Thomas Sutherland, and a list of happiness
Back when I was still in college at North Texas State University, I was working as a waitress in a seafood
restaurant when a friend gave me a bracelet to wear on behalf of an hostage in Lebanon named Thomas
When I got signed to Elektra, I was still wearing the bracelet, and asked if I could record a song I had
written for Tom called “If We Sent Our Hearts Over Now”. When the answer was “yes”, I knew, then,
that I wanted a photo of the bracelet inside the cd booklet. I had made tee shirts with Tom’s face on
the front, and lyrics from the song on the back, and I would give them away for free at shows, hoping
to spread the word of Tom’s, and other hostages, plight. I sang the song on the radio whenever
I could, and talked about why it was important to speak out on behalf of these men. I even had the
opportunity to talk to one of Tom’s daughters via phone while at a radio station, after she heard me
talking about him and she called in!
I was living in Los Angeles with Marty when the news came in. Tom was freed! I was coming home from
an outing, walking up to the front door, when Marty swung the door open from inside, a huge grin on
his face, and announced this happiness to me. I couldn’t believe it! He said, “Look! Tom’s on t.v.!”
And, sure enough, there he was, talking with reporters; I stood in stunned silence as I heard Tom’s
Scottish brogue. There he was. Whole and well and smiling. Marty was beaming as he held me in
his arms and my face shining. Tom was coming home! And then, joy of joys!, several months later,
back at my home in Dallas, Tx, a sunny little yellow cottage, the phone rang, and this time, when
Marty handed it to me, it was Tom on the other end.
Through tears of relief and disbelief, I heard the voice of a man I had never met, but someone
who I had grown to love and fervently wish freedom would be granted…and, listening to him
thank me for my service on his behalf blew me away. I was totally speechless. And, without hesitation,
I mailed Tom his bracelet….two bracelets, actually, for the first one had worn through and I had had
a second one made during the five or six years I had worn it…I laid the broken one gently in a box
next to the whole one, both floating on layers of white cotton, and mailed them off to Tom.
A symbol that he was loved but no longer bound.
Well, after all these years, 17 years?…Has it been so long?…I am, finally, headed to perform in Ft. Collins,
where Tom and his wife, Jean, reside. All these years we have exchanged letters and Christmas greetings,
but I have never met Tom in person. I am hoping that tomorrow night or Saturday morning, I will
get to hug Tom’s neck and share a laugh, even if only for one brief moment. I may get to meet a living hero
and hear his brogue in person!
Other happy thoughts:
Painting rocks. I’ve painted Diego the dog and last night, a bunny for a friend of iolana’s, and a nesting bluebird for
Denise and a red cardinal for Charlie. River rocks are so smooth under fingers and make excellent palettes!
I have a set of 10 rocks that will be in a show at the Austin Museum of Art, starting, I believe next week, as part of
an exhibit on chairs by Damien Priour.
The weather has cooled. This always makes our little dog, Lucky, so perky and mischievous. You know fall is on the
way when her squeaky hot dog is heard squeaking first thing in the morning: it is time to play! Ah, fall!
I have met five different transgendered people in the last six months, all at different events, and none of them know
one another. I feel like God is raising my level of awareness around this issue because it was an area of life I knew
very little about. I have grown to really appreciate the hardships and lonliness many of them endure to
become who they feel they are.
The shows at McDavid Studio in Fort Worth and at the Blue Door in OKC were two of my best ever, and I want to thank
Chip, Kristin, Sam, Steve and Rob for all their musicianship. And I am so grateful to Pam and Doug and all the crew at McDavid
because I feel like it will be my new Caravan of Dreams home…Just a splendid hall and night and audience at McDavid.
And the next night, staying with Mark and Deborah—we were treated like royalty with all of Deborah’s amazing
homemade foods and the feng shui of their beautiful, calm and loving home—right after an amazing time
at the Blue Door. Greg Johnson is just about the best brother you could wish for in this biz…I always laugh out loud
when I see him walking towards me because he is my lucky Leprechaun—mischievous and boyish and fun to
catch up with about the world of music and musicians. He LOVES music, I tell you what.
MUSIC FOR LIFE FINALE—at the outdoor Scholz’s Beergarten in the heart of downtown Austin, a place where politicos
go after legislative sessions at our capital….The finale was an awesome capper to a year long series of conversations,
performances and talks on the death penalty. We had Kinky Friedman (who will be getting a very long, grateful love
letter from me—Kinky had me in tears with his eloquent, thought filled essay and his serious tone. No joking around.
I couldn’t believe it!)—the hilarious and jubilant Austin Lounge Lizards, all ablaze in their Hawaiian shirts
and sparkling wit; Shelley King, who has a BROKEN ARM and still played guitar and sang like gangbusters on her song,
“Down”, about a man’s last day on death row; Jon Hogan, sporting a hat from the Dust Bowl and singing as if he just
stepped out of that era about Matthew Shepherd with his compelling song, “Laramie”; Elisa Turner, a 17 year old
girl who blew us all away with her poignant, telling essay she wrote last year after the Virginia Tech shootings, which she read
right after I sang “The One”, a song I wrote from the viewpoint of Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. I had to walk backstage
and stand next to empty beer barrells and bawl my eyes out as she read in her calm, fluid voice. Mayor John Cook,
all the way from El Paso, with his lovely wife, Tram, as he sang and spoke out from a Christian stand point…
and leading us all the way, Bob Van Steenburg, VP of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, bringing home
the point there is no need for a death penalty where there is life without parole, when innocent people are being executed
and speaking with clarity and conviction. The place was filled to the gills, and it was a joy to see friends and acquaintances
make new friends and see folks who have a definative Austin tie…thanks, also, to Vicki McCuistion and Mollie Cleveland, both women
who worked very, very hard this last year, promoting and setting up the events. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Mostly, a big thank you to the people of Texas who took time out of their hectic lives to come sit in venues across the
state and were willing to share their thoughts, comments, fears, anger and confusion about the death penalty. I wish there
had been a broader range of diverse opinions, but I’m not complaining. I had a vision and the vision came to fruition and the
dialogue is started. I hope it will continue and that in five years there will be a moratorium on the death penalty in Texas.
That is my wish.