TOUR 2001



This Road I'm On


MID-JUNE

I took off across the country on schedule. I started gathering video immediately, an interview with Michael of the Terminal Freedom site, We met late at night just off the interstate to shoot in front of an empty mall. We sit and talk about independent music and the internet, the past and the future. Before I hit the road, I pull the dulci out and play there on the tailgate of the truck, with the wind storming out of the west.


The next day I play the Commongrounds Coffeehouse show in Minnesota. It is a small off-season crowd, summer in a college town. the ownners are nice people with a cool room, so it was a good, mellow start to the tour. They say to come back during school season, though I wonder if I ever will. So many places to play, too many places. Though that is one of the main concepts of driving instead of flying, to see if i can arrange stops to play along the way.


As I try to begin the story, I am once again struck by the sheer enormity of it all... so many scenes, so many people and places, a collage of images in my head, memories. The little bits of this and that I pick up and put on the dash or in my pocket; a stone from a riverbank or a decoration off the mainstage, gold nuggets I dug in the mountains and feathers I picked up on the seashore. Through it all weaves the music, the dulcimer and me, singing in the wilderness, singing at the fair. Like snapshots, I can't tell a tenth of the real story. I can only ask you to look at all the stories, like I look at all the things I take off the dash and out of my pouch, and feel the connection to so much more that happened. I am lost in the memories, vague or too clear, but all a person would see is a man staring into space, turning a small rock in his fingers, remembering this life of a folksinger.


I'm headed north and west, across the border and into Canada; so many scenes. That night, when I pull off to sleep short of Saskatchewan, I see the northern lights again, far to the north, but now in sight.
In the morning I pull into the first town for coffee. Foregoing the highway mini-mart/gas station, I find a local place in the one street town. After coffee, I offer to play for them if they like before I move along, and so I do. This is how my life works, being there with the music everywhere I go, asking nothing. I meet a nice couple from a town up north, and they give the contacts for a fair up there. Then I'm on the road, north and west, as thunderstorms march across the plains from the southwest.
I reach the Lesser Slave Lake just ahead of a storm, driving through the smoldering remains of a major forest-fire. I follow directions to one of the organizer's homestead. Nobody was there but a dog I made friends with, and I choose to stay there, seeking that quiet to rest and recover, to celebrate solstice alone with the beauty and intensity of nature, before the fair. The storm rolls in with thunder and pouring rain, then passes on. I write and play the guitar and the flute, and I listen to the wind and the river and the singing of the birds.

In the morning I'm at the fair early, connecting with the organizers and getting my schedule. Its a pretty laid back fair really, so I like it. I found out, though, that the video really got in the way. It just took up too much time, videoing other people. Though it was good to be able to be of service and I was able to video this great African drum and dance group. But I am not here to be a videographer, but to play music. I got some good footage, right in line with my ideas for the summer, yet that first fair made it clear that I had to curb my plans for video a bit and focus on the music first. I'm just one person.
I still had to make the effort to documenting the trip, but sometimes I just had to let it slip. As well, in the end, few people, and especially artists, were interested in participating in any depth with interviews or participating in the "live" cast idea, or even getting footage for their own use. Of course, they are as busy as me trying to pull off a fair or perform, and video does take time, and even if not a lot of time, a little extra effort. I found people were willing for me to make the effort for them. I had to take a stand where I would meet people half way, help them, but not do it for them. The end result was that there were only a couple people involved and neither one really pursued it or followed up on it.
But for my own use, I still got some great moments for the tour journals or future documentary works, the real reason I have this gear. I even kept up on the themes I started with.
Finally, I just didn't, and don't, know where the video is going, i.e., if there will be a public response to encourage me to put out energy in this direction. I don't know if and how this will be effective. The videos haven't gone on-line, and until they do, I can't get any feedback on whether these are worth doing, or whether to concentrate on what it is all about, the music.



LATE JUNE-EARLY JULY
I can't really say much, because it involves someone else and my code requires that I don't talk about someone else's private life, it's theirs to say, which makes this a little difficult. There's not much to say, she wasn't a big part of anything, but she pretty well disturbed this entire season, and not for the better. I guess it's simple enough.
I was playing for the kitchen staff after the fair as they cleaned up, and I met and jammed with a ladysinger who asked to go with me, and I said yes, without thinking. It was more than we bargained for. She originally said she'd make the whole Alaska tour, but after a couple shows and a few weeks she changed her mind and was gone; simple enough.
It wasn't any help to me, though. In fact, it was pretty much just a lot trouble and pain, once again. It felt like a really bad cosmic joke, to have something so right, like the dream come true, open and shut like a door into a dark room. So she goes back and I go on, pretty disrupted and discouraged really. She was really pretty oblivious to the fact, I think. I don't know that she was really aware of much that was going on sometimes. I still don't know the real from the unreal, the truth and the untrue, when it comes down to it. I don't know if I ever will. Though I don't want to be too hard or harsh, even if I think she's wrong and lost. I really can't say I've done that great with my life, and have pretty much ended up an emotional basket case myself. All I can do is be honest, that's just the way it goes, sunshine or rain. I've no one to blame, but I also accept the clear and strict consequentiality of actions. I can't complain about a guitar tuned by a deaf person, of course, or being bumped into by the blind. Though the biggest disappointment was it seemed like I'd finally found someone who could hear, could see.


It didn't help to have her on my mind, all the time. The whole summer was shadowed by the echoes. I was going places and doing things, unable to keep from thinking that it's just another thing she missed. I could have been such an incredible summer for both of us, maybe the best in both our lives; instead it turned into a bad summer for both of us. Sort of funny, I guess. We were going with a great flow, opening a door into something possibly great and positive for both of us, an escape from the past; then, she turned back. That's her choice to make. I feel new patterns and waves will emerge eventually, kaleidoscope-like, as the patterns shift trying to find another way to connect, channel and manifest this positive energy, some way, though maybe not for us. It seems like we had a great opportunity, and now its gone forever. Life is like that, you never go back to where you've been. A strange reflection, since I do return again and again to the places and people I know, the energies, yet some things happen so seldom, and many happen only once; like paths crossing, or someone I can sing with, going my way, someone fey. It was this wild thing, to meet someone so like me for the first time, and have them feel the same, and wanting the same things, and the music... then watch her throw it all away to go back to a life she could have left behind.

But we sang in the kitchen there at the fair, the first time, where I was jamming for the kitchen workers as they cleaned up and packed up. We sang rolling down the Alcan, north into the mountains and Alaska, and it was "so fine". We sang in Whitehorse, jamming in a music shop w/ back-to-back keyboards, singing with a band that night, and down at the park on Canada Day, and outside the coffeeshop. We sang in Delta Junction for the 4th of July, and visiting Dave and Lanna. We sang at Girdwood Forest Fair. Then we went on to Willow, to set up the recording gear. But instead of a weekend recording, and continuing this wonderful dream we were in; she decided to go, and things got pretty chaotic. I did managed to set the DAW up and we recorded few takes in the late night of a hard day; staying up all night to drive to Anchorage and put her on the bus in the morning. But I doubt I'll use any of it in the end, sad to say, and it hurts me to listen to it now.


MID-JULY
Reality returned immediately, as it always does, no time to stop in my life, not yet. I was immediately packing and on the road to Homer, rushing down to barely catch the ferry to Kodiak Island for the Lion's music festival. I left the DAW in Willow and went. It was close, too close, but I was there in time, playing their piano as we headed out to sea, and the night. It felt really good to be moving out to sea, on the deck of a ship again. It was great, jammin on the back deck with a couple guys from a band, no dulci, just singing and drumming w/ my hammers. Later, I'm at the piano, writing songs about a golden girl. I can show someone a door, a road, a Way, but they have to choose it of their own free will, not from what I do or say. It is not easy, and only a sure knowledge that comes from your heart and soul can keep you steady on that road, facing whatever comes. All I know is she missed the boat. This is living the wild life, to be here, now, leaning on the rail, the cold sea-wind, staring out across the misty water, mountain-islands looming out of the mysterious darkness, the strange luminous light of the fog, and the moon.

