Two weekends ago I ventured up to Oregon and Washington to do the work of the singer. What is the work of the singer is the work of the driver. What is the work of the driver is the work of the bookkeeper (and so on…). My books are like bees, not easily kept. But when the honey is sweet it’s well worth it.
Seattle was sweet honey. I got to a hotel. Was overcharged. The shower didn’t drain. So I thought. Later I pulled the plug. And fell asleep to the sound of sucking emptiness that only water draining from the third floor of a cheaply manufactured building in the industrial part of town affords. I woke up to an airplane, dangerously low—thrillingly low—in the sky: I might have thumbed a ride from the third floor.
This to spare me the driving. I use the wrists for guitaring. And to hang them on the wheel like some mad gambling god is…hey, cruise control! Alright!
I am reminded of Idaho. Not the least of which is because the night before was “Idaho Night.” Ten-Years-Ago-Ben called me and said a bunch of mates from Pocatello, as well as a band from Twin Falls were playing a party at his house, could I make it. I put my harmonicas in the wooden box that was made for chess pieces, but fits most of my harmonicas (except for the one I always leave behind— that lives on piano tops and barstools, back stages and bathrooms across the country). I wrist-wrestled my Martin into the back seat and drove the 7, no 8, hours. And got there to find the mad poets, the young impassioned indie rockers, the philosophers, the destitute students starving for all things…sitting on the floor with their babies and their wives in a really nice Portland remodel.
Then we got to talking. Playing music. Spider Trap, the band composed of ex-Twin Fallsites, played and sang their delicious drippy honey harmonies and the basement became the old days.
In Idaho ten years ago this time of year, I would be picking apples. For work. Racing the frost to the baskets below the trees. Snapping the stem just above the fruit—fruit after fruit—in a brisk motion of the wrist. The wrist.
This is why I was thinking of Idaho. Margaret Aho, Carpal Bones. And now it’s 4 in the morning and I am looking for her poems online. Trying to piece my way back, as though through some shadowy x-ray. I was just a kid sitting at her kitchen table. Wondering where women come from. And she read to me from one of her books of poems. And now, as I write this—it is the middle of the night and I cannot sleep—this is the text that pops up: Exactly at Midnight.
Two Mondays ago: I’m pulling away from the drive-thru espresso cart, remembering how I used to work at one of those things back in Idaho and would forget to put the espresso in the drinks more often than not—much to the chagrin of afternoon soccer moms and early morning erudites—and would fumble their change to boot. Alison (who also showed up in Portland last week) would have to come in and correct my till not because I was stupid, but because I was distracted, heartbroken, shy. (And because she was very nice.)
Then I start doing the math in my head. For the tour leg. The books: Did I break even? What’d I spend on gas? What did I make in CD sales? At the door? The emotional math: Can I keep traveling like this? Sarah Palin, really? Does he miss me? I am out of cell range, no one else on the highway. “I should hurry home,” I think. Just then, flashing lights behind me. And a speeding ticket within a penny of my profit. I sip the coffee and set the cruise control to 55mph. Partly to free up my wrists for the long drive ahead. And partly because, suddenly, I am not in a hurry.