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What I learned about Life from Getting My Ass...

It’s Always a Song: Lost Legends Edition

November 24, 2015 Comments (2) Views: 741 My Collection of Musings

It’s Always a Song…

When I made the flying leap a few years ago to move to East Texas to take a job with a brand new company, it was one of the bolder moves I’ve ever made in my life. It’s a move I never regretted, though. I miss East Texas intensely. I’ll never forget, there was this guy that worked for the parent company of the IT firm that I worked for named Randy Strickland, who for all intents and purposes, was basically my first fan of my writing. Strickland was a music guy and that was our bond. So we were always exchanging songs, talking about music, and he was always telling me how much he enjoyed something I’d written on this very website when I first started it. As a guy in a new environment, surrounded by new people, Strickland became someone who I connected with immediately, who was intensely supportive, and really gave me some direction when I first started writing for an audience.

That’s why my heart broke yesterday when I’d heard that Randy had passed away…

Last night, I sat right where I am right now, and tried so desperately to find the words. I clawed at them, and I beat on them, and I wrote myself in circles. I’d promised to digest what I was feeling before I wrote, and a day later I feel like I’ve taken 2 steps forward and 7 steps back. That’s just the way I operate. So, what I’ve decided to do is start with EXACTLY what I wrote last night, and finish it. Strickland would appreciate that…

Nov. 23rd 2015
Innocently enough, I’m sitting at my desk today. My fingers are stumbling across my laptop’s keyboard like a ballerina on slippery rocks, but I honestly feel like I am moving forward through my day with something that resembles efficiency. As I have mentioned so many times before, I listen to music all day, every day, almost from sun up to sun down. My phone rings and as I answer it, my mind drifts away from whatever it was that my fingers were precariously dancing through and to the conversation at hand. That is, until the song.

Right up to that moment I felt as disconnected from conscious thought as I can be. The song felt like someone tracing their fingertip across my shoulder blade to tap me on the deltoid in a “hey jackass” gesture before ducking away. I don’t mean it was a passing thought, I mean I quite literally turned my head…Like someone whispered on my neck.

It is hard to explain. Especially with the weird things that my brain has been doing lately, no matter how hard I try to keep it on track. The song drew me back to the first social encounter I had with a group of people that would become my extended family. The center of this social interaction was Randy Strickland. I met Randy pretty much for the first time on a night in 2011 at his 50th birthday dinner. Randy would become one of my favorite people in the world that I unwillingly grew distant from when I made the move back to Dallas from Tyler.

You see, I’d heard that Randy was having health issues as of late, and was in the hospital. That is what made today’s memory shot so unique. I wasn’t brought back to some fuzzy recollection of some conversation, I was jerked back in time to a specific moment. So blindingly and abruptly that I made phone calls to mutual friends out of the blue to check on Randy.

It wasn’t until hours later that I learned that Randy had died.

I got the news in a response from one of the mutual friends I had reached out to earlier in the day, and if it possible to hear a heart break, I think my experience was audible. It was just hours ago that I’d had this very sudden and shaking memory of Randy, and now I’m hearing that he is gone… My mind drifts back to the song…The one that caught me so off-guard earlier today…

My hands feel like lead. They feel like two sacks of broken rocks being sloppily drug across an ancient typewriter as I try to process my thoughts. I started to feel like there is nothing that this stupid fucking keyboard in front of me could ever accomplish. How do you honor someone like Randy Strickland? Someone who meant more to me than I could ever explain. I beat myself up all the time for not telling people what they mean to me…

Well, Randy. Wherever you are right now, I want you to know that you were one in a million, brother. I’ll never forget our conversations about Hendrix, and Zeppelin, and Vaughn. I know you loved music as much as I did, I knew that from the minute we met. It was our own personal “home base”. No matter what was going on in the office, I always loved to take a second to duck into your office and just talk about music or give you a thumb drive with my latest collection of songs I thought you’d enjoy. And then came the day that I started my website, and I swear, you might have been the only person reading it. You always took a second to tell me that you loved something I’d written, or laugh with me about a goofy facebook post I’d made.

What you don’t realize, Strickland, is that you were the one thing I needed at the time. You were comfort. You were common ground. Sitting here now, I feel completely inadequate at explaining what you meant to me. You were an inspiration. You taught me the value of listening to a song more than once to catch “the drift”. You taught me that there is nothing in the world like a good glass of wine on your patio with your wife. You taught me that there are few things better than red raider football. You taught me that you just have to laugh and shrug things off sometimes…

You were such an influence on my life, Randy, and I apologize – from the bottom of my broken heart that I never told you that. I’ll never get the chance to tell you that. All I can hope for is that you’re still reading. Just like you did when I started this silly little website so many years ago. And I hope that you’re still smiling. That one’s easy, though, I KNOW that you are smiling…

You’re an amazing man, Randy Strickland. I love and respect you too much to say WERE. You are. You always will be. Just because you’re not with us right now, doesn’t mean that you’ll ever leave us in spirit. We love you, brother. Tell Jimi I said hello.

2 Responses to It’s Always a Song…

  1. Tonya says:

    I’m Randy’s little sister. Thank you so much for writing so eloquently about his love of music. I can hear him walking in your office and saying ‘Hey Jackass’. You lifted a heart that is heavy with grief. Thank you.

  2. Gloria Hogan says:

    Justin, I am Randy’s mom Gloria and I read this so often because it makes my heart swee with pride. I loved him so, so much sometimes I just feel like giving up and end it all on this earth. His stepfather played in a band and they had some great times together. I don know if he told you or not. Thank you for the love and respect you had for my boy and I promise you it was mutual.i am kinda down tonight and wanted to drop you a note. Thank you friend and God Bless

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