Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thinking of a Friend

There is a song on Jackson Browne's first record called "A Song for Adam" and it is one of the most touching songs I have ever heard. It's about the loss of a friend, and every time I listen to that record, it reminds me of my friend John Elliott. Now Adam commits suicide in the song and my friend John died young of cancer, but I easily identify with the sense of loss.
John Elliott was the son of one of Alabama's greatest congressmen, Carl Elliott. Carl was close friends with John and Jackie Kennedy and during a turbulent time in our nations' history. Like his father, John was a remarkable man.
He had a booming baritone voice that could be heard across a room over a din. Some of my fondest memories revolve around John.
He and another friend Skip, arrived in our yard about 6:30 one Saturday morning. He laid down on the horn a quarter mile away from our house and it was still blowing as his wheels crunched on the redrock of my driveway. I thought it was some kind of early morning Bible School parade.
I was still in my PJ's and I walked out on the porch to see what was causing all the commotion. "Let's go" John bellered. "Go where?" I asked tentatively. "To the Yacht Race," he said as if he had explained this a dozen times. "Where are they having a yacht race John?" "At Dolphin Island," he said is exasperation as if he were trying to explain something to a stubborn child.
Meantime Jilda had stumbled out of bed and walked out to the porch to find out what was going on. Gradually the fog began to clear in my mind and I understood what he was saying. Each year they have a Ragatta at Dolphin Island which is south of Mobile, Alabama. That's about five hours away if you don't stop too much.
John bellered again, "let's go!" as if we'd agreed to this trip months ago. In fact, neither Jilda nor I knew anything about the race, but we but instantly understood that the 'JohnTrain' was about to leave the station and we decided quickly to get onboard.
We threw on our bluejeans, grabbed our swimsuits, and an overnight bag with a change of clothes. We threw the bags and the guitar in the trunk and jumped in the back seat. He jammed on the accellerator and burned rubber as if we were already late.
Jilda said "John we didn't eat breakfast." John tossed a sixteen ounce Budweiser over his shoulder and said "good, have some ham and eggs!"
I could not begin to describing this remarkable day we spent with our friends at the ocean. It involved a beautiful summer day, lots of good seafood, music, and stunning scenery that cannot easily be described with words.
Each time in conjure up this memory, it makes me both happy and sad. Happy for having enjoyed my time with John, an sad that my friend is gone and we'll never have an opportunity to have that kind of experience again.

A Song for Adam
3rd verse
Though Adam was a friend of mine, I did not know him long
And when I stood myself beside him, I never though I was as strong
Still it seems he stopped his singing in the middle of his song
Well I'm not the one to say I know, but I'm hoping he was wrong

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