I love coming back from tour; nothing seems real. You see the true light of your home for the second or third time. Every potential stands, ready to burst forward at the slightest mention. We walk into our home and it is sparking clean from the housemates, and everyone is waiting for us. They help us carry things inside, we hug them, we stand around smiling, soaking it in. We take celebratory shots of whiskey in the souvenir Texas shot glasses we got them. We talk about how awesome it was, how incredible of a time we had, how Lio whined only once, and it was ten minutes before we pulled into the driveway. They have leftover steak and Hawk cuts it apart to make fajitas while I unload the rest of the van. On the road I had realized that I live in a collective house. Nobody calls it that, and there aren’t any rules or mandates, but we all cook and eat together and act like family and everyone watches Lio and helps take care of him. And Chamero takes turns sleeping in different beds. Soon we will all plant and grow together, then harvest. We’re a collective house. Something I never thought I’d enjoy, something we’re almost accidentally a part of. We’re family.
There is a show at the house this week, and Bill asks us if we’re ready to host 60 people the day after next. “Fuck yes,” I say. Of course the best letdown to meeting new people every night and traveling from city to city is a day’s rest followed by hosting 60 people for a show of beautiful music you can’t wait to see. I am so excited to repay our tour karma. I want to make sure the bands are happy and healthy and comfortable as so many of our friends do for us when we’re on the road.
Still, nothing seems real. The house is so sunny and sharp and beautiful in the soft light; our housemate’s faces so wonderful to see. The long drive, a slight cold, returning in the afternoon sun, the whisky, all of it, blur the slight edges of everything. The afternoon turns into evening in a fit, cold and windy. In Kansas we’d traveled through snowstorms, many of them, followed by a few miles of patches of sun, then blizzard, again. Just when we felt we’d never make it home or we’d have to pull over, the sun came out and eased us along.
We stop in little towns in Kansas and Colorado. None of them have gas pumps, and we’re almost out of gas. We use bathrooms at a State Farm agency slash c-store, we travel on down the road. We stop at an auto store slash c-store, we travel on down the road. We make our stops short and our leg stretches valuable. Lio reads books, kicks his legs, looks out the window. Hawk sees a giant field full of tractors and combines and farm implements, and we drive through the gravel lot, row by row, for Lio, up one and down the next, of all these shiny tractors and rows and rows of diggers and graters and movers. He is amazed, tells Desi to Look!, is mystified, has won the lottery for the day.
In the van, with a few hours left to go, we go around rating the tour on a scale from 1 to 13. First, 1 is the best, but it makes our scores sound wimpy, so we switch to 13 being the best. Conor gives it a 9, says his highlights were our first show in Alamosa – meeting the community there – and also touching butt sweat with Sean Lennon at a show at Sx when he used the bathroom after him. His “worst” is Norman, Oklahoma, because it was such a weird show. He hadn’t felt heard from the stage, but from the crowd it sounded wonderful and people were loving it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell those things when you’re playing music. I guess one of the hardest things in life is to just feel listened to, which is why it’s so fucking special when it does happen.
Hawk gives tour a 8.5 out of 13. He loved the Trade Show at Sx where we’d strolled around drinking free beer and obtaining a large collection of t-shirts from high-dollar companies and other things with images of Texas on them. And our beery coozy collection incresed like 800%. We visited every booth, and there must have been 500 of them, or more, with talking heads eager to show their latest technological advancements. For most of them, it was like, “Why would I pay you to do that?” Like the company was grasping at straws to think of something new and hip that was also basically completely worthless, especially to any culture except the one shoved down consumer’s throats. Where are the booths about air, water, creativity, food, and shelter? Nope. No booths like that. Just promotional materials from my heart to yours. But whatever, fuck that, we made friends with everyone, found a common connection to literally every person we talked to. Everyone lived somewhere one of us has lived, is from somewhere we are from, loves something we love, knows someone we know, or has enthusiasm that’s genuine and exchangeable. I don’t know if it’s ever dawned on me how totally fucking exchangeable energy/enthusiasm is. I guess that’s why I am 12% more of an extravert over introvert, because of that simple pleasure.The real human connections are special, in this sea of thousands of people milling about. We loved it, that connection making. I think one of Hawk’s favorite things to do is to find the humanity in every person, to push open the doors and insist upon it. That is one of his best qualities. It catches people off guard, or puts them on guard, but it also can open up an incredible stream of identifying and friendship. That must be why I have so much fun with Hawk in huge arenas full of people, milling around. Las Vegas, Sxsw, etc.
Anyway, Hawk gives it a 8.5. His other best part was us staying with his high school buddy Joel, who is one of the most fantastic people of all time. Joel has a four year old daughter who made Lio’s week five hundred times as interesting, between her company and all their fun and playing and the heaps of new toys to explore. On the last day we were in Austin, Joel got a call that their third musketeer from high school, Jason, was in San Antonio for a conference. Within minutes they had convinced him to drive to Austin. That kind of convergence is rare in life, and beautiful, and they stayed up all night giving each other shit and telling tall tales & making everyone jovial and happy. It was so cool that something so meaningful happened on our last day in Austin, out of the blue. It made us all feel so good.
