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9/11… 18 Years On

September 11th, 2019 Jorma 6 comments

My Uncle Pentti remembered landing at Leyte Gulf to the day he died. The WWII battles in North Africa and Sicily were a part of Uncle Tarmo’s short life. For my father, Jorma Sr. passing through the Philippines and landing in Japan after VJ Day was his story. For me, these are all episodes of Victory At Sea… a show I watched every week on TV as a kid. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s theme music is still burned in my aging brain.

My son was four when that plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington not far from where he and his mom lived. I remember calling to see if they were all right when the lines went dark. Our daughter was not even born yet. She has no memories of 9/11.

I got a call that morning from my friend Michael. I was going into a doctor’s appointment in Columbus. ‘I’ll call you back,’ I said and hung up. ‘Wait a minute. What did he say?’ I called back immediately but the cell service went dark. Nessa and I saw the first tower fall on a wall of TV’s in a Sam’s Club in Canal Winchester and the rest is more than history. Like so many we lost dear friends in the Twin Towers. Nessa went into the pit with Bob… a friend of ours who was a first responder at the time. We had driven to Manhattan that day for a funeral service.

Those days will forever be etched into my memory.

Today in my small way I honor those who fell on that beautiful Fall morning… and those who continue fall as a result of what happened that same Fall morning… September 11, 2001.

I do not forget today… and I will continue to remember.

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Modern Times, Age… And The Apprehensions Of LIfe

August 7th, 2019 Jorma 31 comments

So it’s been a busy week filled with things that were occasionally frustrating, often rewarding and never dull. Last Thursday my pal Smiles and I were working in my barn/shop replacing the ballast in some fluorescent lighting. My phone made that noise that tells me that the Weather Channel was trying to warn us about something. I looked down and there was a warning that a lightning storm was approaching. A lighting event was only four miles away. I looked at the radar. It looked like it was going to just miss us so we kept on working. Looking up, the sky looked like the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things was suddenly hovering over us. I had to rethink my position. A little rain. How bad could it be? The Mind Flayer cloud wrapped itself over the Fur Peace Ranch and in the blink of an eye we were deluged with rain. Hurl was running to his truck to close the sun roof and as we looked out into the rain, the parking lot lit up with the closest lightning strike I’ve ever witnessed.

When we had our first lightning strike in the early 90’s over at Hillside Farm one of my buddies philosophically said, ‘Jorma, lightning goes where it wants to… when it wants to.’ True that. In a millisecond, TV’s were fried… phones were fried… the Ranch internet was fried… and more. The mother board for the Generac fried and the breaker to the pool pump gave up its life to save the pump and the salt generator. Friday we were planning to have a pool party for Izze and twenty of her friends so this was really a potential disaster in the making. Vanessa jumped into Repair Mode as she does and Friday morning Smiles replaced the pool breaker. The party went off as planned and while the kids enjoyed moderate mayhem poolside, Nessa and I sat by the fire.

By the sacred fire pit.

By the sacred fire pit.

Selfie by us

The fire pit sits on the location where Grandpa Wallace Black Elk built a sweat lodge in 1998 and where I heard the Thunder Beings circle the lodge. Wallace Black Elk passed on ‘04 but sharing his spiritual space in ‘98 will never be forgotten.

The space is still sacred!

The space is still sacred!

Timed Selfie

There were no thunder beings today, but the laughter of kids is a good substitute.

Good times!

Good times!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

We found ourselves in an internet free zone, both a blessing and a curse. I had phone service, but I’m not fond of doing internet work on the phone. In any case, Sunday was a beautiful day and I allocated it’s beauty to a motorcycle ride to Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia.

Ritter Park

Ritter Park

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Back in the 90’s I had a dear friend named Butch, aka Taylor. When he found he had cancer he had me record a six hour oral history to leave to his family. He lost a lung but kept on talking and playing his harmonica into my microphone. The cancer came back. I guess he figured ‘What the heck,’ so he started smoking again. I remember recording him while he smoked and breathed oxygen. ‘Don’t blow me up,’ I said. In any case, Butch was also an artist and spent the last year or so of his life creating the stainless steel sculpture I had come to see again in Ritter Park. He called it his ‘Earth Portal,’ and indeed it was, as I shall explain.

