2020 The Year the Music Died from Covid, No Kidding! I Saw the Death Certificate.
2019 taught me many things, including how difficult it can be to let go of wishes and dreams. Many entrepreneurs end up working for themselves, due to following their hearts and their dreams. I know that by saying this now in 2020, many know that plight.
So if you’re reading this in times of uncertainty in your own life, chin up! We are going to get through this. Keep the faith and keep on pushing. Try to always look for the positive beats that life offers and keep on trucking. The best way to lift your spirits when you are down and out is to help others. No matter what your troubles, you never have to look far to see worse.
It was not easy to step away from the things that I truly love and bring me joy, but in 2019 it became necessary for me to do that, to get my overall life back on track. Fact is, Florence washed away both business plans, and I faked it for a full year before conceding. Focusing on and rebuilding the primary business was important and necessary work.
As time unfolded, Covid-19 would bring life to a halt for bars, and music around the nation was silenced. Once that happened, I finally felt better about giving the blog a rest to focus on my day job; the cleaning business.
Though I stopped promoting music long before the virus reached us, it was terribly sad to see the music scene go silent, when our nation shut down in mid-March.
Just as the new year started, I was beginning a new YouTube Channel on cleaning strategies. I stopped production weeks later when Covid came calling. That put an end to the short-lived cleaning channel. There was too much to learn, and this was no time to confuse people with possible misinformation, before educating myself.
So I stopped making cleaning videos and started researching this virus that has infiltrated our world and more specifically how to kill and clean it. I became certified to clean it by the end of March. This would prove to be a worthy investment of my time. Tracey’s Clean Sweep is busy keeping homes safe each and every business day.
Though it’s been sad to watch the collapse of many small businesses and bands, as we push through in an effort to survive it all, we have to look for the highlights and find new happy places in our lives. Once local bands took to Facebook Live and attached tip jars to their live feeds, it became easier to follow music from my bedroom.
This season of live music on social media outlets helped to put me back in touch with some of the roots of my career. One of the first acts I tuned into was the first local live band I fell in love with over 35 years ago. I was 15 when I first heard Billy Hector. Back in the ’80s, he was killing it on the New Jersey club circuit with his band, The Fairlanes. I fell instantly in love with him and his wildflower Suzan. It was soul-soothing to tune in each week to music I would ride to the ends of the earth to hear. Below is a link to their last live performance, treat yourself and groove.
As we slowly stroll back to some sort of normalcy, I decided after much thought to revive the blog, so that when there is live music we have a platform to better support it. That was always my intention here and on that front, nothing has changed. Throughout, the quiet months, many have expressed how much they missed this blog site and how important it was in their weekly planning. That was always the point, to keep people informed on where to go and who to see.
A Veteran’s Day Story ~ The Tale of Two Brothers
Besides cleaning houses on the regular during the pandemic, I have taken it upon myself to change a couple of lives as well. As the end of summer approached I was asked to assist a veteran with a phone issue. When I walked in to assist him, on Monday afternoon, August 31, my life was touched in a way I can’t describe and their lives started to change soon after.
This story involves a tale of two middle-aged brothers, both of them are veterans. There is an older brother who served 8 years in the Marines who is gainfully employed and healthy. There is also a younger brother who served 4 years in the Army. He was suffering in silence for many months with back pain. Neither brother owns a working car. So transportation was an issue. Both of these fellows were full of pride too, and so asking for help was also difficult.
I know these brothers. They are no strangers to me. So when I tell you that I had no idea how bad their living situation was, it is not a lie. It’s still shocking to me as I reflect on the memories of that day and try to and find the words for you now. What I can say is no one should have to live like that, and most certainly no one who offered their lives to fight for our freedoms. I know dogs that live better than these brothers were living. It had to end it for the mental and physical health of them both.
I guess the best way to describe it, I felt like I stepped into an episode of Hoarders and no one ever introduced me to the director. Instantly, I had no idea how I was going to help these guys deal with this situation, I just knew I was going to do something more than head to Walmart and pick up a new phone and go about my business.
As the story goes, the older brother told me in confidence that his brother’s phone was not working. He told me to go in and speak to him. Upon entry, I gasped at the smell and was confused by the sights. I determined quickly the phone was dead and walked out. I went to Walmart and McDonald’s. I returned 30 minutes later with a hot meal and a new phone. While he ate, I opened the phone and called the service department to get it working,
I told him, “I don’t know what is going on here, but this ends today. Let me look at my work schedule and move some things around and let’s get you to the emergency hospital in Durham.” After getting his phone working, I headed home and looked over my work schedule, shifted a few things around, and canceled one appointment. I texted the Army vet to tell him we were going to Durham on Thursday morning.
