Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Sweetest Music You've Never Heard

A few years ago I lived for a time in Southern Oregon.

The state of Oregon has two big cities, a couple of large towns, a bunch of small towns, and a lot of "back woods" area. Back woods was where I lived, the nearest towns were Merlin, Grants Pass and Williams.

The biggest industry in the south of the State used to be logging, but the bottom fell out of that, and now the main source of income for large parts of the rural area is pot growing. I knew senior citizens who grew ten or so plants on their back porch to help stretch the social security check.

But I didn't support myself that way.

I did a fair amount of graphics work of one sort or another, and I taught Pencak Silat to a nice sized group of very dedicated students. I did a few other things as well, nothing very exciting.

I had moved to Oregon because I wanted to rest for a bit, to let my soul heal, The wilderness is always a good place for that, so I got a small house with a fair amount of land around it near the Rogue River, and there I stayed for a little time.

One of my clients was the local herb shop, called (oddly enough) The Herb Shop, down in Grants Pass.

I had started out making them brochures and business cards, then built their web site and a few other things like that. Over time I started doing other work there, sometimes a little consulting, I have a background in herbal medicine from my pencak silat training and a lifelong interest in the subject, but we will save that for another time.

I became good friends with the owner and staff of the shop, and they all ended up in my martial arts class. This was a little amusing, as everyone there was your classic Pacific North West Hippy type, not the kind of people you would think would study one of the more brutal and viscous martial arts on the planet. But it worked out nicely. I think it was mostly because I am a good cook (we used to do class pot-lucks on a regular basis) and I know how to fix backs and sore muscles.

One day I walked into the shop, and discovered a new woman behind the counter. She was interesting for a couple of reason, one of which was she was one of the very few white people I had ever seen who looked good in dreadlocks. And what dreadlocks they were, massive, thick and down to her waist.


I went up and introduced myself, I was always in and out of the shop and I didn't want her to be startled if I popped out of the back room or some such.

She was very pleasant but very reserved, there was nothing much for me to anchor her with in my memory.

I didn't even really catch her name, and for a couple of months I knew her I thought of her as "That Sadhu Girl", because her Dreads reminded me of the Shivite holy men that I used to run across in India.

One day I get a call from my friend Chris. He says "Hey, we are all going down to hear Jen play tonight, ya wanna come?" "Jen?" I inquired. "Yeah, you know, the girl from the Herb Shop." "ah" I said, "the sadhu girl, is she any good?" "I don't know, but it will be more fun than staying at home and watching the grass grow."

So we agreed to meet at a local pub and micro-brewery (Oregon is nuts for micro-breweries) that was the hangout for people who wanted to listen to local talent perform. A couple of friends and myself even played there a few times, but that is another story (The place has since gone out of business, but I don't think it was because of my playing).

Jen was working in a "side man" spot with her guitar for some guy that styled himself as "Nightshade" along with his girlfriend who did backups as well for him. During the break Jen was listed as doing a solo set.

"Nightshade" was terrible!

He was one of those acts that you will only find at the very mellow "local talent" venues in small towns. His mother no doubt knew the mother of the pub owner and used her influence to get him the gig. Any place else and he would have been booed off the stage, but in a local joint like this you just sort of ignore him, for his mother's sake.

His lyrics were badly done narcissistic platitudes about what an anarchist he was.

He wore a dress.

I think it was to show how in touch he was with his feminine side. But if that were the case his feminine side had no fashion sense. The dress clashed with his pumps and he had no idea on how to accessorize.

Whoever set up the sound must have been this guy's only fan (or his mother) because you could not hear anything from the other musicians. I could see the Sadhu girl's hands moving on her guitar, but I could not hear a note she was playing.

By the time their first set was wrapping up I was having a lot of good thoughts about watching my grass grow.

I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by walking out just then, before Jen had a chance to do her solo thing. It was a small club, she would have noticed. So I figured I would sit and grit my teeth through her set, then, having paid my dues, I could beg off the rest of the evening and go home to check on lawn length.

Jen came back out and sat down, plugged in her guitar, fixed her microphone and started her set.

I remember sitting up in my chair, stunned.

Her voice was sweet, rich, textured. He songs were poetry, original, from the heart. She still had that reserve that I always felt from her, but not as much. She was beautiful.

It was like walking out from some dark, fetid storm drain and finding yourself in a sunlit meadow full of sweet grass. I had never dreamed that there was so much talent in a small dreadlocked young woman.

I think it was in the last third of her second song that I fell in love with her.

I am not talking about the "hey you're cute, let's go to bed" kind of love, or the "hey, I would very much like to own you" kind of love.

