Big (Hearted) Al

An El Paso legend passed this week. In the ‘80’s, no matter what kind of music you listened to, you started your day with the biggest man on El Paso radio, literally and figuratively, hence his nom de ondes, Big Al Jones. Al was a giant man with a giant personality and heart who only had friends and friends he hadn’t met yet.

The night after I gave him an invitation to my wedding, Al came up and said “That rolling paper you put in there came in handy” “Dude, that was tissue paper” “What!? No wonder it burned so fast.” He once told me about Piggy Bank, the band I was in at the time; “I like you guys ‘cause you’re not pretentious.” “Bro, it was either stupid or pretentious.” Fast forward a couple of years and I see Al leaning against the bar at Club 101 and I just give him a head nod and a “Hey, Al.” He did the same. Later, I wanted to apologize for being pretentious, but I wasn’t being pretentious, I was embarrassed. On my way to the bar from the stage after opening for The Tragically Hip, a guy with a heavy vato accent stopped me and said “Chu gize wur pretty goot, man, but wat languaje waz chur singer singing in?” The problem was, I didn’t know. Our band, Pray for Rain, was goot, though.

Al and I reconnected a few years ago in Albertsons and we both became emotional. Al was happy and his world revolved around his his son. We both faced death and lived to tell about it. As always happens, promises were made to stay closer in touch but life gets in the way.

The last time I saw him he was the engineer on the train at the zoo and loving it. We laughed and hugged and took pictures and he was in his environment, entertaining and producing smiles. The next night I wrote a post about our visit. His illness had caused him to lose weight and my episode cause d me to gain so we were about even now. We decided to call our shape Rubenesque because Real Men Have Curves, baby. To that post, Al commented “We cheated time, Greg…We made it. It’s about making it to the finish line…screw winning, just finish.”

I’d raise a joint but I don’t smoke. I’d raise a shot of tequila but I’ve got pneumonitis, whatever that is. So I raise a strong cup of coffee to you, my brother.

Here’s to the finishers. Wait, you finished first, Al, so that makes you the winner.


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