SECTION ONE 

sm
COLUMN 115, MARCH 1, 2005
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

LEAN ON ME

I envisioned a hospice scene with three generations of our family holding hands beside old Al's bed as he takes his last breath.  For years I'd wanted to be a movie producer.  Now I was determined to produce the classic death vigil, and as the hyper-efficient, loving daughter, I would organize everything!

Except my timing was off.   I arrived too early?way too early.   My dad wasn't ready to die.  So instead of holding his hand and urging him to go to the light, I took him to chemotherapy. 

I?ve heard people joke that, "having cancer means never having to go to the dentist again."  Unfortunately my father doesn't have any of his own teeth left, so although I found it funny, I figured I'd better not mention it to him.

For my dad, cancer has its own silver lining.  He's 76 and loves marijuana.  He's been smoking it secretly behind closed doors since I was about five years old, passing a pipe around a circle with such notables as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and every other pop celebrity from the sixties and seventies you can name.  Now that he has lung cancer he won't smoke anymore (smoking, he?ll tell you, is "anti-life?).  Instead, he has a friend he calls Alice B. Toklas who buys boxes of Pillsbury peanut cookie mix, and adds unknown quantities of pot to the recipe.   My eleven year-old son wants to know if Alice B. Toklas grinds it up before adding it to the batter. I'm pretty sure Dad doesn't do his own baking because he's vowed never to cook another meal or wash another dish for the rest of his life.

When they told him he had pancreatic cancer, everyone (including my dad) figured his prognosis was as short as the fuse on a firecracker.  The first oncologist he went to gave him six months to live if he didn't go for chemotherapy. There was no time for dishes and cooking.   I was worried, too, worried I would blow it by showing up too late to say goodbye.   So instead of worrying, I signed up for a yahoo groups list server on pancreatic cancer and started researching everything I could about Hospice a week after my father was diagnosed.  I made long distance calls to the east coast to locate the closest facility where we could move my dad, when the end got near.

"If we plan this now," I told my brothers, "it'll be a lot less stressful and we won't have to think about it."

The problem, I pointed out, was that my dad's apartment in a roach-infested building in Elizabeth, New Jersey is not really an apartment.  It's a hovel of an office with a bed in it. His two rooms are overfilled with filing cabinets and a record collection which he's been deeply attached to since 1970 even though he knows every opportunistic junkie he's crossed paths with has pilfered said collection, mining it of any valuable remnants and leaving punched, not for resale, copies of third- and fourth-rate artists who never sold more than perhaps a hundred copies of their album to ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, teachers and family.  It is currently protected by newspapers, which are taped together as well as to the cabinets that contain them, as proof that no one?not even my younger brother who lives in the same apartment building or the superintendent?has breached the barrier to steal a single album.

My dad's apartment has exactly three places to sit.  At his computer, on the bed, and in a beat-up easy chair someone gave him when the doctors insisted he sit with his feet elevated to prevent a blood clot from killing him during his bouts of phlebitis, an iatrogenic consequence of his quadruple bypass surgery in 1996. 

There are no clear paths to navigate through my dad's living space.  An electric radiator emitting summer-like temperatures in the dead of winter stands between the computer chair and the easy chair.  A stack of papers piled high sits between the easy chair and the bed.  The closest thing to a clear path is from the bed to the bathroom and from the bathroom to the front door where a sign


I was only 14
when my mother died
alone in a hospital room


has been posted, "Do not leave in the morning without taking Metamucil."  In short, there is no room for more than three people max.  This was not the loving setting where my dad would take his last breath.  It was not the setting I'd art-directed in my head at all.

He?d been diagnosed in September, but much to my surprise, my dad was not in the condition I'd imagined after living with pancreatic cancer for three months.  It didn't fit any pattern.  Either he didn't have pancreatic cancer or the treatment was actually working.  He was in remarkably good shape and even though he wasn't dying like I'd planned, we'd come at a good time.  I didn't return to the east coast because I wanted to. I'm almost forty-seven and I had to.  I was only 14 when my mother died alone, in the middle of the night; in a hospital room and I didn't even know she'd had cancer.  I'm an adult now and this is my last chance to get it right.

