As March of 2015 comes to a close, I think about the future as well as the past. In the last month, I have visited Florida twice, one for SleuthFest in Deerfield Beach and the other a family vacation in Miramar Beach. It was a miracle the Sienna made it to the white sands of the Gulf Coast and back with the check engine light on. The van has 238,000 miles on it. Miracles and wonderment!
Jonathan missed that vacation. I miss him terribly. We haven’t seen him in person since he left for Hangzhou, China in September of 2013. That’s two of his birthdays, two Christmas/Chanukah’s, two New Year’s come and gone without him here. Yes, we are planning for the future, when my niece, Emily is getting married in L.A. and my nephew, Max and his wife, Amy, are expecting their first child. This is all supposed to happen in mid-July—the same week. Jonathan is planning to join us there and, hopefully he will decide to stay in Tennessee after that, and finish his schooling. On the other hand, he may decide to go back to China and finish things up there. Daniel will graduate high school in May with honors, and will soon be going off to college at UT Chattanooga. Morgan, our youngest, is going to be a junior in high school soon, and is well on his way to being a film editor. He is so talented—movies are his blood. You should see him do what he calls “tricking”. It is basically extreme martial arts mixed with gymnastics. He can flip (what he calls a dub) with the best of ‘em. In two years we will be empty-nesters. But, as always, the future is uncertain.
When I was at SleuthFest, I had a pitch session with an agent from ICM in New York about my new book, Champion of Lost Causes. The novel is a fictionalization of my band, Silverspoon, wrapping around another story of Blake Lilly, a talented but troubled recording engineer who looks me up on Facebook after forty years. The Blake Lilly character is based on a true story. This guy actually contacted me on Facebook. He said he listened to my music and wanted to hire me, even pay me double scale, to play guitar on some tracks for a band he was producing. I had the feeling he was blowing smoke up my wazoo, and Donna thought he had trouble with the truth. She told me to ignore the guy. It was going to lead to trouble or, at best, disappointment.
The guy would call me up and tell me to meet him at SIR rehearsal studios the next day. Just as I was getting ready to leave, he would tell me the session was canceled. This went on for weeks. Then he give me this hard luck story of how his briefcase with all of his money, ID and a very expensive microphone had been stolen. I felt bad for the guy. It seemed like he had no friends. I offered to lend him some money to get him through the hard times. I just wanted to do something altruistic—like I did when I was younger before the harsh realities of life began to beat me down. It was only a hundred bucks. I wired him the money. Two days later, he told me his roommate was going to throw his ass out on the street if he didn’t come up with another seventy-five dollars. I knew I shouldn’t have done the first hundred, but now another, seventy-five? I told him all I could do was fifty and would wire it directly to his roommate. After that he was on his own.
When I finally made it down to meet him and the band. He was a no-show. I went out to lunch with the band’s manager and some of the musicians and they told me some of this guy’s war stories. The guy finally gave up and moved back to L.A. To this day, more than a year later, I haven’t even met the guy. But he did send me a check for $170 a few months ago. I guess I guilted him into it. Unfortunately, the check didn’t clear. I called him back to tell him this and he said it was a bank error. I tried it again. It still didn’t clear. His local branch manager of Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles figured out that when the guy had changed to an interest checking account, it was a different account number. What a numb-nut. The manager finally okayed the check and I cashed it.
This led to my book. Since I never met the guy, I had to make up his backstory. That was the fun part. Since the agent at ICM passed (it only took her a week to send me a very nice rejection letter), I have decided to spruce and tighten up the novel. I met a very informed and experienced writer at SleuthFest (in fact she is one of the founding members) who is helping me to get the book in what she calls “ready for prime time” shape. Thanks, Victoria. It should be finished by summer. I hope.
So, is this going to be the final chapter of Life After Silverspoon? I’m actually not sure about that either. Life continues, and I’m sure there will be stories to convey. Jonathan’s return to America, Max and Amy’s baby, Emily and Max (yes, her fiancée’s name is also Max) wedding and who know what else. It has been a long and winding road, as Sir Paul would say, and I have enjoyed writing it (most of it anyway). I appreciate all the support along the way from readers like you, and especially my wife, Donna. She has been a saint to put up with, not only this blog, but my retelling the story of Justin Goodman, Blake Lilly and the colorful cast of characters in my newest novel. I will let everyone know when it’s finished. If it every really gets finished. Writing books is hard work.
I haven’t written a song in over a year. Maybe when the book is done, I’ll get back to it. I hope so. I miss recording, but I will have to buy a new Mac since my older workhorse finally took a dump. I hope my Protools will load up and all my files are safe on my back up.
If nothing else, my life had been interesting. I never made a million or two. I did sell a couple of songs, some to major recording artists, but never had a hit. I do have four solo CDs that I am very proud of. Now, I rarely play guitar, and when I do, it’s with my middle boy Daniel, who is extremely talented—smart too. Smart enough not to go into the music business.
I’d like to leave you all with a song.
Life is just a bowl of cherries Don't take it serious, Life's too mysterious You work, You save, You worry so But you can't take your dough When you go, go, go
So keep repeating "It's the berries." The strongest oak must fall The sweet things in life To you were just loaned So how can you lose What you've never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries So live and laugh, aha! Laugh and love Live and laugh, Laugh and love, Live and laugh at it all!
When I look over at the face of an angel next to me in repose, the woman I had asked to share my life-book— together through each chapter, each page, each sentence, each word and even the spaces in between the words, I feel lucky, truly blessed. And my kids, Jonathan, Daniel and Morgan. I couldn’t have asked for three better sons. God, I love them all so much! I couldn’t imagine any other life as sweet. Why not end with another song? One that I wrote called Song for My Sons. It’s the last track on my Timing is Everything CD. You can also find it on my Reverb Nation page: http://www.reverbnation.com/jameswesleyhaymer
The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, it dropped straight down and hit you on the knee,
So if you want to grow up and be like me, you’ve got to learn to play your song.
I’m your dad, so take my advice, go lead yourself an honest life.
Don’t burn the candle at both ends, be good to yourself and all of your friends.
You don’t fortune, you don’t need fame, all you got to do is play the game.
Find a good partner to be your mate, give a little more back, son, then you take.
Oh, I love you so,
I take you with me wherever I go.
Find someone to be there when you’re down, and tell you the truth when there’s no one around.
So listen when she talks, at least for awhile, you’ll make it through the smiles and crying times.
Do what you love, and love what you see, and try not to live beyond your means.
Stand up for the week and keep the land free, have compassion, strength and dignity.
Oh, I love you so,
I take you with me wherever I go.
Sometimes you feel like giving up when your best shot isn’t good enough.
But remember that failures need apply only to the ones who fails to try.
This is what I’m leaving to you, you don’t need to listen, don’t need to approve.
