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A Better Way... (a song for and by Paul Buddha)

My friend Paul died.  I don't know what happened... how he died, but I know he had struggles.  I recorded an old song of his -- one he wrote many years ago that has helped me through many things in my own life.  I hope it can mean something to someone else too.

Longer version...

My friend Paul Seul (Paul Buddha, as many of us knew him) died recently.  He had been struggling with a number of demons in the past few years, some of them not too different from ones I've fought with.  His story is not mine to tell, but I can say to those of you who are suffering: you are not alone. let yourself be helped.

I met Paul when I was 14.  He played in a band called "Raw Buddha" -- one of the progenitors of the rock scene in my hometown of Rochester, MN.  When my friends and I started playing in a band, he was among those who took interest.  He was 7 years older than us and had a little experience with playing and recording and asked us to come and record a demo tape with him.  He used an old Tascam Porta Two -- a machine I would later inherit and do my own first recordings on.

In the process of hanging out, picking songs, recording, playing shows -- Paul was around, and we became friends.  He introduced me to so much music, art, and culture... early in our friendship he gave me a copy of Alan Watts' "The Book" which got me into Buddhism and meditation for the first time, he played me Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" the week it came out, he drove me to see Son Volt on the "Straightaways" tour.

When I first decided to start recording myself, which led to starting the record label I ran in my late teens and early twenties (, Paul and some other friends were the first to lend me gear, extra ears, and moral support.  We played music together somewhat regularly, but never played in a band, but I did end up recording his band later on.  Things come full circle.

After I left Rochester, Paul and I fell out of touch.  Like many friends moving into adulthood, we had different priorities.  He had a family and a job that kept him busy.  I kept trying to play music and eventually fell into my own career, and later, into the downward spiral of addiction.

A few years after I got sober, my Mother died.  She had been sort of a matriarch of our town's music scene... she let me record bands in her basement and supported us all in many things.  When we had her funeral, a lot of folks I hadn't seen in a long time came, Paul among them.  We hadn't spoken in a few years, and he almost didn't come.  I'm glad he did.

In talking about some of his struggles, I was able to share about my own.  My journey through addiction and recovery and my fledgling forays into truly trying to be an adult were a bridge for us to reconnect after all those years.  We stayed in touch after that... nothing serious, a phone call here and there... text messages about music, or sometimes, about loneliness.

Being in recovery, I've lost more than my fair share of folks to addiction and depression.  My Mom's decline and eventual passing was at least hand in hand with those demons.  I knew this was possibly in the cards for Paul.  Still, it hit me pretty hard.  Maybe it's other fresh wounds that I'm still trying to make sense of -- a new life on my own that I'm feeling uncertain and sometimes afraid about.  Maybe its a reminder of how fragile my own emotional state and sobriety sometimes feel.  Maybe I just miss my friend.

Many years ago, he shared a song with us that I've carried along with me.  I haven't heard his version in about 20 years, so I've had to take some liberties (including the Buddhist Four Noble Truths in the bridge -- thanks, Paul).  It was a song that helped me through some dark times of my own, and I hope it might be able to help someone else.  If nothing else, I'm going to make sure it stays in my repertoire and have it be one way that I keep his memory alive.

To you, my friend, may you find peace, wherever you may be.

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