Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Should Introduce Myself

Leaving makes everything more meaningful. When you’re leaving you even cherish the annoying things.  Everything is special because it won’t be there tomorrow. I can see how that might be disturbing for some people, but I love how it deepens the experience. Increases awareness. Living in a way that I am frequently leaving, everything has that shine to it. Pay attention to every detail, take nothing for granted. 

In every town that we go to, people say they have the worst allergens in the country.  

Hays, why are you so far away?  We left at the ripe hour of 9:30pm last night.  This morning I am ready to burn through Kansas.  We had a hell of a time finding a motel in Eureka last night - all were full but two.  One motel's front desk person's hairy leg could be seen pointing out of a bed, along with very loud, enthusiastic snoring.  We rang the bell several times and David even shouted.  The other motel had a buzzer and a little lady who complained about us buzzing her...we said we'd shop around and then left.  Grumpster in the dumpster.  We wound up waking the sleeping man, who charged us $50 and let us check out at 1pm.  Win.

We slept on the front porch and it was cool and breezy. I woke up next to a pile of broken glass beneath gigantic sunny trees swaying peacefully. I sat up in my sleeping bag and a business man waved at me. It was 11am in Kansas City. 

We're in upstate NY, camping.  A gorgeous place to look at but good lawd, the highway screams all night.  Yesterday I was still in the shape of the van seat long after the drive was over.  I went for a run and now I am me-shaped again.

He sat at a table with his total bombshell of a girlfriend. Neither of them said much of anything- to each other or anyone else. She brought out the sex in everything. Even the slimy bricks of the green room wall looked more attractive with her sitting beneath them. I formed an opinion about her and I was wrong - which is great.

We’ve been working on so many new songs in the van. Banjo in the back seat, mandolin in the front.. It makes everything more magic.

Afterwards we stay at the table talking with Alex about Austin, touring, 9 to 5ers.  The bar tender finished wiping down the tables and unplugged the machines.  Alex drew a map on the table with his finger, directions to the Rat House from Pancos Mexican Restraunt, the only other place that we have been in Kansas City.

No wifi here, a blessing in the midst of the work we 'have' to do 'right now'.  David and I slept on the front porch of a beautiful KC house.  We laid down as the sun was coming up and life began to stir into a commotion.  Now we're at the Broadway Cafe and there's a tattoed man outside with a Chihuahua under his arm.  I couldn't make this stuff up.

Waking up dog barking
In David's face
I'm on a couch
Shut up morgan
Can we wake up
Kevin now?
Wisking Waffle batter
So close to the station
Toys or trucks
There are always sirens going by

We'll leave Denver a day early so the drive isn't as long.  Meet up Wednesday afternoon, glue a bunch of CDs and cook dinner.  Today there is no rushing.  We'll park the cars at the Warehouse, then swing by my apartment (I forgot my passport), hit Steiner's on the way out and grab the microphone.  I-70 for 600 miles.  Find a motel when you get tired.  

He was playing Ski-Jump.  Pre-digital.  Less of an angle.  The ball floated almost weightless, catapulting off of the crumbling pop bumbers.  The points climbed up like the gallons on an old gas pump, shifting the wooden box on it's skinny metal legs.  I was at Cyborg, newer and flashy.  Replay at 3,900,000 - keep hitting that left ramp.  The game has a glitch, thinks it's multi-ball, 20 second window to hit the jackpot.  You have the extra ball lit, ya see that?  Toggle the the side with the flippers.  It felt like Mickey in my corner, pep talking and sizing up the machine.  I only had 760,000 after the second ball but on the last one I kept looping the ramp, each a b-line up the robotic spiral, lights kicking on everywhere.  The madness couldn't have lasted more than a minute, I looked at the display.  End of ball.  Magnet bonus: 300,00.  Cyborg Loop x10: 100,000.  Dual gate open: 750,00.  Total.  9,700,00.  I heard that thick metallic click.  He looked up from his game on the older machine and gave a barely noticable nod of approval.  

She's sitting on the steps after our gig and I race across the street with my snifter of Chardonnay, breaking the rules.  She's crying and we have a Real Moment Together - thank goodness, for I was getting thirsty.  I want to tell her that she's all-powerful, and she's most of the reason I like this place so much, and it's going to be ok.  That if she's not happy she can move, she's never stuck, she can always change and leave and grow and learn and this is only the beginning.  But I sit and listen with one hand on her shoulder, one around the base of my glass, and I can't help but like this moment.  