Just do what you love, and love what you do, and let God’s true light pull you through.
I love you more than I love the sky, and all the planets passing by,
Be kind to your brothers, and treat ’em like gold,
Might be all that’s left when you get old.
Oh, I love you so,
I take you with me wherever I go.
Now I got a good home (wife) and family, I love my babies one and two and three.
And you don’t need eyes to clearly see, true love will last an eternity.
Take it for what it is, judge for yourself, but I found fortune beyond any wealth.
I eat when I’m hungry, and sleep when I’m tired, and most of the time I’m satisfied.
First, a little backstory. I had no idea that I had any relatives my age in England until Jason Saks, my cousin, appeared at my parents door in 1977. He had been doing a little research about the Flieg/Sacks/Haymer connection and figured out that my dad, Johnny Haymer of M*A*S*H and Annie Hall fame was his uncle. Jason was working for Redken at the time and was in California for a brief stint. As soon as I saw his Aston Martin DB-5 parked outside and his dark curly-headed locks and oversized shnoz, I knew he was family. When Donna first met Jason on our way to Scotland (we had stopped in Manchester while driving up in 1990) she laughed at how, with the tea drinking and doilies covering the food, my relatives seemed more British than her family. No wonder I thought I was destined to be a second generation Beatle.
More recently, Jason’s brother, Jonathan, had been doing some research on a newly discovered relative, and here is the truncated version of the story. My great grandfather (nobody remembers his name, but let's just call him Mr. Zachnovitch or more simply, Mr. Z), was married two times, and the year that my Grandma Betty (and Jason’s Aunt Betty Ann) left for America in 1911, Jason's father, David, came into being from the second wife. Well as it turn out, there was a younger sister of Betty's from the first wife. Her name was Minnie. She had also come to America, St. Louis to be exact, and stayed with my grandparents, Joe Flieg (who I am named after), and his wife, Betty in 1914 or so. The hard thing to figure out is: Why had I never heard of Minnie? She had seemed to vanish from the face of the earth. She supposedly left St. Louis and headed to New York City with a musician named George Tilson, who later changed his named to George Taylor. They had a son in the early ‘30s and called him George.
George Taylor Jr. is now 81 years old (or thereabouts) and is the first cousin of my dad, and my second cousin once removed, and I never knew he existed until the night Jason called me from England. He said he and his wife, Nicky and their two kids, Joe and Hannah were going to Orlando over Christmas and New Year’s of 2011/2012 and invited me and my family to join them on a sojourn to meet our long lost relatives. How could we refuse? Whenever I hear talk about family trees and tracing the ancestry of relatives, my head spins. I know you’re your head is a whirling dervish right about now. Right?
Yes, we made it down to Orlando and the tolls on the Turnpike were outrageous. Welcome to The Las Vegas for children. Heading southwest to Kissimmee to the township of Celebration where our Orbit One Vacation Villas awaited us a few miles from the Saks’s who were staying in a nearby vacation villa called the Bahama Bay Resort.
From the outside, Orbit One looked like it once was a thriving monument to Space Mountain, but now it was a bit rundown from neglect, bad management, or lack of funds. At least there was a nice pool, a putting green, tennis courts and a game room filled with arcade games and a pool table that were all in fairly good condition. Surprisingly, the condo looked a lot better from the inside. There was a Jacuzzi in the main bathroom and skylights in the living room and in the master bedroom. There were three televisions (one of them being a flat screen in the living room so the boys could hook up the PlayStation 3). Jonathan, who would turn twenty-one in March, was hogging the PS3, and stayed up until the wee hours of the night playing Skyrim and watching movies on HBO.
The Sakses and Haymers were in communication by cell phone. Since they had a cell phone with a UK number, Donna had arranged to get on the world connect plan with our phone company before we left which brought the cost down to twenty-eight cents a minute and texts to fifty cents each. I think it was around nine or ten at night when I called Jason from some rip-off supermarket owned by Indians (the Eastern kind), and he told me he and his family were nearby. I ran out of the market leaving Donna and the boys to finish up being gouged by the outrageous prices at shop and told them to meet up at the entrance to our condo as soon as they were done.
As I approached the gate, I saw a silver SUV of some kind and long haired people with British teeth waiving from the interior. As I got closer I could see a swarthy, dark curly-headed man in the driver’s seat next to a slim woman with medium length brown hair, and two kids with noses pressed against the glass. It was them. Jason flung himself out of the van and ran down to meet me with open arms. I ran toward him, and we embraced like cousins who hadn't seen each other in over five years would do. Walking back towards the Silver Dodge SUV, I saw Nicky waiting for a hug and I was more than happy to oblige. Then Hanna and Joe exploded out of the wan and were not shy about getting their fair share of embraces. Pictured below: Daniel Haymer, Jonathan Haymer, Joe Saks, Hannah Saks and Morgan Haymer.
Donna and the boys drove up within a few minutes and she put the car in park and they all got out. It was a Kodak moment if ever there was one. Daniel, who was 15 at the time, noticed the fourteen-year old Hannah was tall and thin and he gave her a conciliatory hug followed by Jonathan (almost 20) and then Morgan (12) who seemed to be embarrassed by all show of affection. I knew he would warm up to them as soon as food was served. Then Joe, eleven years-old and no more than 4-feet-7-inches tall, introduced himself to his strange exotic relatives all the way from America. The strangest thing to fathom for my boys was the Saks’s thick Manchester accents. We agreed to have a little meal in the condo, which brought out a half-smile on Morgan’s face. Jonathan got back in the Saks’s van and directed them to our room in the Saturn building - number S24, which was on the top of three floors. It was nice of them to bring some groceries (or messages as Donna would call them), some beer, wine, coffee, milk, cereal and bananas I think? we had already bought some Fruit Loops and paid a whopping $4.99 for the box. Still, it was really great to see Jason and Nicky again, and of course their two progeny who we hadn’t seen since 2005 when we stopped in Manchester for the second time on our way to Scotland. Scott Taylor pictured below.
On New years Eve we made plans to meet up with the long lost relatives at George's son, Scott Taylor’s home in Ocoee, a mere 15 miles from where we were staying. Driving in with the Saks's right in tow, our Toyota Sienna approached the gates of Ocoee Gardens. We parked the Sienna next to the small strip of grass by the mailbox in from of the semi-circular house in Ocoee Gardens. Jason and his clan, and The Haymers together numbered nine. Nine strangers were going to be walking into a mysterious house in a gated community in Central Florida. Nine strangers, who claimed to be family, were knocking on the door of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Taylor. What if they thought we were crazy (which we are)? What if they were? What if they were boring and we were going to waste a perfectly good New Year’s Eve on people we couldn’t wait to be as far away from as a tsunami? We had to devise some sort of signal. I always used the brushing of the side of your nose with your index finger, so we decided to go with that one.
