Tom Petty helped me run down my dream. He still will.
A couple of online blogposts ago, I asked readers to give suggestions regarding what they’d like me to write about some time. One response I got was to write about someone who influenced me and helped to shape my life.
Listen to me read this post:
Today that’s easy because one of my big influences died recently.
What did I admire about Tom Petty? How did he influence my life and my work? After all, he was a rock star and I’m just me. And yet…
In the 2007 Peter Bogdanovich documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream, Tom Petty says:
I always liked the idea of the guitar because cowboys played guitars. It was very clear: Here’s a way out of this situation I’m in.
Home movie footage features a young Tom in a big cowboy hat running across a lawn in suburban Florida. Upon hearing the story of his childhood in that Bogdanovich film, I ached for that kid. I also really related to him. As a kid, I looked for a way out, too.
Most all my life I’ve wanted to escape from one circumstance or another. Tom Petty and I had that in common. We both wanted to leave this world for a while.
Oh, he was by far braver and so much more talented than I’ll ever be, but we shared a driving desperation. That’s why his songs spoke to me.
Not a romantic
Tom Petty didn’t write about romance. Good for him. There’s enough romance in music already. The quota’s been filled. Instead, Petty wrote about life as raw and as sweet as it really is, like he did in his song Here Comes My Girl:
Every now and then I get down to the end of the day
And I have to stop and ask myself why I’ve done it.
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seems to come from it.
– from Here Comes My Girl, Universal Music, 1979
I get this way of seeing the world. I’m not a romantic, either. Please just serve me up real life on a bendy paper plate and let’s deal with it.
Qualities I’d be proud to have
When trying to explain to a friend my deep grief over Petty’s passing, I listed the qualities that the musician embodied:
- People skills
- Business savvy
These are all attributes I strive to have. While Tom Petty lived out these exemplary personal qualities, I can only try to. But he gave me this example to aspire to. His life was an inspiration to me.
I don’t want to die
Here’s another reason for my sadness. To me, anymore, 66 seems a really young age to die. I understand that a lot of people die a lot younger. I realize this, but I didn’t want Tom Petty to die, and I sure as heck don’t want to die at 66 years old! I don’t want to die at all.
I often tell the story of being 10 years old in August of 1977. I was in the sprawling backseat of my parents’ Chrysler when the news came on the radio, “The King is dead! Long live the King!” Elvis Presley had died at 42. In the front seat, Mom cried like I cry for Tom Petty.
At the time, I remember thinking, “42? That’s pretty old. Elvis was four times my age!”
The memory of it makes me laugh now. I’m glad I got to live to be old enough for this to be funny.
In Tom Petty’s end, I see my own inevitable demise as more, well, inevitable. He seemed invincible. He seemed immortal. In short, it simply sucks when your heroes die.
Everyone dies. That’s the way it goes. Rock stardom or the safest, most serene life possible excludes no one from that shared fate.
The best I can do is to take the best of Tom Petty forward with me into the rest of my life. He made me understand the importance of running down my dream.
Now that I’m older, that dream is less about ambition and attaining a goal than it is about living authentically and in a way that matters to me.
Deep down, I know I’m no different than anyone else. Everybody’s had to fight to be free, and yet I feel that these words were written for me.
Life is a struggle, a beautiful woven tapestry of heartache and happiness. Throughout my life, because of the duration of Petty’s career, I’ve benefited from the experiences he set to music. Tom Petty put my pain and joy into words, and he dipped them in a melody.
For him, I am grateful.
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You can read all about my travel adventures below or you can hear me tell you about them. Either way, I’d love it!
As I walked through the cold countryside this morning, I tried to think of something new to write about. I came up with nothing. It seems I’ve already said everything you’d be interested in reading.
Travel adventure’s all been done before.
I considered writing about my latest travel adventure again, more blah, blah, blah about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Anyway, the most recent trip was regional, and so it wouldn’t appeal to you listeners who don’t live around here.
Obviously not everyone wants to read about Medicine Hat, Alberta; Havre, Montana; or the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan. Who can blame you? They’re just places with great names full of compelling, murderous history and tasty food.
Food: Does it really matter?
I’d tell you about the food if I thought you liked food. Most people don’t care for it.
Why would you want to read about the best burger of my life in Havre, the one I’d marry if I could? And Indian food in Medicine Hat: not one morsel of meat in it and the most delicious food of its kind I’ve ever had. I thought I was going to die a pleasant death of physically bursting after eating an astonishing amount of Naan bread and chickpeas.
The tale of the world’s best cheese omelet and hash browns that I had for breakfast at The Resort At Cypress Hills sounds like all my other breakfast stories. It just tasted better.
Food is food, and booze is not worth writing about.
I suppose I could tell you once more about all the beverages we sampled, but what would be the point? They’re cold. They’re bottled. They’re delicious. I’ve said it all before.
There’s no need to go on about the cherry cider and grapefruit beer that we bought from the grocery store in Havre.
Here’s something most Americans probably don’t know about us Canadians, not that there’re any Americans listening this: We Canadians love buying alcohol from your drugstores and grocery stores. It’s both thrilling and convenient. It feels a bit forbidden because in Canada, it is.
Why tell you about the exceptional fruit wine and tasty beer made right in Saskatchewan? It would just make you thirsty and make you want to head over to Saskatchewan. (The booze alone would be worth the trip to Maple Creek.)
Breweries in Medicine Hat? Who knew? I’d pass on the story of the Hell’s Basement taproom, but I don’t want to turn you off ever going to Medicine Hat. Let me just say this: The other people in there tried to talk to us.
One even approached my husband, saying, “Here, smell this beer.” Then another asked him what he was drinking. A bunch of them were lined up along a tasting bar with their elegant sampling glasses, visiting and trying different beers.
I don’t condone this kind of activity, so I certainly wouldn’t write about it. I say, buy your booze and get out. There’s no reason to discuss it with the friendly locals who also enjoy it.
If you’ve had one Saskatchewan-made beer at The Resort At Cypress Hills, I suppose you’ve had them all. Another story about beer would just bore you, so I won’t delve into the Milk Stout produced in Swift Current, sweeter than mother’s milk and just as nourishing.
More history? Seriously?
History is so dusty by now because much of it is awfully old.
In the past, I’ve written a lot about history. I apologize. You’ve probably heard enough about rum-running, Al Capone, illegal gambling, opium dens, and prostitution in the tunnels beneath the streets of Havre, Montana. Who hasn’t?
The North West Mounted Police only hung around Fort Walsh for four years. Even they were bored by it. After the massacre of Nakoda elders, women and children by wolf hunters, and after sheltering the Lakota people who fled the south country following the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Mounties left Fort Walsh in 1882.
Another thing I can’t write about here is my pleasant visit with a charming one-armed man outside the walls of Fort Walsh. I don’t know where I’d fit it in among all the killing stories.
I told you. There’s nothing new to write about.
You see my problem? It’s the end of the piece, and I still haven’t thought of anything new or interesting to tell you.
It would really help me, dear listener, if you would share with me some of the things you like to hear about. Then, the next time I don’t know what to talk about, I can refer to your suggestions. Thank you.