"in the night
my thoughts beat drums..."




In the morning I'm wheeling through the streets of Kodiak w/ the red wagon to "a good coffeehouse". It was, and I sit and look at the boats in the harbor across the street; fishin boats and a few sailboats tucked away in the corners. Till I coincidentally enough get steered to Mike, from the local radio station, who'd first suggested and connected me to the fair people. It's a small town, this mandolin player had heard about me, saw me there, and figured. Mike had me picked up and dropped at his place to stay till the fair. I help set up the radio station booth w/ them, key into the energy of the fair. It's not just playing... I'm there to be part of the fair, everywhere and every minute I can. I dive into the whirlwind and ride it through the fair, some strange days really. I just don't know how to tell you... hmm.. but the video cam was there! So many scenes... and the dulci.. and me... and the people.., from morning coffee to the fires at night...good and bad, sun and rain...another fair.

I ride it through, pretty good, actually. I am keeping my act really together, jammin hard, though it feels pretty chaotic inside me and around me. There are orcas beside the ferry as we head out to sea again, through the night again, and I play the piano and actually bring the dulcimer up on deck this time, to jam on the rear deck, the wake streaming out behind us. Eventually I fall asleep to the hum of the ship.
Back in Homer, it's the red wagon saving the day. I end up having to haul my gear two miles up the spit through a light rain to where the truck is parked by the terminal, now closed for construction! Up in town, I search around on the ridge and somehow remember the route to Jimmie and Christine's house (Jimmie "the former Beadman", now full-time carver). Christine is gone but I spend the day talking and helping carve antler beads, a bit of work to pass the time, talking when we take breaks. A good gentle space to relax after the fair, losing myself in the repetition and rhythm of the work, letting energy flow.

I went back to Willow to mix-down the takes, make a copy for her, as I promised. Though it ended up being a month and a half before I even heard from her again, to know where to send the CDRs. All that mattered to me was to really be there, true to my words. But all in all she just made a hard road harder, and her voice echoed on in my head for a long time, our voices. Though she'd written a good song, and I started singing that a bit. Always good to find a song I want to sing. I had the roughmix CD of the session to play for everyone, who'd first been told she was doing the tour, then that she was not. They might be a bit curious? But what could I say? At least, listening to the music they could understand some of why I said "yes", without even thinking.


LATE JULY
In fact, when I should have been on the road to the Deltana Fair, I'm still finishing up the mix. This was the first time I used the real digital signal processing capabilities of PARIS, mixing two takes that didn't match in tempo at all, and one track was only a partial version of the song. I was late to the fair, though, which also was a first for me. I got the dates wrong, expecting a sat-sun instead of a fri-sat-sun, and was too rushed and distracted to double check. But I made it there and it was a good show. The sound there is really fine and deep, and Mike has the dulci tuned in good.

I stayed with my friends from Gold Creek, of course, helping them settling in on the new property. I spend the week working; pouring a concrete slab for the well-house, moving loads of lumber from the mill to the place, building. I like this kind of work a lot. When I was young, my dream wasn't to be a travelling performermer, but a homestead farmer, designing and building my own house, raising horses and honeybees, having a home and a family. It didn't turn out that way, though, so at the end of the week I'm off to Fairbanks.


AUGUST
The Tanana Valley State Fair... its still just great. Those people are so kind, and the crowd is cool, and I've days to play. I see it that way, despite how I felt, and just the drain and tiredness as the fair went on, the rain and distractions and noise, the hard times in the gold mines. But I don't mind, because I have another day to play, to let the music flow, minutes and hours, so I grasp the chance and went out to sing, to jam, as the people flow by like a river, and the energy comes in waves. It was good, sometimes it was great; but I'm still riding white-water inside; but getting it done, and done right. For ten days, a pretty hard pull, and the end of the festival season for me.


So many thoughts late at night, as I am sitting alone in the performer's trailer or wandering about the deserted fairgrounds. There is a kaleidoscope of images and scenes echoing in my head from the fair, from the whole summer of fairs, a life of fairs. But it was good, strangely. Despite it being pretty tough all told, in so many ways, I felt I was jammin steady, jammin hard and clear and bright, and that's all that matters.


MID-AUGUST
Then its over and I'm heading north on the haul road, north to the Brooks Range and the Arctic Slope. I visit friends and play for them in Wiseman. Then I head out to go and camp where the golden eagles are circling overhead. I climb the mountains and walk in the clouds. I dig some gravel and sluice out a bit of gold. I write songs and sing, playing the guitar, letting the dulci rest after a long run. I stare into the flames of my fire on a cold starry night.
I made a mistake this time, agreeing to meet John at his claims up on Valdez Creek in the Alaska (central) Range, instead of having more time in the Brooks Range. I'll know better next time, because this time I only had a day touching each energy. I need the time out in the wilds, and enough time to slow down, enough time to start relaxing and centering. That was the old balance of my life, the music and crowds, then the recovery period in the wildlands and wild sea-islands. I used to say that I had achieved a stable pattern by balancing waves of mutually exclusive energies, stability in balanced oscillation, not by maintaining a static arrangement of forces. It worked, but I have to give it the time it takes. I can walk or sail or stare out to sea, or at the stars, or the mountains ranging into the blue distances. I used to say I was "breathing in" the energy I breathe out though the music, literally, "inspiration". The beauty and the intensity, the harshness and the hard reality, the pleasure and the pain, it's all there. Just as much, I can finally relax a bit in the lack of irritation, stress, and disturbance; in the natural harmony of nature.



I took the road south to Fairbanks and Cantwell, and up the Denali Highway to Valdez Creek. John, well, he never made it, but I was there, and got to know and stay with some local folk on another claim. It was a great visit, meeting some good people. I climbed the mountains to the places where the eagles rest. This place seemed so open, almost treeless, after the forests of the Brooks. I dug a little more gold. I played the dulci for them in their "miner's shack" as the northern lights danced.

But there's never enough time, and I'm soon on my way to Delta Junction. This time I help pour another concrete slab, for a hot tub, and I also build them an outhouse from the lumber I'd help move last time I was there. The weather turns and a heavy front hits. It's pouring rain in the morning, but I'm soon pounding the last nails, and then I'm making tracks east and north. I break out ahead of the rain just as I hit the gravel on the road to Eagle on the Yukon River. It's beautiful as I drive through the clouds, with the colors coming on strong now, bright reds and yellows, on the open tundra covering the rounded ridges; summer's gone.


SEPTEMBER
I spend two whole weeks in Eagle, teaching in the school and recording at night. I teach the regular elementary music class, working on rhythm right then. I did a program on digital video processing for the highschoolers, videoing a seminar on orienteering, and making the footage into a movie. I took advantage of all the percussion toys to build a percussion track for "Jam on the Beach", and then layer up some guitars, keyboard, and voices. I thought it somehow appropriate that I record the song in the place I wrote it a year ago. I also threw off a quick take of the song she wrote, while it was in my head. I'm keeping up my side again, just in case, by putting together some backing tracks both of us could layer on, vocals and dulci, like we talked about, ready for lead work in Montana. Though I know she's gone. She didn't have what it takes, and I don't expect her to change.

