An Open Letter to Friends, Family, Students, and Fans
January 3rd, 2008
As many of you know by now, on Dec 8th, 2007, I suffered a fairly grievous and traumatic injury. I slipped on some ice and broke multiple bones in my face, requiring facial reconstruction surgery. It is not my intent to go into the details of that here. If you want those details, you can go to the NEWS page and read the entries for December 12th, 2007 and following.
The purpose of this letter is to express my heartfelt thanks to the many of you who sent Andrea and I encouragement, prayers, money, and food. The degree and quantity of the response was overwhelming. Several times we have been reduced to tears by the generosity and gifts from people that I have no idea who they are.
Two Sundays in a row Mama Ray and her husband, Will, came by with literally a truckload of food. Our living room was filled with boxes and boxes of food. This was donated in large part by people who have come to Harlings, and now the Embassy, on Saturday afternoons, to listen to the band, or participate in the jam session that has been going on there for over 20 years. Along with the food, we received checks and cash from family, friends and fans. Many of you who gave cash I have no idea who you are, how much you gave, or who to thank. So allow me to tell you of our circumstances, and just how timely your gifts have been, and how I intend to thank you.
Right now, I am the sole support of a 5-member household. Andrea and I have 5 children but two of them are married and out of the house. The oldest of those still here is fairly self-sufficient, and will be leaving shortly. Andrea has home-schooled all our children and so for the past 25 years I have been the only support. The result of this is that we are very rich in most ways but poor in financial terms. In spite of this, we have managed to live comfortably and I have no complaints or regrets. In light of the fact that my kids are turning out well (so far!) due in large part to my wife and the home-schooling, and also due to the fact that I got off the road in the mid-eighties in order to be there for my wife and kids, I consider our lack of financial security a small price to pay. (Is anybody ever really financially secure?)
I usually maintain 1 to 3 months of income in a cash reserve (I call it my rat-hole). For reasons I won't go into here, I depleted the rat-hole about a year ago and had not replenished it. Several years ago I had started investing for retirement and was loathe to divert funds from my retirement investing to replenish the rat-hole. For every month of not investing a few hundred dollars now I will be out tens of thousands of dollars 15 or 20 years from now. Such was my rationale.
When I fell and broke my face, the rat-hole was empty and I was looking at a month (at the least) of being laid up and not working, with no cash reserve to draw on. I have temporarily halted the retirement investing to help deal with the short-term crunch, but the bottom line is; because of your gifts, it appears that there will not be even one late payment on anything, and we are eating very well! This will definitely be the case if I can return to a normal schedule starting Jan 7th, which I am planning to do. At this point, I will deal with the medical bills that I am responsible for, replenish my rat-hole, and then resume the retirement investing. I have learned the hard way that I should maintain my rat-hole over my retirement investing. The crisis had to do with the short-term. Disability is my biggest vulnerability.
So, in terms of finances, what had the potential to be fairly disastrous has become a fairly minor bump in the road, thanks to you all.
How can I repay you? There is only one way - keep playing the guitar.
As I said in the liner notes to my latest CD (see the notes for the song, My Ship) I've always loved music - always. The love of playing music is what keeps me going. I can't explain it, I don't know why it is, but I know that I know that I know that playing music is what I'm supposed to do. I've always known that, it's one of the main reasons I'm here. As I also said, at a relatively young age I intuitively knew that whatever good that came to me in life would be a result of my guitar playing, such as it is.
Even so, it's easy to get complacent, it's easy to believe no one is really listening, it's easy to get corrupted by the bullshit, the politics of the business, and the games that have to be played just to keep working. I learned many years ago that my love of playing the guitar can compensate for all this other stuff that is necessary, but repugnant to me. I just love to make music, pure and simple.
In all the many years that I have been doing this, I never lost the conviction that this is what I'm supposed to do. However, there were times that I have been discouraged, I have been burned out, I have been complacent, I have taken what little success I've had for granted. But no more. Through what has happened in the last month I have rediscovered the knowledge that we affect people in many, many ways we don't realize. People that I don't even know feel compelled to send me money and food to help me out in a time of need. It's amazing and humbling. How did this happen? It happened because I've remained faithful to my calling-in-life and just kept playing the guitar, no matter what.
And so that is what I will continue to do, for as long as I am able, with gratitude.
A couple more things:
To my musician compadres: remember; we affect people in ways we have no clue about. This is true of everyone, but especially true of people like us. We speak a language that is very difficult to define or understand, but it affects people deeply. Remember that the next time you have a bad gig, or have to deal with an asshole club owner, or the next time an irritating drunk pesters you to play some bullshit song you hate. Remember those many, many, many people you have touched and enriched that you know nothing about. Don't give up.
To everyone else: I do not have any particular person in mind here, this is generic, so don't take it personally - on second thought, I want everyone to take it personally:
If there is someone who means a lot to you, don't let years go by and don't wait until they get hurt before you tell them how much they mean to you. James Taylor said it well;
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things will be much better
If you only will
Thanks for reading this. Thanks for listening to the music. See you soon. Check the gig schedule and come on out!