It’s been a great 50+ years of being a working entertainer, but I reached the difficult decision that touring and stage shows are no longer possible. That’s the short version. For the longer version continue reading…
In 2016 on April 1st, April Fools Day, I got really dizzy in the parking lot of the hotel, and started seeing as though I were looking through a kaleidoscope. That evening the show went on as though nothing had happened. I had no idea I’d just encountered a mini stroke until weeks later, when I was told about it. It didn’t appear to affect my performance, or my state of being. I continued touring for the next 4 years.
Then, on Thanksgiving Day 2019 (of all freaking days) it happened again. This time I was on my way to The Church / The Guthrie Center to help out with our annual Thanksgiving Dinner that we hold every year. I had pulled over to fuel up and realized I couldn’t continue to drive safely, as everything was spinning around, sort of like the old days, but without the help of illegal substances. I was taken to the hospital, and was under evaluation, when I broke out. I had an important gig at Carnegie Hall in New York - The end of an annual series I’d been doing for decades and it was Sold Out. I had to be there. It was imperative.
The next morning I left the hospital, took the family and headed for New York. And what a show it was! We wrapped up 50 years with a terrific evening with the entire family on stage. I really enjoyed it.
The following day I flew to my home in Sebastian, FL just as I had done for years, this time with the history of Carnegie Hall behind me. My girlfriend, Marti picked me up at the airport, and we settled into the routine of being on the river I loved. Two nights after arriving home, I awoke in the morning and was lurching from sIde to side. I knew something was wrong, and went to keep a doctors appointment we’d previously set up. The doc said, “You need to go to the hospital — Now.”
So, Marti took me to the hospital nearby in Vero Beach. They kept me there for 3 days, running tests of all kinds, and essentially informed me that I’d suffered a stroke. This time was more serious, as I’d lost some ability to walk, and I wondered if if would be able to play music. I spent about a week in a rehab center to re-learn the basics, like walking. I went home after that, and began a regimen of playing guitar, walking… All the things I would need to continue touring and performing. During the entire time, Marti kept the family and close friends advised as to my progress, and took really great care of me. I needed all the help I could get. And she was there to see it done right.
By the the time our first shows began in 2020, I was at about at 80% and felt like I was improving. Then the pandemic hit. All the shows we had planned for 2020 were at first, postponed, then rescheduled and finally cancelled. My hopes for a gradual recovery onstage came to an abrupt end.
Meanwhile, I’d decided back in 2018 to move from the home in Florida. And just as I’d returned from our last gig in Tennessee, a buyer appeared, and we had a deal on the table to sell The CrabHouse. I wasn’t in any shape to go through the intricacies of selling a guitar pick, let alone a home with 30 years of stuff we’d collected. Marti ended up doing it all. She finalized the deal, and dealt with the stuff that either had to be sold, moved or thrown out. It was quite a lot. But, through garage sales, online markets, movers and friends, she’d pretty much emptied the CrabHouse of everything, and we moved into her place about a mile away.
We were there for a few weeks, before it was safe enough to return to The Farm in Massachusetts. That was in June 2020. Since then we’ve been holed up at The Farm trying to keep out of harms way, and also trying to provide some online entertainment for our friends who were, and continue to be, holed up wherever they are. My band and crew arranged a few short gigs that were filmed at The Church, but when I saw the play-back in the editing room I realized that it was not up to the standards I expected of myself, let alone the expectations that our friends and fans had come to enjoy.
A folksinger’s shelf life may be a lot longer than a dancer or an athlete, but at some point, unless you’re incredibly fortunate or just plain whacko (either one or both) it’s time to hang up the “Gone Fishing” sign. Going from town to town and doing stage shows, remaining on the road is no longer an option.
I don’t remember answering the question on the other side of that piece of paper when I was asked “Kid! Have you rehabilitated yourself?” But, the short answer is now clearly, “No!” In fact, I hope to be a thorn in the side of a new administration pretty soon. Tom Paine once wrote “To argue with a man who has renounced the use … of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead….” In other words, you cannot and should not argue with people who don’t care, or hold the caring of others in contempt. A healthy suspicion of authority, left, right or center has been the hallmark of my career since the beginning, and I will continue to poke fun at cultural, political, or personal absurdities as I see it. I’m actually looking forward to it.
