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…A Forest Of Intentions

February 23rd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

A Forest Of Intentions
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Durham, North Carolina

Behind my children’s eyes lie a forest of intentions. Their take on the world sparkles with an intensity that only youth will sustain. Each day, each voyage fills the stores of their growing memory with the substance of their time that will one day be relived in dreams. I see this in them and other children I know that even though my walk in those fields was in another century, I remember the smell of that spring pasture as if it were this morning.

I would like to tell them to treasure these moments and hold them close in the museum of the heart but they have no need to dust off such keepsakes yet… that will come in time if they are lucky. I was in the Museum Of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia the other day. It was primarily a museum of trains and related vehicles but there was a section with cars in it. I love things like this so I walked into the hall expecting to dance in the midway of the past. My expectations could not have prepared me for my first vision which was of a 1950 Studebaker… my very first car which I got in 1955 and began to drive legally in 1956. Now my Studebaker was a Starlite Coupe… the two door version of this sedan, but no matter… from the front they looked exactly the same and they were the same color. That car was a freedom machine for me. As long as I had enough money for a little gas, there was nowhere I couldn’t or wouldn’t go. Guitar in the trunk, radio blasting, three dollars worth of gas in the tank and off we went in search of life.

Seeing that car opened the door into summer yet one more time and that was only the beginning. On the other side of the hall was a 1950 Packard four door sedan. Both my parents and my grandparents had one of these giants. Mom and Dad’s car was green and had an automatic transmission. Mom started to teach me to drive around the neighborhood in Chevy Chase where I grew up when I was thirteen. On quiet weekends we would drive down into Rock Creek Park. (Even though as a kid we lived all over the world, I am a D.C. boy at heart. That is my hometown.) My grandfather, Benjamin S. Levine, PhD had a black Packard… same year, standard transmission. When I came home from the Philippines in 1958 for my senior year of high school at Woodrow Wilson there in D.C. I brought my Lambretta scooter with me, but when I needed a car, Ben would let me drive the Packard. There in that museum hall in Roanoke was such a car, and that wasn’t all.
Ben's Packard

Out in the yard with the trains was a trolley car. It looked familiar. I told Vanessa I thought it looked like a D.C. trolley. I went closer and went through the door. It was a D.C. trolley. On the front of the car was a sign touting a trip to Glen Echo Amusement Park with pools and a roller coaster now long gone.
glen echo trolley
I took that car to Glen Echo to go swimming in the summer. I still remember the sound coins and tokens made traversing the maze of the coin box. I remember the close humidity of the non-air conditioned car… even with all the windows open. I remember the crack of electricity and the smell of the ozone when the trolley jumped the wire. We would come to a stop and the motorman would get out and guide the trolley back onto the wire and off we would go again. The smell of the chlorine in the pool mixed with suntan oil will always be entwined with the sight of the girls we knew from school sunning themselves in the dawn of their lives.
in the trolley

I wandered through the steam engines and cars and I thought how, in 1959, I rode one of the last steam trains out of Union Station in D.C. to Columbus, Ohio on my way back to school in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Steam travel is now a quaint oddity for summer excursions on historic railroad lines. Then, it was still just transportation.
last train out

Some of my band mates from the tour showed up about then. We all wound up talking with the ticket taker guy who was about my age. When I told him about all the touchstones of memory surrounding me he pointed out that you know you’re getting old when all the things that were important to you as a kid can now only be found in museums. How true… how true!
chewin the fat

I think of these things from time to time. Bill Haile, who was my best friend when I was a kid has now been dead a number of years. I miss our occasional reunions. We led different lives, but in the end we were always friends. His passing has left a void in my life even though we rarely saw each other. Like my Uncle Art, now gone for a number of years, like Mom and Dad… the passing of time places them in a hall of memories that, when opened, not only allows them to enter our hearts but gently reminds us of the precious moments we are given to share with those we love here on this side of eternity.
I LIke Ike

Behind my children’s eyes lies a forest of intentions. It is a precious forest filled with first growth. We were all there once as we walked in that wilderness seeking a place to build our lives. Behind my eyes lies a commitment not to forget the past and a veiled perception of the road I would like to follow into the future. Between what is gone and what lies ahead, I am blessed to say that there is nothing wrong with today. As I look outside my hotel room window here in Durham, I see I-85 with traffic rushing north and south. I would rather be home on a day like this, but I shall be home again before too long.

The sky is a pale blue and the clouds are undefined splashes of white gauze stretching to the horizon. I can see that winter is relinquishing it’s hold and that another spring is on the way.

I look forward to it.

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  1. February 23rd, 2011 at 17:19 | #1


    Thanks for sharing. Good stuff!

