The Time Izzy Showed Up Out Of The Blue
I suppose I should tell you the entire psychic story for reference.
On September 22, 2023, I got up around 8:00 AM and went about my routine: cleaning my CPAP machine, fixing the cover on my bed, going to the bathroom, taking an assortment of medically prescribed pills, and doing a quick shave. After that, I opened my clothes closet and set out to pick a pair of pants and a shirt. The pants were easy to choose, but this time I thought about the shirt. I always seemed to wear these goofy but comfortable Hawaiian red or blue shirts because they were loose and sort of covered my pot belly. But this time, I felt it was time for a change. I reached way into the back left side of the closet and just pulled out a shirt. It was more like a t-shirt, a white one with a specific design printed on it. In fact, it was a t-shirt I had never worn. The t-shirt was given to me by a young kid from London back in 2013 or so. He was a fan of my music, which he discovered on the CD Baby website. His name was Dom Arrowested (not sure I got the last name right). Anyway, he seemed to really absorb a lot of the music I released, and one particular song from the CD "Go Figya" called "When The Circle’s Broken" (co-written and performed with Meryl Mathews) was his favorite. He liked it so much he decided to design a t-shirt employing the cover of "Go Figya," an imagined CD single with the title "When The Circle’s Broken," my signature, a quote from the CD, and on the back, some outro lyrics to the "Circle" song. The lyrics of which are "On The Range We Open Wide - Shoot Us To The Other Side." At any rate, I tried on the t-shirt, and it fit nicely, so I decided to wear it. I went to my computer to look him up and thank him again for the shirt, but he was nowhere to be found on Facebook. So I gave up looking. I went about my day: the supermarket, the Post Office, a walk with Chris Pati, etc., and no one commented on the t-shirt.
Around 5:00 PM, I went to visit my mother at the Hamlet Nursing Home in Nesconset. She was in a stable mood, not yelling or uncomfortable, so it was an easy visit. She asked me about the t-shirt. She liked the design. I told her a "fan" sent it to me a long time ago and it has some of the lyrics printed on the back to a song she might remember. I sang her part of the song, and sure enough, she did remember it. It was a favorite of hers back in 1994 when Meryl and I recorded it. Considering she can’t remember anything after 5 minutes, I was impressed.
After an hour, I said my goodbyes and headed to my rented basement studio apartment in Ronkonkoma. As I was driving there, I realized that Chris Pati (my landlord) would not be there. He had a dinner appointment with Foghat drummer, Roger Earl. Chris’ son Martin, who had recently moved in upstairs, was going to be at a "homecoming" event at his school, so I would be entering the premises alone. For some reason, I received an image of a person waiting at the house near the front door. I fantasized if there really was a person waiting; it would most certainly be someone waiting for Chris (an ex-girlfriend or studio associate). After all, he’s been living in the house for 30 years. I’ve only been there for a year, had not made any new friends because I’m pretty much a hermit. The vision quickly disappeared, and I made my usual left and right turns. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, when I turned into the driveway, I noticed there was someone sitting on the front steps, but I could not make out who it was. The person, dressed in psychedelic garb and barefoot no less, got up and approached my car. I got out and said, "Can I help you?" The person, a boyish-looking guy with long hair, spoke in a soft English accent. He said, "Hi John, it’s me Dom." I stood there in shock as I saw he had on a gray-colored t-shirt with the "Go Figya" cover printed on it. It quickly dawned on me that this was the kid who sent me the shirt 11 years ago! I hadn’t spoken to him since! I just stood there, mouth open, a little scared, and unable to process what I was seeing. He said, "I’m sorry to just drop in. I flew in from London today just to meet you." As the situation came into focus, I regained my senses and felt compelled to give him a hug. I was still flabbergasted. Of all the times for me to wear this t-shirt and the kid who designed it shows up to meet me that day unannounced… Well, if that isn’t a psychic moment, I don’t know what is. He sheepishly told me how he now goes by the name of Izzy and he was going to be in the states for only a few days, and would it be alright if he could stay here. He had nowhere to go. Out of naivety, I told him "Sure" and led him to the back entrance where I normally go to enter my studio apartment.
