Posts Tagged ‘linda ronstadt’

When Linda Ronstadt Sings




Cassie is the name I’ve given to the homeless woman who walks by our house, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, early every morning and returns by the very same route every evening. Sometimes, when the weather is bad, I have seen her take shelter in the Sulzer Regional Library. A haven for many of us in all sorts of ways. The song in this story, Adios,  was written by the brilliant songwriter Jimmy Webb. And Linda Ronstadt, who recently announced she was no longer able to sing. Well, all I can say is “Listen to her.”



Six sets of gauzy, hooded eyes watch her every morning. A shift change at night.


Bathed in the grey dawn light of a late October snow sky, Cassie leans in north. Head down, skin and bones, straining to push her shopping cart past the stately home of the Mayor of Chicago. Those six sets of eyes.  Cops in unmarked cars barely shift in their seats. Triangulating justifiable protection for the Mayor and his family.  They know there is no danger from Cassie.  She’s a regular. And the Mayor is usually gone by the time Cassie trudges past each morning.


The wide sidewalks, bare trees and spacious lawns sport a dog walker or two. Early morning commuters, walk to catch their trains. Cassie has her route. She is as much a part of the street as the wind. If the day turns rainy, she’ll sit in the entryway of the Sulzer Regional library. A child might see her and wonder ‘Is the sad lady hungry?’ A Mommy might step down from a gleaming black SUV and sense a presence other than her own. But that will pass quick. The doors of the library let the howling, hawk wind seep in with icy blasts like frozen train whistles.

But wrapped up in her coat, Cassie doesn’t mind. She doesn’t look up once. Never sees Mommy of the SUV or the curious child. The whooshing of the traffic like a white noise screens out everything but the song. The song starts up and Cassie is as far from that library lobby as she can be, hearing the voice of the timeless singer, Linda Ronstadt start to tell the story again with the words of the songwriter Jimmy Webb. Cassie hears Ronstadt sitting in the empty space right next to her, as if holding her hand, Ronstadt sings,


Ran away from home when I was seventeen

To be with you on the California Coast.


And that very instant , , ,

A golden, peach orchard breeze explodes in Cassie’s mind. Sweeping out weary, as if the California sunshine really could let us all, every one of us, start fresh and alive and spilling out fruit tree sun.


Ronstadt sings,

Drinking margaritas all night in the old cantina

Out on the California coast.


And in her voice, those times at the sunset ending of the work day when the promise of their night come rolling from quiet laughter and looks and then the love. As if they had their very own solid, smooth stepping stones across the wild and raging Pacific waters of their lives to come. Anything was possible back then. And whatever it was they could handle it. Could always get it done.


In the lobby of the library while she sits still as the ocean right before a storm, a security guard walks by. Just checking. He gives Cassie a look. Then keeps walking.


But Cassie in looking at the ocean from Highway One. Hearing only Linda Ronstadt sing,


Don’t think that I’m ungrateful

And don’t look so morose.


Every day, when the song comes and lifts her and she says goodbye to him again, she grabs hold of the endless currents of the love that runs between the lines of the song like the power of every one of the rivers flowing down to the sea. Not just one river. All of them. And she is wondering and knowing at the very same time, that of course he had to go and never come back. It was better that way. So much better that way.


Cassie listens to the song. Holding on to it for dear life. Her heart as blistered, raw and sore as her feet.


For a split second she lets herself ask again, “What happened?” Then she answers. Mumbling. To keep that security guard walking past. Cassie again tells the story. If only cause maybe this time there will some sense to it. She says, “He followed the winds and the crops to do the picking. Left me in town while he walked and rode the state and the fields. Fact, some days, most days. There was only that few minutes at the end of the work when he would come in sweaty from the fields and call me on the phone. There would be just those few minutes to review the whole day and tomorrow. But when he told me that he loved me? That was enough.


And Ronstadt sings,


We never really made it baby

But we came pretty close.


Cassie shifts her position. Crosses her arms. Saying in quick, mumbling bursts of staccato sounds unintelligible to the passing crowds through the library lobby.

I don’t know why he didn’t call that time he went up north to those winter green hills. I knew I couldn’t have that though. I was hungry. I was tired, he was gone. I couldn’t have silence. I couldn’t live with the silence. No one could. No one could.

Cassie shakes her head clear and wonders if he was ever really there at all. Tucked into her corner of the library. Safe now. Safe. This is not the streets. Right this moment, not the streets. The streets will come when she pushes her cart south as the library, a shelter now connected to that cantina, the California coast itself. Right now this moment, she forgets to blame. Forgets who was silent. The streets are too hard for that. It was too long ago. She only hears Ronstadt sing,


And I miss the blood red sunset

But I miss  you the most




While across the lobby he sits. He’s right there too. And neither of them know it. Cassie’s grizzled and grey silent fruit picker farmer from all those years ago. Head buried in a book. He lives for the library. Carries his life in two brown paper bags. Of course, Cassie doesn’t see him. She only looks down. And he doesn’t see her. But he remembers. Every single one of the all to few moments.