The thought of this man laying on a bug-infested floor with open wounds, and not able to walk, nor able to reach the top of the stairs for a shower for more than several weeks, left me tossing and turning for hours. I could not sleep so I prayed.
I worked two days, paid down my credit card enough to secure a rental car, and pulled out of town at 5 am September 3. We spent the day in Durham, the older brother and myself, as we awaited word from doctors. Due to the virus, we couldn’t stay in the hospital so we lingered close by and spent our time in a city park near the Veteran Hospital in Durham.
Of course, to keep it interesting, we had a fender bender with the rental car leaving the hospital to sit in the park. To date, I am the only one I have met that rented a car, bought the insurance, got rear-ended, and then had to fight with them not to charge me $1700 for damages. I appreciate there was a crinkle in the bumper, but insurances ought to be covering this, not me. I do believe that I have finally convinced them of this two weeks ago.
Personally, I think it all happened so that I could meet Clarance. The sweet 93-year-old WWII vet was already stopped behind us at the red light when his foot slipped off the brake. I wanted him to sit in the air conditioning with us, as we awaited the police assistance; but he refused. No injuries occurred and a police report was written up and provided all the information the insurance companies might need to work their magic. Hahaha. Not so magical.
By the end of the workday and before shift change at 4 pm, we did speak to doctors who said they were seeing the worst case of self-neglect they have ever possibly seen. I understood their concerns and told them I am willing to be an advocate in getting him the help and services he needs to live a better life. I handed them a bag I packed with some clothes and snacks and a roast beef sandwich for the doctors to bring back to him in his new room.
The younger brother was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and needed surgery to help alleviate his nerves which were being choked to the point of paralysis. Surgery was performed at the Durham VA in the third week of September. At the beginning of October, they moved him to Richmond Virginia for spinal rehabilitation.
In the time that the younger brother was undergoing care in Durham, I worked around the clock with the older brother cleaning and clearing out their old apartment. We rented a large dumpster the first week and filled it in hours. The following weekend a local motorcycle club and their members worked with me and offered use of their trailer to haul off trash and move contents.
Meanwhile, over on Facebook, I was asking the world for help. Posting pleas for finding contents, plus I set up a personal fundraiser in the hopes of raising $14,000 for these two brothers. The money is being used to relocate them both into new dwellings that each can manage independently.
Thus far a personal fundraiser has net us more than $3600 which allowed us to get the old place cleaned out and turned over to the property owners and establish a new residence for the older brother. Today there remains a balance of $340 which will be used in helping the younger brother.
Currently, we have the older brother is living comfortably in a new apartment in Havelock. He never had much of a patio or yard where he lived with his brother. Now that he is in a small duplex with a yard, it’s my hope we find the resources to buy him a grill and a small table set, for the patio. Other than that, he has everything he needs to live.
Along with Facebook pleas, I am also lining up concerts to gather donations for this cause. There are a couple of bands interested in helping me with this, so each time I do a concert, I will be asking attendees to bring food stores or Walmart gift cards or monetary donations.
My only real worry with the older brother is that I doubled his expenses. Though he is gainfully employed, his income has not doubled. That was my reasoning for the store cards. This will help him bridge the gap of his expenses and not fret over the need to buy food.
These days the monetary donations are being saved for the younger brothers’ housing needs. Currently, he is in the VA system receiving care, but when they release him he will eventually need a place to call home. This will require a minimum of $5,000 to meet those needs. Currently, he is unable to work and due to Covid-19, disability is unable to process paperwork apparently.
The first fundraising concert for these brothers will be this weekend, while Veterans are still centered in our thoughts. 3rd Degree Bern will provide the music. This local band features two singing guitarists, Brian McDowell and Tom Davis, and a fine rhythm section that includes Simon Spalding on bass. They offer classic rock and familiar blues hits. Music that you know and love. So put on your dancing shoes and meet me at Red Sail Park!
This event will be held outdoors on Saturday, November 14, 2020, in Fairfield Harbour. Social distancing and safety measures will be taken. Music will be offered 4-7 pm, guests and attendees are asked to bring a donation.
For those that cannot attend but wish to donate and help lift these brothers, there are two options. If you’re on Facebook, you can visit my Facebook fundraising page here, Tracey’s Personal Fundraiser To Assist Two Veterans, or for those that do not have Facebook but use Zelle you can send money to me via email at email@example.com. Thank you all for your support.
