Monday, April 02, 2007

Blackjack



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.

30 comments:

daniel bouchard said...

A moving tribute. My condolences for your friend, to you and to his family.

Reverend Frost said...

ah crap, hang on brother.
My deepest condolences.

william said...

sorry man. that sucks.

Anonymous said...

really sorry to hear about the untimely death of your friend. gone too soon.

Bob Johnson said...

34? Jesus that's too young. My prayers are with his family and you.

kirk said...

Man, I'm sorry for your loss, and grateful for the wisdom. I'm gonna make a couple phone calls now. You hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your trouble. I'll raise a glass to your friend.

The DoorKeeper said...

34 is a tragic age to go. And a young family, too.

Thanks for telling us, be well.

Kazza said...

What a terrible loss. You are very right about how we need to take the time to reach out to people we care for, especially those who mean so much we take them for granted. Safe travels.

Ed said...

Please add my condolences for your friend. 34 is an awfully short trip.

Ripper said...

To be honest, I usually scan your posts, and go for the music. This one, I read in full. Add my condolences to the list. And you posted amazing tunes, even at a time like this. Thank you.

Dane said...

I'm so sorry. May you find some comfort somewhere in all this.

Anonymous said...

Having just lost my father a few short weeks ago, I want you to know that, for as long as you carry the memory of your friend in your heart, for as long as you hold on to the joy you felt in knowing him, he will live on through you. Peace.

fhb said...

Beautiful post. My condolences and best wishes.

Greg said...

So sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathy to you and his family. Thank you for sharing this; it's what this community is ultimately all about.

C. said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear this, and my condolences. I just got back together with some old friends i hadn't seen in years, and reading this, I'm so glad I did.

take care, man.

chris

H. said...

I'm terribly sorry for your loss. I am sure your friend understands how you feel, and I know he will be with you now as he always was.

Brian Farrelly said...

I'm so sad to hear about this. May the jukebox in heaven ring with all the music you both loved and share with all of us.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful tribute.
Gina

whiteray said...

Sorry for your loss. You did your friend proud. And I should make some phone calls.

kyle, from a barstool mtn. said...

Jeremy knows how you feel and have felt about him. You have him in your heart and carries a bit of you in his soul. I'm sure that his love of life carried into his marriage and family and blessed those people also. My condolances to Jeremy's wife and children, and to you Brian and all the other good friends that he touched in his life. Keep the best of him always with you!

t. ryan said...

This was totally fitting. Jeremy would've completely dug it. I hope that you find the net, man. The stars are beautiful.

countrygrrl said...

what a moving tribute..you write so well.YOU were the the firstblog I came across ever, and i have followed your travels over the last year or so. sorry to hear about your friend, too young to go. I am not religious either so a toast and a few phonecalls....

miz fuhrell said...

you must know that JJ loved you immensely. sorry our visit was so brief, but it was good to embrace you again after too many years. I'll not let so long pass before the next one, dammit.

Rick Saunders said...

The words of this poem may be considered trite by some but they always move me none the less at times like these.
Smells will remind you. an old coat will remind you. best of all a song will remind of your friend and in these tiny ways those who pass on stay with us a just a bit. Hopefully to remind us with a little poke in the heart to keep in touch while we are here. Make a mix tape for his girls and for his wife. Do not think that those who have lost loved ones don't want to be reminded in some little way. Your rememberance to them over the next months and more will help them keep a bit more of him than they had before. Cheers kid. I got a calls to make.


Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight.
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there -- I do not die.
-- Mary Frye

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with you and your friend. Sorry to see your pain.

David Z. said...

Several months ago, I lost a friend who died from a heart attack at age 51, leaving a wife and two young daughters. I hadn't spoken with him in quite a while and felt massive regret that I hadn't been in touch.
After reading your most recent post, I got in touch with a friend who is suffering from Parkinson' Disease, with whom I hadn't spoken in a while. Thank you for the reminder that today is all we have. My sincerest condolences go out to you.

Anonymous said...

Hey big rock candy!
Shouldn't that be Big Kandy Rock?
Great post. But where is the Guinness?
I better see you in November!
Big Jerk Fester

A said...

there's this guy in the coffeeshop where i'm sitting studying, playing the most beautiful steel guitar, and for some reason it pushed me to go find something in that vein, and that search led me here.

this is a beautiful post, and it did bring tears to my eyes -- i say this as a complete stranger. my parents are visiting me in texas this week, and i'll keep this in my heart when i spend time with them. one of the most strained, beautiful threads that runs through the most beautiful country music: life's short, and cold, and lonely, but there are brief fleeting moments in the darkness -- with a glass of jack daniels, a back porch, a good friend. time passes, but the moments are never unmade.

best wishes.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful tribute to a friend. I am so sorry for your loss, but on the other hand, I envy this sort of friendship. Friendships such as this come, maybe, once in a lifetime. My friendship of this nature left me stunned thirty years ago, when she was just 19 and seat belts weren't required. I draw on the richness of that friendship still. I wish the same for you and your friend's family.

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