The Portal... Sunday in the park...

The Portal... Sunday in the park...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

As I was walking towards the sculpture from my bike, a father and son stopped to look at the work. They were walking away as I was approaching it and I called to them, ‘My friend built this twenty years ago before he passed. He would be thrilled to know that families are still enjoying it. They regarded me with suspicion, but that’s OK. These are suspicious times, and I said what I had to say. Less than a week after Butch saw the work placed, he walked through his own Earth Portal… and was gone. My friend Jerry was there that day when the statue was placed and he got to spend some time Butch. ‘There are no ripples on my pond,’ he said.

What more could one want.

...and he lives on in a way!

...and he lives on in a way!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The new week came and each day we worked to fix the burned out items. We have a camp this weekend so it was imperative to get everything back to normal, which we did… an hour ago.

And so it goes, people coming, people going. As my friend Gretchen Peters would say, ‘Good times come, good times go. If it lifts you up, it will lay you low. People leave and they don’t come back. Life is a disappearing act.’

Trials and tribulations notwithstanding, so far so good.

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

A Stay Off Blue Ridge Parkway

July 13th, 2019 Jorma 32 comments

Nessa and I have known Jerry Weiner for over thirty years. Well, Nessa has known him longer than that. He was Nessa’s best bud in Key West before we met and he was her ‘maid of honor’ at our wedding on the Schooner Wolf in 1988. Jerry has done and been many things in his life, but he is also a master masseuse currently in residence at the Westglow Resort And Spa in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The Kaukonens travel together a lot… that’s what we do, but we rarely get true family time. We had a couple of days after I got back from Hawaii so Ness conspired with Jerry to book us into the Westglow. We climbed into my big truck and drove on down.

It had been a while since I had been on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it’s easy to forget how beautiful it is. Five hours later we were there checking into the Fleur De Lis house.

The girls walking up Daingerfield.

The girls walking up Daingerfield.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

A delicious dinner in the Rowland House and a good night’s sleep in preparation for a morning trip to the Mile High bridge at Grandfather Mountain.

Here we are!

Here we are!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

I’d been to Mt. Mitchell, but Never Grandfather Mountain. It was truly awesome!

The girls on Mile High Bridge

The girls on Mile High Bridge

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Some consider that Appalachian Mountains to be among the oldest in the world. This is awesome stuff!

Speaks for itself!

Speaks for itself!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Straight down...

Straight down...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

This is better than my drone! What a view!

Nessa... standing on top of he world!

Nessa... standing on top of he world!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The back to Westglow and the Rowland for another five star dinner and sunset!

This is au naturel!

This is au naturel!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Another restful night at the Fleur De Lis, breakfast and a goodbye to Westglow and Jerry.

Izze, Nessa and jerry

Izze, Nessa and jerry

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Like I said, to just get away on a trip that is not surrounded with work… well, it just never happens.

Goodbye view from the porch at Rowlands.

Goodbye view from the porch at Rowlands.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Short but sweet… and now back home on a hot, hot July day!

Onwards!

My Heart Is Heavy…

June 9th, 2019 Jorma 25 comments

It’s been a tough couple of days. As noted, My friend Dr. John passed, Madeleine M. passed and earlier today I found that my friend of almost thirty some years, Spencer Bohren passed yesterday. Vanessa and I met Spencer in Fort Collins, Colorado in the very early 90’s and we were all kindred spirits in the blink of an eye. Spencer was a complete artist on so many levels that frankly I hardly know where to begin. He was one of the most understated examples of humanity that I hardly know where to begin… and he was my friend. He does not need me to eulogize him, his life speaks for itself and all of us who were honored to know him an call him friend, know exactly what I’m talking about. He was ten years younger than I and although his life was cut far too short, he made the most of it… always!

When he was diagnosed with cancer he and his wife Marilyn faced that harsh reality with a pure grace I’m not sure I could have mustered. I know that I will miss him on so many levels and who knows, his next gig may be the most amazing one of all. You are so missed my brother and I shall never take for granted the blessings of your friendship.

As if this wasn’t enough reality for one day as i was driving to New York for my gig with Phil Lesh Tuesday and Wednesday, I got a call from Vanessa. Our young friend Andrew, the same age as our daughter Izze, passed from cancer. When our Izze was first with us, Andrew was one of her very first friends. We all Trick Or Treated together and well… they were very young together. Andrew had been fighting an aggressive cancer for a couple of years. He was one of the toughest humans I have ever known. His family is one of the strongest families I have ever had the honor to know. I cannot possibly walk in their shoes… I hope I never have to. There is not much more I can say except I love them all and hope they can find whatever peace they need to find. As a parent, it is unthinkable to me that I should outlive my children.

Spencer, play a couple of songs for Andrew… in fact, show him how to play the guitar.

Fair winds and following seas you guys… fair winds and following seas!

You will be missed…

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Pages Turn… And Eras Pass

June 6th, 2019 Jorma 18 comments
Mac and I, Seva Benefit at the Beacon May 27, 2011

Mac and I, Seva Benefit at the Beacon May 27, 2011

Foto by Phil Jacobs

I was having dinner with Vanessa in town tonight. Our Izze had a sleepover so we had a date… sort of. I was just tasting my Thai Iced Coffee when I got a text from my old pal Michael Falzarano. The simple gist was that Dr. John The Night Tripper, aka Mac Rebennack had just passed away. I met Mac through Steve Mann in 1964 before my foray into rock ‘n’ roll. Mac and Steve were session players back then and Steve was trying to teach me to read so I could cut the gig too. It wasn’t for me, but we stayed friends. In 1965 when I got into the Airplane and moved to San Francisco on Divisadero between Turk and Eddy I got a call from Steve from the Swiss American Hotel in North Beach where he was bunking with Mac. There was some sort of confrontation between the guys and the police. I think women and drugs sere involved, but I wasn’t there so I can’t swear to it. Anyway, they came to my place and stayed for a couple of days until things cooled off. San Francisco was a very conservative place back then and any bust could turn out to be a major drag.

In any case, years passed. Mac became Dr. John, Steve would live a damaged life and we would all get older. In the late 90’s, I was part of a Seva benefit. Bonnie Raitt and John Lee Hooker were on that show. I was sharing a dressing room with Maria Muldaur, Dr. John and Bob Weir. Mac took me aside and is his raspy voice said, ‘Jorma, I owe you a solid… but I’m not going to tell you what it is.’ I guess I’ll have to wait to find out… I’m not in a rush. Steve Mann passed away but I would see Mac from time to time. He was indeed, the King Of New Orleans Funk! Indeed! I will miss our occasional intersections.

After dinner Nessa and I were over at her sister’s place sitting in my Jeep when I got a call from my friend Mark in Florida. His mom, Madelaine, passed away this afternoon at one hundred and one. Madelaine had lived in Florida for years, but she was a Meigs County girl… one of our own. Any time I would see her when Nessa wasn’t with me she would say, ‘Where is that pretty girl?’ She was a Steel Magnolia… and here’s to her and those like her… damn few left.

So I lost two more friends today and yes I know, sorrow is so selfish, but when the fury of the moment has passed, what is left but love?

We are all losing people… that’s life and I’m not alone. It is an honor for having known the good ones!

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Honor Memorial Day

May 28th, 2019 Jorma 15 comments
Jorma Sr. and Pentti

Jorma Sr. and Pentti

Portraits by my Dad, Jorma Sr.

