Credits: Jon Long is the producer, creator and plays EWI on nearly every sound you will hear. Hugh Ragin plays Trumpet on Infinite Things, Techno Rumble and Noted. Mastered by Mark Raynes Cover Art by True Archdale
*This is a tribute to Echo (12 yrs old), my brother and sister in-law’s dog who died today. A letter written as I felt the pain of my friend’s young dog’s life. She was less than one year old and was the sister of my brother Joel’s dog Stanley.*
To Tim, Camille and Lars,
That Last Magical Day with Penny
Time does not heal grief like it can create friendships. Proof of this is meeting you three amazing souls and instantly falling in love with all of you and your dog the moment we first met. The grief of losing Penny will take much more time.
By the time we were bathed in star light, telling stories, after playing with the dogs on the salty beach of Spiral Jetty, after our gluttonous wine drinking and tailgating, after the sunset, after watching the shooting stars, laughing, telling jokes, stories of wit and wonder, Lars and his Greek mythology renditions, the drone, with Joel, my Mom, at that moment, we were best friends. That is a sign of friendship and love.
Ironically, and in retrospect, it’s those times that make the grief after loss so hard. The grief is as seemingly un-bearable as that last night was magical. In times of grief, we tend to think we didn’t do enough. We didn’t hug enough, notice enough. Perhaps we took the thing we lost for granted. Maybe we were distracted by the stars, the wine, the beauty of the night. Maybe it’s the memories of those lovely moments that fuel our grief. Maybe it’s all that love, releasing back into the universe, leaving your soul. Or, maybe it’s the love we were experiencing during those beautiful moments, finally being realized and received into the opening wound of grief from this loss.
When I heard of the horrible news of Penny, I could not believe it. It affected me as if it was my own dog. I immediately thought of all the amazing times we all shared in those short 3 days and how much I love you guys and how much fun we all had. It made me realize that I probably took our instant friendship for granted. I remembered looking up at the Milky Way and looking back billions of years in time. I remembered the story of Lars’s birth that Camille told me about (the cliff notes no doubt), while wading in the water, 1 mile from shore at the Spiral Jetty. I remembered how you found Penny, “right after” your last dog died, and the subsequent finding of Stanley by Joel. I remembered every moment that Penny and Stanley played together at your home and at the Spiral Jetty.
I cried when I heard the news of Penny’s short time on this earth. I didn’t play with her enough, I didn’t hug her enough, I didn’t notice her enough. But, I’ll never forget that beautiful, magical night on the Jetty under the stars. And, I’ll always remember Penny.
I think in time, the grief that you feel is equally balanced by the love that you gave and received from Penny. The time that you spent with Penny was as magical and beautiful as the amount of pain of grieving her loss. As short but magical as her life was, I hope you feel that every second of Penny’s life was worth the pain you still feel.
Not all marriages are bliss and happily ever after and virtually all “teen marriages” end in doom and disaster. I understand that we are not the norm.
Barb and I have been married since August 22nd, 1981. She was 18, I was barely 19. We had a 6 month old baby boy(Josh). We were best friends for 3 years before that. At 15 years old, I fell in love with her. I never questioned our friendship. It just was. That’s how love started and continues today for me.
And so, Barb and I are celebrating another anniversary today. Perhaps there is a formula for this type of success. I’ve always been asked what our “secret” is. I don’t have an answer. Perhaps there are things that we “do” that could be contributing factors in long term successful marriages.
And so, I’ve compiled this list of things that may be important or not. These are purely from my perspective. I have not consulted with Barb for consensus. She may have an entirely different list.
I think the most important thing that is especially relevant in our marriage is: Marry your best friend.
Be cool, good looking, smart, funny, creative, ambitious and healthy.
Marry someone who recognizes and even requires the above in you but doesn’t mind that you may sometimes lack in some or all of them.
Do your own laundry. You don’t want to shrink her sweaters and you don’t want her to shrink your jeans.
Randomly tell her you love her throughout every day.
Play a musical instrument. If you are entertaining and she is easily amused, well……that’s pretty much a YAHTZEE!
Date Night. Leave your friends and/or musical instruments(same thing) out of it. If you don’t, date night will take a turn away from you.