We just made dinner by a lake in an Indiana state park.  The highways of (my) youth.  It's been a truly great day.  Woke up on a beautiful farm and fell into a song hole right after breakfast.  Every song we played was alive and we gobbled them up one after another, relishing the tastes and textures inside.  It's easy to get in the zone right now and stay there.  Hard to remember to stretch and eat and go outside.

Now, moving on down the road, I am so coated with music that I can't hear anything but melody - by the marsh, in bed before sleep, in the moments of quiet on the in-betweens.  Listen to what they're saying.  It's not about you or me.  Listen and write down what I hear if I have a pen handy. We are always pen-less in times of need.

...And then we had breakfast in WaKeeney.  Mediocre but satisfying.

Monday, May 7, 2012

No Cards (or Radar Enforced)

Day 1 - Ogden, UT
A beautiful place with majestic mountains and that squeaky clean Utah vibe.  I'm sitting at the bar of Penny's Two Bit Cafe and Antique Shop, waiting for my huevos rancheros.  I'm by myself and it is awesome.  From my perch I spy: a portrait of William Shakespeare, a billboard for 'Polygamy Porter' (Why Have Just One?), a giant 3-foot fork hanging in the window, an autographed Andy Gibb record, a girl in a martini glass with a lit match, and myself in a giant mirror directly across.  Dark wood bar top.  Couple with baby.  Waitress who's worked here forever.  I like this place.  Ancient cash register.  Giant beer stein.  Bowl of old ketchup in the cupboard.  One of those bicycles with a big front wheel and tiny little back one.  Cool.

Day 2 - Boise, ID
We had a little time, so  I asked the hostess what we should go see in Boise. “Well,” she said, “the Basket District is right over there on 8th!” “The what district?” “The Basket District!” It was noisy. It really sounded like she said ‘Basket District’. I didn’t know anything about Boise, so anything was possible. Immediately I had visions of a street full of basket shops, basket makers, wicker furniture, innovative basket sculptures, a basket parade, and on and on. It seemed weird, but I accepted it as true and we set out for 8th street. We saw a busy looking street. Lots of shops. No baskets. Kevin said “This must be Basket Street!”. Then I thought that it was a district named after Basket Street. I thought that until we saw that the street we were on was not called ‘Basket Street’. As we were walking back, we passed a building called ‘The Basque Cultural Center’.

Days blur together
He was nameless, in good shape, good looking, and totally obliterated at 3 in the afternoon. When he first came up, it was well before the gig. We were just picking some tunes on the porch when he tumbled out of a moving car. He wobbled up to the porch and asked- “Are you Chimney Choir? Where’s that hot chick that plays the banjo?!” Later on he ate fries off of Kris’ plate. 

Archetypes and airplanes, lush green farmlands and endless rolling hills.  Fog rolled in in the middle of the night.  The bar was too much and I had to get out, called Joelle and danced on tiptoes around the loud party inside.  Some guys light up a joint right in front of me on the sidewalk.  Dig Seattle.  Pink moon tonight and we've just had a fantastic show - Carl is with us, we kidnapped him today with glee!  He makes us better - our show, our morale, our playfulness. Our DRUMS!!  Cycles and patterns underneath - circling round and round - chaos and order and back again.  A sort of light we can hand back and forth when the timing's right.  It's a trap door that lets me fly up over that big pink moon, outside this imaginary place, outside myself.  I'm hooked.   

What’s the difference between a sheep and a ram?
What’s the difference between jelly and jam?
A sweet potato and a yam?
I guess I think therefore I am. 

We check into our place, move out after just a taste.  Wind back and forth for hours and days.  I've never been where I'm going, thank god for that! This band, this van, and how we spin towards the center.  I-5, long drive, we cannot leave the way we entered.  The endless days all curl into a spiral shape.  You hand me back an apple with peanut butter on it and I know that I'm not alone. There are wildflowers along the highway.  It's too much - If I could write all the beauty my pen and my heart would explode simultaneously.

