By Ori Caul
Pass that thing if you’re not going to smoke it.
Wow! I’m toasted! How about you?
You’re wasted, man.
I’ll tell you something I remember. It’s something I’ve never told anyone, but I’m going to tell you.
Now, I’m not religious but I do believe I was reincarnated. I was there when the very first song was sung.
Not like all these whack-a-doodles who believe they were Cleopatra or someone famous or anything like that. I wasn’t the first to sing, but I was there and took part.
Here. (attempts to pass the joint)
Anyway, I swear this is true. I remember it like it was yesterday.
As I remember, it was a clear summer night. Our group was celebrating a successful day of hunting antelope and gathering berries from the angry blackberry bushes.
The fire was hot in our faces as we sat around it each with our portion of meat and berries. The wise man was rattling his bone necklace and beating his staff on a boulder while chanting and giving thanks to the Provider for our bounty. We always thanked the spirit in the woods with this ritual.
I had grease all over my face and my hands were stained purple from the berries. We all did. It was a good night.
We made animal sounds as we ate. The wise man was now dancing around and getting loud as he began screaming to the Provider into the speckled night sky. Then the leader’s woman began to wail in a high tone to the Provider. Her voice was clear and sweet as she held the note till she ran out of breath. She wailed again, this time the wise man joined her with a softer voice. They went up then down together. Soon others joined in and it became a chorus as the voices melted together into one. Slowly going higher, then lower as the wise man began to softly beat his staff against the rock, this time in a slow rhythm.
I forgot about the meat in my berry stained hands and sat there mesmerized as they went high, then low, then high again. This new thing they were doing, it took me away across the savanna, man, put a lump in my throat and made me cry. It pulled me out of myself and into the wind. I became one with the group as we all wailed the high then low hymn to the Provider for giving us this life’s bounty while keeping us safe in the dark of night. This was also the first moment of religious ecstasy for us all.
It’s as clear a memory as the first memory I have of this life. It, too, was a musical experience and introduced me to the idea of a bigger world.
It was 1970 and I was four. We were poor, but had a nice car with an actual 8-track player. You remember them. Having one made us rich. I remember sitting in the car with two tapes in my hands. One had a smiling, overly large black man sitting at a white piano and the other had a crazy looking frizzy haired woman in round orange glasses wearing a yellow scarf.
I put the first in and Fats Domino began to sing about walking to New Orleans. I didn’t know this New Orleans place, but his voice was able to take me away and I saw us walking hand in hand down a dusty country road shaded by tall old Oak trees to this new place. Then I put the second tape in and Janice Joplin took over and she, Bobby McGee, and I hitchhiked the rest of the way to New Orleans, singing the blues along the way. Her voice was so raw and full of emotion, it was so powerful, it brought me out of the oblivion of pre-potentiation and set me on the course that would eventually bring us together tonight to have this here good time.
Yeah, two memories of musical firsts separated by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. From sing-song wailing to belting it out with every ounce of your being. From being thankful for living another day to bemoaning a lost love along the road of today’s life.
Hey man, wake up! I’m telling good shit here.
I really was there though, that night we sang the first song. I remember man. I really do.