Pennies from Heaven


When I was sixteen, I saved up my babysitting money and went downtown to Cottage Grove Avenue in Des Moines, where there was a head shop filled with incense, hanging beads, roach clips, black light posters and tie dye. Although I wasn’t a pothead (I didn’t smoke cigarettes either), I enjoyed the ambience of the place and the way my hair smelled when I left the shop.

During one visit, a bluesy song was playing in the background, and I asked the clerk what it was. I went out to the local record shop and bought the album. I played it regularly throughout high school and occasionally after that. The deep baritone voice was comforting and soulful.
Decades later, when vinyl LP’s looked as though they were obsolete clutter, I gave away that album, along with a stack of others. I was moving and downsizing. Five years went by, and one Friday I woke up and wondered who sang those bluesy songs from my old LP, because I suddenly wanted to buy it back.
I couldn’t remember the artist or the name of the LP (long-playing). I envisioned a big animal on the cover. A muskrat? I Googled muskrat and blues, but nothing came up. I Googled different combinations until I remembered that Eric Clapton was a bluesy guy. Maybe I could find this artist by searching for Eric Clapton.
I Googled Eric Clapton, and there it was, an album by both Eric Clapton and J. J. Cale.
If you’ve never heard of J. J. Cale, he was a songwriter. Many of his songs were recorded by famous people — After Midnight, Crazy Mama, Call Me the Breeze, Cocaine, Magnolia, and River Runs Deep, to name a few. I went to Amazon and looked up J. J. Cale.. The album I’d owned with the bright blue cover had a raccoon in a pink jacket on it, not a muskrat. The album was called Naturally and had many of his best songs on it.
I ordered the CD and then forgot about it . . . until two days later, when I was reading the Sunday Chronicle and noticed in the obituaries that J. J. Cale had died in Southern California two days before, on Friday, the same day I suddenly got the urge to own that album again.
You may not believe in this stuff, but it happened. I had a connection to J. J. Cale’s music long ago, hadn’t thought about it in decades, and had gotten the urge to own it again on the day he left the Earth.
It’s like when you are thinking of your dad or grandmother and then you look down in the street and there’s a shiny penny in front of you. You pick it up and smile. Is it a penny from heaven, or just a coincidence?
Was it a coincidence that an album I hadn’t thought about in years was suddenly front and center in my brain on the day the album’s creator passed away? What is that about?
Has anything similar happened to you?

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
I should’ve saved those LP’s for my youngest daughter, who now owns a turntable and asks for vinyl as gifts.

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