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Speak Your Feelings

When I was eighteen, I began doing daily writing exercises of my own invention with the goal of becoming a good enough writer to one day sell stories to magazines and possibly publish a novel. I was going to college at the time, 1967, and the main obstacle to my writing practice was that I was going to college, which only allowed me an hour or so a day for my writing, the rest of my time taken up with classes, reading, playing basketball, searching for food, tossing the Frisbee, and wooing fair maidens.

One evening my eccentric and unpredictable roommate looked up from the math proof he was working on and asked, “Will you read me what you wrote today?”

Prior to this request, he had seemed indifferent to my writing practice, and though I was somewhat suspicious of his request (he was majoring in Sarcasm), I acquiesced and read him a few pages of a quasi-story about a persnickety young man who was unsure of how to dress for a party at which he hoped to impress a particular fair maiden.

My roommate closed his eyes and seemed to go to sleep, and I marveled at how different the words I’d written sounded when read aloud, as if I’d never heard the words before, which, in fact, I hadn’t.

And from that moment on, I made it my practice to read aloud every draft of everything I wrote, a practice that greatly improved my writing.

As for my roommate, he opened his eyes at the conclusion of my little story and declared, “That was based on me, wasn’t it? I do make a fuss about which shirt to wear.”

Wait! Don’t Go a very sh0rt little movie by Todd

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Through the Fire

I’m in the throes of making a new album of songs entitled Too Much Noise – eight new songs and two older tunes I wanted to record again. Much of the recording has been completed, including Marcia’s cello parts, and now we are waiting for Gwyneth to be available to sing and play accordion on several of the songs. In the meantime, I’ve written a new song called Through the Fire.

* * *

One Last Time song

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Just Be

If you are over sixty-years-old, you probably remember when the expression Be Here Now escaped the confines of Buddhist teaching and, after a brief time as a popular battle cry of the counter-culture, became a frequently-made-fun-of cliché. And as a poo-pooed cliché, Be Here Now ceased to be taken seriously, which is too bad, because being here now opens the mind and heart to the miracle of being alive.

Morning Coffee piano solo by Todd

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Myriad Things

Reading about recent discoveries in neuroscience regarding how the brain develops during our first few years of life, I’ve been recalling many things about my time as a preschool teacher’s aide – notably how fully formed our personalities are by the time we are four-years old, and how hugely our personalities are shaped by the personalities and behaviors of those who take care of us during those formative years.

Simple Song (sweet) solo piano by Todd

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How To Start Over

I recently read a mind-boggling book entitled The Secret Life of the Mind: how your brain thinks, feels, and decides by Mariano Sigman. Fortunately, I had fairly recently read several books about contemporary neuroscience, so I was not entirely bewildered by Mariano’s explications of recent and incredible discoveries about how we think, feel, and decide. The following broadside was inspired by Mariano’s tome.

The Guru a very short film by Todd

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Imagine A Song

The following idea sprang from a scintillating exchange with my open-minded pal Max

Simple Song (Shy) piano solo by Todd

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Hoo-Ha & Considerata

Perhaps you recall

Something like

What You Do In Ireland piano solo by Todd

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Albert & Sylvan

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*

*

*

fin

Love’s Body piano solo by Todd

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The Double (from 2008)

My last post was First June Morning. My referring to Andie MacDowell in the post elicited five responses, which is close to the record number of responses to anything I’ve ever posted. Who knew? I suggested in the posting that the woman in Klimt’s 1906 painting Fritza Riedler very much resembled Andie MacDowell.

My friend Max wrote to say he thought the woman in the painting more resembled the British actress Gina McKee, and he sent a photo of Gina to corroborate his thinking. Wow. Gina and the woman in the painting could be each other. Uncanny!

All this resemblance talk reminded me of one of my most popular stories and performance pieces The Double, an absolutely true memoir (as true as memoirs can be) about the several times in my life I was mistaken for someone else, and the people who mistook me were adamant I was the person they thought I was. I first published/posted The Double in 2008, and subsequently made an audio recording of the story for people to enjoy on the LISTEN page of my web site.

Here for your reading pleasure is The Double.