This was the "pardon me, you seem to have left a window to your soul open and I accidentally caught a glimpse of who you are, do you mind if I cherish that moment forever?" kind of love.

concurrent with this realization was the understanding that nothing would ever come of it.

There were a couple of reasons.

First, she was already involved.

Second I am sort of old and beat up.

If I were a cat I would not be a regal Siamese, or a cuddly tabby. I would be that cat you see sometimes in the ally, all gristle, scar tissue and attitude. Not something you offer a saucer of milk to.

And she sat there singing, opening up a universe of poetic beauty to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear.

What do you do in a case like this?

I thought about immediately moving to another state, or perhaps out of the country again. But I was not finished with Oregon yet. So I fell back on "The Rules".

These would be how a "gentleman" conducts himself in such a situation.

Rule number one is you never under any circumstances let her get even the smallest hint of how you feel. It would be an unwanted intrusion, an invasion of her privacy.

Number two, become as much of a friend as she will let you be, without intruding, without ever expecting anything from her.

Number three, the most important thing, Support her in being who she is. Help her bring it out in whatever small way you can.

So over the next several months I proceeded to do exactly these things to the best of my ability, it was interesting.

I think we became friends, though I always kept something of a distance from her. I never wanted to get close enough for her to notice that I tended to get a little distracted by her.

I was able, I think to help support her as an artist in some small ways. I made sure that I was able to remind her that her art had value and that people would want to hear her.

I was able to do a few other small things as well. But mostly I just tried to be a friend.

There was a time that she needed to get down to San Francisco. I happened to be driving down at the same time on business and so was able to give her a lift. I managed to get her to talk about herself on the trip, she was usually quite shy and hard to draw out, but for some reason she opened up on that drive. She told me her life story. I came to realize that she was a person of great depth, I could have spent the next thirty years getting to know her, and still never understand the depths of her. She had the soul of a poet, with all of the infinite variation this implies.

At some point she decided to do a CD of her music. She had a bit of money to pay for studio time, so she went for it.

She asked me if I would be willing to help with some of the graphics for the album. I had just finished doing the cover and liner for a local Celtic group called Silverhand and was more than happy to do what ever I could to help.

One of the things she needed was promotional pictures.

Much to my delight I got to spend a day photographing her in all manner of outdoor settings. It was a lot of fun to get my camera to capture even a small part of her essence.

And I got to hear her music as it evolved toward its final form on the CD.

Then bad thing started happening.

George Bush ended up in the White House and the economy of Oregon went into the toilet a few months later. It was getting harder and harder to find work in the area, I was having to go all the way to California to find enough work to make ends meet.

Jen was also having trouble with getting the album finished within budget, and getting someone to do the mixing the way she wanted it. Things were moving slow.

While I tried to keep things together long enough to finish Jen's project it turned out to be impossible and I had to head south to resume various duties I had put aside for a while. I did have one consolation though, I was able to burn the various cuts to the album to a CD. They were not the final mix, but they were what I listened to while working on the project.

In the three years since I left Oregon I have gone entirely around the world, and Jen's music went with me. The music reminds me that there is still beauty in the world, and of a dear friend. Sometime I have played the CD for friends in one of the places my work has sent me, and they have all enjoyed the hearing of it.

Last night I was surfing the web, looking for new music. I hit a site at random and discovered that Jen finished her CD.

If you like Folk Music, you should take a look, have a listen and if you like it get yourself a copy



job opportunitya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sylvia said...

Hi, I stumbled upon this blog today by seacrhing for dreadlock pictures. I ended up reading the whole article and was very moved by it. I even ended up buying her cd. Thank you for this great story.

Sophia said...

I'm kind of going through your archives, here. As you can see I'm back in 2004. Anyway, just wanted to give you the news:

You said, "Second I am sort of old and beat up."

I just turned 29 today and my husband will be 61 in July. And no, I didn't marry him for his money because he doesn't have any! Older guys are cool. Never forget that. :)

Anonymous said...

I also found this blog looking for dreadlock pictures. I've got to say, your story is very moving, but very sad.

I hope you can find another glimpse of someone like this in the future. =)

Carme said...

same for me, loocking for dreadlock pictures, finding out this very nice story... this are kind of feeling I appreciate the most: loving someone from inside, in a calm and silent way, just by heping and being by their side.

Nasiruddin said...

