Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fred Endsley and Neil Young

I know this story is true, I've told it before. Fred Endsley died on April 5, 1999. Esophageal cancer. He was just 49.  I traded a Telecaster and a MusicMan Sterling AX40 for this "Graffiti Yellow" Stratocaster because it looked like the one Fred played in his band "The Dadistics" in Chicago. Fred was a terrific artist and musician and a great friend to me for 25 years. I went up to Cody, Wyoming, to help him in his last days. Very rough time. 
A month later in May I was in Washington, DC. to get a Smithsonian/ComputerWorld medal for the work our Web group (Martin Diekoff, Steven Swimmer, Jance Kash, Marty Harris's group) at the Getty Center. The night before the ceremony on the Mall I had dinner with a mutual friend of Fred's and myself. I was trying to remember the music Fred and I listened to a lot and my friend reminded me that it was Neil Young. Fred and I must have listen to "Tonight's the Night" about a million times - "Bruce Berry was a working man, he used to drive that Econoline van."

 I have vague belief in the Bardo - the 49 day period where a soul is in limbo and you can give the departed advice and console them as they choose to move on or be reincarnated. Often you ask for a sign that the person has moved on. The whole exercise is a good way to deal with your grief whether it has any a reality to it or not. So that next morning I was standing on the Mall in D.C. with the "My Name Is" sticker on my jacket with a hundred other people in suits for the award ceremony. They call your name and you step up and they put the medal around your neck.  

I was feeling kind of silly about the whole thing when a shaggy guy in an old brown jacket and sandels with socks stepped in front of me. He looked familiar, sort like how Fred might have dressed for the occasion. Remarkably he turned into Neil Young. I was a little shaken. It really was Neil Young standing with his back to me. I touched the sleeve of his jacket. He turned around and I stuck out my hand. All I could think to say was "thank you". He smiled, shook my hand and said "your welcome" and turned back around.

 Later when we were assembling for a group picture his wife Pegi came and stood next to me and read my name tag, probably to make sure I wasn't some nut.  We said "Hi".  She was getting an award too for the their Bridge School Web Outreach program for children with severe speech and physical and impairments. I snapped his picture as he was taking her picture. I wish I could have explained to them what had just happened. Fred was doing fine.

Fred Endsley, circa 1980.

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