The Final Curtain . . . Oy Vey

finalcurtain-hqdefaultMortality, one of the less-than-fun subjects to ponder, has been on my mind a tad more than usual of late, and I’ve been dealing with it like the well-adjusted adult that I fantasize being. I know why my gaze has moved slightly in that direction, and I’ll get to that shortly. Luckily, though, I normally don’t give the topic a whole lot of thought, which I suspect is the case for nearly all of us. Most days I subconsciously shrug my shoulders in the face of the inevitable and continue performing my clumsy dance through life. There’s nothing we can do about the final curtain, so why sweat it? It’s out there. We know that. And one of these days it’s going to drop . . . Hey, wait a minute. That’s really true, isn’t it? One of these days it is going to drop. On little ol’ me. Me, who never hurt more than a few thousand flies in his life. Me, who makes it a point to help the elderly cross the street whether they want my assistance or not. It’s not fair, I tell you! It’s not fair! Holy crap, I’m bumming myself out. I need to walk away from my computer’s keyboard and try to calm down before I resume work on this depressing essay. A beer, that’ll help. Let’s make it a six pack. Better yet, a full case. I’ll be back at some point, unless that f**king curtain falls sooner than I expect it to.

(Three days later). As promised, I’ve returned. And I’m in fighting shape once again. It’s time to continue. I recall a conversation I had six or seven years ago with a childhood friend. I was in my early 60s at the time and recently had celebrated a birthday. “You know, I’m not getting any younger,” or something similarly clichéd I said to her. “Neil, you’re not old. To me you’re youthful,” she more or less said to me. What? Was she kidding? All I could think of was an indisputable fact: Even if I were to live for another 30 years, I was a whole lot closer to the end than to the beginning. And today, as I barrel down the track towards age 70, which is a mere 10 months away, that’s far truer than it was then. Oy vey, what’s a poor boy to do?

Aging. Closing in on the finish line. They are mystifying phenomena. And when you’re truly getting up there in years they can be hard to wrap your head around. My mother, for example, couldn’t believe it when she turned 70. She laughed and laughed when talking to me about the dubious milestone she had reached. 70? Hah! She probably thought of herself as being 45 or 50, and those numbers pretty well reflect the way I think about myself today. But time marches on unconcernedly, despite what’s going on in our imaginations. My mom, a wonderful person whose health problems were considerable and heartbreaking, is long gone. The grains of sand in her hourglass’s upper section emptied pretty quickly after her 70th spin around the Sun.

Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/SoundSpike
Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/SoundSpike

And now it’s time to mention the reason I’m writing this story, which for sure is not of the fluffy and puffy sorts that I usually populate cyberspace with. Yes, philosophy fans, once in a blue moon I cautiously reach into my mental library of deep thoughts and pull out a couple. Problem is, my supply is incredibly limited, so I have to ration them carefully. Right, I still haven’t mentioned the reason. Well, Sharon Jones is the reason. Sharon Jones, the gritty and splendid soul/funk singer. Sharon Jones, who didn’t find musical success until firmly in her middle age and probably was all the more appreciative of it for that. Sharon Jones, who a couple of weeks ago joined the long list of notable musicians (Bowie, Prince, Maurice White, Leonard Cohen, et al.) whose tenures on Planet Earth ceased in 2016. She made it to only age 60.

When I heard about Sharon’s death I felt sad. Quite sad. And not because I was a devout fan of hers. I wasn’t, though probably I should have been, as she was really, really good. Instead, her passing brought me up short because of something that I suspected to be very true. Namely, that undoubtedly she was a lovely person, someone whom I’d have been lucky to know and be pals with. I came away with those observations five years ago when my wife Sandy and I went with a group of friends to see Sharon perform in Philadelphia. As always, she was with The Dap-Kings, a horn-heavy, swaggering band she’d hooked up with in 2002, and found acclaim with over the succeeding years.

Sharon and The Dap-Kings’ performance was part of a weeks-long arts celebration that Philadelphia put on in the spring of 2011. On April 30 of that year she and her bandmates climbed the outdoor stage set up in the heart of town. They were the final act of that day’s street fair. The stage sat in the middle of Broad Street, Philadelphia’s main thoroughfare, and all around it were oceans of human bodies. I don’t know how, but Sandy and I and our friends found a few feet of open space pretty close to stage right. I was pumped. I knew that Sharon and company would be good, but had no idea they’d be fantastically good. And Sharon led the way. For an hour and a half or so she absolutely commanded the stage, shimmying and strutting and testifying and propelling songs to the skies with her powerful vocal cords. My God, she and The Dap-Kings rocked the city to its knees.

I was entranced. Not only that, I could tell that Sharon Jones was beyond ordinary in more than musical ways. That became obvious when she invited a group of little kids, who had been dancing their hearts out a few feet in front of her, to join her onstage. Sharon went wild with them, and the crowd roared. And they also roared, during the group’s signature song (100 Days, 100 Nights), when, with a “Come on, baby,” she motioned to a young man in the audience, Thomas, to climb up and party madly with her. She and Thomas made an exuberant couple. Here is the video of Sharon Jones, The Dap-Kings and Thomas:

What can I say? Beautiful people, those who are open and joyful, behave as Sharon did that afternoon. By that I mean that Sharon was a beautiful person. Which is why many in this world will miss her. It’s a sorrowful day when a bright light goes out.