I also got a call from Florida on Monday, bad news. It seems the guy I let stay on the boat totally blew it and messed my scene up big time. He never took care of anything, lost both dingys and the outboard, and very seriously, he didn't put on the new mooring chain I left for him. So the first I hear of it is a call from one of my neighbors in the harbor that one of my boats is on the beach after a storm. I am very lucky and sincerely grateful that these were good people and called me. If could have contacted friends or someone to take care it, there was still a chance the boat might still come off easy, probably undamaged, on the high tide, before the next storms and higher tides. I had no one to call really, but I'm glad they called, just to know someone cared enough to try, and I thanked them for it. I lay awake late that night, afer working late, with a troubled mind, thinking about the troubled times. It seems like a storm was storm, so many bad things happening, not just to me. The next day the World Trade Center was destroyed.



SEPTEMBER 11TH
Alaska was affected instantly and seriously. Out in the bush, everything comes by airplane. Eagle has a 160 mile dirt road to the highway, but the mail stopped. I have my relatives in DC of course...
This is the story of my tour, so I don't feel like this is the place talk about these events. But people seem to ask me what I think a lot. I suppose I have to say something, though all told, I'd rather be silent.
There was no great shock for me, no surprise. For me, nothing changed, really. I have always really looked at the state of the world, and watched it all happen. I'm a folksinger, a social activist, a philosopher. I study history and watch current events. I am a sailor and a traveller. I look at not just where I am, but more, the course I am on, we're on. I've seen so much of the road our world is headed down towards many disasters, and it seems like I've spent my life watching the pieces fall, trying to do what I can. We're all in the same boat and there's no way out, and my hand isn't on the wheel. It hasn't been much fun, really. For me this was the latest tragedy in a long string of tragedies, and they all hurt. Life is beautiful and terrible, again and again, and I just try to ride the waves. I hope this will become a turning point in the right directions, I always hope it will, but I don't know, often it is not. Instead, the forces I fight again use it to steer America away from the long road to freedom and justice, use it to justify more injustice and less freedom, more hate and fear, not cooperation and understanding. Personally, my mother, sisters, and niece all live in the DC area, and I've talked with them about my fears, and the possibility, no, the probability of just this sort of event for years. I was so relieved that it wasn't worse, this time. And it is not the beginning, nor the end. I can tell you one thing for certain: "I told you so" doesn't make me feel any better.



MID-SEPTEMBER
I got on with life. I didn't watch the television all day, didn't get caught up in watching the train wreck. Though I was woken in the morning by my hosts to see the news, we both went to the school soon after. When we arrived, Ann, the principal, raised the flag to half-mast. But I felt it somehow appropriate that on the day of these events, we were teaching children. I taught the elementary music class that day. I remember thinking that for these kids, the day's events really had no real conscious effect or meaning. It was my job to teach them and make it a good and fun time, and that's what we did. We were working on rhythm, so we drummed and marched and danced and chanted, teaching the basics, mind and body.
Everything was piled up into a rough ride this time, but I was getting it done. I finally heard from the ladysinger in Alberta, which stirred things up again. Though I was still in the dark, I'd read the play before, another unfortunatelystupid tragedy. I was keeping track of the boat and events down there in Florida. I was recording and teaching, and looking at the great Yukon flowing by.


I made contacts with other schools from Eagle, and made all the arrangements for the final loop, working around the two coffeehouse gigs I already had; Into the Woods in Fairbanks and Meads in Wasilla (near Anchorage) as the final show. I could have done more, maybe, but frankly, with everything that had happened, I let it slide. I didn't have the enthusiasm and energy for it, though it is really important that I connect with more places to play up here. I'm still getting there, heading in the right direction. I push myself to the max, I don't have to push harder, its already been a long trip, and I'm not done yet. We take my friend's boat up the river to the border and float down, just to enjoying the peace there for a while, drifting downstream. As the colors peak at the river level, I'm on my way, up into the dead-brown mountains, the first termination dust just a sprinkling on top of Mt. Fairweather, white in the shadows.


I begin two weeks of school shows and driving the loop. First I teach at Tetlin, a village that has just gotten a summer road this last year, still impassable in rain, but I took advantage of this rare clear fall and made it in Monday night, and out Tuesday just ahead of rain. I stop in Delta Junction and clean the car and visit, but am on to Fairbanks Wednesday evening, to get up and teach classes Thursday.

I play at Into the Woods coffeehouse that night. They are facing eviction after 5 years in a great location, the University wants to capitalize on the land more office space instead of alternative coffeehouses... an old story. But I play, and the hours slip away. I still am pushing hard on a tight schedule, which means I drive over the mountains to Nenana that night. I'm on a pull-off outside town by 2 am.

I'm up in the morning early to teach classes at the school. During their lunch, I go play for the senior center's luncheon just down the street. I am really hitting my stride at this point, the schoolshows are concise and fun, I make my points and the kids love it. The teachers and principals are glad they asked me to come, and my ability to grab and hold their attention, and keep order while having fun. Good energy all the way, and I'm making it happen, me and the dulci.



I visit with Miles, "Wild Miles", at his place in Nenana. He's met a woman through the internet, maybe I should try that avenue. I suppose it means I'd find a ladysinger who was computer-savvy, somewhat, at least. We go into his shop and video an interview, as he's a crafter at the fair. I play guitar out in the yard as the sun sets on another beautiful fall day, and an amazingly long late Fall. Miles and I talk, we are both similar character, with plenty of stories behind us, trying to fit into the civilized world.
In the morning it is cold, but we take his boat out for a run on the river, pretty wild! My first time on the Tanana River, yet it is boats and water, surfacing in my life once again.



I am on to Willow again, to spend a day working on KK's computer and get her business based in it rolling again. But Sunday night I am on the road, sleeping by the sea on a pull off a few miles short of Girdwood. I get up in the morning and go teach classes all day, doing a final performance assembly at the end of school. I check, but my friends have left the rental and moved up to their own place near Talkeetna, so I've no reason to stay longer.

That evening I'm trying to look up people to visit in Anchorage. Half the folks are busy, but half aren't! So I go to the library and play the piano there for an hour, echoes of other years as I play and look across town to the ridge of the mountains. I stop and visit with Mark of Kachemak Cooperage at the woodshop, then go on to see Tony, and crash there.
The next day I really don't do much. I am just beat, all these shows and not enough sleep, a lot of driving and "irregular meals". So I take it slow that morning, do the accounts. At that point, I am about $200 short for the summer, with the trip back south and east still ahead. Though I have the Mead's show ahead (I will make $40, only a few people there), all these school and senior shows are volunteer. I figure I'm still ahead from the spring streetscene enough to break even for the year, though. Maybe I can hit the street in Seattle or DC before the holidays, and not eat much! Hey, it's the romantic life of a traveling musician; pass the ramen, please!

I do a show at the senior center, visit Graham,"the sound man" in Alaska, then head out and north, to sleep off the highway, up the old road near Eklutna. I get up in the morning and drive in to teach classes in Palmer, stopping at Vagabond Blues for coffee. In the afternoon I stop at Trinity Lutheran, but Kathy, the Pastor, is in Chicago and D'Roaster is out, so I drop off some CDRs and I head for Willow again, to get some work done that night on the internet.

In the morning I am on the road back south to Wasilla to play at the senior center and teach classes at the elementary school. I end up at Meads getting ready to play that night. That I do, and though there's only about 8 people there, its a good show. Pretty typical for the time of year here, too late for tourists and too early for the locals, but I don't mind. It's really all one show to me, and I just keep playing. Its easier to really play for fewer people, to connect and play what reaches them, share some songs. This is the last coffeehouse show of the Alaska tour. This summer season is over for sure.