The Brown Pelican: A Tale of Surviving Covid-19 And A Mass Shutdown
One of the greatest places to dwell for live music and good times in New Bern has been shut down since the National Emergency went into effect in mid-March. The Brown Pelican shut their doors just before St. Patrick’s Day and remains one of the few nightspots in town that is still closed because of Covid. Most other establishments have found loopholes or were able to easily alter their plan so to maintain normal operations.
The Dirty Bird as it is lovingly referred to, is a unique watering hole that thrives on live music and friendly staff. In short, The Brown Pelican is our town’s Cheers. It’s the place where everybody knows your name and the bartenders have your drinks ready after you sign in.
Therein lies the problem. The Brown Pelican is considered a private club, which is not allowed to make money according to the statements I have read in accordance with the government agenda. Apparently, private clubs are a big no-no because that is where Covid is most likely to spread or something. To be honest, nothing about what’s happening in the world makes sense to me. I am just here trying to survive it all like the rest of the folks.
Owner of The Brown Pelican, Heather Haiss needless to say, has had a difficult year. But if there is one thing I know about this brave, good woman and smart business owner, is that she will survive. She has a community that supports her dreams and visions and we all await the government’s support as well.
Until things change, there are at least three ways we can support her in this difficult season. If you wish to help right NOW, without moving from the couch, you can visit her Brown Pelican GoFundMe page and make a donation. The page was established early on, but the need is still there for her to keep the bar.
All contributions help Haiss to secure a future for her employees, by being able to keep the rent paid and lights on so they have a place to work when this is over. For folks that use Venmo, you can send donations to her there @HHaiss. Haiss has faced many challenges this year, so our help is important right now for her survival. When she applied for assistance she was denied funding. She was left with very little options beyond assuming personal loans from family members and mounting debt.
The second way people can help is to show up! The Brown Pelican has been hosting a Back Porch Concert Series each Sunday. All are welcome to bring a chair and set up in the parking lot for live music. Tip jars and donation buckets are on site to help support Haiss and her staff.
The Sunday Back Porch Concerts take place each week, weather permitting from 1-6 pm. Haiss has hosted Tommy Duzan, Paul Piccard, The Carolina Swampdogs, Big Jim Kohler and Friends and many more. People are welcome to pack coolers and bring food to share. All cash donations collected are helping Haiss make it through this dark era. Looking ahead, Big Jim Kohler and Friends scheduled to perform this weekend.
The final way you can show your support for Haiss these days is to visit her at her new place of employment. Haiss is now serving you with a masked smile at La Roas’s Italian Restaurant. This all came to be back in September after Haiss’s birthday. I invited her out to my favorite restaurant in New Bern for dinner, in the hopes of securing a new opportunity for her to embark on during lockdown.
I introduced Haiss to Angela Poole the owner of La Rosa’s Italian Restaurant and Bar. The introduction made sense to me since these two friends of mine are like-minded businesswomen. It wasn’t long into the meeting that Poole agreed to allow Haiss to run the bar in her fabulous restaurant.
Now my favorite New Bern restaurant offers my favorite bar owner behind the bar. She is there ready to serve during the dinner hours Tuesday thru Saturday 5-9 pm. Located at 1503 S. Glenburnie Rd., they offer ample parking and pick up service for those that are not ready to dine in. To place your order simply call (252) 633-4606. Personally, I recommend the lasagna.
For those that are not familiar with La Rosa’s, let me just say this is my favorite place around for many reasons. First and foremost, I don’t know about you but when I go out I like good food and good service and here it is always exceptional.
Poole started her business in Havelock in 2004. She has been in her current New Bern location for just over six years and keeps a sanitation rate of 100%. During these times of crisis and Covid, she adheres to all the guidelines that will keep people safe. LaRosa’s offers the finest Italian food for affordable prices. The serving sizes are perfect. Each entree comes with a soup or a salad. There is a wonderful wine menu and a full bar, as well as desserts and coffees. Stop in and let them serve you soon.
Les Wetherington, Bass Player, Guitarist, and Good Friend to All He Knew.
I met Les Wetherington back in the Summer of 2014 when my life was full of turbulence and sorrow. I was in the throes of a divorce when he befriended me at a benefit for Promise Place.
Wetherington was the bass player, singer and promoter for the local band 3 Day Weekend. He was also a dedicated father, an advocate for those in need, a talented photographer, a fun and intelligent spirit and a sweet friend, with a heart as big as his country.
He helped me more than he knew, by extending kindness and friendship when I needed it most. I was not one for dating but we did date briefly upon his insistence. In my defense Les, I told you I was not relationship material. We now know I was not lying. LOL! None of that changes how awesome he was to know though! He also took some of the most dynamic pictures. He alone got me into taking pictures in a new way.