 

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30 thoughts on “The Final Curtain . . . Oy Vey

  1. C. C. Cedras December 7, 2016 / 8:00 am

    I love Sharon, and it does bring us up short when our contemporaries blink out this way. Condolences to us all.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Janet Sunderland December 7, 2016 / 10:12 am

    Nice post. How can we not let musings of the final curtain enter from time to time?
    70 was a celebration for me. We went out to listen to jazz wit some young friends and ended up with tequila shots (Patron Silver, mind you) at 2 a.m. 71 was a “oh. I’m really in my 70s” blow and I went to the farm in an “I ‘vant to be alone mood” and ended up having to pump water out of the basement. (You can search for that adventure on the blog under I’m not as old as I thought I was). This year’s, I don’t remember so that either means it was fine or uneventful or I’m creeping into senility.
    Maybe we’re aging into fine wine.

    Loved the video. We saw Ko Ko Taylor a year or so before she died. When I heard the opening chords of “You Can Leave Your Hat On” I, along with audience, roared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 7, 2016 / 11:17 am

      Hi Janet. Your comments here are some of the best that anyone ever has written on my blog.
      Thanks very much.

      Like

  3. Joyce Hamilton December 7, 2016 / 11:44 am

    Thanks for the video….she is great. I never heard of her before. I was sad reading about the final curtain since l have passed the 70 mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. courseofmirrors December 7, 2016 / 5:11 pm

    What a wonderful woman to pour out her heart in song like this.
    It’s often the very bright lights that don’t hang around to dim slowly.

    I’ve lost quite a few close friends over these last years. Been going through the loops every time. If there’s something good to be said, while the curtain re-opens every day, I appreciate the marvel of being present to myself and others more, and the small wonders each day brings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sniderjerry December 7, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    “Live your life and forget your age.” Norman Vincent Peale
    “You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns
    “In the end it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that count.” Abraham Lincoln
    Great story. Rock on, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 7, 2016 / 6:15 pm

      Hi Jerry.
      I like the quotes a lot. There’s plenty of wisdom within them.

      Like

  6. Still the Lucky Few December 7, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    I just wake up each morning, put one foot in front of the other all day, and don’t give one thought to ‘end of life’ issues, or death, if you prefer to put it more directly. Seems such a waste of energy to worry about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 8, 2016 / 8:44 am

      Right, I agree. Once in a while, though, I think about these things. And in this most recent instance it inspired the above story.

      Like

  7. cincinnatibabyhead December 8, 2016 / 1:43 am

    That is probably one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. Thanks for that . What a woman. She’s my hero!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aunt Beulah December 8, 2016 / 4:52 pm

    I was reading along, chuckling and identifying, when you got to the real reason you were writing the post, Sharon Jones. I was totally unfamiliar with her and have now watched the video 3 times. She is everything you described, and anybody would have to love Thomas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Eugene Knapik December 8, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    I was off chasing trout with a fly rod in rural Wisconson back in May when Tuffy P texted me to say she had tickets for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. The show was later in the summer. Her cancer was back by then, but when she got onstage she was transformed and the whole show was a fantastic experience. What a remarkable person and performer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 8, 2016 / 6:13 pm

      Hello, Eugene. Thanks for visiting. I read a bunch of articles before starting to write this piece. And I came across other people saying what you just said — i.e. despite the cancer, she performed marvelously on stage.

      Like

  10. thefoodandwinehedonist December 8, 2016 / 5:42 pm

    I only became familiar with Sharon Jones a couple of years ago, and it’s been a great couple of years… so sad. I really loved the interview she had with Terry Gross earlier this year. I could listen to her talk for days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 8, 2016 / 6:15 pm

      Hi. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I’m going to try and find that interview online. Hopefully it has been archived on a public radio website.

      Like

  11. andrewcferguson December 10, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    Love your writing style Neil. Particularly like the phrase ‘my clumsy dance through life’! Sharon seems to have been a real force of nature – we need people like her to keep away the dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fictionophile December 21, 2016 / 11:42 am

    It is strange that just a week before Christmas, I am reading your post about death, AND, I am reading a beautifully written book that is also about death. “The language of dying” by Sarah Pinborough. For whatever reason, those we have lost from our life, seem to be at the forefront of our thoughts during the ‘festive’ season…

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 21, 2016 / 2:15 pm

      Hi. I’ve been very negligent in my book reading. But I’ll add the book you mention to my miles-long TBR list.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Margaret Jean Langstaff December 30, 2016 / 10:12 am

    A very moving and resonant reverie. What might have been a hopeless downer instead under your influence and reflections, Neil, became a lovely hymn to life!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. willowwrites January 4, 2017 / 3:28 pm

    so many voices silenced this year…wonderful tribute to a lovely person who gave a bang-up show!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. viewfromoverthehill January 7, 2017 / 8:46 pm

    David Suzuki, famous here in Canada, stated on his 70th birthday that he was now in the ‘death zone’. I think this is true of us all since everyone will face death at some time. Now that my bones ache, the idea is becoming less odious. You write so well. I do enjoy your work. Thanks, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 8, 2017 / 10:40 am

      As always, Muriel, I really enjoy and appreciate your thoughts.
      See ya’ —

      Like

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