October 21-25, Denver
Whenever we talked about this trip, Denver loomed large as a way station. Neither one of us loves the city itself, but it exerts a powerful draw. First, there’s Michael, who’s been one of my best friends since I was in my early 20s, even though we lost touch with each other for a few years. And then there’s Bill’s friend Tom Furhman. Bill met Tom a few years ago when he took a trip to Denver on his own to spend some time alone at his brother’s cabin in Mancos to write songs and think about life.
Tom had a regular kirtan every Saturday night and so they performed together. Musically, they’re a good match. Bill has a very wide vocal range but mostly sings in the high tenor end of things while Tom has a lusty deep baritone voice that blends well and Bill loves singing with him. Tom admires Bill’s confident ability to improvise his way into anything; he’s a classically trained pianist who more than knows what to do with a harmonium. His kirtan has been meeting regularly for a decade and has slowly taken over his entire house, with the living room piled with rugs and cushions for a kirtan audience to sit on, and a minimum of traditional furniture.
I had never met Tom, though I’d heard a lot about him. When we rolled up and I saw this gentle, bearded man sitting with his girlfriend outside his front door, I warmed to him immediately. Tom welcomed us into his driveway (we’d been planning on a campground between Lakewood, where Michael lives, and Littleton, where Tom lives, but we gratefully scrapped that plan). And with almost no notice, he threw together a kirtan for our second night in town, complete with a really great drummer and a respectable-sized audience.
It was Bill’s first time leading, or co-leading a kirtan in a good long time, and my first time being his backup singer in more than a year. It was a huge amount of fun. One of the kirtan participants, more versed in things Hindu than any of us, pointed out that it was Diwali, the festival of lights, a time when old things are swept away and replaced by new. Seemed about right for us.
Michael came to the kirtan, although all the singing reminded him a bit too much of church, he said. He’d been trying to follow this blog and figure out when we would been passing through, and since we were so behind schedule, the poor man had been trying to leave space for us in his schedule for a whole month.
As soon as we were done performing, I rudely abandoned the kirtan crowd and invited Michael into the van where he could meet the cats–Laird parked on his lap–and we could talk. We got to continue the conversation two nights later after we decided to stay an extra day so Bill could have his right knee looked at. He had sprained it trying to slow down our over-enthusiastic moving men as they jammed our foam-and-latex mattress into the van (yes, we have our very own queen-size mattress in the van to sleep on). It’s been an issue throughout the trip and so Tom took Bill to a nearby emergency place while I tried to catch up on work. Gee, I sound like a really caring spouse, don’t I?
That night, Tom and Bill went off to yet another kirtan, while Michael and I went to dinner at a nearby brew pub that we found using “restaurants near me” on our smartphones.
I hadn’t spent any time with Michael for about four years. Bill and I had taken a trip out west in celebration of my 50th birthday, and I’d reconnected with Michael then after not seeing him in a long time. In the intervening years, he and his sons had been through some very hard times including the death of his wife. He’d pulled them through, but when I’d seen him last time, he was still grieving. Now he had a new relationship, and though there was much still to be worked out, it was great to see how much happier he seemed.
After a nice brunch with Tom and his lady friend Anya–we had some great meals while we were in Denver–we went on our way through the Denver traffic. Back to the road.
Image: Robert Kash via Creative Commons
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