The following is an excerpt from my memoir, “The Kid Who Got Away.”
New Orleans has given me so many warm and wonderful memories. I could fill a book with just the people. Fans, friends, clubs like The Old Point and Margaritaville, fellow band members have warmed my heart and given my life purpose.
There was Sully, who sat in the audience watching my performance after enduring chemo treatments for his terminal illness. His family told me he loved music. He had thousands of songs on his playlist. whenever one of my songs, especially my version of Anders Osborne’s “It’s Gonna Be OK,” he seemed to rally. When he went home to pass on, his family said the song came up on rotation just as he left.
There was the couple from Chicago sitting at the bar directly in front of me during a performance at the Rusty Nail. When it was time for a break, she headed for the lady’s room and he headed for the stage. He told me that after their last visit to New Orleans, I had become their favorite artist. He requested that I perform a particular song from one of my CDs.
I started the next set with it. He knelt down in front of her, opened a small box and asked her to marry him. She said yes. There was not a dry eye in the place.
I was the first musician to perform with any regularity in New Orleans after Katrina . I took up my residence again playing solo at Margaritaville. As the National Guard passed by in their Humvees and fatigues, The Storyville Tavern became a gathering place for survivors and returnees. The club often took on the look of an armed camp. Men with guns on their hips and shirts emblazoned with acronyms like DEA, FBI and ATF sat, ate and listened, discussing the horrors they were witnessing on a daily basis. They were attempting to piece back some semblance of order in a city gone mad with the pain and destruction. Theirs was a tough row to hoe.
I became something of a sounding board there at Margaritaville. Returnees talked to me about their harrowing experiences while making their escape from the waters pouring in over the levies. They talked about waiting for days without food or water, sitting on rooftops watching alligators swim by, losing loved ones. They felt abandoned by their country. One after another told me they felt soothed by my voice and that I somehow lightened their load for a while.
There was the time that I was invited to make my umpteenth appearance on WWLTV’s Morning Show with Eric Paulsen and Sally Ann Robert’s hosting. As Eric interviewed me, he said, “Your singing that song, “It’s Gonna Be OK,” has become the anthem for New Orleans’ recovery.”
There was the look of joy, pain and gratitude in the eyes of attendees of the New Orleans musical “Nine Lives” at the Le Petit Theatre Du Vieux Carre in the French Quarter. I will never forget that look. It was repeated each time we performed it over the years.
I sit here late at night in my house, now becoming a home, and I listen. Just listen. The street is quiet. A lone car makes that familiar muted bumping sound as it passes by along the cobblestone street. Crickets continue to usher in the new Spring with their night-time harmonies. My cat lies next to me on a small table content as she purrs something from her feline hymnal. My angels make their presence known with a barely audible flutter of other worldly wings. They are always with me. I am safe.
The Silence is golden. It allows my thoughts to roam free in this new shelter in this new place and time. It sings of how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing right at this moment…nothing. Nothing but listening to the night move inexorably towards the dawn, a dawn that holds who-knows-what for me. In the very least, it will be an adventure revealing something new about this new life in a land so far from what has always been familiar.
My heart led me to San Miguel de Allende. It offered a knowingness, an awareness that has always spurred me on to the next moment, and to the next. It always has and it always will ’til there’s nothing left of me but my soul…and my heart. I have given it freely, sometimes for the good, sometimes with ill consequences, especially for others. I wonder at those people who say, “I have no regrets.” I can’t say that. Neither can I relive anything so that I might, “Get it right.” I am the sum total of all of my experiences in this particular lifetime. There’s no way I could change anything. After all, what am I but my dharma, my essence, my nature. There’s no escaping that.
As a wanderer, you are sometimes unaware that somehow alone has crept across into lonely. Those moments pass. I do wonder if I could really share my world with another. I am a loner, a reclusive sort who could go days without contact with another human being. I fight that urge by attempting to create my own community, engaging others to join me for dinner parties, movie nights and music jams in my new abode.
I remain open to the possibility that there is someone out there that I might want to share my life and my love with in that special way. Who she is, where she is, IF she even IS, I don’t know. If I never encounter her, I’ll be here in the silence, alone, waiting, wondering and listening to that golden Silence I love so much.
Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”
A lone “Meow”