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Entries in Holy Ghost Tent Revival (1)

Monday
Jan312011

Thoughts of Change: Life, Love, Loss, and Learning in the New Year

Dear friends,

It has been far too long since I have written, and I beg you to forgive me for my silence in these almost two months. One of my great joys of being out on the road is being able to sit down and catalog my journeys for my friends far away. Admittedly, this is partly selfish on my part as it gives me a record to reflect on in the future, but more immediately such an act helps share the sometimes heavy burden of the solitude I've chosen. These past couple of months have been particularly heavy on me, and it has taken time to be able to digest what life has thrown at me and be able to process it in a way I felt was constructive and worthwhile for the printed page. I can't say I'll lay down my thoughts as I'd like, but it's due time to lay them out. I've got many travels to come in the upcoming year, and it's time to square up and look towards what's coming. It's time to put these thoughts to bed.

Before I begin, I should mention that I've done a little maintenance to the website, and this blog is now listed separately from the news page. I've done this for two reasons, the first being practical: so that you kind folks won't have to wade through pages of introspection to get to the nitty gritty on where I'll be. The second? On principal… because I want to be able to dive a little deeper into some of the things I encounter, some of the places I see and people I meet. There are always questions to be explored, and perspectives to be considered in any situation, and I intend for this to be an outlet for my inquisitive mind in this regard. I encourage you to comment, whether you agree or disagree, like or don't like them, and I look forward to your thoughts.

So… I lost a few friends over the holidays. Two of them in a tragedy that's still hard for me to come to grips with in a terrible house fire in Bristol, VA. Allun, a brilliant musician and friend to many beyond just myself, and his lovely young girlfriend Lucy had laid down to get some sleep after a wonderful night of music and merrymaking. Allun's house in a short time had achieved legendary status in Bristol, not only for the hospitality they showed outsiders (musicians and others alike) but also for the nightly jams that would often last to greet the sunrise. This night in question they didn't quite make it that long,  folks disperrsed around 5 am, and as it was bitterly cold outside the heaters within the house were firing at full blast. Said heaters were effective, I can vouch for that on my last visit on the 19th of December, but they also were old-school and presented a far greater threat of fire than some of their more modern equivalents. While the house was old and the heaters had survived many such winters, this time a pile of clothes was a few inches too close to the hot electrical coils.

The blaze was such to turn the back bedroom into something resembling a spent fireplace. Coals and ash were all that was left of a well appointed room, and parts of the back walls were burnt clean through (as well as the roof in many spots). The rest of the apartment was covered with a thick covering of soot, and areas leading down the hallway showed full burn as well. The floor was buckled a-kilter from the heat and the invading water from the hoses of the fire department. Unfortunately it wasn't so much the fire that was dangerous that early morning, but rather the smoke. Allun's roommate thankfully had fallen asleep out on the couch that night, the furthest point away from the room where the blaze started. And thankfully a dog in the apartment was able to raise her in time so she could get out. But though she tried to get the door open, though she pounded on his door for as long as she had breath, by the time she woke up I think it was too late for the others. The firefighters came quick, they were less than a mile away and were at the house within a minute of receiving the call. But just as quick, they realized they were too late. Allun and Lucy were gone.

I received this news the day after writing perhaps the worst letter of my life. To make a long story short, the third friend I lost over the holidays was at one time a lover, and we held each other quite dear. But my lifestyle isn't the most conducive to building a relationship, so it seems, and for a couple months we had been trying to hammer things out, whether it be as friends or perhaps.... I don't know if it was the holidays that ended up bringing it out, or if it was just meant to happen this way, but a few days before Christmas my heart was shattered in a way that I thought I was beyond, that I thought wasn't really possible given how we had separated ourselves. For almost a week I held in my pain, my anger… and then on the 28th I unleashed it in a letter. I told her how I felt, and it was necessary. But it was awful.

The next day, upon hearing the news of Allun and Lucy, I was reminded of the relative permanence of the things we say and do. We can't take them back. We might apologize, we might make amends, but the word and deed stands. I feel blessed to have parted on the best possible terms with my two friends who were lost in the fire. Though I only knew Allun for a few months, we had grown incredibly close and had shared confidences as well as a fair amount of life in such a short time. And Lucy was an even newer friend, I've learned more about her in her passing than I knew of her while she was alive, but she had such a wonderful smile and a glow about her and her quiet presence often seemed to be the ballast in the raucous storms of those late night jams. The last time I saw the both of them was 'round noon on December 20th. They were lying in his bed, in the room  where they would die not 10 days later, smiling up at me as I had roused them from a nap. "Be safe out there!" Allun half-shouted, as he always seemed to, so much larger than life. And we all laughed, and my memory holds their smiles as my last goodbye. I think they would have wanted it that way.

