The surely epic bucket list item I won’t get the chance to check off today has finally lost enough pain for me to talk about it. Tonight I would have stood on hallowed concert ground in Morrison, CO with all four of our sons and Michael’s wife, Janice Rice Venable, one of my dearest childhood friends, Craig Hospital Occupational Therapist Perry Ann Williams, and her husband retired landscape architect, Keith Gartin; Principal Architect and Senior Partner Sam Andras, of 2WR Architects, his spouse, educator Victoria Andras, and a host of their friends, band mates, lighting and sound professionals and advisors.
Today we all would have watched our son, Adam Venable/Obeah, perform with Daily Bread as they open for Pretty Lights on the Red Rocks stage. If you know about Red Rocks, you can likely conjure my deep loss for having to miss it tonight. If you don’t know Red Rocks, think Carnegie Hall and and I’ll conjure my deep loss for having to miss this tonight. I’ve had to unwind a 12-day walkabout while in the midst of enduring 2 surgeries, a CT scan, an MRI, some sweet Jesus pain and chronic nausea and vomiting. Thanks to my medical team, everything on that list has been fixed or alleviated. But without time on my side and the sensibility of putting the importance of my health first, tonight, my best hope is to be able to live stream the show, if they can figure how to send it.
Adam, I hope you leave a raw, bloody piece of your soul on that important stage tonight. That it comes from a place so deep that it shocks people to know you kept things like that in there. You have worked hard for this and you deserve your hard work and dedication to make an audience swoon. I will be joined with your spirit in the Colorado breeze. I could not possibly be prouder of you, son, and your brothers and that sold out show will watch the virtual walls come down in the foothills tonight. Now go out there and kill!
Music is a huge part of my life. Always has been. At almost 64 years of age, I find music is the frame upon which I hang the events of my life. I might not remember that the event happened in 1989, but I remember with startling clarity hearing Rick James’ “Superfreak” in my ears, sitting on the ski lift next to Harold Hampton as we laughed about a sign encouraging people to attend a “Diamond Cutter” workshop that afternoon. That was back in the days when I could’ve hosted a diamond cutter workshop several times a day. (Women friends, ask your husband why this is something to celebrate.)
Through the highs and lows of my life, music was there for solace or a lyrical high five. I spend a lot of time in the car by myself, as Jill and I take separate cars to work every day. I’m in the driver’s seat with my thoughts and my music — LOUD — sometime with gooseflesh on my arms, and sometime with tears dropping off my chin onto my shirt. The result is that the music firmly grounds me onto that place in my memory when that song was playing and something significant was going on. The slice of time is front and center and whatever emotion was present then is present here again at 70 miles-per-hour and it is a remarkable treasure, there in that fleeting moment and then gone, until I play that song again.
In this Christmas season, now my third one on truly gifted time — time that medical statisticians said I wouldn’t get — I’m awash in gratefulness, and trying desperately not to give in to the fear that still haunts me every day. Will it come back? Will it come for me again? How can I ever go back again to that pain, to that place where everything tastes like aluminum foil, where sleep comes in fits and starts and fear is overwhelming?
I have attempted to try to write what this feels like: Me getting my life back while so many others are still in their dark place, having to undergo so many procedures, scans, needle sticks, tests and not being sure of their next day. Yes, I still have my share of all those awful things, but mine are sauced with a healthy helping of real hope. I think this is survivor guilt, just like a soldier feels when he comes home from war while others died on the field of battle. Part of me wants to celebrate, part of me wants to sit quietly in shame as my brothers and sisters continue to wither from their marching disease processes.
Despite my lingering PTSD, and the apparently permanent fear and loathing I have had tattooed onto my brain, I am so sincerely thankful for all that I have, mostly for my family and friends and for my cancer relationships. I walk through each day with the eyes of a child, soaking in beauty and goodness in large measure. My heart sings with gratitude, led by the songs on my radio. So, listen to my songs of 2016 in this Spotify playlist, and think of every person you know who needs to be encouraged, to feel love, to find warmth, to be hugged, to be fed.
Hear my gratitude for so many who have encouraged me, loved me, hugged me and fed me. Merry Christmas.
Last Saturday night and on into the early morning Sunday was one of the best — and worst — nights of my life. The night was replete with psychedelic highs and muddy dub step lows, simply brought on by the music. The only weed I consumed was second-hand, hotbox-delivered dankness that was shockingly prevalent in that fairly small room. Yes, this was my first real hiphop show and there is no doubt I was the oldest person in the room. For every one of the many reasons I was glad I was there, there are at least three for the sweet knowledge that I’ll never have to do it again. All in though, I would not have missed this show for anything. I got to see one of our sons launch from being a regionally well-known DJ into the outer edges of hiphop stardom. After all, he was standing toe-to-toe with hiphop mega-star, Chuck D, of Public Enemy fame and DJ Lord, whose turntable talents have helped craft Public Enemy’s sound since the late ’90s.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I call it like I see it, boldly owning it when I’ve done something I shouldn’t have done. Let’s rewind the tape back to some time in 2006, and a phone conversation I was having with our son, Adam. The one when he told me he wanted to pursue a music career after getting some kind of a music degree in college. That was back in my unenlightened days when being a DJ meant spinning records on the radio. I knew Adam didn’t play any type of instrument and I never had heard him exhibit any noteworthy singing ability, so I started to form the words, “Don’t you have to have some kind of musical talent to have a music career?” Somewhere in the middle of that ill-contrived and woefully knee-jerk sentence was when Jill started miming a slicing motion across her throat, wild-eyed and willing me to shut-the-hell-up.
