(Michael Buckner / Getty Images)
(This story was written on 9/14/2017, a day before Harry Dean Stanton passed away.)
My cigarette was burning low as I sat at a barroom table that has seen its share of sadness. The deep brown lacquered top, inscribed with nicks and bruises like the many patrons before. Across from me sits Harry Dean Stanton, the old weathered bastard, staring out into a universe of his own. His unmistakable graveled tone is slightly muddled by the jukebox sounds of Willie Nelson.
He’s speaking in riddles, projecting a scene of yesterday’s glory, sex and wild eyes. Telling tales of leading ladies he loved but never married. It’s as if Tom Waits was born to write his epitaph. His eyes, dark from years of living his own way have the slightest twinkle against the sputtering neon Papst Blue Ribbon sign reflecting off the mirrored glass surrounding the dingy dive.
I sit silent, unsure of my place at his table. Sipping a cup of shit water coffee, listening close for clues to my own existence.
Out of the rambling volumes of sorted tales, Harry begins a mumbled serenade of Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain. It’s a beautifully timed interlude, sweeping across my ears like a lonely broom on a dusty hardwood floor. His ancient voice cracks like the old leather backs of our tavern chairs. My eyes stare at his wrinkled features, admiring his lack of care as he sings out into the smoky atmosphere of liquored air.
As he concluded his tune, he smiled, briefly teary eyed, looked at me and said “Son, you’ve never lived until you’ve felt the music that paints you blue as a late autumn twilight.”
Then he stood up, his old suit hanging off old bones, tie off center and top button open. His hand outstretched, like a skeleton wearing a glove of storied flesh. His grip still tight and strong, though perhaps more gentle now. With a half cocked smile he turned away disappearing into the sun soaked door way, like a soul entering the heavens. I sat, contemplative and alone, feeling grateful yet challenged.
Then I awoke, to a song. “Blue eyes crying in the rain.”