Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Death and Suicide of A Whiskey Girl and Nowhere Man

Arizona is beautiful country. You can find a place where at night the desert stretches out blue-black; in some parts the horizon melding with the sky. Your eyes look up into that shockingly clear sky and you see the sharp pinpoints of stars. You can wonder how many more stars, invisible, are further out there, and whether there's a bright blaze beyond it, or more darkness. Depending on where you are...up in the hills or the mountains...you can look in a particular direction, and see different lights...the city of Phoenix, perhaps, stretched out in the distance, a jumble of lights and the vague patterns of highways and buildings...a place to go if you're lonely.

For Derrick Ross, there was no place to go, and no comfort in the heavens. He was a lonely "Nowhere Man," thinking about his wife and singing partner Amy, "A Whiskey Girl."

Together, they had played plenty of clubs in Arizona, especially in Tucson and in their home town of Bisbee, where Connie Finck booked them at her Copper Queen Saloon on Howell Avenue. The couple had been married for 13 years, and had performed as "Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl" for the past ten.

They played small clubs, sold some self-pressed CDs at their gigs, and managed to get by. "Sell t-shirts, sell some CD's," is the advice given to people like Derrick and Amy Ross. "Give away your music because piracy is sharing and it can't be stopped. Oh, and just book yourself all over the country."

This wasn't too easy for them, as Amy had been battling lupus for the past six years, and had to be on dialysis. Still, the couple played the local clubs, did what they could, and as anyone who saw them would tell you...they brought a lot of joy with them, and shared it fully with the audience.

They tried not to think too much about what the doctors said, which was that Amy was not likely to have a very full life. If she had another five years, she'd be lucky.

She wasn't lucky She developed a blood infection that would require heart surgery. She went to the Tucson Medical Center, hopeful the complications could be remedied, but after a week, she was no better. "I am pretty freaked out," Derreck said, guesting on a podcast with his friend, comedian Doug Stanhope, indicating that several "Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl" gigs would have to be canceled. He wasn't thinking that she was close to death.

Amy died. She was 40 years old.

Amy's Facebook page had a strange posting on October 14th, at 6:49pm.

It was Derrick, writing as Amy:

"Hey Kids! Bad news! I died this orning and Derrick didn't know how to tell you. I love yhou all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don't have one. Give Derrick some space...He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness...Please spread it around."

Derrick's friends tried to console him, and he told a few that he was coping. He did not tell anyone that he had bought a gun.

The following day, October 15th, at 12:16pm, this message appeared on Amy's Facebook page:

"Sorry to bring more bad news but Derrick decided to join me at some point in the night last night. I thought it best you heard it from me. Enjoy every sandwich. We love and will miss you all. Go be nice to someone for us."

You might recognize the line "Enjoy every sandwich," as what the dying Warren Zevon said to David Letterman, when Dave booked him for a farewell show.

You know Warren's stuff. Here, a song from Derrick and Amy Ross.

IF ONLY I Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl

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