When I was thirty, I ran a jazz record label from home. There’s an awful lot of wonderful memories from that time in my life, especially if you overlook the whole financially catastrophic business side of things. Great music, incredible experiences – and I learned a lot.

Of course, the apartment not only became overrun with boxes of CDs and packing slips, musical instruments, tapes and paperwork – but also musicians. There were rehearsals in the living room most evenings and a parade of visiting jazz musicians from Australia and further afield.

And some of these itinerant musicians – most of them, in fact – became long term friends rather than simply couch surfers.

Pat O'LearyOne of the more memorable characters to stay during that period was a bass player from the US called Pat O’Leary. That’s him there.

He was warm, funny and interested in the people around him. I believe it was his first time in New Zealand. I can’t recall what brought him there. I know we didn’t have the budget to make that sort of thing happen, but here he was in the apartment – and it was interesting, because now I think back on it, I feel like he created more space than he took up. Some people can do that. Maybe it’s a bass thing. At any rate, it’s my lasting impression of the guy.

For a short period of time, he became part of the family. We hung out like I did with other musicians, but more integrated, somehow. Little stuff that continues to echo. He’s pretty much single-handedly responsible for my son Jake’s lifelong love affair with spoonerisms, for example.

And then he went away. Everybody goes away.

Naturally, the leaving is part of the deal with the whole ‘itinerant’ thing. Some people you stay in touch with, albeit infrequently, others you think about occasionally. Some you struggle to remember their names – or at least, I do. It doesn’t really change whether you think of them as friends – or maybe that’s just me. I feel like you could always just pick up where you left off, right?

I mean, they haven’t stopped being those people and nor have you. And at the same time, there hasn’t really been a gap in your life, because there are so many other wonderful people in the world, and the ones that are right in front of you are the ones you tend to focus on at any given time.

But every now and then you think of the people who aren’t around any more. Not dead, you understand – just somewhere else.

I haven’t heard from or seen Pat for a long time – and he hasn’t heard from me either. Not even during the time I was on Facebook, which is where people usually seem to reconnect with the long and the lost. I dunno – maybe one of us sent an email once, but essentially no contact for fifteen years.

But over the course of a life – especially when you travel, or you do something like music where every work day can be different – you tend to collect a lot of people. The simple fact is that there’s no shortage of excellent human beings in the world. And they come and go.

But sometimes, you think of those people who came and went, and that’s kind of enough.

They’re still there. That impact they had, the subtle little shifts in your thinking or the things that you do – that’s all still part of you and you carry it around. You’re not just the sum total of the people you’ve met, of course – but everyone had a little gravitational pull or made a little dent somewhere along the way. Some more than others.

Spend some time with different people, and you become a little different too. Usually in really good ways.

I looked Pat up on Google. There’s some video of a Serbian Jazz Suite he arranged, orchestrated and played bass on a couple of years back – and it’s really nice to see him and hear what he’s been doing. Skip ahead to 3 minutes if you just want to hear the jazzy bits, but the whole thing’s a nice listen.

He’s dropped the moustache and aged a little – though maybe not as much as I have in the same amount of time – and he looks really happy. Which kinda brightened up my afternoon.

It’s nice to still have him around like that.