I return to Willow and have a message from Talkeetna, and schedule a show for Monday, though I am pushing my luck with the weather. But this is my job, my duty as I see it, so I don't think twice. I've done about 40 shows in the last two weeks at six schools, two senior centers and two coffeehouses. I've driven from Eagle on the Yukon to Girdwood by the sea and back to Willow. This is also the one of best times of the whole season for me. Both because I am really hitting my stride, tired as I am, and the school shows are coming off great, without any hitches. I am definitely reaching the kids and teaching a good lesson, and doing a great show all told. I am using my music to do something good, and to do something that feels "Right", which is the fundamental basis of my life. I have no doubts or questions, it is all bright moments of light, beaming into this strange, wild life; shadowed by so much darkness.


I watch the dark gray clouds rush out of the west, and they are calling for snow to the north and on the mountains. The first snow, time for me to go. Just a little reminder that winter will be here, no matter how nice a fall its been. The mountains are still brown, they'll be white by morning.


OCTOBER

I had planned to just make a few short stops; in Fairbanks, Delta Junction, and Tok; then head for Montana. I did stop in Fairbanks long enough to finally trade in my Montana Driver's License and for an Alaskan one. I had to face the facts, just as my friends had been telling me, that I am a resident of Alaska now. Perhaps by default, but the fact is I do spend more time in Alaska than anywhere else, by a long shot. And I keep coming back as often as I can. For a person like me whose work keeps them on the road much of the year, this is an important observation.
I'd tried getting an AK license a couple years before, but failed because half the questions were about what happens to you when you drink and drive. Well, I rarely drink, and don't drink and drive, so I wasn't up on the information and failed the test. They have bad problem with alcohol in AK, like a lot of places, so the driver's test seemed more like an anti-DWI tactics then a test of the rules of the road. But I got the manual this time and studied the questions on alcohol and passed. So now it's official, though my friends in Montana were bummed to lose me after all these years, the truth is I have spent most of my summers in AK for the last ten years, and not Montana, like I did before.

My friends keep telling me as well that from their point of view, I'm really very much an "Alaskan"...as a reflection of who I am, the life I live, and what I have done in Alaska, and what I do here for the people of Alaska. That's what drew me there and kept me here, or coming back, which is really the same thing for me. Even if I do fly south for the winter, well, so do the geese... and no one would deny they are Alaskan.. except maybe the Canadians! Then of course, the house I've used as my residence in Montana was sold to the developers last year and for all I know is townhouses now. Figured that it might be funny at the border to have an address on my license that doesn't exist. The end result is the same, and while its really just a technicality, everything in my simple life tends to be significant, and finally changing my license is one of those things.

However, when I reach Delta Junction and Dave and Lanna's place, I find the foundation for the house is still not done. Dave's been plagued by tractor breakdowns as well as all the other distractions, while at the same time, its only a bit over a couple weeks since I was last there and took pictures of him breaking ground for the basement and foundation. Well the hole was there, nearly, but that was all. I stood there talking to Dave and looking at the hole and knowing he wouldn't make it before freeze-up. I said that we could probably just finish it off by hand, and forget the tractor. We talked a bit, arguing the point; then I just grabbed a shovel and started digging... and well, Dave watched a second, sighed and grabbed a shovel too. I was right, though, a solid day's work and we had that hole squared out, cleaned up and leveled, and he ordered concrete. I checked with Joe in Montana, and he wasn't ready yet down there. We poured the slab for the basement floor with the help of another friend. While it set up a day, we got the rest of the stuff together, and began setting up the forms the next. It was one of the systems for casting insulated concrete, using styrofoam forms with plastic braces inside and temporary wood framing outside. It holds the heat the concrete puts off while curing so that you can pour even in freezing temps. Which was handy, since it snowed the night after we poured the walls. Talk about timing... something I am pretty good at, I have to be, and it feels good when it all comes out right, cosmic clockwork clicking away.
This was something I really felt good about. To be a friend when needed, and to have my sense of timing so justified and accurate, and the sense of being at the right place at the right time; like playing music. Of course, it is great to be able to come in when a friend has been working long and hard and is getting discouraged by problems. They're trying to put on a good face, but they're stuck, and I come in with energy and motivation and... whatever it is that just makes things happen, determination? I tend to be that way, I don't have time to think really, and there has been so many years now when I just couldn't. Life was so hard and dark all I could do to survive was focus on getting it done, whatever it was. Or maybe it's years of listening to people talk, while I went and did it, till now, I listen and nod and keep right on doing what I'm doing, making it happen, and not stopping to wait. I can't, because I'm on a train that's moving, and it's not stopping. It's like I said once long ago; it seemed like the choice was to go and do whatever alone or not at all, and I went. So as a result, I can be real handy when you need to get things done! I may not always be fast, or be overly enthusiastic, but I am deliberate, determined, and I get it done, I get a lot done. I do work fast, actually, quite a lot, and well, I put out a lot of energy. As Dave put it, he can't say how much he appreciated my being there, and he'll have to spend a few days flat on his back recovering from my visit after I'm gone!

It also seemed a strange sort of energetic coincidence, that this type of energy, building a home, should manifest so strongly in my life just now. Its like potential energy building up, maybe. Or perhaps that this energy is in me or my life and manifesting in what I do with and for other people, or the path I am on is entering this place I haven't been in a while. Suffice to say, this year has manifested a lot of concrete things! On a practical level, while I am thinking about building my own place, I get this opportunity to make a detailed and specific list of the present costs of everything involved in setting up a cabin in Alaska. Yet the geese and cranes circle overhead every day, huge flocks, heading south.
The snow fell, and settled in solid, and winter was here. But the foundation was done, even if we had to break down the scaffolding in the snow. Now the company crew could come and build their log house, and Dave could spend the winter finishing it out. But the critical point had been reached and the concrete poured before the cement plant closed for winter. We made it by 24 hours. We had built a chicken pen as well that day, and got the chickens in; that night it really snowed, amazing this years flock. The final job was setting up the oilstove and insulation in the well-house, which we did, and I promptly moved inside for the few days left. My work here was done, we'd finished the foundation and made a lot of things winter-ready, and I was ready to head out with the first break in the weather.

We had a few days flurries and blue skies, but what came next was a major storm. I watched it coming on, but I stayed one more night. I felt like I'd blown it as I woke to a raven calling me to get up, and found light snow falling, then heavy snow. I didn't wait but pulled out within the hour, wondering if I'd blown it for sure, but figuring I'd wait it out in Tok and visit folks, if I couldn't get ahead of it. The first 60 miles were bad, blinding snow, but then I broke free to flurries and 10 miles short of Tok I was on dry pavement and ahead of the storm. I pull off just long enough to drop CDRs at the off the road house for Helga, then I head out fast, and the race is on. The flurries are starting even as I head out, and the road is still patched with snow, but a 100 miles east at the border, I am ahead of it again, and intend to stay that way. I end this chapter and leave Alaska behind, for this season.


I am once more in my element, on the open road, running ahead of the storm. Soon I'm in a world I know too well, the dark highway, my light illuminating the black and white world of asphalt and snow and the endless white lines flashing by. I watch hard for the critters I know will be out there. Once again I wrestle with my thoughts of the summer, and what lies immediately ahead of in Canada. I know seeing her is going to be a pain, knowing I have it to do. It's riding on the old recurring dread of what is actually still far ahead, in miles, but not time.. or memory. I am heading south, the winter circuit, and it triggers the memories. Even as I try to focus on practical plans for the future, other thoughts crowd in the shadows and around the edges. I am practical, focusing on what I have to do ahead, on the way south, in Montana, in DC, in Florida, in Mexico, next year in Alaska. As I drive, I'm also reflecting on the trip, now that it is behind me.. There's so many threads in this life, and I can't tell you all of what goes on, how the images and thoughts weave and cross and fill my mind. There's a way some things begin to stand out clearly as I drive on through the night, and the miles and hours roll by.

