October 6, 2003.

Unfortunately, the Biker’s for Babies event is an almost complete washout. We played to five people, including my Dad, the soundguy and his girlfriend, and the fan who invited us. Sigh. The day, however, was not a COMPLETE loss:

These are my new boots, which finally came in the mail. Went and picked them up from Brennan's house. A friend of Dave's was over, making something full of exquisite smells. Heather and I shuffled into the kitchen and just sniffed and sniffed... ahh.
These are my new boots, which finally came in the mail. Went and picked them up from Brennan’s house. A friend of Dave’s was over, making something full of exquisite smells. Heather and I shuffled into the kitchen and just sniffed and sniffed… ahh.

We miss home-cooking a LOT.

The Biker’s for Babies thing (March of Dimes) DID have some high points. The other band, Walnut Grove, was pretty good. Great lead guitarist… and there were some awesome vehicles there. Oh, and Heather got to ride a Harley with our host, John.

Heather readies herself for a couple hundred pounds of throbbing steel between her thighs.
Heather readies herself for a couple hundred pounds of throbbing steel between her thighs.

October 7, 2003.

The horrible thing about car accidents, is that no matter how much your day sucks because you’re waiting in traffic, someone else’s day is sucking SO much more.

I think we’re still in New Jersey. A charming state that was once described to me as “the place where they make farts”. The place where the neon construction signs on the sides of the roads are permanent structures.

The interstate has been shifting regularly between 4 and 1 lanes, with speed changes from 65 to 30. The pattern of slowing and speeding, the pulsing and sliding of so many energetic bodies – it should be sexual, or at least entertaining. But it’s just painful. Emergency vehicles add their own flavour, with flashing reds and strobes and probes of light. Yeah, somewhere ahead of this blockade of 1am traffic, filled with tired truckers and late-night wanderers, there’s someone having a really bad day indeed.

The red flashes flatter Heather, but, you can’t wax too poetic while sitting in traffic, waiting for movement. Perhaps a poor choice of words, Heather needs to peeeee!

And magically, movement comes. There must be official direction ahead or something. Everyone’s switching lanes, everyone’s moving, and the honking begins.

“And whoever’s honking needs to be fucking shot.”

I agree with Heather on this one. I do think traffic officials should be issued LAWs or something. Something powerful enough to thoroughly disintegrate the plastic and steel of an offending mini-van. Or in this case, the white Celica next car over. Man, L.A. and legality aside, I need a gun.
And if God doesn’t understand, He can drive in New Jersey post-construction, post-accident, asshole laden traffic.

Assholes and potholes. There’s a song in there somewhere.

A lot of travellers on the road. South Carolina, Ontario… another Marylander in front of us. REPRESENT!

Heather’s drumming on the steering wheel, I’m contemplating getting brushes. I could be an Hell of a drummer after a couple months of drumming on the dash.

Ani’s coming percussive through the speakers, counter-point tapping of the keyboard and palmflesh on the steering wheel. The movement was a lie. We’re back to our wall of steel. And I’m wondering, have there been emergency vehicles? If it’s construction, someone will die. We’ve been through enough. Heather’s on the phone, and I think Jayson’s encouraging the same activity. Heather’s declaring “killing’s not good!” Sigh. It’s Yom Kippur. That’s the ONLY reason she’s stating this.

Aaand, Jayson’s online, looking at schedules. And he thinks it’s construction. And Heather’s GOT to PEEE!! Jayson suggests using a cup. We don’t have one, I don’t want her to use one, and she doesn’t want to use one. We DO have some bottles, but they’re not empty, and I think that that would require more of the MAD SKILLZ than I think she has (no offense, my Lady, my Laden Love). We also have a plastic bag, but I think that’s a last resort beyond even us trading places while she runs to the guard rail and leaps into the woods. Last thing I want to deal with is Heather coming back with deer-bites. That would just be…. that would just be too much. sigh.

