Ezra Titus

1966 – 2009

A MIRACULOUS RECOVERY

When Levon heard I’d been in the hospital, he came to see me at my mom’s house. He didn’t mention the hospital, or ask exactly what had happened. Instead, he simply focused on me in order to get a feeling for exactly where my spirit was and spoke about whatever came to mind. We talked about the super bowl which was only days away. He told me about the music he was working on and brought his new CD. In talking about football and listening to his music, Levon and I tested and reaffirmed the existence of a deep bond that we’d forged when I was a child.

He seemed relieved to see I was doing well, living in my mom and Donald’s house. He always made me feel better. He often said that Amy and I saved his life, as being responsible for us forced him to take better care of himself and remain relatively sober.

When I was very small, Levon lived with my mother and I. He accepted me as his child, and he made a good father. It sounds silly, but when I was four, Levon and I liked the same things. He was, in many ways, as much a kid as I was, so we were best friends. He’d take me out for milkshakes almost every day, liking them as much as I did.

We had two dogs, which I named according to their appearance: Brown and Light. They’d follow when Levon took me for rides through the woods in his ATV. We’d go far enough away from the house so that my mom couldn’t hear and he’d break out some firecrackers. We’d shoot a few bottle rockets and blow up tin cans. For the grand finale, he’d light an M-80. Then we’d head back to the house, agreeing to keep it all a closely guarded secret. When my mom went out, Levon would let me bring the dogs inside which, to me, was like a party.

Sometimes I’d tell Levon I wasn’t in a good enough mood to attend school. He’d usually agree and say; “I don’t see why they need to have you down there every goddam single day!” So at the crack of dawn, Levon would bring me some juice and sing a few songs just to set the mood for our day. He’s play the mandolin and, softly, sing me songs he learned fom his grandfather in Arkansas.

Once the school bus had passed by our house, my mood would improve considerably. I’d hear Levon say to my mom, “Honey, Ezra’s had a miraculous recovery and now we got some important business to attend to in town. Want us to bring you an ice cream soda on the way back”? Holding beautiful little Amy, she”d give us a knowing smile and tell us to hurry back. Leaning in to Amy, Levon would say, “Hey, Queen Go-Macka, gimme some sugar. Please”? She’d turn her face away, playing hard to get. “Please, c’mon, honey”. She’d finally turn her face back, giggling, and accept a kiss on the cheek. Then we’d cruise around in Levon’s Jeep and see what there was to see.

During The Band’s move from Woodstock to Malibu, while mom and Amy took a plane, Levon packed us up and he and I drove across the country. As we sped across mountain ranges, plains and deserts, he’d tell me incredibly funny stories and we’d make plans to build a house. Levon wanted a combination house/barn surrounded by lakes and grassy meadows. He wanted it to be monumentally large. Sketching out the details in the car, we sounded like two wild-eyed megalomaniacs.

“The barn should be fifty feet tall,” he would say.

I would reply, “No. It should be a hundred feet tall!”

Then Levon’s eyes would light up with joy. He’d say, “Well, you’re right Ezra. Hell – why not make it five hundred feet tall?”

“A thousand feet tall! – with four lakes.”

“How about ten lakes?”

This could go on for hours. Levon loved to dream and I loved dreaming with him. Today, it seems magical to me that he actually did build that tremendous barn-house with a large lake, the home of the Midnight Rambles. I look up at it, towering over me, and it seems to have manifested itself directly from my childhood imagination into physical reality. Levon’s dreams often came true.

Levon was happy at Shangri La, an old hotel in Malibu that The Band purchased and converted into a clubhouse/recording studio. I remember him telling everyone I broke the land speed record on a Big Wheel, racing down the long, sloping driveway. When we needed a break from our arduous schedule, we’d go out for sushi, or to an amusement park. We’d drive over to Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain or Disneyland

Libby, Ezra and Amy 1975 Mandeville Canyon, CA #1

Amy and I were always baffled by Levon’s apparent love for the tram ride, which was like a ski lift that took about fifteen minutes to traverse Disneyland, high above the park. We thought it was boring and didn’t understand until later in life that it was the only place where Levon could get away with smoking a joint while we were there. Amy and I had a lot of fun at those amusement parks, or the Santa Monica pier. Sometimes we’d take a limo and visit them all. Levon loved cotton candy and roller coasters as much as we did.

Sometimes, after driving around for a while, Levon and I would go to a rehearsal or a recording session with the other guys in The Band. The sessions were quick, never boring. They generally played a song up to three times in the studio. If it didn’t sound right after those three takes, they’d abandon it. Sometimes, they drafted me as assistant engineer in charge of rewinding the tape.

Libby, Ezra and Amy 1975 Mandeville Canyon, CA 2

One song I didn’t understand was The Shape I’m In. After I watched them record it, I asked Levon, “Where is the shape I’m in?” When I first heard it, I couldn’t grasp the metaphor, so I decided the song must be about a hotel called “The Shaypime Inn.” If I ever open a hotel, that’s what I’ll call it.

The Band was a mystical force that comes along only once in a century and Levon was Jesse James, Superman, Robin Hood –  and my best friend.