Why should I be frightened of dying?
There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime.
If you can hear this whispering you are dying.
I never said I was frightened of dying."
-Pink Floyd "The Great Gig in the Sky"
Sunday was a bittersweet day. As you know, I went to a very special celebration of a very special man's life. Please forgive my blatant self-indulgence in posting this entry about my friend Alan's memorial. I just had some thoughts to share about him.
It was wonderful to see such a big turnout. The Samurai Homeboys (soul band extraordinaire), past and present, were all present and accounted for. The New Breed Orchestra (a tremendous funk band, now sadly defunct, or perhaps de-funked...) were there in force. Those who loved him and had been effected by him were there, and they told stories. (I think it's important that we tell each other stories about people we love and about the things we love about them. It helps us learn from each other and strive to be more than we think we can be.)
Alan's reputation for prescription-drug-induced forgetfulness was brought back to light, as was his always high priority to "do lunch" with friends. People recalled his tremendous capacity for love and joy, in spite of the fact that due to severe health problems, he seemed to spend three or four months of every year in the hospital. I remembered many times that he was released from the hospital, he would leave from there to pick up his gear and head for a gig, because he had promised to be there. (Alan never broke his word if he could help it.) One man was fortunate enough to have Alan and the Homeboys music to accompany the courtship and marriage of his wife. Another saw the birth and success of his magazine with him.
There are few people in this life that understand that love given to one person isn't taken from anyone else, and that when success comes to someone, the same is true. Alan was one of those people. Any time someone started a project, or saw success in a project, well, Alan was the first in line to be supportive and to congratulate that person. It's a rare quality to be happy for others' success.
I have to say, if you have to go to a memorial of a friend, it helps if they're mostly musicians, because when the tears had flowed and the stories told, the music helped wash all that away and truly celebrate Alan's reason for living: his friends and his music.
I have a picture of him in my mind. Of Alan on stage, maybe at one of those huge festival gigs, or maybe at a warm and cozy private party with an endless budget for sound and decorations.
He's just had some new streaks of blue put in his hair, and he brushes it back from his face as he waits for his cue.
He smiles that smile, like the Buddha on too much caffeine. The four-count comes from Bonham, and Hendrix slings his guitar forward and steps up to the mike (Janis Joplin and Barry White are singing backup this time). They play the first few bars, and Alan swings in on bass, sounding for all the world like an army of orcs shaking the very mountains themselves.