I knocked on the door with Morgan and Daniel beside me. The rest of our gang meandered up as the front door opened and . . . there they were. It was Scott who opened the door, and I could see the rest of his clan peeking behind him in the foyer. Scott is tall, around six foot two with dark curly hair and a bit of a hook nose that points slightly to the ground just like mine. Mine’s a bit bigger; I guess it had ten more years to grow. Scott introduced me and the rest of the combined clans to his wife Pam, a cute little round thing, not Melissa McCarthy round, mind you, but pleasingly so. She was no more than 5 feet tall in heels.
Dan, with lighter brown hair than Scott looked more like a working class dude. He had the typical 50 year old spread around the middle something that I was fortunate to avoid, so far , anyway. Scott, who also managed to avoid the beer belly, was in pretty good shape (he’s in real estate so he has to keep up appearances) but complained about his back and knees. Then there was George—George Taylor himself. Looking at him with his Clark Gable mustache and a good amount of dark gray hair, I knew for certain he was definitely a family member. Scott's son Jake was in also from from South Florida. He is a little younger than Jonathan about 19, I guess. While the “grown-ups” were in the house reminiscing, Jonathan, Daniel and Morgan were led to the lake by Jake. It was a modern-day Huckleberry Finn scene.
The thing that really blew me away about the Taylors, something that was hard at first to wrap my head around was: they were Baptists. I mean, I never knew that anyone in my family was anything other than of Hebrew descent. They explained that Minnie, when she married George Tilson (later Taylor) had converted to Protestantism and never looked back. Another interesting thing about George Sr., was—he was a musician and had his own band. I’d asked George Jr. if they ever made any records, but he said he didn’t think they did. Too bad. I would have loved to have heard something. No doubt about it, music runs in the family.
I asked them point blank the reason they never knew about us, or for that matter, any other relatives. They said that Minnie told them that all her brothers and sisters had died in the war (WWII), and she was the only one that had survived. They had no idea about the Sakses or Haymers or Fliegs or Flegs or anybody other than their small family unit of Taylors. One can only speculate what the reasons were. Did she have a falling out with her family? Was she working in an undesirable profession? Was it because she had married a non Jew that, if revealed, would alienate her from her strict Orthodox Jewish father? We’ll never know because my Aunt Minnie, who I had never heard of before a year ago, had died a few years back. It’s a shame. I would have really liked to have met her and find out about her strange and obviously intriguing life. If nothing else, we have a much larger family that before and, if things go as I hope, there will be many more family reunions in the future.
It turned out to be a wonderful New Years. We weren’t bored, they weren’t crazy (we’ll at least not the serial killer or drooling village idiot crazy) and if they ever come to Tennessee, it is guaranteed that they will not only have a place to stay, but will have to sample my Chicken Parmesan or Spaghetti with Clam Sauce ala Haymer. Maybe even play a little music.
A little background on me and BRC (sounds
like a Kristofferson song). As I wrote before in an earlier chapter, Billy Ray Cyrus
had come to my house, or so I was told since I was incapacitated with a
horrible flu, dressed as Santa Claus bearing gifts for my two boys (Morgan
wasn’t to come into existence for a few years later). My next association with
Billy Ray was when I played pedal steel guitar on a track of his written by my
friend Chas Sandford (which twenty years later became the title track of his
record, TheDistance). My third encounter with the King of Achy-Breaky was not
My son Daniel had lent his Queen CD to one of Billy Ray’s sons who had refused to return it. As I was
driving my MG Midget on Thompson Station Road one extremely hot and humid day
at the end of May, I realized I was behind the school bus with Daniel and
Morgan inside. When the bus came to a stop to let out some of the children, my
two boys exited and got into my tiny sports car (Morgan was seated in the small
area behind the driver’s seat not really meant for a passenger). Since we were
only a mile or so from our house, I figured it would be safe enough if I took
it easy. Then I remembered that Billy Ray would be waiting by the iron gate of
his palatial mansion for his son to get off the bus. I thought it would be the perfect
time to finally meet BRC face to face and mention the CD and hopefully he would
give his boy a good talking to.
Billy Ray seemed nice
enough as we conversed, but he stayed safely behind his protective gate. He
said he would let his son know that I had talked with him and the CD would be
returned promptly. We then talked about music, and how I had some songs he
might be interested in and he told me to drop them off someday and he would
have a listen. As we were talking, I noticed him acting a little nervous, like
maybe I had stepped over the line by mentioning my music. It seemed as if he
was looking off to his left, as if there was a hidden camera there and he was
giving signals to some unknown entity. A minute later, I saw a police car drive
by heading toward my house. Then I noticed that the cop had pulled over in a
driveway not more than a hundred yards from my driveway.
I got back into the
Midget with Daniel in the passenger seat and Morgan in the back area, which, of
course had no seatbelts. As I turned the corner past the police car, I saw the
red and blue light flash on in my rear view mirror. I pretended I didn’t see
them and continued on into my driveway and parked my car in its usual place.
The cop, who looked like a teenager with short blond hair and a wispy moustache
had followed me in, got out of his cruiser and approached me with an attitude.
registration,” he demanded. I showed him my license but told him my car
registration was in my office and I would go grab it and be back in two shakes
of a pig’s tail. He began to write something. I knew it wasn’t his memoirs.
“What are you doing?” I
“Writing you a ticket for
neglecting to have seatbelts, no child seat and not having your car
“I told you its in the
house. It just came by mail and I forgot to put it in my car with the rest of
the paperwork.” I knew that ticket could cost me five hundred dollars or more
so I wanted to make sure I would find the paperwork pronto.
“Well,” said the cop, “if
you can produce the registration before I finish writing this here ticket, I
might let that part go.”
Here I was on my own
property being made to jump through a hoop of fire for this little Nazi
stormtrooper. I rushed into the house, found the registration in less than a
minute and ran back out to the so called officer of the law, a man who was
sworn to protect and serve.
“Sorry, you’s a tad too
late,” he said smugly.
Meanwhile Morgan and
Daniel stood by the front door of the house watching the scene with morbid
curiosity. I said to the cop as he handed me the ticket, “Are you through?”
He nodded his head and
moved back toward his cruiser. Now as I said, I was on my own property, and
sometimes a man can get a false sense of security when he feels he is in the
right and standing in front of his castle. I then said, “Okay then, now would
you kindly get the fuck off of my property!”
That was it. He rushed
toward me and threw me up against the Toyota minivan parked right in from of my
side door while Morgan and Daniel and my wife, Donna who had come outside to
witness the commotion, watched with shock and horror. The fascist bent my arms
back behind my back and tried to handcuff me, but I wasn’t making it easy for
him. Then I thought, resisting arrest would not help my case so I acquiesced. I
figured I could explain things to the higher-ups when I arrived at the jail in
downtown Franklin, ten miles to the north.
