Marvellaland

Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Book Review: Dance of the Electric Hummingbird by Patricia Walker

LinkedIn can be a wonderful thing. It hasn’t brought me the job of my dreams, as my career coaches implied, but it did bring a beautiful spirit into my life. I joined a group of memoir writers on LinkedIn and read the descriptions of the books that the participants were working on. Most of them were similar; stories about abuse, loss, and horrible events that had happened in their lives. I was quickly disillusioned with the group. My life stories weren’t anything like what these authors were writing about. Everyone has negative things happen in their lives, but I didn’t want to dwell on them.

But one author stood out from the group of doom and gloom chroniclers. Patricia Walker had written a book about a transformation that happened in her life, a transformation that involved rock musician Sammy Hagar. Transformation? Rock and roll? I was intrigued. I sent a message to Patricia, letting her know that I was glad to meet another rocker chick in the group. She referred me to her website, where I read some of her concert reviews and other postings. I felt a connection to this writer in Colorado, and looked forward to hearing more about her journey – both literary and personal.

Dance of the Electric Hummingbird is subtitled, “An ordinary woman’s accidental journey to enlightenment, the supernatural, and rock star Sammy Hagar.” It sounded like a lot to cover in 329 pages, but once I opened the book, I was immersed in Patricia’s story. On October 11, 2003, Patricia is in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with her second husband Dee to attend a series of shows at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina. Little did she know that after that night, her life would never be the same again. A hot, sweaty rock bar seems an unlikely venue for a transformative experience, but that is what happened. As Hagar started to sing “Dreams,” the words bring up memories from her past. She thinks about her life. But what is happening is more than a flashback. “The sensation of being an audience member falls away in slow motion, as my body suddenly becomes paralyzed, lighter than air, and I feel myself lift right out of it.” Her out of body experience fills her with positive sensations and brings joy into her soul. In a few minutes, it is over. At first, she wonders if she had drunk too much tequila, but she isn’t drunk – she is aware.

The feelings don’t fade, but become stronger. Pat reviews her life, including her abusive first marriage, which had caused her to question the beliefs of her Catholic faith. She becomes more in tune with her sexuality and more open in her musical tastes. But unexplained things keep happening to her. She starts writing them down in a journal. And where does Sammy Hagar fit into all of this? She writes a poem about her experience and sends it to Sammy. He writes to her and encourages her quest. She discovers that Sammy has also had supernatural experiences. Could they be related? He sends her a list of books to read and she discovers other authors and guides on her own.

Dee and Pat keep returning to Sammy Hagar shows – his birthday week shows in Cabo San Lucas and his Cinco de Mayo shows at his club in South Lake Tahoe. No longer “just a housewife,” she is drawn to the power and sensuality of rock and roll. The more she learns about energy changes and mystical transformations, the more she realizes that she and Sammy Hagar have a connection that may be part of another dimension. Her newfound transformation isn’t enough to stop personal losses in her life, but music once again saves her soul. “I’d been so wrapped up in grief and anger, and judging God and even myself, perhaps I was blocking anything positive from coming to me. I forgot about my passion and my connection to the Divine Spirit. I forgot all about my mystical journey. And because of that, I forgot how to live.”

At one of his shows, Sammy tells his audience about Pat and her poems. When she calls in on a radio show, Sammy says that she will write a book. He seems to have more faith in her than she has in herself. But she keeps writing and starts to get her poems published. She continues to correspond with Sammy. Birds appear as Spirit Guides whenever she starts to doubt her mission.

Pat doesn’t have all of the answers. But her book fills me with hope. A transformative experience is possible for all of us, even without a rock and roll soundtrack. Pat’s quest for the answers in and purpose of her life made me think about the events in my own life. I underlined one passage in the book, “…doing what we love most is an avenue available to all of us, and that’s what our lives are all about. Maybe when things don’t happen the way we think they should or as fast as we want them to, we give up and that’s the one reason nothing changes.” I recommend her book to anyone with an open mind, a questing soul, and a belief in a Higher Power.

