Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tequila Sunset

Like a failing marriage, its walls were cracked from a weak foundation.  It had lost value and was, for me, a losing proposition.  

The good news was that I had a buyer for my home.  I was ready to be out of an edifice which had been anything but edifying.  It was the site of my marriage falling apart, and around it's perimeter, sink holes were appearing and evergreens were dying.

The bad news was the timing of the sale.  The week before closing, I was in Norway having my 59th birthday.  Actually, I was there for a pair of Emmylou concerts, but it sounds sophisticated to say that I spent my birthday in Oslo.  

The dollar was as weak as a cup of Cracker Barrel coffee, and it was nigh unto impossible to find an affordable meal to ring in my last year of fifties-hood. The gin and tonic our drummer, Bryan, bought me cost $22.  

Note to self, celebrate next birthday in America.

We returned from Norway on the Monday evening before closing.  I had 3 days in which to vacate the premises.  Having already packed some things, I was overly optimistic about my ability to get the job done.

So, on Tuesday I began arduously packing my life up, and discarding as much of what wasn't "life" as I possibly could.  It was difficult work, combing through boxes that hadn't been unpacked since we'd moved in 10 years before.  

I had a box set aside for E, as I knew I'd be unearthing artifacts which might interest her.  It had been a while since my garage cleaning episode wherein I'd discovered a part of our life that I'd forgotten, but this time I combed through happier days without reaction.

The garage held the cache of trash whose presence wouldn't be missed in my next living space.  I donned a dust mask and spent hours sorting and deciding.

The easiest task was determining what to give to charity; if I couldn't sell it on the internet, I would take the write-off and let someone else carry it off.  Tools, ladders, furniture, bicycles, and old videos were carted off by two men from Thriftsmart.

A few friends dropped in at various hours to give some muscle to my madness, and we put all the heavy items into a storage pod.  I noted that one of these good men had helped me move in two other Nashville moves.  Another had helped me move into my temporary digs during the early days of my split.  

While I'd been in Norway, a songwriter friend named Cindy came over and wrapped all my glassware and kitchen accoutrements.  El Paso, a fellow chile releno connoisseur, appeared in my front hall and offered to box up the endless ephemera of my man cave.

That night, my dearest companion invited me to dinner with her parents, who had just driven in from Texas, and her three kids, all of them gathered in Nashville to celebrate her son's wedding.  He and his fiancee had planned a simple yet elegant, family-only affair for later in the week, and they had just arrived in time for our meal.

We had a fine time, feasting on her delectable cooking, drinking red Zinfandel and eventually retiring to her living room where all three children serenaded us with original songs.  That's not necessarily atypical of Nashville, a town teeming with musicians, but when it's your kids (or those of your dearest companion), it's that much more enjoyable.

I got home fairly late, and spent a few hours dividing my possessions into "keep" and "throw" piles.  Dawn arrived sooner than I'd hoped, and I rose early, working a little before one last recording session in my studio.  Looking back, it's just crazy that I had booked the session, but it's what I do; I make my living playing on records, and in 2011, no one is turning down work.

My friend Lari came over and I played accordion and organ on a few tunes she was producing, wrapping up as a helper arrived in the form of Bryan Owings, the aforementioned gin and tonic buyer.  We've toured the world together, and on this day, we were both a bit jet lagged from our Norwegian trek, but there he was, lifting a sofa with me and encouraging me to keep a few items I was more than ready to hand off to the Thriftsmart fellows.  I was too tired to argue with him.

A recording engineer who had seen my request for moving help on Facebook, showed up and began carefully packing all the studio gear and instruments.  After a while Bryan left, and a songwriting buddy showed up to help with more heavy lifting.

You know who your friends are.

Wednesday night was the rehearsal dinner, hosted by my dearest companion at an East Nashville Mexican restaurant called The Rose Pepper.  We feasted on deep-fried avocados and spicy entrees laced with chorizo and cilantro, washing it all down with pitchers of Margaritas.  

I drove the Texans back to their hotel and then returned to the nocturnal task of sorting and heaving until 3 am.

Thursday, the day of the wedding, I woke to do more sorting, but it was the heaving that my body was more inclined to do.  I couldn't lift my head without becoming fiercely nauseous.  

I was thinking of calling my realtor and telling her that there was no way I was going to be out of my house by Friday morning, when she walked in with her friend Rusty, and announced that she'd rented a U-Haul truck.  

