You know, music is a funny thing. It shapes and permeates your childhood, your teen years, your dating years, when you get dumped on, your college years (which I do not know about), your wedding day, your wedded life and adulthood and even watching your wife get sick and passing away in front of your very eyes.
I had music playing for almost a month in the ICU room, at a low volume, playing the soft hits of the 70’s mostly, and I pray to God that I will never hear another song by Bread or “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks (it’s a tragedy in itself that I know these artists), as I may hold my head in my hands and weep uncontrollably.
I had the music on because my wife loved listening to music. Mostly to the radio station KROQ, which plays the current “alternative” hits of today. Unfortunately, the hospital only had “new country” and those 70’s soft weepies. I figured the 70’s songs would piss her off enough to wake her from her coma. I was wrong. We only had two days, when she was awake out of that stretch of time, of communicating through blinking. You can review your entire life with that person by just looking into a loved one’s eyes. We both apologized for previous bad times. We pledged forever and eternal love to each other and the promise to be with each other again and I told her about the happiest day of my life, my wedding day, with me speaking and her blinking in understanding. I must have told her a thousand times that I loved her in those two days. I would have gladly exchanged places with her. I told her this but I think she was ready to go on to the next level and escape the physical pain of this world.
I always wanted to be a musician even when I was a little kid. I must have seen The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (I do not remember) because we have home movies and I am banging away on bongo drums and playing a toy guitar and bowing after my performance. Even in high school, I took aptitude tests and it came out that I wanted to be a performer or musician or entertainer. Everyone else had engineering or health technician or police officer. I was a freaking dreamer with no real skill…just a pipe dream.
To be a “successful” musician is a pipe dream. By success, I mean making a living at it and being happy while doing it. It is hard. It is a rough road. You are basically a star gazing kid being exploited by savvy people out there that provide for you an outlet to play and to be heard. I played forever as a local Orange County and Los Angeles based musician and finally went “pro” when I hit the road with The Lazy Cowgirls in 1995. I got to see Europe and the United States. Places that this lower middle class guy would never have had the opportunity to see. I owe it all to music. Music was the lifesaver. Music was the gospel. Music was the end all and be all….for a time.
Then something happened to me. I got very homesick while I was out on tour. We’d be driving by these neighborhoods in upstate Washington during Thanksgiving and I could see the people in their houses, all together, being with loved ones, warm, bellies full, in a place they called home and I was sitting in a beat up van with a bunch of guys from Indiana that had the same passion as I did. But I didn’t feel like a troubadour bringing joy and good feeling to each city that we played in. Rock and roll somehow became work. It became mechanical almost scripted. When I was younger, I would dream of being in a touring band out on the road playing Madison Square Garden or The Forum. But life isn’t like that. We can’t all be famous. We can’t all make it. The music business will use you and spit you out. The half-assed level of success was bad enough. There were underhanded dealings, skimping of payments, lack of respect etc.
I am not complaining just telling you how I felt about it. I owe music because it gave me many opportunities to meet great people and it continues to do so but it wasn’t as fun as I thought it was going to be. So I gave notice after the tour and retired from playing music for a couple of years. I hunkered down and learned a skill at the local junior college. Fast forward quite a few years…I found my soulmate, we bought a house together, got married and had a family of three cats and two English Bulldogs. One day I got a call to see if I wanted “to jam” with a few guys that I had known for quite awhile. I gave a tentative “yes”. Well, it got to be quite fun. We became Rockford. We got gigs, we liked to just “jam”, we recorded, got radio play, we enjoyed each others’ company and there was no pressure! Music was fun again!
So here I am, the day before I turn 54, and I am scared shitless of music. I traded in ¾ of my wife’s CD’s because I can’t listen to them anymore for fear of triggering uncontrollable weeping and pain. I cannot see myself ever listening to some of those songs again.
Dig, I always liked my wife to go see us play because I would still try to show off for her. She was NEVER impressed that I played in a band and I think that was one of the things that made me so interested in her. She didn’t care! And it really freaks me out to think that in the near future I will play a show and not have her out there or not have her waiting for me when I get home to ask “how did it go?” Just alone, loading up my drums back into the garage at 2 in the morning and turning on the TV for company until I tire enough to shut it off and go to sleep without thoughts of my wife’s body in that hospital bed during those last days replaying in my brain.
I did go to my first rehearsal since she passed away. It was very hard. The guys were all fantastic and made me feel at ease but how do they know what a person is going through unless they have experienced it? How one’s mind wanders when you play a song that you wrote about her that you disguised as being written about something else? A few times I just wanted to run into the bathroom and just weep. Then the drive home…ugh! Before, two wonderful, happy dogs and Misty would greet me at the door and ask how things went. This time, the loneliness was deafening. I cancelled last week’s practice. I wasn’t ready to deal with it again and deal with this Christmas and birthday week that looms over me. And then there is the New Years’ Eve thing that one can’t ignore that lurks in the shadows like a dark, hideous, blood thirsty monster that comes out when you shut off the lights like in a Stephen King novel.
I painted for the first time today since October and I listened to records in the garage for the first time today since Misty took ill. I still haven’t spent time in my sports lounge though. That has too many memories of the dogs and watching baseball and Kings playoffs and eating peanuts together as Misty would check in on us periodically to see what the score was. I hope to venture in there soon, maybe after the new year. It was sort of nice and time sure slipped away and I didn’t dwell on my situation as I painted while listening to The Animals Greatest Hits and The Band’s Music from Big Pink on vinyl. I escaped to some other plane…to some other place where the muse talks to me and guides my hand and I think Misty could have been there too, in her chair, watching and enjoying the sunshine and digging music she never listened to before. You know, music is a funny thing…
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