We got caught here, 30 miles short of the New York border, back at 12.48am. (or at least, that’s when I first looked at the clock – it was probably about 15 minutes earlier) – it’s now 1.22am, and we’ve moved about 5 car-lengths. This is what it was like back when I was commuting between Kensington and Herndon. A 25 mile drive that occassional took up to 3+ hours. Gosh, what a fucking nightmare. I remember that traffic would get so bad while driving home from work, I’d literally leave my laptop open on the passenger seat and play Solitaire on the way home. Well, I’m on my 15th game of the night tonight.

Traffic jams – thinking.

I remember being stuck outside of Baltimore. A broken water-main or something, though we didn’t know it at the time. All we knew was that it was 3am or so, and the back-up was solid and immobile. I got to sit and play guitar in the car. There was a drummer in a hatchback nearby, and we all lounged in the gentle breeze on the Jersey barrier. Sitting and waiting. The first clue to the water ahead was when a man approached us to redirect traffic. He was soaked to his armpits.

There, now the engine’s off too. I’m aware that all around us, fellow drivers are probably nodding off. Thank goodness I’ve got such good company. A laptop, a fine woman, and Will Schaff in the stereo. Now, if only the late night breeze was ripping through my hair at 60 miles an hour or so. Or fifty. I’d settle for five. (Headlights behind us just went out)

1.51am. Stuck in traffic. I didn’t see Heather stick this God AWFUL Lemonheads CD in. Curse the world. I think when we reach whatever’s blockading the road up ahead, Heather’s gonna pee on it. The “Reduce Speed – Construction Ahead” sign is a) permanant, b) the worst of bad jokes.

2.01am – Montana license plate.

2.17am – Heather’s new theory – We’re being herded into a giant ark, and we’ve been declared a decent cross-section of humanity. Luckily, the two of us came as a pair. Anyone who DIDN’T bring their own mate will be forcibly mated with someone of the DOT’s choosing. Punishment for not car-pooling.

2.33am – Jesus Christ, I’ve never seen anything like that. It was like the airline wrecks where you just can’t even tell what anything is. It’s just twisted metal and debris and body bags. At least three 18-wheelers, and two cars underneath them. It was funny when we first came up to them, because the first thing we saw was a Perdue chicken truck, with spilled chickens and crap all over the road. And then we rounded the tow truck (there must have been eight or so there, plus the a flatbed or two) and we saw what was left of the cab. I can’t imagine ow fast it must have been going, but whatever it hit was solid and stationary. It was like the front had simply disintegrated. There was a boat involved there too, scattered in pieces all over the road. The final thing we saw as we were ushered down the highway was bodies being loaded into a big black truck.

I knew the DOT had large hearse-esque vans for large motor vehicle accidents. First time I ever saw one. It reminded me of the body clean-up crews they have in Baltimore. The neccesities of keeping the world moving supercede the niceties of Life (and death). Men with hoses come out. They wear yellow suits and wash the blood into the gutters and down the drains. They disinfect the side-walk with giant brushes, and they sweep away broken parts of people.

Heather: “I’m glad we didn’t leave a little earlier.”

“Yes.”

The thought of a car accident with Heather really, really scares me. I Love her lots and it churns my stomach to think of her coming apart into the engine of another car.

Breathe.

Rest stop.

Stop.

October 9, 2003.

This trip out just hasn’t been very nice. The accident on the drive up took a lot out of me, leaving me in shock in a way. I hate the senselessness of it, knowing that it’s all fun and games until someone drives their 18-wheeler through your passenger seat.

Heather and I have both been stressed out ever since leaving Maryland, and we take it out on one another. We both have been forgetting little things here and there, and we both feel stupid when we forget little things here and there.

Last night we’d almost recovered. An open mic at a spot called the Infra-red Lounge. It’d been hard to find – neon light covered by sheet metal, the front of the bar covered with a closed folding down security door – Heather had seen it, but I hadn’t (colourblind people just don’t respond to red neon sometimes, unless it’s shaped into letters), adding to our tension.

But the talent inside really helped the night. The stars of the evening included an amazing performance by a guy named Mike ____ (I’ll dig up the last name in a sec) who was a spectacular vocal cross of Chris Cornell in his prime and Jeff Buckley. He started beautiful and then struck out for those intense Seattle screams.

Amazing.