Tarmo Kaukonen in Italy, WWII

Tarmo Kaukonen in Italy, WWII

Photographer unknown

On Memorial Day as the Kaukonens try their best to honor our fallen I usually default to fotos of my dad and his two brothers. Uncle Tarmo survived North Africa and Italy to die in a VA hospital in 1945 from lung cancer. Pentti never really came back from the Pacific and died quite young in a VA hospital in Northern California. My Dad, Jorma Sr. was fortunate to have lived a decently full life. For the three Kaukonen boys, serving in WWII was of paramount importance to their identity as first generation Americans… that’s just how it was.

Memorial Day was yesterday and indeed it was plain to me that as we enjoyed a beautiful day in the country that we owed it all to members of our Armed Forces! A debt to all those brave men and women that can never be repaid. fired up my bike and took a ride around the county and when I came to the site of the Buffington Island Skirmish where Union forces won that battle in 1863.

Buffington Island Skirmish today...

Buffington Island Skirmish today...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

For a moment I found myself wrapped in history.

Talking to my friend Chuck out in California yesterday (himself a Vietnam Vet) he pointed out that our fallen lost two lives… the one they had, and the one they never got to live.

Honor Memorial Day!

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Milestones And Music

May 23rd, 2019 Jorma 16 comments

So another camp here at the Fur Peace Ranch has come and gone.

The guys from last week.

The guys from last week.

Foto by John Hurlbut

The great Woody Mann was teaching last weekend as well as myself. I gave a songwriting workshop and I have to tell you, I am impressed and humbled by the hard work and honesty these guys all manifested.

Me and the guys...

Me and the guys...

Foto by John Hurlbut

Each one of these guys came away with five songs in various stages of completion. Truly awesome!

Saturday night with had our first guitar free concert… and I say this with a benign smile on my face. It was a jazz shows featuring Eric Alexander on Sax, Peter Dominguez on upright bass, Larry Willis on piano and Victor Jones on drums. So we’re live streaming the show from our Fur Peace Ranch channel and I’m occasionally going backstage so I can weigh in on comments. Most people really dug the transcendence of the show, and I’ll get to that in a moment. One soul simply said, ‘I don’t understand jazz.’ I found this interesting. As someone who likes a great and utterly disparate landscape of music, I never found I really had to ‘understand’ anything. I just liked it or I didn’t. Now there are lots of different kinds of jazz just as there is a great variety of rock etc. Some touches me and some doesn’t. Eric and his A Team of players were playing songs and exploring an ever changing musical universe of changes and sonic delights. Again, I’m not a jazz player and I never will be, but I love good music, and theirs touched my soul. Thanks guys! I appreciated this evening more than you will ever know. It was first rate music played by world class guys!

Live on the Fur Peace Station stage!

Live on the Fur Peace Station stage!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

More of the guys

More of the guys

Foto by jorma Kaukonen

Larry Willis on the 1903 Chickering

Larry Willis on the 1903 Chickering

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Anybody who owns anything knows that constant maintenance is well… constant. Nessa and I as owners of the Ranch are constantly called upon to step up to the plate, metaphorically speaking. We had some water problems again and here’s how we dealt with it.

Nessa... in the mud up to her knees with a leaky pipe

Nessa... in the mud up to her knees with a leaky pipe

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Notice, She’s in the hole… I’m taking the picture.

That’s my girl!

Plumbing problems sort of in the rear view mirror, I took some updated drone shots of the Ranch in between storms.

Looks nicer greened out!

Looks nicer greened out!

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

All this excitement notwithstanding, our daughter, Izze, joined here classmates for their Eighth Grade Class Trip to Washington, D.C. Now Izze has been to D.C. a lot… with Mom and Dad. I know this one was different for here… and different for Nessa and myself as parents. Time is slipping through our fingers like water. Our girl and here pals will be in high school next year. I know this is all good… and as it should be. Still and all, it is a bittersweet moment for us.

Izze and her friends at the Korean War Memorial

Izze and her friends at the Korean War Memorial

Foto by Izze Kaukonen

There have been many wars during my lifetime and the monuments in D.C. are more than powerful. Vietnam of course, is a war that defined my time in many ways, but for some reason, the Korean War Memorial has always had an effect on me.

