I don't know if I can explain life any more clearly than this; it's here and gone. We don't know how anything will ever turn out. Our expectations and dreams often fall by the harsh wayside of the chaotic tides - but there is a real beauty and a deep satisfaction in letting go and allowing the mystery of it to wash over you, and be baptized in it.
I've been blessed in this life. To miss someone and to be reunited is a special thing. It brings closure and a look forward, a long whiff of the present tense, and a healthy look back to weigh the long, rainy flight of experience. So much of life is wondering - worrying - hoping - pining. But when we cross the threshold of the actual, something magical happens. Something beyond words or description. Our ears become deaf and our eyes become blind. All we can do is feel and touch and be overcome.
I'm lucky and I'm blessed and I'm charmed in many ways. I'm on a beautiful island with wildflowers and mountains and peaks and majestic oceansides and tropical weather. I knew that setting out on this journey would change me in one way or another. When Ali McCormick approached me many months ago to go on tour with her, I didn't know in what way I would be changed, or in what way I would be altered, but I knew it would happen somehow. You can't help but be changed by something as substantial as a trip like this.
If anything, this trek across the rocky crags, prairies and mountain expanses of our glorious country that we stand on guard for has shown me that love is not dead; it's alive and well. And it lives in the unexpected kindness of strangers. The smile of a new friend. Pouring your guts out to an empty room in a foreign city. A Sault Ste Marie soundman taking you into his home for food and lodging for the night. Old friends and shiny, whooping supportive hearts in Cowtown. Lovely owners and sumptuous food-purveyors in the stark, beautiful badlands of Twin Butte. And believing that love can still be ignited in your once calloused heart.
I've missed my friend Amanda more than I've missed anyone in a long while. Seeing her has been a beautiful thing. She is a part of my community, and a big chunk of why I love a certain region of this so much. When you've gone through things together, and have moved the past the stage of bullshit and you cut to the core, there are moments where looks, laughs, gestures and facial movements can occur, and no talking needs to happen. Understanding takes place and the flowers of your souls just slightly wilt, and bend with the breeze.
But let's be clear - love is a jargon, buzz-cliche word that gets thrown out in the trash of our hashtagged insta-happy, insta-feel-good lives. But if you truly love someone, there must be an understanding of freedom - and freedom is not easy. It's uncharted. It's difficult. It's putting judgment aside and letting the soul breathe. It's allowing someone to be as happy as they can possibly be with or without you in their immediate vicinity. It lets the child go on the bike with a heavy heart. It says goodbye when it would rather stay an extra day. But it always waits, and it always welcomes the prodigal son home with open arms in the middle of the street - no matter what trouble he has been into.
I think what I see in Amanda is a small piece of myself - and that many have learned or have had to do the same with me, as I am not an easy person to love. I'm brash. I'm passionate. I change plans. I go where the wind takes me. But the people who mean the most to me have been the ones to stand behind me, and accept that my strange, adventurous, anxious, unique view of life is what brings me joy. And I love those people for who they are. And a crowning beauty of the venture is the knowing that a home awaits with you family and friends who are ready to celebrate your return. Damnit all to hell - the view of this life is really quite something if you let yourself see it.
So venture on, friends. Love is all around you.
This world is a strange place. Bells. Whistles. Pops. Buzzes. Art. Business. Odd, enchanting seaside towns. Friendly people. Lurkers. Starers.
Lost loves. Reconnections. Joys. Sorrows.
If anything, touring gives you a deepened perspective about the circus-like quality of life. The good. The bad. The heartbreak ride. The fear. The whimsy of all of it.
It's fleeting and you can never rest truthfully until you give yourself to the whirlwind. It's scary as hell, but it's worth it.
Leaving Port Alberni today after playing a lowly attended but beautiful sounding show last night at Chars Landing.
Amanda has joined the tour for a few days. The energy level has been great, but I am starting to get a bit needy/wanty of my bed in Ottawa. I know I will probably feel like the kid in Almost Famous - longing for his bed. Disheveled. Worn.
But all in a good and completing way.
Be in it. Wherever you are.
Yesterday was an adventure and a half. Ali and I woke up at the crack of crow's piss to hit the road from Revelstoke to try and make the Tsawassen ferry for 3 pm. That's a 565 k journey through some seriously mountainous terrain. Through the winding glory of the Coquihalla, and a few coffee stops, somehow we hit the terminal at 2:34 pm. The signs leading in said the 3 PM ferry was full, but I knew that I could probably get on as a passenger. I had shifted a few essentials to a smaller bag so I could make the quick transition from the car to the boat. Ali drove like a champ and I blustered the mustard for the last hour or so to hit the deadline. I asked the Spanish-accented lady if I could get on the 3 pm ferry, and she said 'oh, no problem, dear'. I relaxed. 'Are you paying with cash?' she asked - 'Yep', I responded fumbling for my dough through guitar picks and keys. 'My favourite kind of person!' she said, laughing.
We did it. Somehow. As I stood on the ferry that moved across a windy, overcast Swartz bay channel, I thought about life. And I smiled. I Think That She Likes Me by Steve Poltz played in my headphones as I looked forward to seeing a few old friends, and one in particular. I smiled almost uncontrollably at how sometimes, magically, an invisible key can unlock levels in the video game of existence. In that moment, staring out at the water, and with Poltz's amazing droney, ambient tune in my mind's eye headphones, I felt like there was meaning to it. I'm not saying I knew what that meaning was - but I knew there was something. And that was enough.
