Friday, March 28, 2008

March 28, 2008

Bob and Kathy are about ready to get on the road back to Phoenix this afternoon. Damn that felt good to write. (And today is my last as a piss-poor substitute blogger for Bob Boze Bell. Any entry in this blog you read after this one will be from him. Boy, that felt even better---on lots of levels.)

On Monday, he will get a complete cardiological work-up at the Arizona Heart Institute after Kathy worked through the night and this morning to get it arranged. There aren't many better places in this country than AHI, so he will be in great hands.

Nothing else needs to be said. But Kathy and Bob (I talked with him for 30 minutes yesterday, and he remembered it this morning) insisted on just one more entry from me.

The humor tank, however, is still on empty and no balm has yet been invented to soothe the raw emotions of the past six days. So today's collection may not meet Kathy's original charge of "keeping it light."

Herewith, then, are some final observations, some special moments Bob missed, some additional thank you's:

* For better or worse, bands are like families. Last weekend it was all for the better. When sets or group line-ups fell apart with Bob's heart attack, they went back together with a single question: "What do you need?" As I struggled to keep myself together just before the party started, I realized we would need a drummer for the Exits set. Larry Archer, can you help us eventhough you've never played a single verse with us? "It would be an honor," came his reply. My heart felt warm for the first time in hours. He and Ken Kingman doubled up on drums, and with help on guitar and keyboard from Vern Andrews and my brother John, our band family hoisted the old Exits on their shoulders and carried us through our set.

* Some may wonder: How can you still play music and have a party when a friend hangs so close to death? I knew what Bob would want and when Kathy and Deena insisted the same, there was no decision to make. Our new friend Steve Paroni, who played bass in the early 1970s with Bob, Larry and Mike Torres in Smokey, said it was the second hardest gig he ever had to play. The first? The night of the day his father died. It may sound trite, but I think the Doobie Brothers got it right. Sometimes, for broken hearts and battling our worst fears, "music is the doctor."

* Our carefully conceived welcome and first set quickly unraveled. The King of Zane was in the hospital and now we wanted to honor him as well. Mike on guitar and golden-throated Roger Enrico rode to the rescue. With some pre-recorded back-up music, they started us off with a tribute to Bob---Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's "Wonderful World." Dry eyes were hard to find. All night Mike and Roger added a voice here, a lead or riff there, a saxaphone, a trumpet, a flute, percussion---and tremendous warmth and leadership at a most difficult time.

* Wayne Rutschman brought his saxaphone and three dozen hats embellished with an old-english E, similar to those on the blue Beatles' jackets our band wore. He passed them out to band mates and other friends but we could have sold 100 of them. We all would dress differently for the party Saturday, but the final message before we broke for dinner was, "Tonight we wear the hats."

* Add another hero to BBB's CPR team: Gary Conrad. He was quick to join the others mentioned in previous blogs and helped save a life. He also provided security for us, ran the stage lights and spent two nights at the Elks to guard our equipment. On Friday, he joined Kokomo to sing a couple of great songs, and on Sunday he took Bob's drums back to Phoenix. Gary is a Payson musician and singer, a great guy and new member of the Exits family.

* Moment to remember, Part I: Steve Burford hadn't played bass on stage (or much of anywhere) for over 40 years. He desperately wanted to play bass on "Pipeline" for the party as it is one of his son Daniel's favorite songs. He even stopped by Mike's house in Phoenix to practice three times after work to make sure it was just right. I turned Saturday to watch him play it perfectly and intently, then shifted my eyes slightly right. There stood Daniel, with a huge grin. Yes, that's why we were doing this.

* Moment to remember, Part II: We hadn't seen Terry Mitchell in more than 40 years. He had moved back to New Mexico and continued to play until he lost part of the middle finger on his fretting hand in a roping mishap three decades ago. He was the last guy we finally tracked down and only came after encouragement from his lovely and persistent wife Kathy. When I stood next to him as he belted out "Gloria," I shivered. Moments later, he grinned and nodded when I quietly asked if he remembered a quick chord change and turn-around as Vern paid tribute to Wendell Havatone on "Your Cheatin' Heart." And for just a moment, everything seemed right in this world.

* A big smile: When brother John sang "For What It's Worth," two dozen women on one side of the hall erupted in cheers and whistles. And shortly thereafter, when we launched into "Just Like Me," the entire area in front of the band was full of women dancing and raising their arms and cheering and throwing money. After the set, Larry said that the old Exits must have really been something in the old days to receive such a reaction 45 years later. I smiled and told him that it's called "salting the mine." Twenty-five percent of the women were old and dear friends; the rest family.

Finally . . .

We joke a lot about our hometown of Kingman, but when the proverbial chips were down, its people did what they always have done---they came through for nine Kingman kids and their friends. The most oft-heard phrase heard after our nightmare began shortly after 2:30 p.m. last Saturday was: "What can I do to help?" And they meant it, working at the door or behind the bar, or showing up the next morning to help clean the hall.

So I gratefully move to the end of my five-day career as a substitue blogger by sharing the words from the chorus of a tribute we wrote for our hometown and played Saturday night. You can easily guess the song from which we stole the melody,

We're back in Kingman, Arizona,
Where the sky's always blue.
Sweet Kingman, Arizona,
Killer winds, great sunsets, too.

Thankfully, we all still have some Quality Time Left to brave strong winds and cherish majestic sunsets together.

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