Vino Rosso, Idaho Falls Idaho May 9th 2013

These jeans are coming apart at the seams. I tried to patch them but there is little left to sew the patches to. A lot of my wardrobe is like this now. Threadbare. A lot of my life is like this now. My guitars. My truck. Worn out. Beaten up and scarred. Everything is pretty much held together with duct tape, bale wire and prayers. 

Many years ago I satired the iconic Picasso, "Old Guitarist", by inserting myself and my Dobro into the same composition. These days I am resembling the old man in the original... my beard going more grey... my clothes more tattered... like the old man I am barefoot... though for me that a First World Luxury rather than a privation. My employer, J.P.Whipple Vagabond Inc. doesn't pay me very well... not even enough to get by... and the benefits? Occasional free beer and food. Sometimes a roof over my head... for a night or two. No medical. No dental. No retirement plan whatsover. It's not much of a job and I sometimes have to wonder if there is any opportunity to move up like J.P.Whipple promised when he hired me... but at least the dress code is pretty relaxed... not that I can afford shoes anyway.

And yet I know I am not poor.... not really poor. That woman... waiting at the bus stop before dawn to take a two hour ride to the suburbs... to work some shit job at a Wal-Mart or a McD's... only to come home with a paycheck that doesn't even buy enough food for her and her children. That's Poverty in America and there's a lot of it. It's catching like wildfire on the decay of this once great nation. At least I... threadbare as I am... I am doing something I love... traveling... making people happy... for now. 

There are all kinds of wealth and poverty in the world. A lot of people admire my "wealth". My freedom... to be able to see so much of this beautiful country... to be welcomed in so many places... to be given food... a place to stay... and more beer than anyone could ever need. 

To me, being trapped in behind the walls of some gated community... in some outrageously huge house... where the housing authority sends you nasty letters because you painted the mailbox the wrong fucking color is Poverty even though that is what so many aspire to. It is even more of a Poverty if you built your McMansion on the backs of others... through destruction... manipulation... preying on the weak and defenseless... which have always been the surest paths to material wealth. 

I think I would despair in such a life as much as I have in my darkest days of material privation. Still, when I first saw "The Old Guitarist" at the Art Institute when I was a kid there was no way I could imagine that I was looking into my future. Life is full of surprises.

I returned to the small Colorado town of Dolores last week. It was in this area that my "Vagabond Days" begun years ago. These tattered jeans were new then and... in many ways... so was I. That first gig here Filthy jumped on a table swinging a guitar about like a wild man. Both of us... reckless vagabonds... snake oil performers out of some distant past. It was an act. That "Filthy Whipple"... was a mix of comic ne'er do well... down and out blues clich├ęs... a persona. There was enough John Whipple in it to keep it real... genuine. There was always enough fiction to keep me protected. "Filthy Whipple" was my disguise and unless you knew me very well you could never tell when I was wearing a mask.

This time... with no "Sideshow Wallace" to climb over tables... I found myself before a casual but attentive audience. I opened quietly with just my battered Dobro... with some songs from "Ghosts" and the audience responded enthusiastically. I could not help but think that something new had started here. I have come around... after all these years of beating my instruments and myself... to get attention... after all that wear and tear... on my life... as my clothes have begun to literally fall off my body... after all that... I have come to see what I want. I aw it in Taos... Austin... Alpine Texas... Dolores... Moab... Idaho Falls... in those tables up front... where you were sitting and actually listening... where you followed along with the lyrics... where you asked "Who wrote that song?" 

This is what I was looking for all along. This is where I want to be... and thank you for listening... and "Hello, my name is J.P.Whipple...

and I wrote that song."

 

 

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