Saturday, November 11, 2006

Don Williams' New Column



Kris Kristofferson Caught the Spirit of A Day

I’d fogged my dreams the night before with politics and tales that I’d been swapping, so I poured my first and woke my brain to a Wednesday that was already what it would remain--dusky, rusty, overcast and rainy, with leaves dropping from leaden skies.

In short, it was perfect.

If you haven’t found yourself on the losing end of close and corrupt elections for too many years in a row, you won’t understand the immense sweet sighs from so many on Wednesday morning. Such collective relief wafted me through a day of phone calls, spotty work, and into an evening run down roads edged in leaves that picked up the rust in barn roofs, the deep amber of grasses on cold and lonely hills. Every way you turned were scenes of raw, sweet loneliness—“bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet-birds sang,” in the words of Shakespeare.

In short, it was perfect.

God is good, I said to Jeanne, my running partner, and as kind of a joke I began reciting the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures… he restoreth my soul….” Just so, I thought, and it was no longer a joke. That sense of something restored wafted me all the way home and into clean clothes and, by 7:50 p.m., into the mystical embrace of the Tennessee Theatre, an ancient, Rococo movie palace… recently restored. There, I watched, listened and cheered as Kris Kristofferson performed. His performance was transcendent.

He’s been a friend to me--a freethinking, outspoken, politically despairing, yet spiritual and poetic friend, though we’ve never met. Still, he’s as real as a rusted barn latch. I love the man and his songs, because I credit him as much as any artist of any description with changing my life and outlook. I was 16 when I bought his first album, and I wore out the grooves of that old record and many others until his songs became part of who I am.

Still, I wasn’t prepared to be so moved. Mostly I just wanted to spend some time in the presence of a hero, just to pay tribute. After all, others sang his songs better. Janis Joplin on “Me and Bobby McGee,” Johnny Cash on “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Ray Price on “For the Good Times,” Sammi Smith on “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” These are masterworks.

And I’d been in Knoxville 35 years earlier when a young singer named John Prine stole the show from Kris and his five-piece band. I guess I’d been conditioned not to expect a great concert. But I was wrong. When Kris walked onstage Wednesday, accompanied only by himself on guitar and harmonica, he stole his own show, re-staked his claim to old songs, while serving up a treasury of new and obscure gems.

Yes, he was white-haired, hoarse and sometimes forgot to swap out harmonicas to stay on key. But when he wrapped that threadbare voice of his around those lyrics, it was like opening old burlap to reveal gold nuggets. It brought luster to both.

Nobody writes sweet loneliness like Kristofferson. “Casey’s Last Ride,” “Loving Her Was Easier,” “Jody and the Kid,” “Darby’s Castle,” “The Other Side of Nowhere.”

As fans rose and clapped, rose and yelled devotion and thanks and flirtations, Kris sang the loneliness, the edginess and bitter-tinged bliss of existence. He uttered enough political protest, both in songs and off-hand remarks to remind us why “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” unless you use it to keep the world honest and pass along some truth and beauty, though he might see that spin on his great lyric as overstated.

And maybe it’s an exaggeration to say Wednesday’s election vindicated those who spoke out against the war in Iraq even before it began, but some of us felt that way. Maybe it would be wrong to see it as our country rejecting torture and loss of civil liberties, or as a nation’s repudiation of nuclear weapons, global warming, social injustice, politics of personal destruction, death to old forests and songbirds. But for many it was. Take my friend, Joe Neill, a tall drink of water, who put conservation easements on a good portion of his family farm just to keep it real and natural for as long as he could provide such stewardship. It was good to see him Wednesday, celebrating, introducing me to family and friends who’d come to the concert with him.

I have no illusions that we’ve entered a perfect new era, when all evils will fall away. There was too much of the old darkness reaching out for darkness in the president’s choice of a former CIA chief to replace Donald Rumsfeld. Too much compromise and sell-out in hearing Sen. Harry Reid say that sending radioactive fuel to India would be a top priority of the coming Democratic majority. But it would be miserly and dishonest to let such notions kill the joy of a rainy, overcast and perfect day. Kris captured something of the spirit when he sang “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” When he came to those lines, “Yesterday is dead and gone,” he added in a gruff undertone, “thank goodness.” And when he sang “and tomorrow’s out of sight” he said it again, “thank goodness.”

And we knew just what he meant.

22 comments:

Carey said...

Oh what a lovely column! Beautiful words to describe a beautiful day. Mr. Williams captured the mood perfectly.

I just read something a little startling, an item to jolt us back into our stark reality. This time, apparently, Israel means it. It is planning a preemtive military strike on Iran with U.S. technology and weaponry.

LINK HERE

Anonymous said...

Hi, Carey! Hi, DEN!

Yes, what poetic, moving words!

