March 17, 2012 everything changed. Danny was rushed to the hospital with critical brain trauma. He hasn’t been the same since, and has a long road to recovery. Just 24 hours before, I cashed in my chips and earned myself a new car, and was on my way to celebrating my 29th birthday; the last one I’d have before I turned 30. It’s funny, weeks leading up to the anniversary, I had joked to friends about whether I should “party it up” one last year, or take the following 365 days to ease into a new “sophisticated” phase of my life. That decision was quickly made for me, in seeing one of my brothers laid up on a hospital bed, fighting for his life. March 17 was the last day to party. On March 19, I turned 29, and there wasn’t much of a celebration at all.
The following weeks, I had been offered the chance to be a part of the biggest project I’ve been fortunate to work on with my personal investment, J:10 Studios, with a documentary for the Cincinnati music scene. At this time, I also began running with a respected and revered, up-and-coming group of artists, who call themselves the Ghost Empire Collective. It seems so bittersweet to think I’ve been living the life I’ve always wanted, free of a 9-5, commissioning artwork to pay the bills, and making a name for myself in the region in which I reside; being a working artist.
Then came the news that Brandi had passed away. It leaves me heartbroken and devastated beyond words. A beautiful soul, a gorgeous smile, a wonderful person, gone. I had just spoken to her days before, and things seemed a bit off. I was perplexed, yet carried on, accepting the fact that whatever was bothering her would simply not be coming out in this 5am conversation the two of us had shared. I called her again a few days later at 4:36am, and didn’t get an answer. Hours later, I would learn that she had just passed away moments before. I may never know what was at the heart of the problem, only that a dear friend was now gone forever, and I was left here to wonder why.
Just this morning, I woke up to find that my friends (and the best rock band in all of Cincinnati), Banderas, had called it quits, after 6+ years of playing in the sparse city of broken dreams that we call Cincinnati. This comes in a succession of two other bands who have called it off, so to speak. OSO Bear, another band I have been filming for the better part of a year, and the mysterious disappearance of local favorites, Dandelion Death, which the details have yet to emerge. I had formed an attachment with these bands. They were becoming part of my art, part of my emotional canvas, and part of my constructing-career. I believed in each.
Music may be just an activity to some, or even a past-time. To many of us, it is the veins inner-twined in our lives, from which the blood pumps through the valves of our everyday working lives. Going to see a band like Banderas was more than just “checking out a band,” on a weekend. It signified letting go of what we were supposed to be doing, and rebelling against the corporate world we’ve been conditioned to participate.
Banderas was one of the last remaining bands from an era of kids who grew up looking for their place in life, (like myself) maybe joined a band or two, and then retired to the fact of knowing that “real life” would eventually win out, forcing us to throw in the towel. Banderas were the band that we could live vicarious through, and root for, despite whatever new “hip” band the eleventeen year-olds were following around at the mall. Banderas were our prize-fighters, and our “bad guy” champs of the local music scene. That’s something a select few of us are quite protective over.
If that weren’t enough to do me in this week, the very same day, I received word that my Grandma was rushed to the hospital, and not showing signs of response or much chance of recovery. It does little justice to elaborate on this. Simply put, she is the most beautiful, charming being I’ve ever seen, and has been the definitive example of a shining light in a darkened, tainted world, in which I’ve inherited. A part of me is going away forever, with her.
Where does one go from here? All my heroes are washed up, old, bloated, or dead. The choice is now between hanging on to some psuedo-beliefs of failed dreams, and a collection of fallen heroes, or to get to the back of the line and bestow to the new crowd of faces; another generation of soon-to-be washed up, old, bloated, or dead heroes.
But maybe not. Maybe the answer is to ween myself off of the illusions I’ve trusted all these years. Maybe the answer lies in detaching my purpose away from everything I’ve always believed in.
The line of folks moving to the front is constant. Some cut corners to the top, and some even make it the hard way. But no one stays there forever. And if you look behind for just one second too long, you find yourself surrounded by strangers and unfamiliar faces. You either fight to stay or you’re mauled, face down, and to the back of the line.
I’m feeling the wrath of that mauling, and I’m glancing back to see very few familiar faces. I’m loosing my footing, and realizing that I’ve been standing in place for a long, long time. The only problem is I’ve never learned how to stay down.