  2. 1iWally
    February 23rd, 2011 at 18:01 | #2

    Great stuff Jorma——- it reminds me of a time last year when I can across a 1956 Chrysler Windsor (my dads first NEW car)—it brought back so many memories—Thanks for reminding me——–Wally

  3. Richard
    February 23rd, 2011 at 18:42 | #3

    Yep..Deep stuff from the heart..Thought phil might have been wrong..but when the sappy stuff starts flowing from the heart,,,spring is right around the bend.I got real interested about the suntan oil and dawning of life.Thanks for all the great pics…

  4. Frank Filipo
    February 23rd, 2011 at 19:52 | #4

    Beautifully written. Many of us share these feelings, few can paint the picture as you do. Thanks, Jorma.

  5. February 24th, 2011 at 07:09 | #5

    Keep writting Jorma, I really enjoyed this piece.

  6. Lou
    February 24th, 2011 at 08:09 | #6

    I too enjoy reading your blog….specially your thoughts on “Behind my children’s eyes….” So true so true. Your reflections instantly started the Lennon/McCartney song in my head, “There are places I remember.” Was lucky enough to attend your 70th birthday show on Saturday night and look forward to seeing Tuna in Overland Park KS on 3/5. Keep on Truckin’ Momma, and Daddie haha…

  7. AGRIPPO55
    February 24th, 2011 at 08:38 | #7

    Jorma,this is your best blog.My eyes fill with tears for people I lost in my life.

  8. AGRIPPO55
    February 24th, 2011 at 08:40 | #8

    Would have loved to see more of the steam engines.

  9. Paul Karp
    February 24th, 2011 at 11:24 | #9

    Beautiful and moving. My mind often wanders to my childhood…. growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, NY.

    You are a talented writer and I hope one day to read your life story. This is something that should not be left to anyone else but you!

    L’Chaim my friend….

  10. Rob Weber
    February 24th, 2011 at 15:00 | #10

    That was really really good Jorma, thanks for sharing it with me! Made me think of my old High School buddy who passed a little while ago at the age of 50. I miss you Rich!

    And for something a little different…I am pretty sure (I’ll check my facts) it was Studebaker that was started out in a barn in the town of Gettysburg, PA. I am not a car aficiondo but I am student of the American Civil War (for 40 years) and of course a life long Jorma fan. My two worlds have just colided!

    Rob Weber

  11. Bill F
    February 24th, 2011 at 15:42 | #11


    So beautifully written.
    A recent open house at the grammar school I attended, which was about to be converted to another purpose, led to some of those same flashes of the familiar, despite nearly 50 years of absence. Especially the gym and the cafeteria, oddly.
    Thanks for reviving those memories.


    Bill F

  12. February 24th, 2011 at 19:07 | #12

    Very interesting and moving. Thank you for the deep memory.

  13. Bake
    February 24th, 2011 at 19:46 | #13

    this reminded me of the 1948 Nash that my brother charlie and I used to cruise with, just about the time when Burgers first came out. I remember buying the album and seeing the Hot Tuna gang all huddled up inside that old black sedan with the big chrome headlights—- just brought back really good memories, loved the music then~love the music now! I must admit, I miss Papa John big time. Thanks for sharing Jorma.

  14. Joe Moore
    February 24th, 2011 at 21:32 | #14

    I had to read this twice . It was so thoughtful , spiritual and ……..so true . At 62 , I think of the past but then , I think of today and tomorrow . Jorma , your writing always brings me peace. Thank you !

  15. John R.
    February 24th, 2011 at 21:35 | #15

    very cool, Jorma.

  16. Rick Johnson
    February 25th, 2011 at 00:51 | #16

    Jorma, I just commented but return after reading your great post about autographs and such from a few days back. You hit the right tone and should be applauded for stating it so clearly and well. Totally solid. I look forward to meeting you at Fur Peace later this summer. In the meantime, good picking.

  17. Joe from DC
    February 25th, 2011 at 11:24 | #17

    thanks buddy…………. carry-on

  18. Steve Singer
    February 25th, 2011 at 11:51 | #18

    Jorma, this is a beautiful piece of writing. While I am not a car fan, I fondly remember my father’s 1950 Oldsmobile. I AM a big fan of steam locomotives & trolley cars & feel blessed that I live 15 minutes away from a steam power tourist railroad & the old PCC trolley cars still run here in Philadelphia. Peace be with you.

  19. Joanne
    February 25th, 2011 at 13:24 | #19

    Pure Talent Jorma….your the best ever! Thanks so all your sharing.Can’t wait to see your show in Marin.