"It's the things that people do
the things that people say
it's so many thoughts on a dark highway..."


MID-OCTOBER
I arrive in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, about 11pm after an 11 hour drive. I awaken to hard snow in the morning, the tail end of the storm ahead of me. I run into Peter, a local inventor I met last year, here at the Midnight Sun coffeehouse ( a great place to stop) and I end up being invited to stay at his place while I wait for the storm to get ahead. I try to connect with the local music scene, and not much do I find on such short notice. Though Whitehorse actually has a good music scene. I tune up and play there at the coffeehouse for an hour, and catch my e-mail and write in my journal. It's the life of the traveling musician. I have e-messages from the stops in Edmonton and Calgary, and no word from Peace River... though I don't expect that anymore, that much consideration. I meet up with a local person who's e-mailed a couple times since we met last time through, and I string up their guitar and play it a bit. I've been playing the guitar a lot more after getting the new machines this Spring here in Whitehorse, in anticipation of the session with Joe in Montana this Fall. That night there is a open mike, so I head over and play. Sort of funny scene... I am up second or third or something, after the MC.. and I just continue to play off of her set list. I head over to Peters and we talk a bit, but we both need sleep and I get out from the cold for a night in his spare room. Another of the good people I'll try to remember, just as the bad ones haunt me.
In the morning the storm behind has caught up but as rain, and I wish I had pulled out the night before. This is some of the worst driving of the year... heavy rain on top of 6 inches of packed snow, and turning to patches of dangerous deep slush, with the big trucks flinging gravel. In 60 miles the windshield has gone from one crack to five. A clear reminder of how much cheaper it is to fly than drive. But I focus and hit it hard and finally, luckily, break ahead of it just before I reach the mountains. You have to respect the winter, and the mountains, especially here. There's nothing to do but stop and wait if I miss the window. But I don't, and the storm goes from rain to snow to flurries to dry pavement and stars, and cold. I am watching for critters. They are coming out of the high country ahead of the storms as well. A couple moose, caribou, even a black bear and it's cub. The cub is suddenly running down the road dead ahead in my lights, and I'm trying not to hit it, or slow down too much or stop and get attacked by ma right behind chasing me for chasing her cub! Yeah, the Alcan is an interesting road to drive. I don't like making this stretch in the dark, but I push on till I'm over the mountains, I have to stay ahead now. I feel good though that despite the trouble getting out of Whitehorse, I've really timed it perfect, to thread this window of clear air right where I need it, east through the couple hundred miles of serious mountains. I reach Ft Nelson late and tired, gas up and head south another 60 miles to a pull off and sleep. I don't know how many miles for the day, a pretty good jump.
In the morning there's fog, which slowly thins and lifts as I head south now. In a few hours I see the clouds edge off the horizon to a sky and sun ahead. Finally I break free into the sunshine by the time I reach Ft. St. John and the end of the Alcan. I'm ahead of the storm once again.

I pull into Peace River that night. The next day the first snow arrives. And you know what, I'll spare you the details. But it was pretty much what I expected, a nightmare. Perhaps that was what was necessary, to confirm my intuition. It certainly made sure I wouldn't be having any real doubts about the situation after that. I put up a good firewall to keep her away as well. I did a great show, though I walked through fire to do it.. a very painful experience.. disgusting, too, but I was weeping when I was headed south down the highway later.
I know I did Right, one more time, though I wonder why my road takes me where its gone, why it was Right. The experience was a big pain, I want to understand why, to avoid it, or see what in me it reached for better or worse, what it reveals. There must be something that has nothing to do with her personally. I can't explain it, maybe meeting someone so like me was a very unique experience in my life. Maybe it was seeing the way someone I can sing with, share the music with, can reach me despite all my fear and distrust, all the walls. Life has been so lonely for me, and I know from horrible experience that being with someone wrong is worse, but maybe this was to show me maybe there is a way, there are people like me out there, singers and mystics, one foot, or one eye, on the other side. Though I don't know if this makes it easier or harder.


Thinking that if I can find someone like me, who could understand what it is like, what its been like, who could live in the world I live in, who feels the forces that move me... as clearly as night and day are to others. Someone who's lost in the music and the mystic, the magic, whatever it is. I once thought anyone could learn to perceive as I do, and maybe they can... I still don't know... but I feel more and more like it is something as natural as musical talent, and maybe no more rare. And of course, all talent and no training and practice... I'm glad I didn't have to invent music.

I've always dreamed of finding a ladysinger to live this life with, for so long now. To finally have it happen "just like I'd dreamed," but turn out to be a nightmare instead... not my idea of a good time. Yet maybe it will motivate me again. I can't deny how big a difference it made to have her there, even if it wasn't really her. I haven't been happy much in so long, so long since I laughed or smiled, except when I'm playing. A strange place to end up. I seeing that no matter what I do, and how great my life is, the loneliness has grown to shadow everything. There's this one small piece missing from the mix, and nothing is right without it

Somewhere on the drive south, I was asking myself whether I could write something positive, a happy song. Last year in Eagle, when I asked myself the same question, I wrote "Jam on the Beach". So I tried to remember how it was those first couple days, when everything was so great, a dream come true, and write a song about just that golden moment. The golden moment itself, when it doesn't matter where you are, you are there, and everything is perfect; the moment I seek. The dream too, still alive somehow after all I've been through. Like some hazy golden snapshot, it was one of the best songs of the trip: "SoFine".

"rollin down the road
the sun is shinin through the window
tires hummin
engine runnin
and the sky is blue
and your eyes are too
and the clouds are so white
and everything is so Right
you reach down and turn the radio on
and everything is sofine
sofine, sofine, sofine, sofine..."


One thing I should mention. It's that, hmmm, essentially people seem to take this all too seriously. I mean, it is serious, and too real, but I've had so much training it's no danger to me really, though the damage is there. I am in control, no problem. "Emotional" and "psychological" damage is as real as a broken bone, if biochemical. I just go on, either way, dealing with it but pretty much ignoring it, trying to avoid more of it as much as I can. When I can't, I walk through the fire and come out the other side. I keep on doing what I have to do, and walking this road I'm on, even if not near so well as I might have had things worked out differently, of course. The bad and ignorant people have caused me harm, just as the good people have helped me. I had no luck finding a partner, and that's such an important part of life, it seems like, in the end. But that can't stop me. I have wild raging emotions, but "I" dwell inside myself in a place they cannot reach, I watch the storm rage and thunder about me, the waves wash over me, rollercoaster rides and all; but I am like the rock, the mountain, the ancient tree on the mountain. I feel it all, but it only hurts. But it isn't important, or, hmm, not a big priority just how I feel, if that makes sense? If something makes me feel bad, I don't fight it or deny it, I just let it wash over me, and I carry on with my work. That's the point, I've got a job to do, and that is my overriding priority. I've meditated and fasted, trained physically and mentally, studied and practiced to focus my energy and balance it in motion, with intent, grace and power, dance, sing, harmony. I couldn't explain it, but I Knew when I did it Right, close as a few words can get. Anyway, "it's a whole 'nother world!"


In fact, I think it is the very security of this solid foundation that let's me release my emotions to do as they please. I am not scared or even concerned over the result. I am always in control, always aware of what is really happening. Even when I know the damage is as real as any obvious physical damage. I feel the same way about my body. I mean, physical pain does not move me, either, though I feel it, maybe even feel it more, and I know I can be hurt, even permanently crippled or killed. Yet this doesn't move me, or threaten me, or keep me from any action I have to take. Of course, I avoid it if I can, but I don't flinch if I can't. Steel and fire, I can be hurt, I can be killed, but I cannot be moved against my will, and I do not fear the darkness, even inside me. So, really, though there's real and serious pain and sadness, and a lot of trouble, these things are nothing I worry about. It's just the way it goes.


