Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Melody Gardot, a jazz gem

The incomparable Melody Gardot...

Melody's voice drips sensuousness and Eartha Kitt-like sultriness. My favorite of her albums thus far, My One and Only Thrill followsAt 28, she's just begun...

Accident and Therapy

While cycling in Philadelphia in November 2003, she was hit by a car whose driver had ignored a red traffic light. In the accident she suffered serious head and spinal injuries.  Her pelvis was broken in two places. Because of these severe injuries she was confined to her hospital bed for a year and had to remain lying on her back. As a further consequence of her injuries she had to re-learn simple tasks such as brushing her teeth and walking. The most noticeable effect of the neural injuries she suffered is that she was left hyper-sensitive to both light and sound, therefore requiring her to wear dark sunglasses at nearly all times to shield her eyes.  The accident also resulted in both long and short term memory problems and difficulty with her sense of time. Gardot has described coping with this as like "climbing Mount Everest every day" as she often wakes with no memory of what she has to do that day.

Initially prompted by an attending physician who believed music would help her brain injury drastically improve, Gardot began writing music after her accident and now often speaks and advocates in favor of using music for therapy. The accident had damaged the neural pathways
between the brain's two cortices, which control perception and higher mental function, and made Gardot (in her own words) "a bit of a vegetable." As well as making it very hard for her to speak or communicate properly, she found it difficult to recall the right words to express her feelings.
Music, involving listening and making  verbal attempts to sing or hum, is thought to help the brain form new pathways. At first, Gardot learned to hum and was eventually able to sing into a tape recorder. She made good progress and was eventually able to write original songs that sometimes referred to her rehabilitation.

Gardot's doctor at the University of Medicine of New Jersey, Richard Jermyn, compared her condition to a computer. The computer was still intact and the memory was there but she could not access it. “That's what a brain injury does, it takes your ability to access that away”, Jermyn stated.

For several years after the accident Gardot traveled with a physiotherapist and carried a TENS machine strapped to her waist which released pain reducing impulses. While onstage Gardot explains, "the first maybe half dozen times experiencing this, that was the only 30 minutes in my life that I did not feel pain for that moment. And it was addictive." “It was a most unusual start, but when you come from a place where things are tough it makes it that much easier to appreciate the times when life is easy”, she said.

After her accident, Gardot could not listen to the music she had listened to before, as she could not tolerate anything above a whisper. Because of this, she had to find quieter, more soothing music to listen to. She recalls that while on the treadmill learning to walk again, she would listen to Stan Getz's The Bossa Nova Years album. Because Gardot could not sit comfortably at a piano, she learned to play guitar on her back while in the hospital and, shortly after, began to write her own music. During her recovery, she wrote material that later became part of a five song EP, “Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions” that Gardot produced herself.  Gardot was reluctant to record her songs at first, stating that they were too private for the public to hear. However she soon relented and her songs were soon being played on a Philadelphia radio station.

She was introduced to macrobiotics by a friend who lent her a book on its benefits. She began to experiment and cook for several hours a day. As well as reducing her pain levels, she believes that macrobiotics helped her mental ability to cope with pain, helping her relax as the routine of cooking helped take her mind off her physical condition and she also found that she was able to sleep more easily.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, My Angel


As you drew your last gasps of life in my arms,
I instinctively did my best to ease your suffering--
singing, talking, smiling, streichling...what else?

Vivid, yet skewed by anxiety and tears,
you were traveling from this plane to the next.

The Priest advised me to tell you it was ok to let go;
to tell you everyone was doing fine so that you could die in peace.

Yes, you were dying, yet miraculously watched my mouth like a newborn as I recited each and every one of us --

Until no more, you were gone.

Nooooo, you weren't!

I wanted you to streichel me as you'd done a thousand times since I were a baby,
To hold and comfort me while I sobbed,
I wanted you to walk me through the park in my stroller,
I wanted to watch you knit and crochet,
I wanted to hear you play the accordion with daddy and your friends,
I wanted you say it was okay to wear my favorite velvet jumper two sizes too small,
I wanted your dumplings in brown gravy and red cabbage,
I wanted to beg you to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium,
I wanted us to buy new outfits at the Danforth Outlet together,
I wanted us to go to your favorite honky-tonk to hear Hank Williams and Kitty Wells belt out their blues to you,
I wanted us to visit Woodstock, then go to lunch,
and another, and another, and another, ad infinitum, anytime, anywhere.

And in your twilight, I wanted to be there while Alzheimers dominated.
To shake you from its cruelty, yet not to leave,
That we'd continue to share moments only a daughter and mother shared,
Our doors swinging in both directions, always.

I miss you, and will love you until my last breath.

Happy Birthday, my Angel.  I pray Janie and Joey are blowing out your candles with you, for us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

THE WORDS, a film, writers would love... "A writer without a pen?" the Old Man asked.

"My tragedy was that I loved the words more than I loved the woman who inspired me to write them," Jeremy Irons, as the "The Old Man."


After finding a brilliant, unpublished book in an old briefcase, a rejected and frustrated wannabe writer, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), decides to claim it's his work, but his choice sets events in motion that have him facing an ethical quandry he could never have expected. 

Happy 21st, Nicole!
Spread your wings and fly!
 The most beautiful July day when Mommy brought you home; it was like holding her again after she was born -- inspirational and life changing!
You should feel so proud of having achieved the Dean's List every year for three years.  One more year, can you believe it?  The future holds boundless inspiration and possibilities.  Embrace and enjoy them!  Carpe diem, Nicole!
Nicole, 4 months, 1992