Anita Pallenberg’s camel toe. Today the look is usually unintentional and considered a faux pas. Back then, Ms. Pallenberg knew exactly what she was doing.

I learned to play piano on an upright my Mother’s Aunt gave her. It had the same honky-tonk tone as the one in my Grandmother’s country church.

At their Sunday services, the song leader would stand to announce the number of the hymn while the pianist played a couple of bars in the background. Then, in a futile attempt to motivate a congregation of languid farmers, she’d cheerfully call out, “Y’all sing!”

I studied classical music but it didn’t stop me from trying to play along with Stones records. Their chord sequences were too complicated, I couldn’t keep up.  So I just picked at the bass line which was pretty easy to follow.

The bass on Gimme Shelter was odd because during the verses it seemed to hammer away on only one note, C#. Then in the chorus the line moved.

But C#? Nobody wrote in that key except Rachmaninoff. I thought it was probably a C or a D and that my old piano was way out of tune.

Forty years later in Keith’s autobiography he talks about writing Gimme Shelter. He says “the funny thing is it’s in C# which is really a piano key, not guitar.” The upright didn’t need tuning after all.

I'm a flea bit peanut monkey, all my friends are junkies, that's not really true!
I’m a flea bit peanut monkey, all my friends are junkies, that’s not really true!

When the song was released I was in college and listened to it daily. Several times.

In one course I watched a video of Leonard Bernstein on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. He highlighted the confusing opening of the first movement. The music is all over the place as the orchestra searches for a motif. Bernstein said Ludwig was just toying with the audience, creating a little tension.  The theme soon becomes readily apparent.

I thought the same about the intro to Gimme Shelter. Keith seems to be plucking randomly, meandering to find the right notes for his song. Then Wham! The downbeat hits and the riff comes full force.

Again, his autobiography clarifies. It was raining as he wrote, the intro is nothing more than the patter of the drops. Talk about over analyzing.

Performance problems: it's just a kiss away.
Performance problems: it’s just a kiss away

Despite the inclimate weather, the real storm was in his personal life. His girlfriend Anita was filming Performance with Mick Jagger and it had sex scenes that were not simulated. Nor were the ones that happened after the filming stopped.

Keith knew from the outset his relationship with Anita would not be monogamous. She could not be contained sexually. But it stung that she was carrying on with his best friend and business partner. He felt betrayed and uncertain. It took him 20 minutes to write Gimme Shelter.

Anita was always an enigma. There was a frightening quality to her, she seemed capable of doing anything for fun or mischief. And this was before she became a junkie. The callous life of fixating on the next rig made her one tough cookie.

But you don’t attain the inner sanctum of the Rolling Stones by being a milquetoast. Her profound effect on the group and the way people spoke of her in such awe was intriguing.

With Brian: giving as good as she got.

Her first Stones boyfriend, Brian Jones, was physically abusive though Anita was no victim. She fought back and Brian was often the worse of the two after one of their rows.

On a motor trip to Morocco, Brian was dropped off at a hospital in Spain. Keith and Anita boinked in the backseat of the Bentley the rest of the way

In an interview with Keith at their villa in the south of France, a journalist described the exotic surroundings and mentioned how Anita let their toddler son, Marlon, frolic naked on the grass while they talked. As necessary, urine flowed and poop plopped on the garden lawn. No one paid any heed.


In the late sixties I was obsessed with Keith’s gender bending look. The shark’s tooth earring, the pastel pants, the kohl on his eyes, and, in particular, the jeweled red bolero sweater.

It’s hard to imagine a band hitting the market today without being focus grouped and stylized to death. Under Anita’s influence, he just took whatever looked good from the communal pile of clothing at the foot of the bed.

Ten years ago there was a profile piece about her life in Manhattan. The writer accompanied Anita on her daily rounds which included hopping on and off city buses. She knew the drivers by name and chatted them up during the ride. She never paid the fare.

My friend Dale loathed the Stones in college as much as he loathes them today. Their crass commercialism, the ridiculous pop idolatry, and the sexist hedonism offended him. He’s right, but to me their music is too good to let major concerns like that get in the way.

Once in Bloomington at an overcrowded, sweltering summer party we were dancing to Gimme Shelter. The music was blaring and Dale yelled in my ear, “this song is perfect.”

All from an afternoon of anguishing over Anita.

Be it a Bentley or a bus, she got around.
Be it a Bentley or a bus, she got around.

Something Right Finally Happened

Verboten: the grass outside my window calls.
Verboten: the grass outside my window calls.