I lay prostrate on the floor, trying to articulate what needed to be left alone, what needed to be thrown, what needed to be put in the pod, and what needed to go on the truck, while unable to lift my eyes long enough to connect with the faces of the gracious angels come to my aid.

Rusty, whom I'd never met, knelt beside me and started speaking in tongues, and then prayed in English that God would heal me, and heal me quickly.  I had been around plenty of "tongue-talkers" in my crazy days at Love Inn and in Christian music, and to my way of thinking, it's never seemed very sensible to me.  But if tongue-talking was going to get rid of my nausea, I was all for it.

Suffice to say, God Almighty took plenty of time in getting back to Rusty about my illness.  

In the meantime, friends showed up and helped out, as I lay on the den floor between bouts of vomiting the anti-nausea medicine and the last night's tequila.  So delirious was I that my collected visions of these good people- Wayne, Bret, Steve, Mark, and even my daughter Kate- are a blur.

Occasionally, I would test my sea legs to see if I could walk two feet without stupendously hurling.  More than once, Hellers leapt aside as I caromed through the halls toward the nearest sink.

It occurred to me that I needed to rent a storage unit for all the junk in the U-Haul, so I carefully got in my car, with an empty cup in hand (just in case), and drove to a storage place.  Mickey, the woman who managed the storage place, led the way through the hot sun to show me what kind of unit I'd be renting, when I began uncontrollably vomiting once again.  I apologized and assured her that it wasn't a commentary on her business.

Discouraged, I signed on the dotted line, and got in my car.  Too weary to call my dearest companion, I started writing a text message, surrendering to the harsh fact that I wasn't going to be at the wedding, which would be occurring in less than two hours.  I had been asked to sing a song for the bridal procession, and sadly realized that that honor was slipping away.  

Halfway through the word "heartbroken" I stopped.

"I feel better", I thought.

I was sorry notto give Rusty and his tongue-talking the credit for my feeling better, butafter all the time God Almighty had taken in answering, I wasn't inclined to start singing hymns of praise.  Mother nature had taken her course, and fortunately Her schedule and the wedding were in fair enough sync.

God Almighty nonetheless had provided good friends who provided a miracle of sorts by joining in the task of moving me out of a place that never felt like home.

Speeding back to the house, where a crew had continued working, I realized I might be a few minutes late, but I would indeed be at the nuptial celebration.

I quickly showered and shaved, brushed the hell out of my teeth, and dressed up in my Sunday best.  Speeding up I-65, I called my Southern Born woman, and said I was running late, but not too late.  Wise one that she is, she had implored her talented daughters to have something ready to sing, just in case.

Nothing goes without a hitch, and as soon as I arrived at the wedding chapel, I unpacked my guitar to find that its strings had been loosened to death for the flight back from Norway.  Everyone waited quietly while I tuned.  Tick tock...

And then I sang.  

I don't even remember the song I sang.  Even while singing it, I was somewhere else, caught up in the miracle that 90 minutes hence, I'd been sick as a dog.  

We all enjoyed a lovely private evening together watching two people attempt the thing that a few of us hadn't been successful at.  


As I listened to their vows, I thought of the cycles of life.  I thought of the happenstance that brings each of us into this old world, and I thought once again that, despite the circumstances of failure and accidents, I've never for a moment believed that anyone exists without God meaning for  us to be.

I looked at this young man, full of grace and confidence, face shining with optimism, and I felt thankful for knowing him.  I thought of his mother, my Dearest Companion, and her tireless love of her children.  

Naturally, my musings led me to my own daughters, who are always with me, always in mind, always loved.  I thought of the failed marriage that had brought my girls into the world, and the house of an errant dream, which seemed so culpable in my undoing, now left groaning and empty, save the ghostly remnants of echoed unanswered prayer.

The vows were said, and I watched a tear grow in my Dearest Companion's left eye, until it spilled joyfully down the side of her face, marking a milestone in her journey.

I was emotionally full and physically empty.  I'd spent a few days purging, quite literally, and now I was at a feast, and I might add, I had an amazing appetite.  

Regarding my violent nausea, there's a part of me that feels like 'fessing up and admitting that I probably went one margarita over the line.  But maybe the truth is, I was sick of a house that had given nothing back for all it had taken.

The cycles of our lives bring us sadness and goodness. They bring love and hate, forgiveness and unforgiveness, wealth and poverty.  Life is a liturgy that is summed up in Christmases, Good Fridays and Easters, lives, deaths and resurrections, between which we make whatever we might of our desert pilgrimages and evergreen homecomings.