We headed downstairs, and I started thinking maybe this was a bad idea. I mean, how do I know? This guy could be a psycho and want to kill me or even worse, not want to leave. Chris Pati wouldn’t like that. But he seemed very polite and shy, harmless I felt. So I offered him some water as he told me his story of how he has Aspergers and how that particular affliction somehow enabled him to focus enough to track my new address on the web. He told me he had been to the states once before with his dad to get an operation in Detroit. As far as I could decipher, he was transitioning into a female but still had a masculine side to him. He then proceeded to tell me passionately how much my music meant to him and how he was honored to meet me. He sporadically sang a few of my song lyrics and claimed that my CD "Life Here… It’s Anybody’s Guess" was one of the greatest ever made and that it saved his life. He viewed it as his "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band." I was baffled by this, but I took it in stride and politely told him "Thank you." What else could I say?
After about an hour chatting and still reeling from this synchronistic moment, he asked me if I still had the actual tapes to any of the songs I recorded. I told him that Chris and I do have a vault here full of recordings and would he like to see it? He became very excited at this prospect, and upon entering the tiny cedar vault, his eyes darted from tape to tape, spotting familiar titles of songs from long ago. One particular reel had "Red Room" written on its side. He asked me if that was the "Red Room" that resides on the CD "Life Here Is Anybody’s Guess." I told him yes and pulled out the tape box for him to examine it. He carefully opened the box, and the Red Room 24-track sheet lay on top of the two-inch tape. He opened the folded track sheet, and I swear he had tears in his eyes. He looked toward me and shook his head, saying, "John, this is historical!" "I can’t believe I’m holding this sheet - this tape! I’m actually surrounded by all these recordings you’ve done." "This is amazing!" "To me, this is like holding a tape in a Beatles’ or Frank Zappa vault." He went on and on as he scanned all the reel-to-reel boxes and DAT tapes, just dumbfounded as if he had found lost treasure. At one point, he spotted a plastic case of cassettes I had, and he wanted to see them. I told him that there were about a hundred tapes here that had musical ideas on them, most of which I have yet to revisit. As he rummaged through the box, we came across a few cassette compilations I made back in the early '90s before recordable CDs. I asked him if he wanted them since I had no need for such old recordings at this point. He stared at me with an open mouth and said in his charming British accent, "Are you joking?" I told him no. He could have them. He was beside himself and kept saying the word "historical."
After all this "hero worship," which I am not accustomed to at all, we talked some more, and I played a song for him on the piano, "Cold Wind Blows," and he proceeded to tell me some of the other music he was into. He was a big fan of Ian Dury, who had two hits here in the USA in the late '70s. One was "Sex and Drugs And Rock and Roll," and the other was "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick." I told him I liked those tunes, and they can be found on many of my iPods. He also told me that he was going to see jazz singer Michael Franks in Tarrytown (upstate NY) and asked if I would like to go with him. I told him no because I had musical editing to do for a client, but I would be more than happy to drop him off at the Ronkonkoma train station and pick him up when he gets back. At this point, he was jet-lagged and really tired. He knew my history of sleeping in a vocal booth for 11 years, so he wanted to experience what that was like. I told him it wasn’t pretty, but if he wanted to crash in the small booth, knock yourself out. I politely excused myself for a minute as I went upstairs to tell Chris Pati this amazing story.
