Sad Things That Do Good

Yesterdays passing of PJ, an employee of the now defunct “Oktober Guitars” in Maryland, brought up a lot of talk in the forum about how we spend our time here on Earth. PJ wasn’t a member here yet, but I have no doubt that he would’ve loved it, because he was just like us.

His story was tragic, and when I told it, it made everyone sad… but that wasn’t the reaction that I was going for. How do you write about death, while inspiring your audience to feel good and be happy? I don’t know… but I do believe that is how we should respond, and certainly what PJ would’ve wanted.

Many of us are career Heavy Metal musicians, so we’re no strangers to aggressive lyrics about tragedy and bad luck… As such, you’d think that we’d be more prepared for them when they occur… But the odd thing is; no matter how smart I’ve ever felt, or how prepared I’ve ever been.. I never seem to see the light when things are dark.

If you’re like me, then you hate the generic, cliche BS that people throw at you when you’re in trouble (and they’re not). But since it’s unavoidable, find a way break the cycle and be better.

While talking with Rattbones yesterday, I was throwing a lot that generic advice out there myself. I think that it’s instinct to want to help others, but I believe that the line is drawn exactly after that sentence. Yes you may want to help, but simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, well that’s just not helping at all.

The outcome isn’t what matters in life… it’s how you handle the situation that matters. PJ has passed, that’s the outcome… How I handle it is how you will judge me. So what good is it if I mourn him for the day, and then simply go back about my business on the following?

We all aspire to leave a big impact on the world, so I can’t imagine that I’d be doing PJ justice by being plain. This is my opportunity to find happiness in sadness, and all that’s required is for me to care enough to try.

PJ left a lot behind that can bring others joy for the rest of their lives. He especially loved to build and play guitars, and since we live for music, we’re enamored by his collection. No doubt that would make PJ grin from ear to ear.

Through his guitars, we can make PJ’s spirit echo on, and to me, that’s a genuine gesture to his family, as well as a refreshing perspective on making the best of the worst.

Most of us cherish a few inanimate objects… maybe a little more than we should, but it’s a tough world, so you have to adore what gets you through the day. If that’s a guitar, then so be it.

Music has a massive impact on the world, and we are the proud few whom realize that making music is the greatest feeling of all. Our instruments are our companions through life, so we protect them just as we do our families. As a result, you can’t help but wonder what will become of them when you pass on.

I’ve often thought about this over the years, and until PJ passed, I just assumed that family would get them, but that got me thinking… That means my guitar will likely wind up forgotten in a dark, attic or basement… or worse yet… a nameless piece on the wall in a pawn shop.

That is definitely not what I want.

Going back and forth with Tony from Oktober yesterday, I realized that what would really make me happy, is being able to put a smile on the face of someone who would otherwise not be able to smile. That’s the person who’ll cherish my guitar, and never forget who I was or what I did for them.

In this situation, I’m fortunate enough to be the person in need of a smile. And since one of PJ’s guitars is on it’s way to me from his family, even though he’s gone, he’s going to do something incredible for someone who will never forget it.

I will love this guitar like PJ did, and every time that I see or hear it, I’ll be inspired by its ability to make beautiful music… Every time that I show it off to other musicians, I’ll tell the story of PJ… And now that I’ve written this, whoever inherits it from me will know that it’s far more than a mere pile of wood and parts.

So whenever you see one of PJ’s guitars and you hear the story of that goes along with it, don’t be sad, and whatever you do, don’t pass on any generic condolences to me. Honor the men who made it and those before you who played it, by making the world a better place with it.

Help whoever you can, whenever you can, and be grateful for what you have. Never forget the sacrifices that others make so that you can have what you do, and do your best to give some one less fortunate a chance that they never would’ve had otherwise.

I adore this bass… and with PJ’s passing, it has found its way to my hands. My life is now better… and I intend to make a lot of people smile with it… Starting with PJ.

5 Comments

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  1. What a beautiful sentiment. Thank you for writing this.

    My mom passed away a year ago last week. Before she died she made my two sisters and I promise her something. Every year before Christmas we are to find a family (with a young child) in need in her home town. We are to go out and buy a bike for that child (after talking it over with the family, of course). This year was the first Christmas since she died, so we found a family, bought a bike, and delivered it. It really made the mom’s day, and it was so much fun to go out and find a bike that checked all the boxes for this kid- her favorite color is pink, and she loves the Little Mermaid, so we found the perfect bike for her. Carefully hidden in a spot where no one will ever see it are my mom’s initials.

    When I die I’m going to make my kids’ lives slightly more complicated. 🙂 I’m going to do the same thing my mom did, but for a young musician in need. I want to help someone who cannot, for whatever reason, afford the tools they need to make music. I, like Army, don’t want my stuff to end up in a pawn shop. I want somebody to *use* it, to make music, to express themselves, to find the joy in creating music. My kids know how important music is to me and I believe they’ll honor my wishes when the day comes (hopefully not too soon, but, clearly, you never know).

  2. Very well said my brother, and thank you for honoring PJ in such a way…he would have loved it!

    I personally purchased any guitars in his collection that I know meant a lot to him, and I will continue to gig, write and record with them. He would want his guitars played, and he often…very often…would just give guitars and gear away to friends, just because. Me and him would give guitars back and forth to each other all the time. The last time he came over to hang out for the weekend, he brought me a handful of guitars, just because that’s what PJ did, and everyone knew it. I look at those guitars now, and realize that’s the last gift he ever gave me. I had a hard time even picking them up for a few days after he passed, knowing that he had just played his favorite riffs on those strings, but never would again.

    PJ, for those who didn’t know him, was a simple guy…he never let the world bother him and couldn’t have given a shit about the things most people let bother them: Money, politics, drama etc. Nope, he had zero concern for any of it. When going through his things with his family after he passed on Christmas Day, it was easy to see there were only 4 things in PJs life that he cared about, and things fit neatly into one of 4 categories:
    Guitars
    Music
    Horror memorabilia
    His dog Clyde
    Everything he owned was either guitars or gear, music CDs or DVDs, horror toys, posters and memorabilia of every kid, or framed pictures of him and his Beagle. That was it. PJ was a talented artist and tattoo artist, and all of the tattoos I have were done by PJ. He tattooed full time before Oktober, part time while Oktober was running, and went back into it full time after Oktober was sold. Hundreds and hundreds of people have come forward with condolences to his family, all people that he had met while they were just getting a tattoo, but became a friend after their session. He never saw the bad in anyone, and never had a negative thing to say about anything. He did what he loved, everyday, and was as happy as a person as I’ve ever known. I doubt I’ll meet anyone that upbeat again. His crazy laugh would always make the rest of us laugh. And you can’t be down when you’re laughing. And he made sure we always did. His lived simply, and happily. We should all hope to live as simply and as happily as PJ did. I will certainly try to follow his example.

  3. Dude, that was one of the most eloquent things that I have read in a long time, no bullshit. Sounds like PJ was lucky to have friends like you – that’s righteous.

    Now: One of the reasons that I don’t hang with m-shredders all the time is this type of morbid talk.

    So: Who got laid lately?? ( PJ has approved this advertisement )

  4. Lol… Thanks bro! It’s so good to see and hear from you. Always a rare treat for me. I forgot what it was like to have sex (at least with a partner), but you can bet that when I do, I’ll be blabbing it all over the internet!

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