Another performer, Stu, was the epitome of aged rocker. Grizzled and yet youthful with a greying pony-tail, he played old rock style solos of guitar screaming agony up and down the fret-board. It’s people like that that keep me hoping I can do this for a while.

But conversations with Stu were sobering. “New York City’s saturated with musicians” – so we’re treated like shit. A dime-a-dozen commodity means you’re useless. And indeed, we’re seeing that. The first time we were in New York we saw that people were very willing to listen, but totally uninterested in buying CDs. We landed shows though… and we haven’t played those shows, so perhaps there is space for optimism.

But only if there’s a dramatic change in the headspace of people at actual shows. At the Orange Bear, we get 20% of the bar. And at Tobacco Road, our big deal is that all CDs have to be sold through their concession stand and we get to keep 90% of our CD sales. The more I think about that the more it pisses me off.

The gigs were easy to get, and maybe that says it all, but New York City – it costs us $8 round trip to get anywhere (subway fare), the subway is utterly bizarre and unnavigable.

DCF 1.0

(Jayson’s screaming “There IS no GOD!!! Wait… there IS a God but He’s an ASSHOLE!!” – wow, something dramatic must be going down)

Parking is some $20/hour in many garages, the whole city is a huge waist-high bar built for people to bend over. New York City is an anal rape station.
After the open mic, it took us 2 and a half hours to slowly make our way home because of construction. Christ, we were helped home by a guy from Georgia, Russia. Then we had to move the car (twice every 24 hours!) – which had been broken into.

DCF 1.0

The beautiful icing.

They left my amplifier… just too heavy to be bothered with, but they ripped apart the centre console to get the stereo out. Heather’s CDs, a small little tray of cassettes (MAN! Who steals CASSETTES!!?!) and my DC/AC power converter. We’ve got a lot of very quiet driving ahead of us now, and it just fills me with this helpless anger. There’s no way to direct it, and no-one you can be angry at, and nothing even to be really learned… except that maybe New York City has been just too expensive to be bothered with.

October 10, 2003.

Can’t sleep. Can’t ever sleep, but tonight I’m particularly restless. New York City is where the Rat King Sleeps, far beneath the city, beneath the subways and the sewers.

Perhaps he sends scouts to the surface. Rooting around for cheeses and elderly cats, they are dragged to subterranean rat labyrinths to be tortured and beaten – information about the sunlit world is gleaned through such unscrupulous extractions.
It’s the Rat King who schedules the subway trains. It’s a sign of his unimaginably complete control over our every day Lives that he can reroute these troglodyte monstrosities. In DC the Metro runs swift and sure in everything but the worst conditions. A man has to jump on the tracks before they run amok.
But in New York, the subway trains are lead by breadcrumbs through their eternal night, and the Rat King’s minions wreak havoc with our human Lives by stealing and rearranging these morsels.

Tonight’s show went well. It was a shining moment in the darkness of this New York visit. The Orange Bear responded well to our presence, and we even sold a few CDs. Well below our quota, but it’s a start, I suppose. Despite unimaginable technical glitches (beyond the regular broken string, Heather’s guitar’s being truly capricious, the sound system distorted her tone beyond recognition, and we ended up running her through a bass amplifier instead). We made friends and were visited by old friends.

Zak Smith is an old face from Suitland High School – always the Anarchist’s anarchist, always the force of chaos, it was stupid how I rebelled against him rather than my parents. Somehow I fought his aesthetic every step of the way, and all through my Life, I’ve never been sure if we were best friends or arch-enemies.

And yet, seeing him again was really, really good. It seems the competition between us is finally over, and – well, he’s got a whole city to gift-wrap for me. I’m eager to see it.

In the meantime, I’m caught in the grip of New York insomnia, trying to work out the chords for “My Guitar Gently Weeps” in my head. Now THAT’s destined to be a fruitless task. Sigh.

October 11, 2003.

Good thing I write things in the Journal, or I’d have forgotten that I’d downloaded all that tab. Went to China Town today – very cool stuff. Not really that much to say though, other than the Rat King REALLY fucked with us today. Jeezoflip. Met Shane (of Philly) for lunch, but it took us forever to hook up with him. Had some great tofu, found a great bakery… found MOON CAKES!!

