Posts Tagged ‘Meg Ryan’

Grieving is a process, not an event. There is no one cathartic moment.

Thinking about your mother’s influence upon you is a process too. It is more a stream of consciousness process. You just remember things and begin to tumble down the rabbit hole. Even when you should be sleeping. And so here I am again, maybe it won’t be the last time.

You can find out quite a bit about me from my blog. I share stories. I love story, and telling true stories. Especially the Story. There is not much I keep hidden except the sources of shame. Some friends call me King of the Overshare.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoorMy parents were King and Queen of the Undershare. As I noted we didn’t talk about lots of things. Feelings weren’t the only thing we didn’t talk about. History is something we didn’t talk about. She never really talked about herself so in some ways she was very hard to know. You had to follow the clues like breadcrumbs in the forest.

We didn’t talk about religion and faith. This may seem strange because she brought me to mass most weeks and I went to CCD until I was confirmed in high school. I think we started out going as a family, but most of my memories are of just the two of us at the 4:30 mass on Saturdays. I was the final hope as she tried to fulfill her obligation. Like any child I’d squirm restlessly on that wooden pew, bored from the 15-minute homilies from Father Rogers. He must have been one of the good priests because he was there forever. But the worst was the week he presented the budget in lieu of the homily. That was always the most boring mass of the year. Summer time mass was hot and sweaty since there was no A/C in our 70’s space ship looking building.

I was the last hope religiously because my brothers must have begun balking. Though the youngest, I was the only one to be confirmed. But we never talked about it: what was said, what it meant how to live it. We didn’t say grace at meals. It was utterly and completely compartmentalized. It was like the dollar bill she tossed (or allowed me to toss) in the plate: what was required.

I remember little of what I learned. I remember engaging my CCD teacher about 5th commandment. In my early teens I had relatively high moral standards, so I thought. By my late teens that was pretty much out the window. I remember the trauma of having to tell the priest my sins for first confession.

It might seem like a waste, but it wasn’t. Oddly, I owe it my life. The liturgy “saved” me. As a college student facing my selfishness and lust, trying to actually pray for real it came back. “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.” Had I not gone to mass all those years, I would not have known there is a Savior. For this I thank my mother.

We didn’t talk politics either. Some of that was because my father hates arguments or debates. Part of it was that my parents voted differently. It has only been in recent years that my father talks politics with me, because we generally agree. As a result I figure she was the Democrat. But she was a pro-life Democrat. I, of course, only learned this after my conversion and interest in the pro-life movement. See, I can’t really talk about her without talking about me. Is that normal?

Slap Shot PosterWe didn’t talk about sex. Like at all. Like ever. I learned from magazines found in my house, kids at school and movies. These are not the best places to learn about sex being full of misinformation. As the youngest I was exposed to my brothers’ sins. And my parents grew tired of paying babysitters. As a result I was dragged to movies in the 70’s that they wanted to see. And some of them had sexual situations, like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. The most egregious was Slap Shot. It is one of the funniest movies I ever saw. And one of the raunchiest. But we never talked about it.

In some ways my parents were laisse faire parents. I was not strictly disciplined though we had a “board of education” as a decoration on the wall. I only saw it come down once, and felt it on my backside even though it was clearly my brother’s fault. She was more subtle. Okay, pulling the hair on the back of my head wasn’t subtle (and thankfully I never did that to my kids). Grounding was more her/their cup of tea. Like the time I was grounded for a week for sImage result for board of education paddleaying Dennis Gilbert pushed me into a kiddie pool on a cold day instead of admitting I was afraid of the neighbor’s tiny, barking dog and backed into it. Grounding and seemingly subtle statements like “We’re glad you aren’t on drugs” (did they know I spent the previous summer smoking pot with my cousin who likely was in trouble for still smoking pot?).

