for Dave Chrestensen
During the set break for the Grandmother’s show at Sonny’s I was talking to Dave Chrestensen, the drummer for the opening act. I’m not sure which band it was because he was the drummer in so many bands at the time. We were chatting when Don Preston came over, congratulated him for a good set and then sighed.
I remember he looked at him pretty point blank and said, “One piece of advice kid. Don’t just spend all your time partying, save your money, cause you really don’t want to be doing this when you’re my age.”
Dave and I looked at each other, then back at him and smiled, laughed a bit and then went on asking him about the tour and the other clubs he’s played.
I’m not sure Dave noted the conversation, but it certainly made an indelible impression on me. I was a touring poet and loved the road and reading my poetry to strangers. I partied a lot: after gigs, during gigs, even on my free time, and could think of nothing else I wanted to do more than share my poetry with people.
Over time, as my life sort of begin to spin out of control, I thought of Don’s comments, and, at some point, made a decision that I wouldn’t be a “poet” in the sense of so many of the rock stars and poets throughout time. I wanted to live. I got a full time job I could tolerate, scaled back my drinking and just contented myself with the occasional poem and occasional paid gig.
As for Dave, I sort of lost track of him. I hadn’t thought of him in years when a posting scrolled across my social media feed. He’d apparently jumped to his death in the Sandias and the posting was just letting people know his body had been found. I sat back in my chair stunned: he’s the second musician I’ve known through my years of being a “poet” in Albuquerque that has killed himself recently.
Being a musician and a poet is a hard enough calling, and, yes, when you hear them and interact with them you get to experience their joy of being a part of something that is larger than themselves. But many times, this act of performing is really the only thing that makes them feel whole.
I don’t know what pain Dave was experiencing that caused him to make that jump. I’d lost track of him and can only speculate that the act of drumming no longer kept the negative thoughts at bay.
And for all the other musicians and poets I know, please reach out and ask for help. I can’t really offer more than being a sounding board and a sympathetic ear. And if performing and playing music is the only thing that helps, for all our sake, keep performing and playing. When this pandemic panic settles down, I’ll be standing in front of the stage, cheering you on and thanking you for bringing a bit of joy into my, admittedly, humdrum life. Thank you for making music, creating poetry, sharing so much of your spirit with me and letting me know that there are others whose only reaction to the emptiness of this life we created is to create in return. But please stay alive; we need you.