When Bruce Hampton died a year ago I should have known that I would hear from him eventually. Oh, don't roll those eyes- I don't believe in that stuff either. I always make exceptions for Bruce, though. I don't have a choice.
Oh, yeah, he did his birthday "trick" when we met. Upon introduction, his first words to me were, "Glad to know you. When's your birthday, April 21st?"
"I thought so. Mine, too. Hitler's, too."
Well, of course his birthday was really April 30th. Hitler's is actually April 20th. He certainly knew those two. How the heck did he know mine?
The fact that he lied to me immediately was another facet of his charm. Harmless lies. Insignificant lies to make a better story. This charismatic blob of love was nine days younger than I was and wiser by some measure that I still don't understand.
Bruce's charm was his art. We would go for a decade with no contact and I would never question the friendship. When we were together it was as though we spent all of our time together.
He passed out, onstage, at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta during his 70th birthday celebration last year. I had, of course, just played my 70th birthday celebration nine days earlier. Now Hampton was gone. He had frequently spoken in interviews about dying onstage.
Now for friends of his, this is just one more personal story. We all have them. The good part, the Hampton part, is his return. He has shown up in dreams for the last two nights, explaining the role of the artist.
Both nights have had what seem like long, involved dream scenes. On both nights I have awakened with a clear memory of the story, fallen back asleep and continued the dream.
Me? I wasn't born with many tools for an artist. To exacerbate the dilemma, I'm far too lazy to learn skills to impress. My obsession to communicate overcomes my shortcomings. I do what I can do to tell people about love. If I could sing on key or properly tune a guitar, I would merely be a musician.
To make things more complicated, I'm shy and find it difficult to talk to people I don't know.
When I climbed out of bed to get this down, I remembered most of what Bruce said, at least from the last segment of the last dream. I knew who had been with him, too. Now the specifics are hazy. It's as though he spoke using his heart more than regular, verbal communication. Now that I think about it, he always did. I just never realized because of all of his yack, yack, yack. Those lies, those tricks- they were just the light show.
Maybe I could have worked it smarter and made some money. Sold some records. How many other people do you know with no regrets?
As I read through this babble, I am very much aware that I've told you nothing. Then again, if you're an artist, I've told you everything.