Also, a bizarre parking contraption - actually a series of pulleys and elevator thingies and one of the most amazing parallel parking car maneuvering critters I've ever seen.
Moooon cakes!

They could’ve fit my old VW bus into a mailslot.
We waited for about fifteen minutes to see a car go up or down in that lil cage thing, but to no avail. Sigh. $12 an hour, too. I hate this city.

10.13.2003

Sitting waiting out the digestive consequences of a McDonald’s burger and fries, Thai food and a shot of Bailey’s. Mix, stir lightly by walking a few blocks through Times Square, add a gig and simmer for a couple hours. Ugh. I don’t even think I need to make a rule against this concoction. I am CERTAIN I will never put all those things together ever again.

So I am productive while I wait and have decided to write my first journal entry in some time. I haven’t been writing lately for a lot of reasons. I think it started after the car accident we saw on our way to New York.

While we were driving, and rob was typing his journal entry – including my commentary and a chronological and detailed breakdown of events – I figured, why bother writing about MY perceptions of the same event when rob will do it better, more entertainingly, AND is including what amusing observations and semi-profound thoughts I had in the car while driving and unable to write them down myself? Besides, wouldn’t the repetition get boring for those reading up on the lives of their favorite traveling rock stars?

What’s funny is how I try to tell my own mother about things from the trip only to have this conversation repeated every time:

“So, Mom, insert-some-trivial-detail-about-my-misadventures-here-but-get-cut-off-right-about-here ….”

“Oh, yeah, I saw pictures.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, yeah, read the journal this morning.”

“Roight.”

And then there are some other reasons for my silence … residual hang-ups that are coming alive anew hanging out with Jayson and being surrounded by talented writers all confined in one apartment.

I feel like I’m losing my touch.

I was a good journalistic writer. I am an observer. A collector of details. I can make connections. These are characteristics that served me well in my journalism career, in my songwriting, and in my life. But suddenly I’m struggling and while I struggle I get frustrated that I don’t write with rob’s humor and world-wonder, but I don’t want to emulate him.

However, if he is the more entertaining writer and I am the fact-checker, shouldn’t I just let him tell the story while I make sure he doesn’t stray too far into wonderland? Isn’t that my better-suited purpose? I don’t think I bring enough new to the table to repeat the same coverage of the same events. What is my role?

So while I ponder the future of my literary life in melodramatic and self-pitying fashion, I will do what I do (best?) and give you my observations from the week:

I found myself looking at an appallingly massive housing project in the distance. Its tiny windows and faded brown-gray exterior had the visual effect of thousands of cubicles. I looked at the structure and it was a “project,” otherwise faceless, nameless and meaningless in my life. I did not see its denizens in my mind’s eye any more clearly than a minority blur. I thought of dark skin, of children, of the dim elevators and hallways of the building …

Of the absolute anonymity that building stood for. My understanding of it as a “project” obliterated all humanity from it.

And I started wondering if that wasn’t some sort of sub-intent of the architecture, of putting all those people together in such a way. There is the architectural necessity of building up to conserve space in a city, so of course it’s going to be tall. You need to house a large number of economically suffering people … so why not together and why not in relatively small apartments? But I wonder if an architect or a politician who helped the project into being also knew, counted on even, how dehumanizing the building would be. How its size would discourage people thinking they could master the problem of poverty or even make a dent, maintaining a class in servitude. If they saw those people as a faceless mass and erected a building as a monument to convey the same thing to countless generations of inhabitants and better-off onlookers because it’s just more convenient to house people that way, or because they were just that racist and classist.

I love people – from a distance, when I can make up lives for them after a limited encounter and the clues yielded from a shared subway train ride. There were three older black men who got onto the subway the other day. One limped in slowly with the help of a cane, flanked by the others. They seemed so slow and so tired. Their movements made them old.

The man with a cane turned to his left and quietly said, “Ready on the left?” The man to his left responded affirmative. It went down the same with the man to his right.

