Time

We were watching a movie with our daughter last night. It was an old Brad Silberling flick called City Of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. Sort of a 90’s piece about living and dying, love and loss. I wasn’t sure whether our teenager would grok this flick but at the end I think she dug it on some level.

As the movie was winding up and coming in for a landing I heard a gasp from Vanessa on the chair next to us. ‘John Prine just died…’ And then nothing. I was and am, profoundly moved.

Of course John’s music has been a part of our lives for a half a century, more or less so in a way I felt like I knew him. In the early 90’s when the Kaukonens had just moved to Meigs County we forayed up to Columbus and saw co-bill with him and Nancy Griffith. It was delightful. I remember he was digging in on a little finger picking vignette between verses and he looked out on us in the audience with a sly smile and in a sotto voce stage whisper he confided in us all. “Pick it John!’

Good stuff, and a nice memory.

My first meeting with John was at the Love For Levon Save The Barn Benefit on October 3rd, 2012 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. There was a massive aggregation of amazing talent there that night and I found myself sharing a dressing room with John Prine and Alain Toussaint. There I was in a room with two men whose music had helped to garnish my path in life.

It was an amazing moment. Alain was gracious but regally distant and that was more than OK. John and I started to talk and in that moment for some reason, I felt like he might have been one of my old friends from the neighborhood in D.C. where I grew up. We talked about this and that and I remember that I told him about the Fur Peace Ranch and how much I would like to see him up at our place. I think we talked about motorcycles too. Well, that’s how I remember it so I’ll just say that’s just how it was. We would see each other one more time at Merlefest down in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. I would not see him again.

Somehow, I see a point in all this. Why should the death of someone I really barely knew affect me in such a profound emotional way? Last week I got an email from a friend from the American School where I studied back in Manila in 1957. An old friend Donnie C. had just passed away. Donnie was one of the first people who befriended me when our family was posted to the Philippines in 1956. As a Foreign Service brat, those first moments in a new post always seemed life threatening. She made me feel welcome. As time passed we all went our own ways and the last time I saw her was in 1963 at Mills College in the East Bay of San Francisco. I always wondered what happened to her as we sometimes do with old friends we don’t see, but I never followed up on it and life happened between then and now.

Momentary intersections that sparkle like diamonds in the long road of an almost eighty-year-old man. As I write this I am having coffee here at the Fur Peace Ranch in the midst of trying times. We are all surrounded by a world-wide pandemic… WW C as I choose to call it. Regardless of national allegiance or any other artificial boundaries we choose to tribalize ourselves with, we might have come in on different ships, but today we are all in the same boat as they say. With death truly becoming a more than a noticeable part of our daily life how can I pick who to mourn? Well, there are plenty of candidates to pick from so maybe it’s just being touched in a random way by the hand of time… and maybe it’s just bathing in the reality that time is all we have until it’s gone.

The COVID-19 virus is taking so much from all of us, but for us older folks… it’s taking time. It’s putting a full stop to all those things we think we might get to one of these days, calling this person… writing that one… whatever, all those things that might never get done because the universe doesn’t wait for good intentions.

Well… John and Donnie are just two examples for me of this malaise… this inertia. Some things that are put off will always be left undone and that too, is just the way it is.

From Connie Kaldor’s Thin Thread

‘Life is a thin thread
It’s a thin little hand on a hospital bed
It’s all of the things that you’ve left unsaid
Life is a thin thread
Its a fine line between loving and not
Between holding it back or giving all that you’ve got
Feeling you’re free thinking you’re caught
It’s a fine line’

There is still a lot left to do!

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:
  1. Dave
    April 8th, 2020 at 09:42 | #1

    Your point about taking time away is a very cogent one. If you are say 21-35 you say well we’ve got plenty more, but for others like myself{and many others} and you Jorma, time is calculated with more care and notice.
    This whole thing has created a sort of suspended animation, a Twilight Zone parallel universe where are daily lives seem to be very much the same, yet the outside world intrudes daily with talk of loss and other serious news.
    For me this is very ad-hoc on a day to day basis, as i am guessing it is for others. And the mourning is somehow different as well-with so many dying daily, yet some we truly know or admire the mourning seems somehow not enough.