I knew Adam had been working on developing his DJ skills and I should have realized just how serious he was about collecting vinyl record albums and using them to deliver his art. Adam and I went down to our barn one day and I presented him with my entire, well-taken-care of album collection, consisting of a few hundred pristine vinyl records. I thought he was going to cry, he was so overcome with joy and appreciation. I remember thinking, “Damn, he really does love these records!” and I really had no idea what he was doing with them. Since that day, and up until Saturday night, I have seen Adam perform a few times. I get what music mixing is all about. How you can take a Tammy Wynette song that meters 85 beats per minute and mix it with an Ozzie Osbourne song, also at 85 beats per minute. And, when you come out the other end, the whole is bigger than the sum of those two parts. I get all of that.
What I didn’t see was how he was ever going to make a career out of this. How was he ever going to make any money, have a great health insurance policy, a 401k, a pension plan or a paid vacation? All I could see in my future crystal ball was a 40-something man still waiting tables and trying to juggle family commitments. It just didn’t compute for me. Thankfully, Adam is one of the least money-motivated people I know. His wants to be happy. He wants to be surrounded by people he loves. He has an easy smile and a big heart. All these characteristics are to be cherished. He also has a shiny, 24-karat work ethic. He has kept his nose to the hiphop grindstone for well over ten years, perfecting his turntable skills, writing lyrics and beats and trying to find a way to be in the right place at the right time.
This article in Creative Loafing Atlanta tells the story about how the planets aligned to make this past Saturday possible. All the hard work. All the sacrifice. All the creative juice, the calendar and the place — ALL lined up. I’m reminded of a quote I once read, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Being lucky is a good thing in the music world, I’ve found.
Here are my take aways from the show:
• Even though this is my first hiphop show, I now can tell the difference between sophomoric rap (the first opening act) and really good, sharp, percussive rap (like the kind Adam does).
• I heard the word “fuck” used more times than you’d hear it used in one of Dr. Carlton Savory’s operating rooms.
• I was shocked that 90% of the audience was caucasian. Turns out old school R&B shows are highly frequented by African-American audiences and hiphop shows are primarily attended by white folks. Who knew?
• Although it was loud in there (and I came prepared by taking my Hearos), the sound was really quite great.
We have returned home from a fabulous weekend in Asheville, NC. All is right with the world. I get my bed back. Andrew Myers has married the beautiful Sally McGuire. I have checked off “Drum Circle” on my bucket list (promised video coming soon).
Back weeks ago when Sally and Andrew started talking about a noon time Saturday wedding outside beside a trout stream I thought they had lost their minds. What if it rains? Where will all those people go to the bathroom? There were other questions, but those two seems to be the ones most asked.
Since my back/leg pain is as intense as it was the day it started, I was lucky enough to be driven to the mountain meadow site of the wedding in and SUV full of people with wheel chairs, walkers and extra boxes of depends in tote bags among their belongings. Although I was hurting like hell, at one point during the afternoon I disappeared and made the trek across those bridges. Giant, round shaved trees, so large that they dwarf the sizes of most power poles you see out in the countryside, were dropped across the expanse of the river and boards were nailed across them. A handrail was affixed to one side, leaving the other side open with an unobstructed view of the stream.
Two of these bridges were in place from the family’s cabin to the meadow where the wedding was held. Before the wedding, I stood at the spot where the couple would say their vows. behind the congregation was the trout stream and to the front was an expanse of meadow, bathed in sunshine running right up to a section of foothills that wrapped their arms from the heights around the newly created couple and their awestruck witnesses.
Not only was this a good place for a wedding, it might be the most perfect place anywhere to have a wedding. The kids had a place to romp. The adults had a great place to eat, drink and listen to music. And the good Lord in heaven put on a show with breezes, the great colors of nature all thrown in with birdsong and a bubbling stream. Everyone in attendance had that look on their face. That, wow-I’m-having-a-perfect-day look. If I had been free of pain and my ever-present pain medications it would have been a perfect day for me too.
I was glad to get to meet Sally’s quirky family. They are quirky. The good kind of quirky. I think her dad, Les, and I will get into some trouble together at some point. I don’t think we’ll end up in jail or anything. That’s really not how I roll. But, I’ve got to get back into shape and out of pain because there is a good chance we’ll have to either outrun something or someone. I just have this strange feeling that we might be fishing somewhere and have to outrun a bear. Time will tell on that one.
Our plan was to run downtown about 6 p.m. and join the drum circle for about an hour. Then scoot back out to the venue where the rehearsal dinner was being held and get there in time for a bite and a toast to Sally and Andrew. It took us 15 minutes to get downtown and because of some issue with the road, an hour and fifteen minutes to get back. We got back just in time to get some food and to deliver my toast.
When we get our dams breached and paddlers start coming to town, a regular drum circle in UpTown would be a perfect addition to the ambience of the city. People gather at Asheville’s drum circle site, a small amphitheater in the middle of town. It provides a rhythm to the night. It brings smelly hippies and BMW-driving yuppies right smack dab together and it gives the neighborhood nuts a place to dance. However stupid this all sounds, it works. And, it is something that you will talk about for a long time if you’ll ever let your freak flag fly long enough to go and see one.
I promised video, even if it makes me look stupid. Here is it. And, you know what? I don’t really care if you think I look stupid. I had a great time and I can’t wait to do it again. Preferably here in Columbus so more of my friends can come out and laugh at me.
Asheville Drum Circle Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-av3BjQMuPg
June in the Chattahoochee Valley. Time for fresh tomatoes, peaches, blackeye peas and sweet tea. It is also the season for company picnics, if anyone is still doing those. Every year about this time, I get nostalgic about a particular company picnic and what, short of someone dying, turned out to be the saddest day of my life. [Read more…]