My son-in-law surprised my daughter on her birthday Thursday night. He gathered a bunch of their friends for "The Dixie Chicks" concert in Portland. The hall was jumpin' with excitement -- the Chicks, of course, felt vindicated! ;-))

Anonymous said...

Music is restorative. Music is healing. Music is life!

DEN said...

Hi gals!
Micki, The Dixie Chicks totally rock!!
Music from the soul means more.

Carey, I read the Isreali intent to do a pre-ep. strike on Haaretz yesterday. We continue to give them all the bombs to throw at their declared enemies, without any conditions. Bad policy.

DEN said...

Any doubts that Robert Gates is not a nice guy?

Read this at Democracy Now, very powerfull interviews with the folks that know.

I predict he will not be confirmed, too many skeletons in his closet.

Anonymous said...

DEN, call us CHICKS, not gals (hahaha) -- even though I can't carry a tune in a bucket! Going to Democracy Now to read the Gates' article.

Anyone that deep into Iran-Contra is not a good pick, for starters! Duh!

DEN said...

Howard Dean's Statement Commemorating Veterans Day:

"Today, Americans are united in honoring the almost 27 million veterans of our country's Armed Forces. For generations, Americans of all backgrounds, from all across the country have answered the call to service. They and their families have made great sacrifices in defense of our freedoms, serving with honor and distinction. This year's commemoration, like others in recent years, takes on added significance, as our nation continues to ask so much of the brave men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have answered the call, displaying great skill and courage, and demonstrating a commitment to American that makes us all proud. We are all deeply indebted to them, and the brave soldiers who have served before them.

"This Veteran's Day follows the end of an historic election season. The American people sent a clear message for a new direction by electing strong Democratic veterans like Jim Webb in Virginia, Tim Walz in Minnesota, Phil Hare in Illinois and Admiral Joe Sestak , Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney in Pennsylvania to Congress. In doing so, they voted for hope and opportunity over fear and smear. They voted for change and accountability, not the White House's full- speed ahead commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq. And they voted to keep our promise to the brave men and women who have given so much in defense of our freedoms, asking only that their government keep its promise to take care of them when their service was done.

"For too long, the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration have failed to keep that promise. When Democrats take control of Congress, we will offer America's veterans and military families a renewed commitment to fully fund veterans health care, expediting the processing of benefits claims, and providing affordable health insurance to thousands of members of the Guard and Reserve by providing them full TRICARE benefits. After giving so much in serving our nation, this is the least we can offer in return.

"Democrats stand ready to lead. Together, we will make America stronger, and move America in a new direction-one that keeps our promise to the men and women who have served our nation."

Very poignant statement, and he was soooooo ridiculed by everyone when he got a bit too exuberant.
The Veterans will need plenty of help following the Iraq war debacle.
So much work to be done.

DEN said...

I have to run some errands but will be checking back in this evening.

Feel free to post stuff you chicks(Ha!) think worthy.

I promise I wo'nt give ya the boot!

Den

Anonymous said...

testing

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,
Carey told me where to find you.

DEN said...

Jeanne, Carol, c'mon in, set a spell, take yer shoes off, let me know what can be done to make it a better blog.

Anonymous said...

Um, better blog? Hmmm. Gee, I'll have to think about that.

Anonymous said...

Testing again. The site didn't recognize me and I signed up again. I left the site, came back and it now shows my name.

Going to publish. Will it work???

Anonymous said...

I got off the net, got back on and my name is gone again. Going to test by typing in my name and password to see what happens.

Ok. I had to sign up again. Is something wrong?

Oh, and the post counter is off. This post will be number 14.

Anonymous said...

Now the counter works. I just refreshed and it shows 14.

DEN said...

Carol, you shut down the browser and you do have to re-sign in with user and password. That is normal with Blogspot

DEN said...

Oh yea the post counter. It is weird, sometimes the count is right sometimes not.
I might go to Word Press if this gets to be too much of a pain but this is an experiment of sorts, test the "writing ability water", if folks like it I'll hang around cyberspace.

DEN said...

C-U-2-MA-RO

Anonymous said...

I understand, DEN, but the username and password had an old account of mine showing up. One I never used and can't even remember why I got it.

I shut the browser and went off to my game, came back and booted it all up and my old name is gone. So, this is another test to see what happens when I sign in with my new identity.

Dammit! The two fields were empty, I put in my new stuff and it said "no anonymouses allowed". SHIT!

I'm going to register yet again then post this. I just don't understand what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am going to try to successfully post one more time tonight. I can't get it to work.

Waaa Waaa Waaa, I am such a Luddite!

If this works...Hi, Jeanne! Hi, Carol!

Testing...

Anonymous said...

Oh, wowsers.

DEN said...

New Blogger Beta update set in place, hopefully it will be easier to post.

Still not allowing nony-mousers,but yesterdays posts are now showing as nony-mouse now, thats weird.

Try it now.