On the road south, I was back in the familiar weird space of having so much going on inside me, the serious emotional reaction to this really negative, stressful experience, while trying not to let it spread to people who really have no part or knowledge of it. They have no need to know, and in fact, shouldn't know. I don't want the negativity to spread, like ripples in a pond, as I tell a sad story. I want to move on, be distracted from it, forget about something that deserves to be forgotten.... not drag it on into every following experience with every conversation. But it is a stange place though, I was probably obviously tense and over-wrought; overlaid on some serious road burnout and sleep deprivation. Truthfully enough, I was definitely riding a serious burn, tired and worn out, at the end of a long series of shows, and a whole summer, a big drain and strain with unescessary pain and trouble thrown in; then this nightmare visit to top both off.

But I have a life, a pretty cool one, when I head on and leave that sick, stupid world behind. I reach Edmonton and meet up with another musician I connected to on the net, trying to make that idea work. It's the same concept as last year, seeing if I can use the Internet music networks to connect with people, to jam and talk music with along the way, or just visit, trying to get some recreation and inspiration out of it, and a break in routine as well, both for me and the people I visit. If it really works, it would help justify driving instead of flying, which is still not a sure thing at all. I'm hoping that even these first few contacts might help me connect with their local scenes eventually, if I keep this circuit up. But as far as this year goes, I really don't know where I'd find the time to spend in more places even with the contacts! Yet the stops along the way were a nice change, even the short ones. Though I often burnt myself out more physically doing it, pushing to fit in more, rather than really getting any recovery time, it felt good, breaking the isolation of my life a bit.
There's not much time, but we're able to talk a bit about life and music and the local scene; and jam a few tunes in his basement, and have coffee in the morning before we both get off to our lives- he had to run around town and I had to race on down the road.

Calgary is next and that turns out to be a good stop, all told. I connect there with Will a.k.a. "Waldo", the founder of Nowhereradio.com. He's one of the people I want to do a video interview with, on the theme of showing the people behind the scenes of the internet independent music scene. I'm also there to touch base on the plans to implement the new economic model I want to use for producing my music for people, a subscription-based patronage system. But that's another story. In the short time we had though, I wasn't that interested in talking business. We've done and continue to do that through the internet. The video interview, and the chance to meet ion person, and just talk with someone with similar interests; was more important. We can actually shake hands, and talk about whatever comes to mind, and hang out with his friends at a local pizzaplace. Some of his friends are in a band, so I agree to stay an extra day and jam with them the next night.
I head out of town and sleep next to a construction area, always a good bet if you don't mind getting up early. But at least there are no residents to call the cops. I head in to the coffeshop I found and before going to meet Will for the interview at his place at noon. I don't feel it went as well, though I haven't reviewed the footage. We ended up talking more than interviewing, i.e., I talked as much as he did, which wasn't the idea really. But at least Will is seriously into video, so he has the means to do more footage himself if mine is not enough.
Afterwards I head to the library for internet access, till its time to jam. I go over to one of the guy's places and we just jam on guitars for a while. We go from there to the practice basement and a few hours of rocking out with the dulci. I also get a chance to play an old Fender Rhodes mark 1, pretty cool, though I'm not in shape for it. I really respect something with a history, not newness...the trackrecord instead of the promotional baseless hype. While I had played more guitar this year, I played a lot less piano. It was a fun jam, though, and like any jam it had its moments, both types! Finally, we headed over to a local bar, mostly just a place to talk and wind down from the jam. We head out at about 3 am. I go back to catch some sleep at the same place as before.


In the morning I hit the coffeeshop, then hit the road. It's is clear and cold, and the storm is pushing hard against the mountains that have protected me from it on the run down the plains. As usual, while I ran away from it coming from the northwest, it has slid south down the coast and is now coming at me from the southwest, pushing up the Frazer from the sea, and I am racing to meet it. But luck is with me and I cross the freeze-line just south of Calgary, well north of the pass I want to take back across the great divide. The wind is roaring through the Crow's Nest Pass and the wall of black clouds is boiling over the mountains. I plunge into a solid wall of pouring rain, but not snow. It is a short but still tough drive till I break out behind the front, only a few miles from the border.

I am in for a pleasant surprise. Seems they've decided they have more to worry about now than harassing hippies. Not to mention, they know exactly who I am already, maybe before I even reached the little booth. I have files going back my teens in LRY. I'm sure it's all on their screen, I notice they've got new ones; and here I am once again, only a few days off the date I crossed this same spot last year. So for once, I get a couple questions and they tell me to move along, instead of pulling into the search bay. I am stunned for a second, amazing just how used to routine harassment you can get, then I drive on into Montana. There's just a couple hundred miles left, and once again I arrive with the storm. I make it out to the new place, outside of town, though its a bit of a strange scene. It's Halloween... everyone at the gas station is in costumes, and at Joe's sister's place there's a Halloween party going on; not my scene though. Once again, I am just in too different a place, a space, coming right off the road. So I watch everyone celebrating with their friends and mostly find a quiet place to rest and wait till Joe arrives later from town. He does, and we head out to the property and I finally furl my wings, take it out of gear, and give it a rest. I made it here, and I know I have a few weeks before I have to fly again.


NOVEMBER
Last year I talked with Joe about the course I was on, and that the next step would be recording new CDs. I wanted to create diversity in my sound, and just achieve the sound that I had originally imagined, the dulcimer in a band. The point was, I could find someone to play lead, but I'd rather have him play the leads, since we were old friends. We had been jamming together for years whenever I stopped in Missoula, which meant almost every year. Back in the days before I started going to Alaska I spent my summer free time in Montana. At the same time, it would be a real effort for him. You see, I'd stop to jam each year, but also to get away from the dulcimer, so he'd never played with it or with most of the songs I played on it. Here, I'd play guitar and sing the blues, mostly, and some rock. He was big on doing songs from tab, exactly like the original. His aim was to learn to play by copying the masters. While I really didn't care much about the originals and always improvised. My aim was to be myself, in the folk/blues tradition that focused not on creating original material, but creating a unique and original style, and playing the traditional songs in that unique style. Everyone expected you to play the songs everyone knew, and nobody would dare to ask you to play it just like someone else. But Joe said that in the end, this is the point he wanted to reach, the point at which he could improvise, but on a solid foundation. He just didn't want to start out improvising to disguise a inability to play, to learn and practice mistakes and bad form in the name of "originality". So for him, choosing to take on this project with me was a turning point, where he could use the ability he'd developed to finally try and be original, and inventive... but through intention, not accident.
There were a lot of problems. I had known there would be, I sensed the resistance and prepared myself by avoiding any expectations. Already I was a month late, though that delay actually turned out for the best. Last year Joe had just lost his place in Missoula when I arrived. In the year since he'd packed up and moved out of a place he never intended to move out of, and come to this property outside town. There was nothing here when he arrived, and he'd lived in a camper all summer and fall, while he set up here. It was a strange parallel with my friends up in Alaska. I felt that cosmic wheel clicking away. Here I was, right on time to lend a hand and get a foundation done before freeze-up, again. The well was in, and he'd built a post and beam shop, half of which he made into a cabin for the winter, while he built a house for his sister. He'd just moved in when I arrived, and the first thing we did together was to install the woodstove and light a fire! I was cleaning out the construction debris and dirt to make space for my gear. But mostly I focused, once again, on getting this foundation dug and concrete poured before the snow fell.
There were more problems. I fell sick the day after I got there, a flu of some sort, that left me open to a bad bronchitis that was epidemic in Missoula. It didn't help that the first thing I did there (after the wood stove) was to pick and shovel a foundation hole in cold wind and rain. I never really kicked that cough till I left there. It was really bad for a while, and kept me from singing. At couple points, it kept me from doing anything. As well, Joe hadn't even had time, or a CD player, to familiarize himself with the tracks I had sent ahead. He'd been working solid just to get where he was, and was burnt out and discouraged. So many promises of help from so many, all just words. But then, in the nick of time, the cavalry arrives!
well, maybe not the cavalry (I'm rather non-violent), but I did start taking care of the horses when I got there, even though I was too sick to ride... a real pain for me. Horse have been such a part of my life, and an absent part for so long, and here I have the golden opportunity and I can't use it. Yet I still enjoy feeding and brushing them...and training of course. I don't take bad behavior, so those horses got a shock, yet they responded well to someone who treated them right, as intelligent animals, not machines, and gave them companionship and affection in response to their good behavior, and refused to tolerate bad behavior with more persistence, stubbornness and dominant will than they had.
But in this strange parallel, I was there not just to help, but to get everything moving again, bring my determination and drive to kick it into gear again. And I did. And we did. And while we didn't get much recording done, in short order we had that hole dug and forms up and the concrete poured. The day we poured the cement, it started to snow, deja' vu. We were ready, though, as I'd planned on the possibility. We had the wood, plastic, a big heater and a fan, all to keep the concrete above freezing while it cured. I listened to that cosmic clockwork turn, and I was right there, perfect timing.


