Just before my friend, Jett, passed away

I was working on a piece of writing
That I felt reflected certain aspects
Of our lives

Part of it went like this:

 

“…You and me
We’re tired of crashing down
Our bird bone shrines
To fleeting time
Tired of fate making cruel constellations
Out of all the scars we’ve carried through our lives
Dreaming on those stars
So maligned
So overrated and depredated

When all we really want to do
Is crash
Crash through our walls of pain
Get to that place
Where the sky has no end
And once again we become
The ethereal conjugation
Of the verb
Breathe
Just breathe…”

My friend, Jett
He was always looking
To get to that place where the sky has no end
A place to fulfill his dreams
Life expanding dreams
Soul expanding dreams

To me
Those dreams always seemed best expressed
When he was playing his lap steel
That’s when his heart and guitar
Were turned up to 10
And would soar mightily through the heavens
In high fidelity stereo

Here’s a picture of Jett playing his lap steel guitar

Richferguson1a_1

(In case you’re wondering the blur the in the background is me)

On-stage
Jett was one of a truly rarified breed
A six-string shaman
A saintly demonologist
Someone who could actually
And honestly
Channel life through his instrument

Sure it sounds corny

But it was true
100% USDA-rated true

But more about Jett and his guitar later

Now I need to get onto other things

Like his death

And the wake and the funeral

And what I did next…

Once I got the call
That Jett was in the hospital
Dying due to extreme liver failure
I’d planned to take off work the next day
To visit him

But later that evening
I received word that he’d already passed away

That meant I never got a chance
To see him alive again
Nor tell him how talented he was
And what he’d meant to me
As a friend
And fellow musician

Right then
It felt like that sky without end
Had crashed down hard on me

Then came Jett’s wake

When I witnessed his pale and emaciated body
In the casket
It tore me up to see
How small, strange and shrunken
He had become in his own skin

That wasn’t the Jett
I wanted to remember

I wanted to remember the Jett
That would finesse and ravage his lap steel on-stage
Bleed his existence right through his guitar strings
Through his amp
Through the house speakers
And out into the crowd

Those were the moments
When Jett was at his best

When his lousy day job
Dry spells without a girlfriend
Inability to make rent
All that shit
Vanished

While playing that lap steel
Jett’s life was transformed
Into something glorious and electric
Something that soared far beyond
The walls of those
Cramped and gritty clubs

Trust me
His life really played out that way
All you had to do was to be on-stage with him
To hear it

The morning after Jett’s wake
Came the funeral

It was held in this little church
Out in Santa Ana

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Before this moment
I’d never met Jett’s family
Yet given the enormity of their grief
And the strangeness of our first acquaintance
They were extremely welcoming
Honest and openhearted

They even let me be
One of the pallbearers

Standing graveside
There was that final haunting image
Before the whole world faded to black…

All our handfuls of dirt
Roses
And pallbearer gloves
Being tossed into my dear friend’s grave

After that
I realized I had to create a different ceremony
To honor Jett in my own way

Something more upbeat
Something without so many heavy hearts
And tears

So I thought about what Jett liked
I mean really liked

Besides alcohol, cigarettes, and playing music
I came up with these three things:

Fast food

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The ladies

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All kinds of ladies

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And a sense of the absurd…

I wedded those three things together
And came up with the perfect place
That would serve to honor my friend

So I jumped in my car and headed west
Straight toward Santa Monica
Straight toward…

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Here I knew I’d find the things Jett loved

Absurd colorful costumes

Fast food

And cute girls

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Trust me
Even though you can’t see her
Jett would’ve approved mightily

Before I ordered
I took a deep breath
And said to myself
“Hot Dog on a Stick, Be My Metaphor”

I then approached the counter
And glanced at the menu

While I had it in my head that the corndog I’d buy
Would serve as Jett’s body
During this makeshift memorial
And that I’d probably have to bite into it at some point
I couldn’t condone the idea of
Buying real meat
I couldn’t stand the thought of another living thing
Dying

So I bought the next best thing

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And here is a picture of it
Fresh out of the fryer

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I promptly took my veggie corndog
And headed further west

Away from Santa Monica Place

Richferguson1j

Away from the restaurants

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Past the palm trees

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Toward the Santa Monica Pier

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Past the cop car parked on the pier

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Past the banners

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And cardboard movie stars

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When I finally reached
The end of the pier
And came face to face
With the ocean
I took a bite of the corndog

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This is the body of my friend, Jett, I thought
No longer pale and emaciated
But now
A warm and healthy
Veggie corndog

I took Veggie Corndog Jett
Down onto the beach

Richferguson1r

Once I found his perfect resting place
I pulled the stick from the corndog
So that if a seagull or other animal
Found it later
It wouldn’t choke to death

I dug a hole and laid
Corndog Jett to rest

I covered the hole
And marked it with a piece of seaweed

Richferguson1s

After that
I sat on the beach for a while
Thinking about my friend

How he had shared his life with me
Through music
The music that became our music
A dirty, gritty
Magical and mystical music

Chainsaw music for angels
I used to call it

So wherever you are now, Jett
I hope you’re teaching those angels
A thing or two about music
How it should be played and lived
And I trust your guitar is turned up to 10
Because I know you wouldn’t have it any other way

And wherever you are
I hope you’re happy and at peace
And that you’re fulfilling your dreams in that place
Where the sky has no end
And that you’ve truly become
The ethereal conjugation of the verb
Breathe
Just breathe

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RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

2 responses to “Hot Dog on a Stick, Be My Metaphor”

  1. […] hot dog on a pointy stick, death match […]

  2. Jett's wife says:

    Fuck you

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