Directly, like the man

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David and I hit it off at a ALSCW conference in Washington DC, where our band Scrapomatic was playing. On the trip up, I learned that he was the Poet Laureate of Georgia. I thought, “Oh, shit, what’s this dude going to be like?” It didn’t take me long to realize: “Wait! This is going to be FUN.” He just—… well, this is a compliment: He just didn’t care about small stuff.

At dinner afterwards, we went deep on the music of the American South and German Shepherds. We agreed that we could not defend German Shepherds to the general population. Once you let one in to your family, you can never have friends over to your house again. Socializing ceases. The dogs love us like crazy but they’re a completely different animal when someone else shows up. Then we spent an hour on music: The Who’s Who of Capricorn and Mussel Shoals studios. My playing reminded him of something back in those Macon days — a little Skydog [Duane Allman]— which was a radical compliment.

I ended up going to see him sit in at an open jam they used to have at a bar on the square in Marietta. He warned me: “Don’t judge me. My wrist is a little tight and arthritic. I’ll be playing lame.” When I showed up, he had his hand wrapped in packing tape, like the kind they use at FedEx. I said, “What the fuck are you doing?” He said, “It’s all I could find.” He’d never admit this, so I’ll just say it: The guy can really play.

I have friends from back home in Anniston, Alabama, who were students of his at Georgia State. When they found out I knew him, they freaked the fuck out. He was by far the favorite teacher they had ever had. It was like I knew a rock star. He was changing lives. I’m not a big reader of poetry, but I love David’s. His words speak to you whether you’re an academic or just a person who’s curious. Directly, like the man.