Chris loved the synchronicity of it all but was very suspicious of having some stranger stay over who did not call in advance. And yes, I could see his point, but I told him my gut trusted this kid (this kid was 31) and it should be okay. He only needs a place to stay for 3 days. Besides, Izzy praised one of the songs we wrote, "Love Over Matter," so how bad could he be? Chris left the situation to my better judgment. The next day, Izzy woke up around 10:00 am as I had already started my daily routine. I figured, as a host (and I’m so awkward at this kind of thing), my job was to keep him entertained until 5:00 PM when he would take the train to see Michael Franks. Breakfast seemed like a good idea, so we went to a local diner. When the check came, he offered to pay (I, of course, feeling like a dad, paid for it), and then we returned to the studio where he eventually met Chris Pati and asked him a whole bunch of questions about engineering and songwriting. At one point, Izzy got on the drums, and I on the piano, and we jammed a bit. He was into playing a reggae beat, so we improvised off of that. We talked some more. Eventually, it was time for him to get on the train. It would be at least a four-hour ride, but he should have enough time to get to the Tarrytown venue. Ok, so fast forward to 4:00 in the morning. I am still working on stuff as I have a hard time going to sleep early, and I get a text from Izzy saying he will arrive back at the Ronkonkoma train station around 5:30 AM. He will walk back to the studio. I tell him no - that’s okay, it’s raining - I’ll come pick him up.
So here it is 5:30 AM on a dreary, rainy morning… I pull up to the train station, and my iPod is, of course, playing in my car. Nothing new. The songs are on a "random" setting, but sure enough, right on cue, what song comes on? "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" by Ian Dury! Of all the thousands of songs to play (and there are only two Ian Dury songs on that iPod) - how about that? One of Izzy’s musical heroes. Thank you very much. So I drive Izzy back to the studio; he kindly gives me a Michael Franks CD (very sweet), and we both go our respective ways - he towards the vocal booth, me to my bedroom. We wake up around noon. I told him my sister Laura invited us over to her house (how could she not after hearing this amazing story; she wanted to meet this guy). I figured, since Izzy is a big video gamer, he’d have something to talk about with my brother-in-law Marty, and this would take up a big portion of the day. I asked Izzy if he was hungry, and we decided Italian food would be a good idea. So I take him to an Italian restaurant in Stony Brook (O’Sole Mio) where I previously lived, and he orders a garlic knot, an eggplant wrap, and one of those Zeppoles. I go for one regular slice and a white slice. We finish. I show him 7 Onyx Drive, my previous residence where he initially sent me the t-shirt, and we eventually make our way to my sister’s humble abode. All the while, he keeps bringing up songs I recorded and sings along with the iPod when one of my tunes comes on. Very awkward for me but again very flattering - he knows my lyrics better than I do!
At my sister’s house, he enters sheepishly and is greeted by Laura and her barking dog. This makes him uncomfortable. He states that he is a "cat" person as my sister’s harmless dog, "Buttons," comes up to him to lick him. He gets nervous and backs away. I tell him that Buttons is 12 years old and harmless. Still cautious (he had a bad time with a dog back in his youth), he makes his way to my sister’s living room, where he meets her husband Marty, and slowly a conversation evolves about English politics, video games, his love for the TV show MASH, and the evolution of recording formats. Izzy sort of apologizes for his introverted Aspergers demeanor, but he seems pretty normal to us. My sister offers him some water, and we talk about American candy vs. European. Izzy loves Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and this talk of sweets triggers a recent memory that in the early morning, I had been working on a short story that involved the gum "Big Red". Mysteriously, my sister retreats into another room and comes back and says to me, "here this is for you." It’s a pack of "Big Red" that she’s been saving for a while. How about that? So I took that as a sign that I must be in the right place. That was comforting. Somehow the conversation takes us up to 9:00 PM, and after having shown Izzy video tapes and old broadcasting reels (he marveled over these formats), it was time to go back to Ronkonkoma. My sister gave him a "Healthy Vegetarian" VHS tape as well as one with an interview with my mom and her award-winning miniatures. He was over the moon about that.
Back at Suburban Hermit Studios III, we talked a bit about our respective relationships with our mom and dad and philosophized about music and its soothing continuity properties. I tell him that Chris and I have a meeting we must go to the next day out East, so we would have to drop him off at the train station. He seemed to respect that, and by now I felt more at ease with him showing up here unannounced. The next morning, after a quick discussion over Izzy’s penchant for being a very tactile person and his continued fascination with old reel-to-reel equipment and various cables for different formats, Chris and I took him to the train station. We hugged, took a picture, and I told him to stay in touch, but next time, please give me a heads up if he was going to stop by. He understood, and like that, he was on his way home to London. End of story.