I went to his apartment Tuesday morning in time to make sure he'd had something to eat.  I even made him a high protein shake complete with digestive enzymes to ensure he'd get some quality nutrition since you can't have chemo on an empty stomach.  I offered to bring the iPod my brothers and I had just loaded with play lists of our favorite music and given him for Christmas, but he said, "No I don't want to lose it."

I realized after traversing the rainy streets to Trinitas hospital that poverty begins in Elizabeth, and an iPod is a ticket to heaven.  I understood this as I dropped him at the door of the hospital so I could park my rental car.  If my dad was receiving charity care, he couldn't really show up with the must-have Christmas gift of the 2004 season.  Especially since his first oncologist, a fancy NYC Bush supporter, released him as a patient upon discovering my father had no money for the 20% deductible Medicare wouldn't cover. 

I was clutching far too many electronic devices including my cell phone, which I turned off as I entered the hospital.   I felt like a yuppie with my pda, knitting, computer and even a pair of Bose headphones.  I guess I felt I needed these things to feel important or busy, or in the event I needed to emotionally distance myself from my dad.  My brother had warned me that the afternoon could be a long one.  I was prepared for everything?I hoped.  

My dad weighed in with his shoes on.  I wondered if they were always on when he weighed in.  Did he empty his pockets?  My dad had complained of a loss of appetite but how would anyone know if his pockets were loaded.  I was just an observer?I had to tell myself?I wasn't in charge. Linda the nurse took his blood pressure, and his temperature, ninety-seven degrees.  Hmm, I thought, low thyroid.  I wasn't in charge. 

The doctors introduced themselves to me and I thanked them in advance for giving my dad such quality care.  Since he can be a "difficult patient? I just wanted them to know someone in our family was capable of gratitude. 

My dad was familiar with the routine and took off his shoes, sat on the hospital bed and without wasting another minute, unwrapped a large, heavy looking cookie he'd pulled from his pocket.  One you might find at a health food store except that it was decorated with M&M's.  I watched as he took his time, slowly chewing the cookie, not hiding it, but eating it in plain sight.  Everyone, including all the doctors he knew, had told him that marijuana was the best antidote to offset the nausea and loss of appetite that often accompanies chemotherapy. No more secret rituals with pipes behind closed doors.  In that moment I saw how my dad's life?even his illness?worked for him.  He'd always told me he would use pot even if it killed him.  He swore it made him a better writer. I just couldn't believe how bad the damn thing smelled clear across the room, or the way he genuinely seemed to enjoy eating all that?fiber.

Next he asked me for a few blankets, explaining how he would have to pee during the procedure.

"I got prostate problems," he reminded me.  "I have to pee a lot." 

I remembered his last prostate biopsy, which he'd shared in graphic detail over the speakerphone in the car so my son and I could hear his answer to the simple question, "How are you feeling?? 

"It felt like they stuck a 20-inch tube up my ass."

He lay down under the thin flannel blankets and took off his black denim jeans handing them to me. 

'they?ll give me a urinal and I'll just pee through the whole thing."  

His pants were very heavy, loaded with his wallet, a Swiss army knife and pocketfuls of change, my best guess, weighing maybe two or three pounds.

Linda came back in with my dad's pills. 

"Don't forget, I need the Marinol too," he said.

'that's right, the Marinol," she said, shaking her head. 

Did she know about the cookies?  Could she smell them?  Had he told her about them?  I was sort of hoping someone in the office knew what was going on.  After all, my dad could be forging new ground in the treatment of cancer with those cookies of his.  Someone should be documenting and writing about it.  Every time we'd asked him how he was feeling after chemo, all he mentioned was a little constipation. 

I?d first heard about the pharmaceutical marijuana from my dad several weeks before when he'd called to tell me how he'd forgotten his cookie and asked for Marinol, which of course they gave him.

"It didn't do shit," he complained, but because it was so easy to get, he now asked for it in addition to eating his cookies.  Linda disappeared to the pharmacy from where, my dad told me, they were dispensed by a DEA agent.  I didn't know whether to believe him or not.  

