Out There: How Did I Get So Lucky? A Tour Retrospective

Sitting back at home in East Texas, looking back at my time in the Northwest. I can honestly say this was the most satisfying times I have ever spent out playing music. I found all the folks to be warm and inviting despite or at least partially because of the grey cloudy, rainy and chilly weather. I made lots of new friends and refreshed some old connections. While I do not consider myself a people person, at least for long periods of time, I found myself actually enjoying almost every hour of it. When I think about this life I am now leading now,I almost can’t believe it. A couple of times I had to pinch myself and yelled out loud, “how did I get so lucky?”. I would wait and listen after asking but never got an answer. Bit then, I don’t think I really wanted an answer anyway. Some things are meant to savor and not question.

Think of this final blog from my 1st Northwest tour as vignettes or snapshots. Many written during the tour and not used in those blogs. As disjointed as they may be, they paint a picture in words of my experience.

…I get up too early for a real musician. I spent so many years in the corporate world that early rising is almost part of my DNA. So 7am is as late as I can sleep regardless of how late or early I went to bed. Damn my internal clock. Then I usually would get a few minutes of conversation over coffee with my last night’s host. Which is one of best parts of the whole day, except for the shows of course. A few minutes with a new or old friend, talking about nothing in particular but connecting on a deep level. The way only folks who see each other infrequently can. A very satisfying way to begin a day…

…I am a creature of habit, when I am home I have a pretty fixed routine. It is not intentional but it happens that way I guess because everything is familiar. However, being out in new places with new faces, all that routine is broken and I really try to welcome new and unique experiences as they come. That said, I am not good at just dropping by to visit total strangers, even when they are known it welcome such. My excuse is always that I don’t want to bother them. But, the reality is many times folks want to be bothered and I simply use that as an excuse to avoid the unknown. This time out, I did a better job of being open to new experiences. On one grey rainy day my friend Matt Meighan took me out to Gresham Oregon to the site of an annual festival, the Pickathon. There I met Sherry Pendarvis, an artist and one of the instigators behind the festival which takes place each year on their family farm. It was a surreal experience as she showed me the property where the festival takes place. A beautiful ethereal place in the hills not too far from Mount Hood. A rainy overcast day, huge fir trees, giant ferns and many sculptures like a giant lifelike elephant, random hand-built one off wooden structures and miles of trail with beautifully odd signage. It felt like a tour in middle earth. We walked while Sherry showed me the property ,we drank room temperature Papst Blue Ribbon beer that we had squirreled away in our pockets for the hike. It was an experience I would liken to hanging out with Ken Kesey, reality and surreality mingled into one strange trip of a day. Then she took us on a tour of her house and work area which was an artist’s fantasyland. She showed us a group of playable art instruments she had built. A Radio Flyer dulcimer, a wheel barrow bass and others. Wonderful off-beat quirky and wonderful pieces of art. The house was filled to the brim with unique art pieces, ceramics and instruments that I could not have conceived of. Sherry and her husband, who I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting, have created a wonderland of music, art and whimsy in the Oregon hills. I was treated as if I were a long time friend as we wandered from magical space to magical space on the the farm. It was a surreal afternoon I will remember for a long time a that on that rainy afternoon I manages to suspend my normal, over analyzing, critical internal dialog and simply was there in this magic space with wonderful people enjoying the now…

…So many moments on this trip will stay with me for a while. I could talk about being stuck for 2 hours in Seattle downtown traffic on a Saturday afternoon, moving a car length every 30 seconds and having to pee so bad I thought I would explode or having Mt Hood suddenly jump out in front of my rent car while headed for Bend, Oregon. One second it was foggy and I almost couldn’t see the road ahead and the next the sky was clear and the huge snow covered bulk of the mountain stood before like some crazy unreal movie set. I would tell you about the canyon outside of Warm Springs, Oregon. Everything a wintery grey except for the side canyons full of cottonwoods like golden torches so bright they hurt your eyes. Or, meeting the folks of Bend, Oregon who although I didn’t know a single one of them, made me feel like an old friend. All those memories will stay with me for the rest of my life…

