"You 'seem' like a normal guy"
...that when Susie was pregnant with the entity who now goes by the name Sammy, she instantaneously rejected my suggestion that we name him Conway. Conway Tweedy. Not even a second lapsed. Didn't even check to see if I was kidding. No laugh. Just NO. I was kidding btw. I think.
… that the retired cop that used to live across the street from us admitted to me that he was nervous when we moved on to the block. He had heard I was a musician and apparently had seen some “things” working backstage at an Ozzy Osborne show in the ‘80’s.
“But I see you taking your kids to school every day. You ‘seem’ like a normal guy.”
We never really talked again.
… how after many years of visiting cities around the world, I’ve developed repetitive patterns and maybe even what would be considered rituals in many of them.
Returning to the exact spots I know I’ve been in the past gives me a feeling of grounding that would otherwise get depleted by a nomadic lifestyle. I’m comforted by retracing my steps.
For example — many many years ago, just before Being There came out, I was in Portland, Maine where Bob Ludwig was mastering our record. One evening I went for a walk on a paved path that runs alongside the narrow gauge railroad next to the briny water of Casco Bay. Just past a sewage treatment plant and right as the trail begins to descend underneath a highway overpass, I came across a makeshift memorial. Some plastic flowers, burnt-down candles, a couple of crosses, a teddy bear, and a few Xeroxed photos of some kids that appeared to be teenagers. Rain had splotched and warped the smiling faces and names on the pages beyond easy recognition, but “Rest In Peace” remained remarkably clear. Everything else—the flowers, candles, the teddy bear—all still radiated with a fresh vitality. This had just happened.
Back in my hotel room later that evening I researched to the best of my ability and the mid-90’s internet’s capability what might have happened to these kids. Morbid curiosity? Maybe. But I felt compelled nonetheless.
I learned that 4 were killed. I learned their names. Make of their automobile. Early morning. Single car crash. Prom.
Nearly every visit to Portland since I’ve made the trek out to visit the same spot.
The first time after my first encounter, the memorial had been formalized with a stone bench and a plaque with three names. Each followed by the familiar year-to-year span that indicates a lifetime. One life that lasted 16 years. And two that had managed an extra year. In the weeds nearby some of the original plastic flowers were still keeping watch.
Second revisit seemed to have coincided with some anniversary or possibly a birthday. Fresh flowers. New teddy bear.
That was the last time any of my visits have provided physical evidence of any loved ones tending to their memory. Although I’m sure someone somewhere was still thinking about them. I mean, besides me.
One visit, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, was the first time I had trouble locating the “spot”. Roadside vegetation had engulfed the stone bench and it took some kicking around in the weeds and brush to uncover it.
The last few times. Nothing. Somehow the bench has disappeared. I’ve looked carefully at the rocks and debris nearby, hopeful I could find some smaller pieces of a former bench that had been broken down by weather or perhaps vandalized. It’s gone.
But it’s not. I still think about it. And them. I even remember the fourth name that had been left off the plaque.
So why share such a sad and brutal tale of mortality and how nearby oblivion looms?
Because I’m still here. And I can. And they can’t tell you. They didn’t get the chance.
I love them.
And I love seeing where I’ve been and being reminded I’m still here.