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Ian's blog: "LETTER FROM LOTUSLAND"

A special note from Roger, before Ian launches into this month's Letter:

The Sherlock Holmes audio adventures starring Ian as both Holmes and Watson Ė surrounded by a cast of Hollywood's best voice players - are getting rave reviews.

You can sample all stories (so far) here:
"A Strange Affair with the Woman on the Tracks"
"The Mystery of the Poisoned Tomb"
"The Mystery of the Faceless Bride"
"The Case of the Cracked Mirror"
"The Heist"

More are coming Ė in a complete book of 10 stories titled The Complete Satyr Collection. Watch for the announcement.

Now, on to this month's Letter:

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Most every morning, after swimming and breakfast, I go to the office/hut/shed behind the house and write up my journal, the one Iíve kept since 1972.

Ian in his Library
Ian in his Library

I used to write with a gel impact ink pen, but since my stroke Iíve found it easier to use a pencil. I have special pencils made by Pacific Music papers somewhere in the Valley. Theyíre special because of the thick black lead thatís perfect for putting down clefs and ties and sharps and flats. I used to love adding bold black circles to my notes when writing out my compositions. I felt I was drawing a picture, a sort of work of art. I could sit and create happily for hours, like a real artisan.

I have an example in front of me now: ďMarch CantaliniĒ, named in honor of the restaurant where I play on Sundays. The sheet music looks so solid and secure, installed in ink for all time. I set it front of musicians and, like magicians, they set fire to it and off it rushes like the Flying Scotsman. Afterwards they might remark on the surprise chord near the end. Iím glad because otherwise they might see the resemblance to other brisk marches. Itís almost impossible to create pieces completely original if youíre trying to connect, to engage listeners. There must be familiar paths and expressions before you lope off in your own journey; otherwise youíll be making a mess of horrid notes and phrases like a nightmare of freeform jazz. But I must admit Iím often finding unwitting quotes from older songs in my own.

I write the journal right-handed because itís illegible in my natural hand. The entries are very similar in tone and detail: swim or walk round track at Cal Tech, scrambled eggs at the Corner Bakery, trying to hold coffee mug in left hand as directed by therapists. Eating with fork in left hand is another matter and embarrassing, as lumps of egg tend to drop to lap and floor. Are customers watching in disgust or are they too busy with their smart phones and strident table talk? I think nobody notices. Islamists cutting off heads in the newspaper, reminding me of Tudor England and the French Revolution. A bit old-fashioned and far from smart phones ó only they may have used phones to film the executions for immediate viewing on social media. Time to go home and rest.

The remainder of a typical day is pretending go to bed and nap but actually itís reading books ranging from Raymond Chandler and Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist) to Boswellís life of Dr. Johnson. In between, I come to my library and tap out paragraphs for this Letter or write an article on Ruth Etting for the upcoming Oregon Festival of American Music.


What have we done this last month? Let me see if I can decipher. Weíve talked about a trip to England, but at the moment itís on hold because weíd like to base ourselves in London and hotels there are too expensive. Besides, Iíve been warned that London is being pulled down and rebuilt with Arab, Russian, and Chinese money. My source tells me itís hard to find anyone with English as a first language. My source is suspect because heís a great admirer of dictators, especially Putin.

My band played for a wedding held in the historic Castle Green in Pasadena. Everyone was asked to wear black, a counter tenor sang Purcell during the ceremony, and a collection of butterflies was released from the top of the staircase. They were happy to congregate round a floodlight. Everyone had a merry time. The bride and groom set off in a luxurious motor home. Two days later we played for the annual ragtime tea dance at the 1915 Lanterman house in Montrose. Iím lucky to be supported by a band of sterling musicians who carry the burden.

Poor Regina is being poisoned by noxious fumes from the washing machine next door ó the over-extended house of the preacher and his always hair-curlered wife. She uses a foul fabric softener whose fumes pour into the bedroom. Regina has countered by setting up outside a huge fan like an aircraft propeller. It drives away the poison and is as loud and terrifying as the noise that brought down the walls of Jericho.

I have pretty vivid dreams. Often they are musical ones. My friend Will Ryan and his Cactus County Cowboys recently featured in one set in a new discovery TV Show. They were upset to find I had decided to compete too, especially as the series was hosted by Mork & Mindy. I know nothing about the latter, but I was thrilled to find that Irving Berlin was one of the judges, especially when he approved of my performance of his song where I forgot his words but made up new ones which he pronounced just dandy. Then I woke to harsh reality ó the dangers of shaving, the slipping of the soap bar from my hand in the shower, the struggle to put legs separately in trousers, the pulling on of socks. All to be done with the aid of my weak, recalcitrant left hand, as ordered by my therapists.

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