One of my favorite movies has always been “Treasure of Sierra Madre“. There’s a nice moment in the film when three miners who’ve struck gold are about to come down off the mountain. They’ve staked their claim and are leaving with a small fortune they’ve pried from the rocky terrain.
One of the three, a crusty old charmer named Howard (played by Walter Huston) insists they restore the mountain and close the wound they’ve ripped in her side. The others complain that it’ll take way too much time but eventually comply.
With the restoration complete, as they head down the mountain, Howard looks back and respectfully calls out “Thanks Mountain!” The main character, Fred C. Dobbs, (played by Humphrey Bogart) observes and repeats the ritual. “Yeah … Thanks, Mountain!”, perhaps suspecting that Gratitude might be the key to more good fortune.
I think there’s a nice life lesson in that scene and especially in that line of dialogue. It was the inspiration for a lyric I wrote decades ago for a song called A Little Bit of Love.
“She’s the kind who says goodbye to houses when she’s leaving them for good.”
So stories and songs can have hidden meaning or bold messages that inspire us to do the right thing. Sometimes. The thing is we don’t always know when we’re leaving for good. Sometimes the best and sweetest celebrations wind down as people move on without us noticing. Things get quieter and quieter until it’s obvious the parties over. The sight of a deflated balloon on a neighbors lawn or behind an empty couch has always felt sad to me
Gratitude and Trust didn’t have an ending. But, it had a purpose and a following that deserved more attention and respect than we ultimately gave it. Gave you.. Tracey covered that misstep beautifully in her blog. Like the creation of the book, the blog, the podcast, the Mission …. at every turn she led the way, did most of the heavy lifting and … once again, suggested there was something important that needed our attention. It was a phone call from Tee that motivated our return to the mostly empty website and to those of you who’d found a comfort, guidance or even a home at Gratitude and Trust. We’d left without a word. Our best intentions scattered around the cyber scene like the fore-mentioned party balloons.
It began …. Well, this will require your patience as I attempt a little time travel here.
Our relationship had the rockiest of beginnings back in the early 80’s when we met at a mutual friends house. She was in her early twenties and a fan when she walked up to me while I was getting high with our host and said she liked my songs. I said “I hope it helps you get laid.” Yes. Charming wasn’t I? So much for class, kindness, respect .. all the things she deserved and didn’t get from a little guy with a huge ego who was clearly an addict and simply being a dick! I have a sober friend who ends his share at every meeting with simple but excellent advice. “Stay grateful. Don’t drink. Don’t be a Dick!” I should have known him then. Tracey walked away, as she says, thinking “So much for meeting your hero’s.”
At any rate, that was the beginning. Nearly a decade later I got sober and ten years after that met Tracey again in New York. She was kind enough to reconsider a friendship. I was a different man. Speaking at a public event with Tracey in attendance, I shared stories of my recovery, ending by saying that “My Choo-choo runs on The twin rails of Gratitude and Trust.” Tracey walked up and announced “There’s a book there. Maybe there’s a way to share those tools …that philosophy with others who need it that are not Alcoholics. Call it Gratitude and Trust … Recovery is not just for addicts! Wow. And so it began.
Tracey moves quickly. She did some literary magic and we were soon writing. Her computer keys sounded like a jack hammer. She worked twice as hard as I did and much, much longer. I write songs in three hours, when it’s coming slow. She’s Insanely committed to eight or nine hour days and then, in what felt like a marathon to a sprinter like me, introduced me to her agent, found a publisher and suddenly Gratitude and Trust was a reality.
It began big time with a visit to Super Soul Sunday and Oprah! We were off and running and hopefully making a difference in peoples lives. It felt wonderful!
I want to say that I am to this day, beyond grateful for the entire experience, for Mariana’s hundreds of meals alone while I was gone and especially for Tee’s entire family that basically adopted me. Tracey‘s husband Glenn and daughters Lucy and Taylor became my New York family.
Through every incarnation, the book, the blogs, the podcast … our treasure was in the loving responses we received from people who wrote and said we’d brought something useful into their lives. To see the book listed as a best seller alongside Bill W.’s Big Book was thrilling and a little unnerving. The impact can’t be compared. This Anonymous program had saved my life and I was especially proud that we could share many of the concepts and principles of that holy organization and always honor it’s tradition of anonymity. Thank you Tracey for making sure that one request of mine was always honored.
The truth is that blessed design for living asks only that we live in love and service. And yes, it became our mission here as well. I’ve honored that tradition just as Tracey has, but, as time passed there were other opportunities to serve that seemed to have a greater impact based on the responses we were getting from our efforts at Gratitude and Trust. it was becoming a great deal , for Tracey especially and I wasn’t much help.
It was never a conscious choice but we moved on. I went to work for ASCAP and my two greatest passions became entwined. Recovery and music creators rights. One of the greatest honors of my entire life. It’s been 12 years and I think I’ve made a difference, surrounded by some of the most remarkable giving people I’ve ever known.
Tracey worked, wrote and as she shared in her blog, faced a series of major life changing events. An empty nest as the girls grew up, cross country moves and the increasing task of caring for her elderly Mother. And then, in the middle of a Pandemic, the loss of both parents within a month.
Where was I during those heartbreaking moments. Missing in action. My least impressive moments as a friend. Behavior totally inconsistent with the work we had done. My favorite affirmation… “I will learn from my mistakes and not defend them.” It’s not something I’m proud of and this blog seems the appropriate place to continue my amends.
There are dark passages in our lives and as Tracey and I have dealt with the industrial-strength ups and downs of the last two years, including my bizarre disappearing act, we are hand in hand committed to making right our wrongs wherever possible and in being the best people we can be. We have felt like family. As complicated but usually more entertaining.
So it’s not surprising that as we began to reconnect over shared disgust for a variety of political disasters, love of Rachel Maddow and the undeniable depression that cabin fever delivers … a phone call from Tracey brings me back to this moment.
To those of you who connected with us… Those of you who could’ve used a little positive thought and caring from your friends at Gratitude and Trust during the pandemic … My sincere apologies for walking away. Truth.
The Big Amigo has been remarkably good to me. The best life lessons and greatest loves have walked up to me in shoe leather. Ok, tennis shoes. I’m not sure how often we’ll be contributing but I’ve managed to acquire a fresh set of best intentions. Times are strange and I’ll be 81 in a few days. As Yogi Berra famously observed …. “The Future Aint What it Used to Be!” It’s probably not as far off as it once was. But I’m healthy and grateful for every breath. I start my day with a two and a half mile jog and my morning prayer is pretty simple. “Lead Me Where You need me Big Amigo”
Today He led me here.