While lying on my side in
the back of the cruiser, I heard the cop having a phone conversation with what
I thought was Billy Ray Cyrus. He was verifying the story I told him about the
CD and how I was only trying to get back what belonged to my son. He asked BRC
if we talked about my own CD and it seemed like Billy was corroborating my
story to the T.
There were two nice
things about being in the holding cell that day. One, I was fortunate to be in
and empty cell, and two, it felt cool to lie down on the stainless steel bench
with the temperatures outside in the high nineties. The cop had written his
report and handed it in to the desk sergeant, and I was waiting to see what
would happen next. About an hour later the stormtrooper approach my cell. “This
must be your lucky day.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“It just so happens it’s
my birthday and I’m feeling a might generous. We’ve decided to let you go.” He
unlocked the barred door and let me out and then said, “If you want me to give
you arid back home—“
“No that’s alright,” I
said. “I want to walk home and think about things if it’s all the same to you.”
There was no way in the world I was going into that police car again with that
asshole. A block outside the jail, I called Donna on my cell phone and she told
me she was already only a mile or so away. Fifteen or twenty minutes later I
was back home. No charges were ever filed, the ticket was torn up and I have
never seen that cop anywhere again. I guess he got a good bawling out from his superiors,
who must had told him he was out of line for harassing a home owner with no
Now, after writing that
letter about the song-plugger. I was hoping that Billy Ray had forgotten about
the CD incident and the cop, or if he remembered, he felt guilty for being
apart of it. He answered me back quickly. The email read: Hey James. Just got this.
Never heard of the songs or got to hear them sorry to say. I bet they were
good. Back at that time when I worked with * * * *, Disney and their A and R
team handled all the material unless it was something I wrote. I'm gonna make a
new record in the fall so I'll reach out then. Maybe it was meant to be until
now. All the best. B R.
So there it was. He never heard it, but I wondered how long
it had been since he worked with this particular representative. He sent him a
follow-up email:Thanks for responding. I have
the feeling this song-plugger was making things up and wrote a bunch of
nonsense on his report to us. These kinds of people (if this is what he is
doing I will have to confirm it with other artists and A&R people before I
can know for sure) should not be allowed to exist in the music business. It has
a bad enough reputation already. Any time you want to hear these songs, and
they are good and perfect for you esp. "Got It Too Good" let me know
and I'll send you an MP3. Or if you in town you could drop by. Thanks again
Billy, I always liked you and I hoped that you were still an all right guy. You
ARE! There is one more thing I forgot to ask and
before I start accusing anyone I need, as Jack Webb said, “just the facts”. You
intimated that you are no longer working with * * * *. Did your association
with him end before Nov. 2012?
He replied:Yes. Way
...like ...2008 or 2009.
It was time to tell Larry that my intuition was
right and the song-plugger was pulling stats out of his ass. Larry and I
constructed a letter advising this scumbag that we were going to not only sue
him, but go to all the TV stations and make a public spectacle of him. He
returned all the money within a week as long as we promised not to share his
little secret. I’ll never know it any of the other artists were legitimate, but
I highly doubt it. If it weren’t for the fact that I had a country star living
right across the street from me, and was able to contact him, the ruse could
have perpetuated for months . . . maybe even years. I wish I could mention his
name but I don’t want to get sued for libel.
Oh yeah, a side note: Since the writing of this blog, Larry,
because he felt I didn’t give him his due credit for winning a Cleo award for
his musical contribution to the advertising game and not mentioning his solo Cd
of instrumental music, he has not returned any of my calls and had remained
completely out of touch for over a year now. C’est la vie say the old folks/ it goes to show you never can tell.
Another side note: The Queen CD was returned to Daniel the
next school day after the incident.
A few years ago, while I put ideas for my
record Timing is Everything together,
Larry Harrison and I began to rekindle our songwriting over the phone and the
internet. There was a song called After
All on my first solo CD (See You
Around) that I recorded in a Willie Nelson style and Larry insisted that it
should be done differently. He believed in that song and told me I was one of
the best songwriters he had ever had the privilege of working with. I’m not
sure I believed him and wondered what he was up to.
He thought the song
should be done in a contemporary ballad style a la Michael Bublé or something similar. I
thought, why the hell not. He then expressed an interest in publishing that
song as well as another song from that record of mine, Got it Too Good and would compensate me with some dollars. I needed
the money so I did the deal. I would still retain 100% of my writer’s
royalties, but Larry Harrison was now my publisher, of at least those two songs
anyway. Larry had put together a state of the art recording studio in his home
and had also assembled a crew of musicians at his beck and call. I told him to
run with it.
The recordings came out
pretty nice. He had hired a few different vocalists to sing After All to see what would work the
best for the song. The first vocalist sang the song in a Tom Waits style, which
I really liked but Larry thought it wasn’t commercial enough for radio. Whatever.
He then got an amazing soul sister to sing it and it was so riffed out I couldn’t
even recognize the melody anymore. Then it became a duet with the vocal being
shared with a black dude. It was better, but I still liked the Tom Waits
version better. But the ball was in his court, and since my preference didn’t amount
to a hill of coffee beans, I went along with his decision (which seemed to
change hour to hour). At least we had three different versions of the song and
we could let the powers that be (whomever they were) decide its fate.
The second song, Got it Too Good, needed to be straight
ahead country. Larry was going to use Randy, the same guy that sang the Tom
Waits version of AfterAll (he could sound like anyone from
Hank Williams or Buck Owens to Merle Haggard or Alan Jackson ). I told him I
knew a guy who could sing the ever-loving crap out of it, and he happens to
live right here in Music City. His name’s Sean Patrick McGraw. I met Sean years
ago in L.A. when we both were attending a music writing workshop. We ended up
meeting up ten years later and began penning some songs together when I first
came to town. My original track of Got it
Too Good sounded like it could have been right off of John Lennon’s RockandRoll record from 1975, or maybe even
one of Elton John’s releases from the eighties. Now, even though I didn’t care
too much for country music (at least what country music had become), the track
was as country as your mom’s apple pie. Sean recorded a stunning vocal and even
laid down three part harmonies and then sent them off. Larry was thrilled, and
even I thought the song sounded great, and commercial to (cowboy) boot.
There was a song I had
written called Running Around the World,
which was published by Curt Boettcher in 1986 and ended up on Mike Love’s solo
record, Looking Back With Love. Larry
came up with the idea to change it from a Beach Boys style to country. The tag
line at the end of the chorus was: trying to catch up with my favorite little
girl. He suggested that instead of “little girl” it should be “country girl”. I
was okay with that. The song was now entitled, Favorite Country Girl. The track was really great and Sean did his
usual outstanding vocals. I really thought that between the three songs, at
least one of them was destined to be a hit, or at least get us some action in
the marketplace. Larry was on a roll and recorded five more songs from our old
duo’s (Two Guys from Van Nuys) catalogue. They turned out nice, but they
weren’t as commercial as the previous three. Now the question was: how in the world
were we going to sell these tunes?
