A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Houston…

17 May

Col. Bruce Hampton was one of those rare individuals who could touch you cross-country in ways unbeknownst to you, especially if you interacted with him on a regular basis via any form of communication. There really was something freakishly amazing about the man and his crazy beyond-this-world energy that could be hard to comprehend if you didn’t know him or see him perform. I was blessed by his presence from college days in the late 80s and early 90s all the way until he left us on this physical plane just over two years ago at his own birthday party. Since his passing, I have very much felt his presence in a number of circumstances, in particular with my relationships and journey in life and all connected in a musical way.

On May 10, From the Earth Brewing Co. hosted a Celebration of Life honoring Col. Bruce with a large number of musicians participating and a big crowd gathered. We would have been there if not for traveling to Houston, which is where this tale begins.


Last Friday, Stephanie and I were late leaving the house to head to the airport for a 1:50 PM flight to Houston after a rather hectic morning on the work front for both of us. We didn’t depart from the homestead until about 12:15 PM, and on a Friday afternoon at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (the busiest airport worldwide) that falls on Mother’s Day weekend and college graduation weekend for many we really didn’ t know what to expect. I pulled out of the driveway with a set by Col. Bruce in the CD player that dated back to the 2011 Wheelbarrow Festival in Reynoldstown (thanks to Ira Gross for the recording!) that also featured current Widespread Panic drummer Duane Trucks, Kevin Scott on bass, Nick Johnson on guitar, and the incomparable Grant Green on guitar. Quite a rockin’ set with a stellar lineup that I recall quite fondly.

We made our way through Decatur and intown Atlanta to I-20 West, Bruce and Co. leading the way for us with that Zambi energy that is infinitely impossible to describe – if you’re lucky enough you’ll feel it one way or another on a fairly regular basis in the way your world and surroundings react towards your reacting to your world and surroundings. We’re getting close to the airport exit on I-85 South and decide to forego our reservation at the Parking Spot since our minutes to making the flight are diminishing rapidly. I pull into the daily parking deck that is closest to the South Terminal just as the Colonel kicks into of my favorite songs “I’m So Glad”. I heard him perform this one so many times over the years, and each time I got the goose bumps. Driving around with no luck finding a parking space, I pull on the first row and lo & behold there’s a spot on the end. The last line Bruce belts out as I’m turning off the engine is “I wanna be with you”, and we get a kick out of that, feeling like the Colonel is gonna help us navigate the airport (or not!) 😉

We grab our luggage from the trunk, and it’s 12:55 PM when we arrive inside the terminal. The check-in lines are so long that we would have missed our flight without trying too hard and instead walk outside to the curbside check-in. The six lines were each at least 10 deep – we checked our luggage in 15 minutes and rush back inside to hop into the TSA Pre-Check line with 45 minutes until departure. Unfortunately that line is the longest either one of us had ever seen, and we’re still a bit stressed about the strong possibility of missing our flight. When we finally get inside the security area, TSA decides to open some more lanes to go through, and we managed to be the first ones through there. “I wanna be with you” That sudden shift probably shaved off a good 10 minutes, and we found ourselves heading to the train that would take us to (thankfully) Concourse B. Wouldn’t you know it but just as we stepped off the escalator a train pulls up and the doors open, and we’re off. We can feel the Zambi energy flowing through our veins. “I wanna be with you” We arrive at our gate as boarding is starting, and we have just enough time to purchase sandwiches from the Boars Head kiosk across from the gate. The flight left on time and was wonderfully uneventful. The flight attendant even comped us two Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ales. Zambi!

On Saturday, we make spontaneous plans to go see The Allman Betts Band, which features Devon Allman (son of Gregg Allman), Duane Betts (son of Dickey Betts), and Berry Oakley Jr. (son of Berry Oakley) fronting the band. They were performing at a very cool old restored movie theater call The Heights Theater. Unbeknownst to us, the show was sold-out, and we started to make other plans. “I wanna be with you” The owner/manager ends up letting us in for free after I told him we were from Atlanta and visiting my Mom. Zambi! The show was absolutely fantastic – if you have a chance to catch The Allman Betts Band, by all means do so! They learned well from their legendary fathers, to say the least.

It’s safe to say that one of the finer things in life according to Colonel Bruce is the game of baseball. So many times he called me on a whim with baseball trivia or testing my knowledge of the history of the game.

“I wanna be with you” On Mother’s Day, we took my Mom to the Sunday afternoon sold-out game that pitted the Astros vs Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Bruce always had nice things to say about my Mom and Stephanie 😉 The place was rockin’! I figured if Bruce was still on the journey with us, the ‘Stros would win the game, and they did so soundly, 15-5. Zambi!

So, the lesson learned in all of this is follow your inner Zambi. There is an energy out there that has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with how you embrace journey of life.

3 Responses to “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Houston…”

  1. Margie Smith May 18, 2019 at 8:12 am #

    The Great Zambi lives on…. thru us/in us!!!


  2. Steven Ziegler May 20, 2019 at 11:40 am #

    Great read THOMAS!

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. mamiemiaberlinblog May 20, 2019 at 4:46 pm #

    This is a great story, Thomas 😎

    Sent from my iPhone



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: