Up until recently, if you asked me “Are you depressed?” I would have said “Absolutely not. We all have our ups and downs but I’m not depressed.”
The more I’ve learned about depression, the more I’ve realized that maybe I am. The thing is, it’s such a vague word. There’s so many levels at which it can exist. And, unfortunately, it’s kind of a dirty word. Most of don’t want to say it, especially in relation to ourselves. We think of it as this huge thing. Like if you’re “depressed,” that a big, giant, serious issue. That’s not to say that it isn’t, necessarily, but not always. It can be insidiously subtle.
I just thought I was lazy. Uninspired. That I have no willpower to do the things I know I need to do. I’m unproductive. I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in in over a decade. My career isn’t what I’d like it to be. And yet, I often act counter-productively. there’s things I know I could do, that I need to do, and I don’t, or feel that I can’t. I continue to eat crap and want to sleep a lot.
One day Elly (who battles depression herself) said “I think you might be depressed,” and my gut reaction was to resist. I’m not depressed! I’m just in a slump, or lazy, or tired, or just down this week.
The point of this post is not to get comfort or reassurance or virtual hugs or support. The point of this post is to let everyone else out there know, you’re not alone. More people than you know are probably in the same boat. It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to admit. Every time I thought about making this post, it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to talk about it. Or admit it. Or be seen or judged as a “depressed” person. Or be a depressed person.
Now I’m lucky in that my depression (if that’s what it is) is fairly mild and just makes me think I’m a lazy person with absolutely no willpower or discipline (which may be true as well). I truly am, in general, a very happy, silly person with a wonderful life and tons of gratitude for all that I have. That’s not a mask or a front. And that’s what makes it complicated. How can that co-exist with any form of depression, no matter what the “level”? We are complex beings, my friends.
So if you are or have ever been depressed, let me assure you, you are not broken, you are not a freak and it’s not a dirty word never to be spoken. You are in the company of some of the best, brightest, most talented people in the world and throughout history. It does not devalue you as a person. There are so many people fighting battles you know nothing about. Be assured that we are all a community. We are all on our individual journeys but also a collective journey together. Stay strong friends and always remember this: The opposite of Love isn’t Hate, it’s Fear. Love is light. Love is always the answer. Love is my religion. Well that and Jedi. Love Jedi.
Sounds like a band. Or a really bad movie.
I was sitting in playing guitar with ZZ Top. It was very exciting as it was the biggest gig I’d ever played. There were several other musicians filling out the backup band as well besides just the 3 members of ZZ Top though. I hadn’t had any rehearsal and was just completely winging it but was totally comfortable doing so. I set my trusty Variax to its acoustic setting for this one ballad and Billy Gibbons was really digging it. Then we covered “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King. As the solo section approached, I thought “I’m sure Billy will probably grab that,” and he did.
I also had 2 separate dreamlets about Brian and Akasha. In the first, there had been some get together at a bar and a bunch of us were there. Someone handed us a note that was written on a stack of paper, or maybe a book in colorful marker saying the Brian wasn’t going to be able to make it. After the gathering, a bunch of people were going to get something to eat somewhere. Akasha and I jumped in her 2 door red sportscar, but then decided to just hang out and catch up like old times. She needed to go do some clothes shopping any way so we would go do that.
In the second dreamlet, Brian and I were in France. He had just bought a little Fender 1×12 guitar amp which I was toting for him and we were walking along this street checking out a row of flats. He was looking at them because they were thinking of moving to France. It was night but we went in one of them to check it out.
I said “Maybe we can just leave this amp here now if you’re going to move in.”
“Well, we haven’t actually bought it yet, so that’s not really an option,” he said.
Then I woke up.
I first became a fan of Edgar Allan Poe in my 8th grade advanced honors English class with Mrs. Riley, who is my favorite and most influential of all the teachers I ever had. I even remember writing “A Typical Poe Story” which was a parody of Poe using all the tropes and patterns I had noticed in his work. One of these was how often the word “bosom” seemed to appear.
Recently I had wondered if “bosom” was really as prevalent in his work as I thought it was in 8th grade and my friend, Kevin Gates, had joked “You can thank late 19th century editorial practice for that. In manuscript, Poe actually uses the term ‘sweet-ass titties.'”
When I joked back that I should do a find and replace, Kevin replied, “You’ll see how brilliant Poe actually was, before his work was sanitized.”
So I did. I’m not sure if this is comprehensive but it should be close.
So without further adieu and with apologies to Mrs. Riley, I present to you, many, if not all, of the occurrences of “bosom” in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, replaced with “sweet-ass titties.”
On the sweet-ass titties of the palpitating air!
