March 5th, 2018.

This is our first time away from Not Our Cat since he’s become Our Cat. Farewell sweet beest!

Racing westbound on I-70. How many times have I written that? For once we’ve timed it right and we don’t HAVE to race – easy departure from 695 dumping us on to the interstate, easy ride west. We cross under the Alleghany Mountains with a hint of snow on the hills and plains around us and sunshine flooding down on us. It’s an auspicious beginning to a very welcome trip.

Pittsburgh in the setting sun as we roll into town on a Monday night.

TLC is carrying us through on the stereo, Heather knows every word and her wiggly-headed glory is well backlit as the sun starts dipping to our left, turning north towards Pittsburgh, we’ll race the sun to the venue tonight.

Our venue for the night… the fabulous Mr Smalls!

Sun glints off fields of white, grey brown and black trees stretch up on the horizons, reading more like a poor-resolution-hiding filter effect than reality, feathered edges and fractal intricacy. Ice rappels down the cut cliffs, framing the highway in tranches of refracted sunshine, prisming dramatically off the stone walls and channeling the setting sun.

It’s a beautiful, desaturated drive.

I have the vague disquiet of leaving my open mic for the next several weeks, but it’s in good hands and I’m not worried, just aware of a shift of pattern. Part of my body KNOWS I should be packing the car and printing a list, ready for the inevitably tense drive into the city to look for parking.

Kristen joins the house band at Mr Smalls in Millvale, PA.

It’s weird to realize that our stolen cat is more than stolen at this point, and so now we’ve got to worry about Amy popping around to check on the  beast. He’s now TECHNICALLY ours, but I don’t know that HE acknowledges it, so we’ll have to see how our departure interrupts his regular patterns. Having Amy drop by the house and let him out or let him in occasion, dropping some food here and there, we hope he won’t forget us while we’re gone! Cats only have so much brainmeats ya know.

Tomorrow we’ll touch Michigan for the first time ever. We’d HAD an actual gig booked but it got canceled due to the booker remembering “oh yeah, we only do music every OTHER week”… sigh. Too late to put something else in the slot, tomorrow we’ll check out an open mic at a music store that’s apparently the only U.S. retailer of Chapman Sticks. I’m kind of excited about this. Plus, yeah – another state down.

Racing westbound on I-70. This time we’ll take a hard right at the lake and cross another state off the list.

March 8th, 2018.

The last two nights we’ve spent with my old, old friend Jason Cox. And by “old” I mean “younger than me” but we’ve known one another since third grade or so. He plays games. Has a PhD in the world of role playing games. Like many people with doctorates, even in subjects that I think of myself as fairly well-versed in, I find myself quickly lost in conversations with him, listening and nodding and smiling and realizing that knowledge in all things can get so specialized, so deep, that it leaves me in the dark dust of ignorance.


The host kicks things off at Oz’ Music in Ann Arbor, MI.
Snowing in Ann Arbor, MI outside Oz’ Music where we played a singer/songwriter open mic. We were outside their usual comfort zone, playing as a trio, but we squoze and everyone had a good time. Oz’ turned out to be another place where you can get sitars and banjos and balalaikas – though not on the scale that we’ve got at HMT.
Kristen nabs some cat time.

It’s a sad thing. But it’s marvelous to see what he does. Tuesday night we dodged up to Michigan and hit an open mic just to meet some people and to say we did – because that makes the very first time ever hitting the state.

Oz’ Music Store in Ann Arbor, MI is like a teeny little House of Musical Traditions. If someone says “where can I find a sitar, a guitar, Irish bones, a balalaika and get my electric bass worked on” I would first point them to HMT. But then if they said “but, I Live in MICHIGAN” I would then say “well, you want the land of Oz!” They have a nice singer/songwriter-based open mic coupled with a local cable broadcast. We met some nice people, heard some fun songs – I met fellow FAWMers in the flesh which was ALSO kind of awesome… because though I enjoy the process of February Album Writing Month I think it’s also kind of nice to meet other people who’ve shared the angst of trying to write these 14 songs in 28 days. (I did great a couple of years, only wrote three this year). Talking to some other people about that mindset and about then ever trying to go back and LEARN what you hath wrought – I think that if this was local to me it’d be a fun group of people to hang out with.

