I drove up from Southern California in the fall of 1973. I was doing one of the many ‘rolls of the dice’ in my lifetime, giving up what I knew for adventures in an exciting new place. My best friend in high school, Greg “Tank” Lucas, was heading to the University of Washington after escaping from Torrance High School. His parents had a vacation place on the Hood Canal, and when Tank graduated, they were heading north to call it home. They were kind enough to allow me to tag along.
I had been up to the Seattle area summer before and fell in love with the Northwest. It was so green. I remember describing it to others as a place where you could live where we would go camping. Kudos to my parents who supported my leaving the nest so far behind and allowing me to head to the place I have called home now for 45 years. I’ve spent almost 75% of my life in the northwest, some east of the mountains in Yakima, but mostly in Seattle.
Yet, it’s amazing that you can spend so much time here and never get around to doing things you’d do if you were a tourist in the Emerald City. One of those on my imaginary list was visiting the gravesite of Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon. Another was to get over to Sand Point and experience the Soundgarden, for whom the Seattle band was named. I checked both of those off last year.
This year, I had planned to finally get around to visiting the grave of the legendary Jimi Hendrix. I was making my way through this very intermittent week–busy, slow, busy, busy, slow–when I saw a gap and made a dash for it. I got on I-5 and it was a crawl, eventually breaking loose at I-90. But after crossing the bridge, I headed south on I-405 that was also at a snail’s pace. This was not going to be easy.
45 minutes after leaving home, I arrived at Renton’s Greenwood Cemetery. Technically Renton, yes, but right on the outskirts of Newcastle. I expected an older, more run-down graveyard hosting a rock star that passed away in 1970, but it was actually very well kept and Jimi’s gravesite was more a monument.
As when you heard his music, as I stood at this mini-temple, I felt as if I were near greatness. Thinking about it, there really had been a calling for me to visit. I was listening to Dori Monson the other day talking to one of the Isley Brothers, who claim they gave Jimi his first gig. I remember Pat O’Day’s great story how Jimi brought his guitar and amp to one of the concerts he was promoting and when an amp on-stage blew, Hendrix offered his to the band if he could get up on stage. Just today in the early morning hours, a friend had posted an early Hendrix music video. Everything just combined to say yes, I should be here.
People had left guitar picks and flowers. I’m sure as soon as I left, someone else would walk up and pay their respects. We never know how much time we’ll be given to do the things we need to do on earth. It’s as if Jimi knew his time would be short. All the accomplishments that continue to earn him praise all these years later were achieved by a young man who died at the age of 27.
I don’t know why it took me 45 years to get my butt over there, but I’m really glad I did. If they aren’t working on a Hendrix bio pic yet, they need to be. So, I can check that one off.
And now, to the next item on my list, once I think of it.