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A wish for infinite wishes

by Devender Sellars

“Kudzu Wish” was a bad name fora rock band. It conjured up images ofmullet-wearing Southern rock dudes.A stupid name that confused potentialfans of our indie-rock ilk.“Cud-what?” would be an often heardreply through the barrage ofquestions andconfused looks.My band membershad to endurespelling outand explainingwhat the Japanese vine looked like.Or what the name meant at all.I was personally responsible forsaid naming. I surely had no realsense of taste or wit as an 18-yea roldcollege kid.“What were you thinking, dude?”Tim would say, after a few sips ofhis draft PBR, and the desire builtup for an older -brother-style barbing.“The name is really terrible,”looking at me and then fidgetingwith his Burger King clock attached to his wallet-chain

The next moment, Tim would tousle his Flock of Seagulls-style hair, conjure up a blank look at my lack of reply and be transfixed on scoring some smoke, convincing our guests about the glory of Mr. Bungle’s “Disco Volante” or pumping up Adam’s ego about lyrics to the new song we were writing.

Tour was like this: Des Moines, Iowa. New York City.

He was pushing me towards a better part and a better song. Despite loads of awful hardcore 7-inch records in my collection, Tim was determined to pull out catchy and solid guitar riffs from my musically-confused mind.

Missoula, Mt. Gainesville, Fla. It all depended upon the night.

The joking was an expression of love — his dedication to being a bassist, singer and master arranger. That laser-like focus had little tolerance for my self-involved musings and poor decisions.

As misguided as those days in my early 20s were, they were some of the best times in my life. We actually were able to tour under the name Kudzu Wish, despite the moniker’s disadvantages, for months a year for about three years.

Tim always hated the name but loved the band. He would finish being distracted by a phone call to sit down and talk my ear off about the guitar riff I was working on.

“No, no, no… do it this way. Go from D to G first. And slow it down.

Don’t be in such a f**king rush.” He was pushing me towards a better part and a better song. Despite loads of awful hardcore 7-inch records in my collection, Tim was determined to pull out catchy and solid guitar riffs from my musically-confused mind.

I brought in the skeleton guitar riffs that eventually became “The Guilt.” The jaunty 3/4, mid-tempo rock song stared off all over the place. Then Tim came in with the axe. Frustrating but necessary.

“Cut the first, third and fourth parts. The second part is worth keeping,” he decreed. I protested at first, but then relented, playing my role as the sensitive, then convinced guitarist.

“Oh, and Eric, play less notes,” he also threw off casually to the other guitar player’s stunned face. “No, even less than that. Like four notes. That’s all.” Like that, Tim’s seemingly frantic vision came together. And he was almost always right.

Tim wasn’t a band leader but a sort-of judge on a reality show called “Your Guitar Parts Are Only Salvageable.” With “The Guilt,” Tim was right and the song became one of my favorites in our repertoire. And this was how we worked together.

I learned so much about music from Tim: arrangement, the importance of a good hook and the brilliance of Thriller long before ’80s nostalgia was the rage.

And he expressed his feelings about music, life and the name “Kudzu Wish” with straightforward honesty. And I’ve always admired that quality about him.

Tim can’t play music anymore. He can’t stand, walk or talk anymore either. He communicates using a special Tobii computer, typing with his eyes, and needs continuous specialized care that makes my head spin and my heart ache.

My best and closest friend is being robbed of his life, barely into his 30s, one piece at a time due to a disease that has been misunderstood, ignored and invisible for decades.

ALS is a motor-neuron disease most commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s disease. It shuts down the body one limb and one finger at a time until the body cannot move or function at all. ALS kills every person who has it, usually within a few short years.

Seeing him go through such a horrific experience has made me grateful for all the things we take for granted — every time I put my runner’s feet to pavement; every time I pick up a guitar and strum a chord; every Christmas I celebrate with my arm I can place around a loved one.

I have never been privy to something so incredibly humbling. And it gives those experiences with Tim, with every barb and joke, a special place in my heart that I will never forget.

To find out more about Tim’s fight against ALS, visit oftenawesome.org. To make a tax-deductible donation to to the ALS Therapy Development Institute, visit als.net

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