It vibrated within three inches of my sweet-ass titties!
That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in some sweet-ass titties such as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion.
It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my sweet-ass titties.
About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, one small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the sweet-ass titties of the stream.
The arms, the sweet-ass titties, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole.
She was attired in deep mourning, and excited in my sweet-ass titties a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and admiration.
The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the sweet-ass titties and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.
Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me.
Satisfied with having produced in my sweet-ass titties the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was characteristically disregardful of the public applause which the success of his witty endeavors might have so easily elicited.
This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep sigh escaped the sweet-ass titties of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing ceased — that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent; the intervals were undiminished.
“How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is written within those sweet-ass titties!”
In the present instance, Eugenie, who for a few moments past had seemed to be searching for something in her sweet-ass titties, at length let fall upon the grass a miniature, which I immediately picked up and presented to her.
No murmur arose from its bed, and so gently it wandered along, that the pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down within its sweet-ass titties, stirred not at all, but lay in a motionless content, each in its own old station, shining on gloriously forever.
The golden and silver fish haunted the river, out of the sweet-ass titties of which issued, little by little, a murmur that swelled, at length, into a lulling melody more divine than that of the harp of Aeolus-sweeter than all save the voice of Eleonora.
She had seen that the finger of Death was upon her sweet-ass titties — that, like the ephemeron, she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die; but the terrors of the grave to her lay solely in a consideration which she revealed to me, one evening at twilight, by the banks of the River of Silence.
He boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their sweet-ass titties, and was wont to follow up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate knowledge of my own.
Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked toward the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his sweet-ass titties and placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.
Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well.
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my sweet-ass titties’ core;
In this dream, Elly and I were on a road trip with Brian and Akasha Villalobos. We stopped at this gigantic mall. It was possibly the biggest (fictional dream) mall in the world. In the food court there was an Indiana Jones themed fast food place. There was the normal counter manned by employees but behind them was an approximately 2 story tall adventure course made of foam facades, ropes, “traps,” ledges, obstacles, alligators etc. When you ordered, they would give you a temporary Indiana Jones jacket and fedora. The jacket had a whip attached to one side and a holster and shoulder bag on the other so it was a nice one piece fully decked out option. You couldn’t order anything specific, only a general type of food like “vegetarian” or such. Then you got to play through the obstacle course. It wasn’t static either in that once you reached the other side, it could all rotate to make a new scene for you to traverse back the other way. At any given time there were 5 or so customers dressed as Indy up on the adventure course. When you finally finished and dropped down, they would give you a random order (but in line with your general order type specified up front). You might get a burrito, or a burger, or any of a host of other options. That was part of the adventure.
Later in the dream, Brian and I were outside another fast food place somewhere else on our road trip. We were chatting and he had 2 oranges and we were rapidly tossing them back and forth trying to get rid of the one we had before the other was on its way. At one point he had an extremely errant throw (or maybe catch) over his shoulder and an orange came down in a high arc and hit someone’s car. Probably no big deal, as it was an orange, but Brian being Brian insisted on finding something to write a note with/on to leave on the car. Later we were in side finishing up our meal and chatting about some personal relationship stuff he was going through and possibly related sex life stuff.
Then I woke up.
I’ve talked about how my favorite times growing up were the times I got to spend with my late Aunt Trish and my cousin Casey (not to exclude my Uncle Mike or cousin Kelly, it’s just that most of my time was spent with Trish and Casey). This dream harkened directly back to these nostalgic times.
I dreamt that Mike, Trish, Casey, Kelly and I were all going to a TRON themed place (I’ve mentioned before how TRON was a favorite of mine and Casey’s growing up and a movie we saw many times). Not an amusement park or anything so grand, but more along the scope of a lazer tag place, “The Main Event,” Chuck E. Cheese, or Showbiz pizza. That kind of place. We got to the entrance which was like a two story house with one dwelling on the bottom and one on the second story. Eager to go in, I went first through the garage and up some stairs to what functioned as the waiting room but looked just like a small room in an apartment or house and furnished as such. Everyone else had stopped to talk to some guy as we were going in. When they came in, it turned out that the guy had been a manager or owner and he had given them all really cool, stretchy TRON jumpsuits with the glow patterns painted on in glow in the dark paint. I was so bummed to have missed out!
“Aww, man! I want one of those!” I said. I looked at Trish sitting on a chair in the corner.
Suddenly I remembered, “Wait a minute, aren’t you gone?” I waited to see if she would disappear after I realized this but she didn’t. She was still there. Then, just as I was waking up, I looked again and the chair was empty.
I know it was probably just a dream, but I choose to believe it was her paying me a visit.
My father, Paul Allyn, died peacefully today after a brief battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
My mother, Kathie, and my father met and married at 16 and 18, respectively. They had me at 17 and 19. I don’t have many memories of my father actually being part of my daily life as my parents split up when I was around 3, I believe (I’m sure mom will correct me on any facts I get wrong…I’ve never been good with dates).
Not too long after that he moved back to New Jersey, where he’d grown up. Growing up, I rarely saw him. We would fly up to visit every so often, and we would always talk on holidays and such, but for the first 30 years of my life or so, I probably only actually saw him in person enough times to be counted on one hand. I think this typifies the unconventional relationship that we always had which was that we were never “estranged” or anything but sometimes years might pass with minimal communication as we all get wrapped up in life and time flies faster than we realize, but we would always remain close and pick back up like no time had passed. We had a very low maintenance, guilt free but great relationship. After a visit when I around 16 (I think), I wouldn’t see him again for another 13 years or so, and yet somehow there was nothing “weird” about this.
Paul was born in Japan (his father was Art, an American soldier, his mother Aiko, a Japanese woman). From a very early age he became involved in all manner of martial arts. By the end of his life, he was a recognized master in many of them at a level akin to his idol, Bruce Lee. He even had devised his own system, Sento Kunren Ho, or “combat training method.” The family would eventually move to New Jersey. After his stint in Texas where he met mom and had me, he returned to New Jersey where he eventually became a police officer which amused many of his acquaintances back in Texas since, at least as I’ve heard it, he had a bit of a reputation as a hell raiser. I have no idea how much is true and how much is “fishing stories” embellished by time, but I’ve heard he used to like to walk into bars and start trouble just so these rednecks could be surprised at the ass whipping delivered from this 5’7″ lithe man. Back in NJ, he got married a second time to Cathi and had 3 more kids, Kymberlea, Karlea and A.J. He eventually retired early as a Lieutenant, separated from Cathi and moved to Florida to be near his parents.
Of my visits to NJ, I remember loving Great Adventure, a Six flags type amusement park. I remember all of us going to a haunted house once, and I got too scared not very far in and a worker had to radio for someone to come escort me back out the entrance while the rest of the family finished going through. I remember a trip to the boardwalk where the smell of the sea air accompanied attempts at carnival games. In one of my earlier visits, I remember a TV with no channel knob where they had to use a pair of pliers to change the channel. I remember a martial arts competition, where for some reason they also had a Garfield mirror for sale that I took home. Donut shops (sometimes stereotypes happen for a reason). I remember at least 3 of their residences and his workout room in his house. I remember him buying me a shoge (a very cool martial arts weapon) that my uncle Jim would later end up breaking. I remember playing my new Duran Duran record on the record player in Kym’s room where I was staying in the spare bed.
Paul was also a musician. In his younger years he played guitar and sang in many bands both in NJ and Texas. In fact, he played with Donnie Wilson who I would later meet in community theatre and jam with in my own youth, and then many years even later than that, I would end up in a band with that we have now been in for over 20 years. In his adulthood he let all his musical pursuits fade away. Then around 2000, a big family reunion was brewing down in Florida so we made plans for me to come visit and see everyone for the first time in far too many years. He asked me to pick out a good acoustic guitar for him and bring it along so he could pick it back up. I brought him a decent Alvarez acoustic and he picked it up like he had never stopped playing. We were jamming Beatles together in no time at all. I don’t think I saw him again until 2009.
We had kept up our periodic phone calls during that time and one day I’m at a band gig back in my hometown of College Station when he calls me to say hi. There’s something suspicious about the conversation which leads me to believe he is here for a surprise visit. This suspicion is confirmed when he slips up and misspeaks about something I can’t remember, but says something about “here” instead of there. I let it pass without calling him on it to not ruin the surprise. Sure enough he makes a surprise appearance at our gig. It’s his first time back in Texas since he left almost 30 years prior. This begins a new renaissance in our relationship. For the next several years, calls and even visits are very frequent. I find it so amusing how alike we are in certain ways despite him never being an active part of my life. It really drives home the effect of genetics. We talk on the phone like friends, not just father and son. Amusingly, I find myself taking the role of wisdom dispenser most of the time. It’s like our roles have flipped. When he would visit, we would play acoustic guitars together, harmonize on Beatle songs (“No Reply” was a favorite), and just hang out. We would walk to Torchy’s tacos which he repeatedly mispronounced “Torky’s.”
Then there was another summer night in 2009 when after one of my gigs, a woman came up to me and told me that her friend wanted to talk to me but was really nervous. Why? Because apparently my dad was also her dad. I told her there was no reason to be nervous and I spent some time talking to the half sister I didn’t know I had. Apparently her mother had told her about her real dad because I was a local around the same age playing in bands around town and so her mother wanted to make sure that if we ever met, we didn’t start dating or something. The next day, I was filming a short film and started messaging dad to break this news to him. He had known of the possible existence of this daughter but had never known for sure. We all met up and instantly took each other into our respective families. She visited dad in his final days as well.
In 2010, his parents had a joint 80th birthday party. Obasan (what I’d always called hi mother) had requested, half jokingly, that I write her a song. Not just any song, but one where I sing by myself and then people can sing along on the choruses. One night during my visit, I took some (really crappy) cell phone video of Obasan and Dad singing together (videos here and here). During this visit when they were playing some of her favorite music, I learned of two songs in particular that I took note of. Then, because I’m a horrible procrastinator, the day before the big party, I sat down to finally write a song for her detailing her history with my Grandfather. And since that wasn’t enough work on my plate, I also set out to learn these two songs that were among her favorites. I got the lyrics to my freshly composed song to my uncle Marc to put on the overhead projector so people could sing along on the choruses. Here was the result:
My dad was always one of my biggest fans, sharing my songs, commercials, movies, etc., beaming with pride (as does mom…I’m lucky to have such proud and supportive parents). He would be the first to tell you about the flaws he had, especially as a younger man. He never wanted to bother you with his problems. Which is why our communication was less frequent after he was diagnosed with COPD, a degenerative lung condition. He had always been a very active and fit guy but a lifetime of smoking had irrevocably damaged his lungs and now with COPD, he found himself with no energy and short of breath all the time. When I would call, I could hear how it had sucked the vitality from him, but he just kind of kept to himself and didn’t call much because that was his way when he was less than great. So I’d make sure to check in frequently and I could tell he enjoyed the outlet though he would never initiate it. I did my best to just be a positive light. Once I called and he casually remarked “You know I was in the hospital, right?” No, I had not known he was in the hospital. In his last couple of years with COPD, he wasn’t up for travel any more so the frequent visits had ceased. In the years since I’d seen him, his father had also died.
This last August, Obasan was preparing for her yearly trip to NJ to visit her other children, Dori and Marc. On a whim, my dad asked if she had room for him and off they went for a family visit. While he was there, he started not feeling well. Thinking it was probably related to the COPD, they took him to the hospital. He was shockingly diagnosed with stage 4 umbilical pancreatic cancer. They explored the options, but pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates and in his weakened state, chemo wasn’t even an option. It was at this point that it was decided to put him on hospice to make his final weeks as comfortable as possible. Dori and her wife, Laurie had a spare bedroom that had been used when another friend had spent their final days there as well, so I believe it was already fairly well equipped (like an adjustable bed and such). Dori and Laurie are two of the most amazing people on the planet, and took such good care of him, as well as any visiting family, and this despite the fact that Dori is on crutches after foot surgery! Obasan stayed there the whole time as well. In line with my dad’s nature, he chose to keep it pretty low key as he “didn’t want a bunch of drama over it.”
The day after my Grandfather’s funeral (on my mom’s side), I flew up for a 4 day visit to see my dad for what I knew would be the last time. He was frail and bedridden. He had aged more in the last 2 years than in the previous 60. Most of his time was spent sleeping and just trying to be comfortable. Most of my time was spent on the couch in the living room with Dori, Laurie and Obasan. When it was time for his meds every 3 hours, I would go in and say hi and then if he remained awake, I would stay for as long as it seemed feasible just chatting and spending time with him. At night, I’d borrow Dori’s car and head to my hotel 6 miles away just to sleep. It was an odd time, being that we both knew he was basically just waiting to die, but a good one that also had moments of humor and conversation and just good time together.
When I learned of his last minute whim to travel to NJ with Obasan, I asked him “So, do you think maybe you knew something that you didn’t know you knew?”
“Maybe,” he said. I still wonder if something told him to go back to his home turd where he spent most of his life. Obasan also commented on what a blessing it was that it happened there with netter doctors and with Dori, Laurie around and Marc and Kem in driving distance. She thought it would have been much worse in many ways had it happened back in Florida. On my last night there, I sat on the bed beside him watching a baseball game that was still going into the 12th inning. Just like dad.
The next morning, I went back over to wait for my ride to the airport. When it was about 5 minutes away, I went in to say goodbye. It’s a very uniquely strange feeling to say a farewell with such finality. Dad had his eyes closed. I told him I had to go.
He asked “Go where?”
“Back to Texas,” I said.
I’ll never forget that moment when his eyes suddenly filled with an urgency and desperation, realizing I was leaving. though moving was hard for him, he rolled up to hug me and I hugged him back. Tears were shed but always through a smile. I told him that my body may be leaving but that my mind, heart and soul were there with him 24/7.