*

THE DOUBLE

I still find it hard to fathom that there are men walking the earth who resemble me so exactly that even their close friends can’t tell us apart. Yet ever since I was a teenager, and until quite recently (I’m approaching sixty), I have had several remarkable experiences of being taken for someone I am not. These were not incidents of mistaken identity at a distance. No, these were encounters with people—complete strangers—who saw me up close, studied me, spoke to me, and swore I was the person they thought I was—a person they knew intimately.

When I told them I was Todd, and not Mike or Paul or Huey or Jason, they thought I was either joking or lying. Furthermore, they told me I possessed this other person’s visage and voice and physical mannerisms to such an uncanny degree, that if I was not the person they believed me to be, I must be his identical twin—or his ghost.

*  

I was a junior in high school—1966—when I was first mistaken so completely for someone else. I was coming out of Discount Records in Menlo Park, California, when an immaculate two-door 1956 Chevrolet, black top, gray bottom, pulled up beside me, and the driver rolled down his window to say, “Hey, Mike. Listen to this. Something doesn’t sound right.” Then he gunned his engine. “See what I mean? Carburetor?”

“I don’t know who you are,” I said, shrugging politely. “And I don’t know anything about cars.”

“Mike?” he said, incredulously. “You’re not Mike?”

“I’m sorry. No.”

“Wow. You look just like him. Clothes and everything. And you sound like him, too.”

My outfit—blue jeans and T-shirt and high-top tennis shoes—was not particularly original in that era, and so I thought no more about this encounter until a week later when I came out of a guitar shop in Redwood City, and another 1956 Chevy, baby blue bottom, white top, white wall tires, pulled up beside me.

“Mike,” said the driver. “Can I come by a little later? Fucker’s missing. Listen.” And then he revved his engine, too.

“I’m not Mike,” I said, shaking my head. “Apparently I look like him, but I’m not him.”

The guy shut off his engine, got out of his car, and confronted me. He was big, and he scared me. “What the fuck you talkin’ about, Mike?”

“I’m not Mike,” I said, holding up my hands in surrender. “And I don’t know anything about cars. Nothing.”

He squinted at me. “You trippin’?”

“No, I’m… not Mike. My name is Todd.”

He frowned deeply. “You’re not Mike DeCamilla? Sequoia High?”

“Todd Walton. Woodside High.”

His jaw dropped and he gazed at me open-mouthed for a long time, as if waiting for me to… become Mike.

“Somebody else with a car like yours, only a different color, thought I looked like Mike, too. Black top, gray bottom.”

“Saxon,” said the guy, nodding. “He told us about you. Mike and me and… we thought he was… fuck, man, you not only look like Mike, you sound like him. Exactly.”

In retrospect, I wish I had asked this guy to introduce me to Mike, but I was so intimidated by him, I didn’t think to ask. And the next person who thought I was Mike was the last person I would have asked to introduce me to Mike.

I was in Discount Records, a favorite hangout of mine in the early days of Folk Rock, a place away from our parents where three of us could cram into a listening booth and blast Buffalo Springfield until the clerk banged on the glass and told us to turn Bluebird down.

I was flipping through the Jazz records, looking for a new Herbie Hancock, when a young woman with bleached blond hair, heavy makeup, and big blue eyes brimming with tears, approached me and whispered, “Mike?”

I shook my head. “I’m not Mike. Some people think I’m Mike, but I’m not.”

“I knew you’d be here,” she said, her jaw quivering. “In the Jazz section. I knew it.”

“I’m not Mike,” I said, wanting to console her. “Is he… your boyfriend?”

She gaped at me, shocked. “How can you say that? How can you be so cruel?”

“Because I’m not Mike,” I said, smiling sadly. “I’m Todd. Do you see that guy at the counter buying a record? That’s my friend, Dave. And he will tell you that I am not Mike. You want to go ask him?”

Then she, too, squinted and frowned at me. “You look exactly like him,” she said, nodding. “But now I can see you’re not him. Sorry.”

Shortly thereafter I grew a mustache and was never taken for Mike again.

