Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Long Drive, 20 Years Ago

As we were coordinating his trip to Dallas for the summer, I pointed out to Clark that it was 20 years ago this month we had our first big emotional goodbye: my move from Dallas to Portland. Despite all the emotion and angst in saying goodbye to him a few weeks ago, it seemed appropriately optimistic to talk about how really awful the next big emotional goodbye will be, in June 2036.

Those of you who know how my life choices contribute to sometimes tenuous health might find the idea of me surviving 20 years to be laughable. But consider this: how else will I truly regret the poor planning I made for "retirement"? Exactly.

The drive from Dallas to Portland is 2112 miles if you go to Denver via Oklahoma City. Normally I would write this as "about 2100 miles" except palindrome seems to be a thing today (what with it being 6/11/16 [using an American date format] and a friend's email announcing the birth of his son, Otto), so it's 2112.

Why Oklahoma City? Who can say. No, wait, that's not (entirely) correct! I remember now that I used this route to maximize the number of new states I would check off my list. In addition to Kansas I took a detour a bit north through a sliver of Nebraska, checking that off my list. That 2112 number is totally wrong. Whatev.

I stayed with Sonya (and Barry) in Denver. Sonya has been a recurring part of my hijinks for nearly 30 years. From the 3 a.m. collect call to gloat about West Virginia to my first Paul Weller concert; a cryptic map, a bad birthday, a vague sense of dread about boomeranging back not by choice.

When I saw her last month she was worried that Archie's barking would wake up the neighborhood. He didn't even get off the couch when I came through the front door.

Four pieces of music map to my trek. I listened to a whole lot more during the drive, 4 songs over 30+ hours of driving would suck. And I definitely hit long stretches where the FM spectrum offered up 2 or 3 signals at most. I had some tapes.

The first is associated with my decision to leave Dallas. In retrospect, this seems like such a no-brainer, but at the time, I struggled a bit. My trepidation about moving farther from Atlanta, "home" at the time, was assuaged a bit when Randall died. I got to spend a week with him near the end. It felt necessary at the time, but I'm not sure I accomplished anything by being there; hopefully it brought a bit of peace to Gracie.

I'd actually embraced living in the hotness of Dallas after spending 3 days of successive 24-hour record-setting snowfall during my long weekend at the Sundance Film Festival (another hijink with Sonya!). Up at some insanely early hour to walk to a 7:30 a.m. screening and dressed in non-winter weather attire (blue jeans, a cotton sweater), I fell in a deep snowdrift and trugged to the movie with snow up the legs of my jeans and the arms of my sweater and coat. When back in Dallas I saw White Squall and the court scenes, set in the south with moss hanging from big old oak trees made me appreciate the mild afternoon drive back to my apartment. It was probably in the 50s. It was February. So long as I had air conditioning and remembered to park in the shade from March through November, Dallas wasn't such a bad place.

Rosanne Cash released 10 Song Demo in April, around the time I was juggling time with Randall and interviews for the job that would move me to Portland. The album continued many of the themes and musical style of Interiors and The Wheel. Her collection of essays, Bodies of Water, falls into this period as well. In addition to her divorce, a new husband and son, a move from Nashville to New York City, and a move away from mainstream country music, Cash also left the music label she called home for her entire career up to that point.
That was the summer that followed the spring
The sad anniversary of a thousand old things
I was letting them go
When I read the lyric "that was the summer that followed the spring" I hear Chris Wilson's voice saying "oh, it was THAT summer was it" (since all summers follow springs, she hasn't really narrowed things down at all). Chris is not really that petty when it comes to analyzing lyrics, but his is the voice I hear when any sort of clumsy writing or rhetorical misfire presents itself. He's lucky that way.

Hopefully this video will endure any sweeps for intellectual property. I paired the song with an image of the St. John's bridge, feeling the bridge's aesthetic would pair with the Eiffel Towers. And you can't see much of the bridge here. Oh well. Also Colette, who wrote Gigi, spelled her name with one L.

It's decision time again
The next 2 songs are from albums that are companions, of sorts. Both bands released their debut albums within weeks of each other in 1984, and both have been among my very favorite acts since I first heard them. 
Everything but the Girl released their ninth album, Walking Wounded, in May of 96: less than 2 years after Amplified Heart. It continued a fairly prolific output; with rarely 2 years between albums (despite Ben Watt's considerable health issues in the early 90s). The album fully embraced an electronic musical style introduced with Amplified Heart, a bit of a journey from their early years working with horns and acoustic guitars. 

The Blue Nile released Peace at Last in June of 96, only their third album (their first 2 albums contained a mere 14 songs in total). I think I lucked into getting a copy early, but it's possible that making a tape of their CD was literally one of the last things I did in my Dallas apartment. The album eschewed the heavy synthesizer sound of the first two albums, focusing heavily on acoustic guitar.  Yang to EBTG's yin. 

While they're not technically symmetrical, I love how these shifts balance (Libra!) each other, at least in my musical ledger. Had these albums not been in super heavy rotation together during my drive, the shifts might have gone unnoticed. Hell, you hadn't even considered it, I bet.
And love alone won't be your saviour
And pretty soon you'll find it's over
And time has left you there
We could be singing
Could be together
Tomorrow morning
I wanted everything for a little while
Why shouldn't I?
I wanted to know what it was like

That Everything but the Girl would be the first concert I saw in Portland—the opening night of their North American tour—was a good omen. That the concert was outdoors, putting Mark Eitzel on in the daylight, singing love songs about heroin addicts with sun-starved Oregonians playing hacky sack despite his gloom, makes it one of my favorite things of ever, EVER.

The last of these songs may not even have been relevant during my actual drive. But it's the first song I associate with arriving in Portland on that sunny Father's Day afternoon. My gas cap lost in eastern Oregon, making me cynical about the whole "can't pump your own gas" thing, and the hot afternoon making me concerned that the "rains all the time" reputation of the city was a myth. While I got some cool and overcast weather between my arrival and the 4th of July, I didn't know there would be 4 months of sunshine before the rains came back.

It's also a great reminder of how much can change in a short time.

I'm pretty sure I called my dad from a phone booth at some point that afternoon, letting him know I arrived safely and wishing him a happy Father's Day, but I can't recall if I was in Portland yet. I may have been in the gorge, taking a break from the drive. I'm pretty sure I used a calling card. 
We sit outside and argue all night long
About a god we've never seen
But never fails to side with me

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