“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
This getting older is an interesting ride, isn't it? The years have certainly simplified things for me. Today I'm 20 years sober. I am grateful for my sobriety and the clarity it has brought me. In my youth, I was, sadly, very confused regarding what was truly important. Then, after retirement and a breathtaking and heartbreaking injustice, I had to re-calibrate everything. Many days I just wanted to go away for good. I can't tell you how low I was because it was an exhausting trial every day just to continue to live. I felt utterly useless and desperately despondent. Fortunately, I did have a wonderful shrink who said to me, "Well, Doc, you tried to change the world. How'd that work out for ya? Maybe you should simplify and just change yourself." She also suggested for me to do things that "soothed" me, reminded me that all things are temporary, and to just hang on.
It became clear to me that two things, besides my beautiful family, might soothe me and help me to make it through the days. One of those was music. The other was nature (part 2 is coming). I have been a music addict since birth (My mother claims that she listened to Calypso music daily while she was pregnant with me in an effort to make me a music lover - evidently it worked). I have been a Bob Dylan fanatic since about 1965 when I was 8 and my cousin Staci played, "Blowing in the Wind" for me. I was also hugely influenced by my blind Uncle Edgar who, in the cool of the evening in his tiny apartment in Southgate, California in the 1960's would put Jimmie Rodgers on his old record player and listen to him yodel and sing songs about trains. He was definitely "soothed" by that and so was I. The songs made my uncle's sadness just vanish. As a result of these particular influences (and growing up the 1960's when AM radio was great) I have been a lifetime lover of American Roots music and the Blues - it's now often called "Americana" and a group called simply, "The Band" epitomized it in many ways.
15-20 years ago I discovered a fellow with the same last name whose music really spoke to me. It's rootsy and swampy and bluesy and the lyrics are witty and hit me right in the heart. He may be best known for "Redneck Mother" and "Snake Farm" and those are certainly fun songs but hardly capture the particular genius of Ray Wylie Hubbard. I could write paragraphs with my recommendations of his albums but couldn't tell you my favorite - there are too many. Occasionally people ask if Ray and I are related and I always say, "Not that I am aware but we do appear to be brothers from another mother". His new album, "Co-Starring Too" has gotten rave reviews and is zooming up the Americana charts so it's an easy place to start if you're just now hearing of him. Email me if you want to know more.
I started following many of my favorite artists on social media and one day while I was out on a walk I got a notification on my phone that Ray Wylie Hubbard had followed me back. Well, lemme tell ya - that was a kick. Then in August 2020 I was lamenting the fact that while I had been sober for 18 years the pandemic sometimes made me feel like drinking again. I then received - in my private messages - a message from Ray which said, "Old timer told me once: "no matter how bad it gets, taking a drink will make it worse. ODAT".
For the un-initiated ODAT means - one day at a time. I was blown away to have the man himself, a fellow friend of Bill W., send me such a kind and meaningful message. I responded and hoped to one day meet my friend in person. That actually happened last December in Las Vegas. Ray was playing at the Golden Nugget and I sent him a message and asked if I could get a picture. To my surprise and delight he said OK. The show was marvelous - I've been attending concerts for many, many years and I cannot recall another where the musical artist connected so easily and deeply to his audience. Ray was humorous and friendly and the crowd adored him.
After the show I was told to wait near the exit and sure enough a gentleman came up to me and asked, "You Doc Hubbard? Ray says for you to come on back." I went back stage and Ray was talking to some people but his son Lucas and drummer Kyle Schneider came right up and asked me how I was doing. They were so damn nice. Then Ray came over and said hello and, you'd think at my age this wouldn't happen, but I got tongue tied and a bit star struck. This, to me, was a really big deal. Dammit! How was Ray gonna know how cool I am? Still... Ray was great and couldn't have been more welcoming and kind-hearted and personable. I managed to mumble something about how much I loved his music. I wanted to be respectful of his time and so asked someone nearby to take our photo so I wouldn't be too much of a bother. Check this out:
Can you believe it? That is me and Ray! We said our goodbyes and off he went - me? Still on Cloud 9, I wandered around Las Vegas in a bit of a stupor... it was such a pleasure to meet a man I respect so much for making some of the best music on the planet and being my brother in sobriety. I'm still over the moon that it happened.
Now, go listen to, "Mother Blues" and "South of the River" or "Conversation with the Devil" and tell me what you think...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.