I watch the unfolding events between Russia and Georgia with some mild interest, but no real suprise. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s it has been clear to me that many of the new-born states to emerge from the so-called Commonwealth of Independant States had little real reason to exist beyond thumbing their noses at their former Russian rulers. It has taken time, and there will be a great deal of hand wringing and angst amongst the Western nations, but many of these new nations will find themselves back in the fold of the former Soviet Union, just without the Politburo and the New Soviet Man propaganda to burden them.

I posit this as niether good nor bad, simply reality.

Spring, 1965

“Are you sure about this?” Aiko asked me, her face radiating doubt as we drove through the campus.

“No more clubs, no more bars… this is what’s left. Besides, they said one of the guys heard us in Chicago, so they must know what they’re getting.”

She gave me her “Inscrutable Asian” look, and then turned to gaze out the window again. The campus was large and sprawling, students spread out across the park-like lawns taking in the warmth of this beautiful Southern California afternoon. It was a mixed crowd between the clean-cut and fresh faced, and the more bohemian types and absolutely nothing like the seedier crowds we were used to playing to.

I had my own doubts about this- since swearing off dives we had not performed much, though we had never stopped playing. In a way those months in practice studios and rented barns had served as a buffer, another layer of good times between where we were and the brutality of the life we had left behind. It seemed our path was laid out in stages where we would sprint ahead, then stop and recollect ourselves before moving on again. First fleeing New Orleans, then a long summer in Virginia as Dalene fought to regain her dignity and break free of the addiction that had been killing her. After that, a haphazard journey across the Midwest playing loud music in seedy bars led to a soft landing first in Santa Barbara, then later Los Angeles.

Read more…

Spring Arrives

There is a missing part of me, something lacking in the mosaic of who and what I am today. It is hardly apparent when I live in isolation, but of late I dwell amongst people and invite them into my life in ways I never have before. Even when married, those who became my family were kept outside my private world. It was necessary and regrettable, but it was a firm rule I lived by for so very long and broke with such rarity that each violation exists in my memory as a beacon, slicing my existence into discreet parts.

Prior to 1967 the last confidante to share my life in whole was Jeremy. He changed me so deeply and fundamentally yet I am still unsure how he did it. He saw me the way no others ever had and somehow over an all-too-brief pair of decades he made me whole. In no small way it is the memory of those years with him that led me to where I am today, both physically and philosophically. It is because of him I have opened myself to the world the way I have.

I have seen more than three thousand five hundred passages of the Vernal equinox. To me it has always symbolized a release. Winter has passed taking its sickness and starvation with it and for a few brief weeks the world is clean and fresh. Summer will come with its own threats of disease and conflict, but for now, we are free.

The moment will fall in the wee hours of the morning on the American Eastern Seaboard. The sky will be dark and rain will fall. A cold breeze will sweep chill droplets against the windows. It makes no difference for I can feel the turning of the world in my bones, one reassuring constant throughout my long existence. Jeremy wondered why I greeted this Equinox with contemplation and even some emotion, yet other seasonal turnings passed without comment or care. I explained in as few words as I have employed here and he understood, but not in an intellectual way. Instead he grasped what it meant to me deep inside, how memories of Spring turnings past could fill my heart with joy, or tears and sometimes pain and shame. I remember where I stood for the vast majority of these events better than I remember many other important occurrences in my life. In some way these memories help to define for me who I have been and whom I have become.

I chose the Vernal equinox as the day I would mark the passing of years. It was on this day more than two thousand years ago I adopted the name I call myself today, eschewing the slave name Utha and the goddess Tiwaz? to become simply Zsallia who claimed a surly old Greek named Marieko as an ancestor. On the Vernal equinox of 592 CE I first took vows with the church. In 1348 on that day I stood vigil in a church as plague swept through the population, killing my adopted family and most of the small town. On that day in 1851 I stood over Jeremy’s open grave as he was laid to rest.

So I count my years with the start of Spring. This is my three thousand five hundred and thirty-fourth.

9 March, 2008

With any luck regular posting should resume on my birthday- March 21, 2008.

Things I wish I had told you… November, 1964

It had already turned cold before the bar emptied out and over the next hour the temperature dropped like a stone. I was wearing a light denim jacket over my stage outfit and the cold dug into me remorselessly, but I forced the sensation down, concentrating on listening and watching. Cigarette stubs littered the ground about my feet as I methodically chain-smoked through a pack, staring at the door, willing it to open and planning what I would do if it did not. I decided I would wait until I finished my last cigarette, then I was going in to get her and to Hell with the consequences.

