Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Day He Showed Up

 I think sometimes, that I have lived a hundred lives, this one began on a cloudy February day in Boulder Colorado in 1985

I was on my knees, my fingers white-knuckled on the chain-link backstop at a corner baseball diamond - just across the way from Boulder Memorial Hospital in Boulder, CO. My eyes refused to focus - impossible through the well of tears that wouldn't stop.

I was choking for each breath - begging - begging God - For the life of my newborn son. His tiny life was hanging by a thread. His mother had survived a harrowing delivery and a nearly-fatal episode of shock.  The doctors were right on it and she was going to be ok  - we all would - if our  little boy could just hold on.  The previous 12 hours had been a walk through the sort of hell Dante would envy.

I know many people walked and drove by that busy Boulder corner that day. I'm sure they wondered what manner of demon possessed the sobbing, cursing wretch they beheld.

 I was oblivious to anything around me, trying to make a deal with God - along with every ounce of my being - that he stop my heart, cold as stone, right then and there. I would gladly give up this life, and everything in it - if my little boy could just hold on.

I knew he was better than me - better than anything I'd ever touched -  the first moment I laid eyes on him. I knew that his tiny soul carried the weight of forgiveness.

He was small - spindly and sickly, fragile and frail - and he carried the authority of heaven. He was a living love-letter from my grandmother on the other side.

 I knew also,right from the first soft fitful cry, that I would never again be whole. The part of me that was everything,  now resided in this small wisp of a child that lay lingering between heaven and earth - as if making up his mind.

His hematocrit levels were completely screwed. The last 6 weeks in-utero there had been some separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. Long story short - he wasn't getting all the nutrients he needed as a result.  Through no fault of her own, my wife gave birth to a starving baby. His red blood cells had gone berserk trying to compensate and as a result his blood was way too thick. Axle grease when it shoulda been 10W-40.

The doctor had come in to Kelli's room a few minutes earlier to explain that they were doing everything they could, but that his body temperature and breathing were not stabilizing. He wasn't yet sure what was wrong, but It wasn't looking good. Kelli was given a sedative and told to rest. We talked softly and sadly, crying until she fell under the blessed fog.

I had no idea what to do. I couldn't think - everything between my ears and through my chest - down to my toes - burned. I started to walk to the exit sign and I found myself running - bursting through the steel door into sunlight. Light that burned my eyes like acid through a flood of tears I could no longer hold. I hollered in rage and cursed at God at the top of my lungs with my fists in the air - screaming " FUCK YOU" ................... "FUCK YOU"

 I'd believed in God all my life, but I could not hold belief in any God or being,  that couldn't see how badly we all needed that little boy -Who couldn't see what he had made. Who would be so selfish as to take him away.

I tried not to believe but I had nowhere else to turn.  I walked in a slobbery sobbing  fog across the street and into the park. It was right behind home plate that my knees buckled, and I fell like a stone. I could no longer breathe. I asked again - I pleaded in vain - "God please" "give him my life" - "take mine".

 I knew for certain in that instant,  what I know today as one of the inviolable truths of my existence - I wanted no part of this world without that boy in it.

After some time, when it finally dawned on me that God wasn't gonna show up and fight like a man. I gathered my composure as best I could and made my way back to the antiseptic porcelain  hell where my son lay dying. I didn't want his mother to be alone when they came. There was a raging fire between my ears and breathing felt like sandpaper. My feet were mud.

Now God has made a long habit of going "off the reservation" when it comes to keeping me in the loop. I don't know what  "He / She / They / It"  does - or how it does it - or how it decides when to - but I learned that day how insignificant and powerless I really am .

I  learned that, in spite of myself - in spite of my doubts and fears - God loves even me.  Every whisper and every tear of my pleadings was heard and heeded on  that day - in the farthest reaches of heaven - by God himself.

I and my wife, and my precious child, were never more than a breath away from an angels loving hand that day - not for an instant. Whenever my faith is tested, I remember that,  on a single February afternoon in 1985,  God laid more grace on me than any fool could ever hope to deserve in a lifetime.