For those that missed the news, we lost Les Wetherington under the brightness of the last Supermoon this year, to his long fought battle with cancer on April 7, 2020. He was surrounded by his family and close friends until the very end. Given the pandemic, the family has not announced plans for his celebration of life. But let me tell you when the day arrives, that will be a huge day of rejoicing and celebration for this little town.
Looking back on knowing him, when I did finally break down and give in to dating him, it was the first time in 15 years that I was brave enough to go to a man’s house that I hardly knew. I was crawling out of my skin by the time I reached the door and he must have noticed that fear in my eyes because he comforted me instantly. That is the kind of soul he was. He made me feel at ease often and reminded me I was in safe company.
We spent many nights chilling out at his house on the Neuse River, listening to music, enjoying the sunsets and cooking good food. It was in that era of time that Wetherington got me talking about music and “my passion poured out” as he noted while watching me dance to the blues in his living room. We spent hours swapping stories and telling tales of music promotions. I really enjoyed conversations with him, he had an amazing brain.
One place in life where we clicked on all cylinders is our spirit to help others. We spent hours talking about good ways to promote music. He showed me a new way through a lens. It was in those formidable hours that this blog was born. Wetherington took me along to meet his music friends and asked for my help in promoting a revival show for Sutters Gold Streak Band in 2015.
Besides with rocking the bass with his band, which performed several times each year for exactly 15 years; he also played guitar in a duo known as Take-Two with his life long friend Mark Shelton, as well as Cuzins, a duo featuring Wetherington and long time pal Cynthia Manning. Most times when he organized local shows, money was raised to help friends or organizations important to him.
Below is a link for Take-Two live at 2018’s Barbeque & Blue Jeans, a benefit they played for 15 years for The Fireman’s Museum in New Bern.
When I reached out to Josh Overby, guitarist for 3Day Weekend, he filled me in on the history of the band. “The final show was July 13, 2019, at Blackbeard’s. It was a benefit for a cancer patient with recurring breast cancer. Les was weak and tired from treatment and had to play sitting down, that really said something about his character. So, 2004-2019 puts the 3DW run at exactly 15 years! I was invited to a party with an informal jam session by Mark Caraway at (now) mayor Dana Outlaw’s farm and that’s where I met Les, John, and Carl. Dana said that we sounded great together and should put a band together for the Barbecue and Blue Jean’s benefit for the Fireman’s Museum. Dana coordinated that event at the time. That’s how we got started.”
Wetherington’s love for music was a major focus of his life. I am sure it helped him survive this life of turbulence and tragedy. He not only loved playing music, but he was well known for helping others through his music. Wetherington hosted and helped with many local benefits for those in need. Many of the beneficiaries over the years were cancer patients that did not have the money for insurance, which Les believed was keeping him alive. He truly did all he could to make a huge difference in many lives.
Wetherington’s honesty and openness about his battle with cancer was sometimes hard to absorb. Nonetheless, it was real and true, and he took many friends along the journey as he did a few battles against cancer. He was diagnosed with Cancer after a skin screening. The dermatologist found a mole on his back and gave him 8 months to live.
Instead of getting his affairs in order, he went to Duke where he did battle against several cancers over the course of seven years. He was always courageous in his post. He was even honest enough to openly admit, that he believed the fact that he survived so many battles because he worked hard and had good health insurance. Cancer is expense he told me! He was aware that many don’t know the same fate, which is why he tried to help many in the best way he knew how.
One of the traditions of this town, while the band played on, was an annual celebration at Monette’s on New Year’s Eve. Below is the last year they celebrated a New Year together. December 31, 2018 would mark the last 3DW for NYE at the local store in James City.
Thinking about my friend today and all he did, Les’s way was the best way, as it brought people together with music for the sake of changing lives. This in fact all started with For Pete’s Sake, where he and his friends came together for the sake of helping friend and fellow musician, Pete Huttlinger.
He hosted many concerts and collected lots of money to help struggling families in our community meet their needs. For Pete’s Sake is a small private group that did a lot of good community work. It would be awesome to see this group continue in Wetherington’s honor, just as soon as this virus breaks.
The one thing so many of his friends and family members loved Les for was, his pictures of the moon and sun. This year, his 65th birthday landed under the blue moon. I found it interesting that such a big spirit left us under the Super moon and his first heavenly birthday was on Halloween under the Blue Moon. God Speed Leslie Oscar Wetherington October 31,1955 – April 7, 2020. Thank you for the memories and the music.