Saturday, December 31, 2011

12.31.2011, FTW

In October 1979, I was living in Austin when an old ally from Long Island called, inviting me to come up to Aspen, Colorado, to make a rock 'n' roll band -- a fool's errand. I didn't tell him that I hadn't touched a guitar in a year. Instead, I went out and bought the heaviest strings I could find (.013 to .056), gave up my apartment and started sleeping on a coworker's couch to save money, and practiced relentlessly until I had enough for a bus ticket plus a couple of weeks of walking around money. I drove my car up to Dallas, where I left it with some shady upstate New York expats, and boarded a bus to Aspen with my SG, tweed Deluxe, a Kerouac biography, and a suitcase.

When I got there, it took me a whole day to find my friends, who informed me that they'd found another guitar player -- a child prodigy cellist and pianist from Dallas, whom they'd found busking swing music on the street. (My oldest daughter still has the acoustic guitar he was using.) His name was Jay Hardesty. It pissed me off that he was a better player than I was, and we circled each other like panthers through that extremely dissolute winter. He even kicked my ass a couple of times (I provoked him). Eventually, I was run out of Aspen on a rail (long story) and wound up back in Fort Worth around the time Jay wound up back in Dallas.

Then a funny thing happened: he became one of my best friends, which he remains to this day, even though we only see each other every five years or so. He invited me out to jam at his band's rehearsal space, and to sit in on one of their gigs. We stayed in touch as life took me first to Memphis, then to the Air Force (mainly in Texas and Louisiana). He moved to New York City and every time I'd visit him there, he'd give me another piece of musical equipment (all of which I wound up selling to eat, I'm sorry to say). I was in his wedding in 1999.

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, including a move to London for Jay and his wife, but this year, he and Kate, who now live in Switzerland, had their first child. (My eighth grandchild was born this year.) It's funny, but I still think of him as "the kid," even though he was born on this date in 1961. I'm sure glad he was.


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