Larry, being so far
removed from the scene since becoming a stock broker/ insurance man (even
though he recorded a moody solo record of instrumentals and was recording
commercials for some Fortune 500 companies), he though with me living in
Nashville, I should be the one to carry the ball into the playing field. This,
as most people who know me would agree, is not my strong point.
I remembered my friend
Chas Sandford had told me about a song-plugger that I almost did business with
when I released Timing is Everything, but
I couldn’t afford his fee. When I mentioned it to Larry, he thought it might be
a way to go. He said he would pay the $200 a month (the cost of promoting one
song which we decided should be FavoriteCountryGirl). Since the cost of two songs was only and extra hundred
bucks, we added Got it Too Good to
the presentation. We signed the contract with this song-plugger in November of
2012 and in exchange for our money, said song-plugger would shop our tune, send
us a monthly report of which artist were being “pitched”, who represented the said
artist, and the status of the song (either it was “kept” or “passed”). When we
got our copy of the first report it looked very promising. Out of the fourteen
pitches half of them had kept either one of the two songs. We were batting
five-hundred which any hitter in the major leagues would be ecstatic about.
It was a little ironic
that my heart was not really into this partnership with Larry. If it would have
happened a few years earlier I would have been over the moon, but now I was
more interested in writing my first novel, Mulligan’sTour, and couldn’t give the proper
amount of energy and dedication needed to really get that ship launched out of
the harbor. Larry would call me up two, sometimes three times a day asking me
what I thought about this musical part, or this lyric change and, to tell you
the truth, I couldn’t wait to get him off the phone and get back to editing my
manuscript. But now that the song-plugger had the tunes in his grubby little
hands, it was out of mine.
So the reports came in
monthly with more of the same result. The artists or their reps were either
passing or keeping the songs but nobody had made any commitments to record
them. I started to have a bad feeling about this song-plugger. Deep in my gut I
felt that he was pulling these statistic out of thin air. Larry thought I was
being paranoid. I didn’t think so. Funny enough, one of the artists on the list
was Billy Ray Cyrus, who just happens to live right across the street from me
in Thompson Station. I thought it would be ironic if my neighbor (who I could
have thrown the CD over his gates) would end up cutting one of my songs from a
song-plugger who lived thirty miles away. Then I had an idea. Maybe I should
giver old Billy Ray a call, better yet send him an email to see if he ever
actually heard these songs. I got his email from Chas, who had been working the
the king of Achy-Breaky off and on for a few years. Actually, BRC recorded a
song of Chas’s called The Distance (I mentioned this in a previous post) which
became the title track of his last record.
I sent him the email
Billy Ray, Hi, I am your neighbor on Thompson Station Road. You might remember
the time you came over dressed as Santa Claus about fifteen years ago. I have a
big favor to ask of you if you could find it in your heart to help me
straighten something out. You may or may not know that I write songs with my
partner Larry Harrison and about six months ago we hired a local song-plugger
to pitch some of our tunes for a nominal fee. It’s funny that he pitched *******
three of our songs, two of which your team had kept for more than three months,
maybe four. The first song you kept was Favorite County Girl and the second was
Got It Too Good. Our song-plugger sends us a spreadsheet report every month
indicating who has kept or passed on the song. The frustrating thing is— we
have no way of verifying his actions. What I am asking of you, Billy, is if you
have ever heard these songs or if **** has even heard them? I am sure you can
understand my dilemma, being a songwriter yourself and how hard it can be to
break in to the community. At this point we have ceased our relationship with
the song-plugger even though there are about ten different artists who have
kept, and are still to my knowledge, keeping some of these songs. If you could
help a neighbor out and let me know if you have any knowledge of these songs or
no knowledge of them whatsoever, I would greatly appreciate it.
I didn’t hear back right away. Ten days later I sent the email out
again. He replied within an hour. I was blown away with his response. To be
The animal shelter in Franklin did a
thorough check of my history as a pet owner after I have filled in the adoption
papers for Aileen. They knew that I had two other dogs and one surviving cat
(after my favorite black cat, Mowgli passed away a year earlier). They also
knew that they were delinquent in their shots and I would have to have all of
their inoculations current in order to proceed with the adoption.
Although Aileen was doing
much better and had been de-liced and flea bathed, she still limped badly and
they though she might had been hit by a car since her right ear tilted in a
funny way and her right eye seemed unresponsive. I knew nobody else was going
to adopt her but still, the thought of her being put to sleep after what she
had been through seemed senseless and unnecessary. I put a call out to Todd, my
cohort in Aileen’s rescue. Todd, a dour man who, to this day, I don’t think
I’ve had ever seen smile (if you look up dour in the dictionary I’m sure his
picture would be there), and I left a message about my travails with the animal
shelter. When he called back we made a deal. He would fill out the paperwork
and pay for the adoption fees, but I would keep her at my house in Thompson’s
Station. I knew my wife, Donna, would be too happy about it, but what else
could I do? I told her I would try and find a home for Aileen but in my heart I
knew she would be spending her final days in the Haymer household.
At this time, Jonathan,
my oldest son, was preparing to leave for China. He had been granted a full
scholarship to study in Hangzhou at the Confucius Institute and was scheduled
to leave in September, in two months time. Jonathan was ecstatic about being
selected (only four students had that honor at MTSU), and we were all helping
him get ready for his trip with passports, shots, luggage, you know, the usual.
He was going to be gone for a year and my heart was sinking, but I knew it was
going to be a great opportunity for him. In a way it was payback. I had married
Donna in 1990 and taken her away from her mum and dad and now it was my turn to
fell the sense of estrangement. Thank God for things like FaceTime and WeChat.
At least I would be able to see him as well as hearing his voice.