Dr. William Kessler came in. Dr. Kessler is chief oncologist at Elizabeth's Trinitas Hospital. 

"How are you feeling, Mr. Aronowitz?? Dr. Kessler asked.  The cookies had begun to kick in?apparently they work pretty fast?because I could detect a delay in my father's response.

"Oh, okay," he said, not sounding exactly sure.  "How am I supposed to be feeling?? 

The doctor prodded him for more specific answers and I sat there beady-eyed, glaring at my dad because sometime within the last seven days, not only had his appetite vanished but so had his memory about the complaint in the first place.

"I?ve been having vague GI symptoms," he told the doctor and continued to elaborate, "Like right now I feel like I have to take a shit, but I won't be able to."  The doctor asked him if he took anything for his constipation and, noticing my exasperated look, smiled at me and said:

"I get this from most of my patients."

I interrupted out of total frustration:

"Pardon me, Doctor, for interrupting, but my father has had a rather long-term dependency on fiber laxatives."

"What!??" my father raised his voice.  He hates when anyone suggests he has a dependency on anything. 

"Dad, I just said that you use non-habit forming fiber laxatives and have been using them for years for your vague gastrointestinal complaints." 

Between the fiber in his cookies and his daily dose of Metamucil I didn't think fiber was the problem.  But when I first heard him complain about constipation, I reminded him that taking Metamucil is only effective if you drink water.

"I don't drink enough water," he blurted out. 

I was concerned that my dad's loss of appetite had something to do with the pancreatic component of his cancer.  Only the lung had been biopsied, but C.A.T. and P.E.T scans revealed metastasis to the spine, liver and pancreas.   Although everyone seemed sure it was the chemo, the doctor wasn't convinced. 

"If the chemo was going to knock out his appetite, it would have done so from the beginning," he said. 

Maybe Dr. Kessler didn't know about the cookies. 

My dad was right, how should he feel?  How does it feel to have cancer?  How does it feel to get chemo?  I once had pneumonia and had to take pills that made my tongue turn black and made me feel so awful I would count all of them each time I took one, just to make sure there were less left each time.  I was sure those drugs were killing me.   Why wouldn't my dad be terrified?  Did he think if he didn't tell the doctor his symptoms then they would go away?  Surely we have all done that at one point or another in our lives.  I understood him.  I understood his fear?and admired his courage.

Then Dr. Kessler explained how he needed to compare the original CAT scan done in September to the results of the scan done the week prior to my arrival.

"We need to decide whether to move to another drug or stick with the drug we're using.  Getting rid of a good drug can be worse that starting a bad drug.  Today though, I think we?ll continue with the same therapy." 

I didn't understand.  I wanted to ask, "How about no drug, until you figure it out??  But I wasn't in charge!  My father would think I was another Jack Kervorkian if I'd asked such a question. It's not that I didn't share my father's confidence in Dr. Kessler. It's just the memory of my mother's suffering from her cancer treatments has haunted me since her death and I was scared that my dad would suffer too.

Linda came back with two Marinol pills wrapped  not in orange or red, but green packaging.  I laughed. 

"Don't forget the applesauce and Jell-O," my dad reminded her.  He couldn't take pills with water; he had trouble swallowing.  I couldn't help but feel compassion for the both of them.  My dad is so demanding I offered to go to the cafeteria myself.

"No,? he insisted.  Did he not want to be left alone?  Did he not want to pay for them?  Jell-O and applesauce were pennies compared to an iPod. 

Having a child has taught me to pick my battles.  I sat down and watched as Linda returned with an I.V. bag of saline and two sealed containers, one of orange Jell-O and the other, applesauce.

"You're going to have to help me now," my dad said. "I need to get these pills down.  Put some Jell-O on the spoon and then a few of the pills." 

He wasn't incapacitated, he could've done it himself but I was there to help.  I recognized this as a profound life cycle moment?my dad had cared for me as a baby and now I was tending to him as an old man.  As much as I wanted to say, "Open wide for the airplane," I just couldn't do it, even though humor has always helped me through moments such as this.

