Making friends for the world to see
Let the people know you got what you need
With a friend at hand you will see the light
If your friends are there then everything’s all right

Elton John

In 1994, I fell off the edge.

I’d been declining for years, ever since my wife moved out.  Then I lost a body part, my father died, the ground shook and I just couldn’t right myself.  The road to recovery was led by an M.D. recommended by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

This guy was different.  Unlike all the previous shrinks I’d seen, he absolutely would not tell me what to do.  If I called him freaking out, he’d just respond that we had a lot to talk about, and that he’d see me the following Wednesday, or Friday, or whenever the next of our three weekly appointments was scheduled.

Eventually, this doctor spoke.  And he told me I had an investment in being different, in being screwed up, and that he just didn’t believe it, no matter how hard I tried to convince him.  Oh, he’d listen to me complain, he just wouldn’t respond.

The road back was a long hard slog.  It included a brief rendezvous with my wife that turned out to be fruitless, as she vanished into thin air once again.  And then Jim Lewi invited me to come stay with him and his wife Lori in Vail for a week.  I didn’t know him too well, her not at all, I wanted to cancel, I didn’t think I could cope, but with my shrink on vacation and the Lewis eager for my arrival, I departed.  And had my best week of the nineties.

During that skein of days, Jim told me he was going to have an artist development conference, eight months hence, in Aspen, his new hometown.  The first Aspen Artist Development Conference was punctuated by fantastic snow.  Which I could not partake in the benefits of, my back having just gone nuclear.  And not skiing, and not being a card-carrying member of either the artist development or touring fraternities, I felt a bit disconnected.  I was there, but I didn’t feel INCLUDED!

But the next year was different.  The turning point was at dinner.  With Jake Gold, the head of artist development at Warner Brothers and a few other people in the restaurant at the Hotel Jerome.  It was there that I found out my shrink was right, I WAS just like everybody else.  Everybody had the same stories.  Maybe the band names were different, but each of us had listened to the records, gone to the shows, we had our tales, we were addicted.

My life started to change.

Shortly thereafter I promulgated a new theory in psychotherapy.  That the rewards came from being a member of the group.  It’s not about being the outcast, or the star, but residing right smack dab in the middle, where everybody else is.  Just one of the peeps, hanging out.

The hang at this year’s now-named Aspen Live was UTTERLY FANTASTIC!  If I was stuck on a desert island with the eighty or so people in attendance, I wouldn’t feel lost, I’d feel satiated, HAPPY!  There were no cliques, everybody interacted, there was a sense of COMMUNITY!  I’m privileged to call these people friends.  And these friends, they’re all that count, they make my life work.

Maybe in the next few days I’ll lay out what actually transpired at 8,000 feet.  The riveting presentation by the creator of "CSI", the confrontation with the man from Google, Larry Weintraub’s statement that MySpace was more powerful for Taking Back Sunday than the band’s Website.  But for now, I’m still high, still reveling in the connection.  Remembering Andy, Brian, Lori and Nichol waiting for us at the top of the Alpine Springs lift for nearly ten minutes.  Rick Mueller, Mark Kates and I arguing about Bryan Adams’ comeback potential.  The massive $153 a head dinner at Matsuhisa where we not only got into the minutiae of the Ticketmaster Website, but seemed to cover everybody’s love life.

We’re finally back.  After we were stuck inside of Mobile with those Memphis blues again.  Killing all day in the airport waiting to ultimately catch the last plane out.  So I’m in Santa Monica physically, but my heart’s still in Aspen.

I only hope you have as such close friends as I do.  I treasure them.

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