The last cigarette was in my hand, the crumpled pack falling to the ground when the door finally cracked open and Dalene slipped out, closing it behind her. She stood in the doorway, a pale apparition in the starlit darkness. Coming from the warmth and light of the club she did not see me as she started across the parking lot towards the hotel, wrapping her arms about herself- a gold lamee mini dress and matching boots were no match for a November night in Detroit. Her eyes were fixed on the ground in front of her and her face had all the life of a block of stone.

I slipped the cigarette between my lips and as she came close I struck my last match. The flare of light startled her and she stopped in her tracks as I dragged the flame into the tobacco, then tossed the match to the ground. Our gaze met and her lips parted, the tension easing from her brow for a moment as tears threatened, making her eyes glisten. The ache of worry that had filled me the past hour suddenly welled up in my throat and broke from my lips in a single, gasping cry.


“Why? Because I hate it when you… when you let them touch you. I hate waiting for you to come back. I hate the way you smell! I hate the way you pretend it’s nothing, like we shouldn’t care or even notice what you’re doing.”

I stared at her, feeling the force of her words striking me as she stepped close and gripped my arms, drawing me to her. The look in her eyes was almost frightening, enough to make me brace my hands against her chest, but then she leaned down and kissed me… and I could taste him in her mouth. There were wet streaks in her hair and stains on her dress- I could smell him all over her. She broke the kiss, let go of my arms, then plucked the cigarette from my fingers and took a long drag.

“Disgusting, isn’t it? I want to gag just thinking about it… and we left this behind, remember? You, and me, the four of us; except now it’s Aiko, Neff and me, and you’re just outside it all. It’s the three of us, and you. And I hate that most of all.” She took another drag, then dropped the cigarette and crushed it under the toe of her boot. “And now maybe you know how it feels to be me.”

I stared at her, unsure what to say. I had hurt her, hurt all of them, and I had done it without thinking; so focused on buffering them against the world that I had pulled away from them. Away from her. Her eyes were hard, but she was holding back tears, her arms wrapped tightly about herself as she shivered from the cold.

“I don’t…” I started, but then took a deep breath and tried again. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I just feel… I dragged you all out here…” Words failed me then, and all I could think to do was lean into her and hold on. Dalene slowly unfolded her arms and took me in, her chin resting atop my head while I tried to force something, anything out past my lips. Nothing would come because the only words I wanted to speak were the truth. I wanted to tell her everything, tell her why I let this wall grow between us, tell her that loving her was beautiful and terrifying…

“I’m sorry,” was all I managed to squeak out, “Cher, I never meant to let this happen.” Then my throat was too full of pain and I couldn’t stop crying, the realization that all my lies were the real wall between us and that I could not set them aside finding the only release I could allow.

“Angie,” she whispered, “I know, baby. I know.” I could feel her shaking, knowing it was more than just the cold as I felt her tears falling on me. “We just have to be strong together, that’s all.”

We clung to each other whispering tenderness, reassurances and promises but I could not stop weeping. The weight of my deception, the aching need to tell her the truth and the fear that made that impossible warred within me until I was too wrung out to cry anymore, leaving me empty and exhausted. All I had left was her warmth and the soothing balm of her words, words I did not deserve to hear.

November, 1964

The air was thick with spilled beer and old cigarette smoke.These little clubs always seemed so desolate once the crowds had filtered out. The four of us were sharing a bottle while the waitresses and the bartender cleaned up for the night. Neff and Aiko seemed relaxed and happy, but Dalene was cool and pensive, avoiding looking me in the eye.

 It had been a good weekend for us as we actually managed to play Thursday, Friday and Saturday night without being fired by the manager, driven off stage by the crowd or arrested for lewdness. It was not that we had changed our show, just that the mood going in had been a little more relaxed. We offered up lots of blues and let Day’s guitar lead us into the night until the crowd was liquored up enough to at least tolerate our louder, angrier fare. And if the room started to empty early, we could not have cared less.

 Dalene downed a shot then looked up as Frank, the owner, came out of his office and strode across the room to our table. He was a big man, tall and wide with a ruddy complexion, and a broad, flat face framed in an unkempt shock of white hair. He paused, hands on his hips as he looked down at us, a slight smile on his wide mouth. I knew what he was going to say before he opened his mouth.

 Playing clubs like Frank’s was a gamble. He knew what he usually brought in on a given weekend and the band was expected to draw enough of a crowd to see that he met his expected take between the cover charge, food and drinks. Some owners wouldn’t take a chance on us, others would. Of the ones who would, most looked at a down weekend and just told us not to come back, but some of them expected us to forfeit our pay if we did not cover the expected take. Of those in the latter group, some were willing to take payment ‘in kind’. Frank was definitely one of those.