He could swallow two pills at a time (there were about eight of them in all), and it took fine motor skills to take the pills from the little plastic dispensing container and put them in the tablespoon on top of the Jell-O.  Motor skills my father seemed to lack after a series of mini strokes he'd had several years ago.  He really did need my help.  I was curious about the Marinol pills and this was my chance to take a look at them.  They were spherical, perle-like soft capsules you might expect to hold vitamin A.  This didn't surprise me since the active ingredient in marijuana is a tenacious, oil based substance, which has been the primary obstacle in advancing its research. The pills had an off-white, almost opalescent quality to them.

"You sure you need both of these, Dad?  Don't you want to share?? Of course I was just kidding, although I'd become partial to pharmaceuticals over the years.  Calibration ensures a certain amount of predictability, and if these Marinol pills were shit according to my dad, who knows?  I might actually enjoy them?certainly more than my own life's experience with marijuana, which officially began about a month after my mother died in 1972.


My introduction
to
hash brownies


My dad was still a pop music journalist for the New York Post at the time, writing a column three days a week that gripped the attention of everyone in the music business worldwide.   If my dad wrote about a performer favorably, it would almost always guarantee his or her success.  We were living in a rental in Tenafly, New Jersey.  A brick middle class home decorated with furniture from Sears Roebuck, including a lampshade that fell off the lamp whenever anyone shut the front door.  My mother, stoned out of her mind on Methadone, Elavil, Marijuana and God knows what else, nearly burnt this house down several times after falling asleep with lit cigarettes in bed, and once leaving the aluminum teapot on the stove until it melted into a flat pancake bonding itself to the electric element.  After this last incident, I realized I'd better stay home and take care of her, bringing my eighth grade education pretty much to a standstill until after her death.

It must've been late June when Neil Bogart, president of Buddha records invited my dad to a party at his home in neighboring Englewood, New Jersey, to celebrate his newest star, Bill Withers. The air, heavy with humidity and fireflies, reverberated with the sound of Bill's newest album, Still Bill, on speakers wired throughout the house.  The kitchen decorated with green floral wallpaper had wide screen doors, which opened to a lush backyard resembling a tropical rainforest.  In the center of the kitchen table, a large platter overflowed with delicious looking brownies.  Not just delicious, but rich, gooey brownies which somehow rode that narrow line between cake and candy.  Having just lost my mother, I'd developed the habit of replacing my need for love with the need for food and those brownies represented everything I craved, a loving hug, a kind word, careful listening, gentle encouragement and emotional security. 

It's too bad they also contained potent quantities of high-grade hashish?a fact I learned much later that evening. 

The hit single, Lean on Me, catapulted Bill Withers into stardom and on this night penetrated my mind as I sat strangely out of control alongside my dad who was interviewing Bill in Neil's bedroom while the room itself moved in slow circles.

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
       We all have sorrow
       But if we are wise
       We know that there's always tomorrow

Please swallow your pride
       If I have things you need to borrow
       For no one can fill those of your needs
       That you don't let show

I?d swallowed all right, swallowed plenty.

"Dad,? I whispered, not wanting to interrupt, afraid I couldn't modulate my own voice.

"Dad, I feel really weird."  

In retrospect I don't know if I was put under his direct charge because someone had seen me ingest the brownies.  My brothers, Joel and Myles, and two grown women Kathy and Jane, who were posing as babysitters, were at the party too.  Did they eat any?  Did anyone know before they took a bite"besides my very tormented, overindulgent self?

Lean on me, when you're not strong
       And I'll be your friend
       I'll help you carry on
       For it won't be long
       'Till I'm gonna need
       Somebody to lean on

'the music is so loud."

'take it easy, honey, I'm right in the middle of something," he said.

"Daddy, I feel really sick, what's happening to me??  Panic embraced me. "I need to go home, I feel awful."