*

Nine years later—1975—I was living with my girlfriend in a garage in Eugene, Oregon. We were poor as church mice. I love that expression for all its implications. Anyway, one evening we decided to cut loose and go to a café and split a cup of cocoa. This is not fiction. In the year I lived in Eugene, my girlfriend and I went out twice, and going for that cup of cocoa was one of those times.

We entered the student-run café, ordered our cocoa, and sat at a small table, feeling quite decadent to be spending a dollar on cocoa when we might have more prudently spent it on groceries. But we were young and impetuous and wanted to have some fun. Business was slow, only a few tables occupied.

“That guy keeps looking at you,” said my girlfriend, glancing side-wise at a man sitting with a woman across the room from us.

I turned to look at the man, smiled at him, and then said to my girlfriend, “He seems harmless enough.”

“He’s weird,” she said, whispering harshly. “He’s staring at you.”

My girlfriend and I were not on the best of terms, our relationship doomed for the umpteenth time, this cocoa date a last-ditch effort to inject a tiny bit of levity into a life of poverty devoted, for my part, to the practice of learning how to write. And so I took her complaint as part of her ongoing assault.

“Just ignore him,” I said, sipping our cocoa. “Please?”

“Paul?” said the man, calling to me. “Paul.”

“Oh, great,” said my girlfriend, rolling her eyes. “Now he’s talking to you.”

I looked at the man again—early thirties, fine leather jacket, expensive shoes, black curly hair—only this time I didn’t smile, and the poor guy jumped in his seat as if I’d struck him. Then he turned to the woman he was with, a striking brunette, and looked at her with terror in his eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” said my girlfriend. “This is totally freaking me out.”

“Can we finish our cocoa?” I was furious. “I can’t handle the garage right now.”

“We could go to the library,” she said, plaintively. “Look at art books. Read the paper. Play the card catalogue game.”

So we got up to go, and the man and woman jumped up and hurried over to us.

“Paul,” said the man, reaching out to me. “It’s Jeff. And Rachel. You know us, don’t you?”

“My name is not Paul,” I said, instantly convinced the guy truly believed I was someone he knew—someone named Paul. “My name is Todd.”

“Why?” he asked, searching my face. “Why did you change your name? So we couldn’t find you?”

“I’m very sorry,” I said, looking first at him and then at Rachel, “but I didn’t change my name. I thought about it, but I never did. I’m Todd, not Paul.”

And Rachel said, “That’s exactly what Paul would say. You are Paul, aren’t you? The way your hands move when you talk. Your eyes. You’re Paul.”

I shoved my hands in my pockets. “I am not Paul.” I turned to my girlfriend. “Would you confirm that, please?”

“He’s not Paul,” she said, sneering at me. “He’s definitely Todd.”

But Jeff and Rachel were still not convinced. So we stood there for a short infinity while they struggled to accept the apparently unbelievable proposition that I was not Paul.

Finally, Jeff said, “I’m Jeff Kovacs. We lived together, Paul and Rachel and Andrea and Colin and Fritz and Sarah and I. In Ithaca. New York. You… Paul disappeared five years ago. No word since. You, Paul… it destroyed us. And if you’re not Paul, you’re his identical twin.”

“When was Paul born?” I asked, bringing forth my driver’s license. “I was born in 1949. I’m twenty-six.” I handed Jeff my license. The photo, in which I resembled a mafia hit man, was two years old.

“Oh,” said Jeff, looking from the license to me. “You’re not Paul. I’m so sorry.”

Rachel took the license and looked from the mug shot to me. “Even so, you could be Paul.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Jeff, bowing his head. “Seeing you is like seeing him again.”

*

1979. I was visiting my sister in Los Angeles. She lived at the end of one of those narrow little canyon roads in the hills behind UCLA, and just down the hill from her place was an outdoor sculpture studio adjacent to a lovely Spanish hacienda—red-tile roof, turquoise window frames, bougainvillea climbing the white walls. The large stone sculptures were the work of the woman who lived there, Anna Mahler, the oft-married daughter of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. My sister said Anna enjoyed it when her neighbors visited her sculptures, so I went down to have a look.