Ashley had agreed to lend
me the cage and I placed it in the back of the house behind the mudroom where I
could keep an eye on her. It was hot that summer so I kept an electric fan
propped up beside her and filled a bucket with plenty of cool water. She wasn’t
eating too well, so I would mix in some chicken and turkey breast along with
her dog food. It seemed to have done the trick. I then erected a makeshift
fence with some old chicken wire I had from before and bought some more metal
fence posts so she could have an enclosed area. The first week or so she would
goosestep nervously around the small area, but after a while she seemed to
settle down. I felt bad about keeping her outside, especially at night, but the
cage was left open and had plenty of soft blankets and the fan, which I kept running
About a week and a half
later, we had given Aileen a cool shampooing outside in her fenced area
by the spigot in back and I cut all of the tightly knit clumps of hair matted
together with who knows what in the downstairs bathroom. She was more agreeable
to it than I had imagined she would be, but I think she trusted me as much as
she could trust any human. I could tell she had been abused and after living in
the wilds for so long I knew it would take the patience of a saint to bring her
The night of
June, 26th, Aileen was in bad shape. I thought, if she can make it
through until morning it would be a miracle. I stayed up until almost three in
the morning with her, playing my acoustic guitar in the adjoining room, and
watching Under the Dome, a television adaptation of a book by Stephen King that
was featured on demand. When she had settled a bit I finally went to bed and
woke up about two hours later to check to see if she was all right. She was in
a bad way. I had to wait until seven am to call Dr. Woody at Animal Health
Center, and they told me the first available appointment was at three-thirty. I
couldn’t wait that long—I had to bring her in. I took her outside and I could
see something moving under her thick coat near her right shoulder where there
was a growth of some kind. Maggots—tons of them had burrowed their way into her
skin and were sucking her dry. No wonder she was so dissipated and struggling
to survive. She was at her eleven and a half hour and fading fast. Ashley had
come over to help me remove the parasites with a toothbrush and tweezers, and I
think we picked out over a hundred of the little beasts. I even tried apple
cider vinegar and Cutter bug spray (which worked better than the vinegar and
didn’t make here whimper). I swore to myself if she made it through this ordeal
she would stay in the mudroom from then on.
Dr. Woody gave
her some Capstar, a medication that
kills the fuckers and is taken in pill form. It had done the trick and in two
days time she was maggot free. As the summer turned into autumn, Aileen was not
really improving. She was totally incontinent and every morning I awoke to the
familiar smell of feces and urine. At least that room was closed off from the
rest of the house.
By the end of
November I knew things were going downhill rapidly for the poor old girl. She
would whimper in the night and sometimes I would have to stay up all night by
her side trying to comfort her. We took her back to Dr. Woody’s and he
prescribed some medication for pain and something the help with her back legs
which were practically paralyzed. I knew she wouldn’t last too much longer, but
I didn’t want to give up. I figured Aileen was about twelve or thirteen, but it
was really hard to determine since she was in such terrible shape. Usually you
can judge by the shape their teeth are in, but she had been on survival mode
for so long and could have been eating anything to stay alive and some of it
would be pretty hard on the teeth.
Was this the
day? It is Thursday December 5, 2013 and I was most likely going to have poor
Aileen euthanized. She couldn’t walk anymore and cried all night (the nights
were always worse). I knew the pain killers and anti-inflammatory meds were not
really helping anymore (the night before I had give her three times the normal
dose and still she cried out). It was
hard, but I had to admit that it was time. I had grown quite attached to her
and I kept trying to stall the inevitable, but I reminded myself that she was
not going to get any better.
It was 7:40 am
and I was waiting for a call back from Animal Health Center. Maybe I’ll lose my
keys like I did when Ginger had to be put to a dreamless sleep. I did that the
other day when I thought it was time...but I found them. They were in the
pocket of my robe. I still thought it was a sign and decided not to take her in
to end her earthly struggles. I wish she could talk and tell me what she wanted
me to do. I had to read it in her eyes and her whining groans. Now she was
calm, but the mornings are always better for her. She still dragged her
flailing back legs along and pulled herself in concentric circles. It was truly
I removed one
of the back seats from the Toyota Sienna and placed her gently on a blanket and
closed the sliding door. She seemed to sense what was going on, but was still
in a state of peace or calm. When I arrived at the vet’s they directed me into
an examination room and they helped me place her on the metallic table. They
gave me a few minutes with her to say my goodbyes. I looked around at the room
with the borders with cats and dogs in play and I hoped that Aileen had
experienced some joy in her life. At least the last six months, although
painful for her, had been in a home with people who loved her and took good
care of her. I did all that I could do and now it was in the hands of the big
Dog in the sky. Dr. Woody came back with the two injections. The first was a
sedative to relax her and the second, the more ominous one, would be the one to
send her on her way. He injected the first shot and her breathing became
shallow and she seemed to let go of her pain. I stroked her bent little ear and
told her I loved her and how much I was going to miss her. Then came the second
shot and at ten minutes after ten she slowly closed her eyes and was gone.
wrapped her in a white sheet and helped me load her body back into the can. I
stopped a t a Home Depot on the way home and bought some peat moss and sand.
Alone in the backyard pet cemetery, I dug a large hole next to Bailey’s grave
and placed her there with her nose pointing east and then said a prayer as I
shoveled the dirt and then built up a mound of peat moss and sand. It looked
like a dome. I surrounded the grave with rocks and put the largest one where
her head was. I will never forget her.
Now with the
painting sold we had enough money to splurge on the last of the Haymer Bar
Mitzvahs – Morgan’s.It was slated for
May 12, 2012, the day after his thirteenth birthday. His Torah portion was
Emor, or the story of an eye for an eye, which, I thought, was diametrically
opposed to his demeanor and to my own beliefs. It sound too much like revenge
and what does that kind of behavior ever get you? I believe more in the laws of
Karma; what you reap you will sow, and all that.
Donna and I were
getting to be old hands at this Bar Mitzvah stuff and the nerves were under
check. Even Morgan was his usual cool, laconic self and came off life a real
pro. I was saddened that my parents, and even my Uncle Ellis (who had come to
Jonathan’s Bar Mitzvah) was not there.
But I could very well imagine they were looking from wherever they were at the
time, with pride and love. Of course, my sister, Susan, my brother, Robbie and
his wife, Carol, and their two grown-up progeny, Max and Emily had made if over
from California. Once again Donna’s parent’s, David and Olive Smollett and their
youngest daughter, Heather, flew in from Scotland. They had made it to all
three – a long way to go. Even my cousin Bobby Graff drove down from Detroit.
He, I was happy to say, had brought his golf clubs and we played nine holes at
Forrest Crossing the day he arrived.
service, the party was to be held at a small restaurant in Franklin called The
Mercantile not far from the square. The owner told us it was their first Bar
Mitzvah, and I could believe it since, when we arrived at the place, the
marquee announcing the event read: Morgan Haymer’s Bar Mitsfa. We didn’t bother
to correct them and when my brother saw it, he almost fell down laughing.
Welcome to Tennessee, brother.
The party, even
though it was pissing down rain outside, couldn’t have been warmer and toastier
inside. We did the usual routine with lifting the chair high with the bar
Mitzvah boy (now a man) supported by four strong shtarkers. After he got down,
other brave souls took their turn in the hot seat. Since I had a recent bout
with vertigo the month before, I declined the event. I never really liked all
that bouncing around anyway. It was a grand event and was declared a huge
success by all, but I was glad it was over and didn’t have to go through
another one. The next big celebration, I knew, was going to be a wedding (but
not too soon, I hoped).