And then, with a spontaneity that was shocking, the three burst into a barbershop trio. The cane became a kick drum on the train floor, and hands, snares. They were really very good. When they were done, the man with the cane graciously requested donations from the crowd, saying they had lost their jobs and were doing what they could to make ends meet. Rob and I each handed over a dollar. They blended their “thank yous” into their song, in perfect timing and harmony, never missing a beat every time someone handed them a bill.

I imagined them friends since grade school. They fought playfully over girls in their youth and now their wives are all friends. The trio had gone to work together in one of those city industry jobs that always seems to disappear when the economy gets tight – they had even been laid off together. They sang in church together, on street corners for fun – why not in the subways for money?

And then I think of the woman in the subway weeks ago who looked like the painting. I spend weeks trying to remember the name of the artist, but I never even say hello to the subway woman. Hmmm.

October 14, 2003.

No real luck at Tobacco Road. Gig went well, good sound, and Dan as always, kicks ass. Unfortunately, Sharif got the flu and couldn’t make it. But Brennan came up with Dan, and that was excellent. We wandered Times square and got some excellent Thai food (unfortunately, it treated Heather poorly the next day).

Also, a bizarre parking contraption - actually a series of pulleys and elevator thingies and one of the most amazing parallel parking car maneuvering critters I've ever seen.
Also, a bizarre parking contraption – actually a series of pulleys and elevator thingies and one of the most amazing parallel parking car maneuvering critters I’ve ever seen.

We also got to hang out with my friend Zak for a couple of hours. His artwork has become spectacular – beautiful work. His floors are covered in clothes and discarded unidentifiable pieces of… stuff… there are photo lenses and art and stuffed animals duct taped to every flat surface. But his portfolio really is incredible, and he’s doing graphic novels… really cool stuff.

Heather keeps me going.
Heather keeps me going.

I need to start doing some really serious thinking on how to bring these artists together. Tomorrow I’ll prolly spend the day arting, and then maybe do some wandering of Providence (did I mention we’re in Providence? But I really need to find out what I do with all these things and people that I’m encountering. I feel like on top of everything else, I’d like to be DISTRIBUTING these things. Will’s little colouring books, Zak’s graphic novels, Shane’s wisdom, Sonny’s drawings… sigh. What to do, what to do?

Tonight finds us in Providence, RI – staying in the apartment of Sonny Roelle – one of my artist friends from college. The apartment is actually a small room on the upper floor of some sort of artist’s commune/co-op. It’s a really cool cafe/artist’s space/apartment building/gallery space/practice space/performance space/studio space. At the moment, there’s two different bands performing in different parts of the building. Filtering and bouncing off of brick walls. The only other noises are the tapping of our computers and the running water in the turtle tank. Yeah, it’s time for pictures, I guess.

Yup, gotta go photograph the turtles...
Yup, gotta go photograph the turtles…
Zak Smith - friend from high school - working on top secret art stuff that I can't talk about .... really. His tattoos are actually really cool too, though you can't tell in the picture. It sort of just looks like he's been dipped in paint. Admitably, when we caught up with one another at the Orange Bear in NYC, I licked a finger and tried to rub them off. But nope, they're all real. I mean, the one on his hand definately is, the rest - well, once he caught on to what was going on, he wouldn't let my moistened finger near his skin anymore.
Zak Smith – friend from high school – working on top secret art stuff that I can’t talk about …. really. His tattoos are actually really cool too, though you can’t tell in the picture. It sort of just looks like he’s been dipped in paint. Admitably, when we caught up with one another at the Orange Bear in NYC, I licked a finger and tried to rub them off. But nope, they’re all real. I mean, the one on his hand definitely is, the rest – well, once he caught on to what was going on, he wouldn’t let my moistened finger near his skin anymore.
Heather screaming at Jayson to get off our car. Everything you read about him is true: He IS crazy! Well, or at least - I don't know, he's sort of like a damned black leprachaun - however you spell that. He needs to dance around in a little clover ring w. a hat on and do really obnoxious things like sit on your car while you're trying to leave the state. We drive Heather crazy.
Heather screaming at Jayson to get off our car. Everything you read about him is true: He IS crazy! Well, or at least – I don’t know, he’s sort of like a damned black leprechaun – however you spell that. He needs to dance around in a little clover ring w. a hat on and do really obnoxious things like sit on your car while you’re trying to leave the state. We drive Heather crazy.
Heather demanded Muppet Toe Theatre. Oedipus was a flop. Here they were headbanding... MASTER! MASTER!!! MASTER OF MUPPETS IS PULLING MY STRINGS!!!!
Heather demanded Muppet Toe Theatre. Oedipus was a flop. Here they were headbanding… MASTER! MASTER!!! MASTER OF MUPPETS IS PULLING MY STRINGS!!!!
Sonny's room. At the moment, a cello filters up from the band downstairs. Stained glass and toys Star Wars toys. Many a Falcon. (The one on the right was mine till I sold it to Sonny to help him start up a toy store). And turtles..
Sonny’s room. At the moment, a cello filters up from the band downstairs. Stained glass and toys Star Wars toys. Many a Falcon. (The one on the right was mine till I sold it to Sonny to help him start up a toy store). And turtles..
DCF 1.0
DCF 1.0
Heather at Sonny's. She's finally posting stuff! So without further ado...
Heather at Sonny’s. She’s finally posting stuff! So without further ado…