Or the time she found my the beer leftover from a night out which I’d hidden in my sock drawer while in high school. “Mr. I’m Gonna Drink at Home” became a binge drinker and leftovers weren’t common. But she found them “putting things away.” She always found my contraband “putting things away.” I’m still not sure what she was “putting away” when she found the condoms “Mr. I’m Gonna Wait ‘Til Marriage” hid in his desk. Her trouble with boundaries reared its head often in this way. She had her ways of expressing disappointment and using guilt trips.

I’m probably a reader because she was. I don’t remember seeing my father read much at all although the entire collection of Bond novels clearly wasn’t hers. But until Alzheimer’s took its toll she was always reading a novel. I even read some she had been reading, unfortunately. I didn’t need to read the V.C. Andrews series Flowers in the Attic. No one did. But my interests were far wider, and like her I often had a few books I was reading. I’ll blame that addiction on her.

Image result for meg ryan as the world turnsWe also watched TV together. When I came home from high school I’d watch As the World Turns with her. It didn’t hurt that a young Meg Ryan was in it. The young Meg Ryan was the reason I watched it. But if I was home in the evening we’d watch shows like L.A. Law. I guess that was how we bonded. It was my dad who took me to movies and games, and mom who watched TV with me. These were the years Dad was in sales and not always home in the evenings.

TV is connected to another of her little tests before reward. For Christmas in my sophmore year of college she gave me a small black and white TV for my dorm room. She wanted to make sure I actually studied first. My GPA was sufficient to warrant the gift. It was on that little TV that I watched the Challenger explode a month later.

The Challenger blew up a few days after her mother died. If I remember correctly the only reason I was in the dorm room to watch it was that I was told not to go to the funeral but stay at school. I still don’t understand why. It was not very far away, but out of the way for them to pick me up. When Nana died there was no funeral. And so you see my family’s strange relationship with death. We want to remember people was they were, even if we aren’t gathering to actually do that. Grief is private so no one learns how to grieve.

Grandma’s death reminds me of another of my mother’s subtle/not so subtle passive-aggressive attempts to change someone. Grandma was a chain smoker: unfiltered Camels. She was old school and hard core. Her house smelled of cats and Camels. My mom hated smoking, and that her mother smoked. She cared about her mother, and wanted her to be around longer. She expressed this by buying her cigarettes with filters. Grandma would cut them off and smoke them. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn she died of lung cancer.

Family did matter to her. Both grandmothers were about 45 minutes away. When I was young we’d go visit them regularly. While we only saw my father’s sister on holidays, we’d see some of her brothers on a fairly regular basis. We lived less than a mile from her brother Dick. Rick, my cousin, was only a few months younger and we spent a lot of time together until the infamous summer before 8th grade. We talked about sex. And drugs (only later). And rock ‘n’ roll, he introduced me to Van Halen.¬† He could get away with cussing as long as it was in an English accent like on Monty Python. My mother allowed me no such leniency.

Midway PosterHer brothers Norman and Ronnie were single through much of my childhood. In addition to family get-togethers where Norman would tickle me mercilessly, I would sometimes spend time with them (sometimes with Rick). I remember Norman taking us up to Manchester to go to Wendy’s (a special treat in his eyes) and to see Midway in sensurround so we could feel the theater shake when the bombs went off.

There was a failed attempt to go to the Deerfield Fair as well. Norman got the weekend wrong. I can’t remember what we actually did but we enjoyed listening to My Sharonna. I never did go to the Fair to see the freaky animals.

There was a weekend with Ronnie that included a trip to the drive-in to see Orca (for us kids) in which Bo Derek kept her clothes on, and Shampoo (for him) in which I think Warren Beatty didn’t. It ain’t easy going to a drive-in in a Firebird if you’re in the back seat. This strange detour is to indicate that some of her brothers had big roles in our lives.

It had to have really hurt her when her mother died and Ronnie (so the story goes) was discovered to have gotten the house put in his name. A lawsuit followed and he became “He Who Shall Not Be Named”. After the lawsuit she never mentioned him in my presence. He was cut off. I wondered what became of him until this past fall before Norman died. Ronnie came to say good-bye to his brother, but was too late to say good-bye to his only sister who no longer remembered her brothers. Turns out he moved to Winter Haven, FL and I wonder if we lived there at the same time.

