“All that we are is the result of all that we have thought”
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” - Lennon
I want to tell you about Brent Koleno.
I met Brent when we were serving in the 3d ACR. He was a mortar man for Fox troop when I was assigned as the field artillery forward observer after spending some time in Col. Martin Dempsey's back pocket as the Regimental COLT team lead/ Special Forces liaison. At the time I was too busy chasing tail and playing at soldier to care about music. The guitar had sat in the corner for years untouched except to move it from one place to the next. I was more into blowing stuff up and crawling in the mud to want to look up from what I was doing. I don't remember how or why it started; but I do remember the lesson: Music heals. Music moves. We lament there isn’t any real magic and make stuff up for TV and the movies, but we have real magic in our music.
He inspired me to pick my guitar back up. To write. He almost forced me to do so. He would present me with stacks of lyrics and say... "See what you can do with these." Then he'd sit down, crack a beer, roll a cigarette, and laugh as I spun his words into a song. He would challenge me on purpose with difficult phrasing and extra syllables and had this funny mannerism when he found something particularly exciting or fun; he’d point at me and shake his finger; big ol smile on his face. I can’t do it justice.
He moved me. He taught me. He opened my eyes. I learned how to look at the world differently. Once I was a small boy in a man’s body trying to find pussy instead of a partner; relying on sex and booze; looking to the material and superficial for justification and peace. But it doesn’t work like that.
He is one of the people who made me; me.
We dropped acid at the Blues Traveler 4th of July show at Red Rocks. We saw Shakedown Street and danced in the fields with a thousand others. We’d sit around the fire with everyone and play and sing, smoke and laugh. He was my best friend and I loved him dearly.
Then we both left the service. He stayed in Colorado. I returned to the Pacific Northwest to be with my family. A few years later I learned he had passed.
I’m still not over it.
“Sometimes life leaves a hundred-dollar bill on your dresser and you don't realize until later it's because you just got fucked.”
— My buddy's dad
I got laid off.
Well, in 2009, but it still happened. I wound up moving from Eugene Oregon to Wilsonville Oregon because the job market was bigger in Portland. I lived in this really nice 2 bedroom one bath apartment. My kids would come over every other weekend and we would go to the Goodwill and shop for cheap VHS tapes of Disney movies. It was kinda fun because we'd always find something cool and since I was poor, a VHS player is what I had. I might not have lots of stuff, but what I do have gets taken care of and lasts.
Me and my kids finished the animated version of Peter Pan and my 8 year old son came up to me, looked me right in the eyes and said "Second star to the right and straight on til morning Dad." I looked back and said "We should write a song about that." So we did. My son, my two daughters and I wrote "Second Star to the Right (Straight on Til Morning)" that day, right then.
“A bulldog can whip a skunk, but sometimes it’s not worth it”
Best Damn Woman
I had several relationships before I found my wife.
One relationship I had was bad.
OK, more than one, but we're talking about Best Damn Woman so...
I was in love. I would have done anything for her. But she beat me.
Why is it that when a woman hits a man it's funny? People laugh at men when we get hit by women. And what are we supposed to do? We can't hit back... Stand there and take it is what I did. There's a emotion of self disgust and loathing when you stand there and let the person you love wail on you. You start to think maybe you deserve it. Especially when people just point and laugh.
So I wrote a song about her. About the conflict between my love for her, and how it made me feel about myself.
She was NOT a good woman.
“A closed mouth gathers no feet.”
— San Horn
I like music festivals. There's a vibe at these things you experience nowhere else. A sense of community, like old friends coming together. Social norms are suspended and people actually talk to each other. Not small talk, like the weather or how the Seahawks are doing this year; but smiling ear to ear right in your face, free hugs and all. Standard introductions are set aside because those are for strangers and here, you're not a stranger; even if it's your first time at the festival.
One of my very favorite festivals is the Northwest String Summit. It's a bluegrass festival in what is essentially Hillsboro Oregon. I wait all year for this thing; it's my Christmas. The first year I took my wife we found a pretty good campsite in what they call "Turtle Camp." (See, this is a bluegrass hippie festival and hippies have names for everything.) I liked Turtle as that's where the musicians would hang out and have open jam sessions. You grab your guitar and walk around until you hear a group jamming. Most are open to newcomers, but some are bands warming up so you do hafta ask nicely... You never knbow who you might wind up playing with.
Anyway... the first year my wife and I went together we were sitting in our camp doing something... I don't remember what, when this guy walks by on the path, stops and asks me if I know Crazy Legs Bob. I reply that I do not and he introduces himself as Taco Tim (hippies have noame for everything and everyone!). He walks up into our campsite and excitedly pointing around he starts naming stuff... "Look! A guitar, a bong, Jellybeans!" He turns and looks at me and says "You need to write a song about that" and turning to leave said over his shoulder "I'll be back later to see how you did."
I looked at my wife and thought - why not? So I wrote what turned out to be Jellybeans.
Oh, and my hippie name is Dr Skippy McNibbles - I got it because I make awesome pot chocolate. Like an old west travelling medicine show...