About a year before my brother died, my sister called me to tell me that he had been hospitalized with severe gastrointestinal problems, and that he had had surgery. A few days later Marilyn called again to say that Marty was responding well, but that in the diagnostic scans, some suspicious spots were found in one of his lungs. Marilyn spent the next year taking him from Bar Harbor to Bangor, to Boston, and back again, Working for a cure, or at least a remission. I heard about treatments, walks, meals, motels, doctors and nurses. But in all that time I had no doubt but that they would find a way to make this right. I was wrong. The last words my brother spoke to me were, " I love you Stevie".
My very earliest memories involve my brother. We shared a room for the first 8 or 9 years of my life. We listened to a radio that was between us at night, watched the lights of cars make strange venetian blind patterns on the ceiling, and after the paper hanger came to call, we lived in three wood-like walls, and one of cowboys on bucking broncos.
We watched TV, played football and baseball, and even wore little hats that blew bubbles. We put on shows at Debbie and Judy's house...Marty had a real drum set, I had a play one. I remember one of the earliest games we played. It was called " Buddy and Richie" Buddy and Richie were two kids who lived down the street, and we played that we were they. I guess our own lives just weren't exciting enough. We drove in the back of that weird smelling 1950 Plymouth all the way to Miami and back, while trying to plumb the mysteries of three part harmony. Life on Arcola Avenue seems so simple in retrospect. The Strawberry man, the bus that was a traveling grocery store, and of course the yearly June Bug search in Wheaton.
Marty's friends were the "Big Kids". Chuck Smith, Johnny Farhood, Johnny Brinseky and others. But the most impressive and fun times were when musicians would come over to play. Marty on drums and a cast of guitars, saxes, basses, and pianists. I couldn't wait to be like them. Marty took me downtown to a record store on Georgia Ave. called Waxie Maxies, where he bought a 45 of John Coltrane's version of Lush Life. It's still my favorite song, and I even have it on my website.
I've promised several people that I would tell this next story. It is one of the most vivid memories that I have of my brother and my childhood. I was walking home from Highland Elementary one day, when I was set upon by a large bully. He knocked the snot out of me. My friend, Freddy Butler, told me that I was lucky to get off so easily, as this guy was known to beat up "six footers". When I got home, Marty saw the tears and snot on my face and asked what happened. Between sobs I told him about the bully who beats up "six footers". "Well I'm a "six footer", Marty says..."Let's go!" He took me by the hand and we returned to the scene of the beat down. The bully was still there, and My brother confronted him and challenged him as to whether he indeed had beaten up his little brother. The bully assured him that he did, and that not only was he unrepentant, but he would beat me up whenever he pleased. That was when Marty turned to me and said four words that I have never forgotten. He looked me square in the face and said, "You can take him!". Stunned, I begged off, paid Marty his customary fee and slunk home as quietly as I could. I know that he was trying to instil courage and confidence in me but.....Marty please!
Before I even graduated high school, I had moved out my parents house and into the first of many Bumpo Houses. For those few of you who may not know, Natty Bumpo was the name of Marty's band. To borrow from Mel Brooks, We were world famous in Silver Spring. The Bumpo started for me when I got my first bass guitar and I would go over to Chuck Smith's place on Piney Branch Rd. It wound through concerts along side of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Beach Boys, through Bethesda Md., Portland Or. and down through San Francisco.
There are way too many Bumpo stories, and I've only got the one day here, but again I promised to tell at least one Jimi Hendrix story, and this is my favorite. We were lucky enough to be playing at the Ambassador Theater in DC while Hendrix was booked there, and one night after work, we invited him over to our "place" for a party. Our place was, we were crashed, all six of us, in somebody's very dank and dingy basement somewhere somewhere in DC. Probably close to the gig. Responding to our invitation, Jimi asked, "You got any drugs or women"?....."Uh...no".Sez we.. "No thanks", sez he and off he goes. We go home to our basement...drink a bit, crawl into our sleeping bags. About 4 am someone comes clanking down the stairs. It was Jimi and Noel and Mitch, all dressed in their flamboyant stage clothes...Hendrix in the lion face jacket that he wore on the cover of Are You Experienced ......"Where's the party he asks"?...."uhhhh" sez we. It really was like a bad dream.
One more quickie. When Hendrix would sing Purple Haze, he would turn his head when he sang the lyrics "Scuze me while I kiss the sky"...Marty always thought he was looking at the bass player and singing, "Scuze me while I kiss this guy" Not that there's anything wrong with that.
We made several trips to the west coast. On the first, something happened that is not only fun to recount, but had a lot to do with our relationship later in life. We had a convoy of 4 vehicles, which of course got separated (2 and 2). We had a plan to call home if this happened, so that we could meet back up again, but this didn't work out so well as we were too befuddled and phone tag in those days involved operators and secret family code words....the Baum code word was Jose Federman ....cousin Judy's childhood chihuahua. So we were hopelessly lost, when I pulled into a gas station in St. Louis Mo. The gas station attendant (remember them?) looked art me and said, "Weren't you here just a few hours ago"? "In a white station wagon"? I ask, "Yeah", he says. And off we went with the knowledge that Marty's half of the convoy was ahead of us just a few hours, and indeed we found him later that evening at a rest stop.
This story contains 2 components of our adult relationship. 1. that we looked so much alike...Marty use to say that people would come up to him and finish conversations that they had started with me, and 2. that Marty thought that I led a charmed life. He called me the horseshoe man. More colorfully he would say I had a horseshoe jammed up my ass. So whenever fortune happened to smile on me, I would have to call him up right away, and rub it in.
Marty and I also had a difference of style which was born on this trip, and lasted our lifetime. I think this may be what eventually drove him crazy...I know I did my best. He was set on a right way and wrong way for music to be performed, while I was of the "There's no accounting for taste" school. I repeated that phrase to him at every opportunity until he finally cracked...in 1997 I think it was. Even so, he wrote the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. We recorded and played and got stoned and laughed and lived a wonderfully free life.
But life is change, and eventually I ended up in Florida and he in Maine. Though we were separated by many miles, we were close. I came up for a summer to play with Marty and Roberta at the Mary Jane restaurant and he would make trips to Florida. He even briefly went on the road with me through such magnificent cities as Vicksburg and Meridian Mississippi We worked together to design Marilyn's first website when the internet was just a baby, and with the internet, we could email song files back and forth. When I needed a drum track, or he needed a bass line, we were but a click away.
After our parents died, Marty moved to Florida, just a mile away from me, and set up Starstruck Studio. He would strive to record things just right, while I would assure him that "There's no accounting for taste".
Marty spent his last years in this heaven that David and Marilyn have created. He awoke everyday to the ocean, the sea breeze, wonderful vegetarian cooking, and a family that loved him and cared for him always. I think he was the real horseshoe man....and I love you too Marty.