It hurt her that we aren’t close as a family. She’d triangulate by trying to get me to tell my brother she’d appreciate a call. Yes, she had a phone. But she saw it as a token of love if he called. Like any mom she wanted to feel loved and appreciated. Her move back to NH for the grand son was disappointing in some ways because she didn’t see that grand son as much as she anticipated. There was a geographical closeness to my brothers that didn’t seem to be matched relationally. This pained her though she wouldn’t come out and say it. At least to the parties involved.

Families are messy and complex. Sin, especially when not owned up to, creates distance. All families have their issues, their flaws and pains. They also have their good stuff. I suspect that if you’re close it is because you see more of the good stuff and because you’re close you discover more of it. When you aren’t it is often because you’re focused on the not so good stuff. And because you aren’t you don’t see the good anymore.

I struggled in my relationship with my parents for a few years. There were past hurts I wanted to talk about that they didn’t (and who could blame them). I didn’t want a pound of flesh so much as acknowledgment but it probably looked like I wanted a pound of flesh. I had to learn to accept them as they were, warts and all, and not demand they be who I wanted them to be. That demand drove me away for a time. When I let it go I could draw close again. Mom and I never talked about that time of frostiness. She was just happy I was calling again. She loved me, and was happy that I loved her.

At times my wife critiques my driving, noting that I “break late.” One friend nicknamed me “Tailhook” because I didn’t slow down until entering the decellaration lane to enter our subdivision. My mom was worse. I remember frequently being in the car on Broad Street approaching the red light by the old Nashua Mall. We were going downhill. I would keep pressing my foot onto to the floor boards as if I was breaking. So, CavWife, it could be worse.

She couldn’t drive a manual transmission. As a teen I was told it had to do with arthritis. I recall an accident in the same Nashua Mall when someone t-boned us in the parking lot. Being in the backseat, and being young, I’m not sure if her driving precipitated it but that is a strange place to be in an accident.

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This one looks very much like ours but has a real hood scoop.

The “best” car she drove as an orange¬† and black Plymouth Duster with a fake hood scoop. She drive this while Rick and I were in a bowling league. There were many cold winter mornings when she drove us to Leda Lanes in that pseudo-muscle car.

Sadly this car was gone by the time I learned to drive. I learned on a grey Ford Grenada. This was an utterly horrible car, particularly in the snow. I rejoiced with we got the Subaru station wagon instead. Unfortunately, though, this assisted in my seduction by the girl would be my first girlfriend. Since she didn’t drive and rode her bike to work, she asked me for rides home. This was during the summer before she went off to college, so we’d sit outside and talk, until she made her move on me… betrayed by my hormones I was.

Cooking was a blessing and a curse where my mom was concerned. She grew up with a Polish mother. Food was likely … bland (apologies to my fellow Poles). When she got married she learned how to cook Italian food for my father. There was plenty of pasta in our house growing up. She handled that pretty well.

One thing she didn’t handle well was chili. Hers was like watery tomato soup with beef and kidney beans tossed in. Maybe there was a molecule of chili power in there, but I seriously doubt it. When I learned to make my own, it had lots of meat, was thick and spicy.

For many years I thought I only like chicken that was fried. When she baked it the chicken was often bone dry. Eventually I learned that I liked chicken, as long as it wasn’t bone dry.

I do miss her “magic bars” from the Christmas holidays. They were great, and CavWife refuses to make them for me since they include coconut. Thankfully her sister makes them as a treat for me.

That’s all for now. There may be more.

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This has been a long time coming.