Well… the kids are growing, the world is still turning and all I can say is… so far so good.

Onward!

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

Brother Ray Heads For The Shore

April 15th, 2019 Jorma 20 comments
Ray at 24

Ray at 24

Poster by Kevin Morgan

Brother Ray Heads For The Shore
Monday, April 15, 2019

Here at the Fur Peace Ranch we just concluded another amazing weekend with Larry Campbell and myself as teachers and Larry, Teresa, Justin and Jesse as the concert. Well, they dealt me in for the second set and it is always a joy and an honor to hang with these folks. The circumstances the Ranch never ceases to elevate me from my daily world… always; The giving and receiving from friends, old and new sustains us… it really does!

Time moves on relentlessly, inexorably… because that’s what time does. There is no ‘pause’ button, no ‘rewind…’and absolutely no ‘do overs.’ Sometimes one is part of a story greater that oneself and one of these amazing stories in my life involves the Hurlbut family.

Jorma with Ray on his 95th Birthday

Jorma with Ray on his 95th Birthday

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

John Hurlbut has been our Ranch Manager for twenty some years but he and Vanessa and I go way back beyond that. I met Johnny in the early 80’s when Kurt promoted a solo Jorma show and Johnny was somehow involved. We became friends, he and I and his brother Pete, and his friend Wally and Jay the Bass player (now long gone) and a host of Columbus characters; some still with us, some on the shore of the River Of Time.

In 1984 I left twenty years of life in San Francisco and hit the road for the East Coast. It was a long-awaited homecoming. I always was an East Coast kid! I would stop off in Cleveland and Ray and Lucy Hurlbut would let me sleep on a couch in their basement as long as I needed to before the next stage of my journey They would tap me on the shoulder in the morning and coffee and breakfast would be waiting.

When Vanessa and I started out thirty-year relationship in 1988 in Key West, Johnny was down visiting his folks who were snowbirding. He stopped by our pad down by the Southernmost Point and as Vanessa was getting to know him she said, ‘I don’t trust him. He’s too nice.’ But that’s just who he was and that’s who the Hurlbut family is. Our daughter Israel carries the name of three strong women. Israel Love Diana Lucy Kaukonen. Love was my mom’s middle name, Diana was Jack’s beloved wife and Lucy was Ray’s other half. She was Mother to John and Pete and Mary Lou.

The Kaukonen’s will never cease loving and respecting the four generations of Hurlbuts we have come to count as friends and family.

After Lucy passed away eight or nine years ago the relationship that Ray and I shared changed. He was no longer John’s dad to me… he was more like an older brother .I embraced his counsel and he always had a relevant view of current events and family. I loved the man dearly… and still do. Time has a relentless way of leveling the playing field. Ray was born in 1921, flew as a radio operator in bombers in the Pacific in WW II. He had a long and productive life! Today at 1640, Ray Hurlbut went home for the last time. Johnny was able to be there and sing songs and then by the Grace of G_d Ray gently left us… like the passing of a tree. He was 98 years old~!

I could go on, but then I would start repeating myself. Nessa and I got to visit him last Wednesday and we were able to swap hugs and stories. He was still sharp as a tack… the Ray I had known for years. For some time, I had graduated from being Johnny’s friend to being Ray’s brother. It was honor I shall not soon forget!

At moments like this, we all say ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ The real loss would have been if I had never known the man. He was one of my many blessings. Our friend Wally and his wife Cat visited him the other day and Ray told Wally, ‘Tell my brother Jorma I’ll be saving him a seat next to me on the stage… but tell him not to rush.’ That was Ray.

I will miss the man of course, but the honor was mine to have known him and the rest of his family.

Anchors aweigh my brother and as always… fair winds and following seas.

The Bros...

The Bros...

