HOW TO LIKE YOUR LIFEDivided We Fall
Those of you who haven’t lived the musical road-warrior lifestyle probably don’t know about Mom. Mom is that selfless, kind, giving soul who sets the tone of and runs the hospitality area backstage at most major venues, lavishing warmth and sustenance upon the musicians and crew. Mom is usually a lone woman; she’s usually a retiree and usually does it as a volunteer; usually her kids have long since grown and gone, sometimes she’s a widow—but always, there’s a vacancy in her heart and she adopts us all, collectively, as her family. She always does it with, and in the name of, love and art. She is surrounded by stage and venue managers and crew, promotors, agents, musicians and other commonly jaded types who commonly take her for granted…but though Mom usually doesn’t know it, she gives the venue its soul. A handshake for Mom is like a cold slap in the face to her; the currency she deals in, invariably, is hugs.
I can’t count the times my life was saved by the right home-cooked generosity at the right time, when I had been going too far, too hard and for too long, had a packed house and an important show to do (they’re all important) and was about to keel over for lack of simply sitting down and refueling in the presence of some human kindness, dignity and warmth. Sometimes Mom cooks and sometimes she delegates that task, but she always serves, she cares, she lavishes, she sets the tone and she provides the love.
Many of these spiritual benefactors literally go by the name “Mom”; her presence has usually shaped the venue’s interior feeling and spirit; in some places she’s been at her post for over 25 years and in that time she’s taken care of everyone passing through that venue; it always comprises a very impressive list of dignitaries and she has the attendant stories to tell. And though you really ain’t squat compared to the legends Mom has fed and cared for, she treats you with a level of kindness and warmth that makes you feel like a king. Hearing Mom’s stories also serves as a gentle conveyance of humility, gently toppling performers from their high-horses so they can give their best when they go on.
A few nights ago, just as I was catching a cold at the beginning of a bus tour of 4 shows in 4 days in 4 states—all of which were to be under cold, midwest winter storm conditions—a Mom served me home-made chicken / vegetable soup. It was astonishingly good. I had been eating road kill for 3 solid days to that point; my body had nothing to go on, my throat was sore, I felt feverish, it hurt to talk and I was probably headed toward a lousy showing for all four shows. That magically wonderful soup, served at that pivotal moment, was nothing short of salvation for my body, my soul and, I have no doubt, for the tour. My cold was vanquished, immediately and for good.
In the bus fridge, as I write, is a home-cooked early Thanksgiving dinner from last night’s Mom in Warren, Michigan, whose picture adorns this piece. I can’t give you her real name because everyone knows her simply as Mom. She must be an octogenarian, but she’s still always there, making the place go; Mom is the engine under the hood, driving the whole Macomb Performing Arts Center. Some may think it’s the artists, the crew, the gear, the promotors and the like, but it ain’t so: It’s Mom.
The leftover Thanksgiving dinner will provide some soulful warmth for my travels as we make our way past all the jack-knifed big rigs and spun-out cars along I-80 in the aftermath of the storm, west and homeward-bound through the truck stop and junk food culture of the American highway.
To Moms everywhere…I hope one or two of you read this…on behalf of all the road-weary performers and crew you’ve fed and nurtured and for all the great performances you’ve enabled: