Joni Mitchell spoke to a sold-out audience at the Commonwealth Club on Friday, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, who sat at the back of the room and - - unlike most politicians -- made no effort to draw attention to himself. I'm told that she was introduced to him on her way into the hall, they said a few words to each other, and as she turned to walk toward the stage, she said, "Good-looking mayor." She walked a few steps, then turned back and said, "Really good-looking mayor."
Mitchell's talk was intense, focused on a drawing she made of an American Indian medicine wheel, "the wheel of becoming," which allowed her to discuss what she called "the apple mind," divided into quadrants for thinking, seeing, feeling and sensing. She mentioned Freud and Nietzsche, referred to her own roots, both ancestral ("I come from farmers; without the four-legged, I am half a spirit") and musical ("I've spent my whole life with complex dissonances"), and shared a worldview ("If you drive into outer space, the organism we most resemble is yeast").
As soon as she began to speak, she plunged directly into metaphysics, confident that most of the listeners were more than fans; they were followers. There was a reception after her talk, but a woman stood in the doorway and told me that the press was barred, on orders from Mitchell's handlers. (I think she'd be horrified to think she needs "handlers." Later, when she saw the badge with huge letters spelling "Press" pinned to my chest, she made the sign for warding off vampires and laughed.) Club officials, however, were in a tizzy about whether this item would anger the handlers.
But Mitchell is a person of soaring imagination, so I know she won't mind these illusions I recall: knife throwing, the sacrifice of goats, snake- charming, dancing the hootchie-kootchie, wild necking and eating nonkosher food. The Commonwealth Club doesn't usually host such receptions.