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

The Ladys Man at 98

The Ladys Man at 98

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

Chicken Today, Feathers Tomorrow

March 27th, 2019 Jorma 12 comments
The Lyle Tuttle body shirt...

The Lyle Tuttle body shirt...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Chicken Today…
RIP Lyle Tuttle
9/7/1931 to 3/25/2019

I found out this morning that my old friend, Lyle Tuttle passed away two days ago in Ukiah, California. When I use the term ‘Old Friend’ I do not mean to imply that Lyle and I had been constantly hanging out together over the years. That would be untrue. We had been friends back in the 60’s when I got my first tattoo from him and even though we rarely saw each other after the 70’s, nothing ever happened in my orbit that would prevent me from calling him friend.

Lyle’s passing truly marked the passing of an era for me. Back when I got my first ink, that little event was like taking a walk on the wild side. The whole tattoo thing was still outré back then and it marked all of us with ink as outsiders. Over the years I have been tattooed by a number of artists who by their work have become historical. Lyle broke my cherry with a little Mayan stamp on my back. Pat Martynuik gave me some classic roses on my right arm. Lyle would follow with a Mayan eagle on my left arm which Don Ed Hardy would surround with a serpent. Bob Roberts would crest my Roses with a horned demon. Don Ed would give me a 47 hour back piece and five or six years later Doc Slick would put a rose on the back of my right hand. D. Willy would do a tribal piece on my left arm that spills over to my chest and Bridget Punsalang would give me a skull on my right forearm two years ago at Lyle Tuttle’s Old School Tattoo Convention in St. Louis.

For me it all started with Lyle. He was a larger than life character. Some folks liked him, some didn’t… but he could not be ignored. It would be hard to deny that he was a major force in bringing tattooing in the mainstream… and that is a good thing.

The planet is a little poorer for Lyle’s passing. He was a helluva guy. I am already missing him profoundly because one of my bucket list items will now go undone. I had planned to visit him, and now this will have to wait… for a long time, I hope!

Lyle had a motto of sorts on his chest. Gallina Hodie, Plumae Cras. Chicken today, feathers tomorrow. I can really take that to heart today. If something needs to be done, today is probably a good day to do it. Thanks Lyle.

I fondly remember Lyle’s Bull Terrier, Chadwick. Chadwick was the first Bully I ever met and as a result of that meeting, in later years there would a number of Bullies in my life.

Chadwick and Lyle back in the late 60's

Chadwick and Lyle back in the late 60's

Archival Foto

With all these thoughts running through my head today I am reminded that I need to tell people I care about that I care about them. The ones I love need to be held close and to be frequently reminded that they are dwelling in my heart.

Rest in peace Lyle and know that at least as long as I am walking the earth, a piece of you will walk with me.

Fair wind and following seas brother…

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

From San Francisco To Bright Angel

March 16th, 2019 Jorma 30 comments
From the South Rim

From the South Rim

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

After the second night at the Sweetwater I flew to Phoenix to meet Vanessa and Izze and we drove up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for a couple of days. I had been here in the Fall of 2003 with my pal Jerry on our still memorable Rt. 66 by motorcycle trip. The weather up in the Canyon had been iffy at best, but on this day… it was perfect.

The girls on the South Rim

The girls on the South Rim

Photo by Jorma Kaukonen

Ir’s hard not to take a great picture art the Grand Canyon on a day like this. I just picked a couple for the blog.

I get it... I'm not the only guy who's got one!

I get it... I'm not the only guy who's got one!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

We could only get so far on Bright Angel, but it was awesome!

At 8000 feet, you can't make this stuff up!

At 8000 feet, you can't make this stuff up!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Spring Break with the kid

Spring Break with the kid

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

The ladies, on top of the world

The ladies, on top of the world

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The Old Man and the Mountain

The Old Man and the Mountain

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

It was a great way for me to finish up my road trip. To be with Family at the Grand Canyon… Priceless!

But who's counting?

But who's counting?

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

Categories: Diary, Thoughts, Treats And Treasures Tags: