So today I find myself enjoying a much needed day off, listening to rain that hasn’t let up since it woke me late this morning, following the first full night’s sleep I’ve had in several days. Though that’s certainly not to say that the last several days weren’t wonderful.
Thursday morning I woke up at 4 a.m. to drive to Austin for the day job. I’m not going to say that the training seminar was riveting in any way, but I’m so glad for the day that it afforded me. There’s really nothing quite like driving in the country in the early morning before the sun comes up. It’s the only thing that makes me want to be a morning person–standing on the edge of the day, feeling all the quiet energy that’s all just moments away from springing to life. And for 150 miles I had nothing to do but enjoy it. The sun rose in my rearview mirror, and I felt completely alone. But do not confuse “alone” with “lonely.” This was a very powerful solitude, and the uninterrupted time with just my thoughts and the slow-waking morning was cathartic in a way I often overlook.
The sunrise was softened by a light fog that grew visible at the same time I began to see the blackened remains of the forest fires that plagued the area only weeks before. If I’d had time, I would have loved to have just stopped and photographed the morning. It felt special. And I felt like I alone had a front row seat for the whole show.
I left Austin at a little after 5 that evening, once again watching the sun hang in my rearview mirror, with the perfect light creating the most spectacular shadows on the hills. I had the strangest sensation that I had opened up the day, and then zipped it closed behind me. These are wonderful moments. Moments that are so easy to miss if you forget to look. And I really think most people do forget.
I spent Friday afternoon working from home and getting ready to drive to Bryan for a show. I had to smile at the fact that I was sitting at home doing corporate work while being dressed for a gig. The two are amusingly incompatible. It’s funny to me how often people comment that I am so different in the two settings. I don’t really feel that I’m different–just that there’s really nothing for me to express at the day job. And that’s not to say that there’s anything specifically wrong with the day job, but honestly, it benefits from a lack of expression. We are expected to abide by templates and guidelines; creativity is not exactly useful most of the time. Looking at it otherwise is just an easy way to become frustrated.
Another 90 miles on the road, and we got to Bryan early in the evening with a full night of playing ahead of us. I love playing the First Fridays festival out there. It’s outdoors, with lots of foot traffic, and the people are so nice. We set up to play in front of a small music shop–very fitting–run by some of the nicest people you’d hope to meet. The night was a good one. I like the we way we catch people’s attention. Especially little kids. I don’t usually know how to interact with kids–I missed that day, I think–but when we’re performing, they always dance. The young parents almost always hand the kids some money to put in the tip jar. A dollar bill looks huge in a three year-old’s hand. I always smile. They look so happy.
During our breaks, people always talk to us. They fall all over themselves about John’s guitar playing or the stompbox or the vocals. Everyone has their favorite part. Regardless of what they’re focusing on, I think they’re just caught up in the fact that it’s something so different than anything else they will typically hear. We’ve had an uphill battle in convincing people who haven’t heard us that we’re not just a sleepy little acoustic duo. But once people listen to it, they know there’s something special there. Some combination of talent and energy and expression and an unmistakable chemistry and trust that’s been there from the beginning.
We played for some three hours before the Jimmy Buffet/top 40 cover band started up down the street, and we conceded the fight. Some guys running a barbecue stand down the block invited us over for food, so we started the break-down-and-load-up process (thank you, Emily and Chad, for the help!). The streets were closed off so we had to cart all the gear down the street and over some railroad tracks. One of us (I won’t say who) had decided that 4-inch heels were a good idea that night. It got interesting.
The half-ton of gear safely in the car, we went and hung out with the barbecue guys, bullshitting over a few beers until I saw the time and decided we should probably head home. My plan was to stay awake to help John drive. I made it about 10 minutes, then woke up about 30 miles outside of town, just long enough to complain about the horrible stretch of outlet stores that we always pass on that drive, and was out again. Sigh. I mean well. :-)
After far too little sleep, Saturday made its entrance. Over much-needed coffee, I finished getting all the music set up for the wedding reception of my dear friend Melissa. John threw a much smaller portion of our gear in the car since, in addition to running sound for the wedding, Melissa asked us to perform a song, and I began the unnecessarily complicated process of Getting-Dressed-For-a-Wedding.
We arrived in Angleton around 3:30 and got the gear set up to play. I was excited about the song we were performing. It’s an old song that was performed at her grandparents’ wedding in the 20’s. We had spent quite a bit of time reworking it into a format that we could perform well, since it was originally accompanied parlor-style by piano with operatic vocals. I rearranged the structure, wrote a couple of lines, and changed one of the verses into a chorus. John composed a beautiful accompaniment on the banjo, and the result is something that was far more beautiful and sweet than I’d set out to create. I was much more nervous performing that song in such an intimate setting than I’ve been at any other show we’ve played, even the early shows where I used to have to take off a day of work and kill a bottle of pepto-bismal beforehand. Ah, those were the days…
Despite me being a nervous mess, I was very proud of our performance. More to the point, I felt that we provided something very special to someone who has been a better friend to me than most. Sometimes–probably a lot ot times–I don’t express my feelings well. But I think this was a great way to let her know how much I care about her, and how happy I am to see her begin this next chapter.
We got home at an hour that felt much later than it was, and had some prosecco in Melissa’s honor. I slept more last night than I have in some time, only waking when the rain picked up. It was such a foreign sound. I really can’t remember the last time it rained for more than just a few minutes.
I’d like to think there’s some symbolism here. Like maybe things are starting to grow again, like maybe there’s a new chapter for all of us.
Or maybe, it’s just rain.
Either way, following a weekend full of music, love, creativity, hard work, and many, many miles on the road, it’s really just fine by me. :-)