At the point of our last conversation with the doctor he had still been searching for a reason why Chaz couldn't stabilize. They were drawing blood from the poor kid every 15 minutes and had him on oxygen.  Searching for an answer.

 One of the nurses - a brilliant young woman named Linda - our own personal angel - - noticed how thick his blood was when they would try to draw some out for testing.He wasn't running right.

She mentioned it to the floor nurse after her  shift with Chaz, and then to the Dr. when he showed up. When they checked his red blood cell count, it was out the roof. They immediately gave him a transfusion of regular 10W-30 protein albumin, and within a few hours his temperature, blood count, and breathing all stabilized. By evening we had a perfectly healthy and thoroughly punctured baby boy.

 His hand and feet were purple from all the places they had taken blood from.  He was about as big around as a candlestick - all elbows and knees. He was severely underweight and looked like a Sharpeii puppy crossed with a tire-iron. His diapers looked way too big and so did his head. When he cried like it sounded like hard work. He was perfect.

We named him after my Uncle Chuck and Kelli's father. Both good men - both extremely stubborn and both passionate, flamboyant characters just a little larger than life. We named him right.

Two days later my very pale and determined wife Kelli cradled him in her arms like we were stealing the last watermelon on earth, while I wheeled her out the ER entrance on the backside of the Boulder County Memorial Hospital. I had  our  old yellow Volvo, engine running, waiting at the door.  Under the watchful supervision of the floor-nurse, the security guard, and my wife- I fastened him into his brand new car seat and like a New York chauffeur, took my place behind the wheel.

Sadly, Kelli and I would  divorce a few years later  -  we lost each other somewhere. -'but in that moment we were in complete agreement. We almost spoke on top of each other and I will love her forever for the anxious determined look in those beautiful blue eyes that day.  "Let's get the hell out of here" ........ "Before,they come out and want him back."

That was 30 years ago. He's a military man at the moment now - Active Duty Air Force Reserve. He's a black-belt and teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to children,  he's kind to women and critters, he's a damn fine cook, tough as a bucket of monkey wrenches, a pretty fair shot, and  handsome as hell. He's the kindest and  most decent man I know.  Funny as hell and just brilliant - my favorite person on earth.

When everything else in this world has gone to hell.  When it's gotten dark or tricky. I remember that day.  I've always known my blessings have been worth 10 times the cost - he's proof.  I'm the richest  man on earth simply because he's my son.

I look at old pictures, and I can't believe how fast the years have flown by. I wasn't a very good father, but he's always been a magnificent son.

I've watched  him become a young man, and watched that young man become a great man - of compassion and fortitude. A man of forgiveness and grace. - With strength and wisdom that I never possessed. I hold no claim to any of it - that's all his own.

I hope God is as kind to him as he has been to me. I hope he gets the know the beautiful joy and heartache that a son like that brings to a mans life.  I didn't have sunlight or oxygen before  him -  I don't have those things without him. That's how being a dad works. 

I want all sorts of things for my son. But what I want more than anything for him - To someday see his own loving eyes looking right back at him from the face of his own beautiful child. To feel that small warm hand, soft on his face, and to know that God has indeed heard his every prayer - in the farthest reaches of Heaven.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

The Tip Jar Miracle

I might not have much money,  but 'you ever got yer wheels greased on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of a hot August night in Paris  - drunk on red wine and completely mesmerized by the deepest sparkling brown eyes and the most beautiful luscious red lips  a woman ever wore?  Describe that in a balance sheet.

You ever spent the last $20 you have to your name on lunchmeat, bread, and dog food for a homeless guy with a  sign and a skinny dog  on a street corner. I highly recommend it.  My experience has been that usually, before the sun comes up, I've got at least a few nickels more than I needed to begin with.

You ever walk into work, broke and worried,  and in 4 hours time, pull everything you need and more  out of an old cowboy boot? I do all the time. After awhile it cures you of worrying about being broke.

I have an old acquaintance who has luxury homes all over the country, and more money than a Silver Eagle bus could  hold. He's right next door to a heart attack, alone, kind of miserable, and scared to death of things that never happen. He likes to talk about himself and he's afraid to be alone. He's a hard cat to like because of it. 