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My Wedding Reception in 2001

Long, long ago (so it seems) in this here galaxy, I began to notice that my mom began faking it. While talking on the phone she stopped answering questions with any detail. I began to get very short answers that were excruciatingly vague. Things like “It was good.” “It was okay.” And really long pauses. I knew something was up. Shortly after this she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

When we visited she would obsess with where the kids played as if they would do serious damage to their manufactured home with their toys. The next year my kids didn’t go inside, but if they got within 20 feet of the road she got worried. The fear she had hidden for so long (and so well I didn’t know about it) had taken over as her ability to control it was gone.

When she didn’t recognize me I didn’t realize how much it affected me. I mean, how can a mom forget her kid? But that is what this disease does. I had visited while we were on vacation. For the rest of that vacation (and beyond) little things set me off. I had so much anger and didn’t put the pieces together. It is so obvious now, but it wasn’t then. Grief seems so difficult for me because I grew up on a family that seemed to avoid grief. Ain’t nobody got no time for dat grief.

From afar I watched my dad care for her. It was like he was a different man- a better man. The first time we’d visited my parents after getting married, they began to bicker about how to put the growlers of beer I brought in the fridge. CavWife’s experience with them was VERY limited (she married me on faith!). “Oh, they’re kinda like the Costanzas,” I said. That changed after his heart stent. They realized the party would eventually end.

While Alzheimer’s brought out the not so good in her, it brought out the best in him. He was so patient with her. I think the right parent got Alzheimer’s. As the disease progressed, he struggled with when to put her into a nursing home. When I’d visit I was his friend, not her son. Her hallucinations were ordinary- her little brothers in the other room. Unlike other people with Alzheimer’s I knew there were no little friends hiding by your feet. But then she largely stopped talking.

Caring for her was tiring. He was always on duty because she’d get up in the middle of the night and try to flush the adult diaper, flooding the bathroom. But, understandably, he had trouble entrusting her into someone else’s care. The doctor and his staff would say she was ready. He wasn’t. For some reason I remember one of those conversations with him during the Red Sox 2013 World Series run. I was driving home from a hospital visit and the Sox game was on the radio. Yet, the timing is off. Odd how the memory can work.

Hanging Up PosterI remember starting to watch Hanging Up with Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow one Saturday afternoon during this period. Pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan. When Meg’s character put her father (Walter Matthau) in a nursing home I completely lost it. I had to hang up, so to speak, on the movie. The kids didn’t need to come downstairs to find their father in a pool of tears and snot because he was watching a movie. This would be one in a long series of grief stuffing moments to come.

She wouldn’t end up in a nursing home until the fall of 2017. Those were 4 long years of visits when I was on vacation. I had started going alone, initially because I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to her declining condition and inability to understand why she didn’t talk to them or know who they were. But I went because I knew my father needed me to be there. It was hard to be so far away, but it was obviously so much harder on my father.

I struggled with guilt, false guilt. He wanted me to move closer. I thought about moving closer. There was a big church nearby looking for a pastor. The fact they had a woman as the interim pastor was a big clue to me that I would not be their first, or 30th, choice. Most of the churches that would be a fit were small. I was nearing 50 and a pay cut combined with a higher cost of living didn’t seem wise. I also knew myself, once she died I’d want to get out of the cold and snow. There’s a reason I’ve lived in Florida and Arizona for the last 30 years.

While the disease initially seemed to proceed quickly it seemed to have stalled. She was still mobile. My father was thinking about financial realities. Their long-term disability insurance would cover about 2-3 years of care and he was trying to maximize it. He hung on as long as he could because he loved her. Visits were with my father while she was the quiet spectator. We’d go to lunch and he’d order for her knowing what she’d like based on 50+ years of experience. At the house the Game Show Network would be on since she couldn’t follow a plot. The crosswords and Suduko she loved to do were put away. Soon the mirrors were covered because she’d yell at the old woman who was following her.

Eventually he couldn’t do it any more. She could get angry. I experienced that a few times when my attempts to be kind and convey warmth were misunderstood (or perhaps that squeeze on the shoulder was stronger than I realized), and there it was. It was sort of like Gollum fighting over his precious. And he lived with that 24/7. It got to be too much.

