My real introduction to Gram Parsons ...

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 15, 2007 10:43am | Post a Comment
I came at Gram sideways, when my eyes saw the words ... Grievous Angel, Fallen Angel, Love Hurts  ... it was December, 2003 and I hadn't listened intently to any of Gram's music. I'd heard it over the years, but I'd never sat and played it in a dark room with my soul torn open, Gram playing on a little boombox while I sobbed like I could cry everyone's mortality away.

See, someone had just died. Here were all of her things, I'm trying to sort them out - and here was her Gram records. I had never known that Gram sang "Love Hurts,"  honest to God. I thought that was a Nazareth song. I know a lot about music, but sometimes I'm still that dumb kid who grew up in the 70's.

I spent about 3 weeks in that apartment listening to those albums over and over, and I thought ... this is what miracles are. That something so beautiful, angelic and sorrowful could whisper in the background of your life as your friends were all hip to it ... but sometimes the music waits until exactly when you need it. Then it runs you over like a Mack truck. The kind of Mack truck that heals you while you fall in love with it.

I had to put aside Gram for years, because the pain was too great. See, it was my best friend's Mom who had just died. I'd never been in a situation to have an aging parent, and I certainly had never been around to take an older woman to her (frustrating) doctor appointments, carry grocery bags upstairs and talk about how Nevada Barr is no Faulkner, but sometimes you can go the prettiest places in a 1.99 soft cover from Moe's Books in Berkeley, when you can't afford to get on a plane. Or when you're dying, and you probably know that deep in your bones. I'd never watched someone I respected so much ... just waste away. Disappear.

I wish we'd talked about her music too, because that woman had some damn good records. (You bet a whole lot of Emmylou was in in there was well.)  You never know someone it seems, until far too late. What would my life had been like if she'd hit play on "Love Hurts" back in the summer of 2003? Different, but in a way, I suppose this was better. I can't judge.

The way Gram touched me then, in that empty apartment as I searched for any legal papers to help my friend ... it's indescribable. Like many things from 2003, I had to put it away in a box in my heart where it wouldn't hurt so much. Roll the years up, and it's almost exactly 4 years later.  I still speak to people about 2003, all of it: get a second or third doctor's opinion is one - stop smoking them damn cigarettes is another. (I smoked for 20 years, and you can quit.)

Now here it is, December 2007 and I am listening to Gram and crying a lot again. Turns out I've been having this little disease scurrying around inside my body for a couple of years, and the Doctor yesterday said that she herself she squeezed me in because she knew time was imperative to act on this. She knew that if I had to wade through the weeks of red tape, well, this here might just come to an ugly head just too late ... just a little too late.

So even though I seem to have learned nothing in 2003: I wasted away, something was terribly wrong and I never sought a second opinion ... but Hell, Gram and his sweet voice are there for me again. So I learn, just a whole lot weirder and slower than most folks. I'm more of a cautionary tale than a smart person. I suppose part of the best of all of this is I don't have to put him away this time: I'm stronger now, and I don't need to be alone in an empty, yet full, apartment to cry.  I can walk down the street and cry. I could cry in your arms.

Right about four years ago this week, Jolie Holland played a live concert inside the walls of Amoeba, San Francisco. I'd been looking forward to it like crazy, and yet there I was ... four years ago now, sipping coffee at a memorial for a truly remarkable woman who had left us far too damn soon, and who had left me a love for Gram Parsons that hurt so bad I couldn't talk about it for 4 years. So thank you Josephine, for more than you can imagine. Everyday something reminds me of you, yesterday I parked next to a car identical to yours except, wait the paint job wasn't quite right. I admit, though, I looked inside to double-check that it wasn't yours.

Now, I can listen to Gram again, and I thank you for that as well. I never thanked your for my best friend.

I don't believe in death anymore, so wherever you are Josephine, wherever Gram is:  thank you. My soul had needs and you both indirectly slipped beauty into those empty spots.

Maybe next time you see someone you care about doing drugs or wasting away ... maybe you should walk up to them and ask if they need you. Wasting away doesn't equal drug use, and drug use usually equals pain. A hug? An ear? A ride to the doctor? I thought that was what our time here was all about. Love.

Tammy Wynette sang these words:

The world has never been so cold and lonely
The sky has never been a deeper blue
Just like you, there's someone just as lonely
And you know God made 'em special just for you

Reach out your hand, and touch somebody.                                                 - The Insomniac

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Cancer (10), Flying Burrito Brothers (2), Fallen Angels. Second Opinion (1), Gram Parsons (7), Smoking Sucks (1), Tammy Wynette (4)