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Tour Journal #1/ from Goshen, Indiana

Tour Journal #1

8:05 am

Best Western, Goshen IN

rm. 202

Dark night, literally and otherwise, coaxes up a chilly gray morning; the soft edges of it frame the deep brown curtains across the window. Old-school motel architecture here—2 floors, no elevator. Room doors open on to the balcony/walkway; the rails once painted a daffodil yellow now show rust here and there. I hear hip-hop beats through the wall—lots of really low, sub-woofer frequencies, and not coming from the parking lot. Present, but not loud. And since I can’t sleep any more, it must be time to eat again. I put on yesterday’s clothes, wash my face, and walk outside to go downstairs to the breakfast area. “My music ain’t botherin’ ya is it?” asks a redheaded housekeeper in her 40s with a black bird tattooed on her hand. She’s smoking a cig at the base of the stairs. I assure her, while walking down the stairs, that “I’ve been up for hours; it’s cool,” though more sleep would have been really cool. It seems that those with the loudest engines and biggest trucks leave earliest—4:30am in this case. I go in the door to the breakfast area. An older couple make their choices from the offerings and sit at the table next to mine. I’ve settled for some eggs that might actually be real, not powdered, a sausage link, a cup of orange juice and a coffee. I’m hungry because I didn’t make it out the door to eat dinner last night. The woman’s phone rings; a ringtone from possibly some contemporary Christian anthem, though she squelches it so fast I can’t make out the words being so stridently sung in a laughably atmospheric 80s-era reverb-cloud. Gives it to her husband, a big guy, all the look of a retired farmer with decades of his hands in the dirt, who stares at the phone like a mule he doesn’t quite know well enough to get close to yet. Something gets pushed or clicked and some other noise-ish music plays as loud as the device will go. He tames it down gradually, click-by-click to silence and the meal goes on without a word. I grab a donut from a pastry case (the pastries look better than anything else in the joint) and head back up here with it sitting on a napkin on top of my coffee cup. It’s a blueberry cake sugar-coated thing and it’s very good, even if not so physiologically good for you.

When I checked in yesterday, supplying the requested identification and card for incidentals to a humorless desk clerk who said NOTHING about breakfast (the outrage!) I noticed about 100 feet of 10 strands of ethernet cable knotted and snaked together into 40 feet of blue chaos along the baseboard of one wall behind the front desk; I wasn’t sure whether to take this as a good sign or not, in the ever-present game of hotel internet connectivity roulette. Turns out: not. I’m writing this now but not sure I’ll be able to post it til I get to the next hotel, in Columbus. But hey, I’ve got a TV in here that’s half as wide as the wall it’s perched in front of, and all the bad news and “entertainments” I can stand. I must confess that I never knew until pausing at the Discovery channel for a while that the probable location of the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia. I finally got wise later and turned the damned thing off and did some reading before trying to sleep.

Night #1 with Todd Snider in Evanston IL on Tuesday was great fun—a sold-out show at S.P.A.C.E., a wonderful venue—one of those that makes you feel as if what you are doing out here is possibly a sane and defensible thing, that you are not just burning out your life by counting thousands of miles at the wheel and tens of dollars at the merch table. (Don’t misunderstand me: my “showpay” for these gigs is good.) It is always a pleasure to open for my friend Todd, and a great opportunity to play for plenty of folks who haven’t heard me before (and, in the Chicago area and some other places, some who have). I had a good set, I think, despite some jitters, and left the stage feeling fairly victorious after 40 minutes of the show business up there. I’ve brought three guitars with me on this tour but only played one—and that happens a lot with me when I’m the opener—I always feel slightly under pressure to keep things rolling at a quick pace, and the last thing I want to do when I feel like that is stop and change guitars. So, I drive on with the ES-125 and it’s fine. The other two are fun to look at, anyway. And pull out in a hotel room now and then.

I left Chicago yesterday morning running about 45 minutes late, and drove straight through into the eastern time zone to the radio station, WGCS, here in Goshen, landing at the station about 15 minutes behind schedule—but as usual, all was well. I quickly set up, and before I knew it I was exchanging on-air greetings with host Brandon and then singing “Saint.” I was worried that he hadn’t done any prep for the interview, but I was wrong—he nailed it! We had a meaningful conversation about Louisiana, Tony Joe White, religion and faith, Joseph Campbell, Elaine Pagels, and even that great Automotive Age philosopher, Chuck Berry. I played “GTO” and we were done. D.J. Laura (sp?) helped me load out, and I got back in the van and had one of those “Okay, what now?” moments. I was feeling pretty beat, so the hotel search began, and ended here at the BW.