Going into the nursing home didn’t start well. She wandered into someone else’s room. When the care giver tried to lead her to her own room a fight erupted. I laughed out loud thinking about my 80+ year-old mom punching someone in a fist fight, but she was sent to the hospital. And my father was crushed. He wondered if he’d done the right thing (he did!). He didn’t want her sedated all the time. But sedated she was, and they backed it off to the minimal level necessary.

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Summer of 2018

It is hard to face the good and the bad of my mother. My parents didn’t talk about their childhood. She was the oldest of 8, having 7 brothers. Her father was not in good health (he died when I was 4 or 5. She was likely engaged in child-rearing at a very young age. She was likely robbed of a childhood and adultified.

Her ethos, shared with a Mormon missionary at the door when I was older, was “do your best.” I think she did, but I suspect she didn’t have all we might want in a mother. She loved me as best she could, I don’t deny that. Yet I found myself “adopting” other moms to supplement, never realizing what was really going on until many years later while in a counseling program. I began to sort through some of this as I read books like The Mom Factor. I learned the phrase “good enough mom.”

“For one, she was my mother. Who knew her better than me? Who knew her stories? Her triumphs and losses? Who knew what she had overcome? Who knew her great loves and dreams? I did…” Mike Glenn in Coffee with Mom

I read the above and thought … I don’t know those things. So much was hidden, undisclosed. She was shut up tighter than a house ready for a cold New England winter. I knew her from my experience with her, but I didn’t know her experience. I feel like a man trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with more than a few pieces gone.

She got her nursing degree but was quickly married and having children. I’m not sure she had a firm sense of herself apart from raising kids. For a time she worked at the hospital, as an operator not a nurse. But when I was in middle school she began to watch kids for teachers at the school down the road. She’d do this until they moved to California.

She confused me at times. She taught me to save. But in round about ways. She made me save for driver’s ed. So, I put aside money from my paper route, mowing lawns and shoveling drive ways. I saved the money and took the course, which she then proceeded to paid for. She hid her motives at times, but when you are a teenager it was very frustrating.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I was young (5 or so) her mother gave me $5 for my birthday (that was quite a bit in 1970). While going somewhere my mom stopped to get gas. My grandmother said I should offer to pay for the gas with my birthday money. That didn’t make sense to my young, greedy, selfish self. “Don’t you think I’d give you more?” was her reply. Confusing. And my mom could be the same way. Life was a series of tests of my character.

We didn’t talk about emotions aside from the admonition to not to get so angry. Like many in her generation, she couldn’t really go there. As a result, I wasn’t sure how to go there and didn’t really grasp that it was an issue until a girlfriend got angry with my obvious struggle to empathize with her own loss. I’m not making excuses, but she loved me (us) as best she could.

When I graduated from high school we all went out for dinner. I think she had a tad too much wine because for the one and only time she mentioned she had miscarried a daughter. In talking with one of my brothers later, he indicated they knew something had happened but not what it was. The timing was shortly before I was conceived. This had to be incredibly painful for her. She had only brothers, and give birth to only boys. It was a wound she didn’t share, wouldn’t share and probably couldn’t share. When I had a daughter, she was filled with joy. They made a trip to Florida in order to meet their granddaughter. But I was left with the sense of “I wasn’t supposed to be here, someone else was.”

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With the first grandchild.

When I moved to Florida in 1991, my parents moved to California for a job. She’d never lived more than 40 minutes from where she grew up. That decade in California was hard for her. They lived in 3 different cities for 3 different jobs until my dad retired early. He loved southern California, but with the birth of the first grandson she wanted to move back.

I visited them a few times while they were in California. The only of their 3 children to do so. They flew me out twice. They were generous toward me in many ways. During a few times I lived at home post-college she kept a mini-fridge in the basement family room stocked with Bud and Sipps (still a joke with one of my old friends). When my car died while I was in seminary, a check arrived so I could buy a used car another student was selling. I borrowed money to buy my next car. There was a loan when I was in between pastoral calls and under-employed. They showed their love through gifts like the money I needed to buy an engagement ring, and a new washer & dryer when we moved to AZ.