 “I thought you were gonna make it tonight, girls,” he sighed, “but y’all killed the crowd with all the screechin’ and hollerin’ at the end.  You’re eight hundred short.”

 He looked straight at me when he said it. I gave him a knowing look because I had made explicit promises to land this gig, but as I tried to rise from my chair Dalene’s hand on my shoulder shoved me down as she stood. She snatched up the bottle on the table and slid around behind me to rub up against Frank, sliding her free hand over his shoulder and across his chest.

 “How about we go back to your office and discuss this?” she whispered, then she glanced at me and what I saw in her eyes nearly made me gasp. She was seething with anger and it was all directed straight at me.

 I opened my mouth, and then gritted my teeth as Aiko kicked me under the table. Both she and Neff were watching me in a way that demanded I simply shut my mouth. Dalene tugged at Frank’s shirt and pressed her lips to his ear, whispering something I could not hear, but made him flush with anticipation. His meaty arm slid around her waist and they turned away from us, walking back to his office. Dalene clutched the whiskey bottle by the neck as she slipped her free hand across his back and leaned into him.


 I called out her name, desperate to stop this somehow, but she simply moved her hand from Frank’s back, making a fist with her middle finger rigidly extended. She held the gesture until they reached the office door and disappeared within.


 Neff’s voice snapped me out of my paralyzed state and I jumped from my seat. Aiko grabbed me by the hand and shook me hard.

 “We need to pack up,” she said, “Day will be fine.”

 I could not stop staring at the office door while we packed up our instruments and equipment. Sometimes Aiko or Neff would have to shove me to get me moving, but there was no anger or impatience in them as we spent the next hour lugging everything outside and packing it in the van and small trailer we travelled in. Once everything was packed I started towards the office door, but Aiko grabbed me as Neff planted herself between me and the door.

 “Day is doing what needs to be done,” Neff told me, her Kenyan accent suddenly very pronounced. “Our hotel is across the street- she knows where to find us.”

 “You don’t seriously believe I’ll just leave her here?!”

 Eyes wide with anger Neff slapped me hard, snapping my head to one side. It was so sudden, so unlike her I just stared at her in shock.

 “Yes! You will just leave, just like we have left, just like she has left you in places like this.”

 I could have brushed past the both of them; I would not even need to hurt them to do it, but their anger held me paralyzed. I could not grasp what had set the three of them off, or how having Dalene subject herself to that fat bastard Frank could possibly make anything better, but I knew trying to stop this would be a mistake. All three of them had decided on this and as much as it tore at my heart I had to let it play out.

 Without saying another word I turned and stormed out the door. At the van I reached in the driver’s window and grabbed my cigarettes, then crossed the parking lot, planted myself on the fence rail and lit up. A few minutes later Aiko and Neff came out and climbed into the van, then pulled it around in a wide u-turn to stop in front of me.

 “Coming?” Aiko asked.

 I stared at her, trying to keep the raw emotion boiling inside me from leaking out, but it was futile. Neff leaned over from the driver’s seat.

“You can’t go in there! That’s just the way it has to be.”

 “I’m not going in,” I snapped, “But I’m not moving from this spot until she comes out.” I refrained from adding that if I suspected for an instant anything might be going bad I would be in that office in an instant and strangle Frank with my bare hands. It didn’t matter; they could both read it in my eyes. Aiko made to speak, but I stopped her with an upraised hand.

 “No more,” I said, “Just go.”

 They were both nervous, wondering if this could turn into something terrible. I felt tears welling up and I could not let them start to flow or I might lose control altogether, so I looked into Aiko’s eyes.

 “I can’t go back without her,” I whispered. “Please, just go. We’ll meet you at the motel.”

A sense of unease

There has been a great deal of what I shall kindly refer to as “canned content” appearing here over the past several months. To those who have written to ask why all I can say is I find it difficult to insert my own recollections between these posts. I have asked if these excerpts might be placed elsewhere, but there are rather persuasive arguments made that as this is essentially ‘my’ story it makes sense to have it appear here.


Truth be told, I find it somewhat disturbing to read what has been written about me. I sometimes do not recognize the woman described therein. It has been my position throughout the last 5 years that most people cannot understand me and the easy explanation for the words I read is that I am correct. My friend brought expectations into this project and sought to force me to fit within the boundaries his expectations demanded, or so it might seem.


The juxtaposition of this biography and my more recent notions and recollections is problematic. I cannot reconcile the person I know myself to be with the person depicted in the chapters appearing here. It is not a matter of flagrant departures from what I consider to be the truth, rather it is an undercurrent, a sort of thematic discord, between my personal understanding of what these events mean to me and what they seem to mean to others. Perhaps I must admit I understand you as little as you understand me. It would certainly serve as well as an explanation of this sense of disconnection.