  20. Carlo Pagliano
    February 25th, 2011 at 14:53 | #20

    Now it’s so clear the reason why back in ’55, those Studebaker thoroughly revolutioned my emotional world of those days and still does today.
    Just perfect what the Gentleman said abt You writing a book concerning yourself, it’ll be the ‘Book of the Millenniums’, i join the choir by stating that this ‘Thoughts’ page of yours is of an undeniable beauty, the most thrilling pages of all my life, simply super true!
    They always told me that to be a good writer one needs to be a strong reader in the first instance, now that i read Jorma’s ‘…A Forest Of Inentions’ i might give it a try. Henry Miller wrote with peremptoriness that after Jack Kerouac is the boredom. Henry the Great simply didn’t live long enough to read Jorma Kaukonen, the real thriller reading. Henry Miller would be Methuselah by now, being born the 26th of December 1891, go figure!
    Always Grateful Thanks Jorma!
    Shine On Tuna!
    Safe Journey all the way!

  21. Jim Mckeon
    February 25th, 2011 at 15:20 | #21

    Hey Jorma..You are the best! Gotta love those old cars, some of which are true works of art. When you come to Santa Barbara, take us on a musical ride in the ’34 Buick! Looking forward to seeing you,Jack,Smitty and the rest of the gang “whoop it up” at the Lobrero!

  22. craig healy
    February 25th, 2011 at 17:50 | #22

    A couple gallons a gas pack a smokes radio blasting =freedom .Well put jorma

  23. B.C. Blues
    February 25th, 2011 at 19:04 | #23

    Memories are a treasure, but also sad that sometimes we can only revisit them in our mind. The present and future for most people has not much to do with nature, thats what is sad to me, but that can change. You seem to have a grip on your own personal past, and I think thats wonderful. I have a freind who won’t be celebrating his 53rd birthday next week because he passed away. The memories I have of his spirit are similar to the friend that you mentioned, that is no longer here. Their is no mueseam I can visit to go see him. Most of my knowledge of sixties music came from him and his older brothers,and sisters. Their was a large group of us that moved as a herd during college, we had a lot of fun going to New Orleans, To music festivals, bluegrass , everything revolved around music, all of them knew Hot Tuna. Thats where I had the pleasure of hearing your music. On turntables hanging from the celing so the album wouldnt skip when they were having a party. OK. YOUR blog.My feedback,npi.lol.
    I’m glad that you are blessed with good friends and family today and great memories. It is so wise that you see how important childrens dreams are. I saw a bumper sticker that said I remember Korea today on the back window of a truck, I wondered about the story behind that, and thought of your blog.History doesn’t bring back the past but, it helps in understanding the present. You seem sincere. I love some of the words that you chose to share.

  24. chuck
    February 26th, 2011 at 07:05 | #24

    Well said Jorma and thank you. As a child growing up in Wisconsin I used to love to sit around and listen to the adults tell stories about how it used to be. Later on I used to joke that I was the only 21 year old who was really 75. As singer/songwriter/musician/storyteller you always have a way to touch the heart and you know what all the great ones know. It’s not about screaming the words it’s about letting the words fall on my ears and draw me to the story. It’s not about playing a million notes in a measure it’s about making sure that by the end of the story the notes have written a message forever in the heart.

  25. February 26th, 2011 at 09:38 | #25

    As I got towards the end, I began thinking “just another sweet article from an old guy about the good old days”, and then you wrote “there is nothing wrong with today”. And there we are, just with today, a day my grandchildren and children will remember as “the good old days”. With a young person’s innocence and optimism, there truly is nothing wrong with today.
    PS, In my blog this week. I quoted you on the 3rd year of my fathers death, thank you again!

  26. Stuart Rosner
    February 27th, 2011 at 18:00 | #26

    Jorma, Thanks for the memories of Glenn Echo. Keep up the great writing, really enjoy it.

  27. Amy Hunter
    March 1st, 2011 at 02:44 | #27

    Jorma, you are such a gifted writer (and thinker…and musician). Every time I check in to see how you’re doing, I find myself blessed with such inspiration. You have such a poetic and profound way of framing life’s journey. Thank you for all the joy and pleasure and honesty you give every day!

  28. Brett E
    March 1st, 2011 at 17:26 | #28

    “Between what is gone and what lies ahead, I am blessed to say that there is nothing wrong with today”

    20 words to live by…WOW!!…..Thanks for the…..Crystallization I guess I’ll call it.

    Have fun in the Big Easy tonight !!!

  29. JohnE
    March 30th, 2011 at 15:00 | #29

    Jorma, do you remember your address in Chevy Chase/DC? Just curious. I live in the neighborhood, and there are a number of prominent residents and former residents (Pete Seeger, for example).

  30. John B
    November 19th, 2013 at 17:32 | #30

    Great stuff Jorma ! I can see a terrific song in this somewhere .

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