Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Last Good Time

In 1976 I was only 23 years old; just a kid. I started playing country and blues harmonica only three years before that. I pursued it with a youthful intensity I can no longer muster, and by the time I landed at Dirty Jack’s Theater in May of 1976 I was pretty damn good. As I have written elsewhere in these pages, that was the best summer of my life, for a whole bunch of reasons.

I drank a bit back then, mainly because it was a rite of passage for a young guy from Wyoming. Drinking beer – particularly Coors beer – was a social norm. It was fun.

Now that I have quit drinking nearly 30 years later, I can clearly identify the summer of 1976 as my last good time. It was the last time I was clean and sober enough – and perhaps naïve enough – to be happy with the pure joys of life. Things kinda went down hill after that.

Some readers have noticed that I haven’t written much on this blog about the 1979 season at Dirty Jack’s. I came back as a veteran performer that year, but it was a summer filled with trouble and tension. Looking back, I can see that my alcoholism had begun to grip me in the intervening years, while I lived and caroused in Phoenix after leaving the show in 1976. By the time I got back to Jackson three years later I was a young man addicted to alcohol, my life was slowly falling apart, and I didn’t even know it.

In all the years since then my drinking slowly but steadily accelerated, ruining any happiness I might have. Marriages do not survive alcoholism. Neither do jobs or friendships. Bands and careers in entertainment are wrecked. Before you know it, you are an old guy drinking alone and wondering when you will die.

Eight months ago I checked myself into a rehab program and stopped drinking. I am very active in AA. I don’t know much about long-term sobriety, but I am pretty confident I will make it to my pillow tonight without drinking. Every sober day is a miracle.

An odd thing happened after I was sober for a few months: I had this urgent, almost panicky feeling that I needed to run away. I felt like joining the circus or something. It persisted in my thoughts, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. But it was vague and I couldn’t say what it was all about. Lost youth, or something…

Over time it became a little less cloudy. It was about Jackson Hole in the summer of 1976. It was about Dirty Jack’s Theater, and the last good time in my life before I got drunk and my life started to spin out of control. But I couldn’t transport myself back to that time and place, so I sat down and created this weblog.

I also decided to get back into the music business (Davis Blues Project. See the “Links” in the right-hand column). I may not be 23 anymore but I feel good at long last, and I am playing music again.

There. Now maybe I can write about what happened in 1979.