He has lot's of people that he hands out money to, but no real friends. The last time I saw him  he told me that he'd really like to do what I do  - but he couldn't - too much responsibility - not enough time. With all that money he can't buy his own freedom to live the way that makes him happy.  I feel more badly for the man than you could know..  

Not everyone gets choices - I know I am fortunate because I do. I wish for every single soul I know, those same choices - that money never be a good enough reason to miss out on doing what you love, being with who you love, experiencing the outrageous and sublime. To experience the opportunity to trust in the next moment without fear. 

Its crazy, I know. 

Sunday afternoon I rolled into Powderhorn Ski area to play a gig,  with my fuel light on and $8 in my pocket. The night before I had played one of the most memorable gigs of my life - a benefit show for The American Cancer Society. I could have taken a paying gig, but it was far more important to me to play the benefit. I lost my mother recently to cancer. I wanted to give everything I could,  and that's exactly what I did. I met a woman and her son who reminded me  what courage was. You can't buy that. 

I had left my empty propane tank at the fuel stop in Mesa, to be refilled - so I needed to make at least enough in tips to cover propane and gasoline, if I wanted to get home and have heat. $40 bucks minimum - usually not a problem, but the day was cold and a storm was moving across the area. It was late in the weekend and most folks were headed for home. 

Even with these conditions, a surprising number of folks stayed around to have a drink and listen to me. I was thoroughly flattered - seriously. The tips were looking sorta thin but sometimes that's just how it goes. 

Somewhere in the second set I played a song from my old pal Kevin Welch - "Heaven Sent". It's a song about being grateful. I told a little story like I often do, about being the richest man I know - albeit occasionally monetarily challenged. I got a good laugh from the audience and I remember telling myself "If this is as good as it gets today - that's good enough" 

From what I could see in my old tip boot when I went to pack up, it didn't look like much. When I started unfolding the 1s & 5s, I found $85 folded neatly among all the crumpled green. I don't know who it was, but as I sit here now "snug as a bug" warm with Elvis & June Carter, thankful for  an anonymous strangers generosity, I really do hope that they get to enjoy their life as much as I love mine. 

I hope that kindness and grace never leave their side. The same goes for everyone who ever put a nickel, or a bill, or a joint, or a bud, or a check, or even a cupcake or milk bone dog treats ( you see it all after awhile) in my boot. It not only keeps me alive but it keeps me believing. I hope, and I try with everything I got - to work at this thing, and to deserve the confidence of my audiences and friends. So far - so good😄

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Would I?

Saturday night I played and sang  for a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society at The Copper Club in Fruita, CO.

Fruita is a small Western  Colorado town with upwardly mobile intentions.  Still has that small town feel, but with some very metropolitan inspired tastes and vision.

The Copper Club is one of my favorite music rooms in the state.  Holds about 50 people comfortably  - about 100 when things really get going.  They make deliciously good beer and the folks that hang out are mostly neighbors, friends , and family from about a 10 mile radius.

I gave 'em hell and gave 'em my best Saturday night.  I was excited about helping out with the cause. My Mom passed away in November after a nasty fight with lung-cancer, so this one was personal.

My other son, the one I got to pick myself, Bud Frisinger, showed up to help me out, as did Alycia Vince. We bent some bluegrass and twisted up some hillbilly rhythm & blues. A handful of adventurous dancers showed off some move that would knock over Miley with a  wrecking-ball, and we all had a wonderful time. It always  feels good to use music to do something that needs doing.

The high point of the evening for me, came at the very end. I had the good fortune to meet a delightful woman named Mary Dabbs and her son Ryder.  The whole thing was sort of around her. She's going to Denver next Monday for a radical mastectomy.  She's got cancer.

She's a single mom with a mega-watt smile. Insanely beautiful by any standard and a complete a joy to behold.  Everyone around her  was wearing huge smiles and hugging her, and Ryder, and each other.  If prayer pulls you through hard times,  then she's hooked up to a squadron of John Deere Tractors. She says she can whip this and I believe she can.

