The Random Griffith

I just don’t get it sometimes

Posted in music, rest in peace by Jackson Griffith on 16/06/2010

The evening started okay. Drove home from work in Lodi listening to and singing along with Lefty Frizell. Flirted with the nice woman at the bank, drove over to the Urban Hive to say hi to Brandon. Then, a hint of sideways that I’d rather not go into, except that I left feeling pissed off, like I’d been played by and patronized by one of those oily hipster types, one of Gram Parsons’ green mohair suits, another assclown in a social media circus populated by an endless sea of gladhanding jackoffs. Then, went to a coffeehouse, was texting someone who’d called me by mistake from another town, which I’d kinda turned into a mild flirtation. Logged onto Facebook. A message from a friend: Call me, I have bad news.


Look, over the past couple years, during a time when my life hit a real bumpy patch, I had the good fortune to make friends with a guy named Tommy Vanwormer. I’d known Tommy from this band he had with Tony Passarell and Kele Duncan called Hunting Game in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and then knew him from other stuff. Anyway, Tommy was one of those rare birds who, when it felt like this stupid town was serving me up one shit sandwich after another while promoting the usual parade of buffoonery, would pull me aside and tell me not to listen to these assholes, to keep on doing what I was doing, that eventually someone would figure out that it was of value, and the important thing was to keep going and keep creating and stop worrying about what the idiot philistines in this hapless burg who don’t know shit from Shinola think because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

So tonight I called Passarell back, and he told me about Tommy’s death on Sunday night. That Tommy and some guys had gone drinking at the Fox & Goose on Saturday night, and they closed the bar down, and then instead of taking Highway 50 home to Folsom, Tommy had gotten onto 80 and got pulled over in Rocklin. That the cops figured he was something other than wasted, and that he got admitted to Kaiser Permanente in Roseville sometime around 3 a.m., and then sometime in the morning, either Kaiser had kicked him loose or he left on his own accord. That Tommy must have walked back home to Folsom, got his bike, and then went looking for his car, which had gotten impounded, and then something happened and he got admitted to Mercy San Juan, where he died Sunday night.

I don’t know. All I know is that losing someone of Tommy’s caliber really hurts. I sat in Weatherstone tonight, feeling progressively more numb. At some point, I called our mutual friend Mindy Giles, who hadn’t heard. Then she and her boyfriend Greg came down and we hung out and commiserated, which eased the pain. But still, I feel stupidly hurt and confused. And now I can’t sleep after trying to no avail, so I’m typing this.

I’ll write more later. All I can say is that I’m sick and tired of reading story after story about some dumbass bint named Lindsay Lohan and why she needs to get it together and how she fucked up again and again and again and, lo, behold, she’s got another chance and another shot at some reality show and another wheelbarrow load of cash and another goddamn blank slate and fresh start that she’ll fuck up again and again and again, and yet guys like Tommy make a wrong turn somewhere and then all the people whose lives he touched are sitting here crying and wondering what the fuck, does god have a cruel sense of humor or what? Just take Lohan and her whole stupid family and throw them into the fucking volcano and even the score, deity. Please don’t take any more of our friends while these human cockroaches go on living, rubbing our faces in the sheer unfairness of it all.

Fuck it, I just don’t understand. I wish I could bawl like a goddamn baby, but I got trained by too many fistfights in the sixth grade that real men don’t cry, so those toxic tears are corroding me from the inside with their acidity, and I got no way to let ’em out. This is one of those nights when I wish I had some loving arms to gently coax them out of me, but instead I’m lying alone on this makeshift bed of a massage table two floors above a downtown club, listening to the usual cast of drunks talk on the sidewalk and yell in the street. Can’t sleep. Gotta type instead.

Last night, I was tired, took a nap, went and visited some old friends. Then, on a whim, I went by the Fox & Goose for open mic, having missed it for the last month. I figured Tommy might show up after Nebraska Monday at Luna’s, and maybe Sal Valentino might show up too, and the three of us would hang out in the parking lot afterward and talk about music.

