We’ll be going this afternoon to a memorial service at the 40 Watt for our friend, Craig Lieske, who died a couple of weeks ago. Kyle and I have spent the morning and a good bit of last evening reminiscing about him. And I record it here, especially, because I keep thinking how Craig achieved something many yogis take a lifetime working toward — true kindness and compassion for everyone. He was just real. And he lived a totally non-yogic lifestyle, drinking, smoking — unhealthy food, I’m sure (he was on the road a bunch as the merch guy for Drive-By Truckers, though as Patterson notes, he was so much more).
A long chain of remembrances tell how truly he engaged with people — one woman in Texas said she met him at a DBT show, and two years later, when she saw him as the Truckers passed through town again, he not only remembered her, he asked her how her daughter was, by name. An Athens musician recounts his own days as a young punk and how Craig — who then was managing the 40 Watt — came up to his band after their show (during which he’d had to come on stage and help them) with a big grin and said “You guys are idiots.”
That’s exactly how I remember him — he said things without judgment. It was like he just observed rather than getting involved — as the yogis would say, he was unattached. Patterson wrote how he doesn’t remember Craig ever getting on anyone’s nerves, or vice verse, in all their long, grueling days of touring together — 11 people on a bus.
I never felt like I knew Craig as well as he seemed to greet me — as though we were old friends. I was just another face coming and going at the 40 Watt. But he’d always, always ask how I was doing with a genuineness that went beyond normal interactions like that. I was so sad for him when his wife, my friend Janet Bond, died. I went to see Janet in the hospital days before she died, wracked with cancer. No one should have to live like that, I thought. I’m just remembering as I type this that a day or so later I dedicated my yoga practice to her when Vajra was teaching a morning class at Canopy. Janet died that day. But I remember Craig taking it pretty stoically. He hated to see her suffering, and even thought the morphine was making it worse; he was pretty sure she’d gone blind at the end from the drugs.
Even in all that sadness, though, he was strikingly resilient.
And reading through the words of so many people, it’s clear others saw this in him, too — though even more striking, each recounts, is how gracefully he connected with everyone he met. He made us all feel special.
From the yogic perspective, it would be said that the God within Craig saw and connected with the God within us all. Granted, I say that thinking he’d probably exhale a drag from his cigarette, laughing good naturedly at me. But as I’ve been thinking about him, I keep imagining that in a past life, Craig was some deeply rooted yogi in a cave who achieved all kinds of goodness in his renunciation — enough that when he circled back through human form, he got to settle into a life where he just enjoyed to its fullest every earthly pleasure — music, drinking, smoking, laughing, partying, and most of all (well, second to music, probably) people.
I’m sad for all of us that Craig is gone. And I feel a little cheated, honestly, because he’s someone who could’ve bestowed his goodness on people for so many years to come. I can imagine him in his 80s sitting back enjoying music with friends and family around him, each one absorbed in the realness of his presence.
But for Craig, I’m not sad. I think he’s just chillin’ with the many other beautiful souls in his midst and making a whole slew of new friends — or maybe just reconnecting with old.
Throughout the many remembrances out there, another thing people noted was how we should all be more like Craig.
What a huge tribute that is.
Craig followed his bliss all the way. He was a breath of fresh air — and as the yogis would say, a light. To honor his life best, yes, I hope we all will be more like Craig.
His light continues to shine.
Thank you, Craig.