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
       We all need somebody to lean on     
        I just might have a problem that you'd understand
       We all need somebody to lean on

Wasn't my dad listening to the song?  Apparently this was some party; in fact it was so great my dad didn't even want to leave.  Instead he had Kathy and Jane take my brothers and me home in our beat-up Oldsmobile station wagon. 

"How many did you eat??  Jane asked Kathy after she'd already turned on the ignition.

"One, but it sure was strong," Kathy said.

"Can you drive?? Jane asked.  Jane didn't have a license.

"I think so." 

"What was in it??

"It could have been Psilocybin,? Kathy said.

"Oh No!" I burst out.

"What's wrong?? Kathy asked.

"I ate five of them!?  I said in horror.

My heart started pounding.  I was terrified.  I didn't know what psilocybin was or if it was going to kill me.  I still had enough presence of mind to notice we were, at that very moment, passing Englewood Hospital.

"Please take me to the hospital," I begged.  "I want my stomach pumped."

I guess it was pretty bad.  I mean why else would any fourteen year-old request this unpleasant procedure?

"It's just Hashish.  We're just going to take you home and let you rest.  We?ll stay with you and everything will be fine."

I was going to die.  I knew it.  There was nothing anyone could do.  The night before my mother died I'd heard the doctor trying to calm my father down in a similar tone of voice.  They were taking me home to die.

I felt like I was sitting in the first row of a movie theatre with the screen pasted across my eyes, like I was peering out at the world from a huge glass window.  My body was big, cumbersome and rubbery like the Michelin man.  I felt my body as a vehicle, felt its density, felt myself on a cellular level. 

Colors overwhelmed me and everyone seemed like they were screaming.  Kathy, Jane and Myles spent much of the evening trying to comfort me and when I seemed to calm down, they tried to joke with me, which only returned me to a place of panic.  Even the guard dog, a German-Shepard named Aurora-Tin-Princess (a descendant of Rin-Tin-Tin) that we'd adopted knew something was wrong and kept following me to the bathroom.  I had to pee a lot but the harsh bathroom light bothered me so I reluctantly turned it off.  I was afraid of that dog, and feared her more with the lights off. 

The darkness filtered out some of the visual stimulation and with less to notice, I was able to relax.  But even in my calm dark bedroom, hiding under warm covers, with my brothers and babysitters whispering in gentle voices, I wondered if I would make it through the night, if I would live long enough to see the sun rise.  If I did live that long, I wanted to know, would I ever be the same?


Marijuana was
as regular in our house as an uninvited uncle


My earliest childhood memories all include Marijuana, which was as regular in our house as an uninvited uncle. I even nicknamed this uncle, "Marty." "Marty" wedged himself between us kids and our parents, always competing for their attention. But, because he was a favorite uncle, and my parents so enjoyed his company, I had no choice but to learn to tolerate him.  Perhaps I even learned to love him.  After all, his presence had a real calming effect on them.

I sat beside my dad with my yarn and needles, casting-on stitches for a scarf, when Linda came back in and drew the curtains to administer my dad's I.V.  They'd inserted a shunt?a so-called portacath?into his chest during a special surgical procedure to make receiving chemo easier.  I was glad.  My father is crabby and doesn't like needles much.  Hiding behind the curtain, he gave me a real theatrical yelp when Linda inserted the needle, obviously trying to get as much of a rise out of me as possible.  He laughed right afterwards to let me know he was only joking. 

I'd decided to make a scarf after making hats for nearly everyone as Christmas gifts.  On the plane I discovered knitting kept my white knuckles busy.

"I hate flying," I said, trying to strike up a conversation. "When I'm knitting, I don't have a chance to worry too much." 

My dad's eyes were now slits in response to the glare of the fluorescent tubes.  He wasn't talking much, though he nodded.

"I noticed that as the plane hit turbulence, I got a little riled and knit faster which stopped the turbulence almost immediately." 

I couldn't tell if my dad was conscious.  I could hear the rhythmic pump of the IV pushing saline through his veins. 

'so knitting is good for me and it's good for the plane."

My dad looked at me and laughed.  I liked it when he laughed at my stories.

"I know it's a little late, but I'd like to read you this letter I wrote that goes with your Christmas present."