“As they always have been,” he said. He told me that when he got to the gate, he’d tell them to save a special place for one hell of a guitar player someday. He told me that if I wanted to, I could always go by his place in Florida to see if there was anything I wanted as a keepsake.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Dad,” I said as I squeezed his hand, a tear rolling down my cheek. “You’re still here now.” I left a glow-in-the-dark alien guitar pick on his night stand. We exchanged “I love you” and I left my father for the last time. As I waited for my plane in the Newark airport, it was actually familiar and I could remember being there with him and Cathi
He held on a lot longer than most thought he would, but it wasn’t much of a life towards the end. At least not one I know he’d want to live, so I knew he was ready to be at peace. Today, I decided to change my Facebook cover photo to a tribute to him. About 20 minutes later, someone inquired how he was doing, and we got the word that he had passed peacefully about 10 minutes previously.
You’ve all probably heard me say it a thousand times by now, but in times like these, I always take great comfort from the scientific Law of Conservation of Energy that states energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. We are all made, quite literally of stardust, and when our bodies are returned to and recycled by the universe, our energy, including whatever energy makes up our “souls,” or the synapses in our brain or anything else can only change forms. It is not destroyed. Dad and I were very similar spiritually. We tried to concentrate on the positive and would never want to burden anyone. I know he wouldn’t want anyone being sad or devastated by his passing (but would also understand that it’s inevitable to varying degrees).
I always choose to celebrate a life rather than mourn a death, and while many would say 63 is far too young, my father still lived a hell of a life full of love and many wonderful adventures. This is the closest death has ever hit me (I mean I guess you don’t get much closer than the source of half your DNA) but I am at peace, as I am happy that he is as well. Please save any condolences and instead hug your loved ones and celebrate life. Do something that brings a smile to your face and try to bring as many smiles to others as you can. You don’t have to be sorry for my loss, for my heart is full of everything I gained from my father. I hesitate to stop writing this, as I’m sure time will bring a million more things to mind that I wanted to say but for the moment I’ll just say, “until later.”
Golden Slumbers, Dad.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”
-The Beatles “The End”
Yesterday, in one of the eulogies at my grandfather’s funeral, I heard a term I had never heard before: living the dash. Meaning that in the end, there will be your birthday and the date you die, and in between them is your dash. And how you live your dash is the most important.
This also got me thinking about perspective. There seems to be a lot of really bad mojo going on at the moment for a whole lot of people. I often hear people curse a particular year for being so horrible. However I truly think that if you look very closely, there’s always just as much good to be found. Sometimes you’re so focused on the negative that you blind yourself to all the good.
Let me use my own life as an example. You could look at my 2015 and see this: 2 automobile accidents, one totaling a friend’s car, one totaling my car. I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in for the last 12 years. I’m frustrated at some of my career obstacles. My grandfather died. My father is on hospice with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I could probably find a lot more to bitch about as well. And there’s plenty more apparently going on in other people’s lives that I know.
But you know what? That’s not how I see my 2015. Amazingly, I emerged from both accidents almost entirely uninjured when both could have easily been fatal if any of a thousand details were different. I moved in with my amazing girlfriend into an amazing place in an amazing neighborhood. I couldn’t ask for anyone more loving or supportive of me. I am basically pretty damn healthy, now have a gym membership and both she and I are prosperous enough to lead a pretty great life, and I’m not working some soul sucking job but doing things I love and am passionate about.
My grandfather led an amazing and long life and in his death I heard so many stories and learned so many things about him that I never knew. I saw a humbling outpouring of people talking about how much he’d affected their lives. 2 hours of visitation with a line out the door the entire time of people waiting to give their condolences and memories of this great man. I saw many relatives I rarely get to see.
Even now, I marvel at our technogical world beyond what scifi imagined not all that long ago as I use the airplane wifi. I joked that this is what is feels like to be a god. A slow, lethargic God. I’m on my way to see my dad, and to put it totally bluntly, probably for the last time. But I have the luxury of doing do. And had to pass up a callback audition to do so. I have a choice in how I feel and view the world and my life. And as much as possible I choose love and joy and gratitude. Because even as I sit here now, I could easily come up with far more good things to list than bad. The universe is going to throw things at you that you don’t want or feel you aren’t ready for or can only see as “bad things” but nothing is inherently good or bad. There’s always Yin to Yang and vice versa. We are all human and will not always succeed at our endeavors or efforts to live how we want to live or be who we want to be. And that’s just fine. Just do your best to make sure that once that final date comes, that the dash in between was what mattered. Have a dense and well-lived dash.
