I Read The News Today…Oh John
It was late morning and I was laying in a hammock under a thatched roof palapa, swinging along the waters edge on Pidgeon Cay, a tiny cay off of Utila, a western Caribbean island of Honduras. My Ipad casually resting on my chest, connected to the world via internet, I was abruptly awakened by the invasive pinging of numerous facebook postings….it was the moment I was dreading for over a year.
My very first thought conjured up that soulful voice of John Lennon singing “I read the news today, oh boy”. Those lyrics haunted my thoughts as I cried under my sunglasses. I was very fortunate to be in that place, at that moment, starring out onto the Tropical Highway.
David Bowie rephrased that lyric in his 1975 Young Americans song as “I Heard The News Today, oh boy”. The mid 70’s was a very significant point in time for those of us living life together in Gainesville Florida. You know who you are and you know what it meant to be there during those years.
There’s no time like the present…….
I am resurrecting this blog, The Hammock Philosopher by Mister Blue Sky, in honor of John “Hootie” Moss who passed away in Jacksonville Florida the morning of Thursday August 25, 2016 after a long stubborn battle with cancer. My deepest condolences to John’s wife, Donna, his daughters and ever loving family. I apologize for taking this selfish moment to talk about John.
Its been over three years since Mister Blue Sky wrote a blog while waxing away philosophically in a hammock on the Tropical Highway. Sadly I had been preoccupied or otherwise uninspired, and facebook afforded a cheap imitation of “blogart”. Most people prefer a short quick post via cell phone or tablet rather than actual reading these days. John though told me several times how much he enjoyed following my blog when I was on my Central American walkabout back in 2013.
John also encouraged me to post on facebook my more recent experiences of traveling to Utila over the last couple of years. Why …… because John cared. He cared about a 41 year friendship dating back to 1975 when we met in Gainesville Florida; Gators for life.
I last saw John several weeks ago. He was doing what he loved to do, cruising around with his wife, Donna, in their boat. They docked at our house and stayed for a short while as we all sat on the pool’s edge with feet in the water. I hugged John as he got up to leave. For me it was a good last memory but extremely bittersweet.
I feel guilty as well because so many of John’s friends wanted to come see him, spend time with him before the end. I live five minutes away and reached out to John several times over the last few months hoping to spend such time but respected his desire to avoid the onslaught of friends paying their respects. All the while knowing John had the tremendous support of his family.
“Everybody liked John”………
This is a phrase being genuinely spoken by a long list of friends, acquaintances and business associates over the last several days and as will be for years eternal. Seriously…..everybody liked John.
Life’s Best Moments…….
So many of the best moments of my life were commonly shared with John over the last 41 years. Most of course are “Gator” football related. Tailgating together at 5th Avenue, the SEC Championship games in Atlanta, the National Championship games in New Orleans (sorry Noles but the Gators just scored again) and in the Orange Bowl-4th quarter Tebow Time (later partying down at the Bahia Cabana in Ft Lauderdale)……all those games watched on tv at each other’s houses over the years……AND there was that glorious route against the Dawgs, 1995 in Athens, when the Gator’s offense did something no other team had done….”hang half a hundred” between the hedges a la Spurrier in a 52-17 Gator gloating victory. The limo ride over and back from Augusta with John, my wife and friends was classic ………Gators Eternal.
College Days circa mid to late 70’s in Gainesville……
Orange and Brew Times…campus pub…I saw Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs October 17 , 1977 on the big screen with John working behind the bar…thank you John for all the free beer and food when I did not have money to pay for it those many times……
The Gainesville Fifth Avenue Boys….OMG…you know who you are and what you did there over those few years …it would not have been the same without John……lets just say “our” collective house on 5th Ave was a combination of Van Wilder meets Animal House meets Neighbors in movie life….others can tell those stories far better than I…….
The annual Halloween Ball on campus……..again not telling…..
The Nancy Luca Band at the Main Street Bar…..John loved watching Nancy rock out on her lead guitar licks…….Dubs….Mad Monks Inn…Nichols Alley….Florida Theatre…on and on…there were a lot of bars and clubs during those G’ville years…
Disco…..wow I just said it, Disco…..my ears still hurt from that terrible music……we all suffered together……
The Boy Could Surf……
Although I surfed back in those days ….John was surfing poetry in motion and continued to surf as long as he could…..we did a Bahamas, Gregory Town Eluethera trip in college which was epic in so many ways ….. and he later joined me on a couple of Bahamas boating trips.
One of my all time favorite John Moss stories is surfing related. It was the winter of 1978 on a real cold night for Gainesville. John was living in one of the several apartment complexes in what was the legendary area known as “Sin City”. I dropped by at his request. I could hear the music blaring as I walked down the interior hallway. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Street Survivors” album and only a couple of months after their plane crash. He opened his door and an intense wave of heat immediately hit me. He and his Mississippi roommate were both shirtless, barefoot, wearing just surfer baggies (boardshorts). He said they were tired of winter so they turned there apartment into summer by cranking up the heat to the max. I can still see both of them greeting me at the door. Two of the skinniest guys I had ever met dripping in sweat.
John was the utmost family man……
As wild and crazy as I think we were at times in college, I even then respected John because he was always grounded in life by his family. That was true then and till the end. John always had a deep sense of family and commitment to his family. It was unshakeable.
John was extremely loyal to his Orange Park Boys….you know who you are….
Spring 1979…..The Final Term….Graduation Day
By the spring of 1979 John and I were literally the last two standing in Gainesville. Everyone else was gone; either graduated or had moved out of Gainesville. We had the exact same class schedule, unplanned. We had classes only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The benefit of being graduating seniors with lots of electives to burn up. We spent most of the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays together along with Shadow, my Golden Retriever, either driving to St Augustine to go surfing or diving into the many fresh water springs located in all directions of Gainesville. We prowled many a bar and club together at night. Somehow, someway we both had survived Gainesville and were both headed to law school…..who knew…..anyways when it came to our graduation day it was a unique moment for both of us….After so many years, so many crazy times and so many friends who had cycled through Gainesville it was now just the two of us left standing…both suntanned with blonde wavy hair, blonde mustaches, sporting graduation hats and robes……..
Thank you John for being in my life over the last 41 years. I know during my future days on the Tropical Highway thoughts of you will arise while waxing philosophic in a hammock. May you forever rest in peace.
Wiping Tears Away In A Hammock…..The Hammock Philosopher by Mister Blue Sky