(Pat’s book can be found on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com, among other places. To receive an autographed copy, go to Pat’s website, http://www.bajarockpat.net. And the book is on sale in the gift shop at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.)

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Welcome Back…

Today is the birthday of Soleil Esperanza DeSalle, one of the main characters in my novel, Three Chords One Song. If Soleil was a real person, she would be 34 today. When I “interviewed” her at the start of the novel, she “told” me that she was born on November 2, 1978. I had planned to write about her today, but after several false starts and after yesterday’s events, I decided to write about myself instead. What was I doing on November 2, 1978? Fortunately, it was easy to find out, as I have kept a diary since January 1, 1970, three days before my 13th birthday.

It wasn’t a very eventful day. I washed my hair and did laundry. I went to the hospital to visit my Aunt Elizabeth. I went to Hills, a department store similar to the Target of today. And I got a call for a job interview at Miller’s, a high-class ladies’ fashion store at South Hills Village, the local mall. In the fall of 1978, I was 21 and unemployed, having left my very first job, in retail sales, a few months before I graduated from Pitt, so I could devote my time to finishing my final term papers. I had spent the last few months looking for work and contemplating a life-altering decision. Two weeks later, I would get a job at Gimbels, a department store where I would work for the next year and a half, making some lifelong friends. The adventure of my adult life was just beginning, even though I didn’t know it at that time.

On November 1, 2012, my photo appeared in the online version of the New York Times, along with a few sentences from an interview I had with reporter Catherine Rampell on October 11, about issues affecting the long-term unemployed. The interview came about because a year earlier, I had sent one of my essays (a version of “Driven to Tears” is in the July Archive) to the National Employment Law Project and indicated that I would be willing to be interviewed by the media concerning unemployment issues. The interview took about an hour, but the text used in the article was three short paragraphs. The article didn’t mention the problems of finding work when potential employers required credit checks and the possession of “reliable personal transportation.” It indicated that after losing my apartment, I had stayed “occasionally at train stations.” Now, I don’t consider two nights spent sleeping at Union Station in Los Angeles to be “occasionally,” but I guess it sounded more interesting than my real LA experience of staying in emergency shelters for six weeks, staying in transitional housing in South Central for one month, and staying in a Santa Monica hostel for two weeks. But I am grateful for the publicity, even though I would rather my Times debut would have been on the Best Sellers List. I sent out e-mail to my friends and posted the link on my Facebook page. I gritted my teeth and even read some of the comments about the article on the website. (FYI – the article will be in today’s print edition of the paper.)

When I started work on the novel that would become Three Chords One Song, I knew that one of the main characters would be a female musician. After selecting the name from a song on Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans, I visualized a tall, beautiful multicultural woman with the voice of an angel and the shredding skills of a demon. Soleil was created as a microcosm of many women I have known over the years, both personally and professionally. She is the descendant of the blues women I have admired, from Bessie Smith to Baby Washington to Romaine, a friend of my parents who used to visit when I was a little girl, who could coax magic from my old upright piano. Soleil’s story of tragedy and triumph is duplicated in the lives of women everywhere. She is all of us, with a bravado forged from fighting to make a name for herself in her world. As I was writing the book, I found Soleil to be the character that I was drawn to. Maybe in some ways she became my alter ego – the woman that I could only imagine becoming. Maybe she was the daughter I might have had if things would have been different 34 years ago.

Maybe years from now, I’ll look back on today’s diary. Maybe I’m embarking on the next adventure of my adult life, embracing my inner Soleil – whose middle name means “hope” – but I don’t know it yet. Today is also the birthday of keyboardist Keith Emerson. As ELP used to say, “Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.” Maybe the show is just beginning. Only time will tell.

My eBook Three Chords One Song is now available on Amazon.com.

The New York Times article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/business/economy/lingering-unemployment-poses-long-term-risk.html

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