I had just finished playing a great private party with my band. There’s were tons of people, food and a fireworks show as big as any you would ever see, all at someone’s house. It was now time for my 2 hour drive back home to Austin. Before I had even got out of town, I was stopped at a stop light with no one in front of me. A pickup truck was driving through the intersection in front of when suddenly it was t-boned by another car. The truck went up on its side and came hurtling directly at my car. Now, I tend to be very calm and in control in crisis situations, so I wanted to throw it in reverse but I didn’t have time to assess what was behind me and didn’t want to end up plowing into someone, so I watch as this hurtling pickup skidded to a stop on its side…inches from my front bumper. I then reversed a little (I’m not sure why at this point, other than to get a little distance from the carnage). Everyone poured out of their cars behind me, as did I to call 911, and assess if anyone needed immediate help. When I could see there was nothing more I could do, I figured it was best to just get out of the way and got back in my car. While I was waiting for the police to clear everyone and for the people behind me to get back in their cars and re-route so that we could all leave the scene, I took this photo from my car.
Eventually we were cleared and I drove on, stopping briefly to get a drink. A guy in the store wondered what was going on with all the police, fire and EMS folks, so I told him my first hand account. He was not expecting such a vividly detailed answer. I then hit the road back to Austin, delayed by about 20 minutes or so by the accident. About an hour later, I was on Highway 21 in the middle of nowhere. There was hardly any traffic as it was 1:30 A.M. I noticed a car coming toward me from the distance. Then I noticed that it was swerving. Back and forth. A lot. I went into high alert and could not tell is this was someone out of control or just being an idiot goofing around. Faster than I expected, the car was upon me and swerved directly toward me, smashing into the left rear of my car. The side airbags deployed, and my back end swung wildly around pointing me across the oncoming lanes (which were, thankfully, empty). It was one of those moments they talk about when everything went into slow motion. I remember as I got hit, thinking (and possibly saying out loud) “FUCK! GODDAMMIT! SERIOUSLY?” I remained calm and tried to get control of the vehicle as best as I could. I had stopped spinning and was now headed directly across the oncoming lane toward a ditch. I though ” Oh, shit, I hope this ditch isn’t too bad and that this doesn’t hurt too much.” Next thing I knew I was over the ditch and through a barbed-wire fence, pleasantly surprised at the lack of impact or pain. It was then that I realized that my car was still in drive and actively propelling forward in this, thankfully, large and empty field. I came to a stop and gathered myself. I seemed to be fine. I got out and immediately called 911. Where was I, they asked? I told them to hold on, put them on speakerphone and pulled up Google maps (thankful for both the phone signal and internet connection). I couldn’t read the tiny county road number, but luckily I had long ago enabled the accessibility feature where I could tap with 3 fingers to zoom in. I did so and told them I was on Highway 21, just north of county road 402. They said they would send someone right away. When asked about the other car, I told them I had briefly seen them stopped way down the road, but that they seemed to be gone now.
I called Elly who was fast asleep at home. I told her the details and that I was fine. Since I was about an hour from home still, she got in car that she had very luckily borrowed from a friend who let’s her use it whenever we need a second car for some reason. Not knowing exactly what would play out, she just started driving toward me, knowing she’d have to pick me up somewhere. I assessed the damage. It looked like they had hit me right around my left rear tire. It was at a slightly funny angle but nothing too terribly alarming. I had no rear bumper and the left rear tail light was broken.The left rear door wouldn’t open. I checked my music equipment in the back and it was fine which made me breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Then I waited. In a dark field in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, which, needless to say, was surreal. There was a bright moon which was nice and I could leave the car running to keep my phone charging and keep the headlights on for better visibility. I meditated. Got bitten by a lot of mosquitoes or something. About 30 minutes later or so, the highway patrol showed up. He asked how I managed this on a completely deserted highway. I laughed and said “right?” and gave him the details. He asked what I planned to do with the car and I said I had no idea what my options were. He told me to call my insurance which I did and reported everything. They said they could transfer me to someone to arrange a tow or I could just have the officer call a local tow, which is what I did. I told the officer about my other close call and he said something like “You better watch it. You’re luck is gonna run out!” (in a totally good-natured way).
By the time I was done with insurance, the officer, etc. and the tow truck showed up it must have been at least another 30 minutes. The tow truck driver was a very amiable guy who pondered how the hell to get my car out of this field when there was a ditch and a (busted) fence in the way. I told him had no idea if it was driveable but that I could certainly try to back it up to the road.