As I was engrossed in looking at the sculptures, Anna, a handsome woman of seventy-five, came out of her house, gave me a startled look, and said, “My father. You look exactly like my father when he was a young man.”

*

On a funnier note, some years later (circa 1985), I was walking down a dimly-lit hallway in a Sacramento restaurant en route to the men’s room, when a woman came toward me, stopped suddenly and gasped, “Oh my God, you’re Huey Lewis. Oh my God. I am such a huge fan. Oh my God. It’s you.”

“I hate to disappoint you,” I said, feeling oddly flattered, “but I’m not Huey Lewis.”

“I totally understand,” she said, placing her hands together and bowing to me. “You must get hassled to death. Could I get your autograph?”

“I’m not Huey Lewis,” I said, shaking my head. “Bad lighting.”

“I won’t tell anybody,” she said, coming closer. “May I kiss your hand? The Power of Love is my favorite song in the whole world.”

“That’s great,” I said, allowing her to kiss the back of my hand. “But I’m really not Huey Lewis. Truly.”

“I understand,” she said, turning my hand over and kissing my palm. “But this is the chance of a lifetime for me.”

“I’m not Huey Lewis,” I said, pulling my hand away and darting into the men’s room.

When I came out of the john, the woman was waiting for me, and she had another woman with her. And this other woman emphatically shook her head and said, “That’s not Huey Lewis. That’s Elliot Gould.”

*

Most recently, whilst pondering the peaches in Corners of the Mouth, Mendocino’s finest grocery store, a woman with long white hair sashayed up to me, smiled mischievously, and gave me a very friendly hug.

“Jason,” she said, with mock indignation. “When did you get back from India? Why didn’t you call me?”

“I’m not Jason,” I said, looking into her eyes. “And I’ve never been to India, and I’m pretty sure you and I have never met.”

She took a step back, held her breath for a long moment, and said, “I’m sorry. I thought you were Jason. You look just like him. You even have his body.”

“Well,” I said, selecting my peach, “I apparently look like lots of people. Or lots of people look like me.”

“Now that,” she said, pointing at me and laughing, “is exactly what Jason would say.”

fin

 Strange Confusion song

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June First Morning

Another day, another month in the year 2022. I flip the page on my Klimt calendar and find a lovely painting of a woman who reminds me of the actress Andie MacDowell. What ever happened to Andie MacDowell? Wikipedia says she’s still acting up a storm, so to speak. My two favorite Andie MacDowell movies are Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Groundhog Day.

After I got this Klimt calendar, I read the Wikipedia Klimt article and was stunned by a one-sentence paragraph summing up his first thirty-five years. To wit: “During this period Klimt fathered at least fourteen children.” There is no mention of any of the women with whom he fathered these children or what happened to the children, though the article strongly implies Klimt had nothing to do with any of them beyond providing half of their genetics.

I toast a piece of my gluten-free sorghum millet buckwheat garbanzo tapioca bread and smear the toast with almond butter and a little honey to give me some caloric support for the upcoming beach walk.

I am a gluten-free bread maker now that our local gluten-free baking savant retired from the biz. She gave me her buckwheat bread recipe and I embarked on my adventures as a baker, never having made bread before. Ten batches along, my initial fear of activated yeast having subsided, I now freely improvise on the original recipe… with excellent results.

Fortified with toast and almond butter, we drive down to Big River and meet Sally and her marvelous Golden Retriever Molly for our weekly beach walk and ball flinging episode.

This morning the tide is way out and the ever-changing skyscapes are spectacular.

We lose one ball to the voracious ocean, much to Molly’s chagrin. Fortunately Sally brought a spare ball, so Molly is only bereft for a moment about the loss of ball number one.

On the way home, Marcia goes to the bank and the post office while I shop for groceries at our beloved Corners of the Mouth, the price of everything having gone up profoundly in the last few weeks.

Hungry from our beach adventure, we have more toast and scrambled eggs, courtesy of our pal Elias and his magnificent hens.

Re-fortified, I chop a few days worth of kindling and stack the slender sticks of pine on the hearth to dry in front of the fire for a couple days.

And now it is the afternoon.

            fin

Bill Evans piano solo by Todd