I couldn't help but watch the boy - about 10-11 years old I would guess.  Skinny little fella with an old school baseball cap, a mile wide grin,  and great big glasses.  Jiminy Cricket gone Coolsville.  Reminded me of me for a minute. You can tell he's smart as a whip and he was never more than a few feet away from his Mom at any one moment.  If she was reaching for anything at all, he handed it to her.  He was working as hard as anybody at the benefit - filling the Luminaria bags and arranging the table.  He was a working man looking out for his Momma.

I remember 10 years old.  I remember how I felt about my Mom. We were alone too.  I wanted to protect her.  I wanted her life to be easier.  I wanted her to worry less and to laugh more - with me. I didn't have to deal with cancer.

 I saw it in that boys eyes Saturday night.  His Mom might have cancer, but she's not the only one fighting with the courage of angels. He would gladly whip the hell out of a dozen Ninjas and nineteen 8th graders just  to make his Mom better. She will get better, and then he will - because of it.

She seems FAR too young  for this horrible disease - He's far too young for the ghost that hangs in the shadows - in every breath- at their house.  Life isn't fair. It occurred to me more than once since Saturday night, that there is no rest for these two until this is over - and even then the notion of cancer will always rest uneasy in the dark corners of their fears.

A smile out of their household means something.  Mother and Son have to fight with the unseen, and gamble on the unknown - fight with their own secret fears - every minute of every day. They will forever cope with questionable tomorrows.

The night of the benefit I was humbled by those smiles. When she hugged me so sincerely,  and so graciously thanked me for the music , it was difficult to keep my composure. I needed to thank her , and to thank Ryder - for fighting and for smiling through the worry.  For their confidence - for their belief. I want her to survive - I need her to heal and live -because my own mother didn't.

 My life has no challenges today like Mays - like Ryders.  Only the myriad blessings I so blindly and joyfully suffer through. I've often wondered if there were a way to free the people I love and care about from their suffering by taking it on myself - would I? I hope so.  I know Ryder would.

Tonight when you close your eyes and thank your maker for the blessings in your life - toss a prayer toward Mary and her boy as well. I'm going to.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 27 - Be my Valentine??????

Miss Emily and I played an incredibly fun show at The Palisade Brewing Company last Saturday night for a special Valentine's Day celebration.  She was singing' like she invented the stuff, and If I do say so myself - I was having a pretty good night on the box as well. It was a wonderful evening and a packed house.  SO many folks had called ahead to ask about reservations before we even got there, that we knew it was going to be a fun night.  That was an understatement.

Husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends, and girl-friends and girl-friends, and all manner of  folks came out to celebrate their sweethearts.  It impressed me.  It also scared me a little.

Love is tough stuff. It rarely goes well but we continue to reach for it anyway.  It's a need. We fall for it every time:-)

On our good days, we're all  optimistic about love, and our intentions are nothing but the best.  That doesn't mean we can all juggle chainsaws and do long math.  Some car wrecks happen at under 0 mph and last for years. That said - we all want it.  We need it like air - to survive - to be complete.  To make our story whole.

As a repeat-offender (multiply-wed???) and multiple award-winner (4 children) - I feel fully qualified to share some observations and notes from my time "in the trenches".  To this day I've never actually left the trenches so this is all current information - "boots on the ground" stuff.

Love is where the magic and flavor of life are built - somewhere between the left ventricle of the heart, the right synapse of the brain, the farthest star in heaven,  and the deepest pangs of desire. Just the act of caring for another human being changes everything. It's the best thing since sunshine but it's no picnic.

Love is blind and kinda dumb - believes about anything.  Love is foolish, love is courageous, love is forgiving, Love talks shit when it's drunk and will cut your junk off in the night if you piss it off.

Love has absolutely no sense of direction, very little common-sense, and possesses a razor-sharp intuition.

Love is a slow-kid lost in a library of scientific journals and 500 page accounting reports. It's naiveté is both it's saving grace and it's achilles heel.

