It's heartbreaking to lose our cultural icons. Mr. Nimoy this time. There will be another coming right down the pike. Grief shared is a reminder of what matters. I'm guessing that Leonard was a wealthy man. Doesn't really matter, does it? He touched lots of hearts. The memories are all that's left.
What about the ones who don't have the rock'n'roll? How do the folks get through with nothing to draw the passion? Sometimes I go for days, weeks without any music around. As it is I obsess over lost love. What on earth would it be like for me if I had not played last night?
Okay. I only saw Bruce once. He was at the Jai Alai fronton in Tampa, a venue that held about 1200 fans. It was a fine show. The only Rolling Stones concert for me was at a softball stadium in Clearwater. There were probably about a thousand kids there.
Most of the time that I got to spend with Elvis was sitting around with him on lawn chairs at Port Paradise in Crystal River.
Stirling Moss called out to me and my pal, Jimmy Reilly, to come help him and his crew push the birdcage Maserati onto the track in Sebring.
"Big Daddy" Don Garlits reached me by telephone to ask me to go to lunch with him. I was writing an automotive column for the Tampa Tribune and he wanted to get me a copy of his first autobiography for review.
I've told you the story before about holding Jimi's Marshall cabinets from the back in case he "whacked them" after we opened for him. Made for a pretty good view of the stage.
This isn't bragging, name-dropping. The world was smaller not long ago. Nobody worried that a lunatic would kill a celebrity. NASCAR hadn't made stock car racing a spectacle. When I went to Yankee spring training games in St. Pete, Mickey and Yogi and the guys would hang around and give batting tips. They would sign anything. Nobody worried about e-Bay.
Yeah, I hope that I don't sound like some old fool telling you about the good old days. I have to tell you, though, that paying a small fortune to sit in some stadium seat to see some old fool play his old hits seems really ridiculous to me. Woody never played a stadium. Neither did Lead Belly.
When I was a kid I would read that calypso was about to move rock'n'roll out of the picture. I lost sleep. Really. Hated Harry Belafonte. Then the folk scare. Geez! The pressure never seemed to let up.
Now I suppose that rock'n'roll is whatever I say it is. Maybe it's a good thing that I stayed on guard protecting Elvis' throne. I mean, he's still the king, isn't he?
That's how he came to make the offer to teach me karate. My grandmother told him in earnest just how many times I had come home from school nursing a black eye from "defending his honor.'
Lemme tell you, I would still take on the fool who disparaged him.
It doesn't take much to make me feel small, insignificant. Lately I've been around some writers, not just folks that I admire, but artists who just knock me off my feet. Take my breath away. Choose your own cliche. Today it was Alex Harvey. As usual, anyone with that much soul and that much talent shows up with that much grace and class, too.
It finally occurs to me that I allow my heart to play in the street so that I'll have something to write about. When I listen to the heartbreak in other folks' songs I recognize that the blues isn't something that you "put on" to go to work and "take off" when you come home from the office. Oh sure, you have some of those white guys with stratocasters who have learned the blues scales and the faces where you do fish things with your mouth while you roll your eyes heavenward.
I'm talking about Blind Willie McTell, Arthur Alexander, Hank Williams, Aaron Neville. It's the stuff that connects all our hearts in common sorrow and expresses the real nature of loneliness.
If I had known, I would have chosen more wisely. Heck, it hasn't even brought me fame, money, recognition. I do it because I don't have a choice, I suppose. I do it for the reason that Lucky Teter kept jumping cars; the reason that Chung Ling Soo insisted on catching that bullet in his teeth; that crazy voice that calls Wallendas out there on the wire, that's it.
Alex seems happy. Settled. At peace. Something happened, somewhere though, that gave us those songs.
Mine? You're welcome to them. To quote Vivian Stanshall, "I could have been a doctor or an architect."
My heart's full of peace and love. My pen scribbles heartache and sorrow.
All the Sunday school lessons and all of the songs; every lesson that ever went over my head. For whatever reason, I'm having the most brilliant moment of clarity that has ever come over me.
My only real clue since I was a kid has been that it's all about love.
First I would like to thank everyone. I have to leave it at that because I could never properly thank everyone individually. Even if I could, I would fret and obsess over the order.
Now I would like to apologize to everyone I have ever hurt. One of my most consistent and petty faults has always been to explain the reasons for my bad behavior. Oh, I don't ever rationalize it or attempt to justify it. It's just that the poor soul on the receiving end of my bad behavior has always had to sit through my explanation of the scenario in order to dig out my apology, my plea for forgiveness.
There will be no plea for forgiveness here. Not this time. If I deserve it and if you see fit, please consider forgiving me. That's not really any of my business. Just know that I am truly sorry for any hurt that I have caused you. There is too much hurt in this world and not nearly enough love.
My plan is to spend the rest of my days doing everything that I can to make the world a little bit better for all the other living beings. Suddenly I find myself overwhelmed with peace. Love, love, love. Count me as one proud cornball.
