News Item

June 22, 1998

Posted June 22, 1998

Visualize, vizualize ...

Wally started eating again yesterday. To start off, the nurse brought up a few glasses of fruit juice. After she left the room, he said what he really wanted was something like some kind of creamed soup; at that moment, the nurse came back in with a complete lunch tray. "Well, I didn't order a lunch tray for you," she said, "but for some reason they brought it up anyway. So here it is if you want it." On the tray: a cup of cream of mushroom soup! That brought a chuckle.

Just after he got done eating, the phone rang. Still in visualization mode, Wally said "Ah, that must be Joni" as he picked up the phone. And it was!

Joni had just returned to LA after taking a short post-tour breather -- looking through a large stack of paper that had accumulated while she was gone, she'd found a memo from her manager telling her that Wally was in the hospital (Wally had advised Joni's management that he was going to be out of action for a while, and they apparently forwarded the contact information directly to her). The memo didn't elaborate on the reason for the hospitalization.

Needless to say, Joni was very sorry and concerned when she found out what was wrong. She voiced her distress about the prevalance of cancer, about how it's "in the water and in the food and everywhere," and told Wally about a few related experiences she's had. One acquaintance had colon problems and treated them by taking natural therapies like slippery elm bark, and a certain kind of mushrooms (I've forgotten the name) that you would size up before you ate them -- if the mushrooms looked like angels, they were good to eat, but you'd avoid them if they looked like devils.

Wally recalled that her kahuna (that's Hawaiian for medicine man or woman, I've learned) had battled colon cancer. Joni wondered where a kahuna would go when they get sick -- her kahuna unfortunately wasn't able to cure herself.

They talked about healing energies, too. Joni said she has used yoga to help through periods of ill health, and described a process in which she visualizes spinning discs, white at the top, then purple, continuing with other colors as she works her way on down. She visualizes the discs spinning clockwise 20 times, then 20 times counterclockwise, repeating the process over and over again ("You can't do it too many times").

As most of you probably know, Joni had polio as a child; she learned the power of "tone" at a young age. The tone that you put behind what you say can be even more important than the words you're saying, she told him, as she recalled her early experiences with that dynamic. ("I'm not going to be a cripple!!") They also talked about energy centers at different locations in the body, what I know as chakras -- Joni said that she often uses the 6th chakra (which I've heard described as the "third eye," located in the forehead) in her work. Wally had me tell Joni about "body enneagrams," a series of movements I've learned that identify one's dominant chakra (everyone has one principal chakra that tends to be more active than the others) and helps to open and balance the others. Wally and I are both "5's" in enneagramspeak, meaning our dominant chakra is the 6th or crown chakra at the top of the head (it governs comprehension and understanding).

Wally told Joni about how the JMHP project has provided healing energy for him, how it got him through his first bout with cancer and helped him keep going; she agreed that it's a good thing to have somewhere to direct your energy. He was thrilled to hear that Joni had visited the site with Kilauren and her boyfriend Teddie just after Laura Nyro died last year. She said she read an amusing exchange in the Cafe section (the JMHP's discussion area, which Wally later released to Les and is now the JMDL) about "who was more oriental -- Joni or Laura Nyro." Wally voiced his opinions about the value of discussion lists and the opportunity they give fans to share experiences, correct misconceptions, and explore feelings about late-breaking news.

They also talked about the tour; Wally told Joni that he had a great time. He told her that he'd known about the cancer recurrance before the tour started, but didn't bring it up because he was afraid somebody would become concerned and wouldn't want him to go. He also mentioned how visits to the JMHP increased dramatically during the tour (48,000 visits as opposed to 36,000 visits the previous month), which to him proved that "interest really increases when you're out there."

"You do get attention out in the limelight," Joni agreed. She asked if Wally had heard that she'd picked up a bug at the Gorge and wasn't feeling well for much of the tour; he remembered when she mentioned it during the performance. He learned that Joni also developed an allergy to some kind of glue on the tour bus, which, together with the "Gorge bug," left her feeling a bit dazed and "on automatic" at times. As far as Wally was concerned, it didn't affect her performance at all. He told her that if anything, the bug gave her voice even more depth and served to emphasize her poetry.

The conversation turned to comparing notes on reactions they had heard to the tour. Wally told Joni about many positive remarks that had been made by Dylan and Morrison fans who were impressed with Joni's unique guitar sound (she used twelve tunings on the tour) -- they loved the richness of the VG-8 and thought it sounded like more than one guitar. They also spent a few moments puzzling over some of the odd comments made by reviewers. "Ignore 'em, they don't know what they're talking about," Wally said. At one point, Joni wondered if a Bay Area reviewer who had made some "senselessly negative remarks" (my words, not Joni's) was the same one who panned Carroll O'Connor's recent play, prompting him to quit the business; she sensed a sameness in the bitter shades of the writing.

(This reviewer, I remember, is the yutz who had never thought of Bob Dylan as anything other than Jakob Dylan's father up until the night of the San Jose concert -- as I said in my Internet Community review of the second LA concert at Pauley Pavillion, "Now, there's somebody with a far-reaching sense of perspective -- reviewing concerts for a major metropolitan newspaper! Get a clue!")

As Joni and Wally talked about the taping sessions May 29/30, she mentioned rumors that she was going to play a lot of oldies had somehow started to circulate. She's sorry that so many people just want her to concentrate on recycling her old material; Wally agreed, saying that he wished more people were interested in looking at music in a "historical" way, watching artists grow and mature long term instead of clamoring for oldies all the time or just hopping from one "flavor of the month" to the next.

Joni has seen the raw footage of the two taping sessions and thinks there are enough magical moments in the tapes to make up a really good set (I can't wait). The Eagle Rock Productions footage apparently makes the background black behind her -- she expects that some Super 8 footage taken by Don Freed will be used as well, because it shows the audience comfortably draped over couches in the set she designed. She originally expected to direct as well, but it now looks like she'll come in later to make the changes she wants before the final version is released.

She said that she had a harder time connecting at the Friday night taping session due to an overflow of industry types, but Wally said that he didn't think there was any noticeable effect -- he thought Joni looked great during the tapings and told her so, prompting a short exchange about "Hollywood Hair" and "Hollywood Makeup." Paul Starr, who did her makeup for the show, is an "artist who just picked faces to paint," she said. She did look wonderful, if I do say so myself -- we're all in for a real treat later this year (probably around October).

By now, they had been talking for almost an hour and a half and Wally was starting to worry about taking up too much of her time (although she apparently didn't mind hanging with him on the phone for a while longer). Before they hung up, they talked about Taming the Tiger for a while; Wally mentioned that he thought "Harlem in Havana" would have fit nicely on Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. The song is a childhood recollection of a carnival she went to -- Joni says songs that come to her when she's thinking about her teenaged years always end up as shuffles (think "Cherokee Louise" and "Ray's Dad's Cadillac"). She'll most likely just sing if she does "Harlem in Havana" live, as it's a difficult song to sing and play at the same time.

After making some preliminary plans for a pre-Taming the Tiger interview (once Wally's up to it), the conversation ended with a few recuperation recommendations from Dr. Mitchell: "Watch some comedies, like Nick at Nite or comedy movies -- laughter is a healing thing, even if you prefer dramas."

"Well, I am kind of a drama queen, but OK, I'll take your advice. Bye, Joni."

Well, well! That sure perked him up!

I brought Wally home (to my place, that is) around noon today. He's in my living room watching TV as I type (Judge Judy can be a great source of healing laughter). More on how he's doing tomorrow.

Remember: visualize, visualize ...