Money. Only one of you can do the books, if you share this task, there will be arguments.
Don’t complain about her cooking. Unless it’s threatening to burn the house down.
Learn to bake and cook really well and bake and cook as if you are the best baker and cook on the planet and keep telling her that you are. She will soon believe this as truth (and it just may be) and meal time will be forever special.
Get a dog that is cute enough to sleep with in your bed.
Avoid asking permission for everything, or anything.
Respect each others opinion. Consensus is not necessary.
Surprise her frequently. Good or bad, it keeps her interested. Worst case, she is mad or disappointed, best case, she is so happy, she cries. You can’t control this.
Minimize rules but flow with routine.
Don’t tease her when she’s mad. All other times are ok.
Give in to her flirtatiousness. Always. Don’t ever feel embarrassed.
At this Jazz jam session in Boulder Colorado USA, Mark Diamond would always introduce each player before they came on stage. Being from Fort Collins, for me, he would typically say something like, “tonight, we have a special guest, all the way from Fort Collins, (an hour drive from Boulder) Jon Long on Trumpet”.
I remember on Nov. 3, 2013, at the Boulder Outlook, a hotel bar, after Mark and crew finished a smoking set, and I’m next to sit in on “the list”. I’m sitting there, valves oiled, trumpet in hand, “known” songs ready to call, nerves under control. Then, Mark says over the mic: “Tonight, we have a very special guest”….me getting ready to go up and play, banging my valves, blowing warm air in my trumpet, walking toward stage…..”world renowned saxophonist”….wth?!….”RICHIE COLE!!!”
What?! I go back to my seat in the darkly lit bar, sheepishly abandon my trumpet and sip on my wine. Then get a 3 song set of killing bebop in stereotypical Richie Cole style, super fast bebop with crystal clear articulation.
Now, I’m thinking I don’t even want to sit in. My nerves were in high gear, even though at that time, I was probably about as good as I ever was at trumpet. But, sure enough, as all jam sessions go, Mark Diamond ends the set and announces my name as Richie is leaving the stage. I go up, call “On Green Dolphin Street”.
As I played the head, I notice Richie Cole sitting right in front of me listening and staring right at me. I felt like a grade school kid. I could barely play. All I could think of was, “RICHIE COLE IS SITTING 6 FEET IN FRONT OF MY BELL”!!
I ended up talking to him afterwards and he said he moved to Boulder. I let him know how much his playing inspired me as a musician.
If this pandemic were a war, Coronavirus is simply the ammunition. The reality of this twisted irony is that humans are the enemy, soldier and quite literally, the weapon.
Is this pandemic our generation’s Vietnam?
Analogies aside, there’s nothing factual that anyone can say about this pandemic that sounds anything but an exaggeration.
Looking back in history, all wars have tolls, economic and otherwise. Our freedoms are always threatened or amended during a war. How is this war different?
Is it the economy? Is it the elusive denominator? Is it the number of tests? Is it the number of deaths? How many have to die for us to see that it is not panic that keeps us home and wearing masks in public, just prudent and necessary actions against this horrible pandemic. Is 40,934 enough? Because that’s how many US soldiers were killed in action during the last horrible war in this country, the Vietnam war.
Trying to wrap my head around the situation that we all find ourselves in, I can’t help but think of the roles we all play in this ongoing debacle. Regardless of the costs to our economy, freedoms and mental and physical health, what is the purpose, accountabilities and tactics of these roles? And, since we all have the choice to fill these roles or not, how does that choice contribute to the success or failure of this war? How do we define success or failure? Is the collapsed economy and lack of freedoms already definition enough? Have we already failed and now it’s just a matter of letting go of our accountabilities and accept our fate in a victim role? If so, are we then part of the inevitable spreading of the virus, like a suicide bomber?
The way I see it, the entire world is the battlefield. Our tactics are to social distance, wear masks when appropriate, wash our hands and just stay home as much as possible. When we do go out for food, or errands, we are literally in the line of fire.
In past wars, brave soldiers fought for our freedoms. Ironically, in this war, the only way we can win is to sacrifice some of our freedoms, at least temporarily.
