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Knowing Isn't Always the Best Option

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, December 06, 2000.

I discovered Google this week, thus bringing to an end the question of who would be the final person on earth to do so. Google, apparently everybody on the planet knew but me, is a superb search engine for the Internet, that seems to have no limits and is both fast and accurate. I have since been told it is no longer the best, but it was good enough to scare me. Google was my Portal to Hell this day, as well as, for the benefit of you Tolkien fans, my ticket to Moria and the Balrog.

I was looking up a reference to some old music for something I'm writing, and this led me to a site that was a collection of virgin vinyl that somebody was selling. Scrolling through it, I was literally horrified to find a record album I made in 1970, autographed by the three of us in the group, with a sort of review of faint praise. Since I ended up selling the thing for a dollar when I first got to Boulder in 1971, I am, to say no more, nonplussed. But the group included my ex-wife of whom I haven't heard a thing in twenty years. Curious, I searched the web and found nothing on her but a genealogy reference, inspired, I guess, because she is the great granddaughter of the guy who invented the bathyscaph on her father's side and on her mother's side descended from families for whom much of San Francisco is named. But I found out something else that was sad and shocked me. Her mother, who in contrast to all other mother-in-laws was a marvelous, vibrant woman that I truly adored, had died over a decade ago. That hurt, this underscoring of a failed marriage and the severing of ties to people I still loved and drifted away from. I wasn't expecting that on a music search of the WEB. I started to wonder if the fact that my ex-wife had no listings meant she was dead as well. Perhaps she is on her third marriage and I don't know her new name. I hope so, but what a sinking feeling.

My wanderings soon got much worse. The tentacles of this search engine touched upon many of musicians and groups and people with direct and ancillary bearing on my life. I followed up on some of them. Here in Boulder, a man I highly regarded and liked and again had drifted away from had killed his wife and himself in Texas two years ago. I could never have imagined it. Another man I used to manage in a band, terribly talented and whom I had once been friends with, has been honored at the Kennedy Center by the President and just signed a seven figure deal with Disney and runs several shows on the Nickelodeon network. Another for whom I was a road manager has found God again and leads the music ministry of a church in Colorado, not what I pictured for him. A woman I went to college with has been a highly successful screenwriter in Hollywood. All this from a simple search for an ex-wife, prompted by a distant reference to myself in about forty-five minutes. I cannot explain how I feel, the sensation that I could find out the fates of everyone I have ever known. That it was now possible to tie up all loose ends. That there were no excuses possible not to do so. There were other, lesser shocks and surprises involving my band mates, our mutual friends.

Then, I ran a search on myself. That was enough to send me to twelve-steps forever. I'm in there. Not just my website, but a lot of places. It was bizarre and shocking and gut wrenching to find stuff I had utterly forgotten. I felt awful. I felt occasional waves of joy and happiness. I don't like all that unexpected emotion.

There was at least one definite upside to this brief time in hell. A woman I once considered the best singer I had ever had the honor to be associated with, and again fell away from during one of my legendary bad periods, re-appeared. She had been a success, being the original Reeferette in Jimmy Buffett's band, credited with writing on several of his bigger hits, and opening his shows on occasion. She quit music in the early 1980's because, in her mind, the music business sucked and popular music itself had to improve a lot at that point to merely suck and she kept a promise to herself and became a successful psychologist. She's back with a CD, a website, her love of music and performing returned and buzz and press in LA. Her voice has mellowed and matured, but it's still there. I'm impressed, and emailed her to tell her so, cautiously limiting myself to a prudent single sentence. She answered with all the southern grace and charm I recall. She surely knows, from our mutual friends, what I've been doing, and being a friend - amazing I still have them - there was no mention of any of it. I never thought I'd hear her sing again, and am absolutely giddy to be in touch with her, someone I have known for nearly thirty years and still love as I do everyone I once loved. That, too, was unexpected.

I keep thinking of what Sinclair Lewis called and titled The Octopus, and think the term should be removed from his application and given to the WEB. It touches on everything; huge portions of even my life are on it, frozen in time, alongside the tombs of people I regret falling away from. I understand now why people put videos of deceased loved ones on their sites, to keep them alive and so strangers can see a percentage of what they saw and not recall only the epitaphs. If that. I know that this man who murdered his wife was once a good guy. I know it, I worked with him under stress. Children and dogs gravitated to him, a sure sign. I do not excuse or pardon what he did, but there is so much to a person that it really is awful most will only recall the news article or obituary to record the passing. What I guess was most shocking, though, was the realization and returned knowledge that I was once a good guy, and confronted with the evidence of my past, I can now prove it to myself. This is something both new and unexpected. I am, you can see, having some difficulty with it. Really. It's on the WEB.