Love is messy - it wears a white tuxedo and eats chocolate cake with it's hands. It's "hair in the food" and "stains in the drain". It's indoor mud-wrestling in a space no larger than a heart.

Love is inappropriate -It smokes cigars in church and farts out loud at the opera. Love can spot a fool a mile away, but that don't mean it don't like that sort of thing???

Love will stand down a battalion - it will stare down a grizzly . It will stand on a chair if it sees a mouse???

It comes to you requiring forgiveness from the very first moment.  Firstly forgiveness of yourself for ever doubting that heaven was hearing all of your silent lonely longings to begin with -   and then secondly and sadly, forgiveness of your lover for the very things that attracted you to them from the outset.

If your "sweet-thing"is wearing' some hot little red number that got you all hot & bothered "back when" to the grocery store - fellas - You ain't havin' that baloney and you're wondering' who is.

All that waving' her finger back and forth at you and shakin her head side to side like a bobble-head doll - telling you how things "better" be - putting her hands on her hips and starin' you down like a bad puppy;  All the stuff you thought that was so damn sexy back when.  Whadda ya think now?

 Mechanically challenged - you thought that so endearing back when.  Now, smoke comes out of your radio and  when you close your eyes you see a sad procession of blinking red engine  lights reflecting in piles of $100 dollar bills -  that your beloved is lighting on fire in a complete catatonic gaze, as if possessed ……….. with your lighter.

Love thinks about you when you're not around.  Love misses you like air when you're gone.  Love makes you want to try when you can't find any more reason of your own.

Love beats you up and love heals you.  Never smoothly - never appropriately or comfortably - always un-timely and always on time.

Love has no idea what time it is - It sure knows it's address. It can find you in the darkest room at the farthest end of the universe.  It can leave you there in longing.  Love can define you to a T, but you could never to hope to define it in a million years.

Love has a real long memory and a short fuse - It can disappear like smoke - It can run like hell - it can stand like the Pyramids for 1000 years.

Love will give you no peace.  It will whisper in your ear - loudly, softly, urgently, gently - reminding -every moment, every day for the rest of your life;  "You need me"

And finally; Love holds your hand with trembling fingers - shares the heartbroken sting of your aching tears - and with it's last breath - whispers "I will wait for you"

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day 26? -"Made In America"

In some of the more sophisticated places I find myself occasionally, ordering coffee in English just shows you're uneducated. As a point of proper decorum one must become at least conversational with terms completely irrelevant in neighborhood Conoco's  just a few short years ago. Vente, Grande, Latte, Mocha, Italiano, and my favorite - Au Lait,  I practiced some at home on Elvis. ("Au Lait down 'n shut up.  You're standing on my nuggets.")

I have to go fix my Kia (Korean) today so, in preparation,  I'm going to treat myself to a brioche(French) and a Pannini (Italian). Then I'm gonna go all hog-wild European with a Vente Mocha Italiano Latte with Crema Mexicana and crushed Vanilla beans hand carried on the backs of small Tibetan children from Madagascar.

  I'm going to drink it from a decorator Sippee-Cup made in China (loaded with PCB's, LDL's, M&M's, & DDT). I will take my lunch-time repast at one of the most popular Sushi/Fondue restaurants in the area, where after  giving up on ever deciphering the food descriptions on the menu in Vietnamese(?)  - I will pass through a Swiss-themed lobby hung with pictures of beach fronts in Guadalajara , walking across gorgeous Grecian marble floors in to the mens room.  I will secure myself in my own private stall (Finnish Steel) using hardware manufactured in Germany (they're so precise).

When I've finished what I came there for I will fight frantically for approximately 53 seconds with the toilet-paper dispenser holding the jumbo roll that never unrolls right - single ply - cheap.Rough!  Then I will finally have in my hand something made in the USA - manufactured in this beautiful country I love so dearly. Don't get aggressive with this stuff, or you will learn to keep those nails trimmed.

I believe the time has come to examine ourselves. And I don't mean a quick "feelie". I believe we're in danger of being "pigeon-holed"

 In our defense, there is a good bit of security in the toilet-paper strategy.  This world will never run out of asses that need wiped, and, if we can keep those costs down, we might be able to at least keep some of the Wal-Marts open. Perhaps even keep John Boehners tan rockin'.