“I mean, what am I gonna do? Mess it up worse?” I said, which made him laugh heartily. I backed it up. Got stuck a few times where I had to work it forward and back but eventually got it back to road and parked on the shoulder where getting in on the truck was nice and simple. Elly arrived right at this time and we got all the stuff we could from the car and packed into the teeny tiny BMW Z3 as best we could. Now this thing is tiny. We barely fit my yoga mats and a few small things in the trunk. We stashed a small fan back by the rear window. My roller case went at my feet and my guitar was basically on top of me in the passenger seat. It was uncomfortable, but the only way to get all my stuff home.
We were both a bit on edge watching for any other late night 4th of July jackasses but we made it home and to bed by about 5 A.M. We had planned not to go anywhere on Sunday but a last minute offer from Craigslist to trade a really cool guitar for one I was trying to sell ended up with us driving halfway to San Antonio to make the exchange, and once again, I found myself on a 45 minute, very uncomfortable car ride wedged under a guitar.
Monday and Tuesday I did all the dealing with insurance, getting a rental lined up, faxing them paper work to show that I had just had $4000 worth of work done earlier this year including a brand new $3000 hybrid batter with a 4 year warranty, which is basically the biggest repair you can make on a hybrid vehicle short of replacing the engine. I am hoping this factors in to whatever decisions they make about repairing the car or totaling it.
Not surprisingly, this whole experience has had an affect on me. Especially when paired with the wreck I was in at the beginning of this year when my car was in the shop and I was driving our same friend’s (previous) Z3 to College Station and back to pick up my newly custom painted guitar as well as carrying an acoustic that was over 100 years old back to a shop in Austin as a favor to a friend. While stopped at a light I noticed someone skid to a halt and veer to the right to avoid hitting a car a few behind me. Then as I was stopped at the next light, this same person (I’m not 100% positive, but I think it was the same person) plowed into the back of my stopped (and borrowed) car, spinning me 180 degrees and giving me a mild concussion for the next month. It took a few minutes for me to get my senses back and I didn’t really remember the actual accident, or the texts that I had sent after getting hit, or calling Elly and talking somewhat incoherently to her. Both guitars, despite being in soft cases and on the front passenger against the dash and laying up the seat, were completely unharmed. As was I, in the end (though I had some soreness and killer headaches for about a month, but several doctor visits confirmed that I was fine).
So after almost 30 years of driving mostly uneventfully (a few minor fender benders like getting rear-ended twice), I’ve now had 2 (and almost 3) pretty scary crashes. None of them my fault, which is actually the scariest thing. You can be the best, most defensive driver in the world with great control, reactions and cool in a crisis but there is so much not in your control. So many idiots that can still make you a target. I’ve definitely felt the insidious anxiety deep within me. I haven’t slept well since that night, which I’m actually not sure is at all related, but I’m also not sure that it’s not. I’m a little more jumpy in the car for the moment. A little apprehensive about the gigs I have coming up and all the driving I have to routinely do for my careers as an actor and musician. My mind sometimes goes to horrific scenarios. I’m trying my best though not to let the fear win. Living in fear is never good, nor necessary. While it’s easy to think things like “Oh man, what if there had been oncoming traffic? What if they had hit me head on? What if that ditch had been deeper or worse? Or the fence was sturdier? Or there was a tree? Or instead of a field it was a lake? Or an overpass? Or I’d been killed? Or maimed and couldn’t play guitar? Or…or…or…”
But then I realize that you can also take everything I just said and turn it into something positive. Like “Wow! I really am so very, very fortunate. So lucky. Someone is watching out for me and no matter what everything will be fine and I’m going to live my life under that assumption and not in fear.” And I will. But I’m also human, and sometimes it will be a fight.
I once had my tarot cards read, which I kind of went on as a lark just for fun, but by the end of it, I was it had really had a profound effect on me. It was a really cool experience and just many of the things she said were eerie, in the best possible way. During this session, among many other things, she mentioned (paraphrasing) “You have two…well they don’t really want me to say because they know you won’t really like this word, but for lack of a better term, guardian angels. And they know you aren’t really religious and all that thus why you probably would balk a little at the term ‘angel’ but they just want you to know they’re there, and you can talk to them if you want.”
Well, great job, you two. Keep up the great work. Seems you’ve been working overtime.
Open letter to all who feel the need to spoil shows before the credits have even finished rolling:
Look, I’m not even that bothered by spoilers. What I am bothered by is the careless attitude.
It is inconsiderate and disrespectful and just not cool. Why do you feel the need? Do you feel the need to be “firsties” or “in with the cool kids who are in the know”? Why the verbal (or textual) diarrhea? Many people can’t watch right away and it’s ridiculous to expect those people to simply avoid the internet completely (which is what would be necessary). I watch shows and then keep my damn mouth shut except for private conversations with people who have seen it and want to discuss it.
