Sorrow has won the day. And you can’t tell me it hasn’t.
I’m filled with dread on this first Monday of October, simmering in a low-based depression for both the dead and the survivors of yet another terrorizing mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas at a country music festival.
I can’t get out from under the misery.
It’s getting harder, it seems, each week, to replenish my sympathies, though. Every ten days or so, I’m out in the front yard raising the American flag back up from half mast after a period of mourning. Then, a couple weeks later, there I am again, barefooted, dropping the stars and stripes to middle pole.
Can’t keep track of the losses.
The moment you start to focus on the lost souls in Texas drowned out by Harvey, some other motherless storm named Maria or Irma steals our compassions and breaks the backs of Puerto Ricans, Floridians and anybody else that got in the way.
So, there’s all that on this gruesome Monday morning.
And then, musician Tom Petty dies. And I know right off, comparing a rock star’s death to the 59 people killed in Las Vegas, and the over 500 wounded in the attack, and the millions of others still struggling for light after the hurricanes in the islands and Keys sounds absurd, well, I know, it is all absurd.
But I can’t control what breaks me. I’m a shell these days.
The news of Tom Petty’s death, literally, sent my spirit into a vegetative state. Soon after hearing the news of Petty’s death at the young age of 66, I was surrounded by strangers pushing iron and machines around a gym, sweating through another Monday, kicking out the demons. I was busy hiding my face in the corner of the gym near the triceps machine, looking out the window at the plaza parking lot, fighting back tears.
I wanted to wail, cry out to the gods, “Enough is enough. No mas!” But, I just kept blinking.
Tom Petty’s music, for many of us, defined so many moments in our lives. Whether we knew it or not. Even if you never owned “Long After Dark” it owned you. Because “You Got Lucky” was on the radio every seven minutes, screaming out of every car, garage, backyard, beach bar and bedroom across the land. That song couldn’t help but be cool in ’82. Neither could Tom Petty.
I remember being in near shock, much as I am today, during the early days after 9/11. “A Tribute to Heroes” benefit concert was televised and Tom Petty, as well has many other popular artists, flew in to lend a hand. Petty and the Heartbreakers played “I Won’t Back Down” and the singers eyes sent chills through my body as Petty leaned into the mike, practically growling into the face of evil, his teeth pressed tight, singing for all of us, “And I won’t back dooooown.”
Petty wrote a song called “Free Girl Now” that always reminded me of a female friend from the north country who was always being pushed around by her man. He was a real bully, a nickle-and-dime brute. But, “no longer will you be a slave,” Petty sang on that song, “no longer will you have to crawl, no longer will you suffer.” She finally dumped the bully and she’s a free girl now.
I wore out the print on my “Traveling Wilburys Vol 1” cassette because I played “Handle With Care” so many times my greasy fingers took the ink off it. “Learning To Fly” is a song that reminds me of painting houses for dog wages in the hot sun and having the whole world on your shoulders, not knowing which way to turn next. “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings.”
Some of my best and worst days were spent at Beiderman’s Deli in Plymouth in the mid ’90s drinking copious amounts of Foster’s beer and singing along with the weekday regulars to Petty’s classic solo CD, “Wildflower.” Tony the bartender would hold me and my friends back some nights as the crowd let out just so a half-dozen of us could cool down with one last beer and crank “Honey Bee” at the highest level.
“Jammin’ Me” off Petty’s very underrated CD, “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough,” put steel in my back and strength in my steps whenever I heard him sing, “Baby you can keep me painted in a corner. You can walk away, but it’s not over.”
And sadly, the death of Tom Petty will always be saddled up next to the massacre in Las Vegas because, well, that’s just the way things turned out on this horrific autumn day. The screws were turned, faith was lost, lives shattered in another hail of hatred.
Sorrow, you won. Today that is. Tomorrow we dance for another day, “down at the Zombie Zoo.”