Hello, I would like to be part of this site, read the posts, steep in the archives. Some of the topics I've read at in the older parts of the library are what I feel forced to think about these days. I joined the Chisti Order (SOI) a couple of years ago because of a chance reading of B. Lawrence's translation of Nizam ad-din Awliya's book "Morals for the Heart" (Fawa’id al-Fu’ad). Thence to "Martyrs of Love." I keep feeling that He sticks His finger in my business and stirs it around, to get my attention. It is scarey but the only possible, reasonable reactions are to either say "Thank you" in gratitude or dance and sing in joy. "These are not punishments but opportunities to show love." But, at age 67 and counting, and 8,400+ days clean and sober, I feel a need to respond to items in Sophia's -- old doesn't necessarily mean beat up; old may mean stockpiled or on the shelf or past the "use by" date. Beat up can be at 25, or 15, or 15 months. Same with older guys being cool -- maybe or maybe not. And there is that nice line of Eric Clapton's "I may be slow but I will learn." I have been mulling over possible differences between martyrs and suicides (to go back to a 2005 blog) and about whether it isn't only Him who determines who's a martyr. Is it arrogance to tell him, at the Pearly Gates, "I'm your new martyr!"??? And I want to know about the "obscure martial art" mentioned on the home page -- is there an old blog or URL? Thank you for what feels like a spa for the soul. -- Lucky Nasiruddin

jessica, jah. said...

this is a beautiful story. the gift that you have given jen is an incredible one, even if she never understands the fullness of what it meant.

i stumbled upon your blog while researching dreadlocks - this story reminds me that women should never be exluded from that joy. : )

thank you for sharing, you will be in my thoughts.

Maiyya said...

I stumbled on your page by accident and ended up reading the whole post ... What a touching story! And Jen's music is beautiful :)

Carolyn Abrams said...

Will you be my grandfather

Mushtaq Ali said...

I don't know. Is your grandmother really cute (and smart, and single)?

Anonymous said...

I also found this looking up dreadlock pictures.. but funny thing is this story is actually really captivating/beautiful. I have so much admiration for both you and her.

when G.B's turn at the whitehouse ended you must have partied hard.

alana said...

Such a wonderful story - and i came across this so randomly! i love it!! the whole thing. if i had sound on this computer i would totally get down and listen. ill bookmark it..

Wah Al-Subangi said...

slm mustaq,

i was doing my usual round reading through my bloglist when i bump into this in your latest post - #1 in your top 10 post list, haven't gone that far back in your blog. leaves a warm tingling sensation inside me.

and what a co-incidence i was in kind of a similar situation n right before i read this i was actually trying to explain to a friend in an email the kind of relationship i had with the girl i love. since i can never write as profoundly as u did i email my friend this link instead n tell her its someting like this.

i m not old n beat-up though! it cannot happen for other reasons.


Liza said...

Salam Mushtaq,

I remember reading this posting way back then. Love is the strangest thing. You are such a loveable person with a kind heart too (:

Mushtaq Ali said...

Terima kasih Liza but don't tell anyone about the kind heart part, it'll ruin my image :-)

Spike said...

This post really touched my heart & left me in tears.

I too had someone like this in my life. Someone who truly touched my soul like none had ever before, although we had a romantic relationship.

We met in 2005, but due to circumstances, at the time, we separated shortly thereafter & then re-discovered each other 3 years later in 2008. She had moved to California & then Colorado & I was still in Indiana. Shortly after we began talking again she found out she had ovarian cancer & began treatments. Becaue of the economy I had lost my job & could not afford to go & see her & be by her side. I would, however, hear from her once in a while over the first year, but things were not progressing as the doctors would like & she was sick all the time. Well, August 2009 came around & I missed a call from her one morning. It would be the last call or communication I would recieve.

The fact that she had moved, when we started talking again, & how short our first time around was, meant neither of us had been able to meet each others families. What we did know, though, was that we had truly found a bond between each other, that we were soulmates meant for each other & we needed to work through the differences & find happiness together. She was the one I had been searching for in life. I know this as fact.

So one year has passed & I've been left w/ many more questions than answers. I've tried endlessly to reach her, but I get no replies & her voice mail msg is no longer of her cute little voice, but only a robot reciting "the number you have reached..." I can't pretend to understand what's happened or why, but knowing how sick she was only leaves me w/ one conclusion. I fear the worst, but still hold out hope everyday that she is ok & there are other explanations yet to be given.

Suffice to say my heart & soul are fairly empty & life seems somewhat dulled & gray for me at this time. But still, calling on strength from within, I carry on, w/ a heavy heart, reluctantly searching for peace & meaningfulness w/out her my one true love.

From my experience I can say this "I wish upon no one that they be left w/out the answers they need to forge on through life w/ meaningfulness & purpose, for it is a terrible & aimless existence.".

Thank you for the beautiful story Mushtaq. It's nice to know that there are people left in this world like you. Take care.