This year, though, I got surprised. The day after Christmas, that Tuesday, I was able to get two late-arriving presents: one from a dear friend at the former home base and another from friends half a world away. Both were quite wonderful to get...and each had included a bit more than even I had hoped for (which isn't anything terribly new, if you knew the parties involved). It was the package that arrived a couple of days later that's got me puzzled and mightily intrigued, though. And while I hate to play favourites, this one is at the head of the pack for all the prezzies I received this year: that could be because I'm highly intrigued now as to whom I should thank, or it could be because it's something I have looked and sought out for years prior without success.
To a music lover such as myself, there is always music in and music out of my life...I'm either listening to it, trying to get it 'out there' through my work as a Street Team member or online through my radio station at Live 365, watching it performed live, or, (back in the days before the neuropathy kicked in) performing it. I could never act on stage as well as my good friend Amanda (hey, 'Manda), I could never write articles and short stories like my good friend Melanie (Melvin, hey), I could never do so many other things that others could quite so easily do without much effort. But, thanks to a wonderful little $18 radio that brought me FM, AM, SW (shortwave) and LW (longwave) radio stations from around the world, I learned about music, and, as an added bonus, the world. From Chicago, Memphis and a now defunct New Orleans station, I learned about blues and zydeco. From New York, I was introduced to the (new to me then) genre of talk radio. From London, I became enthralled with the BBC World Service and everything it did, vowing that I'd someday be an online announcer for them (a dream that actually did not die until I went for a tour of their Home Office in London in 1999 and found out I didn't qualify...and that we Americans had 'no real idea' how to pronounce the word 'schedule' correctly). From Nashville, Colorado, and even nearby (at that time) KVOO-AM in Tulsa, I learned the classics of country: Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, and a particular fave, Texas Swing (Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, among many others). In short, like so many other lovers of music, my 'out' from the reality of life in the rural Midwest was music, and all of the dreams it inspired.
So, for at least more than half of my life now, I've told quizzical friends and family members to 'surprise me' for holidays and birthdays and such and buy me music...a tape, a CD, vinyl records even. (I am the proud vinyl owner of several Chess records with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and the original US full album release from The Rolling Stones from those past gifts.) Some friends have gotten me some rather ill-fitting musical matches (while I have a friend I call Baby Abba, I personally cannot stand the band ABBA at all), some have got me some classics (too many to mention), and one great dear went a step further and bought three hours' recording time for my old band and I to use (all the giver could afford and all too quickly used, but Lord we all cried when the gift was given, such belief is hard to come by). With the exception of some really rare blues guitar releases or expensive 'audio masters' I'd love to get from The Louis Round Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill, I thought, though, I was at a musical collection plateau: I had what I wanted already if it was still available, or I pay for it and download it by MP3 (which has become a weekly activity now, scouring the unknown once again).
Imagine my surprise then when just a few days after Christmas an unmarked package came through the post for me. Obviously a CD case, I anxiously tore open the outer cardboard, expecting it to be a new release or something from either a band I help promote or one I've recently seen. It was, instead, a CD from an Aussie band, TOFOG (old official site, no longer maintained), that is a particular fave of mine, as I've seen them now about 8 times on two continents and in two different incarnations (commonly referred to as TOFOG1 and TOFOG2, although the actual band name has changed from the former Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts to the current The Ordinary Fear of God). It was a CD from one of their original 'original' band lineups, entitled "Gaslight". It was a CD that that I've scoured around for a bit now, after losing my original purchase of it to a friend who didn't care to return it back (a crime punishable by death to some music lovers, by the way, so avoid doing so at all costs). It was a CD that's been out of print for years, a CD I've tried desperately to find for a bit now as two of the my fave songs appear on it. (Those songs, by the way, are "Nowhere" and "Circus", and I've now added to my radio playlist if you want to give them a listen. Additionally, I also have some songs from the session work of lead guitarist Dean Cochran (with Jodie Young) and ex-bassist Garth Adam's solo work also on the current playlist.) And it was a CD that came without any identification whatsoever, in its professional packaging still in its shrinkwrap, cellophane wrapper...and without a card or return address whatsoever from the giver.
"Gaslight"©Gruntland Pty., Ltd.
Since that time, I have scoured every email address I ever collected from fellow fans and asked the impractical question, "Was it you?" Initially what I thought would be an easy enough exercise in clue detection has become a bit of an obsession to solve. It occurs to me now that so many fellow friends of mine didn't realize I no longer had my original, or that they knew it's out of print, too, or that they just presumed I had all the music anyways...to a great many, getting me this CD would have been very low on their list because of those reasons. I've asked far-flung friends; I've had friends of ex-friends ask feelers up and down the line. Tracking the CD through the former distributors and even online sellers on three continents has yielded nothing. I eventually broke down this week and asked some 'all knowing' friends...who, through 'careful elimination' I presumed had to know something as they, combined, know a lot about everything and about my deep love for surprises...and was stunned to hear back from all of them that they are as clueless as I am on this. I've checked the list of potential suspects once, I've checked it twice...and to infinity and beyond. I now (and hold your comments relating to other things mentioned prior on this blog) haven't got a clue.
I don't know if my Secret Santa reads here or not obviously...I have some 'old timer' friends from mischief concerts gone by that certainly do, so I guess the chance of a 'yes' is about equal to that of a 'no'. If you are that Secret Santa, drop me a note somehow...I would really like to thank you properly for giving me back some of the music I love so, music that made me essentially really follow the band...and keep following the band...despite a string of changes in personnel, songwriting styles, promotion and musical genre. I honestly can't thank someone...pretty much anyone at this stage...enough. I honestly haven't been this surprised with a gift since my Mama gave me my first guitar eons ago because there weren't 'enough girls playing'. She could not have done anything better for me at that time, and this CD quite coincidentally preceded a fateful memorial day for me this year. Somebody knows, and somebody cares...and damn on some days that's a very reassuring thought to have.
So, yes, dear readers, there is a (Secret) Santa Claus. And, yes, I do believe.