October 23, 2013. So I want to establish a habit while on the road of documenting everything, or at least journaling, something I do rarely. I’m in a plane looking out at an oak-dappled and lake-dotted Northern California landscape… we’ve passed Sacramento… ooh there’s a super tall white bridge over a river. I love looking out the window on a plane — how often do you get to see the world from 31,000 feet? My son would want to know what kind of plane this is… The pilot said but I’ve already forgotten.

Apparently we’ll cross Lake Tahoe and Reno on our way to Salt Lake City. Then we take a flight to Indiana, which is the starting point for our 5-week tour.

I’m rather paranoid of getting sick. I wish I could stop thinking that thought. One rationalization I’ve had is that this is just my ego that wants the best for me telling me to watch out for what could go wrong. I had thought about wearing a face mask haha but I forgot it, along with my lovely bag of food. The goal is to not touch my face or eyes. Trying to be conscious about that. What can I say, I’m a singer and my instrument can get sick. The sax player’s sax can’t get a virus that stops it from producing sound. Ah here I am feeding the paranoia. In truth I know I will do fine, it’s all
free-floating anxiety as a therapist once told me. Hello free-floating anxiety, welcome to my brain. You get to join the party because I am doing something I care passionately about.

Now there are cotton ball clouds casting dark blue Theroux shadows on the Sierra foothills.

I had a conversation with my brother yesterday in which we were discussing effortlessness. He said doing very hard math (he’s getting some sort of advanced degree) never gets to be second nature. It’s always very conscious hard work. I said you don’t get to be at the level of a working touring band if you don’t have a good balance of passion and pragmatism. There’s the side of you that wants to push, sound better, go farther, blow harder, learn more, and it’s frustrating that the sounds you make don’t match what you’re aiming for. But you can’t be like the muppet pianist (I want to say his name is Erik) who slams his head on his little piano and has a tantrum every time he plays a wrong note. I’ve played with musicians who fall apart or berate themselves, and it’s no fun. Of course I do it to myself but it’s the blessed internal monologue, while outside I’m selling the shit out of it.

Speaking of that good Anglo Saxon word, as my dad would say, I’m reminded of a song that started to come to me on the plane. I said in the airport that with this many (13) musicians on the road, we had to come up with a song a day. They said OK, you write the airport song. I joked that writing songs like that contributes to my obscurity. But here I am thinking of the song. Not airport related, though:

Living the dream
Covering the hits
Loving the road
Shoveling the shit
Sometimes it blows
What… and quit show business?!

When I get some Wi-Fi I’ll look up the quote, it’s about the guy who shovels the elephant shit at the circus, and they ask him “How can you stand the stench?” and he says “What, and quit show business?”

Now we’re over desert, where vast crystalized lakes outnumber wet ones, and a few of those strange round-irrigated fields appear, none very green. Writing on the plane right now I’m reminded of all those years I spent writing songs on the bus, imagining I was Walt Whitman, writing songs about busses. I love the west. I hope to get some good sight-seeing crammed in, even though a lot of the tour will consist of “passing through.” But even passing through I like to observe. By the way, the woman next to me looks very much like the wife of my neighbor, who’s an important performing arts booker/consultant (used to work for Cal Performances). I don’t think it’s her though.

Writing feels good. I should do this more often!

Now we are over craggy mountains, gray brown, threaded and veined with the same erosion patterns I observed yesterday while running on the beach past where they are adding new sand, and water seeped through the high bank exactly like rivers diverging from headwaters. Scale is a fascinating thing. Me up here, looking at those forbidden dry mountains, imagining hiking them in the whistling stillness, lonely for human contact and looking up at a jet plane.

Ooh there is a gorgeous peak rising out of flatness. Oh, it’s a little range. To the side there’s a lake bed, absolutely vast, bigger even than the mountain range, and a large lake remains, white gray blue and blurry, mirage-like.

Oh sure enough we are over the Bonneville ?? salt flats and beginning our descent into Salt Lake. I remember staying out here at a hotel with my dad, looking at the Grand Tetons in the distance and watching prairie dogs watching us back over the endless flatlands.

These salt flats are gorgeous washed-out turquoise and beige and white. Occasional human structures bisect like this half-hexagon road. Oh and now I see it, the sea of salt, the Great Salt Lake. Wow. I can’t remember if it is bigger than Lake Tahoe? I love Utah and would really really like to see Yellowstone with the boys, though they are afraid of the Grizzly bears. Bucket list.

Perhaps I’ll chew some gum.

One other thing I was meaning to write about my brother’s opinion. It’s common in my family to sort of pierce the mystique of anyone who’s achieved anything. I think it’s fine not to worship success, but it’s also silly not to realize that attacking someone for having the conviction to do something well and to be visible at it is as much a conviction. In other words, saying I’ll never tell anyone I know what to do, because I don’t, and anyone who does do something well enough to be known for it is pompous and false, well, that’s too simple of a litmus test. It’s also too other-focused. Do your own thing. Who cares what others think, whether it’s that you’re powerful or that you’re a loser?

Oh the lake is gorgeous, the salt flats absolutely like a pastel painting of white-bordered tiles. Pinks, gray greens, even a marbled rust and dark blue.