Wednesday
Dec082004

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My buddy Phil Cole is dying of cancer. He's about 14 years older than me, and we've worked together in the sound biz for about five years or so when I was doing that work all the time. It would be hard for me to name a guy who has been such a hard working guy who still manages to keep a basically cheery disposition. He's had cancer for the last two years or so. I first heard of it in early 2003. And it hasn't been getting better at all. They keep pulling chunks of it out of him, and he's on chemo. I don't really know what he has ahead of him, really, and that's sad.

The music community of which we were a part, as soundmen, is organizing a benefit to help offset his medical costs, which are spiralling upward at an ungodly rate. His family and his wife's family are both pinched way too hard trying to keep up. So the musical world is doing a charity event, which is actually open to the public. It is on December 26 at Humphrey's.

They want to have an auction of stuff too. I was thinking of putting something up. It isn't an easy call what to put up. I have some stuff that has gone unused, but damn, material items are sneaky bastards. I mean, here we are... I could help a friend by getting rid of some stuff I already don't use, but when I look at things, they all cry out for mercy, begging me to spare them. Oddly enough, the item I was thinking of getting rid of was my fretless bass. I have almost no business owning a fretless bass. My reservation is that it is really the finest guitar-type instrument I own, but soberly speaking, it is sort of a fish out of water, even though I love messing with it. I have recorded and kept all of about 24 bars of music with it in the three and a half years I've had it. Maybe I can blow out some extra snare drum or something. I have four snares. There has to be at least one that can go.

It makes me wonder, what is worth? What is worth? I mean, I could sell all my shit but it won't make Phil better. His shit is terminal and they are already taking out some stuff that is way too close to vitals. He has already had to sell a lot of stuff to defray the bills, and the mortgage he and his self-employed wife have. He's too weak to do much work at all, certainly not the very physical stuff we did for bands and events. He's had to sell off his home studio gear a few pieces at a time, so he can't even stay at home and do much recording for hire. All the basses we both own (six between us) don't do much in the face of his condition, unless it is true that music heals. Doctors want to be paid, so money is the only language they speak, and it's not like they offer refunds if their remedies aren't. For me, in the midst of all the bands and artists present there at the benefit, it's not really much for me to offer my "skills" or labor as recordist or soundman, because the place will be crawling with those sorts of people, and really, I was never anything special—just a guy who would show up if cheap work was offered. I suppose web design would be the particular skill I could auction off while still retaining my own investments in gear. Most of the stuff I have is pretty budget stuff—a Mexican Fender bass, a Korean guitar, a severely modified Fender Strat... I don't know what sort of change that sort of stuff fetches. The fretless bass is the one item that is not critical but actually has some worth because it is made in Germany (well, its a German instrument maker, but maybe they went to China too).

But for what it is worth, I did sit myself down and do something that would only ever come from me, and hopefully would help him feel a little better. I wrote him a letter. It's odd to think about it this way. We have known each other for some years, have traveled all around the region, flown to Hawaii, I've been a guest at his family parties and events, helped him in his studio, and other things. But really, all those moments have been a string of transient experiences, and never really brought together in any way. I may never write to him again, seeing how the first letter took seven years to start. I tried to make it a little irreverant, but it was sort of rough at points to actually open up to someone for the first time, despite some sense of familiarity from years of shared experience. I feel sort of bad that the time he has had his cancer has been the same time that I have been out of the music biz, and therefore, really out of the loop. I feel that I should have been able to fill in for him, or bought some of his stuff, or something. But it all comes down to money, and that is the only thing that seems to stand a remote chance to bail him out, or not. It just sucks, because I don't have the stuff pouring out of my ears, and the stuff I could do for him isn't really much in real terms, but I could hope that my letter or other such well-intentioned efforts would somehow send a cloud packing for a while, maybe give him a smile, or a new way of seeing something that previously was mundane or overlooked altogether.

Poor Phil. He's the guy who was already a lightning rod for problems. We joked when it was a matter of a hotel kitchen busser's cart falling on his minivan windshield while in a hotel loading dock. Or he had one of those exploding Firestone tires that blew out on the freeway, causing his fully laden box van to flip over on the freeway, scaring the living shit out of him, and causing him to miss my birthday party that night. That stuff is small potatoes compared to slowly having parts of your body excised out of you, and killing your cells with the same chemical cocktails that are meant to cure you. In this year of reflection about what it is to be human, or to experience humanity and all its ebbs and flows, it's sad to think that one of the best guys I ever knew in the music biz is really only a short way from death, and this at the age of 45!

I hope some of you who read this can come out to the show at Humphrey's and help him out.

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