Since Pablo died, music has not been a reliable refuge. I've gone to music to take me away. To underpin my rage. To be the canary in the empty coal mine that is me. For weeks and months, the music has clumsily soothed and ham-fistedly sparred with my rage. I couldn't fake it and I couldn't take it. My relationship with music has never needed a crutch. It's always been there for me. It's always worked. The perfect drug. On many drives across LA—Venice to Pasadena, Burbank to LAX—I've rolled on down the highway in silence. Audio impotence. The grief has gotten its hands around my jugular that tightly. For months, music has not worked for me. And music is something that's saved my life—over and over and over.
This morning, like a runaway lover walking back in the door after a season in hell, the power of a rock song took hold of me and dragged me down the road. The old songs that used to work started to feel good again. Music changes my chemistry. Music is not something that wafts around in the background of my life. Music is the blood splatter on the wall of life—each lyrical stab a bullet that splatters more blood in all directions.
It started with The Smiths 'The Queen Is Dead.' Amazed, I tried another from the same band. 'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish.' That one worked too. Another by the same band: 'Hand In Glove.' From our hotel in Pasadena, it's a short drive to Velo Pasadena, the start point for my bike ride with my friends Hrach and Lon. As the car lunged into the back parking lot, I wanted to keep driving, skip the ride. But I've got this commitment to ride across America and it starts in three weeks. So the songs had to wait.
A few hours later, back in the car, iPod in hand, the addiction got back into motion. Only problem is this addiction, like all good addictions, is highly progressive. I couldn't get the car stereo loud enough. And so I chase the tail of the audio dragon. For miles and miles and miles. But it feels good. Much better than driving in silence while feeling lonely and empty. Trust me.
After rock and roll saved my life, I headed to the lobby at CHLA. Today was their annual radiothon. Another chance to talk about Pablo. Another chance to speak clearly and plainly about the need for financial assistance at CHLA. I figure radio listeners are a good target for the message of Pablo + help. One thing I know about the people on the other end of a radio microphone: they have ears. And hearts. That's two things.
While I was waiting for my mic time, I went up to the Oncology Clinic. Hugged every nurse, doctor, tech I could find. Those people are our friends. They are soldiers in a very important war. They are the ones who look into the eyes of all the children a hundred times a day. It felt good to say 'Thank you' and 'I miss you.' Our friends in the clinic can't possibly hear those words enough.
From there, I ran up to 4 West to say hello to the nurses. Was it challenging being up there? Yes. I want to tell you No. But that would not be true. The elevator doors opened. I inhaled deeply. Gratitude was in my heart, and I wanted to give it away. It's never going to be easy for me to be around children with cancer. But it's always going to be important to say 'thank you' to the men and women who helped my little boy through his journey. I must have hugged a dozen people up there. Those nurses are our family.
Standing at the nurse's station, my brain said 'No' to looking at room 435. My eyes did not agree. I looked right at that room number, a blue plastic square glued to the wall. That's first and last room Pablo was ever in at CHLA. A lot of energy was released in looking at that plastic wall plate. I remembered Friday June 26, the day we wheeled Pablo out of there and took him home. I held that memory. A film in my head of something that really happened. A memory of a day my little boy was still alive. The wheelchair. The sound of him crying. The way Jo Ann held him in her arms, protecting him, loving him in the final 18 hours of his life. It's all etched into my memory. Staring room 435 in the face was part of the journey for me. I'm glad it went down this way.
I love Pablo. Do I now say I loved Pablo? F*** that. I love Pablo. That it not a thing of the past. My love for Pablo is here, now, powerful, bright. Loud. Much louder than the car stereo. No wonder Pablo always asked me to TURN IT DOWN, PAPA!