June 29, 2017 – Omni

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I could write a hundred-page essay about ‘Omni,’ and I’m still considering it. There’s no way I could distill the qualities of this person into a quick post like this. I met Omni on 4th Avenue near downtown Tucson. During the entire time I knew him, he was living out of his car, a Dodge Omni, and spent his time in local coffee houses writing “spells” into Bibles lifted from hotels, playing open-mic nights, scribbling artwork and signs on cardboard, and strumming the strings on street-corners. He was a pleasant guy, and often made friends with local college students and kindred hippie spirits, so he never went too long without a decent meal or a shower.

He wasn’t ever anything you’d consider ‘normal,’ but he was always smiling, writing music, and entertaining people with his wild conspiracy theories. I imagined he’d had brushes with the law, but it’s pretty inevitable when loitering is your lifestyle. I remember hanging out various flop-houses where he was allowed to crash, and abandoned apartment units he discovered were unlocked. I watched him scrub his teeth with salt in lieu of toothpaste, and I watched him make friends with non-English-speaking emigres who could play the bassoon, guitar, trumpet – and I hung out with them in their squatter spots, candle-lit with no electricity, making music and trying to communicate without a common language.

Omni wasn’t mentally together; many likely assumed that he was on the Asperger spectrum. To my knowledge, he has yet to be diagnosed. Years after he left Tucson, after he packed up his gear and drove out of my life, I learned that he wound up in some legal trouble in Colorado. To my knowledge, he’s still behind bars after having hunkered down into a chemical toilet to spy on girls using the toilet during a yoga festival. He was spotted running from the scene, covered in feces, and was later apprehended. The news didn’t necessarily surprise me, but it was sad to learn that this guitar-playing vagabond had somehow wound up in a position like that.

I don’t forgive him his trespasses, but I can recall very pleasant moments with him, and recognize that he is mentally ill. I suppose we’ll see what happens as his legal situation unfolds. After violating his parole, he has been sentenced to six years in Boulder – you can read about it HERE.

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January 18 – Farewell, Glenn (take it easy)

Glenn Frey post

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
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I don’t care how Jeff Lebowski feels about it, I’ve always loved The Eagles.

I was hiking along the Kansas River again this afternoon waiting for the sun to go down, hoping for some good color in the sky and some glassy reflections in the water. I looked at my phone and saw the notification from The Associated Press that The Eagles founding member Glenn Frey had passed away; he and drummer Don Henley formed the band in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, along with guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. He passed away in New York in the company of loved ones. He was 67 years old.

It seems like a cruel joke to have so many beloved artists and musicians dying in such quick succession. Lemmie, Bowie, Rickman, and Frey are on a lot of minds right now, and the world seems a little colder knowing these people have left us. We’re all in the process of learning how to mourn in a way that we hadn’t a generation ago. Our rituals are changing, and social media is playing a significant role; it’s a magnificent engine that drives sad news into viral proportions in faster-than-light speed.

As with the previous deaths over the past week, I present you tonight not with a photograph of the day, but an illustration in commemoration of our friend. As with Bowie and Rickman, Frey will remain with us in our mix tapes and records, on the screen, and in our memories.

And I feel it important to echo what a friend of mine wrote earlier today:
“Someone needs to get a team of doctors to [keep an eye on] McCartney, Mick Jagger, Simon, and Taylor stat! We demand wellness checks!”

Now turn on the radio. Live in the fast lane or take it easy. Whichever makes you happy.