10.14.2003

I met my ex-boyfriend’s secret twin in Brooklyn in the shape of someone rob went to high school with. When Zak Smith, now a New York native and artist, walked into the Orange Bear last week, I had to do a double-take. Aside from the punk-rock hair (and what I later confirmed were not Zvi’s blue-green-gray eyes, but brown), he was the spitting image of him. Same dark hair, same deep-set eyes, same thin lips, same razor-sharp jaw – facial features I loved so much and that – the way firsts do – set the tone for what I found attractive in men forever after. Rob, with his light hair and dark eyes, is a features fluke in my dating history.

I thought I might have been crazy about the Zak thing, and rob had never known Zvi well enough to comment on his facial features. But when Brennan came up from Baltimore to the Tobacco Road show Sunday, I put my arm around Zak and said to Brennan, “Take away the brown eyes. Who is this?” The shock and the smile were all I needed to confirm my own perceptions.

It’s weird when you date someone as long as I dated Zvi, have that person so much a part of your life for so many years and then suddenly absent entirely. We broke up two years ago this November and have spoken a handful of times since, which is a big regret for me. He was on the radio with his band, Cindy’s Basement, when rob and I were driving to Providence the first time. I asked rob to let me pull the car over at a rest stop in New Jersey, the last place we could get 98Rock just so I could hear him talk. He sounded happy, which made me happy. Like I said, so much a part of your life and then gone … and the only way you can keep tabs is to jockey the radio dial and pray for clear weather somewhere in New Jersey.

I’ve always wanted Zvi to see the band and how far I’ve come in two years. He was the first one who ever suggested I should join a band, that I should cover White Rabbit. And he’s never gotten to see it … he wouldn’t come see it … just like I wouldn’t go see his new band.

So I found myself talking to Zak a lot. Just watching him talk and it made me feel really good. His personality and his voice are completely different than Zvi’s, and I liked Zak independently of my associations. Still, it was sort of nice to visit and look into the audience during both the shows in New York and let the stage lights fool me that his eyes were blue.

October 18th, 2003.

The Muse at the Gray Goose is like going to Cheers. Set atop a hill in the middle of a bunch of antique shops, the place looks like Christmas has come early to Londonderry, New Hampshire. That sort of kitschy country comfort like my Grandma Lloyd’s house. You don’t ever imagine it NOT being winter there.

Lucky for us, the cold temperature kept it appropriate-looking. It was so cold by the end of the night that when we sat outside, telling dirty jokes and jamming for the hell of it till midnight, the guitars were slipping comically out of tune. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a small turnout for them, they say. Normally the place is packed, but game seven in the New England World Series battle between the Red Sox and the Yankees is keeping a lot of people glued to their tv sets. New Hampshire sides with the Sox.

In a couple hours, I learned more about the people at this open mic than I know about people I’ve known for years, and they all were the most incredible people:

First there was Kim, 44, with blonde hair and creased blue eyes. A tall woman with a sweet, dusky folk voice. She’s a critical care nurse, making good money but thinking about giving it all up to pursue music full-time.

