Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kevin’s Song

Becca asked me how my nickname is pronounced and after talking to Rayne I decided to share how I got it.

Leaving Art School and freelancing in NYC was a difficult time for me. I was broken, my dreams shattered by the realities of that life. I went back to my parents house and did not return calls from those that wanted me to return.

I spent my time playing my guitar and listening to music in seclusion. My sister decided to give me a dog to keep me company and to get me out of the house. As I was walking my dog a teenager in the neighborhood took an interest in me. His name was Kevin and he lived on my street. He was in trade school for auto mechanics and soon we were busy getting my old Corvette ready for the road. We would spend hours working on the car and playing with my dog.

I allowed Kevin into my world and soon he said that I should try out for a band. Now Kevin was a huge MASH fan and would watch every episode. When I was at art school they wanted me to have a catchy signature so I played around and made one using my initials which are “C. J.” While at art school people started calling me by my initials.

Now one day Kevin called me “Ceij”, pronounced “siege.” In the TV show MASH there was a character named B. J. Honeycutt and his best friend called him “Biej”. I didn’t like MASH and hated the nickname. I used to expend unimaginable amounts of energy trying to get Kevin to stop calling me Ceij.

After a while I did try out for bands and landed a gig playing for a moneymaking top 40 cover band. As I grew more confident many bands wanted me to leave and play for them. Eventually one very talented band convinced me to leave and join them. I gave my notice and promised to stay with them until they found my replacement.

The time finally came and I was to play my last gig with the top 40 band. I wanted Kevin to go to my last performance to see me since I was moving far away to be with the new band and would be traveling a lot. Kevin was 17 but I could get him into the nightclub as a roadie. When we asked Kevin’s parents they forbid it and so Kevin could not go with me to the last gig.

On the opening night of the last gig we had a terrible rain storm. Flash flooding was everywhere and I was fortunate to arrive at the nightclub on time. I setup, went through sound checks then the performance began. I returned home very late that night and went to bed. The next day, before I returned to the nightclub I learned that Kevin went off the road in a flash flood on his way home from work and was in a terrible accident. I had to get a friend to take me to the gig; I was far too upset to drive.

After each set that night I went to the back of the club and sat under a table holding my knees and crying. All I could think was that if Kevin was with me last night he would not have been in the accident.

The final set ended, the performance was over and I said goodbye to my band then went with some people to a 24 hour diner. It was very late as my friend drove me home. We were nearly at my town when the dawn approached. As I watched the sun rise above the horizon I realized that Kevin was gone. Then I felt his presence telling me he was OK and happy. A small smile came onto my face as a small stream of tears rolled down my cheek.

Kevin was gone and I went to his funeral a couple of days later. I thought about all the time we spent together and how much I missed him. I thought about how much he helped me return to the world after my self imposed exile. Then I thought of how much time I wasted arguing with him over the affectionate nickname he gave to me.

It’s been over 30 years since Kevin left us. Someday I will leave as well. There is a song that makes me think of Kevin each time I hear it – “Shooting Star” by Bad Company. When I look back at my days playing in bands I call myself “Johnny Rock Star” after the character in that song:

“Johnny’s life passed him by like a warm summer day, if you listen to the wind you can still hear him play”

I can still hear Kevin play in my soul and I will never forget him.
That is Kevin’s song.

To Kevin, from your friend always,