I can't say I parted on the best of terms with my other friend. I could not stand for the letter I sent on the 28th to be the thing she'd remember me by. I tried to write an alternative. I have sent it. But whether or not it was received, I don't know, and likely will never know. Such, it seems, can be the case with the end of personal relationships. You mourn them like the death of a loved one because the communication completely breaks down and for all intents and purposes they are… gone. Of course they aren't, which makes it all the worse and often can drive reasonable folks into a temporary madness, but they still *are*. Which sucks. And… which is a part of life, I guess?

We all make mistakes. And we all do what we have to do. Sometimes what we have to do is necessary, and yet might still be a mistake. All we can do then? Attempt to rectify it, without demeaning the necessity of the action. I cannot apologize for what I said in my letter, all of it was true at the time. But I can stop to recognize that despite the pain and the anguish of a particular moment, or even a series of moments, there were so many beautiful things that were brought to light by having this person in my life. So many facets of my being came into focus, so much came into bloom… I had far more to be thankful for than to be angry over. I wrote all of this. I sent it. And I hope this is what stands as my last goodbye, not my words in anger, though I'll never be able to erase them.

Lesson I'm trying to take from this? Tell the people that you love that you love them. Cherish what you have, and have had. And do your best to not part in anger, but if you do yet it sets wrong, try to make amends (even if you still must part).

So throughout all of this, I was already in a state of flux. In the middle of November I made the difficult decision to move out of my house and fully give my life to my music. Every penny counts, and I couldn't afford to keep paying my rent and continue to do what I love to do for much longer. Most of December I was in and out of the house, trying to give myself time to pack, but really avoiding what I was facing… throwing out or giving away much of my "life". I was in the middle of touring of course, with a series of great shows in Charleston sandwiched around hometown performance in Charlotte at the Evening Muse with Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard, an amazing night in Roanoke with Momentary Prophets at Kirk Avenue Music Hall, a *really* fun show with Paleface at the Garage, my wonderful last night with Allun and Lucy in Bristol at Machiavelli's, an almost snowed out (but unique, and totally worthwhile) show at Rockwood Music Hall during the great NYC Blizzard of '10, and a rip-roaring night at Parima in Burlington, VT for Joe Adler's Burgundy Thursdays. I made it back in town a few days into January, after driving 15 hours from Burlington, VT to Bristol, VA for Allun and Lucy's memorial service. Most of my stuff was still yet to be packed or dispersed, and thankfully my roommate James (and great friend of 20+ years) had patience enough with me to not put all of it (including the few items I really cared about) on the street until I steeled myself and got the job done.

Finally I did do it, and it is amazingly freeing, as hard as it was to come to terms with it. Most of what I need is now packed into the back of my car, along with my dog Pohl R. Bear. My cat Karma is graciously being taken care of by my folks (thanks Mom and Dad!) The rest? What wasn't given away or thrown away is in storage, and will be making its way to a yard sale in the springtime to continue to raise touring funds. And I'm headed your way. I'm not sure when, I'm not entirely sure how, but I'm coming to play my songs for you and I can't wait. I've pledged 200+ shows this year, and I while I don't know if I'll be able to hit that number, I'm damn sure going to try. It ain't easy doing this solo, but it's often *so* worthwhile. The letters I've received from many of you cheering me on, thanking me for my music, just saying hi… they fuel me like little else, and I believe I've the chance to do some good in this world. Sure it's just a song here or there, but it's not just the songs. It's how I live, and how I interact. I just have to keep this smile on my face, and keep believing in the power of us. I believe in you, and I thank you for believing in me.

I've had a great January, including the chance to open for one of my biggest recent influences Eric Bachmann and his project Crooked Fingers, and I've got a stellar February coming up with a long run into the Northeast supporting Holy Ghost Tent Revival as well as some southern shows opening for the likes of John Shain and Dan Bern. For many of the folks I've met in recent months, I'm coming back so spread the word. And there's plenty of new destinations as well, with more on the horizon. 2011 is going to be a great year, and I'm happy to be here to experience it with you! Thanks for taking the time to read this, if you have made it this far (and I don't know many that will have the patience). But know this has been cathartic to me… I appreciate you taking the time to read my words.

yourn,
e-s