Friday 7 June 2024

RIP Scott Cornish

I was driving to Birmingham - that’s Birmingham in the middle of England, not in Alabama. I stopped for a rest, got some bad coffee, clicked up Facebook on my phone. A post from Lindsay Hutton: RIP Scott Cornish. My first thought was that this was not possible, but that was wrong, because with Scott anything was possible. I was swept up in a jumble of thoughts and emotions. One clear thought shone through: Scott would not be showing up at the gig tonight.

I can’t remember when or where I first met Scott. It was at a show, probably one that Amy and I were playing. He just slowly became a part of our scene. He came to our house concerts in Catskill, the legendary Homemade Aeroplane. After we played, and people were leaving, someone said this guy was asking for walking directions to the Thruway entrance where he was going to catch a Trailways bus. We couldn’t let this happen  - it was midnight on a Saturday night and it it was a three and a half mile walk. Someone found him and we organised a ride. He was grateful, though he would have been happy to walk - he’d walked to our house from he Trailways bus stop earlier that evening after an afternoon show in Troy - and he was quite happy to walk back because the bus wasn’t scheduled until sometime after two in the morning.

We found out that Scott did this kind of thing all the time. He knew all the bus and train timetables, all the bus and railroad stations. We’d drop him off in the middle of the night at some far-flung terminus.

‘Will you be okay here Scott?’

‘Oh don’t worry about me, it’s a fine night - and I’ve got a sandwich from your rider.’

His planning was meticulous: he’d catch a bus to catch a train and enjoy breakfast in an all-night cafe while he waited for the first bus of the day that would take him the rest of the way home.

He was like a cartoon character come to life, square-built with chunky spectacles, stolid, with something intrepid in his demeanour. I don’t know if it was years of taking public transport on a grand scale that had made Scott into the calm presence that he was, or if he’d always been that way, and that’s how he managed to endure the rigours of the public transport system.

Calm, philosophical, with a hint of stoicism. I worried about him out there in the night, but really no need. Thugs, psychopaths, dangerous nutters, they’d be no match for that measured calm. I’m sure Scott could talk someone down off a ledge just by being there.

Going to see bands was what Scott did. He had a girlfriend for a short while but it didn’t last. He once brought her to a show I did in London. He spoke about the relationship with no bitterness - it just didn’t work out. Scott had a lot of friends but he was a loner He used to be the manager of a hardware store but the place went out of business. He fell into depression and suffered that the drugs that are foisted on to people who suffer that illness. I know these things because I enjoyed a number of long drives with him. He was easy-going, and had good stories. A great traveling companion. He amazed me with the bands he’d seen, his understanding of rock n roll music and its peripheries. 

On one drive he related his experiences as an official merchandise sales vendor at the disastrous Woodstock II Festival which happened around the corner from his house in Rome, New York. He jumped ship just before the dance tent was pumped full of raw sewage during Fat Boy Slim’s set. He said the organisers wanted to make it appear to be as much like the original Woodstock as possible so they’d even arranged a mudslide. He looked thoughtful, shook his head:

‘That mudslide - it wasn’t mud…’

He never got paid for the final day.

And of course, he didn’t show up last night in Birmingham, though perhaps he was there in spirit. I know I was thinking about him while I was playing. I’m unclear about how he died - complications of Covid apparently. I hope it was easy and painless, and he wasn’t alone. 

And I hope he got the bus alright.