Several months later in the Spring of 2013, I had been hired by the a fore mentioned golf course, Forrest Crossing,
to work one day a week on a volunteer basis as an ambassador. The main perk
being that I got virtually free golf. I knew that was going to save me three to
four hundred dollars a month, so it was well worth the six hours a week I had
to meet and greet golfers at the first tee and smile (I am not exactly the most
politically correct individual in the world, as many people will attest to). I
must say that although one out of ten of the golfers were extraordinary, most
of them sucked. It
was painful to watch.
On my third week working as an ambassador on the
first hole, I noticed the morning shift starter wasn’t there. I walked into the
clubhouse and asked the young kid where the guy was, and he told me he was
helping Todd, (the head honcho manager of the course) trying to guide an old,
crippled dog off the course on hole number five. I didn’t need to hear anymore.
I was off like a lightning bolt in my golf cart with my walkie-talkie buckled
to my belt. I turned up the volume as I drove to hole five , but I didn’t see
anything out of the ordinary except golfers finishing up their putts—definitely
no dog. I pushed the button on the walkie-talkie and asked where Todd and the
dog were. A scratchy voice came back to me sounding like the speaker from an old
drive-in movie screeching that Todd and the dog were over at hole number two,
the eastern-most part of the course.
I had seen a
dog a few months back on the same hole when I was playing golf that looked to
be in pretty bad shape. She was limping excessively and her hair was matted. I
went back after my round, but she was gone; now five months later, I wondered if
this could be the same dog. Was it possible?
When I arrived at the second hole, I didn’t see
anything at first, so I drove the cart all the way to the raised green, then
pulled the cart behind it. There they were. Todd was trying to coax what
appeared to be a badly injured dog into his cart with a few hot dogs. It wasn’t
working. When I looked closely, I saw that she had the same limp (only worse)
as the dog I saw in February, and her markings were pretty much as I’d
I pulled my cart behind Todd’s and tried not to make
any sudden moves that might scare the poor creature. As I got closer, I could
see she was in pretty bad shape. Maybe she was hit by a car on the interstate
since it bordered the hole on the east. There were workers repairing the road a
few months ago, but they had finished in April. Since she didn’t look
emaciated, I figured it was possible
that not only the neighbors, but one or more of those workers had been feeding
or taking care of her—maybe not. I knew that dog couldn’t hunt.
I tried to help Todd guide the dog back to the
clubhouse but she kept moving away from us in large circles and staying close
to the two bunkers on the north side of the second green. She obviously was
afraid of the human animal (who could blame her?). There was a tournament
starting in less that half an hour and Todd was getting antsy because he knew
the dog had to be moved as soon as possible off the field of play. Then I had
an idea. I needed a rope or a leash, but since none were immediately available,
I took the black strap used to secure the golf bags to the cart and removed it
from its riggings. It was held in place by two plastic fasteners—the kind you
might see on a Toyota or Honda used to fasten the carpets to the floor and when
stretched out measured about six feet long. At first, I tied a slip knot at the
end of the strap and then eased it over her head and pulled the makeshift rope
gently. Not liking that one bit, she wrestled her way out of the knot in no
time. I knew the only way I was going to get her into the cart was to tie a
slip knot in the middle of the strap and have both hands free to pull the knot
tight around her neck.
I told Todd to get his cart ready and to flank her
from the left while I tried to guide her towards him. I crept up behind the dog
(who was now in the bunker), and stroked her head with the loop of the strap
trying to ease her worries. When the
right opportunity arose, I slipped the strap around the area between her neck
and chest and then pulled. On the count of three I was going to lift her in.
All Todd had to do was stay close to her to prevent the poor dog from missing
her mark. One…two…three…I pulled her up in less time than it takes to say
Constantinople, and she was on the floor of the passenger side of the cart.
Todd drove her back to the clubhouse with me running alongside so she wouldn’t
be tempted to jump out.
Todd was having trouble getting the dog,(which
looked like a mix of German shepherd and Blue Heeler, or Australian Shepherd)
out of the cart, but luckily someone had brought out a couple of hamburgers and
had broken them up into bite sized pieces. Todd put them onto a paper plate and
tried to inch it back towards him while she nibbled, but every time she got
close to the edge she would freeze. I knew what I had to do. Sneaking up behind
her, I gave her a gentle tap with my right foot and she took the plunge and was
now on the ground. Todd said, “Jeez, Haymer, you have no second gear.” I said,
“Sometimes you have to act and not dilly-dally around.”
In less than five minutes I was guiding the dog
through the double doors of the clubhouse, through the pro-shop and into Todd’s
office which was located in the back of the pro-shop just past the Nike and
Callaway golf club displays. Todd followed us into his office and asked me if I
knew anyone that had a cage. I thought for a moment and then a light bulb went
on in my head. Mark and Ashley, my neighbors across the street who had a small
farm with goats, donkeys and chickens (not to mention dogs), would have one. When
I reached Ashley on the phone, she said she would be glad to bring the cage and
a decent sized leash by the golf course. What a sweetheart!
While Todd was in his office with the dog, I went
down to the first tee and assumed my post as the Starter for the tournament.
While on duty, I had a good view of the parking lot and was keeping a watchful
eye for Ashley to pull up in her black Ford truck. About half an hour later she
arrived and I helped her unload the cage and carried it into Todd’s office.
After the golfers teed off, I had about six or seven
minutes until the next group arrived at the tee giving me a few minutes to come
upstairs and check in on her. She seemed to have calmed down and was drinking
water and eating the remnant burgers from the clubhouse restaurant. I had never
heard her growl or bark, but I could still see that she was a bit skittish. She
did give me a lick on the hand after I heedfully stroked her behind her one
floppy ear, Todd remarked, “She really seems to like you, James. They’re
calling you ‘the Dog Whisperer’ around here now.” I smiled, thinking, if he
Of course it
was Sunday, and after calling all the animal shelters and rescue hot lines we
knew she would be spending the night inside the cage in the middle of Todd’s
already cluttered office. She could do a lot worse, especially after what she
has been through. Don’t forget, this dog has been out there a long time; at
least five months that I know of, and had survived. She needed someone to get
her to a vet or the animal shelter as soon as possible. That would have to wait
until Monday, though.
Monday morning arrived without incident and she was
holding her own, and by noon Aileen (I had named her that because of her
pronounced lean) was being transported in Mark and Ashley’s cage to the
Williamson County Animal Shelter in Franklin. They said they would have to keep
her there for nine days before she could be ready for adoption. At least the
tested her for any diseases and de-wormed her, but they said that her injuries,
although not initially fatal, were serious. I would visit her every day and
take her out on a leash for walks. I knew nobody in their right mind was going
to adopt Aileen, but I couldn’t let her be put to sleep. I knew one person who
could save her. Who in the world do you think that was going to be?