And you may think you aren’t spoiling anything by being “vague.” You aren’t. even the vaguest of comments sets viewers to now spend the entire episode looking for that vague thing you mentioned, and in my case, almost always seeing it coming when I wouldn’t have seen it before. Even when purposefully trying to avoid any spoilery conversations, I have been spoiled by accident, by some glimpse that was enough before I could parse what it was and that I shouldn’t read it.
Again, I find the actual spoilers only mildly annoying but the total disregard for other people and their feelings or enjoyment and the entitlement piss me off. If you feel the need to unfriend me over this, I really don’t care. I certainly may at least hide you if you are going to be so inconsiderate of others.
My feed has been ridiculous. Sure there are accidents, and people with good hearts and intentions and people on the other end who are WAY TOO sensitive about spoilers, like “OMG, you said this was a really great episode! SPOILERS!” Or people who think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers. “DAMMIT! Now I know the ending to Soylent Green and The Sixth Sense!”
Just use your heads and try to be considerate. It’s really not that hard. And if you’re selfish enough to think it’s the reader’s problem and they should just live in a cave until they’ve seen something, then good riddance to you.
Here’s some words you probably already know, from a guy you don’t at all know, but sometimes they’re good to hear any way. Fuck the naysayers. You are true to you, and no matter what course of action you take, there will be some group that doesn’t like it. If you grow and change, then there’s the people who don’t like that and want you to go back to the old stuff they like. However, if you keep doing the same thing, then there’s the people who will say you are stagnant and just repeating and rehashing yourself and why don’t you do something new and original.
Music is a relationship, and like all relationships, some will work out and some won’t. There are people who will grow apart, and there are people who will grow and stay together. All you can do is be true to you and there will always be people who will fall away, and new people who will discover you and not like your old stuff and people like me who can enjoy the whole journey, old and new.
If I have one “criticism,” if you want to call it that, it’s that you don’t give old Butch enough respect. I totally understand self-deprecation as a defense mechanism (and one I use quite a lot myself), but when I hear you talk of your old music as if you are embarrassed by it or don’t think it’s as good, it makes me sad and somehow devalues something that I hold in very high regard. If you will, indulge me a little background.
One day, I heard a song on the radio that really caught my ear. I called the radio station (where I used to work, in fact) and found out it was “Sugarbuzz” by some band called Marvelous 3. I bought the single and wore it out. I started seeking out more music by this band. I sampled a few tracks via illegal download (I admit it, I wanted to try before I bought). Found “Vampires in Love,” and many others then immediately went out and bought the other two Marvelous 3 albums. This music spoke to my soul. It fucking rocked, it moved me, it existed on so many levels. It could go from fun, silly, witty rocking to soul wrenching, heart ripping depth. I felt it represented me as person. Complex. Deep, passionate, silly, fun…complex, like most people. “She took a lightsaber to my heart,” “You were cool as hell like email but still timeless like a letter.” That last quote seemed especially apropos for this music. Contemporary but classic. I was hooked. I could quote genius Butch Walker lyrics for days.
You became one of the only contemporary artists making music that I followed and bought every album as soon as it came out. You became a part of my DNA as a musician and song writer in the same way The Beatles were and to this day remain probably my biggest influence alongside them. So to hear you dismiss a lot of that past, I feel is such a disservice not only to those like me who carry it as part of who we are, but more importantly, to yourself as an artist. That shit is not just good, it’s great. As is your new stuff. It doesn’t have to be either/or (despite some trolls who may want to make you feel that way). I know you have especially bad feeling about “My Way,” but I still find it a fun, rocking great song. It may not be as “deep” or “meaningful” as some of your other songs but that doesn’t devalue it as an awesome song in its own right.
I’m pretty sure I’m a fan for life as I doubt any direction you would go would ever be somewhere I wouldn’t want to explore as well. You are kind of my musical “spirit animal” as I feel my own songs and live performance come from a similar place. When I see you live (the best live shows I’ve seen), I can see myself in that performance. I know you’re human and sometimes your position can be a tough one with people ready to criticize no matter what you do, but just know that there’s plenty of us out there who have been on the whole journey and love it all. So don’t be such a bully to old Butch, because he’s still fucking awesome as well. You do what you do for yourself, and those who can appreciate it can enjoy the journey as well and know that you’re not some performing monkey to cater to their own personal wants and whims. You will lose fans and gain new ones. And through it all there will be those who will be there for the entire show, start to finish, singing at the top of our lungs as part of collective music. You’ve changed me as a person and an artist. Continue to stay true to your own personal journey. Don’t stop believing.
(See what I did there?)