Tommy never showed. I shoulda known something was up. Rest in peace, dear friend. —Jackson Griffith


24 Responses

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  1. Josh Fernandez said, on 16/06/2010 at 16:14

    I just typed and then erased about 10 sentences. Can’t figure out the right thing to say, but the sentiment is mostly “Thanks for writing this.”

  2. David Kulczyk said, on 16/06/2010 at 20:52

    I’m fucking shocked and stunned.

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 16/06/2010 at 20:55

      Me, too, David. I managed to get some sleep, but damn. What awful news about a swell pal.

  3. Bella Q@ thecitizenrosebud said, on 16/06/2010 at 23:27

    This is a totally random loss, which seems to make it all the more senseless and tragic. I had yet to meet Mr. Van Wormer. He had befriended me on facebook a while back, since we share a boatload of common friends. He seemed very warm and friendly, and I was looking forward in meeting him. That would have been this coming Saturday, at Tony P’s birthday party. Looks like I’ll never have a chance to meet him in person. A pity. Souls like that don’t parade the streets often.

  4. Amy Yannello said, on 17/06/2010 at 01:44

    Oh, jackson, I am so sorry. These tragedies defy explanation. Take care, my friend.

  5. Kerri Clark said, on 17/06/2010 at 03:56

    I’m pretty numb. Feeling disconnected. Jon Mack told me this morning. Keep thinking about his kid. Keep thinking about who I consider as friends and if I feel this sad when someone goes, then yeah, I consider them a friend. I need to reconnect with some people. You are one.

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 17/06/2010 at 13:36

      Two kids. He loved those guys, too. And it’s funny; I was just wondering about you. Are you in Fair Oaks now? I’m working in Lodi, trying to decide if I’m gonna stay here or move somewhere else. Still on the fence about that. Hope you’re well.

      • Kerri Clark said, on 17/06/2010 at 23:23

        Yup. Still here.
        Tommy would bring up each year that Ian and I have the same 4/22 b-day. He must be 15 now–where is he going to go? I’m just heartbroken. I didn’t remember another child, but then I only met Ian. Tommy would certainly think this is bullshit.
        I hope you are well, too.

      • Bill VanWormer said, on 20/06/2010 at 08:07

        Hey, Jackson. Glad I found your blog. Praise google for once. Keep on writing about Tommy. Also big thanks. All I knew was he crashed his bike went home, Kari said he didn’t sound right, had a seizure at the house, took him to the hospital, had another seizure there, I guessed Kaiser, they tried to resusitate and he passed. This is what Kari had told my brother Bob in Florida, brother # 3. The sons Ian and Adam 8 are with Kari with her father and step mother, their grandparents this weekend. Bob and I were to come to California but an autopsy is still being performed, my guess is that worked is being done by a lab as to cause, but just a guess and will probably take a while. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster here on Long Island, I finally left Sacto back in 1983. No job no money and getting too old at 34 to be fucking around there. Tom couldn’t help so I came home. Starting to ramble, please if you find anything out please post it without worring about hurting feelings. I need to know what happened, same to anyone wanting to share and I’ll do the same. Losing my brother this quickly, except for Tom’s and my uncle Frank who got hit by a bus, really, in my family we usually die in our sleep after an illness. Rambling again. Thanks again, Jackson. PS I’m gonna leave Danny D a post too as I have no other way to contact him. As, Tommy might say, Tom Waits for no one, a steal from the old Stones song Time Waits For No One. He was a big Waits fan. It was always about music and baseball, Later.

      • Jackson Griffith said, on 21/06/2010 at 00:39

        Bill: Great to hear from you. Your brother was a very special and quite amazing human being. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else quite like him. I went to Tony Passarell’s birthday get together yesterday, and the elephant in the room was the absence of Tommy, because every other time I’ve been to one of Tony’s parties, Tommy was the guy I ended up hanging out with until Tony kicked everybody out. We got to know one another at gigs around town, or just hanging out, and had a lot in common. He was like a brother to me, and I think lots of us here in Sacramento felt that way. To say he will be missed would be a real understatement.

      • Bill VanWormer said, on 20/06/2010 at 10:59

        Just got off the phone with brother Bob. Kari told him hospital has released Tommy (best way I can say it, Tom would enjoy that). A service and a celebration with friends and music are in the works. Soon, I did hear a date but they always change. Tony P will be part of it so he’ll know better. I like that. Bob will be there, I still have to work it out with the job, but will try my best. Thanks again.

