This week, for my volunteer shift at the VA Hospital here in Denver, I asked if it might be possible to play in a different location from my usual area on the 4th floor. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Jack Fletcher took me down to the main floor, in the main lobby area where the patients all take a seat and wait for service. It’s a fairly large area and on any given day it’s full of veterans with various medical needs that require attention. Sometimes the wait gets a little long and tempers get a little short, so in an effort to make people a little more comfortable while they wait for their names to be called, there’s a free coffee kiosk in the corner with coffee probably supplied by donations from one of the local VFW branches. Along with the coffee, ladies with hearts of pure gold have baked cookies and cupcakes and all kinds of other goodies which they hand out to the folks waiting for service to help make the monotony a little more bearable. This week, as an added bonus, they parked me right between the coffee and the cupcakes!
For all my friends out there who have had to put up with me crying the blues about how tough life can be on us poor musicians having to struggle along with just your instrument, a meager little bit of talent and not much else, you don’t know how good you’ve got it until a guy with an arm or a leg missing, rolls up beside you in a wheel chair, watches every move you make and then tells you how he used to be a musician until he went in the service and ended up getting half blown up in some lost, Godforsaken corner of our planet! Those kind of things break your heart and then you stop thinking about it long enough to thank God (or the great dice roller up in heaven) who made it possible for you to have all your fingers and toes and still be able to play a few tunes for this nice young guy in the wheel chair who you know would give anything if he could just trade places with you for a couple of minutes!
Also this week, in a different town and a different place, another white cop with a gun killed another black kid without a hell of a lot of reason for doing so or at least that’s the way it seems. Fifty nine years ago, in August 1955, we killed another young black teenager named Emmett Till. When you stop to think about the spilled blood between then and now for reasons that still escape most people, you just sit and shake your head.
Maybe it’s because of the trade I’m in that so many of my so called “heroes” had a skin color different from mine. Those guys were the pioneers. People like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Chuck Berry, Wes Montgomery, even Ray Charles and James Brown plus many more who got to sleep in their cars many nights because no one would rent them a room in a good many cities. You wonder why they went through it all just to be able to ply their craft, and you sometimes wonder why they even stayed in this country at all! Many of these folks were the pioneers who put down their markers. Without their talent and the standards they set, the music we play and listen to today, would still have a long way to go!
One last thing, I think I have a home for all that extra hardware the police departments in a great many cities have that they don’t need. Since all the politicians are screaming about arming the border, why don’t we send all those personnel carriers, grenade launchers, riot gear, automatic weapons, tear gas, millions of rounds of ammunition and all that other left over military paraphernalia down on the Texas/Mexico border to protect us. You never know, those little five year old Mexican kids can be tricky!!
Please send your comments and critiques. I’ll be sure to read them all and use them if I can.
Have a great week everybody.