"Okay," he said.

I pulled out the letter.

"Dear Dad," I started to read.  I was nervous.

"At the end of a rigorous exercise class during a cool-down and stretch I was hit with an epiphany while Somewhere from West Side Story played in the background   I wept uncontrollably as John Secada's singing made me realize that all my earliest memories are linked to music; a wondrous and rich gift you gave me, Dad.  In that moment I realized music is a three-dimensional historical document like a holograph, unlocking a memory unique to each person.  It stimulates the brain to activate combinations of sensory memories to return the listener to a meaningful time when he or she heard it.  I want you to bathe in this music, one of the greatest healing forces on the planet."

At this point, I got really choked up and started to cry.

My dad can get pretty emotional too, especially when he's listening to music.  But anyone else's tears make him uncomfortable. 

"Okay already, let me hear it."

"But you told me not to bring the iPod.  Wait, I know!"

At that moment I knew why I had schlepped all that electronic equipment with me into the hospital. My iBook had the same play list we'd imported into my dad's iPod.  Plus, I had a set of Bose headphones, not those silly ear buds, so he could comfortably enjoy the quality of digital sound. 

This time Linda came back with another I.V. bag marked. "Aronowitz," containing his chemo.  But, before she exchanged it with the empty bag of saline, I saw her put on a pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves she'd pulled from a box labeled "chemo."  Not the ubiquitous thin latex ones as common as a box of tissues, but instead the kind you'd wear to wash the floor, or clean an oven.

I felt great discomfort with the thought that a fluid so toxic, necessitating industrial strength protection for the skin, was being injected into my father's veins. Did DEA agents dispense chemo too?  If it were such a hazard to get it on your skin, what would it do to the insides of your fragile blood vessels?  If the skin provides the first barrier of protection between your insides and the outside world, I wanted to ask Linda, what would happen if she got it on her skin?  But I didn't.  I wasn't in charge.

Except when it came to the music.  Sitting at my computer, in the charity cancer clinic at Trinitas hospital, I morphed into a private disc jockey for my dad, skipping over a few of the more morbid selections like Rosewood Casket and Father Along from the Trio album with Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Rondstadt.  I didn't want my dad listening to songs about death with poison coursing through his veins. As I sat there knitting my scarf, I picked songs I knew would be more familiar to both of us.  Happily, if only for a few moments, I was in charge. I had everything I really needed.  And after a long while, I heard my dad snoring.

The pump beeped at regular intervals alerting Linda that the I.V. bag needed to be replaced, and even though she was supervising the care of at least five other patients, including a young Hispanic woman, a heavy-set black woman and an old Armenian man with a cough, she returned with still another I.V. bag filled with saline.  Before she replaced it, Linda squeezed every last drop of the toxic chemo fluid into the bottom of the bag and watched as the pump pushed it into my father's tired old vessels while Miles Davis wailed on his trumpet in digital bliss.

I listened as Dr. Kessler explained to the black woman that her cancer seemed to be "asleep? and watched Linda, who, wearing those heavy duty blue gloves, changed my dad's I.V. back to saline, for a final "wash."

My dad gave up his privacy for charity care.  A thin polyester curtain was all that separated him from the other four patients in the room.   I sat there and realized I'd learned a great deal more than I?d expected about chemotherapy and for the first time wondered, who if anyone, had taken my mother to her treatments so many years ago, or if she'd gone by herself.

I'd knit my way through two bags of I.V. fluids and had more than five inches of scarf to show for my effort.  I'd somehow forgotten about food until I realized my dad had only to let one more bag of saline pump thru his body before our day of chemo was finished.  I was suddenly famished.

My father bathed in All Things Must Pass while I dug through my bag looking for something?anything to put in my mouth to elevate my blood sugar and hold me over.  At last I found a single Ricola herb candy.  I returned to my knitting to stay distracted and quell my hunger.

The electronic beep signaled again and Linda returned.

"You're done Mr. Aronowitz."

She had to repeat herself several times before she got a reaction.

"Huh? What??

"You're all done Mr. Aronowitz," she said.

"Oh."