I also extended a work trip for Ligonier to spend some time with them. But those trips were also hard. It was like I was still a kid (Let’s do the time warp again!). She had a hard time hearing my ‘no’. This sounds stupid, but I didn’t want her to do my laundry. I was an adult for the love of Pete. But she’d do it anyway. She did it out of love, but I felt disrespected and treated like a child. I struggled with that. It was like a time machine, and I wasn’t liking it. She struggled with boundaries.

They traveled to New Hampshire in September 2001 to look for a new home as a result of that grandson. They were originally booked to fly back to Los Angeles from Boston on 9/11 but decided to stay longer. I got the gift of two more decades of my parents as a result. I had also learned to accept my parents’ limitations better. I was learning to love them better instead of demanding that they be the parents I wanted instead of the parents I actually had.

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2011 by the source of the joke that bombed.

She had a strange sense of humor. Like many teens I wanted a car for my 16th birthday. So she got me a matchbox car. That’s okay when your 16. But when you’re 6 or 3, not so much. After we moved to Tucson they came to visit us. During that visit we put in a swing set. While I was working on it, and my kids excited about it, she told them it wasn’t for them but for other kids. They were confused, and hurt. I have to be careful that my sense of humor doesn’t hurt the ones I love. She loved them, but didn’t always know how to show it.

I guess that is how I process my experience with my mother. She loved me, but didn’t always know how to show it appropriately.

Loving someone with Alzheimer’s is difficult. It is like they are gone, but they aren’t. You feel like you should grieve, but there they are. Sort of. When I visited her in 2018, I tried to use my phone to show her pictures of her grand kids and AZ. She took the phone and studied it as if it was something new and strange. To her it was. On a later visit she largely ignored me and my brother, wandered the common area and straightened just about everything. As my dad noted at the time, she always kept a clean house. This was a remnant of who she was. The woman I knew was there, but not there. And I was no one to her.

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Summer of 2019

You struggle with wanting her to live and also wanting her suffering to end. You know there is likely a high level of fear in there precisely because they don’t understand much of what is happening. There are also the realities of the physical decline, the inability to do what you used to do for yourself. She had become like a child in many ways. Add to that what you see your father enduring. You become seriously conflicted.

I had hoped to visit after Christmas. But it just kept snowing and I’m 30 years removed from regularly driving in ice and snow. The journey from my in-laws to my parents goes thru Vermont and Killington ski area, not a place I want to drive right after a winter storm. I was also struggling with plantar fasciitis in my right foot. A 4-hour drive would be incredibly painful.

A niece was heading to NH to visit her brother and I could have gone along. But it was during my daughter’s birthday which I didn’t want to miss. I also had that flu/cold going through the family. I made what I thought was a wise decision. While my niece was in NH my mother collapsed and ended up on the hospital. I wished I could be there for my father. It was likely the result of a virus, but after a hospice consultation she was approved for hospice care. Another mile marker.

While I wasn’t physically there, my dad and I had a long over-due conversation about her care. CavWife and I had talked about this over our anniversary lunch a few days earlier. I didn’t want a repeat of his delay in putting her into a nursing home. She met the markers for hospice care, and they could provide him with experience and wisdom in questions of appropriate care based on her terminal disease. It also helped him with out of pocket expenses. This was a win even though she could live much longer.

She seemed to bounce back. She was eating again, and with her walker make it to the dining area. She was talking more than she had in quite some time. It didn’t make any sense but she was verbal.

A few weeks later she walked to breakfast and all seemed fine. While he was visiting something suddenly seemed wrong to him. She suddenly seemed unable to walk, and any sign of recognition of my father vanished. He wondered it her knee was giving her trouble again. But then he discovered she couldn’t use her right arm. She’d had a stroke. Everything changed.

