The VA in Denver is an impressive place in many different ways. Your first thought when you’re introduced to it, is how well it seems to run even though it’s stuffed to the rafters with the traffic of caregivers and those seeking medical aid. It’s also a little intimidating with all the little nooks and crannies and elevators and floors and hallways, and the first thought through your mind is, “How the hell am I supposed to find my way around this maze?” On closer inspection you realize that every square inch of this building is being used for something and sometimes two or three something’s and the message comes through loud and clear as to why a new facility is drastically needed and being built.
Your second impression is the realization of the awesome number of people who go through this place every day. It’s not only just those who are requesting help but those who are providing it. Everywhere you look you see patients and family members, doctors, nurses, assistants, orderlies, janitors and just about anyone you could imagine who can be of assistance hustling up and down the hallways on a single mission to provide help and aid to those in need. It’s really no wonder you hear the stories about a visit to the VA being an all-day process but the thought that sits deepest within you is that no where do you see sloppy work or people who might look as though they don’t give a damn about the job they have or the people they serve.
After your initial obligatory number of dead ends and wrong turns, you finally come to the office of the man who heads up the volunteer department at the VA. His name is Jack Fletcher and if he wasn’t a drill sergeant in a past life he missed a hell of a chance! Actually, he’s a nice guy and after getting my guitar case stuff stashed in a little closet, we headed upstairs to the 4th floor where he turned me loose.
As is typical of any older building the hallways are a little narrower and because of patient conditions there are more quarantine signs on doors. This means that many times you end up playing out in the hallways but when you do, the response is overwhelming. Not only are the patients inside the rooms encouraging (“Hey man, you know Stairway to Heaven?”) but sometimes even the janitors have requests! I had one room where the patient had a guitar of his own and wanted me to hang on a minute while he got in tune so we could play together. (“Hey man, you know any Clapton?”) You have to be careful not to let it get too far out of hand, because if you do, it would end up being a giant jam session and the whole object of playing “healing” music would easily get lost in the shuffle.
I’ve been playing a long time, rodeos and races, hotels and honkytonks, and plenty of other stuff in between, but I’ve never felt more accepted and welcomed than this VA hospital right here in Denver, Colorado. It’s not that other facilities don’t make you feel welcome as well, I believe it’s that thing of people feeling your music coming from the heart, and that you’ve actually come up there to play for them and want to help that makes the whole thing feel very special indeed.
Last but not least, I hope you like the look of our new site. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you’re biting off when you decide to rebuild one of these things. It has definitely made some of my white hair a little whiter, but we’re going to be here for a while and I hope you like it.
Please send your comments and critiques. I’ll read them all and if I can use them, I surely will.