"I have to take out the I.V. now." She pulled the curtain closed, while Doctor Kessler sent the Armenian man, who was too sick to receive chemo, back home for another week.

My Dad needed to pee a good long while after the IV was removed.  I stood there surprised by his concentration and obvious pleasure while he urinated behind the privacy of his flannel blanket. He seemed to take forever, and I was a little envious he could pee like that, flat on his back.

"Get rid of this for me, " he said, slowly trading the urinal, without exposing himself, for the black pants I was handing him.  I disappeared to find a toilet. 

When I returned, he'd put on his pants and was sitting upright on the bed with his feet dangling down, shoes on, but with Velcro closures still open.  I closed his shoes and handed him his t-shirt and sweatshirt but he seemed so stoned, so far away, that I showed him where the tags were on each so he knew front from back.  The whole day had been somewhat surreal for me as an observer, and I hadn't taken any drugs.  

My father stood up and looked at me.  For the first time in a few hours his eyes were more than slits.  He moved in slow motion and was even slower to speak.  He looked at me as if he'd stored up the energy to tell me something really important when suddenly he blurted out:

"I'm bombed," and started to laugh.

"Can you walk?? I asked, handing him his cane.

I watched as he tried to redirect all his energy to his feet.  He even looked down at them as if his eyes could stimulate the appropriate neurons to make his legs move.  He tried once and nothing happened and then a second time. This time before his right foot moved, his leg buckled and I put out my arms to catch him in case he fell.  He looked up at me sort of helpless, but it didn't seem to bother him.  Finally, he put his right foot forward and teetered back and forth as if on a ship. He tried again to take a step with his left foot and looked up at me with a sheepish grin.

'should I get a wheelchair?? I asked. 

He must've thought he had a rhythm going and unsuccessfully tried to take another step before he looked up at and with great effort said, "Yeah, I'll always take a chair."

I tried to help him put his parka on.  He was like a little kid who couldn't figure out how to twist his arm at the right angle to get it into the armhole.  I stood there like a matador and we fumbled together, he and I, trying to get his jacket on.

The orderly delivered my dad to the bench outside the hospital and I laughed as I rushed to retrieve the rental car. My dad and I were so different.  Al Aronowitz was, and would always be, a stoner.  He loved marijuana.  "Marty? had never really been my friend.  Even though I'd been just as stoned as he was at least a few times in my life, I'd always panicked, starting with those five potent hashish brownies.

I had to give my father a lot of credit.  He spent the day in bliss.  He was living and dying on his own terms and I learned something very important from him.  He truly knew how to make the best of a bad situation.  That day, I learned that whatever plans I'd made to create a perfect hospice setting for my dad's last breath, were my plans, not his, and I was not in charge.   I only hoped my dad knew I loved him and that he could always? lean on me.  ##


FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE KEEP LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK

"A masterpiece!" --- SALLY GROSSMAN, widow of Bob Dylan's brilliant original manager, Albert Grossman.

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"Required Reading for anyone and everyone who considers themselves fans, followers, students, or those just plain curious of the Golden Age of Popular Music"---GARY PIG GOLD, FUFKIN.COM.

"I love the book. I love the way you can open it to any page and start reading and it keeps you reading. The book is just fun to read." --LEVON HELM, Drummer of THE BAND from Big Pink.

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". . .perfect for our times."---WOODSTOCK TIMES

"Adam Duritz (he's the lead singer and writer for the famed Counting Crows). . .was at my studio and couldn't put the book down."---STEWART LERMAN, RIGHTEOUS SOUND INC.

". . .a must read for anyone who loves, music, loves life, loves rock and roll."---TSAURAH LITZKY, author of The Motion of the Ocean, Baby on the Water, and  Goodbye Beautiful Mother.  

"I recommend it."---DOUGLAS HOLDER, IBBETSON STREET PRESS.  

".  . .It is a fascinating, insightful read. You are such a wonderful writer."---STEPHANIE LEDGIN, Music Journalist.

"I could not put this book of yours down for a minute."---ED GALING, POET LAUREATE OF HATBORO, PA.