…Perhaps the most memorable of the whole trip really had nothing to do with me in any way except as an observer. After my last show in Portland at the fantastic, newly remodeled concert room at the Alberta Street Pub, Matt and I headed to a gathering at a house a few blocks away. It is a monthly event in Portland called the Songwriter’s Soiree. I had been told that it was like an open mic and according to Matt it was as he put it; “the real Portland”. After a little searching we parked and went in an older house in a neighborhood, not too far from Alberta Street. The front porch was a sea of shoes, so we took off ours and headed inside. There must have been 75 people, almost all 30 or younger sprawled out and jammed together in this small living room in rapt attention to a trio in one corner on clarinet, bass and upright piano play a vaudville-esque song with a very catchy chorus. Every single person was singing along. They finished and were followed by musician after musician playing instruments both normal and weird, singing songs they had composed in a variety greater than anything I have ever experienced. Each person was treated with the same pin-drop silence and respect as the first group we saw. Everyone singing along when it was appropriate and then sending up a house-shaking cheer of delight as the end of each song. This enthusiasm was generated regardless of the quality of the performance. This was the world we dreamed of in the 60s but never seemed to achieve. I was amazed and elated. When we left about 1am, with the party still in full swing, I was struck by the thought that we will be leaving this world in good hands. These young people were supportive, accepting and truly understood and appreciated community. It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip. That night will echo in my head for years to come as an example of the way the world should be. Absolutely amazing! …

…Now, please be advised that being on tour, while certainly interesting, is not really glamorous. It is mostly waiting, a lot of waiting, even more waiting than you probably imagine. A lot of “hurry up and wait” goes on. I have to be prompt to get to my next show, which is often 100 to 400 miles away. With no ability to know about traffic conditions or construction I tend to give myself a 1 to 2 hour window of buffer time. Many times that turns into a situation where I arrive so early I have to cool my heels, napping in the car, a local park or writing a blog in a coffee shop. I am a natural early bird, a belt and suspenders kind of guy. So be there early for me works much better than being late…

This new life has proved itself to be infinitely rewarding and challenging at the same time. A conflict of infinities it seems I know. But none the less true. Perhaps it is simply my attitude that has changed and nothing else. I think that is the real answer to what I feel. Regardless of the whys or how’s the results are amazing to me and for now that is enough. When I am home for long periods of time, I tend to get in a rut and being on the road is really the same. Only a different rut. Oh, the shows are exciting: audiences to connect with and win over, meeting new people, extending the reach of my music and making new connections both musical and personal. That said, I wouldn’t trade it. I have dreamed of doing this my whole life. Questioning it all the while. Was I good enough? Persistent enough? Determined enough? But in the end, I had to ignore all the questions and doubts by simply getting out there and doing it. I was driving back from Seattle one Sunday morning on my way to Bend, Oregon which is a 7 hour drive. I caught myself smiling at the very thought of what was happening here. Oh, I was tired with only 4 hours or so of sleep, with 6 hours of driving still in front of me and missing home and Barb. But here I was, managing to fulfill a lifelong dream of being out here sharing my songs and music in new places, meeting new people and having epiphanies. My only response can be “how did I get so lucky?”. I can’t help but wish each and every person in the world gets to experience this kind of dream-come-true world. So consequently, I encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to follow your heart and your dreams to wherever they lead. It isn’t instant or easy and in fact it is scary and risky. But heck, life is scary and risky so what have you got to lose. If you should chose to do what I do, you certainly won’t get rich and in fact you will probably be lucky to break even. But I promise you, that you will not regret a second of the journey if you will open your eyes, arms and heart to embrace the unknown and simply let it happen. If a grumpy, old stick in the mud like myself can do it then believe me, anyone can.

Till next time, see you out there!!

 

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2 Responses to Out There: How Did I Get So Lucky? A Tour Retrospective

  1. Randy Palmer says:

    Randy, you said it well! All of us roving musicians can relate. I am so proud that you had such a successful tour.

  2. Jim Bush says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey. Very inspirational.

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