When I was a young teenager, I was nothin’ but wanderlust. In 10th grade, I worked at two jobs, a clothes/records/headshop boutique where my sister also worked…and at the Main Point, just up the street from there. On Saturdays, I would go from one job to the other. Those of us who are familiar with the Main Point know that it was one of the most unusually musically magical place. Ever. In the world.
Jimmy Tract worked there. He was then married to Jeannie, who was so exact in her quintessential 60-70′s ethereal blonde longhaired waif-ness. I also shared a house with them all by 12th grade.
I almost never talked to Jimmy, because he was a bitch in male form, and also never talked to me. In his typically arrogant manner, he ignored most of us, outright. When he didn’t ignore me, he was just condescending, or flatout mean…So I ignored him back.
One day, during set up for an evening show, he spoke to me. He was talking to the room, really; but he addressed me by name. He told me something that by it’s nature and intent doesn’t seem like something I might remember forever, but it was. Partly, it’s because Jimmy and I didn’t speak much, even when we lived in the same house with other roommates.
It was partly memorable, because he specifically was speaking to me, that his instinct was so strong about it/me, and he was so very perceptive with his instinct. And that he chose this particular time to break our mutual silence.
The other reason that it stuck with me forever, is easy for anyone to figure out. (But of course, we had no idea, then; not any of us, how the future was going to turn out. We didn’t even consider this, not yet.)
The Main Point was self-described as a”coffeehouse”. But it really was a club (without alcohol) and there were fantastic musicians who performed there every night of the week. I mean, really fantastic. Somehow, the best musicians of the times (those particular, musically fertile, revolutionary times of the 1970′s) would travel all the way out to Bryn Mawr Pa, to do a live show. The best in folk, in jazz, in Texas-style rock, in blues (both ancient and new musicians). Some fringe pop/rock/folkies, and early ‘unplugged’. There were comedians too, poet/spoken word etc.
I remember Jimmy called me over. From me putting napkins on my attached tables-to-rows-of-seat sections, to over to the sound board. Or was it the light booth at the back of the room? He had long dark straight hair, was lanky and sullenly handsome. I was a few feet away, but still had to look up to make sure I looked his tall, mean-self, squarely in the eye; as I walked over to see what made these circumstances so freaking unusual that he addressed me.
He was talkng to the room too, as he pointedly said to me: someone is booked next weekend that you, Dana, are going to really really love. (Or something like that.) I wasn’t sure if Jimmy was insulting me or not.
Jimmy said this guy is an unknown, but he already has an album out. I said, thanks Jimmy; as if we chatted all the time. I went back to setting up my section, and Jimmy put the guy’s record on.
The record was “Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey”. And the guy’s name was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
—Jimmy and I went back to our mutual silence to each other. Later, he and Jeannie broke up and she married Timothy Schmidt from the Eagles, out in California. I live out in California too, and have bumped into her from time-to-time.
The whole world eventually fell in love with Bruce Springsteen. Not just me.
Now, in the Facebook era, all these years later, I saw that Jimmy was a friend of some of my Main Point friends here on Facebook. I considered it briefly, but didn’t send a friend request. Oddly, lately, I was reconsidering it,a nd I don’t know why. I didn’t get to it.
Then, Jimmy Tract died this week.
I found out via Facebook; Laurie Hare wrote RIP. On his page, I read what happened; he had pancreatic cancer, had been living in a hospice, didn’t make it known. His photos showed a tall, still longhaired, but white-haired guy. Once again, that same incredulous feeling about how much time has passed struck me hard in the sternum. His death made it even more scary.
And sad. I am sad for him, and I am sad for me. I am sad for all of us who had so much lifeforce and expectation, way back then. I am sad for “The Boss” who is surviving in the industry with some greatness; but honestly, not nearly the funny poetic lifeful artist whose dancing was driven by an exuberance of life, unmatched. Jimmy’s death reminds me that I am still waiting for life to be the exciting elevated wonder that I fully expected adulthood to be. Because I was so young (15), I thought the world would be full of geniuses; artists, brilliance. I thought that the Main Point was a small sampling of the outside world that would come with my adult freedom; to experience, discover; and with especially romance awaited. All those prospectives I expected, a world teeming with brilliant artistic sexy male individuals, who danced to the driving thumping beat of their own, crazy-then, drummer (Vinnie, not Max).
I also thought that outside of our tiny hamlet-ish area, known for it’s WASPY Main Line attitudes: would be a entire world full of people who were way smarter, cooler, and creative. I was full of fantasy about what was personally possible, and what the world was like.
I was naive about what the artistic world was about, also. The rarity of authenticity, and how backbreakingly difficult it is to survive, literally, as an artist in this culture. Let alone create, produce; ditto about getting it seen. How art, in all areas, can barely survive either; at a natural war with business, dearth of visionaries, disrespect of value. I was a little surprised, and glad, to read on Jimmy Tract’s page that he was devoted to supporting real songwriters, in Nashville.
Rest in peace, Jimmy, you tall lanky son-of-a-bitch. Thank you for staying true. If there is a heaven, I expect you’ll make some enemies; when encounter musicians, and other artists, who you’re certain ‘sold out’.
May your next journey be easier on you, and the light be easier to maintain.
It takes someone with as tough a hide, and standards like yours, to keep art alive. I have little doubt that you softened, from being a gristly motherf**ker throughout your life here. I expect it to carry through onto your next life, and to assist you there, in doing some great things. Peace.
I wrote this when I found out that someone I knew, and worked with, as a young teenager had died.
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