cantina? But there was an enormous wooden sculpture of Davy Crockett right there next to the patio, and though he was smiling broadly, wouldn’t his image implicitly be urging patrons to “Remember the Alamo”? We were supposed to do this by eating very mildly spiced Mexican food?
 
Again, Ellen thought I was over-literalizing. She ordered a Frozen Margarita. She said, “Damn, too bad we’re not staying till Tuesday.” The menu said that on Tuesday nights they served “$3 Margs.”
I just asked for water, and a plain quesadilla. I was a little worried about cash flow. I hadn’t anticipated spending the whole long weekend out of town. While Ellen was as broke as me, she was more prone to throw caution to the wind.
I looked up at that enormous sculpture. I said, “Davy Crockett looks like he has an afro.”
Ellen said, “Oh my God, you’re right. That’s so weird.”
That’s exactly what Sven texted back when I sent him the photo that night: “som är så konstigt :O”
Even Crockett’s features looked kind of African. Ellen, Davy Crockett, and I appeared to be the only people of African descent in Phoenicia. Actually, I just fact-checked this. According to Wikipedia, at the time of the last census, there were 381 people living in Phoenicia, and .26% of them were African American. I put that through my calculator: that would be one person. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t counting Davy Crockett.
 
After we finished eating, we decided to take a walk down Main Street. There was a boutique for “birders,” an “oddity emporium,” and a store that sold “nostalgic candies and games.” Then we came to another gift shop that also appeared to be catering to day-trippers like ourselves. Ellen and I again paused before the shop window.
 
If I tell you I suddenly felt queasy, you will surely attribute this to the quesadilla at Sportsman’s Alamo Cantina. Or maybe you will agree with Ellen that I just have a tendency to take things too seriously.
 
In the window of the store were two fake street signs saying, “BIKER BITCH DR” and “BIKES – BABES – BEER.” Well, this wasn’t really my style, of course, but that’s not what was freaking me out. It was the life-size cutout of John Wayne in a ten-gallon hat, modeling an apron emblazoned with the warning: “You can bite a HOG’S ASS if you don’t like my cookin’!”
I was looking at John Wayne’s face, and despite the cheeky tone of his novelty apron, I felt him gazing deep into my inner being.
He knew something about me. And he was concerned.
 
Beside him, two other novelty aprons screamed what his pitying gaze implied: “KITCHEN BITCH!” “DON’T MAKE ME POISON YOUR FOOD!” I thought maybe I was going to faint.
 
I covered by snapping another photo with my phone. Ellen said, “Let’s go back to Randy and Jeremy’s. It’s almost cocktail time.”
I didn’t even send this photo to Sven.
 
 
Friday night we played Bananagrams and Ellen got wasted. Because she kept shouting obscenities and threatening to remove an article of clothing when forced to pick up new tiles, Jeremy suggested we play by the simplified “Banana Smoothie” rules, in which there is no “peeling” or “dumping.” This just seemed to further encourage her and before long she and Randy were streaking in the backyard. I thought of Tomislav Gotovac and Vlasta Delimar. Jeremy and I remained inside. He put down “hoc” and said triumphantly, “Bananas!” I challenged him, and indeed, his closing move wasn’t recognized as a word in English by the authority on which we had agreed to rely: “hoc, it turns out, isn’t in the free Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, where you just searched.” But the page also said, “However, it is available in our premium Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. To see that definition in the Unabridged Dictionary, start your FREE trial now.” This was confusing. Was Jeremy a Rotten Banana or not?
 
We looked at each other. I was tired, and frankly I’m not a particularly competitive person anyway, so I decided to concede. Jeremy was apologetic. It really wasn’t such a big deal. We could hear Randy and Ellen squealing in the backyard. Jeremy and I embraced in a sportsmanlike fashion and I went to bed. Just before I turned out the lights, I got a kind of troubling text from Sven: “Jag är ensam :-( ” I’m lonely. I decided not to answer until the morning. I didn’t wake up when Ellen came in. I even slept through her snoring.
 
 
Needless to say, Randy and Ellen slept in on Saturday. Jeremy was working in his office. I set myself up on the couch with my laptop and started, ostensibly, figuring out what section of my manuscript I was going to present for my NYU lecture. I wanted to see if I could find a video clip of Forsythe’s New Sleep on YouTube. It took about a minute to get my answer: no.
 
I looked at the little “search” box at the top of the YouTube screen.
I typed in: AhNethermostFun.
 
Bingo.
 
She’d posted a dance on her new channel. It was another of Satie’s GnossiennesLent – but played on electric guitar in the same psychedelic mode as that “Natural Woman” dance. The sound was extraordinary – Satie’s indefinite Orientalism transmuted into a trippy rock ‘n’ roll dreamscape. The moth’s dance was a concentrated meditation, unabashedly, almost embarrassingly sensual. I thought I saw a familiar, faint half-smile on her lips.
 
The first comment was from ACabFreshenerOnTypos: “the secret shall be told; All these separations and gaps shall be taken up and hook’d and link’d together.” Hm. Ironically, his call for disclosure was perhaps his most enigmatic utterance yet.
 
Nethermost responded, it seemed, with some misgivings about the freshener’s proposed candor: “A Secret told – Ceases to be a Secret – then – ”
 
And, though it didn’t surprise me, I couldn’t suppress a shudder when I saw that the email jerk had immediately crashed this party: “Whooooa there nelly, WHAT IS IT ABOUT _LENT YOU DONT UNDERSTAND??? You know what the duke said: ‘SCREW AMBIGUITY. PERVERSION AND CORUPTION MASQUERADE AS AMBIGIUTY.I DONT TRUST AMBIGUTY.’ No esriously I cn dig it but I still thnk u need to work on ur turnout. Also I have a dlvery 4 u – Stork Club next weak??B there or b □!!!”
 
