Nothing ever happens in the right sequence. Memories weave their tender vines around our lives. A friend lost his mother and I comforted him by telling him that I saw my mother all the time and she had passed away decades ago. A woman wearing a similar blouse that my mom wore, a turn of phrase that she once said, or just my sister Deedee singing “Booma Sooner” all bring my mother back to mind and I smile – precious moments that comfort me.
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Deedee’s birthday. Our cousin Lindy (Lavinia professionally, named after my mother) was joining Peg and me for a four-person party to celebrate. Lindy’s daughter Jaime Moyer, living in L.A., called in a pizza order to Clover Leaf (a family favorite for decades that reaches back to my teen years before Deedee was even born). I was still searching for just the right gift. On a shelf I saw the funeral video for my mom. Although the recording had been on 3/4 video tape, copies had been made in VHS. I still have a few VHS players around the house, but have not watched one for years. I grabbed the VHS version and headed to a little video shop on South 56th and South Tacoma Way (about a block and a half away from where Lindy lived for a while in first or second grade. I left the video tape and returned later and picked up a DVD. Back home I made copies of the DVD for Deedee and Lindy, and our three kids (now all adults, of course).
After I made the duplicates I sat down and watched the video. I had not seen it since I made it in 1999. I sat with my chin on my hands, elbows on my desk, a foot and a half away from the thirty-inch monitor. I whooped, and laughed and loved every minute of the eight-minute video. Watching my mom’s funeral tape . . . her falling off the sled as I sat on the back of the Willy’s Jeep filming her as my dad drove (1953). Seeing images of my mom and my aunt (her twin sister Virginia) in several photographs . . . seeing my Shetland pony running in the yard of our home you could almost see the glee in his eye . . . my shepherd/collie dog Pal running and enjoying life. The film was filled with the dead, but they were all brought back to life. I was thrilled when I gave the DVD to Deedee and she said, “That’s my favorite funeral video.” There have been others. I’ve produced hundreds of funeral videos, some within a 24 hour turn-over.
My buddy Dennis Flannigan just sent me a video link . . . “. . . here’s a short film Erik (Denny’s grandson) made, edited placed on line recently. Take a look.” It was a funeral video for Stan Gutoski. Erik remarked, “We lost him a year ago yesterday.” Erik did a wonderful job with the video and capturing Stan.
Funeral Video = a Celebration of Life. I didn’t know Stan, and have only met Erik a couple of times. The film is actually a documentary. It recorded Stan talking about his hobby of illegally audio recording concerts. Stan would attend concerts conservatively dressed and after gaining entrance would inform security that he had a recording device for his personal use. People sitting next to him never realized what he was doing. He could switch cassettes and not be seen.
Recording stars worry about people recording their music and reselling the tapes/CDs as basement tapes. We had an incident with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bo Diddley a few years ago, so I know the fretting that goes on. Many Black musicians and singers had their music stolen, so we know the damage that can be done. Although Stan would trade tapes, he didn’t sell them. Once I understood this, I admired Stan. My mind played back unique memories of live productions that I’ve seen and would love to relive. Not for the music, but for the atmosphere.
Peg and I had gone to the Moore Theatre in Seattle with our friend Jan to see Nanci Griffith with Guy Clark. Nanci apologized when she announced that Guy Clark would not be performing with her, but one of her back-up artists/singers had recently released an album and she would be performing several numbers from her recordings. We had never heard of Iris Dement. I can still hear the disappointment of the crowd and then the joy that followed. Iris Dement has a voice that pierces your heart and touches the nerve ends in your brain as she blends images and feelings. Nanci and Iris were funny and stunning. I wish I had that concert recorded but not for the music, which we can hear anytime.
Other musical presentations I would like to relive: The tenor saxophone of Clarence Clemmons and the energy and sheer joy of the music, the message, and the breathing and feeling of the crowd at the Tacoma Dome for the first Bruce Springsteen concert in the 1980s. Comedian Anthony Boden performing at the Tacoma Comedy Club. The jokes were about Tacoma, Seattle and Washington State. Boden teased and worked the crowd. Peg and I were roughly thirty feet away from the stage. All good memories.
Take a look at a basement tour with Stan Gutoski and think about concerts you once saw and experienced. Think about the on-stage comments, the crowd noise, the laughter, and the ambient noise that breathes life back into lost memories – vimeo.com/503750464/493aa4f757
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.