Recently I picked up a large box that had been mailed to me from California. It was as light as a feather and gave no hint of its contents. Inside was something precious.
A dearly departed friend’s hat.
It was his dress hat, the one we filmed him wearing at his son’s wedding.
He had spent most of his life shooting up heroin and committing armed robbery to pay for it. Long stints in the nations’ worst prisons. But when he opened his mouth and sang the blues he could heal the most crushed heart.
Huntsville Penitentiary in Texas, home of Old Smokey, encouraged him to start a band. It calmed down the inmates as if the water had been spiked with elephant tranquilizer.
He was a true gentleman. A thoroughbred. And a hugely loved legend in the high desert of southern California where he eventually retired – the gorilla on his back long laid to merciful rest.
The old adage about walking a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge them has been updated.
“Then you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.”
No one needed to try on Buzz’s hat or steal it. Every dirty rotten thing that had ever happened to him was etched into his face. And he would have happily given you the hat or anything else he owned.
Way too big for my pin head, its new home is on top of the lamp on my desk. It almost comes with its own soundtrack.
I just have to twirl the beautiful woven band and Buzz’s gravelly, smoky voice – the one that you’d swear was coming from the throat of an old Black Man on the bayou – comes right on into the living room five thousand miles away from Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace where he sang it so many times.
Trouble in mind
Sad and I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
Cause that sun’s gonna shine in my back door some day
Wherever he is, I hope the sun is shining. It’s not too much to ask, surely.
My new novel is about Buzz. We worked on it together for a long time, right up until he died. I promised him I’d get it out there.