  6. Kathy said, on 17/06/2010 at 11:42

    I miss Tommy.

  7. Danny D said, on 17/06/2010 at 14:56

    Jackson, Tommy and I go way, way back before our Sacramento days, having gone to the same high school on eastern Long Island…He was actually my younger brother’s friend…
    and when I first met him in 1973 I also met his older brother Bill who was living in Sacramento along with Mark Weaver…that’s very much the reason why I (and later Tommy) ended up in Sacramento…there are many tangled stories of life, culture and relationships, but always told to a soundtrack of musical exploration…It’s really hard to sort this one out.

    Danny DiPierro

    • Bill VanWormer said, on 20/06/2010 at 10:52

      Hi, Danny the Dog, I remembered from way back when. Hope all is well. A tangled soundtrack about sums it up. I’m still going thru all the emotions and memories. Been talking with brother Bob about everything. Glad you know if that sounds right, also your brother Tommy/Dippy too. Most of the LI I can still find know too. Friends that your brother knew like Coconut. So…glad you can remember the good old days in Sacramento with Weaver, Tony “the hulk” and the bands and my magazines and all the trips to San Francisco to see bands that were great but no one outside of our circle new about them. Or the Patti Duffy’s and that crowd that Weaver introduced us to after we would give him a ride. Guess he’s still in Seattle with Rickie, Steve, and a few others. Time has gone so quickly. Also still glad you did the drawings for National Vynyl, not much you can get for a 6 pack of Coors these days/your payment. Gonna somehow try to figure out how to find ”the hulk” in Colorado, and people from Sac State, the Air Force and a few others I introduced Tommy to. Be well, hope you see this. I ‘m glad I found Jackson’s site, I wouldn’t have know how to send you even this.

      • Danny D said, on 21/06/2010 at 01:26

        Bill, glad this blog connected us…I can fill you in on some details, still learning about others…you can email me at…or call at 415-388-1636…Danny

  8. Brandon said, on 18/06/2010 at 03:30

    I’m sorry for your loss under such circumstances. One thing I have learned about you, Jackson, is that you have a big heart and are a loyal friend, which I’m sure makes these tragedies all that much more painful for you. But don’t change that for the world.

    Hang in there, friend.

  9. Ken said, on 25/06/2010 at 06:21

    Ken from True West here – I’m still shocked.

    Bill – I talked to Mark H. and Frank F. about this tragedy. I still can’t come to terms with this.

    • Bill VanWormer said, on 28/06/2010 at 08:03

      thanks, it’s been hard, people have been great, plan to be in Sacramento on the 7th, be well.

      • Jackson Griffith said, on 28/06/2010 at 08:06

        We’ll see you there, Bill.

      • Ken said, on 01/07/2010 at 03:35

        Please keep us posted for the 7th. I WILL be there.

  10. Bill VanWormer said, on 13/07/2010 at 05:58

    thanks again, Jackson, great to meet you, glad you came to the celebration. Will try to keep in touch even if it’s just a non sequitur or three. Be well.

  11. Eve said, on 30/07/2010 at 03:34

    I just found out this news today after I posted something really stupid – silly on Tommy’s facebook and got a kind response back from a fellow named Peter. I am in shock and just searching for answers, connections, peace.

    I am so grateful to find your writing Jackson Griffith. Thank you so much for just spillin’ it on the page so to speak. Tommy was soooo about the bein’ real. Even though I knew him in a professional setting of the book business, I found the connection so refreshing and fun.
    Plus, MUSIC just makes me feel alive and free and sparks creativity. Tommy had deep roots into the soul, he knew what matters… his kids were everything to him. My heart hurts for their loss.

    I love reading your words too Bill…. a sibling imprint of a Van Wormer. Love and light to you and family.

  12. Karen Lyberger said, on 23/08/2010 at 05:21

    Thanks for writing this Jackson
    “so those toxic tears are corroding me from the inside with their acidity, and I got no way to let ‘em out.”
    It isn’t fair that we loose the so many of the good ones so young, very sad here.

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