Monday after Easter. A cool cloudy day in Eugene. Aside from not making quite enough money, this is really fun! We played Sam Bond’s Garage last night and loved it. That place has some magic. We were put up by a magic fairy leprechaun of  a lady named April Kay. We all slept on her floor. As usual, I was the last to sleep but the first up. The room was stuffy and the others just kept sleeping and sleeping. So I got up and wandered to a coffee shop. Sweet Life Bakery. Probably should head back soon. 

I could use a peek into your brain.  And mine, come to think of it.  Ripples of anxiety sometimes kick up across the surface of a deep well of goodness.  I woke up wrong and couldn't find a laugh for your jokes.  Just give me half an hour.  I didn't mean to sleep this long and if I did, I'd have wanted it to be deeply restful and satisfying.   There's a key in your pocket that I need.  Where are you?  Are you back?  Should I call you?  Before I fall asleep again there will be so many waves, colors, thoughts, sounds, and we will whirl our show around a room again. Day 6.

Walking through the colorful aisles throwing produce into a small red basket.  Today we have a kitchen to cook in.  A kind new friend who put us up for the night, left in the morning, said lock the door behind you.  We ate bacon, spinach, peppers, eggs in the front lawn, picnic style with dandelions all around.  Moving slowly this morning.  Lately they all feel like Sundays, playing to the bar tender and a few locals on the off nights, said we should come back on the weekend, gets crazy in here.  Outside after the show we went to an empty bowling alley and George told us about the mural on the wall, a beautiful Indian woman who grew up in the area.  She starred in a Buster Keaton movie film then moved to Europe, claimed she was Anastasia, died in a mental institution somewhere in France.  George smoked and laughed from his big belly and his Mexican girlfriend would speak Spanglish under her breath, directed at no one in particular.  Chiquapin, Morena, she said she liked to have a few drinks and dance, dance, dance.  

So, we pulled up to a post office in Springfield, OR. There was a pudgy nondescript man in a white shirt and a kilt playing a whiney little bagpipe. He wore a big sign on his chest that said- “Stop the White Genocide!” I asked him for a pamphlet, and he gave one to me. My oh my it was typically psycho paranoid illogical racist propaganda! I decided to make a mad lib of it. 

We have this moment in the doorway of her apartment- we just stand there in each other’s arms and breathe. Just feeling the energy of us together. I see all of the moments in the past 7 years where we stood together like this. And it’s like a mirror reflecting a mirror- a snakelike chain of endless moments- each moment is a snapshot of us standing together. But then it was time to go. It's always time to go. I walked down the stairs and said “thanks for the pie!” and that was it. 

We played at ___________ last night. I guess it was fun, but there was something depressing about it. The energy of the crowd was draining. The first time I was there it seemed so young and free and magic. This time it seemed busted up and sad. Who changed? It or me? 

It’s a coffee shop on Half Moon Bay. Espresso steaming. Sunny, but a cold wind blowing. There’s the Specific Ocean out the window, doing that thing that it does so well. It’s kind of a one trick pony, but it’s less about what it does than the way it does it. You can’t get mad at Bob Marley for just playing reggae all the time. We applied for a grant last night and it nearly killed us. Tonight is the 11th show in a row. That’s a solid run! I can’t even remember what it’s like to have a day off! 

On a tilted cliffside
The stirring Pacific
Shot bits of whitecap
Up under the yellowed street posts 
Like Instant bats 
That disappear 
After catching glimpse of their flight
I stood there and let the harsh wind
Pummel my face
For as long as I could stand it
Until cold tears blurred my sight 
And i could barely hear the waves
Throwing themselves against the rocks
I couldn’t figure out
How to tell you what I saw
The midnight epiphany
(Maybe now is the time)
Walking back through the arbor
The waves sounded further away
Lapping inside conch shells 
On the bathroom mantle
When I woke up 
I could still taste the salt
Above my lips

The vocal could be a colorfully dissonant chord that’s chanted. Heavy drums. The bass line walks down to Dm and then a jaw bone hit on 1, 2, 3. Lyrics go with it. Hold Dm for 8 measures until going to C. Perhaps a quick G, then back to the riff. This song could very well be called, ‘Radar Enforced”. 