I was in a bookstore in Greenwich Village. I had heard the
Bob Dylan song, I Feel a Change Comin’ On, and in the song Bob talks
about how he is listening to Billy Joe Shaver and reading James Joyce. Since I
had already heard Billy Joe Shaver plenty of times but hadn’t ever read
anything by Joyce, I decided to buy a copy of Ulysses, his powerful and
banned book about one day in the life of two main characters, Stephen Dedalus
and Leopold Bloom. That day was June 16, 1904.
reading the book I was fascinated by it, but really only understood ten, maybe
twenty percent of the novel. I did a Google search on ‛Ulysses’ and found Frank
Delaney’s podcast/blog called Re:Joyce at frankdelaney.com. Mr. Delaney is the
utmost authority on everything Joyce. Every week he dissects one or two
paragraphs in ten-minute narrative, claiming it will take twenty-two years to
complete this herculean endeavor. I was immediately hooked. I still listen
religiously every Wednesday. Oh, how much I have learned. Thank you so much,
Then I got
an idea: If Mr. Delaney can do it, so can I. That’s when I started my blog, jwhaymer.blogspot.com.
In that blog, I wrote a chapter a week about my band, Silverspoon. Now it is
called Life After Silverspoon, (this
will be the 126th chapter to date).
I found that I was enjoying the written word almost as much as I had
ever enjoyed songwriting. Then I remembered I had written a screenplay called Mulligan’s
Tour, which sat in a drawer, screaming to get out. I decided to adapt that
screenplay into a novel, and my first book was born.
I know it
may seem like a backassward way to do things, but when I gave the narrator in
the book my father’s voice, it took on a whole new dimension. I liked the idea
of Johnny Mulligan (my Dad) being a pro golfer who did a little acting, and the
main character (Mark Mulligan) was a golfer, too, who played a little music. Now, I figured, if somebody wanted to adapt
the book into a screenplay, they could. Maybe it will even be me someday. If
you have a screenplay and it never gets made into a movie, what have you got? Bupkiss!
But, on the other hand, if you have a book, even if nobody reads it, its still
a viable commodity.
this was going on, I was doing research on the LeRoy Neiman painting that was
still in my possession. When I was in New York, I had met with Phebe Carter,
one of the assistants to Alex Gleason, the buyer at the Franklin Bowles
gallery. She seemed very interested in the painting and wanted to know how much
I wanted for it. I threw out a number off the top of my head. It was $27,500. I
knew that was much more than I would ever get, but I needed to have her know
that I wasn’t just some Tennessee hillbilly that just fell off the turnip
truck. “I’ll pass that figure on to Mr. Gleason and get back to you,” she said,
without blinking an eye. I knew then I would be going home with the painting,
but I needed to be sure I really wanted to sell it.
WhenI got back to Tennessee
with the painting still intact.
A few days later, I got a call
from Alex Gleason who was in the Bowles gallery in San Francisco. He said, “I
am not going to give you the 25,000 dollars which you are asking.” (I had told
Phebe Carter 27,500, but I let that one slide). “I am though prepared to give
you 18,000 for it.” Hmm, that was more
than I expected as a first offer. I said something like—okay or that's
interesting, something not too emotional as not to give myself away. So he
continued, “As you know with Neiman's the older ones have a tendency to pucker
and crack and if it were a larger painting and say it was in a corner or
something like that, it wouldn't be so bad. Bit in your little painting,” (I
noticed how he kept saying ‘little painting’ like it was less important than a
big one, a bit condescending, I thought.) I told him I would think about it and get back
to him within a few days.
Donna and I decided it would be best to get
some more appraisals. I wrote and email to Sotheby’s and a few days later I got
a return email which read:
you for contacting Sotheby’s. Your
request has been forwarded to me.
Our auction estimate would be $5,000-7,000. We would be very pleased to have your
painting in one of our auctions and appreciate the time you took to send us a
request. Our auction on 5 April
needs property to be at Sotheby’s by the end of this week. You can easily ship the work through a pack
and ship company such as UPS for overnight delivery. The auction after the 5 April auction is in
late September. If you are
interested in consigning to either sale please let me know.
Vice President, Fine Arts
1334 York Avenue
New York, New York 10021
you kidding me? I was pacing now and I had to call Donna. No answer on both the
work and personal cell phone. I called Thomas Denzler and he answered the phone
directly. I was trying to have him clarify what he meant by five thousand -
seven thousand. “Oh that's the low and high end of what we predict the painting
would sell for. Are you sure you know that this is a painting and not a
to hold back the anxiety in my voice, I responded. “Yes, I’m sure.” Then I told
him I already had a legitimate offer much higher than his. I lied and told him
it was ten thousand. “Anything north of ten grand and I would jump on it,” he
My next call was to my CPA. I
wanted to have an idea how much tax I would have to pay if I accepted Mr.
Gleason’s offer of 18 grand. She surprised me with her answer. She told me her
husband was a collector of sorts and might be interested in buying the painting
for more. I was dumbfounded. I said he would have to make up his mind quickly.
She said she would know something by the next day. Well, the next day came, and
the day after that without a word. I was becoming restless and called her back
the day after that. She then told me they were going to pass. I had wasted
three days with this woman. I was pissed and knew I was going to get an new CPA
Then I began to panic with the
idea that the painting, the one that had been in my family for over fifty years
was going bye bye. I sent a return email to Alex Gleason stating the following:
Dear Mr. Gleason,
After careful consideration of your offer I have decided to pass
on it. When I came to the gallery I told Phebe that my price was $27,500 not
$25,000. Although your offer of $18,000 is tempting is it the first legitimate
offer we have had, but I don't think it is enough for me to part with such a
fabulous work of art that has been under the radar for over 50 years, not to
mention a part of my family for the entire time.
Thank you for your interest,
What Had I done? Did I really
just pass up all that money? Two more estimates after that and it made me
reconsider the offer I had just rejected. One came in at seven grand and the
other a little more than that. 18,000 was starting to look pretty good. Was it
I decided that my mom, even
though we would probably get more for the painting down the line if we waited until after LeRoy
passed, would have wanted me to take care of my wife and family most of all.
With Morgan’s Bar Mitzvah looming and not having been on a vacation with Donna
in years, I decided to give Alex a call to see if he was still interested. I
asked for $19,500. He offered $18,250. We
finally agreed to the tidy sum of
On March 20th , I packed
up the painting again and shipped it of Fed Ex. With mixed emotions. I tried to
justify the sale thinking I had never really noticed it hanging on the wall
until we started painting the house’s interior a few months earlier, plus we
needed the money.
I was saddened by the news of
LeRoy's passing in a New York hospital on June 20th, exactly three
months after I sold the Red Toreador. The world had lost such an incredible
icon, but more than that, it had lost a wonderful spirit. I will never forget
the hour I spent in that room with him, and. Even though I don’t have the
painting, at least I have that memory to
take with me for as long as I can remember. God bless LeRoy Neiman!