Was That a Signpost, Rod?

Yes, it was”, says Rod, speaking from within the everpresent cloud of cigarette smoke. ” And could you please try to read them before we’ve gone past?  It sort of defeats the whole purpose. Plus, you could just check the rearview instead of craning your neck out the window like that. Very dangerous.”

” Well, if you could maybe cut back on the smoking to say, only four packs a day, I might actually be able to see out the rearview mirror. And could you please sit down? Why do you have to try to stand up in the back seat?  What are you, five?”

” Hey, pal…the signposts are supposed to be for your enlightenment. I’ve been down this road a few times. And, I wrote the signposts. And, I’m writing the episode you’re in right now. And, I’m considering editing your cranky ass out of this one. And, is shocked the only acting chop you’ve got? How did you even get a gig like this?  How about…remorse…fear…loathing…resentment? Anything? I guess not. Although…If I were you, I’d be shocked too. This might actually make for a pretty good segment after all. Can we back up, roll by the sign again, and can you at least ramp shocked up to horrified?  Should be easy, with this being real and all…even for you…

                                                                      *****

One of my functions where I work is to receive in Metlife insurance customers who are referred to as ” walk-ins.”  They are typically elderly, are exasperated with 1-800 menus, and demand to talk to a ” real agent.”

They are further exasperated by my polite but firm insistence that I am no such thing; but I am in position to get one that’s kept nearby ( I suspect as a form of punishment, in the insurance industry )

Last week marked the visit of one such patron; he comes in twice a year. He claims to be either 87 or 90 years old; his wife passed away 15 years ago.

He’s always dressed the same way; camoflage pants, black boots, and a black Army parade kepi adorned with little flag buttons, regiment insignia, WWII and Korean medals; white tee shirt and a jean vest.

Of all the myriad of walk-ins, he’s a favorite. Eminently polite and respectful, but friendly in a warm way that can only be attributed to wisdom. He’s like an Army-issue Yoda.

I’m always glad to see him come in, and he’s always glad that I’m there to process him. We always manage a few minutes of conversation before he’s seen, and it’s just a pleasant experience. There is a depth and sharpness in his eyes that belies his age.

Have you ever sensed, perchance, that the milestone markers in your life sometimes slip by with hardly a notice? A signpost that you barely caught from the corner of your eye as you rode past?

Well, my elderly vet friend hit me upside the head with one that day, and I’ve yet to quite sort it all out.

It was an unusually busy day, and I told him that he may have to wait for about a half-hour or so.

In his way, he replied; ” Oh, that’s all right. I’ve got plenty of time.” ( A very atypical response among elderly insurance customers, I can assure you. )

And then…with that hundred-mile deep look in his eye, he somehow managed to smile warmly…inclusively…and added…

Guys like us…all we’ve got left is time.”

I was at once …honored, some how. I had just been included… in something that remains totally beyond my comprehension.

I just haven’t the slightest idea what really transpired just then.

 There wasn’t the smallest hint of condescension, or sarcasm. He was being absolutely and purely straightforward. Very disarming, in this day and age.

One should not be sent reeling by a 90-year old Korean War vet. This guy has likely seen things that would reduce me to a fetal position. I am simply not worthy.

And yet he chooses to include me.

He concluded his business, and we bade a warm farewell. Disarming yet again; I truly do hope to see him one more time.

I’ve had a few days to ponder this…and all I’ve come up with so far…

I wonder how much time I have to figure it out.

                                                                          *****

Rod wants me to back up to before the signpost, and go by it again; but this time, instead of shock…try for calm acceptance.

 

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He Never Said Two Words…

…never had to, really…

This is Garth Hudson.

He was the keyboard player in The Band.

In those days, that was kind of like saying you were the ‘ part-time backup school-bus driver.’ Many people thought there wasn’t much need for keyboards in rock and roll bands. They were decorative, mostly.

But I’ ve been listening to an awful lot of Band stuff recently, and have come to this conclusion; in spite of how truly good everyone was respectively, it was the keyboards that really knit everything together. You don’t necessarily get that at first. Between Garth and Richard ( who also played piano), there was a ton of keyboards in their stuff.

My best description of Garth’s style is ‘ demented Appalachian Baptist Church Choir Director.’

If you listen for it, you’ll see what I mean. Very masterful, but with a definitive 19-th century flavor.

For instance, there is a part in ‘ Up On Cripple Creek” that the entire world believed was a jaw harp, until finding out that it was a clavinet being played through a wah pedal.

At the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in ’94, Garth actually spoke…a lot. Most unusual. Making up for lost time, I suppose. I suspect that he might have just been making R.Robertson wait…but it was good to hear from him at last.

Seems like Garth was always the last one mentioned in the liner notes, and in the end, he was much more the foundation of the whole thing.

Garth has done much since the Band days, too; several other projects, solo albums, a million collaborations, web sites all over the place.

He was ‘ the guy’ who made the Band’s material work so well. The real guy. And the best thing about that?

The ‘real guy’ never has to say much about anything. No need.

P.S. … On April 27th, Levon Helm was buried in Woodstock, NY; not far from Rick Danko. In Arkansas, they still flew the flags at half-mast.