I’m watery while reading this.
Point Reyes - Golden
Asa Horvitz writes:
I’m speeding through the green forests of Western Pennsylvania as I write this letter to you. Mist is rising from the trees, it’s been raining, it’s very humid, the sort of late summer that makes everything sticky and feels like it will last forever. I’m driving with my band, Point Reyes, from Cleveland back to New York City, where we occasionally live. It’s the last day of a 4 week national tour, and it’s also our last drive together for a while – we’ve been on the road for four of the last six months and we’re about to take a break from touring.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me about “Letters to YVYNYL”, and I knew I had to write to you to tell some of the story behind Point Reyes’ new record, Golden. But I’ve been putting off writing to you because I haven’t really been sure how best to do this, how to write about this music and give it the story it deserves in the way it deserves.
In January, a dear, dear friend of mine died unexpectedly of a stroke. His name was Dominic, he was 23 years old, he was a violinist, a forester-in-training and biologist, and the first person I was ever really close with as an adult. He was also my first musical partner in crime, and we made a handful of home-recorded EPs in high school and college under the name Elephant Dreams. When we graduated from high school we traveled to North Africa together, traveling from town to town, playing music and losing at checkers. Over the years we stayed very close and around Christmas 2010 we worked on some music together that would later become Point Reyes’ first EP.
In late December 2011, I had just come back to the States from a year of living and working on music and theater in Poland, and I was at a party in Chicago. I got a call from an old friend that I don’t hear from very often, who left me a voice mail, which said “call me back, it’s about Dominic”. Dominic had been sick on and off over the summer, in the hospital with an infection, and the bottom fell out of my stomach when I heard the tone of my friend’s voice. I called him back, and he explained that Dominic had had a stroke, but that it was very minor, and he would be fine within a month or so. I was relieved because I knew I’d be home in the Bay Area in a few days, that I would see Dominic, and that it would be okay.
I saw Dominic about a week later, on the morning of New Year’s eve. I picked him up at his house and we drove to the beach. He seemed like himself, only more talkative and enthusiastic, and sometimes disoriented. Sometimes he didn’t make much sense, he would garble words, but mostly we laughed about it. As he said, it was the first time in his life he couldn’t run verbal circles around me at every opportunity. His Dad cautioned him to be careful and not walk down the steep cliff at Salmon Creek, so of course he ran directly down it, hands held above his head, making ecstatic whooping noises. We walked down the beach for a long time and we talked about women and music and food and what he would do when he was better. When we got back in the car he instructed me to drive to a bakery we both liked and then fell asleep. When we got to the bakery, he was more somber – he told me that he had missed me in my absences and that he wished I were around more often. I didn’t really know what to say, so I just listened. He ordered a sticky bun loaf, about the size of a basketball, held it between his skinny hands, and ate the whole thing, laughing hilariously as he did it, and told me he was glad I was there. I told him I was glad I was there, too. When I dropped him off at his house I gave him a hug and told him I had to go right away because I had to drop my Mom’s car off, which was only partially true.
I didn’t hear from him for a few days, and then a friend called to say that Dominic was in the hospital again, but that he didn’t know the details, that I should call his family to find out, because no one had heard from them and they were all worried. I called and called and eventually I got through, and I heard the news, that he had had another stroke, that after three surgeries he was unconscious and would not wake up again, that he would be taken off life support soon. His friend Liz, who was probably closest to him of anyone, was already on a plane up from LA, and I got in the car and drove down to the hospital.
When I got there it was very late, and the ICU for stroke victims, which is on one of the top floors of the UCSF medical center at Parnassus, was quiet except for the occasional beep and chirp from EKG machines. A cheerful nurse showed me into the ward, and led me to the bed where Dominic lay, hooked up to a breathing apparatus and dozens of wires. His head was half shaven, and there were large black stitches all the way around the crown of his head. His long black hair covered half his face, and when we brushed it back he looked flushed, like a warrior who had just done battle. Liz sat there next to him.
We sat with him all night, talked to him, sang songs we had written for each other, songs in Hebrew and old American songs and at that moment time just stopped, there was no past and no future, there was just that moment, the lights on the bay outside the window, the sky slowly turning to a pale blue, the nurse adjusting the breathing apparatus, pinching Dominic’s shoulders to see if there were signs of response, us crying or laughing, feeling everything, everything was filled with light and dark all at once.
A lot happened after that. Friends came, his family came, we said goodbye to him, and he passed while we – Point Reyes – were playing live on the radio at KPFA in Berkeley, I wept in the bathroom between songs, and we dedicated a song to him on air. And then we went on tour, I came back to California for the memorial, we went on tour again, then I lived in a really bad neighborhood in Philly (way South on 6th) where two people got shot on our doorstep and we ran out of money for food and I wrote most of what would become this record, this record for Dominic, which is called Golden. But when I look back, it all came out of the stillness on that night that I sat with Dominic at UCSF and was very simply just there with him, just one human being with another.
My friend Nini Julia Bang, who is a singer with Poland’s remarkable Teatr ZAR, came from Poland where she lives to work on this record with us – we rehearsed the material for four days, toured the states for three weeks, and recorded for two days at the end of April. Golden will be released on Philadelphia’s awesome and new Big School Records on August 20th (on red vinyl). New York artist (and former Rhizome editor) Marisa Olson did the beautiful cover art, and my Mom, Patti Trimble, who is a painter and knew Dominic very well, did the insert art. The particular song I’ve sent is the title track, a direct homage, both lyrically and musically, to someone who had a profound effect on my life.
Thanks for reading and listening.
Read more Letters to YVYNYL