My reunion with my friend Mand was an emotional and glorious one, filled with some marathon hugs, wide-eyed conversations and glance-realizations that you are actually in the same space as someone that you've missed. I watched her host an open mic and realized how much I've missed seeing her perform and hearing her sing. She even covered a Weakerthans tune. I can't wait to hear some of her new songs. We also caught up with our island-transplant Kemptville friends Brad, Josef and Eleni too for some Brad-birthday celebrations and west coast microbrew sensations. Laughs were exchanged. Hilarity ensued. I instantly felt as comfortable as I've felt in months.
It was a good day. And sometimes, that's all you need.
Beautiful little town. The characters and creatures are culminating from the cracks of this country.
I have had no time to blog. I've been on highways carved out of cut rock and shale, and I've been a passenger on a big Blue Butte (2006 Buick Allure). Bobbing. Weaving. Winding. Thinking.
I've needed space. I've laughed. I've found new love and rekindled old friend fires. I've written new songs.
I've lived it.
And I'm here and fully in it.
Tonight, I will play a show with Ali McCormick at the Last Drop - the second night of our Revelstoke residency. Tomorrow, I will hit the coast to see some familiar old faces and play a few more shows.
At times, it's all too much.
Early To Rise
Sometimes, God wakes you up to tell you things that you wouldn't have known if you were sleeping. Life can be too important for sleep at certain times, and this is absolutely one of those moments.
I played a show in Calgary last night at the Blues Can with Ali. The show was momentous. It reminded me of many good things in this life. An amazing culmination of friends from the Cowtown corridor collided and came together. There was a crew of different friends of mine who showed up - my old childhood pal Chris Wing (who I made rap tapes with), my new friend Joel (who has become a mainstay in only two years), my old Camp IAWAH pals Adam and Rob, my new friend Jenn, and my Ottawa ultimate frisbee buddy Kendra and her tall boyfriend Jacob. None of them know each other that much, but they came to show their support for me, and they (plus a few guests of their own) helped fill the room at the venue. Ali and I wailed. I felt more in my element than I have in any show. I was loose. I was limber.
And I did have a few drinks.
I slept for a few hours at my Rob and Jody's place, but I woke up this morning like a lightning rod (after only about three hours of sleep) bolt awake, and I felt my heart racing. I think it's something anxiety related that happens from time to time, because after I wake up and calm down and focus on deep breathing, my heart rate goes back down. This event seemed to last a little longer, and I was on all fours, just relaxing myself, and breathing.
After these moments, where nothing and everything seems to happen all at once, I always look at things a little more clearly. The smell of Rob and Jody's basement that seems so familiar. The feel of my toes on their carpet. A crisp but thin layer of snow on the Chestermere grass. Yes - snow in May.
And here as I type this, trekking across the country, I realize that I am a passenger on a much larger ship. I don't know how long the journey will last - but all I know is that one of my jobs is to report on the view, and to hope that others will somehow find some meaning and comfort in my words. I hope they can learn from my mistakes, and see that I have loved and lost. And won. And been scared. And sad. And worried. And hurt. And happy. And immensely overjoyed. And thankful. So fucking thankful.
And I realized today that anxiety, health, worry, concern, stress - it's all part of the package. And if we step back from it, and see it for what it is, it adds to the excitement of our vessel's journey.
My blog-friend Dave (otherwise known as the Square Corner) recently said some wise words to me when I wrote about anxiety: "What shrinks the most, as you get to be as old as the Square Corner, is time--the past and the future. If the past years move quicker and quicker, then how fast will the future go? Maybe that's where the most excitement comes from, that downward rollercoaster ride. The wind against your skin; the heart beating faster. It happens, I know. But why do so few of us realize it. That is where the most excitement lies, in that downward rush before the end. Don't block your eyes, or control the beating heart. Feel the rush now before time unwinds and you have known nothing."
Well said, Dave. Feel the rush.
It's important to get your time away on the road. Being around others all of the time can be draining. Unplugging and recharging the mental and emotional batteries is a practice that must be implemented heavily. With Zen like precision.
No matter how social we are, we cannot truly appreciate others if we don't first appreciate our alone time.
In Thunder Bay. Streets are loud. Made friends with a married duo band named Ok Vancover Ok. The dude sang like Lou Reed and the gal played drums. Sheila fed us and bed us. Here we are.
Sault Ste Marie. What a town. Full of character and a different uniqueness than Sudbury or any of its other northern neighbours. We played to a fairly empty room and then we were rewarded by four nice dudes who pulled their chairs right up close and listened to us. And intently. A Norwegian dude named Justice gave us $100 in U.S. funds for gas money. A friendly man (and our sound guy) named George put us up for the night in one of the most pristine living quarters I've ever been in. Spotless. Black, red and pure stone themed. All of his appliances are black. He even had a urinal in his washroom. A fucking urinal. And it was also black. George is my new hero. He bought us a few beers from the venue and then brought back some homemade pizzas from Loplops (made by the owner Steve's wife). They were scrumptious. We ate and drank in his immaculate kitchen and talked about life. It was a good night. Off to Thunder Bay. Waiting on an oil change.