I’m on a sidewalk patio called ‘Rose’s CafĂ©’ in San Francisco. I’m getting a fairly expensive wine buzz to enhance my wanderings. I split from the group and it’s awesome. I remember what it’s like to just hang out on my own. We went on last at Ano Domini. We had an awkward set up, and the percussion stand crashed into the crowd three times, but everything was just right. We got a standing ovation! 

I wish I had my hat. I lost my flute too. I’m a flake but I don’t care. 

That’s the thing lately. I can just draw up the plans. That’s the first step. Don’t just say, “How will I pull it off?” and then not try. Everything starts with a clear vision. All you need is a notebook. Sketch it out, then worry about how to pull it off. The dream-world should remain boundless. 

We set up on a big stage, did a sound check and played. The crowd was a young couple and a dude with a mustache. It was one of those shows where the audience is embarrassingly small but attentive, so you feel kind of ridiculous. I think is was a 3 hour gig, and they stayed most of the time. No one bought a CD. The sound guy loved it though, and told us several times. So there you go.

Our time in the enchanted forest heals us.  There were barely any words, just breath and soft crunch-crunch of our footsteps.  Occasional observation.  The smell of the ocean. It's our first day off after 11 gigs straight, 4 states, every show with its own distinct personality.  I can remember each one so clearly even as they blur together.  The songs we sing bind us together like vibrational glue.  I can be half asleep before the show and afterward I'm floating, electric, social, amplified, high on it.  A polar shift.
  Ice caps melting.  Life's renewal.  It's all right here in us, in these woods.  Tacos at night around the table.  And red wine.  The conversation went from Vampires to Manzanita, Physics to Cats Pajamas.  Laying awake in my sleeping bag I kept trying to conjure up your face and voice.  The same scene kept flashing.  It is always quiet, you are walking away, never once looking over your shoulder.  

In traffic headed easy on the Bay Bridge - we just dropped Carl off at the greyhound station - a bittersweet moment since it has been such a great time playing music with him.  We walked to the Moss Lighthouse and crossed the stream to a secluded beach under the bluff.  Sunset on the Pacific. We sang a song.  

Day 15 - David's Birthday
Two days in the barren desert just East of Black Rock City.  David's birthday - what a divine human bean!  Breakfast tacos and coffee and a long walk.  At the beginning we are light and singing and I'm getting more lifted every moment.  The walk up the hill begins some kind of unexpected swirling internal darkness and I'm falling into an open yawning churning gap.  I do not want to keep walking up this hill, nor do I want to sit or go back down.  I don't want to be alone, but I don't want other people around either.  Uneasiness permeates.  I am amazed by my surroundings but also frightened.  I see and imagine David being struck by lightning and have a terrible sinking sensation.  I chase him, not really wanting to catch up, not knowing what to say.  The searching I remember from that shaky morning in Mississippi.  Endless hunger.  Skin too thin.  Does the dark always lie waiting underneath?  By the end of the walk I am relieved and not sure how to be with the others.  I want to celebrate but I am so heavy and far away.  I keep wishing I was better birthday company.  I do not sleep well.

It’s morning in the Santa Rosa Peak Wilderness. There’s just a little bit of chill in the air, so I have a small fire going. First cup of coffee is brewed. The sun is up and getting warmer. The only sounds are birds and a stream. Kevin’s up now, getting his coffee ready. We have a French press that makes one cup. Kevin’s mug declares- ‘I’m 50 and proud of it!’. We accidentally stole it from Sylvia’s house in Montara. We have set up camp by the side of a dirt road in northern Nevada, 50 miles north east of Winnemucca, a cute/sad little off-the-radar casino town. A billboard welcomed us to town, boasting ‘5 casinos and 1,131 hotel rooms’ among other things. It’s Wednesday now, April 18th. Birthday. 31 years ago, I opened up my little eyes and thought- “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!?!”. And it’s been a crazy rollercoaster ride ever since. 

Day 19 - Home
At home, in my backyard, my neighbors play Scrabble and cards every evening.  It's a nice scene to stumble into, homey at home, reminiscent of games on the road.  Our upcoming tour is looming, a 6-week beast that promises even more highs and lows than the last few months.  I'm soaking in the light - the Colorado sunshine and the people here who remind me of the best version of myself.

A word about the moment I come home and am alone in my apartment for the first time. I'm buzzing. Like it might take awhile to find the ground.  I've lost sight of the ocean.  What is there to do but sit still and be quiet?