It Is, In Fact, About…Time

Sitting comfortably in my First Class seat from Charlotte, NC on my my way to Lawton, Oklahoma via Dallas, Texas. Comfortable, but anxious, like the kind before going on stage or on a first date or racing toward an unknown trail. Mind and heart racing and wishing I could add thrust power to this Boeing 757. High above the clouds that canopy a huge Winter storm sweeping the midwest and waltzing her way toward my Carolina. I gaze from my window seat across the sun-drenched sky around me. I look down at the clouds below, knowing that the earth underneath is gray and cold and wet. Above the storm and hoping she is kind as we soon descend through her on our way to the place I belong over these days of giving thanks.

LoganB&WHe was the greatest little boy. Logan Ted Keyser. Born on the fourteenth day of April, one day after my own. God’s additional reminder of the beauty of life’s circle.

Chelsea was born only days after Dad’s passing. He held her in his arms before leaving us too soon. Her birth brought joy where sadness was so overwhelming. To this very day she represents what is possible, not what is lost. Then, two years later this little guy would add his own serendipity.

My birthday was destined to be melancholy. Dad died on April 12. With my birthday on the 13th of the same month, how could it not be a sad time? Well, there was a plan…Logan arrived on the 14th. Again, where there is loss, there is joy. A yearly reminder of life’s precious cadence.

My little man graduates from Basic Training tomorrow morning. His own destiny revealed. He grew up a cheerful spirit. A peacemaker of the most extraordinary kind. Playful and curious. His hope for reconciliation in a broken home was always trumped by his love for us individually. Always the one to want the best for us–whatever that meant. Always the most encouraging and affirming.

His dad, an athlete and a bit of an artist. Logan sought his own way through the things he wanted and the things we wanted for him. Good at everything…great at few (according to him, at the time–I happened to think he was perfect). Then, as he moved into high school he found his own groove. Wrestling and guitar and theater. His curiosity turned to passion. He took a stage, never seeking applause, but hoping to express and share his gifts. Teachable. Inventive. Authentic. Loving.

Five years ago, on a visit to Charlotte he said, “Dad, I think I’m interested in medicine and nursing.” Well, he was in the right place to find out. I put him on a three-day scavenger hunt with physician and nursing leaders in one of my hospitals. They took him in and offered their guidance. He saw what happens in these places of healing. The mix of science and art. From invasive surgery with instruments and gasses and protocols to the compassionate enveloping hands around a little life born too early in the NICU. He came home day 3 and said, “That’s what I wanna do.”

He did. A graduate of Belmont University’s nursing program–one of the most respected in the land. It was all a part of his master plan.

He would not only use his unique mix of compassion and precision in medicine, but serve us all as a soldier. He raced to his dual calling with determination that inspires me to this moment.

As I watched the van drive from the parking lot of his swearing-in ceremony, September 17th, I cried and cheered at the same time. He waved through the window and nodded at me as if to say, “It’s okay, Dad…I’ll make you proud.” He already knew that from the moment I brushed my hand across his little newborn bald head that I was the proudest man alive…its never changed.

logandadfamilyday1In a matter of hours I will see him in his Army uniform. Prepared and fresh. Proud and strong. A natural leader of men and all people. A servant for a country and to anyone in need. In a matter of hours we will hear his stories of Basic and meet his new family of “battle buddies.” We will relish every moment as they will be fewer and fewer from this day. I will give thanks on Thursday for so much, but especially for the gifts of Logan and Chelsea and for the rich life they bring to this planet.

Logan didn’t get to meet my dad, but their soldier connection is something they will both smile on. I know Dad will fly air cover for his grandson for the years to come.

Now, as we descend through this storm and head for earth, I pray for his safety, for the ability to stay above the storms, and also for a soft landing from those he must go through.

You are my hero, Logan.



It isn’t something planned, usually. Hoped for, perhaps. It happens in music and in life. It can get lost and found in the most unlikely places and in the most unlikely of times. Mine was a little off. Muted.

Surrounded by the most beautiful people…loved well…work that matters…it was all there. But something in my core was left wanting. It was piqued one night while sitting in on a set at a quaint and homey wine bar. As the lyrics flowed and the chords were strummed and the melody and harmony found their place together, I felt it. My groove. In music and again in life.

Last Tuesday night as I sat on a stool and sang an old Loggins and Messina classic, I thought back to a day when I walked in with my Alvarez Blonde guitar to a little place just off the main drag in downtown Panama City, Florida. I wondered if I might play one night and offer a few stories in song. Then began a love affair with The Cheese Barn and the people who chose to make it their Friday or Saturday night destination.

I would set up my little PA system, plug in and work through a small but growing list of songs that meant something to me and I hoped would for others. Without fail, at some point during the night I would sing Billy Joel’s Piano Man. When I sang the line, “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday and the manager gives me a smile,” the owner, Robert Wright would stop  whatever he was doing and peek out from the kitchen and offer a smile big as a Montana sky. It became a tradition that I treasure to this day. This wonderful guy created what would become an iconic expression of homegrown groove and amazing food and drink.

They were the best of days. My beautiful Sharon would join now and then. My dear friends to this very day, Tony Namynanik or Greg Todd or Tom Lane would join on another night. We parked in a corner against the wine racks and sang to our faithful followers. I close my eyes and still see the tables with bowls of French Onion Soup, steins of European brews, salads, Muffalettas, and iced tea. Mom and Dad were always there first, followed by friends and family and other locals. I sang the same songs over and over and it didn’t seem to matter. It was about fellowship and love and fun, not just entertainment. The music was a just a rally point for nostalgia and friendly gathering for a few hours.

Today I  host an open mic night on the south side of Charlotte, NC. It has become its own iconic expression of groove and good life. Long about 7:30 on a Tuesday night players and friends make their way through the Cru Wine Shop door and give me a nod and a smile as I offer the opening songs from my stool by the window. We are there to sing and play for others and for each other. We all began with similar stories. Today some play for a living and others just live to play.

The Cheese Barn has closed its doors after 3 decades of serving in Panama City. A treasure lost to the sea of economic uncertainty and a changing season. The place moved around a few times, but the booths and the wine racks moved with her. Our songs forever lingering in the wood slats and hollow places between bottles. Robert…thank you for leaving such an indelible memory…thousands of them.

Tonight I play. I join other dear friends and players in what is sure to be another night of rehearsed and improvisational joy. I will sit on a stool and sing “House at Pooh Corner” and “Piano Man” and toast my friend Robert. My pals will join in with their incredible vocals and guitars and violins and harmonicas and percussion and a tribute will be made.

Tonight I will pause an be thankful that this insignificant life was so defined by a groove that began in a little place along an alley in downtown Panama City and continues to this day in a little wine bar in south Charlotte.

Its hard to explain
How a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
(kenny loggins, Return to Pooh Corner)

The Cheese Barn seanandsharon1 ...and now