MID-NOVEMBER
I'd cleaned up, and built a countertop and shelves, and set up the gear and instruments. Though there wasn't much time, we got to work on it. While Joe was in town, I tried to stay a step ahead, laying down basic guitar rhythm tracks and scratch vocals so Joe could play lead to that. The dulcimer scratch tracks I'd made in the spring only served to set me up in the right tempo. Just like with most people, Joe couldn't follow the dulcimer. He hadn't learned to listen to it, and sometimes I wonder if anyone could follow what I am doing on it really, except me. Always I am the one who follows others in the jam, rather than try to make them follow me... almost always a failure. It's no surprise, I mean, I play guitar, so it's easy for me to follow it.. and most people, even my buddy Joe, haven't played or even learned to follow the dulcimer and what I do with it. This is what I expected, but I also hadn't had time to put down guitar tracks. Not to mention I don't have set versions of a tune, but something that evolves. Recording to me is like trying to freeze that evolution for a moment to create a snapshot... or a painting more, because it takes time and care and craftsmanship.. live recording is a snapshot. Joe and I have that in commen, the desire to use skill and craft as well as talent in our art. You can see it in Joe's other occupations, ceramics and origami.
But we tried, especially in the couple weeks after the snow flew, with the foundation was done and the pressure was off. We recorded multiple lead takes that I'll have to work through later. The beauty and power of the top level digital recording gear I have really proved itself. Joe would jam with a track Id set down for a couple hours, then record a few takes. I'll be able to build a single seamless lead track out of the best phrases and sections, taking the pressure off him to come up not only with a lead, but a perfect entire take in the short time we had. I'm also convince that the snapshot analogy is good. People, someone once told me, would rather have something I recorded now than wait for that stellar version I dream of capturing someday. Almost anything I am willing to release will be as good as my live performance and people are satisfied with that. I have to remember what I tell others, that "good enough" really is good enough. Further, the idea of getting my own equipment is that I am not limited to one version. I can release new versions, and Joe can improve and compose better leads, as time goes by. My listeners can listen to the fluid evolution of songs, how they live and grow and change, the way I see them; not just one single version. Its a way of looking at music more the way it really is, as a on-going process. I could really feel that as I finally recorded the tracks for two songs I'd recorded back in 97'. I got the words and basic guitar recorded then, and put them on the "Gypsy Road" CD. But not the songs I'd created at all, not the sound or feel I imagined. That required the other instruments, and now I was finally getting there. It also suddenly shone a clear spotlight on just how much time I'd lost, how greatly my life and plans and the flow of the music had been disrupted and derailed by the tragedy of those years.

It was really interesting to experience, to observe, so many different scenarios of recording played out in that short time. I recorded "sofine", seeing a song I just wrote unfold and take shape right there. I also recorded us just jamming the tunes we'd played for years. Joe and I also struggled with the effort of collaboration. I often had definite feelings about what I wanted, or didn't want, in a lead track or a song; yet I couldn't tell Joe what to play because I'm not a lead player. I couldn't translate the "feel" I wanted into the technical terminology of scales and modes Joe knows. He was struggling with the frustrations of having creative ideas he liked, that I didn't like, or knew wouldn't fit with the dulcimer tracks he couldn't hear. He was also enjoying the pleasure and pride of realizing he could do it, as other things he tried worked great, or he was able to translate my often vague suggestions and feelings into something that worked. All while we were both not at our best at all, but we've been friends long enough to recognize and understand that, and carry on, making the best of the situation as we found it.

As we talked about my decision to "settle down" somehow, he suggested that I might buy a piece of their property, a narrow piece originally intended to provide access to the creek for stock, but now cut off by the road and not very useful. Again, I was able to see just what he was paying for the same things I'd listed in Alaska, the basics for a small cabin. And here I was, digging foundations and pouring concrete again. It must be a planetary alignment or something...oh boy, my stars are aligned in concrete?
Realistically though, this is one of the major decisions of the year, and a turning point in my life. If I can manage it...old habits and all. Practically, I've accepted that even with all this equipment I can't be productive unless I get off the road for a good portion of the year in a good space I can work in. I still plan to get a van that I can rig as a workable living and recording space on the road. Just in case I stay on the road. My life is based on directions, and I have no expectation that they will lead where I imagine. I remember always that I am following the music, and the positive energy I've found there, and if these things aren't on that road, or turn me from it, I have serious doubts that there is something positive in them for me. The fact is, its not the road that is killing me. I am good at travelling, and the road has a lot to offer; yet it has real practical drawbacks. I'm willing to give it up as well. I've done enough of it for a lifetime, though there are still plenty of places I'd like to see, I know I'll never see it all. It's where I want to be that counts. I could have settled any time, and my first dream was to be a homesteader. But I've never met a lady who bothered to see through her preconceptions and the mythic image of the gypsy musician, to the type of person I really am.


Emotional realities are the real forces pushing me. I am just getting more and more tired and run down by the loneliness and isolation of my life. I don't care about myself, really, but it's effecting the music. I've never recovered from the terrible experiences I had, but sometimes you don't. If anything, I seem to be getting worse, more cynical about the majority of people, with less respect for the lives they choose. I have to struggle to remember the good, decent people I have met. It does come down to the facts of life, as well. I am human, and we aren't meant to live alone. In the long run, a life without love and affection, without companionship and friendship, is a terrible thing. People say I have to settle down, and I'll do that before I give up the music. But this life is killing me, which doesn't help the music. It's a hard life, but I like it, and it's not always so hard. This summer made me realize one thing, that it could have been, and could still be "so fine" if I had someone to share it with. The life I have is really great, intense, beautiful.. while the loneliness has gotten more and more terrible. I never thought it would be this way, and I've tried so hard, but in the end mostly all I have is disappointments and nightmares.

The snow came and stayed. Though I can't say what we got out of the session yet, I know there is some stuff I can use. The funniest thing is, as I listen to it, I realize almost everything there stands alone, even though a lot of it is meant to be simply back-up for the dulcimer, and the vocals are just scratch tracks. It reminds me that I am a singer first, and even if I have revolutionized dulcimer playing and broken ground with it in so many musical fields, albeit unpublicized. It is what I am known for, but it is not indispensable. In the thread of having my own recording gear, and creating a long term ongoing relationship with my fans, I realize I will be able to give them more than just the dulcimer over the years, and music that that the dulcimer can be a minor part of or left out all together. I will be able to give them the whole range of my musical ability and creativity, beyond the boundaries of the dulcimer.