Yesterday he read that Linda Ronstadt will never sing again. And that might be true.


But as the old man sits directly across the lobby, in the safe and warm confines of the Sulzer Library, his great, gone past love just yards away; he hears the exact same voice, the very same song as Cassie does. He hears Linda Ronstadt sing,


And I miss the blood red sunset

But I miss you the most.


He hears that voice and thinks, she might stop singing. But with her voice . . .


There will always be someone who listens.


Click here and MAYBE the song will play

Something Wonderful Coming


ImageYou never knew the full story. How I knew you were coming.

It was New Year’s Eve. Two weeks or so before I ventured out under the frozen stars of a Wisconsin sky. From that bone-smacking wind-whipped cold into the chocolate chip cookie baking warmth of your kitchen. Linda Ronstadt singing “Lovesick Blues.” And then to the radiance of your smile I said, “I was just in the neighborhood . . .”

Likely you thought that’s where it started. All those years ago.

But it was two weeks before that New Year’s Eve, when the notion first wound its way inside me like the smell of a wood fire burning, holding back the coldest winter night. The notion that something was coming. Something big. That woodsmoke notion was not a passing thought. It settled in and stayed the night. And what a night!

To have a New Year’s Eve, like grown-ups spend New Year’s Eve. My first. That first time you do something you believe is just about as cool as cool can be. You have arrived. You’ve got the story all planned to tell before it even happens. Because you’re that sure that what you’ve got planned is the best.

See, for me, at that time in Chicago, there simply was no better place to be than The Earl of Old Town. Add to that, the fact that it was New Years Eve. And if that wasn’t cool enough, Steve Goodman was the featured act. Me and a pal, going to the late show.

It was a good story before it even happened.

Standing in the foot stomping line on windswept Wells Street, waiting for the show to start. My pal and I would be counting down the last seconds of the year with Steve Goodman. As we waited for the early show to end so that we could go in, it started to snow.

With the soft snow swirling down across the lights of the icy winter city, we trooped inside the Earl and took our seats; it was like sitting down in the living room of that guy from the neighborhood who we had always wanted to be.

The stage was a tiny riser, the bar along the opposite wall. Tables clustered tightly around, like there was really just one table. We were sitting right in back of Nancy Goodman, Steve’s wife. Told ourselves we were now on “salt-passing terms” with Steve Goodman’s wife. And outside, the snow, a soft reminder of just how warm it was in this living room tonight.

As the bouncing bundle of laconic joy that was Steve Goodman sang, I started to feel that notion. Something big was coming. I had no idea what it was. But it was big.

Wide-eyed, held tight by the show. Those days in Chicago, there was Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc and John Prine. If you were there, they used their musical gifts to paint pictures, to take you to places only reached by imagination. The three of them, good beyond belief.

Goodman finished. My pal and I trudged off into the still falling snow, back to his place. Me on the couch alone, still with this notion. That something big was coming.

The next day, brilliant blue-sky-bright morning, when it really hit hard. We were tramping through the snow in Lincoln Park on New Year’s morning, with the place to ourselves. Past the new neighborhood restaurant, RJ Grunts. Just about to walk inside the grounds of the Lincoln Park Zoo.

That notion spoke like the very voice of winter itself. It said; “Your life is going to change. It’s going to change big. There will be something beyond what you’d ever imagined. You don’t know what it is and you don’t know when. But you are growing up now. And there will be a change.”

I remember going from the blue frozen morning into the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Stepping from the arctic into the tropics, a green wet jungle. A miracle when you think about it. How do you go from frigid cold to the beating heart jungle in just a few steps? And having the “plant zoo” as we called it, all to ourselves?

What happened after the Lincoln Park conservatory, the dripping green leaves against the glass that shielded them from the deep blue freeze of the day—I draw a blank. Up to Wisconsin must have happened. I was a college student. I had classes to take. I don’t remember what they were. I remember only two weeks later in the very dead of January venturing outside into the dark and ending up in your kitchen.

The part of the story that you know, too.

Then there was that lifetime. 20 years. Until your garden in Berkeley. Blue ceramic mugs of coffee for a carefully planned half hour visit. Tiptoeing past the closed door where your partner and new son slept in. If I remember right, maybe we said we’ll check in again, when we hit 60. If we all make it that long.

That might happen, but in case it doesn’t…this will have to do. I thought you should know the rest of the story. The part that happened just before we became us.

I wanted you to know what I knew. I want you to know that I remember, after those cookies came out of the oven in that two-weeks-after-New-Year’s kitchen, we walked on to the campus through the cold. Holding hands. And that’s when that notion that something was just about to happen…

Came true.

Growing up.