Memory Lane & Goodbye to a Friend

Original Post – 10/01/02
I just thought of this and figured I’d share it.

As I write this I’m listening to La Villa Strangiato, a 9 minute, 35 second instrumental piece from my favorite progressive band Rush. My father once heard this tune – while we were driving in his car. I had the 8-track in!! – and he said something like “Wow, these guys are pretty impressive!” Hearing this song prompted this, one of many fond (and funny) memories from my past, enjoy…

So, I was about 22 years old, maybe 23. I had taken an ad out in the local newspaper looking for a bass player to help put together a band. About two days later I got a response. Well, this was the most important one of several. I got the usual responses, a call from a guy who was about 45 looking for a band to jam with – Sorry pal, too old! A call from a 14 year old looking for a band to jam with – Sorry pal, too young!

See, when your 22 and have been playing guitar since 10 or so you would like to play with someone of your own caliber. One person responded and fit the bill. He was a year younger than myself, had been playing bass for about 5 years, played guitar a bit longer, and was a natural. Furthermore, he was a BIG Rush fan – a prime requisite (at that time) for being in a band with me. We set a date to meet and the rest is history…

He arrived toting a clear Lucite bass guitar and a small practice amp of some kind. Maybe it was a Gorilla.

We talked a bit, then decided to just jam and see what would happen.

We relocated, with guitars in hand, to the rec-room in the basement. Jon, a 6′ 4″ guy with long brown hair, sat on a chair beside his amp, plugged in and tuned up. I sat down on an old, empty record album storage cabinet (remember this item), hooked up my guitar and we tuned our instruments to each other.

Immediately we began playing La Villa Strangiato (we had both learned it on our own and had practiced it over and over for years, we later discovered). Just a 6-string electric B.C. Rich and a Lucite bass. It sounded great, even without drums. The rhythm was all in our heads and Jon succeeded in laying down some awesome, thick bass riffs.

We played the entire 9 minutes and 35 seconds, give-or-take a second. It was outstanding. We did it with almost no goofs. Clean enough to be really cool anyway! A relationship was born. Jon looked at me and said something like “Dude, that was awesome!” I agreed, and we sat staring at each other in stunned silence for a moment or two. Both of us amazed that we had been brought together by a single newspaper ad, and that he only lived about three miles away and we had never met! That was it, I found my bassist and we had become friends, in a half hour or so.

Suddenly the record cabinet I was sitting on went “creak.” Jon and I looked at each other, puzzled. Then, in an instant, the top of the cabinet cracked and I fell into it on my butt, still holding my guitar. Jon proceeded to laugh and almost fell out of his chair. So did I (but I was already on the floor). That moment sealed it.

My father was a bit angry because I broke the cabinet, but he let me slide.

Jon and I remained friends and jammed together, writing several songs in the process, for many years. Now I don’t know where he is. I miss him because I NEED A BASS PLAYER NOW! And I also miss the friendship.

If anyone reading this knows a tall guy named Jon Holbert who can play bass and used to live in the Stockholm, NJ area, let me know, and let him know that we have to hook up!

Keep your memories, sometimes they’re the only way to spend time with an old friend.

Update – 10/12/05:
Over the years Jon would call me. Maybe once every 5 years or so. At last contact he was living in New York City, bartending at some steakhouse, and spoke of plans to build a boat and start a touring cruise of the Caribbean. I thought it sounded great and wished him all the luck. I wasn’t actually sure if it was all true, but hey, don’t we all dream outloud from time time?

I asked him to stay in touch. He didn’t.

A mutual friend of Jon and mine recently called me to share some bad news. Jon Holbert had killed himself. There would be no service, no burial. His body was cremated and the ashes spread somewhere in Maine. That was it.

Not a very nice end to this story I’m afraid. It’s tough enough growing up and separating from friends and those memories, but finding out that an old friend has given up on life is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with.

When I was 27 a friend passed away due to complications from diabetes. This is two down. I’m not looking forward to the next. No.

No matter how bad things pile up on you in life, there are people who care and can help. If you think you’re at the end of your limit, please stop and turn around. As Neil Peart said in Bravado, “Don’t turn your back and slam the door on me.”

Talk to a friend, and let them know something is wrong. Don’t give up, it’s life. We have nothing to prove to anyone! We just need to make it through, and if you survive your worst nightmares, and come through with cuts, scratches and scars, join the club. We all have them. You can make it through.

I wrote a song called “Boris and Ivan,” dedicated to the memory of my friend Jon Holbert. It appears on my CD, It’s All Timing.