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9.27.2012

on finding Ella.

the two (1 of 1)

scott (1 of 1)

Many years ago I found myself in a slip of a restaurant in the West Village drinking red wine with the playwright Sam Shepard.

It was before I graduated school. Before I learned that red wine always leaves me on the bathroom floor. Before I ever really put to pen to paper and figured out just how much it was I loved words.

This is what I remember: Amy Winehouse was on the radio. We talked about horses, his farm, not being terribly keen on New York (my phrasing, not his). And how when walking down the street he placed his palm against my neck in a way that I've spent every day since hoping some other man will do without me having to ask. I felt like a marionette in his hands and it was heaven.

When the night ended he kindly walked me to the subway.

And that was all.

What everyone wanted to know, right after, as I attempted to describe the event of  pseudo-date with famed American Playwright, Sam Shepard, was if he spoke about writing--he's notoriously private about many things.

And the thing is, yes, he did.

I'm quite sure. My only hesitation is that through the muck and fuzz of red wine and that time in my life I don't remember terribly well, could I possibly have made the next bit up? I don't think so because what follows is fascinating and let's be honest, I'm not all that clever. He spoke of his love of music and how what he really wanted to do was be a musician--a rocker--and because he didn't know how, or couldn't, he wrote plays. And writing, just as he did--writing plays--was his music.

I've always been a late-bloomer. Slow to catch on or catch up. I now calm my parents by telling them I have a decidedly longer-arc and surely that's okay?

It was only after college that I fell in love with writing. Only after college that I thought oh, these delicious words that I spent so much catapulting out of my mouth into dark theaters, I quite like the part that happens before. 

And it was in other dark theaters, after college, that I stood before stages feeling the literal vibration of sound waves in my chest and the weight of words--the goddamn weight of some very, very good and very true words.

It was love.

Two love stories. Happening side by side. Twin strands that braided together made one long rope that pulled me to dry land. Out of the great big blue and into my life.

I can't write music and I sure as hell can't make it. But everything I've ever written in the last few years has been an attempt at it. My graceless offerings that I lay at the alter of Art. This is my music--small essays made of little more than sounds and beats and that which I hold dear and true.

At the age of eighteen--still many years before meeting Sam--having just moved to New York and knowing nothing--absolutely so little about anything of import--most especially how much I had yet to know, my first boyfriend asked who my Ella was.

I didn't understand the question.

You know, who's your Ella Fitzgerald? What music absolutely undoes you? 

Hell if I know.

Man, I can't wait till you find out. The finding out--that's the best part.

I can't tell you how many times I've thought back on that moment--how many times I've written about it. I had no idea as it was being asked how that question would hang over me, inform what was to follow.

Finding Ella.

The search for Ella.

In the past few years I've come to say I found her in the folk movement of the Pacific Northwest. Or maybe the sounds coming out of London these last few years.

But on Monday night, standing on a little patch of grass in Central Park, listening to The Avett Brothers, I thought, oh yes, here she is, this is it.

Nearly nine years later and I've got my answer.

He was right. Damn, he was right. There's nothing like the finding out.








23 comments:

Emily said...

Love this! Pure poetry. And my Ella is Ella herself. Nothing like her.

stefanie hurtado said...

i'm in awe of this, meg.

and a little bit in tears. how silly, right?

but this little piece of music has undone me. i mean, really: "My graceless offerings that I lay at the alter of Art." i stopped and read that sentence three times over, as if i were replaying a song... that's music.

really, the structure of this whole piece is art. and sam shepard? really? my goodness.

this is my favorite of yours, ever. you are one brilliant lady.

Erin said...

The avett brothers are my Ella, too. :)

Dancing Branflake said...

You are the best writer I've ever come across. Hands down. Please write my life story. Only you could tell it so well.

Laura said...

This. This is wonderful. Damn, you're a wicked writer.

x Laura

Heather said...

I just saw days of heaven and he was wonderful! Didn't realize he was a playwright, nice. And I love the hand on the neck, perfection :)

Alexa said...

"There's nothing like the finding out."—how true this is, in so many ways.

Captain Serenity said...

Wow! Now go listen to Eva Cassidy's "You take my breath away"My Ella and the hand on the back of your neck in music. 8cThanks! :)

Captain Serenity said...

Wow! Now go listen to Eva Cassidy's "You take my breath away"My Ella and the hand on the back of your neck in music. 8cThanks! :)

Captain Serenity said...

Wow! Now go listen to Eva Cassidy's "You take my breath away"My Ella and the hand on the back of your neck in music. 8cThanks! :)

Captain Serenity said...

Wow! Now go listen to Eva Cassidy's "You take my breath away"My Ella and the hand on the back of your neck in music. 8cThanks! :)

Sam said...

Meg -

I've been a fan of your blog for some time now. I'm constantly tweeting and blogging about the things you write because they are so often perfectly in tune with my own life.

But this discussion of music, the search for Ella, is something truly beautiful. As I sat peacefully by the Clyde River on a rare sunny day in Glasgow yesterday, I wrote something in my journal about how my words often fail to describe what music does to me. What it evokes.

And here. Once again, perfectly displaying what I was struggling to say. You got it right again

So I just want to say thanks. Your eloquence is astounding.

Sam

Sarah said...

Your words are beautiful, so well put and yet so easily able to relate. I believe I had that same feeling (or something similar) just when I saw them this past sunday night, Their performance was breathe taking and moving. So I guess they are my Ella as well!

Kerri said...

This is perhaps my favorite essay of yours yet. And that's saying something. Spectacular.

Jenna | The Paleo Project said...

Amazing. This: Two love stories. Happening side by side. Twin strands that braided together made one long rope that pulled me to dry land. Out of the great big blue and into my life.

Anonymous said...

why stop with just 2 love stories side by side....make it 3, or 4 or 7.

Diana said...

Wow. I love this. And now this question will hang over me because I have yet to find my Ella. Hopefully soon!

Sandy said...

Oh, red wine is the devil's drink for me, too! I was slow to realize it, too slow, because how can something so apparently harmless hurt so much? These days I stick to drinks with bubbles. And yes, I know I just commented on a beside-the-point line in a substantial post, but it's the one that spoke to me.

Anonymous said...

So enjoyed this post. I can't wait to find out my Ella.
-Carissa

colleen said...

sam shepard's mother taught me in fifth grade.

my ella is nat king cole. i discovered this in second grade. and then, in college, amy winehouse. two ellas? yes. i think because i discovered my first one so early. and all these years later i still spend days listening to just them, figuring them our again, being moved over and over. they are my ellas.

KH said...

Mine are Rachael Yamagata and the Canadian band 'Bahamas.' So, so good...

Wandering Mind said...

I love reading your posts...oftentimes when I want to relax and read a book, but don't have one, I'll come to your blog. I really think you would make an excellent author. I would surely read your work.

andrew quirk said...

I Don't Know where you came from - well i do Brooklyn - but as a lover of the Avett Brothers and words I am moved. You too will become an Ella no doubt. Thank you for existing