I never told you this, but Willie Nelson recorded this Brenda Lee song for me in 1982. We’d been together for a while, and were having a very hard time—I didn’t like that he spent so much time in Bertha (that’s the bus), and that he never stopped playing the Jew’s Harp around that groupie. I especially didn’t like it that, when he took his bandanna off, his skull would come off with it. And then one day he realized how difficult it might be trying to have a life with such a popular rock star, and he made this romantic gesture.* All the ladies shown in this video are the girls he swore to swear off, but it was too late. I’d slipped out to hear Khandro Rinpoche, and had laid my eyes on Julia.
*Thanks, anyway, Will, honey—I love this song: I really did feel understood.
Genius may be as mindstopping as loss, but in a different way.
When Maud was about eleven or twelve, and we were living in a railroad apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with Bodhi and Scout, I sat her down at the table and said it’s time for you to hear this: Blue. I can’t remember, exactly, but I think the only thing I had to play the album on was a Discman. She sat there, my little Maud, and listened to the whole thing through, and she got it. She just got it: the simple genius that changes you upon hearing.
California, coming home.
After my father died and we moved away from the house I’d grown up in, I often thought that I’d forgotten something: What if my father had hidden a treasure chest—or a message—for me in the house, or in the yard, or down at the beach, and had told me where, but I hadn’t been listening? What if I’d been too upset to hear? Or too young? What if he’d given me a hand-drawn map, that took me from bush to rock, from cabinet to floorboard? What if the one thing I was missing was there, waiting for me, if only I could remember?
For a long time, knowing I’d lost the map, I looked for the treasure elsewhere—in novels and poems, in museums and galleries, in walks on the beach and trudges through the woods. I looked for the treasure in the people I had loved. I found very many clues.
But I stopped looking at some point. I forgot that I’d forgotten, and that there was a treasure buried somewhere, waiting for me. I am now officially resuming the hunt. Here’s a clue I’ve had in my pocket on a crumpled paper for many, many years: