Please pardon this post if you're looking for the usual Big Rock Candy Mountain flippancy or songs about sin and salvation.
A dear friend of mine has just died, and this post is for him.
His name was Jeremy. He had a heart attack at the age of 34, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters. I hadn't spoken to him in a couple of years,but he never let me disappear from his life, or the friends we had created when we were in college. A card or note was always in the mail.
When we met, Jeremy was a fan of KISS and The Eagles. I was into Pavement and Sonic Youth. We should never have been friends if either of us had followed the vague rules of hipsterism. But neither of us was particularly interested in rules. Both of us were passionate about the music we loved, and we argued often. Somewhere within the argument we found a common ground. We agreed on Uncle Tupelo. We agreed on Country music. They were good arguments, and I owe a sense of parity to Jeremy. He kept me honest, and taught me the value of music "for the people", whatever that is. And at the end of the day, a drink would be raised, usually Jack Daniels, a song would be played, and we would sing lustily along. I miss those days. I will never have them again. I will sing alone, with his voice a distant memory. It is the nature of things. The dead sing in our heads, and we can only give them voice through our weak warblings.
Once, a few days before I left Ohio for good, Jeremy "kidnapped" me, and took me out to his father's house. We sat on lawnchairs, in the late August heat, and drank, talked, and watched bats flitting around the light above the garage. We talked about what had been, and what we would be, the dreams and hopes of the young. We were amazing in what we would be, what we would become. We went so far as to "invent" a drink, years before the advent of Red Bull. Mix Cherry 7-UP and Jack Daniels and you've got a "Red Handed Jack." I'm drinking one now. We were invincible that night. We would live forever.
Jeremy attended my Mother's funeral. He had never met her. He went for my sake, to be a friend in a time of loss.
It shouldn't have been difficult to pick up the phone. Make a call. Hear a voice through the static on the other end. I did not do this. Funerals are for the living, to make amends for a lifetime lost.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
Jeremy loved Shakespeare. It was one of his great passions. He directed me in college, playing Shylock, in "A Merchant Of Venice." Shakespeare was one of the things we could always agree on.
I've always thought of Jeremy as Puck, The Gate Keeper, the Grave Digger, or Falstaff. Ultimately he was The Trickster from mythology. His was the laughing voice behind the tragedy, drawing you away, rooting you. He was wily, mad, the giggling fool, and often the only ground you could find on this too-trembling earth. He was maniacal, hysterical, and all too human.
As is often the case for music junkies like myself, and like Jeremy, we go to music to inspire us, to move us, or to soothe us. I could post a hundred songs that make me think of Jeremy. But I have shirts to iron and a plane to Ohio to catch. A funeral to attend. Lost in details, and without a net to catch the falling stars around me. That net is gone. I don't believe in God. I don't have the comfort of religion to promise me reunion.
I'm sorry to have bothered you with this. I know you were expecting something a little more facetious from this site. But we're all human, and even Mountains can mourn.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
So, then, for those who have gone before, a brief and incomplete farewell:
Jay Ungar: Ashokan Farewell (mp3)
Nick Drake: Time Has Told Me (mp3)
Uncle Tupelo: No Depression (mp3)
Richard Buckner: Song Of 27 (mp3)
Townes Van Zandt: To Live's To Fly (mp3)
Townes Van Zandt: Rex's Blues (mp3)
Son Volt: Windfall (mp3)
Willard Grant Conspiracy: Notes From A Waiting Room (mp3)
Tom Waits: Cold Cold Ground (mp3)
Tom Waits: On The Nickel (mp3)
Tom Waits: Bottom Of The World (mp3)
Tom Waits: Home I'll Never Be (mp3)
Spend your money on a phone call to someone you love today. Music can wait.