Then, Sue, in her early forties, who rob found breathtakingly attractive and who resembled what he imagined Daisy Duke would look like when she grew up. A few years ago, she went through a major life change and decided to become a massage therapist. She also had never sung on stage because a guy overheard her singing once at a party during college and told her she’d better not ever quit her day job. She was so mortified that she never performed in public, but then made a vow to get onstage by her 40th birthday. She sings and plays wonderfully. She immediately offered to put us up in her house if we warn her ahead of time (so she’ll know whether she has her kids – her daughter was with her at the open mic trying to drag her away and go home. 🙂 )Kim stays with her often to avoid the 45-minute drive back to where she lives. Dave is Sue’s boyfriend. He sang a song about a woman who goes to a soup kitchen with her children on Thanksgiving Day.

Then Chris has her 1-month-old baby girl, Sasha, strapped to her chest in one of those baby holster devices. The regulars at the Gray Goose feel like they own the child in a way because of Chris and her husband, Neil’s, involvement playing at the open mics and guesting with all the performers. Chris even makes her triumphant post-partem return to the stage of the Goose with Sasha sleeping on her chest, no doubt extra-lulled by the vibrations of her mother’s sweet voice. The child never cries once throughout the evening.

Neil, Chris’s husband, is the solo lead guitarist extraordinaire, and nearly every performer asks him to play for them. He plays cleanly, subtly, never overwhelming the performer he’s with. He might leave the stage twice during the night.

Meredith owns the place the cute shops attached and recognizes me from our press kit when I walk up to say hello. She says how she’s surprised to see us, thinking it was a long way for us to travel for just an open mic. I told her I’d heard and read good things and it had been special on my list. They do just music in the space now. They used to rent it out for other uses, but a fire in the eighties made them rethink that.

My favorite of the night, though is Greg. Greg makes me think it is possible to be COMPLETELY satisfied and content with one’s simple and gratifying life.

Greg is quiet, also – I think – in his thirties or early forties like most of the rest of the crew, and sings back up as the third part harmony for a lot of the beautiful folk pieces whipped out over the course of the night. He has a face like a marionette. Happy and surprisingly smooth. He has thin eyebrows that look painted on by Gippetto or something and they raise a lot as he talks as much with his bright eyes as his mouth. He is personable and easy. When he finally gets up to play lead, he charges into a beautiful version of “Wicked Game,” backed on guitar by Neil and on vocals by Chris (Sasha still strapped in for the ride). His voice is incredible. Clear as a bell. His range, heavenly. He then does a version of “Summertime” that brings the house down.

When he gets off stage we get to talking. He’s a grade-school art teacher who makes guitars on the side. Oh, really? Like this one? I begin inspecting the guitar (there will be pictures on the website soon enough). The sound hole is surrounded by the painted faces of women swimming in golden hair. The neck is inlaid with mother-of-pearl Celtic knots and symbols. When I pick it up, the heel of the neck is hand-carved with a Celtic knot.

Then he starts explaining the mechanics to me. The inside isn’t cross-braced like regular guitars, but a starburst of spokes extending from the underside of the bridge, which is also of a strange shape, huge on the low end to allow the full frequency to develop and short on the high end to be the apporpriate size for those sound waves. The neck is mahogany and part of the body is rosewood.

We ask if he has a website. No. He couldn’t keep up with the orders if he did and he loves his job. Where did you learn to do this? From books, he says. Oh, and his grandfather was a master carpenter “who worked on ships in the shipyards of Boston when ships were still made of wood.” He let young Greg play in the shop once he felt he was ready.

He hosts an open mic at a Borders in nearby Nashua and Sue is playing there this weekend. He bursts into Irish accents now and then to imitate the local “Joel” they have at his open mic, who talks that way and always badgers people loudly through their performances about whether they have a CD or not.

And we all hang out outside in the cold telling dirty jokes and playing Indigo Girls and Doobie Brothers and Traffic songs. “We’re almost there boys ….” that’s the one I have to remember to tell people when I get home.

We didn’t sell a single CD. But I guess it’s all a matter of how you measure success.

And I had to smile when we pulled out of the parking lot, and someone was driving away listening to We’re About 9.