  2. Vince Donahoe
    April 8th, 2020 at 11:23 | #2

    RIP John Prine. Your songs and performances have always made me feel a bit like slowing down, be more human and share some kindness. Jorma, thanks for sharing and putting it all out there- peace.

  3. Sian Steed
    April 8th, 2020 at 14:21 | #3

    Very moving, Jorma… R.I.P. John Prine.

  4. Mike Anderson
    April 8th, 2020 at 14:55 | #4

    I was turned in to Jorma and John by the same person while in the Navy, 1974, I’ve seen Jorma perform many time and in several different variations, unfortunately I was only able to see John once. In 1974 Sam Stone brought tears to my eyes.

  5. Judge Jim
    April 8th, 2020 at 15:25 | #5

    Thanks Jorma, hard to grasp to breadth what’s going on and reading your posts help –

  6. cgeorgas
    April 8th, 2020 at 15:34 | #6

    @Mike Anderson
    Yep, but then he could follow with Illegal Smile and we’re back laughing, just like that. I’ll miss his impish grin.

  7. Rick Quinn
    April 8th, 2020 at 16:09 | #7

    Love him madly.

  8. Chappy
    April 8th, 2020 at 17:07 | #8

    I got turned on to the music of John Prine during my high school days in the late 70’s in Cleveland. I’m pretty sure Sam Stone and Illegal Smile were my intros to his great work. I only got to see him live in concert one time in the early 80’s at the old Front Row Theater (a theater in the round that held maybe 1,500 people. I’m sure Hurl remembers it). Arlo Guthrie was the opener. What an incredible night of stories and music! While all of JP’s albums are awesome, two of my favorites are “Jesus..The Missing Years” and “Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings.” It’s certainly a big ol’ goofy world right now but we are all truly blessed to have JP’s music and spirit carry on.

  9. Richard
    April 8th, 2020 at 21:02 | #9

    We just finished our on line Seder ..Strange not being with my family..As my brother was reciting the 10 plagues he added one to the list..Our modern plague Corona..May it be gone soon so we can all get together Right Down Here or anywhere..
    May John rest in peace…Never saw him but always liked his music..

  10. John B
    April 8th, 2020 at 22:02 | #10

    Agh man……..I just loved John Prines songs……guys like him made me think and wonder how they could have such deep insight into the human experience…….. “Say Hello In There …….” I tried my best to live my life as best I could by that song “ He will be missed …..

  11. John B
    April 8th, 2020 at 22:04 | #11

    “It Don”t Make No Sense That. Common Sense Don’t Make No Sense No More”. John Prince R.I.P.

  12. rich l
    April 8th, 2020 at 22:47 | #12

    from a post I saw about John Prines wit…”…and when you hear a lyric like “Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down…and won,’ how can you not smile

    I thought it was so cool that you actually spent a little time with Prine.

  13. cgeorgas
    April 9th, 2020 at 06:35 | #13

    A John Prine video treat awaits anyone interested with time on their hands. The movie, “Daddy and Them” features Prine in a priceless gem of a character role he pulls off with aplomb. It’s a Billy Bob movie from back a few years, but Prine shines.

  14. johno
    April 9th, 2020 at 10:12 | #14

    Have a great vitamin protocol to improve your immune system. Take heavy doses of vitamin C, vitamin D3 and Chaga mushrooms everyday. Chaga grows at the base of white birch trees. I get my Chaga from Birch Boys in the Adirondacks. Stay calm.

  15. Howard Wade
    April 9th, 2020 at 15:45 | #15

    John’s death has hit the music community here in Oak Grove pretty hard. Your question “Why should the death of someone I really barely knew affect me in such a profound emotional way?” is one I asked myself when Jerry Garcia died. Again when Hunter died and again day before yesterday. It points to the power of music. I dusted off Souvenirs which I used to perform a lot back in the day. It seems fitting. This passover is a particularly poignant one given what’s happening.

  16. Rick
    April 9th, 2020 at 23:23 | #16

    Jorma, I ran into you in the parking lot at the bike shop in Athens a couple of years ago; I said hello and told you that I caught you on TV the other night and you asked me what it was, I said it was some sort of tribute for Levon Helm, you lit up and said “I shared a dressing room with John Prine that night!”. I could tell right then how much he meant to you. He was a one of a kind.

