Time Heals

It’s true.  Many years ago I was in a terrible quandary and wasn’t sure what to do or how to make the right decision.  I had just been accepted into a music school out in Los Angeles and for a young man of 23, the west coast sure did seem like a wonderful and enchanting place.  As the saying goes, when it came to the idea of living in Hollywood, I had stars in my eyes.  This was my second attempt at getting into this school and the second time I’d been accepted.  My first try was a few years prior and even after I received my acceptance letter, I chickened out and never left town.  Time went on, but something kept gnawing at me to go for it one more time, so I did and I got in, but this time I was leaving and nothing was gonna keep me from it.  The trouble was, I’d been playing drums with a band called Big Fish for almost three years and things were going pretty well for us.  We’d just signed a development deal with a production company in Nashville and were in the middle of working on a demo to shop to record companies, when I just up and split town, leaving no word to the guys in the band as to what my plans were.  It was a stupid, cowardly act and I knew it, but somehow I feared that if I didn’t leave right then, I would never make it out of Memphis and I was willing to take the risk of burning a few bridges to see my dream fulfilled.

Big Fish, circa 1990. Left to Right: bassist Eric Eschbach, singer Richard Thompson, guitarist Andy Tate, yours truly, and keyboardist Rusty Stavely.

I’d felt that same fear grip me several times in my past.  I remember once my dad took me to Sears for a new pair of cowboy boots and I was too excited.  I’d been watching a lot of old westerns with him and we were both big fans of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and all the great cowboys.  My personal favorite was Lee Van Cleef.  He just had that look that said, I will kill you and that’s what I dug about him.  Total baddass.  Anyhow, Dad and I made it over to the shoe department and right away he found just what I’d told him I wanted…brown leather with a square toe, just like they wore in the movies.  He told the clerk my size, but Dad hadn’t realized that I’d grown a couple of inches since my last pair of shoes, so when the guy came back with my size, I tried them on and they didn’t fit.  But I didn’t say a word even though my toes were getting squished in the top of that boot.  Something came over me right then and I just knew that if I told them that those boots didn’t fit, then I wasn’t going to ever get a pair.  It was like they were the last ones in the world and they were gonna be mine whether they fit or not.  “How do they feel, son”, Dad asked?  Great, I said!  And that was that.  A few weeks later, my dad noticed I hadn’t been wearing my new boots and asked me where they were and when I told him that they didn’t fit, he just about lost his mind.

Kids.

It’s funny to me that after traipsing the U.S. for more than 15 years, taking up numerous residences in San Diego, LA, NYC, Jacksonville, New Orleans and Austin, I end up right back where I started from all those years ago and it makes me wonder about my life, how it’s mapped out.  It’s so crazy.  Anyway, upon my return home, I was surprised and happy to learn that my friend Andy still had the band going and had made quite a name for himself in the Mississippi casino circuit.  When he found out that I was back, he quickly made his way out to one of my gigs and we were reunited once again.  He said he liked my trio very much and couldn’t believe how much I’d changed from that skinny little kid he knew so many years earlier.  Smiling, he embraced me and I was so glad he’d forgiven me.  A few months passed and one day he called to see if I might be interested in coming to play with them and I was overjoyed.

Big Fish today, 2010! Left to Right: guitarist Steve Corbett, yours truly, bassist (and amazing vocalist) Louis Meek & guitarist, bandleader and true friend, Andy Tate.

Although the members may have changed some, the music is still very much the same and we’ve now shared the stage together dozens of times.  I feel lucky to know these guys and have them as my peers.  My motto is, don’t beat yourself up about the decisions you make.  Just make ’em and keep moving on, even if you feel you’re being selfish.  Time will take care of the rest.  Take it from me.

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