Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mama's Ashes

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I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, the last line from Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

Camping near Saugatuck Michigan
Staying at campgrounds on this Midwest tour has made for some good stories and fodder for later songs. Practicing my music at camp a community of campers and Rv’rs comes by each evening. They bring firewood, build my fire, and have food and everything to settle in for a night of community. Not exactly Kumbaya as the beer and vodka flows freely. One night a man gets up and leaves upset. His wife tells me Amazing Grace, which I just played, was his mother’s favorite song etc. Another night a young cowboy lingers and brings more to drink eventually telling me he is also part Indian, Apache in fact, and says he was working up the courage to come and ask me to play for him. He had just been diagnosed with Lymphoma, something his grandmother was in the hospital for at the time. He says he’s had 3 DUI’s and the last one cost $25K to fight. I listen. He starts crying says he’s scared and fighting the bureaucracy to cover his meds and treatment. He works as a maintenance guy at the camp as well as restores and details cars. Pretty much this is the story you hear out here where everyone is working many jobs under the table to get by and always with a plan to score some big dough. Here’s the thing though. Very few bemoan or whine. Most just end it with the comment that things will get better, other people have it much worse and always there is hope and a belief that they’ll be okay. When I think of our politicians (all of them) who spew platitudes about the American People want this or that I get disgusted. What the hell do any of them know about us? Nothing! I’ll spare you a rant on that subject though…haha

So one day this guy sets up camp a few spaces down and across from me. He comes by to say hello and he seems skittish and nervous. He asks if he can come hang out later. I say sure that my site seems to be the community center and to bring a chair. When he comes later he notices that I suck at building fires. He says his dad taught him how to build a “Kentucky Fire.” I’m intrigued and say go for it. Plus it will give him an activity. He said his dad told him always travel with an Axe, matches and a knife. Hmmm okay. He’s trying to make kindling from a log and to me seems ill trained at it. But, as he chops he’s telling me about how his brother’s (whom he lives with) girlfriend is visiting so he had to leave town. She wants him dead was the quote. He says she is moving in with her autistic teen son so his brother bought him the cheapest tent available and told him to go camping. Wow. The poor log is really taking a beating by now and I’m thinking oh shit, I am camping with an axe murderer nearby. So be it I think. This rain and mosquitoes are kicking my ass anyway.

As “Abe” (a made up name) drinks more Vodka he goes through my logs and I’m thinking hey save some for tomorrow and at the same time glad he has an activity. Abe says his mission on this trip is to spread his mother’s ashes in Lake Superior. Though he explains Mama never actually went to Lake Superior she always liked it. He says he doesn’t really have enough money or gas to actually get there so I suggest Lake Michigan which is just miles away. Soon it comes out how Mama kowtowed to drunken dad ignored the molestation his uncle did to he and his brother….whew, and on and on. I’m thinking how on Earth do I get out of this one? So of course I do what I always do, I play music. He crumbles and retrieves his Mama’s ashes saying she loved music. Oh shit. This goes on another night but I flee into town for the day. Other campers are leaving the next day and bringing me their beer, hot dogs, groceries and even a bigger tent. I graciously accept because I know they want to tell me thank you for the company and music and this is their way to do that. The damn raccoons break into my cooler and steal the hot dogs, chips, granola and everything but the beer. Guess they can’t open the cans. 

Mama's Ashes
Early in the morning I hear someone calling, “Randy. Randy are you up? Randy?” I come out and Abe is there saying he is taking off so I get out and he seems excited. I’m rarely excited about mornings until I’ve had a half gallon of coffee and my mood shows. He says, “I took your advice.” “About what?”  He says, “I left Mama’s ashes here in Michigan.” “You drove to the lake already this morning?” He says, “No, she is there.” “Where?” “There,” he says pointing to the fire pit. I look closer at the ashes and sure enough there is a different color of ash on top with little fragments that I think are bones. I am in shock and jolt awake. “You put your mom’s ashes in the fire? Really?” He says yeah makes perfect sense. I ask if he’ll tell his siblings. He says maybe the other brother who was also molested but not the others because they’d get mad. You think?! I ask if he said any words or anything? He said no she wasn’t very religious. I tell him I’ll play Amazing Grace for her later. He says “Oh your music is pure magic, just magic, she’d like that. “

I just don’t even know what to think at this point. I’m so mixed about how to feel but decide I don’t need to have an opinion other than be honored. When you play Native American flute music, have long hair, are of American Indian ancestry and speak calmly people think you are somehow spiritually connected so I just went with it. After I got cleaned up I did a ceremony, said some words and played Amazing Grace on the flute. Later that night I’m thinking do I build another fire here? I’m out of wood by now so gather fallen wood from the campgrounds. I scoot the ashes out of the way and let it roar. Half a dozen or so campers come by and I tell them the story. Some are appalled, shocked and are asking if it’s legal. So as we are talking about it and our strange camper Abe I notice (not kidding here) there is a log that looks like the lower part of a woman’s leg with an old-style shoe attached. It is glowing and I tell you, we all agree how real it looks. The young cowboy at that moment says he was just diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer and as soon as he said, “cancer” the log split and poked straight up. Several people screamed. It was so on time that we just freaked out. Wow.

I leave the next morning thinking okay I’m camped out and had enough of playing listening post. I suspect something about the outdoors and fire makes people open up. I don’t know. Maybe there are just more people with issues out camping these days. Either way I love collecting stories so it worked out I suppose. I never did eat those hotdogs and was craving them for days. Dang Raccoons.

This weekend August 7th & 8th I return to perform at The World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin, IL. This festival is set in the west Chicago suburbs in an Oak tree park on the Fox River. The atmosphere and mood is always festive and magical. My Flute and Hang music just seems right at home. Check their website at World of Faeries Festival. You can find my performance times on my calendar at Randy Granger Calendar.

Here is a new video of a song Heart Song from my newest album “Pura Vida.” I hope you enjoy it. Listen to song clips, post reviews, download or purchase the album at “Pura Vida.”  



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