People that have impacted me, among many, many others, are dying. Maybe I even knew some of them.
In April of this year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) founder, Paul O’Neill passed away. I did not know Paul personally, but I did see him several times at arenas around the northeast United States over the last 17 years. It would be an enormous understatement, and a lie to say that Trans-Siberian Orchestra has had little to no effect on my life. The quality of the individuals, not to mention their talents, whom have personified O’Neill’s spirit and vision on stages in front of me each year since 2000 has been nothing short of overwhelming. I can’t even begin to describe the relationship that I have built with these folks, their music, and even other fans of the band. Let me put it this way, if every performance you ever saw was the best one that you can remember seeing, that is kind of what it’s like seeing TSO year after year, show after show. And honestly, it goes even deeper than that.
Then, two weeks ago, David Z Rock (Zablidowsky) of Adrenaline Mob, ZO2, Rubix Cube, Soto, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, among others, was killed in a horrific motor vehicle accident on I-75 in Florida. Several people were hurt, and they are still hurting. I met David many times. I had my picture taken with him a few times. We spoke after TSO shows several times, just a fan talking to a performer. Not exactly. Look up his Facebook page and take some time to read through the hundreds of accounts shared about David. Many were like mine, seemingly innocent interactions with David right up through the people who were closest to him, and you may notice something, even now, that was evident every time I ever saw him. You’ll likely feel better about yourself for having read the various stories and accounts. Trust me. That’s exactly how he was. He was tremendously talented and that probably has been overlooked, only because of how he made everyone feel just by being around him. The smile was constant, his energy seemingly endless, and he appeared happier living life than anyone else around.
This past Saturday a man who I never met, but I have written about, passed away, losing his battle with cancer. Bob Harte from the TV show, The Last Alaskans, my favorite character on television is gone. Watching Bob during the few episodes that he was in, was like watching a man, a real man. One who had lost a million times, but who had won at least a million and one times. You could hear his pain, but it came out through his words, filtered, refined if you will, as an inner peace. I related to him, in my mind, immediately. His words were delivered as if truer words had never been spoken. He had lived them, both sides of right and wrong perhaps, and what he shared was as real as anything you might ever find in this day and age. Bob Harte was a man’s man, one who could survive on his own, and he did. He was as resourceful as the day is long. It appeared to me that he wanted peace, inner peace, and outward. One might think that it’s easy to find peace while spending countless hours alone in a mostly forgotten, frozen wilderness, but Bob found the toughest peace there is, coming to total peace with one’s self.
Earlier this week, a person that I knew even less about passed away, when Preston Roberts from the TV show Mountain Men lost his battle with cancer. If you ever watched an episode and you saw Preston, you would have seen Eustace Conway too. Preston and Eustace from Turtle Island in the mountains of North Carolina seemed inseparable. At a quick glance you might take them for a couple of bumbling hillbillies, which they may not have argued with, but they were so much more. Preston was the ever-present side kick, and he was on board with whatever Eustace could dream up. Now I don’t know how much of the show and scenarios were scripted, but I do know that these guys didn’t acquire their skills, dedication to excellence, and perseverance by being on TV. They possessed these qualities long before the outside world cared to know who they were. Preston had grown into one of my favorite characters on all of TV because he was talented, he was patient, he was skilled, and I got the sense that he knew the bigger picture was a lot bigger than he was.
Maybe it’s ridiculous for me to somehow group these four men together. Maybe nobody else even cares. I mean famous rock stars, a generous, creative genius, and resourceful survival TV personalities, what could I possibly say about any of them. Well, as I said people are dying. Good people are dying. Not just good people, like people say he or she was good people, or a good person, but good people, that to me, represent all that ever was good with the best of the human race. Wow! Huge statement right?!?!? It’s only huge because it’s so true.
I will say that my few words here are likely a grave injustice in the magnitude of understatement as to the depth and greatness found in these people who I am writing about, and if that is true, I am terribly sorry and indebted to them and all who hold them dear.
For the people who don’t know, and maybe some who do know, but not to this depth, I want to point out a few observations of characteristics that I feel are not only largely lacking, but they may also be dying with these people. I am hoping to honor them, and push these forward in actions, words, and sharing.
Again, my words, my thoughts, my observations, my correlations. If I am wrong, I apologize. If I hit a few nails on the head, then welcome to what you have been witnessing.
Paul O’Neill –
Some people have the uncanny ability to live life just slow enough at times to be impacted, to be changed, to observe, to feel, and to know how others felt along the way. Maybe at times, they were the others that felt. If you read any first person accounts of Paul O’Neill you will undoubtedly come to know (at some level) his immeasurable generosity. Not only did he share with the entire globe his tremendous vision, talents, and creativity, but he gave of himself to too many to count. This giving wasn’t a cost to him, because he knew better, it was an investment in others.
David Z –
Another wildly talented human being. David was perfectly comfortable on the big stage, and it was obvious. But all I can say here is this. David had the ability to make people feel better about themselves in no time flat, more so, probably, than most people in our inner circles do in a month, or a year. He could do it in a few words. He could do it from the stage. He could do it in his light-hearted, energetic impromptu’s that captured moments people didn’t even know they were having. For having been the center of so much public attention, playing thousands of shows for millions of fans, it always seemed to me that we were the attraction and David was a big kid in the candy store taking it all in and loving every minute of it.
Bob Harte –
We all have bad days. Maybe we have bad months or even bad years. But how do we come back from those times, or do we even come back? Can we be generous even without a lot of stuff to give? If ever there was a story of a man who embodied the old adage “it’s not how many times you fall, but rather, how many times you get back up”, it may have been Bob Harte. Oh how I would have loved to sit and talk with him about life. The lessons he likely fought, resisted, and flat, outlasted were probably too many to count, but they weren’t lost on him. In the end, he spoke truth. He spoke of love, and you could see it leaking from his eyes. He gave of his everything to the ones he loved. His way of life has all but disappeared off of our planet, and it’s a sad commentary really. Not because of the joy found in this one thing or that, but the joy found in being so in tuned with something so much bigger than us every moment. Bob is gone, but many a person would be so much better off for having walked a mile in his shoes.
Preston Roberts –
When we know, or at least think that, we possess the skills, or a voice that is on par with others who get the attention or lead role, we usually find a way to insert ourselves in to places we may, or quite often, may not belong. We are not patient. We cannot wait to be heard. We have so much to say. We are selfish that way. Then there are some who need not be affected by the previous sentiment because they are cool, confident, and content in their own mind. They may well belong, in any leading role, but they also know that their story is not theirs to tell. That’s how I saw Preston Roberts. He was a guy that I remember saying way back, early in the show, that he’d be a guy you could get stranded somewhere in the wilderness with, and expect to come out just fine. In my book, that’s quite a compliment. Not just because of skill sets, but because he would know how, he would care, he would show respect, he would be firm, and he would never give up. We could use more people like that.
People are dying, and a less stressed, less distracted, less selfish, more respectful way of life is going with them.