While I put up there in the title “miss you” it’s not really a post about depression and heartbreak, at least that’s not how I’m intending to start it on these first few syllables.
Yesterday I had a rehearsal with a group of musicians who are from all walks of life, all ages and stage of family, and our entire goal was to have some fun. The gig we’re rehearsing for is a fundraiser and it’s really the first time I’ve actually practiced with them and it was a blast. It really was. There’s a reason it was so fun, too. It’s similar to the days that I spent with Julia Sinclair when she needed a place for the night. I love to play the guitar, but playing it surrounded by people who are better than you or who have knowledge of songs and styles you’ve never played, is more fun for me. I actually like when I’m a little uncomfortable and able to use that to learn new things to play.
Years ago my first band that I started – not the first band I’d been in, but the first band that I formed and created – ran a jam session at a club called the Howard Street Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska. There were certainly things I regretted. The long-haired musician who was obsessed with doing a metal version of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page made me cringe every time he came – and he showed up every week and wanted to play it every set. I hated that there were guys who didn’t know how to operate a tube amplifier, would plug in and out without putting the tubes on “standby” and then fry my power tubes. Fry those . . . and you have to buy a matched pair, at that time usually from some Russian company, and then have the bias adjusted so they’re operating in sync. Average cost even then was probably a couple hundred bucks when you were finished. We got $25 each . . . and that was before we paid for our beer.
But the best thing was the amazing knowledge I gained. I’d been in cover bands, playing crap, ’80s pop, Born to be Wild every freaking night. We got stiffed by Foghat of all bands . . . FOGHAT! To this day I can’t hear them on the radio without wanting to rip it out of the dash. With this band, I was a sponge. An amazing singer – with the best name – Chester McSwain used to come in every couple weeks. He had a canvas fedora and a dark tan trenchcoat. He’d sing Muddy Waters and direct us to where he wanted breaks and told me to pop my strings more when I played Catfish Blues or Mannish Boy. A Native American harmonica player who would only tell us his name was Kurt would wander in with a beat to shit ’58 tweed Fender Bassman amplifier and homemade mics. He played harp like Musselwhite and sang like Jim Morrison. A random guitar player from St. Louis stopped in with a National Resoglass USA Map guitar and played slide with a style I only started to grasp . . . and then he left. We never saw him again.
So when I came in to rehearsal last night I was happy to be playing songs I didn’t know with people who just wanted to play. No egos, no bozos, no preppies, no crap. (That bozos/preppies line is for my brothers – they know what it’s about) I had the same giggle and grin when we’d harmonize the guitar bridge on Rhiannon and looked confuzzled when I tried to play the guitar and sing Reelin’ in the Years. (For the record, I have even more respect for that talented bastard Jeff “Skunk” Baxter now!)
I drove home on an endorphin high and an emotional swell. The only hiccup was playing Andrea’s favorite song: Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. The song went well, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t break up during it like I had at home. I did hit the guitar a bit harder than I should. I also, being more than a little nervous, started it far too fast – closer to the original, which wasn’t my intention.
Playing that song, with the backup vocals going in behind me and hearing it gave me shivers.
I got home, proud I’d sung it and performed it . . . and then realized I was walking in the door with the intention of telling Andrea what a great rehearsal I’d had. The high I felt, the goosebumps, the love of the emotion . . . that feeling was overwhelming me and it pulled me back ten years to when I’d come home from rehearsal in the dingy basement of my brother’s house in Omaha. Or when I got a guitar line from a Gmaj tuning on the Dobro and had to race over and tell my brother what a great song I’d just written in the last 2 hours. I’d do that and then come home, talking a mile a minute, and recount how I felt to my wife.
Don’t get me wrong . . . Andrea hardly understood. Not really. But she listened, and she was the person I always shared all this with.
You see, I talk about the physical things here, the touches, the brush of her hand, the soft press of her lips . . . the press of her skin next to mine. Those all remain in my muscle memory to this day. I miss those, sure.
But if I could be sure she heard me . . . I’d just look to her and say . . . “miss you.”
That’s it. The entirety. Sure, I have the kids. I can text Abbi. I can call my folks or Andrea’s sister and brother-in-law. I can talk to them. But it’s just not the same.
On my trip home from Los Angeles on the 1st – during my birthday – I’d sunk deep into a despair after seeing the ocean and her picture wind-blown in my hands. It wasn’t really very easy to contend with. I loved her and I failed her as well. I wanted to tell her all those things I wished I had. Last night . . . I just wanted to tell her how happy I was.
I was lucky on the 1st. On the way home my phone rang . . . and a friend and I reconnected. I’d spoken with her before, but this time I actually listened. There was no monologue, there was dialogue. For the first time in more than a year I’d finally talked and it was about the present, not my past year, not my past two decades, but what was going on. I was pushed to meet another musician, solidified my decision to play this fundraiser, and climbed back up to the top of those cliffs of insanity.
But last night I wanted to talk to Andrea. Just for a few minutes. If for no other reason, to tell her that – even though she wouldn’t believe it when she was alive – still, I’m going to miss you.