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SUBJECT: A reflection on As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls Back to Subjects
Jul 15 2013
at 8:44 AM
I wish you could have been there. It was a late October day in 1982 when I was making my way home on a greyhound bus, traveling from Raleigh to Wilmington NC. The scene outside of the bus window was picturesque. Gold and red colors painted the sky, in front of the back light of an orange sun. The silhouette of a hot air balloon accented the sky, and as it drifted slowly, it seemed to carry with it all the day dreams that were on my mind. I had been in Raleigh to receive my physical examination for entrance into the Navy. I was young, apprehensive, and feeling like I was alone in the world. I was scared, worried and wondered if I had just done the greatest thing in my life, or the worst. Instead of engaging in meaningless chatter with other passengers, I remained lost in the scene outside my bus window for as long as sun light would let me. Before the trip I had thought to bring along my stereo headphones. These were the kind that were big and bulky and only provided you with radio station reception. They predated CD’s. YES CD’s!! (I feel old all of a sudden) These bulky headphones only seemed to serve my young self with an even more awkward appearance. As I flipped through the low end of the dial where all the weird cool channels are, I stumbled across the college station WKNC 88.1 broadcasting from NC State. It happened to be their jazz hour. The DJ was introducing a song by Pat Metheny titled “September 15th” and mentioned it was a song dedicated to Bill Evans who is a legend in jazz circles. Bill had died on September 15th 1980 from a drug overdose and on this 1981 album “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”, Pat Metheny paid this musical tribute to him. The music accentuated the experience of the balloon and the sunset. In some cosmic way, it was like the two were linked together. The music gave the beautiful view out my window its very own sound track. My words pale in comparison to the actual experience but maybe the fact that I am recalling the experience 31 years later, gives an indication of its impact on me. It was one of those moments I wish I could relive. This memory came back to me last Sunday when I visited Wichita, Kansas for the first time. As I recalled this memory, I was transported back to that late October day, sitting on that greyhound, remembering the ethereal moment. As my mind continued to drift I started to wonder about the title of the album. Why would Metheny choose such an unusual name for his album? Taking this thought a step further into my humoristic mind, I asked myself the question; Would Wichita Falls really fall if Wichita fell? And in turn, if Wichita Falls fell, would Wichita also fall? Are you with me? The 2 cities are 299 miles apart and it just doesn’t seem logical that one city would have to suffer just because the other one did! RIGHT? Is there some cosmic connection happening between these two cities that we just don’t understand? I decided to have a little fun and investigate this idea. I started at the source; Pat Metheny. I posted a question on his fan forum in hoping to find out more about the origin of the title. So far NO RESPONSE!!! According to other sources, the title came from a bassist named Steve Swallow. I found Steve Swallow’s website and sent him the same question. Again I received NO RESPONSE!!! I started to become curious. Why won’t these guys acknowledge this question? Could they be hiding something? What do THEY know that the rest of us don’t know? Like I said, I was having fun! My next stop was to contact the local governments of Wichita and Wichita Falls to see if they had any inkling of such a notion. So I emailed the mayor of Wichita, Carl Brewer to ask if he was aware that he was not only responsible for the good fortune of his city, but for Wichita Falls as well! NO RESPONSE!!! DAMN!! (MORE FUN!!) I also emailed the city of Wichita Falls and their city manager Darron Leiker. He was out of town but he was kind enough to pass this off to his Asst. City Manager, Jim Dockery. This was Mr. Dockery’s response: Chris, Darron is out of the office this week and forwarded your email to me last night. Interesting questions that you have, but in my opinion, Wichita Falls is connected to Wichita, Kansas is name only. No one to my knowledge has ever passed any ordinances or legislation that would require the City of Wichita Falls to go belly up if something dreadful happened to our bigger brother in Kansas or visa versa! If that were to happen, however, then maybe our citizen’s mail wouldn’t end up in Kansas anymore. Thanks for the email and good luck with your story. Jim Dockery Assistant City Mgr/CFO City of Wichita Falls, TX So there you have it. Official word from Wichita Falls that denies the claim that the album title implies. (A LOT OF FUN!!!) I admit that this was a funny example of examining the obvious. I’m probably the only one that would bother to follow this rabbit trail to the end. That said, there is something to be learned here. We can sometimes allow the failures of others to keep us from realizing our own potential. If something bad happens to someone who is close to us, it can give us license to fail. This was never more evident to me than my very own Uncle Tommy. Tommy was a talented artist, and a dancer. Tommy had it all, or should I say COULD have had it all. Tommy suffered from the disease of alcoholism and it claimed not only his life but his soul. He died in his late 60’s, losing everything to this dreadful disease, and falling painfully short of utilizing the full potential of his God-given talents. Tommy would always tell people that he was an alcoholic “because my daddy was an alcoholic”. He was perfectly content not taking responsibility for his own actions. It was frustrating to those around Tommy who had reached out to him to try and help him. He lived a sad life when he didn’t have to. Out of 8 children, he was the one who possessed the greatest talents but also the only one who let the sins of his father, dictate his fate. Metaphorically, my grandfather was Wichita and Uncle Tommy was Wichita Falls and sadly for him, this title exemplified a very dreadful path. The title of this album now serves as a reminder to me that failure is not due to an association with someone or something. No one is born under a black cloud. No one controls your destiny except YOU! Failure is a choice and playing a victim is an easy way and sometimes the most destructive way out! So in conclusion I surmise that “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”, ONLY if you let it.
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Jul 23 2013
at 2:05 PM
Bookmark and Share AFWSFWF is a very nostalgic piece of work for me. It has been the soundtrack to numerous adventures and trips. I have sat in some of the most beautiful places in the world listening to this music. Poignant, deep and rich, it opened my mind’s eye to many new experiences and music, inside and outside of jazz. Great story and well written.
Jul 18 2013
at 6:40 PM
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Jul 17 2013
at 9:52 AM
Bookmark and Share Chris, great story. Isn’t it amazing how certain songs,places and memories can be so tied together forever? And like you, I have many that are related to Pat’s music, especially from live concerts in the 70s and 80s. Great memories are priceless.
mario toni
Jul 17 2013
at 8:07 AM
Bookmark and Share Cool and interesting subject to read! ;)
Jul 16 2013
at 9:26 PM
Bookmark and Share Just one thing: Bill Evans did not die from a drug overdose. No doubt his substance abuse probably contributed to his premature demise, but he didn’t OD.
Jul 16 2013
at 4:55 PM
Bookmark and Share Great story, great thoughts. The line of thinking and associating somewhat reminds me of the way Japanese writer Haruki Marukami builds his stories. Dreamy yet concrete. You should be a writer. Maybe you you are!
Jul 16 2013
at 11:01 AM
Bookmark and Share what would nana vasconcelos do?
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