During the Vietnam war, as the death toll increased, so did the protesting against the war. While this war against a wildly misunderstood virus is hardly similar to the Vietnam war, it gives me some form of substance to grab onto in my mind as I struggle to understand my roles and how to energize them for good. And, it gives me perspective for understanding others with differing perspectives.
The roles and accountabilities of the front line health workers is clear. They are responding to the wounded and dying. But, our roles, as stay-at-homers, as clearly defined as they are, apparently don’t seem to be as necessary to everyone, even as the death toll soars locally and globally. This is evidenced by the protests against the stay-at-home order.
These are folks who think they don’t have a role in fighting this pandemic. They think the few accountabilities that are expected of most of us are over-reactions and against our constitutional rights. If you define success in this war as, “save as many peoples lives as possible”, they are the enemy. They are like suicide bombers, spreading the virus, literally with their presence at these events and philosophically with their behavior and actions.
What is going on in the minds of these protestors? Why are they questioning orders from the Governor of the state that are meant to fight this virus? Why don’t they see that we are fighting an invisible enemy where anyone can be assumed to be firing ammo everywhere in public? It’s a global pandemic affecting 7 billion people and everyone on the planet is a soldier fighting. The only tactics we have involve our mask, soap and home.
“Bring home the troops”, indeed. We need you here to help fight this enemy.
Is it necessary to comprehend the scope of a tragedy, during a tragedy? Is our biological ability to dull the pain of the moment, a gift of survival? Years later, will we pity the naive and mislead? What does it matter? Will it save one life if we could come back in time and shake all our friends, family and others into the reality that millions will die if we don’t act?
It took two and a half hours for the Titanic to sink after hitting an iceberg in the mid Atlantic. During that time, decisions were made. Musicians were playing to ease the panic stricken passengers. Chaos triggered bad decisions. Even with a lack of life rafts to fill all of the hapless passengers, they were not filled to capacity, ultimately dooming many more souls to a miserable death in the ice cold water.
In this great pandemic of 2020, toilet paper started disappearing from shelves and online retailers around the end of February. 1 week later, the NBA announced the suspension of the 2020 season, just as the tip off of the Thunder/Jazz game after a Utah player tested positive for Covid-19. Before tip off, the players were sent to the locker room and the thousands of fans sent home with not much information. Little did they know this was the last time they would be around so many people for who knows how long. This, to me, was the defining first contact with the Pandemic. You can view the surreal moment here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOX_CZEwVuM
That moment was the point in time when normal was gone forever for the US. At that moment, there was a single death in the US.
It’s similar to 9/11 when I watched a massive airplane pierce the north tower. I was watching the news 15 minutes after it happened after my wife called me and said, “turn the news on, a plane hit the World Trade Center, gotta go, got a meeting, talk later”, googling for updates, changing channels, wondering if this is an accident or something more nefarious.
Within 30 minutes of the NBA’s announcement, Tom Hanks and his wife reported they had tested positive for Covid-19, the NCAA season was cancelled, India cancelled their Cricket season, global travel restrictions were starting to take place and I found out my daughter in-law was being tested for the virus due to symptoms associated with Coronavirus.
The following Monday, the entire world shut down. This, to me was the second plane hitting the south tower. Now, we know. Now, the shock set’s in.
The difference from my reaction to 9/11 and the Pandemic is, the first weeks after 9/11, we weren’t shut down. The only major change was in travel, fear and confusion. I remember walking in the foothills and not seeing a single plane for a few days.
Unlike 9/11, the pandemic is a global event. Every country in the world was shutting down, closing schools, restaurants..everything non-essential. Within days, we were learning that masks were much more complicated than we ever thought. We learned new phrases, like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”. These are the types of new things that are accepted when you are in shock.
Experts were starting to explain new models of viral spread. For every expert, there have been contrary opinions, every single one being proven wrong with every passing hour. This is the most frustrating thing for me.
What I’ve learned since is that there are 4 types of people, those that aren’t infected with the virus and spread positivity, caution and common sense, those that aren’t infected with the virus and spew rhetoric about how we are over reacting, spreading false information about how this is “just like the flu”, those that are infected and scared, and those that are dead from the virus.
