Monday, 27 October 2008
Half Way Hopeful
Heading out of Montreal en route to Toronto, on a rain-soaked 401 highway, we speed south through Ontario, on the first day of serious rain we’ve seen for a while. We take a full 20 minutes to pass a huge convoy of RVs, flocking before heading south for the winter on their annual migration of retired adventurers, jeeps towed behind, throwing up a dangerous spray that reduces visibility to feet and increases braking distance to miles. It is a reminder that touring like this is more of a challenge, the occasional nine hour drives between cities taking their toll on energy and conversation. Not for us the comforts of the European tour bus, with the flat screen, lounge, beds and kitchen… but there’s something satisfying about really feeling the miles rather than just waking up in a new city. More like sailing compared to flying, and about as wet.
Thank god, then, for the comedy channel on satellite radio, that offers respite from the continual heavy rotation of classic rock that clogs the airways in North America and Canada. It’s as if time and culture stopped sometime around 1976, before Zeppelin split and punk burnt down the houses of the holy. It’s not a bad way to travel, imagining myself aged seven again, listening to Blinded By The Light, wearing jumble sale clothes and counting down the days to the release of Star Wars. Hearing those classic clips of Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, Richard Prior et al reminds me that it isn’t just rock stars that die before their time.
The shows have all been fun to play, some bigger than others, but they're all special for their own reasons. I’ve been given a scarf, and bottle of Canada’s only Single Malt Whisky - so bring on the New York winter – you hold no fear for me now. I love the change from Fall to Winter here, the trip from Boston to Montreal left me more exhausted by the beauty of the leaves on the trees, ablaze with every shade of yellow and red – than by the actual driving. That’s Steve’s job. And to think he laughs at me because I don’t drive. He’ll figure it out one day.
Now, with the final Montreal and Toronto shows done, making good on last year’s promise to return, it’s an early start and a thirteen hour train ride to New York City. The train moves so slowly I could get out and walk alongside and still be in the city before the Amtrak wagons roll into Penn station… but I don’t. It’s on these train rides that ideas for songs come, that dreams come bubbling up from interrupted sleep. Dreams of downing tools and moving to a place somewhere upstate, settling down in a quiet little town and forgetting about everything. Dreams of spending my days fishing in the Catskills. Dreams of Barack Obama in the Whitehouse, George Bush in the ground, and dreams of a brighter morning on November 5th. Half way between things is a nice place to be. Half way between sleeping and awake, half way between seasons. Half way between cities, half way on the tour, and best of all, half way hopeful.