Happy Sunday everybody:-)  Keep smilin' - I'm still crazy as a pet coon and relatively happy about it.

"Peace Out"
"Don't take any wooden nickels"
until Manyana

Monday, February 2, 2015

Day 25 - Giving Up

In the life of my dreams I would read more great books. I would read incessantly and I wonder why I don't now.  I could. This is the life of my dreams.  I forget that far too easily sometimes. I'm not always the sharpest knife in the light socket.

A few years ago I threw in the towel and said goodbye to swinging a hammer for my bread and butter. I hadn't ever gotten rich doing it, and I sure hadn't gotten very happy .  Quite the contrary.  I went broke and hated life for awhile.When the bricks fell in for the last time I was lost and pretty devastated.

 I used to build beautiful furniture and cabinetry - high dollar stuff.  I loved the artistry of a beautiful piece of wood turned into a realized vision. The market just got tighter and tighter. I couldn't compete with cheaper and cheaper goods and labor from China and Mexico.  Those are contributing factors but the noose around my neck, at all times, was that  I wasn't a very good businessman - to whit: I sucked.

 Money never meant the same thing to me that it seems to mean to every one else. I like a lot of the things I can do with it, like anyone else - but it "can't buy me Love" and it's not warm in my hands. The acquisition of large piles of it never seemed as important to me as being happy and acquiring a mountain of love - a wealth of experiences  All kinds of wonderful love  from all sorts of wonderful people.

Out of the ashes of my last "day gig", I picked up my Stratocaster and made the best decision I had made in years.  I decided that: albeit that guitar was the only arrow in my quiver -- my angels had never abandoned me before -- it was the only arrow I would need.

People clap for me now when I show up for work.  They smile and dance. They give me food and drink.  They pay me well, and then they tip me on top of that.  Then they buy my CD's and go out of their way, over and over, to give me what I need. That's what I get from playing music.  It never happened to me behind a table saw.

I need money like everyone else to survive. I wish the pursuit of it didn't take so much of our time. I wish I had enough to give it all away.  There's not enough cash on the planet to forgive my sins, or to buy back 10 minutes with my sons and my daughter when they were kids. To wipe out heartache or  bring back the people I wish were still here.  No one can ever buy the heart of one more fool with a gun intent on doing harm, buy the greed out of the hearts of politicians and CEOs, or buy back the minds and lives and limbs of a bunch of American soldiers.

There will never be enough cash in the world to buy the beautiful bubbling giggles  that came from a 3 year old little girl, while she danced in big auburn-curled  twirls, right in  front of me while I played Friday night.
Money has never come and got me in the middle of the night when my car broke down.  Money never calls me up just because.  It didn't hold my hand while I watched cancer take my mother.

And there's never going to be enough of it here to fill the thirst that it's pursuit put's into the hearts of good and decent people.. I was fed up with being thirsty. I had held large sums of it for fleeting moments, and never seemed to have a nickel in the end. I had cried my eyes out and beat my fists in rage in sheer  frustration and disappointment, over money, too many times.  

My father, in one of his truly more sage moments, told me "there's a thousand ways a man can make a living -- might as well pick one you like"  The old man wasn't wrong. I'd had enough. I was no longer willing to wait on happiness until I had enough money.

Nothing worth anything  in this world is ever easy,  but playing music for my sustenance, aside from being a parent, is the greatest priveledge that heaven has ever bestowed on me. Since the decision to give  my heart and soul to music, I have lived in a perpetual state of kindness and grace.  Delivered at each performance, from all these wonderfully warm smiling faces that I've had the pleasure of sitting in front of in the years since.

Money always comes and goes - the friends that I've made behind that old guitar will be with me till the day I die. I haven't starved behind my old guitar - quite the contrary.  I've had enough and more.  That's as good as it gets.  - as good as I can ask for - better than any fool deserves.

"Peace Out"
"don't take any wooden nickels"
Until Manyana