“Isn’t she magical? My sister Roxanne asked, about her daughter, Chaska who had raced down the hall and hung a hard left. My Mom was dying of cancer on my King size bed in Mountain View, California and Rox had come up as part of the hospice team we had put together. My roommate, Sam had moved out of the two bedroom apartment. I was staying in his room so my two sisters and I plus an angel of a hospice nurse could manage the unthinkable.
Chaska knew Marion was dying. She just didn’t care. She was happy to be seeing her Grandma, right now. She was about 6 years old and her clean dirty blonde hair, with no exaggeration, almost reached her ankles. Except when she flew down that hallway. Then it wafted behind her, waist high. Chaska had hopped up on the bed of Grandma Marion Cunningham by the time I got to the somber room. Only it wasn’t somber, anymore. Because Chaska was happy. And for some precious moments so was everyone in the room.
Top to Bottom: Chaska Potter with older sister Serena Potter
Singing always played a big part in Chaska’s family. I remember singing Cyndi Lauper tunes with her and the clan: True Colors and Time after Time come to mind.
L to R Roxanne Cummings, Jeremy Potter, Belle Potter (in Roxanne’s arms) Kevin Cummings, Serena Potter, Jim Tillson (brother-in-law) Skipper Cummings, Oriana Potter (the short one) and Chaska Potter
Chaska usually made me happy, when I saw her. And I would see her a lot over the next 30 years. As she got older, you could tell, early, she was going be a great athlete. Even better than her brother, Jeremy. And Jeremy was no slouch. In her sophomore year of High School, she averaged 19 rebounds a game on her varsity basketball team. The next highest person in the entire county averaged 14. I was a basketball junkie and an Uncle, so I wrote the legendary Stanford women’s basketball coach, Tara VanDerveer and told her about Chaska. The assistant coach wrote her back. I offered to pay for her basketball camp between her sophomore and junior year at the prestigious school. There was just one problem: Chaska didn’t love basketball. She loved volleyball. You can’t win them all, but you can try. Chaska loved volleyball enough to be third team High School All American and play on a Junior National Championship team that featured future Stanford All American, Keri Walsh. She was named not Santa Cruz County Female Athlete of the Year – she got it for the decade. Chaska got a full ride to U.C.L.A. where she was all Academic Pac 10 Conference. All was going well until she blew out her rotator cuff, learning to serve left-handed by her Senior year.
Kevin Cummings and Chaska Potter
When she graduated from U.C.L.A. I thought she still could have made an WNBA team. I really did. But once again she went with, love. And a career much easier on the knees and shoulders, music. She joined an established band of female musicians called Raining Jane. They were good, I thought. Why wouldn’t I? Over the years I saw Raining Jane composed of Mai Bloomfied, Becky Gebhardt and the cool as Antarctica cajon player Mona Tavakoli play at coffee houses, free concerts outside a bookshop in Santa Barbara and a High Tech firm in Silicon Valley. Then they opened for Sara Bareilles at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, California among no more than 50 people while Sara’s Mom sat on the bar. The bar itself smelled of stale beer and dusty hardwood floors.
A YouTube video from almost 10 years ago. A lot of miles logged since this video was made.
Another great memory I have of Chaska was at a very large family gathering. At a Ramayana play in Salinas, California when I introduced my wife to the family. Later, Chaska uttered what is now one of my favorite quotes:
Everybody’s here…How awkward. – Chaska Potter
Chaska Potter, laughing
You’ve gotta love honesty. Then RJ played Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, The Great American Music Hall and Fillmore West in San Francisco and Ratree and I were there for those too. Things were looking up. After 14 years and 200,000 miles logged on a van they toured in. (Granted I do not know how many miles were on the van when they bought it.) After January concerts in Anchorage, Alaska. Skidding on icy mid-western highways, playing before college crowds of as few as 60, Raining Jane got lucky. Or was it something else? Jason Mraz and his management team agreed that of all the songs Jason had written, the best 75% were co-writing collaborations with Raining Jane. The result, Jason and Raining Jane collaborating on the Yes! album where all five receive co-writing credits.
The Yes! album has done well at one point being the #1 selling album in the world. The tour dates usually sell out, quickly. Whatever you think of Jason Mraz he is the rarest of entertainers. As the saying goes, he puts butts in the seats. His voice and lyrics are also amazing as is his showmanship and concern for people and the earth. In high school back in Virginia, Jason was the lone male cheerleader, traveling with the girls to different schools. He gets to do it again, at a different level, with the ladies now. Lucky guy.
Tomorrow, January 30th, 2015, tickets will go on sale for a Saturday, March 21st 2015 concert of Jason Mraz and Raining Jane. I’ll be in the line. Part of a world concert tour that has seen them play well over 50 times already in cities around the globe, often in historic venues. My wife and I will be at Impact Arena that night. I’ll try and see if I can get my friend, Alasdair a photographer’s pass. It never hurts to reach out to family.
Kevin Cummings and wife, Ratree at Jason Mraz concert in Bangkok, Thailand on my birthday in 2012
Six months to the day from when that picture was taken, on December 16th, 2012, Jason Mraz and Mona Tavakoli headlined the Milestone Concert in Myanmar to raise awareness about human trafficking; the first international artist to play an open-air concert in Myanmar, which drew 70,000 people near the Shwedegon pagoda and only one of a few major American artists to be invited to play in Myanmar in the last 80 years. The others being Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Byrd.
Henry Miller said, “Forget yourself.” And his message is a good one. National pride is mostly silly. But there is a place for family pride. If you made it this far, thanks for reading about one of the things I am proud of – my niece. I’m also very proud and very happy for every member of Raining Jane and Jason Mraz too. It’s lucky for me to have a rock star for a relative. But then, I think all my nieces and nephews are rock stars. Everyone of them. See you at the show.