And so I travel home tomorrow. I might make it in time to say goodbye. I might not. She hasn’t been eating and drinking. Her breathing has finally become labored. Flights are harder to come by last minute these days. I want to go, and don’t want to go. My inner conflict continues.


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Back to the 60’s!

Still in the 60’s.

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover.jpgOne of the CavBrothers listened to The Doors. Eventually I borrowed the compilation, Dark Scenes Inside the Gold Mine. I was hooked. The Doors had a unique sound that clicked with me. As a teenager I’d come home from school, put them on and take a nap. I read Sugarman’s biography of Morrison, No One Gets Out of Here Alive, a 3 or 4 times while in high school and college. Even though he’d been dead for over a decade, Morrison’s magnetism pulled me in. Disturbed and prone to excess, he lived a life this messed up teenager wanted to live (and I’m not glad I didn’t). I still like their music, particularly the interplay between Manzarek’s organ (often invoking the sounds of an amusement park) and Krieger’s guitar. It is a common formula for me, evidenced by my love for Deep Purple because of Blackmore and Lord. Morrison was not as good as a singer as Gillan, but he was obviously a much better lyricist.

I didn’t see The Doors when it came out in 1991. I’m not sure why. Val Kilmer was one of my favorite actors, and Meg Ryan one of my favorite actresses. It came out “too late”, after I’d become a Christian and no longer attracted to Morrison’s excess. I started to watch it not too long ago. Kilmer did an incredible job. The problem, from my perspective, was Oliver Stone. His manner of storytelling got in the way.

A few years ago I bought their first album, The Doors, during one of those Amazon Black Friday deals. It has held up amazingly well. For me, that is still their best album. The others were a bit inconsistent due to the pressure to produce. My next favorite would be the final album, the moody L.A. Woman.

The album begins with a classic, but all too short, introduction to the band- Break On Through (to the Other Side). It remains one of their better songs. It was released as their first single, but was unsuccessful. The “she gets high” line was removed from the single thinking it would discourage radio play. Densmore has been into bossa nova music and used a bossa nova rhythm for the song. With Krieger’s Paul Butterfield-influenced guitar and Manzarek’s Ray Charles-influenced keyboards it made for a very interesting mix behind Morrison’s psychedelic lyrics. It just all works beautifully. The original version would later become a staple of classic rock radio.

Next is the very different Soul Kitchen. It is a Morrison version of a love song. Then things get weird with The Crystal Ship. They move into 20th Century Fox about the modern woman before one of the two covers, The Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar). Originally part of an opera, they changed some of the lyrics. They would not be the last band to cover this song, and I’m not sure why. This is one of the weakest songs on the album.

But the next song is the one that made them famous: Light My Fire. It is their most famous song. A shortened version was released as a single. This was the song that got them banned from The Ed Sullivan Show after they agreed to change the line “girl we couldn’t get much higher”, but then Morrison played it anyway. They didn’t have enough material so Morrison encouraged other band members to write some songs. Robby Krieger wrote this one. Clocking in over 7 minutes it contains some great extended instrumental sections.

The next song is another cover, Back Door Man. This is a reference to the person you cheat with, having to sneak in and out of the back door. It is an old blues standard. But it fits Morrison’s philandering ways. It works much better than the other cover.

Like the first side, you hit a trio of lesser songs: I Looked at You, End of the Night and Take it As it Comes. These are not bad songs, but can’t match the peaks of the beginning, middle and the end. Literally, The End which builds tension for 10 minutes. Morrison was essentially stream of consciousness moving through the apparent pain of his childhood. At one point he claimed it was about the end of childhood. It is dark. It is strange. It climaxes in oedipus fury. Coppola featured the song in Apocalypse Now. It is a dark masterpiece.

This is quintessential Doors. Quintessential rock ‘n’ roll. It isn’t for everyone but I still appreciate the disturbed genius of this album. It wouldn’t be the last time I appreciated disturbed genius.




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