  17. Michael Bell
    April 9th, 2020 at 23:25 | #17

    Very touching words, Jorma. Thank you for sharing them. For whatever reason, John Prine’s passing hit me on a profound level even though I never got to see him perform in the flesh. He never seemed like a “star” to me but an Everyman poet whose words could cut to the heart of a matter, whether humorous or serious, with succinctness but always steeped in a deep sense of humanity. I wanted to thank you for streaming your performance last week and I look forward to joining you again on Saturday. I did want to put in a request, if you’re taking any for “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” and if you decide to tell any stories, I’d love to to hear one dealing with the Coffee House days that preceded the whole R&R thing. The first live music performances I ever saw were at the Ash Grove in West LA when I was about 15. Those shows left a very deep impression on me. Doc Watson, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, Jack Elliott, Merle Travis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and others. That world feels long gone and never to return but it left its mark on me. Blessings, good health, and Love to you and Vanessa. Peace, out.

  18. Henry W
    April 10th, 2020 at 01:16 | #18

    I just saw a post online of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco on his couch in his pajamas singing this song as a tribute to John Prine. He said that it might be a little inappropriate, but also celebratory. I noticed that even though he was emotional, he had to laugh about half way through.

    Please Don’t Bury Me
    John Prine

    Woke up this morning
    Put on my slippers
    Walked in the kitchen
    And died

    And oh, what a feeling!
    When my soul
    Went through the ceiling
    And on up into heaven, I did ride

    When I got there, they did say
    John, it happened this way
    You slipped upon the floor
    And hit your head

    And all the angels say
    Just before you passed away
    That these were the very last words
    That you said

    Please don’t bury me
    Down in that cold, cold ground
    No, I’d rather have ’em cut me up
    And pass me all around

    Throw my brain in a hurricane
    And the blind can have my eyes
    And the deaf can take both of my ears
    If they don’t mind the size

    Give my stomach to Milwaukee
    If they run out of beer
    Put my socks in a cedar box
    Just to get ’em out of here

    Venus De Milo can have my arms
    Look out! I’ve got your nose
    Sell my heart to the junk man
    And give my love to Rose

    But please don’t bury me
    Down in that cold, cold ground
    I’d rather have ’em cut me up
    And pass me all around

    Throw my brain in a hurricane
    The blind can have my eyes
    And the deaf can take both of my ears
    If they don’t mind the size, oh man!

    Give my feet to the footloose
    Careless, fancy free
    And give my knees to the needy
    Don’t pull that stuff on me

    Hand me down my walking cane
    It’s a sin to tell a lie
    Send my mouth way down south
    And kiss my ass goodbye

    But, please don’t bury me
    Down in that cold, cold ground
    I’d rather have ’em cut me up
    And pass me all around

    Throw my brain in a hurricane
    And the blind can have my eyes
    And the deaf can take both of my ears
    If they don’t mind the size, that’s right

  19. Roberto in Austin
    April 10th, 2020 at 01:44 | #19

    I’m still in denial and trying to come to terms with all that is happening.John was well loved for sure by his audience.I followed him from the early 1970 to the show in 2018 every time he included Austin on his tour.The Armadillo shows were epic and the solo shows at the Paramount downtown were incredible ,he would do 3-4 encores. I had never seen the love and respect his audience showed him at that show in 2018. Also had never seen John lay his guitar down on the stage and cut a jig around it!He was in the groove that show.I have lost track of so many old friends and now wonder who will be around after we get to a safe place again.We are all in our 60’s + .My late father would always tell me during hard times” you gotta roll with the punches boy” that’s what you gotta do.
    Roll on!

  20. cgeorgas
    April 10th, 2020 at 08:00 | #20

    @Roberto in Austin
    Roberto! The first other Texan who’s identified themselves here. Sounds like we might have rubbed elbows at the Armadillo back in the day. Can you say, “Freddie King!”?

  21. April 10th, 2020 at 09:01 | #21

    He was indeed…

    It’s freezing here today, bur I’ve gotten two good rides in this week. It’s the little things sometimes… stay well!

  22. kevin falvey
    April 10th, 2020 at 18:39 | #22

    Very thoughtful, post, Jorma. Thanks for sharing.
    And, looking forward to tomorrow’s performance and thanking you in advance.