To my discredit, it was only yesterday that I got around to visiting Chris King in Kindred Hospital. The universally beloved bassist and drummer in countless prominent local bands (notably Carolyn Wonderland’s Imperial Monkeys and Jug O’Lightnin’) suffered a serious head injury in a car accident inearly December
However, like thousands of others, I have felt in daily contact with King through his Caring Bridge page, a free Web site that allows friends and families of patients to share information.
The progress chronicled there is slow, but it is progress. Injuries like his are very difficult to overcome. And at first it was pretty heartbreaking seeing Chris.
Michael Haaga, King’s friend and occasional musical collaborator, went with me. (King also once worked with Haaga at Star Pizza.) It was about noon, and Chris was in his daily exercise session. Nurses had wheeled him from his room to a window overlooking Rice campus. While his father Rod looked on and offered encouragement, a nurse was stretching Chris’s arms and neck, and Chris was only somewhat alert at first. He has some nerve damage around his right eyelid, so only his left eye is open, and it fixed Haaga and me with a steady gaze. He’s still got a trach tube in his throat and he was hooked up to an oxygen tank. It was hard to know if he could tell if we were there, although he did express some outrage when the nurse gently rolled his head around.
The three of us chatted with Chris, Haaga and I not knowing how much of it Chris was taking in. Rod had told us that it was more than we might have thought.
And that was proven emphatically a little later, after Chris had been returned to his bed. His Jug band-mate Aaron Loesch had bought King an acoustic guitar and gotten it signed by dozens of his friends, and it was sitting there propped up on a chair in the corner. Rod told us that earlier that day, he had placed the guitar on Chris’s stomach and strummed while Chris attempted to fret.
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Haaga picked up the guitar and played Chris an acoustic version of “Supernaive,” the song that Chris backed Haaga on from Haaga’s 2004 album The Plus and Minus Show. Then he placed the guitar on Chris’s stomach. By now Chris’s mom Sharon had joined us, and with both parents looking on, slowly, but very determinedly, Chris’s hand rose to fret the strings.
“There you go, buddy!” Haaga said. “Now show me a D-chord.”
There was a half-second pause, and then Chris’s fingers flashed into position.
“Great, man!” Haaga said. “Now show me a C.”
King nailed the chord change, faster this time, and he didn’t miss a beat for the next one Haaga called out.
I’ve never seen a miracle, but this was pretty close.
Chris King will be back.
In the meantime, he needs your visits. Rod pointed out that each new visitor he gets re-awakens a part of his brain that needs to be stirred. Rod and Sharon also said that when you do go, their needs are pretty minimal right now. Money you might want to spend on flowers would be better spent making a donation in Chris’s name to either Caring Bridge or the Houston Musicians Benevolent Society.
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But what Chris really needs from all of us is our presence. After all, he is working amazingly hard to be there for us. – John Nova Lomax
Chris King is at Kindred Hospital, 6441 Main, in room 401. The family asks that you visit between ten a.m. and seven p.m. (King tends to be most alert between about eleven a.m. and 1 p.m.)
To donate to Caring Bridge, click here.
For info on donations to the Houston Musicians Benevolent Society, click here.