Wednesday was a day off and we spent much of it at the Toledo Museum of Art emptying our ears and filling our eyes. They have a magnificent, generally pretty traditional collection and I really, really enjoy it. And there’s plenty of stuff to think about it….
Chuck Close. This man is an amazing portrait artist and has been an important figure on the American art scene for as long as I’ve existed. Huge faces made of paint swatches or thumbprints or whatever else – his work is intense and intimate and powerful. And the National Gallery canceled his show there because of allegations of sexual misconduct. Allegations, not firm accusations. “Misconduct” is such a broad term… there’s just so little known about it and I don’t know how I feel about all of this. Living artist vs dead artist – artist vs the art – context and belief. There’s a lot to figure out there – and I’m not up to the task today.
“Brook by Moonlight” by Ralph Albery Blakelock… Oil on cavas, “before 1891”. “Plagued by poverty, Blakelock was devastated when he received only half of his asking price for this painting in 1891. By… 15 years later, Blakelock had been largely confined to mental asylums for more than a decade.” A stunning, moody piece – probably one of my favourite paintings in the museum. It’s a shame the artist wasn’t appreciated in his own time. The luminous moodiness of the piece matches well with the backstory though.
One of my people commemorated in sculpture outside the Toledo Museum of Art.

The next day we decided to NOT hit an open mic (I explored about 4 of them, and then decided that since Spring Break had wiped two of them for the week, another turned out to be a comedy night and the fourth was at a hookah lounge) – we went to the Toledo Museum of Art and then came home and played board games and drank wine. This is something I’d only ever do in very trusted company, and it was a really relaxing night of letting all of our collective locks down.

I won one. Kristen won another. I have the suspicion that Jason and his wife LET us win things though. A night was thusly wiled away with friends and their games and their cat and their kitten – and we’re in good form to drive about five hours, circumvent the orbit of Chicago, and play in Illinois this evening.

Rollin, rollin, rollin.

In Illinois they don’t have “truck stops”, they have these over-the-highway plazas… welcome to the view from the Travel Oasis!
Because the Travel Oasis MUST have a sea turtle!
Sunset at the site of our house concert – Thursday night we played this beautiful home in Rockford, IL to a bunch of enthusiastic engineers – including a guy named Ray who had actually played Rifts this past weekend… making my VICIOUSLY feel like I’m sometimes in the wrong place.

March 9th, 2018.

I don’t like the notion of an “insurance adjuster”. I’m sure there’s a logical and maybe even benign reason for them being called that, but it sure always FEELS like they’re the person responsible for “adjusting” what you’re going to receive for your years of payments, and that that’s NEVER what you’d agreed to when you signed up.

Rowan’s house got smacked by a tree during the windstorms last week and its horrendous. Friday afternoon a tree opened their second story to the sky scaring the Hell out of the whole family. It took till Monday to get a crane there to get the tree off the roof, but work can’t start till the insurance adjuster comes and they couldn’t make it till today (a full week later) and the rains came down on Tuesday…

Packing is going to have to wait. A tree came down. On Rowan ‘s house on Friday and I went down to help out Sunday afternoon. Everyone is okay, but the roof is in rough shape and two rooms are now… skyclad.

And so their Life is on pause until their home is sorted out. Only it’s NOT on pause, is it? The kid’s still got to go to school, the grownups still have to work. Except in the meantime they don’t have a secure, safe, sound base of operations. In the words of their kid, their house is “broken”.

Natural catastrophes are inherently bad dice rolls. Critical fails of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s like the Earth’s way of reminding you that Life is inherently unfair and that you are a tiny organism, helpless in the face of wind and rain and heat and cold and that when it really comes to it, a mudslide can swat you from the planet just as easily as a bullet.

And so we’ve created artificial ways of dodging the odds, and failing that, of being “made whole” when we roll that critical fail.

And so it sucks that a tree fell on their house. And it’s unfair – but it’s kind of, the “built in” unfairness of the universe. To then have that additional unfairness of the humans that you’ve paid to get the scales evened back up again take their time about it, decide that “whole” isn’t “100%” but some “adjusted” percentage thereof… that’s unfairness augmented by callousness and capitalism.

Or maybe the adjuster will come and say “don’t worry about it, we’ll take care of your house, put a brand new roof on, remove the tree, give you a place to Live in the meantime… we’re here for you” – but my experience with insurance is much more along the lines of “no, we just collect the fees… here’s the red tape you’ve paid for… now fix shit up with it.”

Beautiful colours in our radiator… last night it whispered to us. And then clanked. It was like death was coming.
The I-80 Truck Stop claims to be the biggest in the world, and I believe it. Even if I didn’t, the construction going on in which they’ll be “doubling their size” should kill off any question on the subject.
Fancy truck stuff available for sale at the I-80 Truck Stop in Iowa. Truck rave anyone?
The sun going down somewhere in Iowa.
Heather makes friends with our host’s cat… ALSO stolen from the neighbour! (we’re clearly in good company)