I’m happy, healthy and good to go, even if I’m not going anywhere. I’ve taken back 6-9 months that I used to spend on the road, and enjoying myself with Marti, my family and friends. In short - Gone Fishing.
Good for you, Arlo ... enjoy your retirement ...
I hope Arlo enjoys retirement too! 🙂 Here's a flashback to my one and only personal encounter with him:
Years and years ago, while I was living the Appalachian mountain hippie girl/student life, my friends and I liked to get high, specifically to smoke weed. Good weed. Problem is, what was locally available wasn't always that great. What was great was the weed friends from Colorado brought with them, and shared, when they came to visit which, sadly, wasn't often enough.
How to circumvent that situation became the topic of many late-night conversations. Finally, we hit upon a plan. I, being the most non-hippie looking of all of us (attribute that to my working in the campus library), would fly from Pittsburgh to Denver carrying an empty camera bag; meet our friends from Colorado at the Denver airport; exchange cash for pot; stuff it in the camera bag; and catch the next flight home.
What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, almost nothing. Looking like a schoolgirl librarian had its advantages. 🙂 This scenario played out successfully several times. Until ...
The flights I routinely took were from Pittsburgh to Chicago; then Chicago to Denver and vice versa. One night the Chicago to Pittsburgh leg of the return trip was cancelled because of a snowstorm in Pittsburgh. There was nothing I could do but spend the night in O'Hare. I curled up on a row of seats at a gate, used my coat for a blanket and ever-so-carefully placed the camera bag under my head like a pillow. Then I wrapped the strap around my wrist several times, so it wouldn't be easy for someone to grab if I fell asleep. Which I did.
An indeterminate amount of time later I was woken up, not by someone trying to grab the camera bag, but by someone tapping my shoulder. My first thought was, "Shit. Did my luck run out? Am I being busted?" Nope. Quite the opposite, actually. The person staring down at me was ... ... ... Arlo Guthrie. He pointed to the camera bag, smiled, and looked at me as if to say, "Is that what I think it is?" I nodded my head, yes. His smile got bigger. "Stay here", he said, and strode back onto the plane he'd apparently disembarked from while I was sleeping.
I stayed right there, curled up on the row of seats, still clutching the strap of the camera bag, wondering if what I'd thought just happened really happened, or if I'd been dreaming. Five minutes later my question was answered. I wasn't dreaming. Arlo Guthrie really was there, walking back towards me, carrying an armload of provisions from the plane ... a blanket, pillow, miniature bottles of alcohol, snacks. He tossed the blanket over me, put the pillow on the floor near my head, and arranged the snacks and beverages on it. "First class," he laughed. "Sleep tight." Then he walked away, leaving me higher than I'd ever been in my life. 🙂
amazing story. He is truly an amazing entertainer and human being.
I was lucky enough to see him perform 4 times, Alice's Restaurant twice.
One of my tix included a meet and greet (I didn't know it when I bought it). He was very nice and patient and I got to share my one Arlo story. It's not as good as Lana's story so if you scroll on, I won't be insulted.
The 1st time I drove on the Pacific Coast Highway I said to my wife - this is like the song - I side cliff, the other side nothin'. She didn't know what I meant so I explained the monologue on the motercycle song. We turned on the radio and, unbelievably but true, the motorcycle song came on.
Thanks for the tunes and good times, Arlo
LOL that is one of the best stories I've read in a long time. Lana maybe you should write a book.
Arlo always puts a smile on my face. Coming in to Los Angeles is one of my favorite all-time tunes. Takes me right back.
And Lana I have not talked with you in many, many years. I think I sent you a copy of Tom Preston's book on the ABB years ago.
Thank you to Rowland and yourself for sharing the love of the Allman Brothers Band.