Saturday, August 7, 2010

Adventurous Shadows

In our family, an “adventure” has always been my signal to announce a deviation from the normal routine, usually with no plan in mind, something I think is a lot of fun, but became a foul word during the years of my marriage. Hearing it, my kids would roll their eyes and groan, my son only recently explaining why.

“Mom would need to get out of the house,” he said, “And you would do whatever she wanted, but you’d always get into a fight and we’d be in the back seat wishing we could be anywhere but on an ‘adventure’.” Now I use the word just to tease him into a conspiratorial smile, much like I used to transform a frown into a grin when they were little by commanding them NOT to smile.

This one actually started with the plan of touring the campus of Pratt Institute as a possibility for architectural school. Since we would be in New York, it made sense to grab an opportunity to play some music as well. Booking a gig fairly easily with the hope of earning some gas money and increasing the songs’ exposure put the trip on.

Thanks to my dad and the timing of his support check, it was a rare time to travel without fear of having no money to pay the tolls. The freedom from worry allowed me to drive many of those miles scheming ways to get financially independent from my reliance on him for economic survival. The Road provides an inspired perspective, one of the main reasons I appreciate adventuring so much.

Banjo Jim’s turned out to be another small club made larger by the internet into something in my mind that might transform our humble musical careers. Full of vigor and equally allured, Dan and Ian drove down to meet us to play as three quarters of Birchwood Coupe. Despite the raunchy décor, some sweet mountain music greeted us, followed by very tasty jazz mixed with the heat of the blues. The guitar player was good enough to make Dan want to stay in his seat, but we had come this far already, we had to go on.

Some shows resonate with a juice that quenches our thirst, but this one felt as dry and dis-orienting as a desert. Half the audience left at the end of each set. The road had given us a strange blend of adrenalin and fatigue to crimp our fingers without a spare room to flex them before taking the stage.

In the small space, the shrill voice of a woman on a nervous date was an incessant interruption. The bar tender/sound man was continually outside on the phone, not able to help Dan hear his guitar. Our eyes rarely met nor energies melded until close to the end of the set when the humor of the disaster, much like the command not to, just took us over and spread my smile wide.

The enthusiasm of the other guitarist helped a lot to cushion the blow. He was a yoga teacher who had taken a class in Burlington once several hundred yards from my home and liked my songs well enough he hoped I would send him some he might be able to play. Sometimes the best results are in the shadows of our expectations.

The boys left immediately for home while Sawyer and I bumped through the potholes of Brooklyn in search of a clean-looking place to stay before his interview at Pratt in the morning. As none appeared and one AM ticked past, he figured out he really is not comfortable with the crowded intensity of this city and could not see himself in school here, so we skee-daddled to something cheap and clean in New Jersey.

In the morning, it was easy to find pancakes without real maple syrup. Throughout the miles, our banter had been quick and pointed with humor, especially around the word ‘adventure”, so I was waiting for the twisted punchline when he told me an old woman a few tables behind me had just passed away, but apparently it was the truth. We were witnesses to a peaceful transition in such a moment of normality, his first real sight of death was not in the least shocking or frightening, but inspired a wonderful conversation over the next miles.

Later, after a lifetime of accounts from all angles, and just happening to be passing by with time to spare, it seemed the perfect moment to experience the residue of energy at Yazgur’s farm still lingering after the Woodstock Festival 41 years earlier. I thought about it driving past the first exit and a strongly intuitive voice urged me to follow through with the impulse at the second one.

I envisioned a scene of the two of us on the hilltop over-looking the site that had defined an important part of my generation. A hug between us could pass the energy ever onwards. Even though I could not resist announcing this deviation as another adventure and he put on some atrocious rap music to pay me back, he was game to humor my intention.

We knew the site was actually not in the town of Woodstock, but figured it must be close enough by. We wandered around the countryside for a few random miles looking for a sign before, feeling silly, I stopped to ask. Turns out, it was an hour and a half away in a totally different direction, a diversion no longer worth the adventure. We had a good laugh that some voices might be better ignored.

Once again cruising north into Vermont on 22A, although he has acknowledged his discomfort with the large trucks barreling straight at us with the potential for a 120 MPH impact (he is good at math problems), Sawyer admitted the road laid on a luscious mat of green could be no better welcome home. He looks forward to the trip we must take one day across the country, cornfields to prairie to mountains to West Coast, father and son on an epic road of adventure, having gotten comfortable, even preferring, the lives of his two parents separated and happy.

Please share with your friends

No comments: