F R O M T H E F I L E S O F A S H A O F A N T A R E S R e a l L i f e G h o s t S t o r i e s L E N N Y . . . LIFE ON THE ROAD
Do you recognize your teachers and angels? Can you decide if an event is an example of tragic irony or fated decision?
He was ambling amiably along the neighborhood street, carrying his acoustic guitar, lanky, blonde hair flowing in the breeze, a mellow late-20's sort, his first day in Florida, when my friends and I met him. Those were roommating times and college days and he quite naturally blended with us and tagged along as my two roomies and I fixed meals.
His name was Lenny
and his family had been in the railroad business in Tennessee. He'd been married already once and had a couple of children back in Tennessee, but he'd left that some time back and been on the road, traveling from California to Florida, playing his guitar and doing some carpentry as trade for groceries and a place to sleep here and there. He wasn't a vagabond. He was more of a spirit needing to fly free for a while, singing his favorite tune, "Teach Your Children," a popular song made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He found friends and music wherever they may be.
In those days, times being more liberated, his lifestyle was not unusual, although most of the population would "sell out" to a more conservative lifestyle as they aged. His ambition was to have a band named "Nessesity", a play on words (often saying that singing was a necessity for all of us) and his last name, Ness. In exchange for dinner, he installed a macrame swing so that it held the weight of adults and then sang and played his music for all to join in and sing along. Lenny was always smiling. He knew himself and accepted his life. He taught everyone to sing - on key or off did not matter. And he taught them to enjoy their inner free spirit. He himself simply loved to sing and to play his guitar. That was his simple pleasure.
We saw him many times off and on over the next couple of months. Then, one day, he announced that it had come to him that it was "time." It was time to stop the road life, get a stable place, save some money and then go to Tennessee, find his children, and "be a dad" for them. He rented an old trailer.
Some people KNOW when it's time.
Shortly after moving into the trailer, there was an explosion and fire. In broad daylight, before the eyes of neighbors and friends who were trying desparately to rescue him, Lenny burned to death.
He had turned 30.
Tragic irony or fate? What does it mean when a free spirit renounces the road and announces that it's time to "settle" and go home?
No doubt Lenny was one of my teachers. He was a master at adaptation. He could strike up a friendship with anyone willing to do so at any moment anywhere. Most of all, he identified solidly with the first phrase of his favorite tune:
"You who live on the road Must have a code That you can live by."
After living on the road myself and with the passing of a quarter of a century now, I can say, "True Words."
Have I ever felt his spirit present? More than once, a reminder that we are never alone. A salute to one of my favorites - in spirit. Asha