Good morning -
Writing to you once again on my phone after a very long night / late night / morning of traveling. But I made it to where I was going and I’m typing from the comfort of a large clean bed. Gimme a break on the typing errors etc
The music this week is a manipulated recording of me playing a piano with the windows open, letting all the sounds of people passing in the street and subways clanging by overhead wash over the spare chords.
I’m in North Carolina this week for today’s holiday and if you happen to be here, too, I will be playing a gig at the Nightlight in Carrboro on Friday!! I am very pleased that this worked out. Ask me if you need the info.
I wanted to write more but the story of being stoned on the bus took longer than I thought. I wanted to write about friendship and companionship, what it means to make a new pal. I wanted to ask you when was the last time you really made a new friend, when was the last time you really let yourself trust someone? I wanted to write about inside jokes, how friendship often means hiding within jokes as a way to carve out something against the world.
This is not the first time i have seen the sunrise from the generous windows of an overnight greyhound bus, but I do think this is the first time I’ve chosen to endure this type of bus passage as an act of love of devotion.
When I was 19 two friends of mine and I put together a misguided but extremely fun “tour” booked almost exclusively through MySpace. Musically it went okay (I remember playing an outdoor festival in Cambridge, the place they had me play was on a narrow side street so the audience and I stood on opposite sidewalks with carspassing in-between, I tried to sing over the traffic but at one point a box truck came to stop at the light, completely obstructing me and my view. I do not believe I was payed for this gig). We went all the way down to Atlanta (we saw tom waits perform while we were there and stayed at a friend’s recently deceased grandma’s house diligently working through the liquor cabinet that was a part of his inheritance) and then all the way back up to Chicago, where our friend with the Prius dropped off the tour. My remaining friend and I - now without our own vehicle - booked greyhound tickets from Chicago to Santa Ana, CA (my home town), taking advantage of the fact that, at least back then, your ticket wasn’t specified for a particular bus at a particular time. In other words, if your bus had a layover in Denver as ours did, you could hang out there as long as you wanted, taking whatever next bus was heading to San Francisco whenever you wanted, as long as there were seats. So I think we took something like three weeks to get to California from Illinois.
As you can probably tell, both the Prius portion of the tour and the greyhound bus portion of the tour were eventful, I can’t go into detail here, except for this one detail in particular.
On our last afternoon in Chicago the friend I was about to ride the bus with made a large batch of incredibly potent weed brownies in our friend’s parents’ beautiful apartment in Wrigelyville. We brought these treats with us in a large ziplock freezer bag and diligently munched on them as the various busses trotted cross country, which made everything about the journey more alien, more tender, and more potent - how Turner-esque and luminous the McDonald’s that served as a rest stop appeared as it emerged horizonish from the inky 3am black of deep Wyoming, how harsh and cutting the fluorescent overheads, how loud, how booming the announcement that we’d be taking fifteen minutes. We were fogged out for days at a time, underslept and overstoned, stepping cautiously like Mars’ first astronauts when we arrived for a long layover in Reno, precariously after most businesses had closed but before most had opened - I recall a life giving microwave burrito purchased and heated at the bus depot. But the defining moment was shortly after that McDonald’s siren call.
One thing I truly miss about the early 2000s is the prevalence of headphone splitters. It has been - and I can recall exactly when - 5 years since I last used one in earnest with a friend. But what better metaphor for friendship is there? Two people agreeing to occupy the same world, the same slice of media, tenuously and intimately connected by ears and electronics. As first light hit the previously impenetrable midnight curtain hung all around us, the first thing I noticed were the colors, colors I had never seen in the sky before: deep purples, fleshy pinks, the insanely potent citrus orange of the sun inching up. The second thing I noticed was how unbelievably massive the sky appeared to be, those colors were mile long brush strokes, it seemed like the earth ought to be crushed to dust under its weight. Started freaking a bit, maybe, but then my friend pulled out his iPod (with the click wheel, this was 2008) and asked if I had ever heard Harry Nilsson sing “Many Rivers to Cross.” I had not, and so he handed me one end of the splitter. We listened to it as the sun rose. I’ve listened to it many times since (a number of times while writing this) but I’ve never heard it ever again. The snare hits aren’t quite as booming, Harry’s voice is a little less tortured, the chords and guitarmonies unfurl a bit less majestically. But it’s still a good song, an amazing song even, and my friend told me afterwards on the bus that Harry Nilsson fucked up his voice forever singing it. He puts in his whole heart, drunkenly and cocainely wrenching it all out, with John Lennon urging him on.
That was as far as I got before our half hour layover in Raleigh. After that I was so exhausted that I couldn’t see straight.
Are you rumbling toward some distant glowing horizon? Are you on the bus? Do you have many rivers to cross?