I wrote this song about a friend, a goodly hearted cat I grew up with in Clarendon Hills. We were Little League heroes together. Endless one-on-one hoops in the driveway. Lots of girl talk. During high school years we would drive up to Lake Forest to woo exotic damsels—exotic because we were unknown to each other. He always had girlfriends who didn’t go to our high school.
A bit after high school he enlisted in the Army out of penance to his Dad, who was President of a local American Legion chapter. He survived Vietnam and came back with good weed. A couple pounds of it. Back when it was easy to smuggle. We smoked, connecting the days of our youth with now, while fantasizing about some idyllic future that involved beach life. A couple of years later, he introduced me to my wife, Linda. While he explored Mexico for a spell, Linda and I watched his little mutt, Thunder, He was the best man at our wedding, As deep a friend as you could have. A goodly hearted cat.
Somewhere during this time he moved to Arizona and eventually started a business— packaging and selling mesquite charcoal sourced from the Yaqui tribe in northern Mexico. On a quest to outrun his suburban, Catholic upbringing, he had become entranced with the Teachings of Don Juan and the Yaqui ethos. At the same time, he was getting involved in medium to large scale weed trafficking. My Little League pal was now living the desperado-in-the-desert lifestyle. One time he escaped a raid by the feds, snuck through the desert and somehow ended up on our doorstep in Lawrence, where we were living at the time. With a chainsaw. He had hitchhiked from Arizona while cradling a chainsaw. You had to be there.
Take Your Pick
Maybe ten years later, when Linda and I had moved back to the Chicago area, he came through town on desperado business. When I met up with him he was holed up in a drab, city hotel with no view, chain smoking and absently watching TV reruns. He had changed since the last time I had seen him. You could feel he was in the midst of a stressful transaction. He didn’t give me the details and I preferred not to know. We grabbed cheeseburgers at the Billy Goat and within a year or two he died of heart failure. Speculation was that it was caused by too much stress—he also had a wife and two kids—the lingering effects of malaria from Vietnam, too many cheeseburgers, too much smoking, a ten year freebasing habit, a history of family heart disease, take your pick.
Back to The Song
I wrote most of the song decades ago but finished and recorded it with Geoff DeMuth maybe five-six years ago. It’s a story that rings true because it happened. Or something similar. Perhaps not a literal depiction of my friend’s situation. I took artistic leeway or poetic license or fool’s liberty, whatever. However, I’m pretty sure he would have liked the tune— but also loved the gesture from a friend. Sadly ironic when a goodly hearted cat dies of heart failure at a young age. We’ve missed him for 30 years.