Music has always been a prevelant thing in our life. Whether it be Kateri putting on the B-52’s for cleaning music, some Steely Dan on a rainy day (who I never cared for up till the last 5 years, I would say), or some classic 90’s gangster rap in the kitchen as we were using tilt skillets for fryers or getting out stations ready for service. I will forever associate Warren G’s “Regulate” remix featuring Michael McDonald with our time at The Barn Door. If you haven’t come home to a message on the machine from Luke and Will after they held their phones up to the speakers that were perched on top of the ice machine, so as to capture that classic tune off of Pandora, because that was their top priority at the moment and not the pounds of lima beans that needed to get shucked or the natural disaster that just happened in the dish pit… well, you don’t know friendship.
I haven’t been able to sit, walk, drive, exist in silence for any length of time since the passing of Kateri. The mind starts to wander and when you can’t get past the cancer times, when you can’t get past that crushing feeling of “unfairness” for that person you held above everyone else… silence isn’t always the best thing for ya. My thoughts always take me back to specific moments within this experience. First to our last words to each other while Kateri was in Palliative Care where she told me, “I love you.” in that hoarse, weak voice, eyes struggling to open but fixed on me and I responded with the only thing I could… “I love you too, so much.” The second memory that has been somewhat consuming is when we had to go back to the ER in February two days after being discharged from when her colon gave out. We were in one of the ER rooms, Kateri wrapped in hospital blankets, the lights dim because they hurt her head, and as the Doc was trying to get her some relief she looked at him and said, “I don’t want to die”… and started crying. Living a life where those two thoughts pop in your head over and over again, hours and days on end, makes it hard to focus on other things like cleaning the house, work, mowing the lawn, feeding yourself, feeding your chickens, watering plants… your future… or the past 20 years. So for me, I need vibrations to hit my head with the hope of drowning out some of the pain… or at least to push it off to another time when I can deal with it, to spread out the discomfort as much as possible, to try and “regulate” it. (I’m so sorry for the “regulate” bit… cheesy, but gives me a chance to also mention that Nate Dogg’s sexy slide into verses just adds dimensions to the song. Nate Dogg AND Michael McDonald… well, that’s what I think silk sounds like in heaven)
I’ve been picking up the guitar much more lately. Although I have had one in my life for the last couple of decades, I really haven’t played it much. One of those start fooling around with it because you thought it was cool… and because you had friends that you found simply amazing on the instrument you thought anyone could just pick it up and make sounds that would entertain the ear. Ya… it doesn’t happen that way. It takes work. And I’m one of those people who got to a certain point with the guitar and then became interested in so many other things that would take up time… some not so noble as making music, but still fun. Basically, I could play a couple (literally) of songs, wrote a few because it was easier than learning someone else’s, and I could slightly impress friends for about 12 minutes… 15 years ago. Once in a while I would pull it off the wall and play a few things, Kateri would ask me to play “that one song that sounds middle eastern”, and it would go back up. As of recently I have found myself turning to it almost every day for an escape from all the bullshit. For hours I play the same six to eight songs that I have been playing for years. Songs that I never really tried to do anything with, never “worked” on my skills, never fully listened to the relationship my head and hands had with the guitar, the pick (I mainly use picks, sorry Brad), the strings, or the vibrations that would fill the air with sounds that kinda went together.
Nowadays, I get lost in the experience. There are points I find myself almost hunched over the guitar trying to get my ear as close to the sound as possible… to have it be the one thing filling my space. It’s the closest I have come to what I believe would be meditating. (People ask if I have tried meditating during this process, but I don’t have any real desire to “Om” it out right now so I’m gonna stick with the strings). Sometimes I find myself playing the same two or three chords over and over again, slight changes to strum patterns, or beat, or intensity. I try to be deliberate in my actions to make the sound that I want to hear, to make this or that a little different, or maybe even subjectively better. I think the main reason I am trying to improve my playing is that I am tired of the stagnation, of the same old songs, of the same old tune. Right now… I need more. And whether I want it or not, I have the time and space to see what more I can do… even at 1:38a.m… because there isn’t anyone else around except chickens… and they don’t seem very interested in my music.
Ya, so… music… it helps and you should have it in your life. It could be studying an instrument at some fancy pants music school… or in your bedroom. It could be seeing Gillian Welch in Hanover with your wife’s dermatologist or reggae on Coney Island with people who understand what “One Love” is all about. Sometimes it’s blaring Today’s Hits with the windows down and sunroof open while driving through the green hills and valleys of Vermont. Other times it could be Lady Gaga being funneled out of your garage door while you wonder if your neighbors over yonder can hear it… but you don’t care if they do. And when you can be pleasantly surprised by revisiting a song or an album from another time and place in your life… it can be nostalgic, therapeutic, and beautiful. For me currently, that would be Uncle Tupelo. Moonshiner is still one of my favorite songs ever… fucking depressing, but fantastic. (FYI-I’m on the Jay Farrar/Son Volt side… not the Tweedy/Wilco side).
I feel fortunate that I am one of those people who enjoys it all… well, most of it. Just like in life, there is a fair amount of crap out there, too. Hopefully, we just find the right song at the right time to give us what we need.
Widower Day 100.