Hawk’s third favorite part was when we drove through a small town in Kansas, and passed a Taco John’s. Desi wistfully said “Taco Johns” for some reason & I said, “Do you need us to drop you off for awhile so you can go be with your people?” & for some reason that made us all laugh a lot.
Desi gave the week an 11, saying the best part was that the week was that it had been like a vacation for her – which is funny because she was taking care of Lio most of the time. She said it would have been a perfect 13 if she hadn’t had an awful cough all week. She said it was also the best because she’d asked Hawk to record her next album, and he’d said yes, and they’d agreed on it. The worst part, she said, was one night in Austin giving Lio a bath – she was singing the alphabet, “A B C D E F,” And then Lio suddenly screamed “NOOOOOOOOOO!” and instantaneously hated her. I imagine this was the routine nightly downfall signaling bedtime.
We have known Desi for so long & are so comfortable around her & love her so much that she is family on and off the road. I know that meant a lot to Lio, and he loves her as much as we do. Desi was so wonderful with Lio, really listening to him and enjoying him, joking with him, putting up with him, making him cute little meals, reading him stories and taking care of him. It was so symbiotic. We feel so lucky & grateful for that kind of care for our son while we’re out playing shows and schmoozing. Thank you, Desi! We love you.
I gave the tour an 11 out of 13, too. My favorite parts were our official Sx showcase- hanging with our record label, meeting the cool bands from the other showcasing label, Old Flame, being a part of the magic and mayhem, seeing our label mates again. My other favorite part was sneaking into Neil Young’s lecture, and getting to see Neil Young. The worst part of tour for me was probably the five minutes before we snuck into Neil Young, thinking we were not going to get in.
Also just seeing so many awesome friends from all over the country – running into Twinsmith at Valhalla, Emily Price in the street at 2 AM, Isaac and Claire and Holly at Waterloo Cycles, and seeing so many Omaha friends who came out to support the band – seeing so many familiar and friendly faces is such an anchor during a whirlwind of part industrial complex, part Mardi Gras, part festival, part scene explosion. Sx is a “hip” thing to do, and/but there are a million really wonderful things going on around every corner if you’re up for it.
So we breeze into Colorado, and it feels like such home. I am surprised by this, but then, not really. Desi and Conor both have other shows to run to – Desi is singing in Sugar Sounds in Denver in a couple of hours, and Conor is playing a house show with Dear Rabbit somewhere in Springs – so after lots of hugs and cheers and love we scatter, tour fam disassembled. Our house mates are there to sweep up our pieces, listen to our rants and reflections, and, maybe most importantly, to make plans.
In the morning I stare out at the desert landscape as I wait for the coffee water to boil. In the traces of the sky I see deer antlers, rising above the junipers, scraping the blue sky, poking at the clouds. Then a movement, and a small gray rabbit double-backs against one of the little landscaped ridges outside, scattering itself this way, then that. What do rabbits think, when they double-back? Of how clever they are?
Lio is in such a good mood, I can hardly stand it. He eats two bowls of cereal and asks for more. He grabs onto my feet and pulls himself up on the bed with them. He dances to music, brings me his little record player, changes the records and asks me to sing along. He loves Humpty Dumpty, Camptown Races, and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. And the Children’s Marching song.
“Yesterday, Remember? We saw some pieces for some tractors. And I want to see more tractors with more pieces,” Lio says, dancing on top of a chair, holding onto my feet. “What are we going to see tonight?” he says. “Who’s going to be there?”
“We’re home, bud,” I said. “We’re gonna hang out here tonight.”
“Is this our house, here with the mountains?” Lio asks, pointing. Whenever he got sad on the trip and missed Bill an Cole and Streeter, we’d say, we’ll see them soon! And also, the mountains. We always mentioned the mountains, the landmark.
“Yup. This is it.”
“This? Here? Is our house?” his eyes get wide, incredulous, all-knowing.
He settles in to re-explore his room. Lio’s amazed by all his old toys. He can hardly believe they are all his. After his shower, getting ready to go back to work, I hear Hawk strumming a guitar in the next room, a beautiful tune that seems to resonate the entire house. It dwarves every other sound in the house. It gives our return home a tune to hum, a pace, an inclination. It gives our bodies a purpose. I write, I stop to think. I compile laundry, make stacks of each cities’ alternative weekly and show posters and magazines and all the little items collected over fifteen days.
15 Days: Long enough for your spider plant to thrive, thinking you’d forgotten it. Long enough for your dog to learn how to behave, thinking you’d forgotten him, too. Long enough for a thick spiderweb to grow between the doors of the outside entrance. Long enough to feel renewed, anew. Long enough to remember it all, to capture it all. Long enough to know exactly what you have to do when you get home.