"But then I knew it was bad when the doctor came in with the CAT scan in his hand, closed the door and gave me a glass of water and said, 'I need to tell you something.' "
When Zevon turned to a sober life, he made a public announcement that he did not want to die by drink, which he described as a coward's death. That was a time before the celebrity mea culpa was fashionable, but Zevon's proclamation then is similar to his new announcement, via press release on Thursday, about his health. Zevon explained during Wednesday's interview that he took that approach to define as much as possible the terms of his own life and death.
And what are the terms of the moment? Family and music, he says, as well as watching lots of Steve McQueen movies and shoveling down eggs and bacon. "That's what I eat. Every meal. It's fantastic."
Zevon was married twice but is now single. His adult children, Jordan and Ariel, are in Southern California now, and the singer said he hopes to pack his days with them and maybe even make it out for a fishing trip, one of his beloved pursuits. Next week, though, Zevon plans to be in the recording studio. Long known as a methodical, less-than-prolific artist, Zevon is now in a different gear.
"I've been working frantically," he said. "But you know, imminent doom lowers the bar a bit."
If the trips to the studio are too taxing, Zevon has at his disposal an elaborate nest of recording gear set up within feet of his bed. "That's thanks to Danny Goldberg," he said, a nod to the chief of Zevon's label, Artemis Records. "He is the absolute best."
Zevon declined to offer any hints about the new songs, but he said fans should not anticipate material of moist eyes or long, distant stares. "You needn't look for a great deal more of piety. I have a little mischief in mind."
Imagine Celine Dion reacting this way.
- A famous Zevon profile in a c. 1980 Rolling Stone issue led me to read the Lew Archer novels of Ross MacDonald. Lucky the young man at loose ends who stumbles upon these books, in so many of which a young man at loose ends tries to figure out how to live like a decent human being. MacDonald was my gateway to the wondrous world of the American mystery. Zevon also led me to the better sort of spy novel - I remember showing up for a concert at the Bayou in Georgetown with a copy of Ross Thomas' classic, Chinaman's Chance - hoping, of course, that Zevon would notice and make me his pal - didn't happen. Hey, the Bayou never started concerts on time! You had to entertain yourself before the show somehow. (At that one, a fan yelled out a request for "Carmelita," the Mexicali-flavored lament of a junkie novelist. Zevon's response: "I would rather stick things in my eye.")