Friday, January 05, 2007

Sad News...

...the First Run Video fellow employee and good fellow I mentioned earlier today, Gary Cummins, just passed away. I got the call earlier today; Gary died at his home yesterday, late afternoon.

Gary was a real sweetheart, an incredibly kind, positive and decent man. It was a pleasure to know him, and great to work alongside him in my final months at the store; I wish I'd known him better.

He was only a year and half or so younger than I am.

He will be missed by many -- his wife, his stepson, those of us who worked with him. Pick a tune or play some bluegrass music for Gary; it was his favorite listening...

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Back in the Saddle Again...

It's amazing how completely life has changed in the past week, marking 2007 as a genuine New Year from Day One. Marge and I live in a new home, and though I'll be preoccupied with the final dregs of the move for another couple of weeks (including clean-up), we do have buyers for our Marlboro home (the closing is before the end of the month) and all is well. The great financial risk paid off, and the move that made so much logical and logistical sense, personally and in terms of social responsibility (Marge has barely gone through a half-a-tank of gas in over a week, where we used to both fill up multiple times per week; we'll be consuming far less gas once the move is truly behind us), is remapping our emotional landscape in unforeseen ways.

Windsor itself is a very cool town -- though, like all towns, it has its underbelly, which is apparent, too. We've been gravitating here now since mid-October, when our house-hunting began in earnest, and the sense of this potentially being "home" has matured into this being home in a remarkably brief interim. Windsor is nestled just north of Mount Ascutney, a lone mountain strangely apart from the Green Mountain chain here on the eastern edge of the state, and that mountain now plucks a pleasant nerve whenever I see it.

Growing up in northern VT, my formative years and teen years were landmarked by Camel's Hump, that beautiful mountain in North Duxbury that's visible from interstate 89 from a variety of views. My heart still flutters when I first see the Hump en route north, and it remains one of those geographic life anchors one never outgrows and forever finds surprisingly, profoundly moving with every encounter in an uncanny, primal way. I hiked the Hump many times each year from age 12 to 22, and knew much of the mountain well. For the first third of my life, Camel's Hump was the center of my universe, such as it was.

Since 1980, Wilmington and Marlboro have been my home -- where Marlene and I lived through our married life together, where my daughter Maia and son Daniel were born (at home) and raised and grew into adulthood -- and the mountains there (Haystack and especially Hogback) became orientation landmarks with their own gravitational pull. I lived in their orbit for a little over two decades, and hiked Haystack a number of times. Though I never grew as intimate or connected to those mountains as I did to the Hump in Duxbury, they're nevertheless sights and climbs (whether via car or foot; Route 9, which I drove daily, cuts up over Hogback, embracing a positively breathtaking 100+ mile view from the roadside) which never fail to move me.

Since the decision to move from the area really took hold this past fall, that drive moves me differently than ever before, the sights of both mountains pluck different nerves: I'm saying "goodbye" to the mountains that sheltered my family, in which I realized my life goals (in comics) and then changed my life completely, where met my new soulmate (Marge), which I shared with her as we fell in love and bonded (we used to drive to the top of one of Wilmington's back roads and watch the sun set behind Haystack), which nurtured my children until they left the mountains to move to the town and begin their own adult years.

Now, Mount Ascutney is the center of a new orbit, a new life phase. As I drive every other day from Windsor to Marlboro and back again -- down with an empty car, back with a full car -- my heart lifts a bit when I first see Ascutney just north of Springfield.

"I'm almost home!" I think, and it's true.

Almost home.

A very, very good, funny, dear man I had the rare pleasure of working with at First Run Video before my departure from that employ two years ago is on his death bed in Townshend, VT. He was diagnosed with cancer this summer, and is now in his final weeks (perhaps days), discharged from the hospital and at home with his wife. In the end, they could do nothing for him.

It's heartbreaking -- why do monsters like our Vice President live so long, do so much harm (oh, excuse me, "service for their country"), while humble, productive, responsible, forever upbeat men like this fellow die? There's no reason to or for it; that's life. That's death.

This is a real heartbreaker; I shan't say more, as it's nobody's business but his and his family's, but it's too sad and shaking not to note this morning. This has colored much of the month for me, too, and is really having a devastating impact on those I once worked closely with, daily. A prayer for my friend, please.

This just in from Molly Bode, beloved wife of Mark Bode, from away off in California. A couple of years ago, Mark and Molly moved back to the West Coast from their 1990s life in Northampton, MA (drawn there, pun intended, by the allure of the Tundra publishing experiment); their now-adult daughter Zara is still in the Northampton area, and making her own kind of music:

"Just sending out a reminder for you not to miss Zara's show THE SWEETBACK SISTERS at:

The Elevens
140 Pleasant Street Northampton
Sunday, January 14

About The Sweetback Sisters:

The Sweetback Sisters, a group of pie-eyed plunkers, perform an incredible array of old time honky tonk music with sweet girl-on-girl harmonies, sure to warm the hears of any of you. The lavish and lovely voices of Zara Bode and Emily Miller plus an all-star band: Stefan Amidon on drums, West Virginian, Jesse Milnes on guitar and fiddle, Joseph "Joebass" DeJarnette on upright, and last but not least our rolling thunder himself, Ross Bellenoit who highlights the night with electric guitar riffs, mandolin and lap steel guitar.

So get your ass in gear, grab a beer and swoon while we croon the country classics.

Check out
  • this link
  • for a taste of the music."

    Molly concludes:

    "And somebody please videotape it and send it to me!!!!!!"

    BTW, there's also a Brattleboro, VT connection: Stefan Amidon is an amazing percussionist, brother of Sam (accomplished musician on many instruments and actor) and son of the Amidons, who are a fixture of the folk music scene in Southern VT. Stefan blew me away years ago while he was still in high school and performing as part of the "Stef and Jeff" percussion duo on the stage of Brattleboro Union High School; he has since performed in a number of bands, including work with his family.

    If you're in the Northampton area, check 'em out!

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