I remember the first time I saw someone at my local retail store with a mask on and wondered, WTH? Then, the first time I wore a mask in a store and saw someone without a mask and wondered, WTH? Still in shock
In India, they hit people with sticks to get them off the streets. In the US, marijuana and liquor stores are still considered essential and are open. They say the curve is flattening, but, Tuesday, over 6,000 people in the US lost their lives in just one day. Everywhere you look is misinformation. Today, they say they want to “open America back up”. Meanwhile, the entire world is shut down. Hourly, we are pummeled with news that is conflicting, partisan, political, ignorant and grim. We are just characters, living in a precarious, dystopian horror movie, none of us but the “experts”, daring to admit we know the ending. And, if you do try, you will be shamed or ridiculed and insulted with citations from the experts, who are just characters as well. In fact, it seems as if the experts are the villains in all of this. Even our world’s leaders are behaving like villains.
The new normal hasn’t even started yet. Staying home is all we are asked to do. 45 Days later, today, there are 35,000 lives lost to this horribly misunderstood virus.
By now, the shock has worn off and what remains is stress, a pit in my stomach and knots in my throat when I read the stories, from 7 billion people.
No, I’m not. But, they’re more prevalent than a virus and I’m tired of hearing them spew their expert drivel across the internet during this Pandemic. How expert are they anyways? I mean, here we are in a Pandemic. Where were they when we had time to prevent this? Now, they have all this expert advice on washing hands, masks and flattening curves.
Experts can be dead wrong. Experts have exacerbated this calamity. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, they are digging us deeper into a rabbit hole of indecision, confusion and panic with their fake news based on facts, or lack of facts and twisted logic in the case of a denominator to predict the fatality of this deadly virus. In a Pandemic, we have to make decisions sometimes without all the facts. We are allowing a dangerous precedence when we allow these type of experts to advise our president, influence our people and confuse the press. At the very least, it’s arrogant. At worst, it’s killing people. And, I’m sick of all the expert citing on social media by well meaning people, some of them my friends. The naysayers, trolls and non-snopers spread that crap literally at the speed of light.
In the last 3 days daily deaths have doubled to 8K per day globally. And people are still citing experts that say we don’t know the fatality rate relative to the Flu yet. They say, “we really can’t know for sure because we don’t know how many are infected”. True, the number or deaths, divided by the number of infected, the denominator is the fatality rate of the virus. The Flu is .1% in the US. For Covid-19, this won’t be known with 100% certainty for a while, if ever, and at the moment, it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to know.
We don’t need a denominator to come to a relatively certain projection on what’s going to happen in the next month or two. Worldometer.com and CDC are reporting all the data we need to see that there will likely be 240K deaths in the US alone by the end of this month. Globally, Covid-19 deaths are already close to 10 times what the actual flu deaths are this year at a minimum. No denominator required. WTH? I’m no expert and I know this using common sense.
So, how can an expert say today that “we don’t know if this is deadlier then the flu”. Of course it is. Shut up!
On Feb. 29, 2020, the US Surgeon General said this on Twitter….”Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus”
It’s April 4th, 2020 and we still can’t even agree on whether a mask is bad or good. C’mon! That is a misconception created by “experts”. We’ll look back on this argument decades from now with absolute ridicule. It’s a mask!!! It works like a mask. It works. Shut up!
In the 2nd century BC, Eratosthenes projected the circumference of the earth using a simple observation of a shadow from a rod sticking out of a couple wells. His accuracy was within 10% and was only made more accurate centuries later by “experts” with better technology. All these Pandemic experts saying it’s “just not possible” until we have a denominator is BS, endless gibberish leading to nothing informative. Because of all the experts and their hang-ups on perfect science, perfect data and denominators, most people will never believe the numbers, even years from now.
If experts can’t make predictions because they’re too hung up on exact variables, they should stop criticizing those that make predictions based on simple observations and step aside so those that are bold enough can speak up and inform, advise and influence faster and smarter, decisions.
Use simple observations. That’s what the rest of us do. And when your advice doesn’t make sense vs common sense, we lose trust in experts, further paralyzing our species from making the correct life and death decisions. I guess common sense isn’t so common amongst experts.