When I was young, I remember getting upset with my dad because every story he told ended with the I felt unecessary addition that the person he was talking about was dead or had just died. I didn’t understand why all the stories ended that way. Well, now I’m older and know that all stories will eventually end that way.
I dug a grave in the rain the other day. I didn’t even realize it was raining until the earth I was shoveling got harder to lift. I was soaked to the bone and kept digging. It was not a large grave, just large enough. When we’d moved to the island there was a ragged tom cat that would hang out on our fence. He’d lost part of an ear to a fight, was heavily scarred and had obviously had a hard life. So, my wife took to feeding him on a table by the fence. He’d watch for the food to be set on the table and then after we were twenty feet away or so, he’d hop down and eat. Over time, he moved to our back patio and hung around closely. Occasionally, his tom cat ways would get the better of him and he’d wander off looking for a fight. On more than one occasion I headed down the alley looking for him, flashlight in hand hoping nothing had happened. He was a stray, but he was our stray.
When the freeze happened this year (F*#% you Bill Magnes and all the asshats at ERCOT), my wife managed to coax Sammy, as he came to be known, and his patio friend Dotty (we don’t think they were a couple) into our back utility room. Through sheer will and a propane heater that was doing its best imitation of the miracle of the lamp, the feline guests stayed warm enough to stay alive. When the power was back on and the ice gone, Dotty headed back outside. Sammy looked at his new surroundings and said “yeah, this is good.”
He hung out in an open window watching the yard he used to fight to the near death to protect and had a very relaxed time. But, he was old and he had FIV from his street fighting days. He got weaker and despite the vets best efforts, he passed away peacefully in his window a few days ago.
It’s the way the story goes.
Just a few weeks ago, the rapper/producer Biz Markie had died. Now, if you’ve read my writing or listened to me talk music, you know Biz is not exactly in my wheelhouse. Still, his passing hit me. See, back in college in my first apartment, the one I shared with Craig, the one where a truly astounding Tequila party happened, the party I slept through, we had a tv that after 2:00 a.m. only got three stations. One channel feature a picture of an oscilloscope. Someone must have set a camera up so they could monitor the strength of the signal from home. It was not exciting viewing. Another of the three feature kung-fu movies that had been dubbed into Spanish. It was a bit more exciting. The third channel was a thing called Video Jukebox and it let people dial a 1-900 number and pay money to select the videos that would play. The only two in heavy rotation, and quite frankly possibly the only two, were the Sir Mix-a-Lot video for “Baby Got Back” and Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”. Those two videos would be there, night after night, for better or worse. Now, Biz Markie’s story has ended like all stories end and it brought memories of younger days. There were so many people that came through the apartment to hang out, watch movies, drink, shoot a movie or two. I have lost touch with all of them over the years. I called Craig the other day and left a message asking if he was still alive. No reply.
Then tonight, the news came across that Nanci Griffith had passed away. I never had the pleasure of seeing her perform live and I wished that I had. She was a great singer and songwriter. She wrote two songs that I can listen to again and again. I’ll get to those in a bit. The majority of songs of hers, I can listen to again and again. She is not an artist that I would skip forward or change the station if she came on. With one massive exception that is. She wrote a song that Bett Midler covered and had a huge hit with called “From a Distance”. I don’t know if it is the song or the thoughts of Midler singing it, but that is the one and only one of Nanci’s to which I can not listen. So, those others, well, you should listen to them.
Love at the Five and Dime is a beautiful love story.
It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go it’s just a powerful song.
And now Nanci’s story has been told and the ending is like all the others.
Rest In Peace.