Lots of talking out there on the balcony now. Fragments of conversation, laughter–unintelligible like trying to read a page of text with every other sentence redacted. It’s a day out there, sure is. I’m headed to Columbus, OH in a bit; I’m on the radio on WCBE tomorrow morning, so it makes sense to go ahead and get the 4+ hour drive done. Then tomorrow night there, the 2nd show with Todd, at the Jo Ann Davidson Theater. Hope to see some of you there. I’ll check in again soon.



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Internal Monologue, Hotel Hallway, Effingham redux

Has it been two weeks? Same town, different hotel. Brown paisley hallway carpet–nice, if kept in the periphery of one’s vision. Far end of my floor, direction I’m walking, there’s a small window and down there, out on the “landscaped” grounds is a scrawny maple tree, about my height, all a-fire in red leaves, being moved and tossed around by a substantial force I can’t see or feel, but know–it’s there: wind kicking up its proverbial heels, its usual Autumnal kung fu moves, pushed here northwesterly, going on and on, tearing the leaves, taking us down into winter. Wind: it’s a wonder, ya know? I understand it’s just low pressure and high pressure doing their simpatico dance, but still–all this invisible, out there, filling the atmosphere, pushing, pulling, then lying still, you never know. It’s like free will not your own. I’m watching this little tree get gently ravaged by the wind, while holding a cup of the slightly better than in-room coffee from downstairs and two granola bars, the simple ones I like–Nature Valley “oats ‘n honey,” that were there in a basket next to the coffee vat simply labeled, ha ha, “Gourmet.” But it’s okay; it’s a good morning and I’ll take it, comic ironies and all. I didn’t even go around the corner to the breakfast room, because there were small children in there, and I’m sorry, but it’s just too early for those cute yet shrill voices to enter my consciousness and throw off my so-far-so-good internal vibe. I slept well last night; no alcohol, no sugar. Just a half-hour of politics on the television (which is about 29 minutes too many), then a chapter of the book I’m reading (Don DeLillo’s “Zero K”), and finally listening with lights out to a Fresh Air interview with the brilliant Elaine Pagels.

All this to say yes, I’m out here again, plying my wares and playing my songs, opening several shows for my friend, the mighty mighty Todd Snider. We begin the adventure tonight at S.P.A.C.E., in Evanston, IL–a sold-out show, which is great for us, but not so much for you, if you are not in possession of a ticket. But I love this venue, and I look forward to kicking it in this evening: me, myself and I, three guitars, and an old amp or two. Tomorrow I’ll be headed to Goshen, IN, to be interviewed at 2pm eastern time on WGCS 91.1 FM THE GLOBE. 

I’ll write more along the way–a cliche it is, but it is true that it gets lonesome out here (I can’t remember who it was that said that this is why phrases/ideas become cliches: they are as familiar to us as the names of family members or dreaded diseases(or the endless pharmaceutical ads on television meant to treat those diseases), because they are indeed true.) So it’s good to talk, and pretend you’re listening while I’m writing. But there are more important things to think about today, such as VOTING. If you have not voted, please please please do so. The fact that likely less than half of eligible voters will exercise their right in this election just drives me bats. Don’t get me started. Fortunately, I need to close here and load out and get on the northbound side of the road. It’s a beautiful day out there, but ain’t they all, somehow. Love and gratitude. Wind and leaves. And each of us, moving through it all.


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Tonight: Chicago! Plus: Vinyl Update

Dear readers, A quick note before beginning load-out of my room here in Effingham IL where the air always seems to contain the soundwash of trucks perennially rolling their eighteen wheels up and down the highway over there, like waves of wind. Doesn’t bug me really. What does bug me: the early, numerous, and heavy […]

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Update from Up Here: Southbound Slide

Hi folks, Just a short note to let you know I’m still among the living (not that you were wondering; it was I, actually)–something about pecking out a note to you does remind me that life is moving, and fast, and that you, if you’re reading this, and I, are moving with it. Hurtling through […]

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