"Quite simply, Al Aronowitz is a living legend"---JOHN FORTUNATO, THE AQUARIAN.

"Every student and fan of The Beat Generation, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones will want to read this book"---RON WHITEHEAD, POET

"Volume One Of The Blacklisted Journalist is the kinda tome what a fella can dip into at any given point and find oneself hooked within a couple paragraphs"---DUKE DE MONDO, BLOGCRITICS.ORG.


BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, VOLUME ONE OF THE BEST OF THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST

The sometimes scattered chronicles of the rock journalist's friendship with a few of the most recognizable music icons in rock and pop history.

It certainly takes a bit of hubris to say that "the '60s wouldn't have been the same without me." But coming from Al Aronowitz, the former music columnist for the New York Post who was often called "the godfather of rock journalism," such sentiment is perhaps justified.  Here, in a compilation of many of his unpublished manuscripts, Aronowitz describes in candid yet affectionate detail his friendships with Bob Dylan and the Beatles.  As a music writer and fan who recognized the musicians' limitless potential early in their careers, Aronowitz decided to bring them together for the first time, in a New York City hotel in 1964, a meeting that also involved the Beatles' introduction to marijuana. His prescience was soon bolstered by the 1965 releases of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and the Beatles' Rubber Soul, both seminal albums that altered the landscape of pop music.  This landmark moment is just one of Aronowitz's colorful memories and musings of being a hanger-on with these legends and their associates, including The Band, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, poet Allen Ginsberg, deejay Murray the K and others.  Specifically provocative are the accounts of Dylan's erratic behavior and short temper, which often led to fitful confrontations and even the ending of friendships, including that between Dylan and the author.  It's also evident that Aronowitz was particularly fond of George Harrison, and the two remained friends until Harrison's death in 2001.  Most remarkable is the close proximity he maintained to these gods, whether he was at their homes, hoteI rooms, recording studios, or concerts.  Though his personal life certainly had its share of woes (particularly bankruptcy and his wife's death), Aronowitz exhibits a marked sense of pride---and rightly so---for playing a key role in music history,

An enticing backstage pass to the meeting of arguably the two most influential acts in rock history.


"BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES: Volume One Of The Best Of The Blacklisted Journalist is a golden stash box of Al's You-Are-There history of two thirds of rock's Holy Troika"---MICHAEL SIMMONS, LA WEEKLY.

". . .Amazing stories in this book" ---JAY LUSTIG, NEWARK STAR LEDGER

". . .Aronowitz has a place in the annals of history that nothing can erase"---DAVID DANKWA, GAZETTE LEADER

". . .Aronowitz has a simple, straightforward writing style that makes the reading go fast. . ."---JEFFERY LINDHOLM, DIRTY LINEN

"Aronowitz. . .witnessed things that most rock fanswould give an arm and a leg to see"---REGIS BEHE, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW

"The best of Aronowitz's writing. . . offer riotous and rambling time capsules comprising detailed vignettes and told in a voice that's direct, disarming and self-deprecating"---MIKE MILIARD, BOSTON PHOENIX

". . .Addictive reading" ---GOLDMINE MAGAZINE

". . .If you are truly interested in the 'behind the scenes' events of people who spawned an entirely new direction in the time we identify as the sixties, this book is truly for you!"---JOHN ANDERSON, HOST OF THE "ON THE HORIZON" RADIO SHOW

IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM," TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE '60S WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."


AND HERE'S ANOTHER BOOK BY AL ARONOWITZ!

THE MOVIE WAS FICTION. THE TRUE STORY IS STRANGER THAN FICTION: FOR MOST OF HIS SHORT BUT SPECTACULAR LIFE, BOBBY DARIN UNKNOWINGLY LIVED A LIE

". . .A highly entertaining and informative read"--HAMMOND GUTHRIE, THE THIRD PAGE

". . .Its 43 chapters provide snapshots of Darin's brief, sensational life>" ---GOLDMINE MAGAZINE


CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN 115


CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS

The Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
info@blacklistedjournalist.com
 
 

THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