Life's kinda' like quicksand, ya know? You struggle and it just pulls you down. It's always one step forward and 7/8ths step back for me. Well, I'm having one of those moments.
Liner notes. You're supposed to thank everybody and kiss up to the ones who might do you some good later on. I've always avoided all that for fear of forgetting someone. Let's be honest here, I'm never gonna have to worry about any grammy acceptance speech.
My heart is so full of love and gratitude right now that I have to sit here and write this. I seem to have lost all need to explain the reasons that I have loved less than perfectly. I've done the best I could. The important part is that I recognize that everybody who has come through my life has been struggling to do their best.
I really, really love you. I don't take any of this lightly.
All that stuff about two kinds of people in the world. Harumph. Then again, I suppose there are people who believe that there are two kinds of people in this world and those who don't.
There certainly are folks who fall in love and folks who don't. I am convinced that we all believe fervently that we are a part of the bunch who do. I mean we've all read the novels, seen the movies. Everybody knows how to act, what to do.
Accuse someone of lacking the capacity for romantic love and you've insulted them. It's as though you imply that you're a better human being. Fact is, though, those folks get off avoiding a whole lot of suffering. There's a reason all those songs and poems about love hurting are out there.
Okay, there are two types of people. The ones who seek thrills. Roller coasters, hang gliding, mountain climbing. Lots of us don't.
As a kid, I loved playing with thermometers. Remember, those little ones that were attached to small cardboard calendars. Any time one would show up around the house I would immediately take possession and tear the little bulb off the paper. Then I would crack the tube and roll the mercury around. I have a distinct memory of putting the little blobs in my mouth to see what would happen. Well, I guess we can see what happened. Any point in mentioning that I stuck screwdrivers into electrical outlets and put tin foil on my fillings? No, I suppose not.
They taught me right from wrong and I was surrounded by love. Warm, real love. I learned to tell the truth and I was shown the horrors of war.
There are days when I have to face the fact that I suffer with depression. When everything disappears from your existence you have no situations to blame. If it seems exaggerated and trivial when I go on and on about my beloved rock'n'roll it's just that the music is the one thing that has always been there for me. When I bellyache about it disappearing, I just mean in the marketplace. Of course I will always have my rock'n'roll.
Maybe that's why I have been enjoying doing so much radio lately. Now, I have always played just exactly what I've wanted on the air. It's always been hit or miss. Sometimes I sit in on a folk show and sometimes I may sit in for a sixties program. For the last few weeks, though, I have been doing Rev. Billy C. Wirtz's Rhythm Revival for him on WMNF. Billy's been busy and that's a good thing. He's a good guy and a real treasure for all of us. That has left me playing just exactly what I want to play, though, and that's whatever I like.
I'm afraid it's kinda' like my music career. It's not for everybody. I've described my music as the brussels sprouts of rock'n'roll. A few nuts like it. Thank goodness.
Thanks to Billy and Randy and the folks at the station, especially my pal, Bev, who does the heavy lifting while I blab and tell tales about all my heroes.
When I say "I love you," it means I love you. When they leave, they're gone. If you have something to fill a part of the hole, you're lucky.
... and you get up with angels. People are sweet by nature. I'm convinced of that. Hurt leads to distrust and, first thing you know, you're in a cycle of heartbreak and disillusion. I learn what I can from the kids. The animals try to show me the rest.
Never mind your investment account. It's all about love and it's all about the memories.
You know those moments when the comic book light bulb appears over your head and you realize that you've missed something for a long, long time? I'm having one.
When I was a kid we played army. Sometimes we played cowboys and indians. We were always kids, though.
Somehow through school and parental control and Sunday school they teach us to "play grown-up." Most of us, any way.
Oh, I'm all for personal responsibility. Yeah, I'm aware that babies are totally self absorbed and that it takes some time to become socialized and aware of our role in a society, a family.
I'm thinking of the time when they tell you that there's a limit to the fun. You know, nose to the grindstone, too much fun, put your pants on, blah, blah, blah.
Here's what I learned:
1. Cheaters win. If you get the answers to the test in advance and don't get caught, you'll ace the test. If you're rich and buy the government, you'll get richer.
2. If you take more than your share you will stand out in a crowd.
3. You don't really have to tell the truth if you're in charge.
4. Hurting is okay as long as you do the hurting.
Well sir, I quit. I know what's right and what's wrong. I'll wear pants when I want to. There's no such thing as " too much fun." I'll love anybody I want to. I've got everything I need and it's all in my heart.
All the truth is in the rock'n'roll. It's in the great books. Beethoven poured it on. Study love. Don't go looking for something to come back. Give all you've got to anybody who needs it. Watch the children. They know.
It's probably been a decade back by now. My pal Sylvie called and was really excited to tell me about a long interview that she had just done with Tom Petty. Well, I like Tom Petty. Everybody likes Tom Petty. I'm no special fan, though, and Sylvie talks to lots of famous folks.
