Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


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Musical Memory

Yesterday I met up with a friend who works at Scholastic, the company that publishes Young Adult and Children’s books and educational material. She was kind enough to give me a tour of their very cool building, right in the middle of SoHo. In the lobby, they have about half a dozen letters from famous authors, journalists and (for some reason) Alec Baldwin, meant to inspire children writers. The best note was from Arthur Miller, which I will have to add later (I forgot to write it down).

At lunch my friend and I got to talking about my late husband K and how music played such a big role in his life. He used to work in the music department of DreamWorks Animation, contributing to the soundtracks of some of the biggest animated films like Shrek, Madagascar, The Prince of Egypt, and many others. Later he worked at Capitol Records (in the famous Capitol Records building), licensing their catalogue to films, television shows, commercials, sports, etc.

It still amazes me how much of our relationship revolved around music. When we first started dating he would give me CDs as gifts, both music that he received at work and thought I would like, and music compilations that he put together specifically. He was an expert at hip hop, heavy metal, rock and blues, he rarely went to see a band unless he was on the list (the exception being bands he really loved like The Black Keys), and he always got the VIP treatment.

We once had an argument at a Brother Ali concert at the El Rey (Brother Ali is a white albino rapper). He surprised me with tickets to Atmosphere (another hip hop group) for my birthday in 2008. We listened to hours upon hours of music during road trips. We saw shows at venues all over Los Angeles and Gogol Bordello, Clutch, The Roots and Wu Tang Clan at the 9:30 in D.C.

When he got sick we started going to less shows, and near the end, I was choosing the music for him. After his seizures, when he was unconscious, I played his favorite band Clutch on Pandora in the ICU, hoping somehow the music would bring him back. When he woke up, he couldn’t remember what year it was, but when the doctor asked him “What’s your favorite band?” he answered without hesitation, “Clutch!”

Later, when he was on hospice, I played blues and reggae softly in the background. I was surprised to find dozens of Chopin pieces on his iPod. “I didn’t know you liked Chopin,” I told him. “Lotta things you don’t know,” he replied with a smile.

At his memorial, I asked a friend of K’s to play two Chopin pieces live, including this one (which was also played at Chopin’s funeral):

To this day, my most treasured possession is K’s iPod. I take it with me everywhere I go and listen to it almost exclusively. It used to be ahead of its time because he was always listening to music before it came out. Now, it’s frozen in time because I will never change his playlists.


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Birthday Memories

On 10/11/12 I turned 42. I didn’t realize the symmetry of the date until someone pointed it out to me. I took it as a good omen, like everything is lining up.

A year ago I felt the complete opposite. My birthday was the first in a series of emotional milestones following my husband’s death.

Kaz is both the reason I am sad, and the inspiration for my happiness. He had mastered the rare art of Zen. Not the bullshit, new-agey Zen emoted by some yoga instructors and “energy healers” but the real inner peace and hardcore happiness shared by life long motorcycle riders like him.

Since his passing, I have made it my mission to try and be more like him. But last year’s birthday it was nearly impossible. All I could do was compare it to the three previous birthdays I had shared with him. He always made a point of making them special.

In Year 1 of our relationship he got us VIP tickets to Atmosphere, a hip hop group he had introduced me to and I had grown to love. A week before my birthday he heard they were coming to Los Angeles and the concert was already sold out. He had to pull a lot of strings to get us tickets, was panicked about it not working out, and when the manager responded the day before the concert he said it made his week.

This concert is where I said “I love you” for the first time. “What?” he responded, pointing at his earplugs. I yelled back at him: “I LOVE YOU!” He smiled, said something that I couldn’t hear and didn’t ask him to repeat. I turned around and kept dancing, then felt his hands on my hips.

In Year 2, he rented a Honda Goldwing and takes me on a 300-mile ride up Route 1 and into the farm country near Santa Barbara. Totally magical – and not only on the ride. When he went to return the Goldwing the next day, a man struck up a conversation with him about motorcycles at the gas station in Santa Monica. Kaz later strolled into the apartment saying, “Guess who I ran into at the gas station.” “Who?” I asked. “Christian Bale!” “What?!” I screamed. He laughed. “I know!!”

In Year 3, he asked his doctors to hold off on his second resection surgery by a few days so we could celebrate my 40th birthday together, first at a party with all of our closest friends, then two days in Joshua Tree National Park, our favorite getaway spot.

Last year, the first year without him, I spent a rainy evening at Occupy Oakland with a friend and her 4-year old daughter and had drinks with other friends. It was fun, but everything felt empty. My present to myself was shaving my legs.

This year, I went to an Eddie Izzard concert, rented a Harley Davidson and went for a 60-mile ride to Palos Verdes – my first ride since learning how to ride 2 months ago. The ride was awesome, if not a little scary.

I did have a good cry when I got home because I wished I could share this momentous day with Kaz. But at least I had fun. And if his spirit is still hanging around, then maybe he had some fun with me. The only reason I’m out there is because of him. If I can capture an ounce of his Zen, I’ll be good.