It’s just starting to settle in what I’ve done. My first six months in the new apartment were so consumed with the minutiae and aggravation of a major move, I lost sight of the bigger picture.

I became such an isolationist during those months, many long-established friends are peeved with me for not being in touch. Shutting out the world is a sign of old age. There will be no more of that. I’m starting to come out of my social shell.

When Eric showed me the article in the BAR a year ago about the lottery for LGBT senior housing, I thought to myself “snowball’s chance, lotteries are for losers.” Today I’m one of the few people in San Francisco with new, affordable housing.

That being said, however, building management has already put me on warning. I was seen using a step ladder to climb out my bedroom window on to the roof garden. I was doing some spray painting on drop cloths I’d laid out.

The manager seemed more amused than concerned when she issued the reprimand. Afterwards she mentioned her mission is not to thin the herd by busting rule breakers. She serves as an advocate for those who have had difficulty in the current housing market. She’ll do whatever it takes to make her tenants successful.

It made me feel like Henry Fonda when the Joads finally found the right work camp. Where you see a rooftop spray painter, I’ll be there.

She ended the meeting by informing me there had been a miscalculation in my rate and for the second time in six months my rent has been reduced.  I am a very, very fortunate person.

When she realized it was my birthday she insisted I take half of the peonies.

Speaking of snowballs,  a friend recently went to San Francisco General’s ER and was admitted with pneumonia. During the first 24 hours while he was out cold, someone stole his wallet. There was $400 in it.

Since the 70’s, General has had a reputation for being a shady operation. Still, with all the new technology and security enhancements I assumed things had improved. But it appears no matter how much money Zuckerberg pours into that place the staff’s primary expertise is never going to be medical.

My friend was determined to get his money back and filed a claim with the City after he was discharged. He then flew to Colombia for the summer to attend to family business.

I offered to help him with his claim while he was gone and said, if he needed anything, I would be happy to be his mule. It’s a species Colombians handle quite well.

I volunteered because I thought nothing would come of it and I wouldn’t have to do a thing. But a few weeks ago he was contacted by a woman who found the wallet in Berkeley. She had been walking in her neighborhood and spotted it in some bramble. The money was gone but the fact that she found it in such a remote place, and that she was willing to make a statement to authorities documenting that, has strengthened his case.

This Good Samaritan really did go to great lengths to track him down: Facebook, Google, directories. Then she found a doctor’s appointment reminder card and got that office to act as intermediary.

I thought her heroics deserved a reward so the day I went to meet her I took a big bunch of peonies and a bag of my new favorite treat, See’s Cashew Brittle. We met at a coffee shop in Rockridge.

We hit it off from the get-go, she was extremely affable. She had moved to the East Bay after 40 years in San Francisco because of the same housing crisis that originally knocked me out. We spoke the same language, there wasn’t a lull in our 30 minute conversation. It was a very pleasant encounter.

The next day she emailed me saying she had enjoyed our meeting as well. She said she’d been driving that day mulling over the stress and anxiety caused by her job. It was really dragging her down.

Then she thought of my prodigal evictee story. She found it so uplifting it buoyed her spirits. It was she who gave me the title for today’s post.

Thank you, Mimi.

Kiss the Sky

Purple haze all in my eyes.
Purple haze all in my eyes.

I’d never been to an emergency room in my 67 years until the last month. Now I’ve been twice

My latest escapade involved a campylobacter stomach infection, not to be confused with the high campy variety. Things were coming out of both ends rather rapidly.

After 12 hours I was so depleted I fainted trying to get a popsicle out of the freezer. My head hit the precious pharmacy marble previously blogged about resulting in a pansy colored rainbow shiner.

After 48 hours of IV fluids and antibiotics I came home last night.

Hospital issue Vreeland-like cuff.
Hospital issue Vreeland-like cuff.

One of my favorite all-time television series is Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. Mainly because the writing is so sharp. The episodes are so chockfull of gems it takes me a couple of viewings to get them all.

In one episode there was a 20 second segment where writers were tossing around tag lines for a new sponsor, an adult diaper. The two I remember are: Freedom Diapers–when every room can be your bathroom; and, Freedom Diapers–now the whole world’s your bathroom.

I would never presume to rival Ms. Fey’s brilliant work. But the Tea Party fought so hard to preserve our freedoms it would be remiss not to mention just how hot those diapers look under a pair of skinny jeans.

A hunka hunka of burnin love.
A hunka hunka of burnin love.