The enthusiasm was all about Tom relating the story of seeing Elvis. In 1961 Elvis was filming Follow That Dream around Crystal River in Florida, north of my home in Tampa. I've told you all my stories about going up every day and hanging around, soaking up royalty.
Well, it seems that young Tommy had little interest in any Elvis Presley. He told Sylvie that he was aware of who he was but had no real feelings about him. His uncle wanted Tom to be a witness to history so he took the kid into Ocala where the courtroom scene was to be filmed.
Sylvie's excitement was all about Tom's description of Elvis. "It's just like yours," she shouted into the phone. "He said that Elvis came walking up the sidewalk and that he floated. He levitated! He had a visual aura around him."
"Well, yeah. That's the way it was. I was never just making that stuff up."
Now, it seems that Bob Dylan has opened up. Never happened before. Not even with a best selling autobiography. If you're Bobby Zimmerman in Hibbing and you want to change the world just like Woody did and Little Richard did, you better come up with an act. A good one. Name yourself after a glorious poet and go study Gorgeous George. Fix your hair like Esquerita and wear girly shirts. Plug it in and turn it up when they start to catch up. Always zig when they expect you to zag. Answer every third question with a riddle.
Don't let this sound like any kind of attack. He's great. The Elvises, though... they're not from around here. They don't come often.
So the Jews and the Arabs remind me more of cowboys and indians every day. Believe me, I can see that it reads as though I'm making light of an incredibly sensitive situation. I surely don't mean to do anything like that. Greed, ignorance and intolerance are behind all wars in my opinion. Someone wants more than their share, perceives that God is on their side and uses whatever means is necessary to get the other guy's part.
Who's the good guy?
Depends on who "wins" the war. They write the history books. Good guys fight in wars. They're usually the offspring of folks who don't start the fights.
Does it sound like I'm being disrespectful here? Fine. My grandmother, who didn't have a high school education, understood this.
It is my opinion that not many folks seeking to help others and make the world a better place go into politics. While I'm calling people out here, not many hotshots at BP are working so that we can have a higher standard of living, either. Don't get me started on investment bankers and lawyers. Television evangelists, either.
If I sound grumpy here, I'm not. It's my job to save the world. It doesn't pay much. If I stand for anything it's peace and truth and love. I love you. I love my job.
The world keeps trying to retire me but I won't have any of it. Rock'n'roll has gotten me through every rough patch of a very long road. Of course my definition of rock'n'roll is a wide one. It's like that stupid cliche that we all got tired of a long time ago: "Pornography. I can't define it but I know it when I see it."
Well, my heart is full and I see love everywhere I look. Take every opportunity to bring peace to all the living creatures around you. The memories are all you end up with. Make some good ones.
In 1967 we worked hard for our psychedelic credentials in Noah's Ark. We knew that we were nothing without a theremin. Well, you couldn't just go to google and track down a source. I had seen Bob Moog's name associated with the things in Popular Science type magazines. I was somehow aware that he was manufacturing them with his father in New York.
When I tracked him down through information and gave him my order he asked if we would be his sales reps for the Southeast. It meant that we got two theremins shipped for the price of one.
Well now, that band was always more about the pose than the music, truth be told. None of us got to be virtuosos. In fact we did well to make creepy "monster movie" sounds with the thing.
So only time makes everything alright, huh? Seems to me, you wait long enough, you die. Am I missing something here? It's all in those songs. Ol' Blue eyes sang them and now Bob gives them a whirl. Are we just programmed for sad?
Well sir, I'll tell you this- the vision of love in the green coat, contrasting the black ice brought all the joy even if it wasn't forever.
You know me. The guy who still doesn't feel right at the grown up table. I hurry to explain that I can't sing on key and that I really can't play anything. Something compels me to turn myself in before I'm discovered.
Plenty of friends have tried to explain that I spend far too much time in my head. They're right, of course.
And now, here I am. No need to defend myself. Oh yeah, I've done plenty of things that I shouldn't have and I've created scripts in my head and in my heart to make it all someone else's fault. Of course I've been blamed for being the one hurt and the one used, too. So?
It really is time to get good at playing by myself and being happy with all of my blessings. Boy, I hope to have helped some creatures here on the planet before it's all said and done. All we really have is love. It won't buy any presidential elections, grammys or Super Bowls but it is the original renewable resource.
You're truly lucky if you realize just how lucky you are. The sweetest folks and the best dogs and cats have given me some of their kindness and time and love. My songs and my memories make up my treasure. I don't need any insurance, thanks.
...tell her I've stepped out for a bit. This idea of infinity is starting to make me nervous. I could distract myself comparing marbles but I've got a parade to avoid.
Sometimes I start to worry that most of the genius goes unpublished, pretty much unread. What if van Gogh had been an only child?
Of course I can get off the worry train by simply reminding myself that everything is perfect, at least in this universe, as it is. Then I start to fret about the ones who can't get off. The ones who missed their stop several miles back.
Hey, it's all soul music if it's any good. It's all soul food if it's prepared with love. I seldom lock my door. I hope I never close my heart.