It is an unforgiving exercise, inviting a stranger into your world to poke, prod and ask uncomfortable questions. My own natural reticence likely made matters worse for both of us and I found it difficult to avoid manipulating him so as to obtain something more to my liking. Despite centuries of bending and adapting to whatever circumstances might present I am still rigid underneath and unwilling to have my sense of who I and what I am challenged by an outsider. Nonetheless I have allowed this to be done, and the tale is here for any who care to read it.

August, 1964

A crowd had gathered- they always did when Dalene sat outside with her guitar, but that evening it was larger than ever. We were leaving in the morning and it seemed everyone we had met that summer wanted to stop by to hear her play one last time. She sat on the steps of the small deck behind our room and worked through an amazingly broad and deep repertoire of Classical pieces, country and folk tunes, current hits from radio and, most intriguing of all, her own compositions.


Neff and Aiko had always known Dalene was a serious musician, but even they were surprised by how her playing seemed to grow more passionate, more intricate with every passing day. The drugs were gone from her body, but they haunted her soul, so she wielded her guitar and her talent, clutching them to her like a talisman to subdue those moments when weakness might become craving. That constant struggle poured from her as music, and no one listening escaped untouched.


“I’m going to miss these little shindigs,” Dr. O’Malley confessed to me between mouthfuls of smoked barbecue pork ribs and coleslaw. The motel had an impressive barbecue pit out back that Cyrus and Ella, the owners, had eagerly pressed into service once their little motel/roadside stand became a regular haunt. They kept the prices down and the food simple, and we hadn’t paid for our room since our second week in town.


“We’ll miss it, too,” I sighed. “This summer… it’s been so perfect. It’s hard to believe we stopped here by chance.”


“Call it fate,” he said, pausing to drain his beer then gesturing around us with the empty bottle. “Look at this, all these people rubbin’ elbows, all these white people and black people- all because there’s a pretty girl playin’ a guitar and good food. I’ll tell you, if Cyrus and Ella were white, this wouldn’t have been possible, wouldn’t be a black face in the crowd.”


“This town isn’t that bad,” I started, but I knew he was right. “It’s been very good to us, in lots of ways.”


“That’s mostly your doing, missy. You kept your friends under control, made sure folks didn’t get the wrong idea…”


“Or the right idea,” I corrected him with a wink. He nodded at me, a knowing grin on his face, but then he turned serious, fixing his eyes on mine.


“I’m glad I was wrong about you. I still don’t know what you’re all about, but I know you’re tryin’ to do the right thing by your friends. I know what that’s like.”


“I know you do, and I thank you, but they are helping me, too.”


“What is it, guilt? Trying to make amends for something?”


Dalene had stopped playing and was tuning her guitar while Aiko did the same with her viola and Neff warmed up her fingers doing scales on her violin. This was how I had first seen them, just the three of them making music on a street corner in New Orleans. Now in this little town they were so very different, smiling, healthy and full of life, yet the wounds remaining underneath needed little to bring them back to the surface. As the three of them began to play, filling the air with softly stirring melodies my thoughts went back to the day before when we filled a rented basement with screeching cacophony most would hardly recognize as music. The rage remained and no amount of sunny afternoons on the porch with guitars and violins would root it out.


“There is no making amends for things I have done, Dr. O’Malley. The past is the past.”


He shot me a quizzical look- perhaps I let my accent slip for a moment. Fortunately one of the ladies in attendance chose that moment to interrupt and I was spared any further questions, allowing me to watch the crowd and enjoy the music.


They were the center of attention, and they deserved to be, but as I surveyed the small crowd it was clear I was the object of some speculation. This was not a sudden development as I was the one people found most odd of the four of us, but of late the gossip mill had begun to zero in on me. I spent too much time and effort deflecting those inquisitive types who would look behind the facade of four young women, whose trip from Florida to New York had been interrupted, and this in turn fueled further questions and more curiosity. Were it not for this perhaps we could have remained in this town…


Not for the first time I wondered- should I leave them? I could slip out in the night and reach the highway by dawn, and then hitchhike into the city leaving behind the car and the money. Then my eyes settled upon Dalene and all other thoughts fell away. Her eyes were closed, a relaxed smile on her lips as her fingers caressed her guitar; she radiated peaceful contentment, but underneath she was so fragile. All three of them, all four of us walked the knife edge, for what I was doing terrified me. The consequences of failure would be terrible for them and unbearable for me.


