Hot Tuna album cover…
My Friend Jeanie
Saturday, March 9, 2019
As I was waking this morning a text message popped up on my phone. It was so ironic to me to that here I was in the Bay Area playing Sweetwater in Mill Valley only to find out that Jeannie Patterson who founded Sweetwater so many years ago had passed. The first time I met Jeanie in the early 80’s she became a dear friend as we shook hands. That’s just how she was. When you met Jeannie you always felt that you had known each other since you were kids.
Jeanie had a deep and abiding passion for life. I am not here to speak for her but I always felt that her life was an open cathedral for the music and that for many, the holiest of the Holies was to be found in that little venue on Throckmorton. My friend, Bob Weir, always said we were like the gunslingers on Gunsmoke and Jeanie was our Miss Kitty. She was that and more. She gave all of us pickers and singers a place to speak our truth and be heard with respect… even over the din of the bar that was about ten feet from the stage.
That’s how it was.
Jeanie and my father, Jorma Sr., were pals. He hung out there frequently and they became confidants. When my dad’s life began to reel itself in after his first stroke, Jeanie was always there for him and my mom. When my dad passed, we had his memorial at Sweetwater. Jeanie was always more than available for her friends!
A parent is not supposed to outlive their children and when her two sons Tro and Taylor passed within a couple of years from each other it took a piece of her heart that could never be replaced. We try to be there for our friends but as a parent, that is a loss I simply cannot grasp… and I hope I never do. The economic landscape in California in general and Mill Valley in particular began to price Jeanie out of the game and she finally sold that little sacred ground and moved to Southern California and became more than reclusive. We would email each other periodically and both of us would allow that we should probably get together before it was too late. A couple of months ago I actually picked up the phone and called her. Indeed, I had her number for years but I had never used it. Sometimes the phone is just too heavy to pick up but this time I did pick it up and made the call. She answered much to my amazement and we talked for quite a while. It was almost as if no time had passed at all. At the end of the day, friends are friends. I felt at the time that she was ready to come back to the world and grace us all with her presence one more time.
According to the article I just read she died on the 26th of last month. Life is filled with ‘Things that might have been’ moments and I guess this is another one. There is always light in the world, but to me it is just a little darker today. I’m glad we had a chance to talk one more time. As something of a country boy myself I always enjoyed her mid-western earthiness. She never lost that… ever.
If you believe in such things she is now back with her boys and perhaps she still has a moment or two to get together with my dad and speak of the world as they saw it. I’m sure I’m not the only one being grateful today for having had the opportunity to call Jeanie Patterson friend.
Fair winds and following seas sister… fair winds and following seas. I am one of the many who will never forget you!