This is a beautiful ballad by one of my all time favorite bands, The Black Crowes. They burst on to the scene in 1989 at a time when there weren’t many mainstream rock bands. Their first hit was a remake of Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle. They were brash and in your face, fronted by the brothers Robinson (Chris on lead vocals and Rich on backup vocals and guitar). The Robinsons grew up in Georgia, influenced heavily by The Allman Brothers, Derek and the Dominoes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others. Chris had such a raw power to his voice, you swore he was older and bigger than he was. To look at him then, he was a beanpole that looked like a strong wind could blow him over. Nevertheless, he could belt out anything he wished, from soul, to a great ballad, to a great rock tune. The band as well embraced their newfound fame, bringing back the excess and debauchery that dominated the 70’s rock bands. Their best album in my mind was their sophomore effort, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. This album kicks some serious ass from start to finish, with highlights such as Remedy and My Morning Song just to name a few. During the recording of their third album, Amorica, (which Wiser Time was one of the results), their drug excess led them to a bit of a spiral. The brothers were always fighting and the band broke up a few times. However, they still managed to crank out some great songs.
Wiser Time is my favorite track on Amorica. It has a Southern rock feel, with slide guitar and dual percussion accenting the great harmonies of the brothers, reminiscent of The Allman Brothers. Chris and Rich wrote this song about traveling on the road and all the adventures and personal growth that come along with it. As the title seems to imply, one gets wiser and older when you step out of your comfort zone and push forward into the unknown.
No time left now for shame, horizon behind me, no more pain
Windswept stars blink and smile, another song, another mile
You read the line every time, ask me about crime in my mind
Ask me why another road song, funny but I bet you never left home
As I read these lyrics again, I think about how I came into my own. I had just finished college, where one obviously becomes more of an adult and needs to care for themselves. For the first time, I had been in charge of my health and daily care of CF. There were ups and downs, admittedly I had times where my daily routines were ignored. That may have been in part due to my parents. They were always there, within a few hours; the safety net there in place. Whether I was at San Diego State or Iowa, my parents at that time still helped me with insurance and the like, carrying the majority of the heavy weight that is CF on my behalf. While that was comforting, I knew I needed to grow and figure it out completely on my own.
So, after college, I decided to take a road trip. I packed my Corolla and traveled for approx 2 months and over 6,000 miles, driving solo through the western part of the country while I looked for my next place to land. I would stay in hotels or camp, having my medical supplies at my side. While on the road, I had countless hours to myself to think and reflect, on everything from life and death, my family and friends, and my CF. It was in Boulder, CO that I saw possibility for a different and healthier lifestyle. I hiked in the mountains and did some rock climbing, enamored by the environment and atmosphere. I already had a few buddies that had settled there, and decided then to join them permanently.
While there would be many subsequent bumps in the road, that experience was invaluable. Living completely independent of my family was absolutely needed for my evolution at the time. Obtaining my own insurance (and having to deal with all the intricacies therein), and figuring out how to support myself through the good days and bad. Managing my increasing daily and long term medications, I supported myself physically and financially all while handling hospitalizations and exacerbations alone. While not easy, I felt I had to accomplish this myself. I think back to Wiser Time:
On a good day, it’s not every day,
We can part the sea
And on a bad day, it’s not every day,
Glory beyond our reach
I take from these lyrics that the bad days are not as bad as they may seem, while the good days and the accomplishments achieved will propel you forward to new heights.
I think about that experience and time in my life, as I walk these halls of the hospital filled with fellow CF patients. I feel very fortunate of my path, forcing myself to grow into a more independent person battling a disease that can be very hard to manage. Many cystics may not feel comfortable going out on their own, but I think it was crucial to my overall development. And I encourage all people with CF or other chronic illness to try.
Remember, it is better to try and fail then never to have tried at all. If you fail, or if things become too difficult, the people closest to you will be there to pick you up. But you will become stronger and better for persevering. And you will be wiser for the road travelled.