The music forced the thoughts away, Dalene’s eyes opened and sought me out and then she winked, a gentle, sultry flutter of her left eye so full of promise most of the men standing near me stood straighter wondering if that gesture had been directed at them. My face broke into a smile like a cry of relief. This night was perfection- there could be no remaining here after this.


We would leave in the morning, Dalene, Aiko and Neff clinging to me and to each other as I clung to them.


There is a banner at the top of this page. Inscribed there is an inescapable truth-


The world is a tragic place. Life is not for the faint of heart.


I have uttered these words countless times and received the full range of responses from solemn acknowledgement to angry retort, but I have never seen those words refuted.


Persons who recognize the truth of those words and understand them trend in two directions. One set becomes fearful and seeks to order their lives such that tragedy is avoided as much as is humanly possible. Some of these manage to insulate themselves and still lead productive lives, but many curtail their lives such that one has to wonder what joy there could possibly be for them. The other set decides fear of tragic results shall not rule them and they order their lives to seek the fulfillment of dreams and desires. Some of these go to extremes, taunting fate to come and claim them, but most find that balance between the courage to live without fear and foolish bravado, living lives that embrace the sorrows and reap the joys of life at its fullest.


That second group is not immune from heartache. Ask them and they likely could not think of themselves in the terms I have described here, for they understand fear and respect it for what it is. No one, regardless of where they fall between the timid and the bold, encounters tragedy and simply shrugs it off as the mere cost of a life well-lived. Sorrow and heartache find us all, in one manner or another.


Mike Hendrix was the first large blogger to encounter and link this site approvingly. We corresponded only briefly over a few weeks in 2003, but I have read his site with interest ever since. His writings are a mixture of politics and real life woven into a fascinating tapestry certain to delight, enrage and touch any who took the time to understand.


On Friday, July 20th Mike’s wife Christiana died in a motorcycle accident while the two of them were enjoying one of their many passions together. There are no words to ease his pain, but words are all we possess. I know which group of people Mike and Christiana belong to, I know their friends are gathering about him in their grief and I know this tragedy will not rob him of the joy that filled their years together. You are a strong man, Mike Hendrix, but this is a time to lean on your friends. My thoughts are with you this day.


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis

Virginia, Summer, 1964

Human beings are variables. Failure to grasp this fact is the major failing of all Utopian visions regardless of their provenance, for such fantasies assume humanity can be controlled, made predictable, guided.

Case in point: Four whores from New Orleans should find no haven in a small Virginia town, yet this is precisely what we have found. The doctor is as good as his word- nobody asks and he volunteers nothing, stopping by daily to check on you and pump us all full of penicillin “just on general principle.” Buck Carlyle stops by every day, sometimes twice a day, just to check on you- his chivalric impulse in full control now.

The first two days are horrible as you slip in and out of delirium, the three of us having to pin you down when you lashed out, but the valium Dr. O’Malley left for you relieves the worst of it and by the third morning you are calm and lucid. Neff and Aiko are better as well, the knowledge we are not being sought by the police and your recovery easing the fear they have carried inside. We are all of us keeping true to each other, true to the need to leave the streets behind.

Once you are feeling better I have to turn my efforts to the breaking of bad habits. Our new surroundings are helpful for they are alien to you and the others. Aiko in particular seems to slip into this new reality effortlessly, cultivating a sense of reserved dignity in stark contrast to the excitable, fidgeting creature who sold herself on a New Orleans street corner. Having left the surreal horror of New Orleans behind, she has found her inner self and is amazed.

Neff, always the calm one of the three, now seems lost and forlorn. Things have changed too suddenly, her world now turned on its head. New Orleans was terrible, but there was a certainty to it, a familiarity that makes such things seem almost comfortable. Freedom is something she is not prepared for, not yet. There is time now, time to heal all manner of hurts until she feels the firmness of the world beneath her feet.

And you, as days become weeks you unfold like a flower. The drugs are gone from your body, but their hold upon your soul is far more difficult to sunder. More difficult, but not impossible: like being born you emerge from the darkness and begin to perceive the world around you with a clarity that grows deeper and more complete with every passing day. The cold bitterness of your past still churns inside you, those wounds will leave their marks forever, but there are moments when the girl overwhelms the pain, and those come more frequently every day.

So many good things, and yet the past years cannot be set aside so easily. Buck’s attentions to you, so well-meant, set you on edge. You are afraid to offend him and afraid to be alone with him. Neff and Aiko naturally seek to protect you, but none of you know how to behave around men who give you a choice. The results are sometimes comical, but also problematic. As we reach the end of a month here there is no choice but to move on.