The night before Thanksgiving I went with G and my friend Phil to hear Carla sing at Yoshi's one last time. She was magnificent, in a pair of killer red shoes with platform heels which made her (and me) very happy. She sang a new song--new for her repertoire, "Smile" which was written by Charlie Chaplin, and a bunch of standards, plus one of my favorite of her originals, "What is Love?"
After she sang it she said, "The great thing is, I don't have to ask that question anymore. I know what love is. It's here tonight," and she looked at the audience and around her onstage. She was surrounded by some very fine musicians and the room was bursting with love. Love carried her on and off stage, and I'm sure love kept her going as she worked her hardest to stay on that tightrope between joy in the singing and the musicianship and cameraderie of her Nice Shirts For Nuthin'; group--John R Burr, Jon Evans and David Rokeach (and she also had some wonderful horn players up there, and a great sax) and the great overwhelming grief that this too is ending.
She went out with It's a Wonderful World, one of my favorite songs ever, and she introduced it by saying simply, "This is the truest song ever written." Cue the tears. I didn't get a chance to hang out with her, as there were too many people and she was completely drained after doing the show--she had given 1000%--but I bought two more of her CDs to give as Chanukah presents.
Thanksgiving at our house was very musical and sweet. We had a 96-year-old guest (I incorrectly told G in her hearing that she was 94, whereupon she drew herself up to her full height and corrected me, "I'm ninety-six!") She didn't look a day over eighty, I swear. She'd had polio as a four-year-old and had to do all kinds of painful physical stretches and exercises when she got out of the hospital, but she said her mother stood over her and never let her give up and she's had a long productive life, married, had children, worked, and last week led her retirement home's book club discussion on Obama's autobiography, Dreams of My father.
We had turkey and all the other stuff, plus the piano, organ, the mic set up for singing. Shazam came and played her harmonica and sang, and took a turn at the keyboards. Leslie was there with her electric guitar, C played piano and bass, and Amar and Sahib-Amar played, Sahib-Amar on viola, Amar on everything, piano, organ, flute... We sang a bunch of oldies, Beatles' tunes, and Motown. I want to learn how to sing Etta james' version of "At Last." I'm thinking that should play at our wedding reception, as it took us so long to find each other.
It was lovely and sunny and warm all weekend, and C studied for this big odious test he has to take, while I wrote the play about military recruitment. We took breaks for hikes and a tennis game and to varnish the drawers and shelves of the in-law's cabinets. I was feeling very confident and excited about the play; today, after getting Ruth's comments I feel a little insecure. But the important thing is to finish and then show it to people. Everything else has always needed a revision, why not this?
This morning I pruned. Cut back the incredibly aggressive Mexican sage with its velvety purple flowers, the fig tree that started as a tiny twig and has now grown into a towering presence in the front yard, stretching its branches out into the street. I even pruned the jasmine, which I remember planting in tentative wet little clumps years ago and then praying it would come up. It now grasps the railing of the fence firmly, and its greeny tendrils snake out, grasping for something to hold onto. Sometimes it only meets itself; then it twines and grasps and twists around itself. Life. Tenacious, persistent, unconcerned with protocol.