Wow. His typing was really deteriorating. The more distressing thing, of course, was that he seemed to be proposing yet another physical encounter with Nethermost – this time at an extinct but storied nightclub. wtf?
 
Speaking of deteriorating: so was the level of discussion on that Les Paul documentary video. Somebody had posted something about how Michael Jackson had gotten so much more attention when he died and then everybody and his brother seemed to jump in saying what a “fuckin freak” MJ was and the attention he got compared to Les was a case of “revearse dis-crimanation” and somebody said, “Let em stick to their jungle boogie music” which was when I started to feel a little dizzy again and I had to get off YouTube.
 
 
I texted Sven an anagram of his name: “danger! doves!”
He answered, “thats so weird just watched the birds.”
I said, “dodge ravens!”
He said, “:)”
He also said his stomach hurt and I told him to try to eat anyway.
 
Although I’d mentioned hanging with hippies and I’d sent that shot of the Davy Crockett sculpture, I hadn’t actually come out and told him I was spending a few days in Woodstock. I just thought it might make him feel a little left out. He could be like that sometimes. I didn’t like to hurt Sven.
 
The Woodstock reunion concert was only scheduled for one day, although the original festival was August 15, 16, and 17. In point of fact, Hendrix didn’t come on until 8:00 a.m. on Monday the 18th, which sounds like early morning, but was actually more like really, really, really late Sunday night. As everyone knows, the 1969 concert was muddy, messy, and somewhat disorganized, though apparently sublime. The 40th anniversary concert was pretty clean but not exactly, at least from my perspective, mind-blowing.
There were some old hippies, of course, and that was kind of heartening. I’d really never seen so much tie-dye.
Jeremy had managed to get us all press passes. This was a good thing because I wouldn’t otherwise have had enough cash for a ticket, but it made me feel a little sheepish and as though I really ought to be taking notes. But as I said, I often feel like I’m doing research anyway.
 
We’d brought a blanket, and we staked out our own little plot.
 
The legally blind, virtuosic 15-year-old electric guitarist Conrad Oberg opened the event playing a pretty faithful cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.” His technique was impeccable and everyone was very impressed and also moved, considering his age and handicap. Still, you couldn’t help but feel that Oberg’s fidelity to the original performance might have deprived the moment of some of its transformative potential. But of course, you couldn’t really expect a 15-year-old to attempt to one-up Jimi Hendrix. Also, what the hell am I talking about, “transformative potential”? This sounds like one of those workshops at the Buddhist retreat center in Phoenicia.
 
I didn’t want to be the snarky egghead that day, but really, what did any of us expect? To recapture something some of us had missed and others had surely romanticized in their recollections? In the domain of performance theory, it seems we’d suddenly hit the era of “reperformance” – a proliferation of cultural phenomena actively demonstrating our incapacity to come up with anything as politically or aesthetically appealing as the art we were collectively mourning. Was this interesting, or was it catastrophically boring?
 
This was my inner monologue, listening to Conrad Oberg shredding derivatively on the stage at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Ellen was standing next to me and I suspect she was thinking more or less the same thing, or at least the part up to “transformative potential,” but when the song was over we both just said, “Wow.” Randy and Jeremy were both tweeting on their iPhones.
 
There were several “Heroes” performing that day, i.e., individuals who had actually performed at the original festival. Levon Helm was there, Tom Constanten from the Grateful Dead, and Country Joe McDonald. The band Mountain played, and the guitarist got married right there on the stage. He seemed pretty well preserved, all things considered, and he had on stylish white glasses. His bride looked significantly younger, and she had on a flouncy white wedding gown.
 
An older lady with frizzy, gray hair in a sundress turned around and said to Ellen and me, “You know, at the original Woodstock two babies were born.” There didn’t appear to be any births taking place at the anniversary concert, though I did see a couple of very pregnant women.
 
I already mentioned, I’m not a big fan of marriage, but I admit I sometimes get a little choked up when I find myself witnessing a ceremony. Ellen, however, was having none of this. When the guitarist from Mountain started taking his vows, she just said, “Gross. Let’s get some beer.”
Randy and Jeremy had disappeared some time ago. I suspected they might be doing some kind of drug. I thought it was probably just as well that Ellen wasn’t in on that action, but a beer didn’t sound that dangerous. She bought a round and later I reciprocated – tall boys of PBR. I almost never drink beer. It was kind of refreshing.
 
When we got back to our spot, Jocko Marcellino from Sha Na Na was singing a song with Canned Heat. I believe I already admitted to my relative cluelessness about the history of rock ‘n’ roll, so some of these names didn’t mean a lot to me, but I certainly knew about Jefferson Starship. Big Brother and the Holding Company also played. Ellen had to explain to me that this was Janis Joplin’s band, although they didn’t actually play with her at the original Woodstock. Obviously, they were not joined by her now, but there was a Japanese pop singer named Shiho Ochi (“of Superfly”) that performed two Joplin songs with them – “Down on Me” and “Piece of My Heart.” Apparently this was being filmed as part of a TV special about her obsession with Janis Joplin. Shiho Ochi was young and thin and pretty and she had on a black and white striped outfit with bellbottoms and fringe. She was also technically proficient and you could certainly see how much she liked Janis, but somehow it didn’t seem to have quite the right spirit. I’m sure I shouldn’t be grousing about this. After all, what did I really know about Janis Joplin?
 

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    I can’t explain exactly what it has to do with Browning’s book, only that something about the feel of her book would be...
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