I woke up on a stranger’s living room floor this morning, trying to remember where the hell I was. I’m thinking it must’ve been a pretty wild night when I look around and there’s the archery bag still asleep to my left, the Gibson and Guild cases to my right, a couple of soft cases leaning against a wall and I then see her: Dani. The cute copper-colored number we’d picked up in Chicago. And it all comes back.
Winnipeg. We’re in Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, in a strange place called Canada. We’ve been here two days, the shows happening right in the living room of what seems like a normal family home. Apparently we’re only a few doors down from the house Neil Young grew up in.
I’m not exactly sure who he is and why I should care, but Amy and Eric were excited enough to take each other’s pictures standing in front of the house. Some other dude they speak of often in reverent tones, Chuck Prophet, a kind of sage or something, even picked some clover from the yard when he was here, but they’re too timid
And I don’t know what Winnipeg is, except that it took many many hours of driving to get here.
Images and incidents come back in chronological order: the endless drive from Rochester. The night in a Toledo motel and that sickening crash from the luggage cart when Harmony lost her head.
Harmony, out of commission now, confined to the van for the rest of the trip. They say she’ll be okay eventually but the old girl’s going to be housebound from now on.
And that might not even be a bad thing. See, I’m learning – the talk in the van flip flops from elation to irritation, back to enthusiasm and all the way over to defeat and resignation, often in the space of a few minutes.
So Harmony might be the lucky one, to not have to go out and do this any more.
I’d like to say I’m happy as a piece of Samsonite in a first-class overhead , but the truth is this isn’t the joy ride I was hoping for. Lots of driving means lots of time cooped up in the back of the van. And what can I say, I’m sensitive – I pick up on stuff. The kids are running out of steam.
Oh there are moments, like the other day listening to the Allman Brothers’ Mountain Jam as the sun was setting just west of Minneapolis. I heard the pair talking, saying they were going to start a southern rock band and there was a lot of hilarity as they donned trucker caps and bandanas and imagined how it was going to be, and who could play Duane, who was Dickey and whether it was ever a good idea to be Gregg. They both decided it was.
Then they were learning a Guess Who song to play up in Canada and I don’t think I’ve ever heard grownups laugh like that, especially when I was stuck on the Walmart shelf. Come to think of it I don’t think I ever heard so much as a chuckle back there.
For the shows in Chicago and Wisconsin and Winnipeg, I know they played their hearts out and had encores and even some standing ovations, and that made them feel great. But I hear them talk about all the things they want to do at home, new stuff they want to come up with separately and together, and I wonder if there’s even a place for me in all that.
Then I look at Dani, all fresh and copper,her whole life in front of her. Sort of like the young girls who were playing the later show in Chicago, the ones we shared a dressing room with. (That was weird, even Amy’s daughter said it made her feel old to be around a band young enough to have their parents road-managing them.) Like the girls, Dani has an open mind about these things, even professing an interest in the worn and misshapen – heck, she’s a copy of a copy from 1959 (sort of like Amy, her new owner). Still, I doubt she’d have two words to say to an old bag like me, if we weren’t flung together here out on the road. I’m wondering what will happen when the kids get home – no doubt Dani will get to hang out in the house while I keep company with the rakes and weed whackers out in the garage.
But I can’t worry about that now. There’s something ominous ahead, I can feel it. I think it’s called…Omaha.