Friday, January 13, 2017

Go With The Flow (June 7, 2010)

Poor Sisyphus. Condemned by Zeus to push the damned rock up the mountain over and over again, only to have it roll back on him over and over again. Like the mouse with the cheese thing. The definition of insanity. When is persistence blind insanity? When do we give up the fight? How do we know when the fight is out of our hands and ceases being a Great Cause or Great Passion and starts being, well, crazy. When do we reach the limit of Enough is Enough and we leave the rock at the bottom of the mountain and just walk away?


I got to Kerrville with, what I thought were allergies, but was most likely a low grade virus. My voice was cracking, flaking out on me, and Fun was all around me. Stinky dusty Texas hippie fun. Fun I used to revel in. Late late nights around a bottle of something red or smoky, swapping songs in the dim light of dawn, harmonizing on cowboy songs under a hummingbird tent in the meadow. I couldn't do it this time. Didn't feel well enough to rage. And so I planned to only be there for a few days, 2 nights of camping in the shade of a parked rusted school bus and the gig and the hotel and then flying away to another gig far far away. Only a short landing would I have there. But that night, the rain and the wind came, the lightening tore a hole in the sky and the tents went flying in the swirl and everything was soaking wet and I ran for the shelter of a real roof and a long sleep and, instead of dipping into the scene, I floated above it, too sick to fly, too sick to land, just hovered quietly, caretaking my voice. Good thing, too, because what wasn't there showed up just on time, like a gift, and I was able to sing for my set on Friday night, later than I'd thought I'd go on, but just in time. Nothing goes as planned it seems. The next day after short farewells to the ranch, I hopped a plane to Boston, spent a full day pushing a personal rock up the hill to no avail, only to have it fall back on top of me until I put on the meditation app on my I Phone (how modern-zen we are) and let the rock go for a while. Got in later than I'd hoped, couldn't sleep, watched Juno and cried and just wanted Home, tired of the rock, tired of the mountain, feeling like I lost the reason I was pushing and pulling anyway.

Woke up too early to a rainy cloudy sky in Boston--the storms again. Put on the happy face and prayed for sun, both in and out. And although the sky poured, the sun came out inside the tents. My noon set for the WUMB MusicFest I'd brought along the wonderful Adam Michael Rothberg, an incredible musician and just a joy to be onstage with, and the dark of the day lifted in the musical cloud we created for ourselves. Tents, again, were collapsing and people were running for their cars, I was soaking wet again. Tornado warnings, pelting rain--the storms had followed me. And I thought I'd left that rock in seat 24D on the flight from Baltimore to Boston. I hadn't, but I chose to ignore it a bit for a few hours while playing songs and listening to others. Dala, Les Sampou, Winterbloom, Cliff Eberhart...

Woke this morning in a purple bed to sunny skies, thinking maybe today would prove easy...maybe. I'd purchased a bus ticket online, proud of my frugality. $28.00. Arrived on time at the Framingham, MA PeterPan bus terminal only to be told that since I didn't print out the ticket, I'd be charged an extra $5.00 for the printing. Disgruntled, but not ready to argue, I was about to pay that when the gruff woman behind the plexiglass informed me that this did not guarantee a seat, as I hadn't called her that morning to reserve one. What? I'd paid for a ticket online. I had the proof. Not enough she said. You also must call to reserve. This information was not on the website, I argued. She shrugged, as if I was the 10,000th person to have told her this over the course of her esteemed career, and she waved me away. Dismissed me. I asked to see her supervisor and she shrugged. "Its only me." I said, "This is bullshit", losing my cool a bit, and she then stood up, completely affronted at my use of profanity and said, "Now you've had it. You will not get a seat at all." And there I stood with my proof of American Express purchase. The bus came, I asked the driver about this and he said, "No call. No seat. Not my problem." [A common thing, this "not my problem"]. Nothing to do. This rock was not going to budge and I HAD to get to NYC by 3pm for a radio interview. So my generous friend raced me to the Boston Amtrak station and I had to buy a train ticket for $125, and I still had paid that $28 for the bus (non-refundable, by the way) ticket. It wasn't even about putting the rock down and walking away, I just had to deal with the rock, somehow, or just carry it. Like the too heavy bags I schlep around the country, along with the guitar on my back.

A man asked me "is that a guitar?" and the usual conversation followed that I find myself in like a deja vu. The business man, in white starched shirt and tie, who owns a Martin D-28, who plays a bit of guitar on the weekends, maybe he played in a bar band in college, knows James Taylor songs, maybe he even writes a bit. The business man's eyes light up, he holds a styrofoam coffee, Wall Street Journal tucked in his armpit, his briefcase balanced between his feet. We talk of Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin or The Faces or whomever he's listening to and I recommend a few new voices and he types my name into his Blackberry to find my CDs online and offers to help me with my heavy bags. I decline, saying 'This is basically what I do for a living, carry this load.'

In travel, in touring, in life, storms follow. I get wet. Soaking wet some days. A perpetually angry Jamaican woman reigning over her tiny Peter Pan Bus kingdom in a Boston suburb does her best to undo my calm. I lose money. I spend more money. But here I am in a train with a plug for my computer and Patty Griffin on loop in my ears and the ocean is off to my left speeding by and I'm not driving and I'm dry and the sky is blue. So goes it. The load is safely above me and I'll have to carry it later, but for now I've got a few hours without it. Its enough.

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