DECEMBER
The snow is falling steadily, wave after wave, a few inches at a time, but winter is here for sure. The planned gig in Portland somehow never materializes. I figured it might not happen, because it was at a ski lodge and the snow hadn't arrived yet! This was good, though, because we'd only just finished the foundation and started recording in earnest. I made a major decision to focus on this so very important project and skip my routine loop out to the west coast and Seattle this year. I'll miss seeing my friends, but I know I'll be hard pressed to complete a CD this winter with all the other things I have to do. So I stay and we lay around the shanty and uh... record, as the snow falls. I take care of the horses, split wood and keep the fire burning; and work on tracks. There's a cat now, seems like it was here before Joe was, as it was comfortable living outside, and still was. He(?) is getting fed, and tolerated, and getting petted... actually, he's doing pretty good; but he's not a house cat. This is the country, and he has his burrow in the haystack and keeps the mice from overpopulating. I make occasional trips to town and visit the Raven coffeehouse.

Joe's been looking at my PARIS system and what we are working on. I had it with me and set up last year, but he was way too caught up in the sudden loss of his place to focus on it, as I was too, really. But we did agree to make this year's session happen. It's a reflection of how deliberate I am, juggling so many things on an annual circuit. We shook on it, and I'm back this year and we are making it happen, and he's having a good time. Then its time for me to go. So he decided to have his cousin build him a system while I'm still around. I wish we'd started sooner or I had more time so I could have gotten it set up and running. As it was I burned all the tracks to CDR so he can keep working on the session after I'm gone. This is the way I'd hoped to collaborate with other musicians actually. Sending multitrack CDRs back and forth, and connecting and keeping in touch via e-mail. Potentially, scratch tracks for feedback could go back and forth via mp3s. It's funny that the first real potential long-distance collaboration comes from Joe, who I actual stop and jam with on my circuit, than someone in the internetworkworld. Now howzat for a word?


MID-DECEMBER
I can't stop the seasons, so I have to run, have to fly...when I arrived the last cranes were here, and the geese, flying ahead of the storms, riding the waves and wind. The snows come, and you hear them pass by honking, day and night, invisible in the whiteout, clear in the breaks between storms. I know the places where they are going, I've been many of them and followed the same paths. They are almost always there, wherever I go. They seem like me, though they are moving fast to someone on the ground; to them, the ground moves by slow as great distances unroll. Their eyes are fixed on distant points, and something in them is fixed on things farther still. Yet they are really following a path and a routine and a circuit that is old and familiar to them. I too live a life where I set a course to reach points far away, and always have the need to stay on that course in my mind. Yet the place I am at is one of those far away places I pointed at once, except now I am there, and want and need to focus on what I came here for... yet part of my mind is still far away, as my mind's eye moves past the horizon, and I listen to the calling of the geese.

I leave one night, late, staying till the last minute, racing east in the darkness as the snow begins to fall, the stormfront coming over the mountains from the west. As I clear the last pass its coming down hard and there's a fresh inch on top, but I'm over and gone...across the great divide. I pull over and I sleep a few hours before morning. When I wake up it is now a blizzard sweeping up the front range, exploding over the pass behind me. The wind is heavy enough they detour high vehicles off the highway and onto the sideroad, though the road is still pretty dry. I'm soon moving out down the valley of the Yellowstone and ahead of the storm again, following these historic rivers off across the plains, the piney bluffs and badlands. Eastern Montana, North Dakota, rolling grass and sky till the sunset illuminates the storm, just a low cloudbank on the horizon. I pull over and sleep down a dirt road not far from the highway, a few miles into Wisconsin.
I wake in a peaceful spot, though I can hear the trucks sometimes. I head back to the highway, but it's only a couple more exits to my destination, stopping to help a guy building a dulcimer with a lesson. I meet him in a nice college town coffeeshop I found. I tried the old idea of using my camera and his VCR to do a detailed lesson and record it so he can work through it in his own time. We took a trip down to visit the college woodshop where he's building his dulci and talk to the teacher. Though it was cold, on the way out I slid the dulci out onto the tailgate ... even out of tune as it was I was able to find some decent sections and let her rip. But that night I am on the road, driving down the dark highway.

I spend the next day getting through Chicago traffic and around the lake and north to visit my Michigan relatives, the town ma grew up in. I used to come here summers. It's still small and quiet, like my uncle likes it. I stay a few days while the storm catches up as rain. Its a nice quiet visit and I rest a bit now. Fall has been late this year, which means it will likely drop major snow any day, as the moister air is further north.
It's still good weather when I say good-bye and head for Louisville, KY. I missed this stop last year, after a jam in Indianapolis. But when a major storm was blowing in I headed direct to DC ahead of it. This year I make it, this is the way my life works, in circuits, and a longer view of things for me. If not this year then next year is how I see it. And conversely, making the effort to seize the significant when I can. I'll be back, if the continuity is there to allow that, to be part of my life. Which in many ways is as routine and solid as others, maybe more. Just a bit more of an extreme routine, a bit Further.

I arrive at night and meet Tom of 52media in the morning. I do another interview, and there's really no time to talk business, and that's not what I'm stopping for. 52 is still aimed at streaming video, though its been mostly dealing with the de-capitalization of the internet followed by, oddly enough, the megacorporation take-over of the industry and attempt to monopolize the medium, and the message. But that's what this interview series is about, not internet music, but independent music on the internet.

By the afternoon, I reach Nashville. I'm trying to make a long promised stop at one of TerriLynn's showcases, but it doesn't happen. The one the night I happened to come through, Tuesday, was canceled. So I waited out rush hour, listening to PBS and working on the account books, writing, playing guitar and singing. Trains roll by next to where I'm parked, in an industrial section of semis and warehouses. A storm is moving in, rain turning to snow, but I'm racing ahead of it soon. I drive into the night and drive all night, ahead of the storm and across the mountains, down the Shenandoah valley into Virginia. All the thoughts work in my head, the whole summer behind me, songs I wrote, and plans I could make and the plans I need to make. I have to hit the ground running here in DC, and there are the things I still have to deal with ahead. I'm fighting the feeling of dread the closer I get, the negative feelings and memories associated with the coming trip south and the boats. So many thoughts...

At dawn I'm coming in with the early traffic to DC, just congealing as I slip through. I reach Alexandria and the few miles off the highway to the house and let myself in. I walk back to the kitchen and the sun is rising, framed in the diningroom windows.
I'm back at 1213. I don't know how many miles this time... I guess I'll figure it out sometime. Right now I'm trying to shift gears and time zones. It's the holidays and I have to clean up and get a tree and get ready for my brother's family to arrive. Maybe unpack and get the computer set up and start burning CDRs for gifts, I've been giving away a roughmix of the Montana session. Now I focus on a few simple things, mostly, get the tree up and decorated before X-mass and wrap up the things I've gathered along the way to give away.. festival posters, programs, and T shirts, the session CDRs. And a blank videotape representing the video I'll mixdown from the year's footage, after things quiet down and I have some time. Then I'll catch up the e-mail and write up the summer's story and post it, get out a note to folks and get ready to go. I'll be a few weeks here, though, helping out. Time that will pass fast. By the end of the month though, I'll be heading south to Florida.

But that's another story: 2002. Next year, well, actually, this year... it's New Years Day. Well, 2001 has been...interesting, once again; pretty intense, beautiful and terrible... the normal routine. Guess its time to see what's next.



"I don't know where I'm comin from
I'm just on this road I'm on
don't know where I'm going to
just tryin to make it through
if you want to walk a while
maybe I can make you smile
but I'm just singin songs
on this road I'm on"


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