Piling Bodies on the Wagon - Dan Navarro House Party vs. a place that once was mine
Nobody who was present will forget that perfectly-timed crack of thunder as Dan Navarro wove oral history into the opening bars of We Belong.
Porn for WritersCome on and take a ride across the border to a place that once was mine
Out of focus, out of order, pictures from another time
One of the kids said it out loud: "We belong to the thunder!" And we laughed; and we did belong, crowded under the patio roof for what became a sing-along. Lowen & Navarro's beloved hit segued into (and I'm not sure why) Steve Miller Band's The Joker, and then something I can't remember because I was overwhelmed by the night and had to pull back into the misty rain. Afterward, I found our hostess Alexandra and thanked her for creating a space where I was comfortable to be what I am, to draw pictures instead of staring at the musician, dance in dark corners. She'll email me, she said, when they have another happening.
On the outside turning lighter, so much darker in my eyesI was at the firepit roasting a marshmallow I didn't plan to eat when I heard over the microphone:
Gas or water on the fire, makes no difference, something dies
"Is Deb still here?" I waved my marshmallow stick like a flag. Dan continued: "I remember. Nashville Songwriters' Association, Holiday Inn Washington DC. I remember all that." Someone in the audience begged for explanation. Dan played another song and I ate the marshmallow after all. Life is about taking chances.
So I take a piece of who I am and stretch it thinDuring intermission, we had a chance to buy two CDs - the latest and a live recording.
Every time I start to feel the walls closing in, I shed my skin
I introduced myself with a handshake: "I'm Deb. We've met. Nashville Songwriters' Association, DC."
"I remember you," Dan said. It was the polite and professional response.
"From where?" I countered. He quickly shuffled mental cards and came up with the congressional office where the Nashville Songwriters had met. "Nope. Holiday Inn Central. I was working front desk."
"What was your name?" He shuffled again.
"Deb Ewing. You played guitar in the lobby and I yelled at you for it."
"That sounds right." Performers need always to be accommodating in these meet-and-greets, but it probably did sound right. He still wasn't pinging.
"You gave me a CD, signed - that one," I pointed to the live recording he had for sale, "but I married a person who never put CDs back in the case and it was destroyed. He told me I should just ask for another one...I'm not married to him anymore." If you know me, you know my joking-not-at-all-joking tone. But really, disrespecting a person's CDs is still disrespect, and grounds for divorce if anything is.
"I'll tell you what." Dan was already writing on the cover. "I'll give you this one."
Come on and take a ride on the dragon Hiding out behind the lines
|fossils, not dino bones|
Piling bodies on the wagon - Everyone's a friend of mineI'd heard about the gig - literally a house party - by following Dan Navarro Music on Facebook. He seems to be in the area often but this was the first time I could show up. I sent an email to the contact requesting an invite, signing off with my usual offer of biscuits with honey or bourbon or all of them.
"You had me at biscuits!" was John's email response, along with the address. I was relieved at the warm welcome, and awed by John's impressive collection of vintage typewriters - writers' porn. Per the signage I did not touch but John curated - which machine was oldest, which typed in Cyrillic. I wasn't planning to drink on this night, but bottles of Beck's beer stuck out of an ice bucket - Tim's beer of choice for gigs. It was fitting that I have one.
I swear that I can feel the room start to spin so I shed my skinThe last time I enjoyed a basement party with live music was 1998, and the basement was at my house. I was the family artist and Tim the musician; live music of some sort at least four nights a week while he was juggling up to three bands. During practices I sketched or painted at the kitchen counter while I waited to see if the police would come shut down the noise. And then Tim was diagnosed with slow-growing Astrocytoma.
In 1998, Tim rarely held a guitar, let alone a bar of music in his mind, due to the brain tumor taking over his left temporal lobe. He had short-term memory loss, and his sense of touch was hyper-enhanced - he was uncomfortable most of the time, and pressing metal strings was pretty much out of the question.
He sat on the sideline and called out chord changes to the blokes who played. I'd started out the night upstairs on Noise Complaint Watch, but had to also run downstairs and check on Tim, as his grand mal seizures often started out silently and his friends were largely oblivious until he hit the ground, shaking and foaming at the mouth. I could recognise onset of symptoms and remove him to privacy.
As I wandered this basement in McLean, sipping beer, admiring art and collectibles and strangers, I slipped between corridors in the multiverse: there was a time when Tim and I might have evolved something like this house, finished the basement, served home-made hors d'oeuvres (Tim always called them horseovers intentionally, like a dad-joke) to friends who were past the mental age of breaking bottles on the wall. Tim would probably have made éclairs - his signature dish.
Through the smoke, through the rubble, through the crossfire, friends in needAnd then there's the life that happened. In the hotel lobby of Holiday Inn, Dan Navarro and I commiserated over watching a talented musician slowly lose the music he loved - Eric Lowen succumbed to complications of ALS and passed away in 2012. Commiserated over the words we didn't say about the helplessness. I'd come to this party hoping to relive, in some form, the better side of my basement days; to replace the CD; maybe to broach the topic of that awkward but important conversation - vanquisher's memory of a battle which doesn't feel won. Like the knight standing on a heart I found in the bottom of my coffee mug.
On the inside of the bubble we see what we choose to see
Lead me back to where I came from, Somewhere far away from hereI was sure he'd remember, though. You can tell through a person's work the level of fine detail they're able to grasp. Dan Navarro's music and lyrics articulate like a Jacquard loom - not just warp and weft, but hooks and punch-cards creating a tightly-woven, intricate tapestry. It was a true pleasure to watch the master weaver work his machine.
And I got my autographed CD replaced - lagniappe. It wasn't until weeks later that I actually paid attention to what he'd written on the cover: "To Deb - Re-Possessed." Yeah :)
Here's a taste:
Shed My Skin (Lyric Video) - Dan Navarro
Buy the album:
Shed My Skin - Dan Navarro
Own it. Buy it from the artist direct. Also, look out for the next album - I was a little mad that it's not ready yet.
Dan Navarro Music - Facebook
Try to find an intimate venue near you. I can't promise marshmallows, but the music and company will be wonderful. Dan Navarro has the best fans.
For the kids out in the hall who don't know what I'm talking about, you may remember this version by Pat Benatar from the early MTV days. She did a good job. What was up with those green gloves?
All quoted lyrics are written and copyrighted by Dan Navarro