by Victoria Fann
In the late 1970s, my father bought a large piece of property in the Pocono Mountains, and set about transforming a weather-beaten barn into a state of the art 24-track recording studio. The impulse was part of a mid-career identity crisis. A highly successful jingle writer living in Manhattan, he had always wanted to write his own songs and perform them with his own band. The wooded seclusion of this property triggered something in him that beckoned him to finally manifest that dream.
I hated the property the minute I laid eyes on it. So did my mother and sisters. Before the closing, my father took us on a tour. The property was divided down the middle by a narrow winding road. On one side of the road were two houses. Shrouded by trees the two houses were dark and gloomy. The outside of each were painted in a dull chocolate-brown with green trim on the windows. The inside walls were covered with dark pine paneling. Not my father’s style at all. Both had been used for hunting lodges. As we walked through the larger of the two, all of us looked up to see mounted animal heads covering the walls, trophies of the previous occupants.
On the other side of the road was an out building and a barn. A small creek ran beside both buildings. On our tour, we noticed a couple of graves for the owner’s dogs. In the woods nearby, a dead deer lay in the woods. My mother and I exchanged glances. Her feelings of unease mirrored my own. There was also a dead cat in the barn.
Afterwards, my father turned to us and asked us what we thought. He was smiling broadly, obviously pleased with his choice.
“I don’t know,” I began. “It has a strange vibe here.” My sisters nodded silently in agreement.
“Are you going to spend a lot of time here?” my mother asked. They’d been separated for several years by then, so she knew the place wouldn’t involve her, but that it might be someplace he would want to bring my sisters and me.
“I’m not sure yet. I could use it for weekends. It’s not that far from the city.” He looked around. “It would be a great place to write music.”
I could see my sisters cringe as they imagined coming up here for a weekend. All of us were teenagers then and preferred to be with our friends.
“It’s kind of creepy here,” said my sister, L. “There are so many dead animals.” Her honesty pierced the air like a shot. Within seconds we all started talking at once, trying to convince him that the whole thing was a bad idea.
“Don’t be silly,” he said, ignoring our pleas.
That was the end of the discussion. Nothing we said would convince him to change his mind. The place had worked some kind of magic on him that was entirely invisible to our eyes.
A few months after he bought the place, his dreams went into hyper drive. First, he began to put together a band. He found a relatively well-known blues guitar player in semi-retirement in Indiana who was willing to partner with him. The two of them set to work to find the other band members. All of them eventually moved onto the property. My father even bought another house down the street to accommodate everyone.
Then he set about building a place to record the band’s music. My father hired a construction crew and transformed the dilapidated shell of the aging barn into a full-fledged 24 track studio stocked with top-of-the-line instruments and the best recording technology money could buy. Attached to the back of the studio they added a western style bar with a big round poker table for the band to use during their down time.
After a summer spent writing songs and watching he band finally went into the studio to record their first album. They started performing in local bars, and their presence caused quite a stir with the surrounding neighbors, who were surprised that anyone would see their community as a place to launch a southern rock band.
It was after one of those local performances that my father’s dream ended abruptly. It was a cool Friday night at the end of October. His band had played a local gig and after packing up, headed back to the studio bar to play poker. My father stayed behind talking to the owner of the bar about future gigs, and planned on joining up with them later. He never made it. One of the construction crew guys went back to look for him later and discovered that his car had hit a tree. He died instantly.
Two days before his death, my father had been in Los Angeles trying and failing to get a record deal for his band. His success as a jingle writer didn’t hold any weight in the music business. Afterwards, on the phone he said it was like starting over again at the bottom. What he didn’t say was that the record companies saw him as too old to be starting a band.
Though I often wondered whether his car crashed was an accident (swerving to avoid a deer) or a suicide, what has really haunted me all these years is the fact that he bought that property at all. The impending sense of doom my mother and sisters and I had when we toured the place, in retrospect was eerily accurate; it had no impact on my father’s decision. It was as if he was blind to his own future.
What does that say about fate and destiny? Is it something we cannot resist no matter how many warnings we receive? If I had to guess, I would probably say, yes.
[Featured]Digital Art Image Credit: Calla Lily Eyes by Barbara Ruth. ©Copyright 2015, Barbara Ruth.
Snapping Twig – Summer – 2015
Vol: May 2015 thru Jul 2015