Sunday, June 27, 2010

Well Who Said Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

I rolled out of Austin just after nine o’clock on Saturday morning, bound for the Hill Country.

One of the footnotes to my random concertgoing is that I use it as an excuse to travel.  I’m not one for tourism for its own sake, nor do I like the idea of going somewhere and sitting on a beach.  But I do like seeing my world.

Now, I’m not going to lie.  I didn’t go to the Peacemakers show in Appleton, Wisconsin last year because I’ve always wanted to see…um, whatever it is that Appleton is famous for (nothing?  I’ma guess nothing).  But I saw Local H in April as an excuse to go to Houston and Galveston (I saw the Johnson Space Center and, just in case anyone missed it, a battleship…).  This trip is as much about seeing Austin as seeing the Peacemakers in Austin.

But there’s something else I want to see.  Fredericksburg, Texas is the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz and the home of the National Museum of the Pacific War.  It’s also deep in the heart of Hill Country, which is very high on the list of parts of Texas I want to see (seeing as how being deep in the heart of North Texas Flood Plain Country just doesn’t have that same cachet).

The Hill Country, for the record, is beautiful.  I headed in to them with Reckless Kelly and the Randy Rogers Band blasting out of my speakers.  It was pretty much the perfect combination of moment, music, and machine.

I contemplated, as is my wont, the trips I took for Rogtober last year and the Local H in Houston expedition and how they compared to Rogapalooza.  The thing I found most surprising was this: unlike my two previous forays in to the world of following bands around for fun and profit, yesterday I wished I wasn’t alone.

When I went to Houston I considered being alone an advantage.  After all, I figured, who would be willing to let me cut across three lanes of traffic to look at a battleship?


My final semester at Western Illinois University I wrote the same paper thee different times.  It was the final project for Religious Studies 455: Personal Transformation.  The class was about how people find and respond to the presence of the numinous.  It was a fantastic class, but one I don’t think I managed to truly appreciate, since I was still trying to repair my recently sundered faith and make it appropriately Evangelical-y again.

That final paper was supposed to be about my own journey.  This, I think, is a dangerous thing to ask me to write about.  Especially the me of 2006, who still had an awful lot to learn.

Here’s how I remember the story:  I decided I was going to build a narrative around a three-pronged approach.  The A part (for lack of a better term) would be a narrative of me explaining what I had most recently learned, the B part would be a biography of the important things that led to me needing to learn those lessons, and the C part would be meaningful song lyrics chosen as visual and conceptual dividers between the two.  I wrote it, proudly shot off a copy of it to Her, and she told me that it wasn’t very good.  So I wrote a second one that ended up being a colossal, bloated boondoggle.  I finally wrote a third that didn’t, y’know, suck.

When I wrote my post entitled “The New Normal”[1] last week it was, in a way, the culmination of that project.  In fact, I’ve recently written no fewer than three posts that basically owe their very existence to that paper, including “The New Normal.”  I felt compelled to go back and see how far I’d progressed since writing that boondoggle of a paper.

The evidence indicates that my memory was faulty.  Surprisingly faulty, in fact.

The first version of the paper is actually good, if still a bit unnecessarily verbose and ending with a line that appears to be tacked on for no damn good reason.  Still, it was a draft, so those things are to be expected.

Thing is, that first version is a lot sweeter and more honest than I think I realized I was capable of being at the time.  Quite frankly, if the me of today were the one making the decision about that paper I think I would have realized exactly why She told me it was bad and turned it in anyway.  Y’know, with some editing.

The second version…yeah.  That one does suck. It has its moments and a couple of touching interludes, but I was trying to make my original idea work in some way that would make Her happy.  She, not surprisingly, didn’t like it.  I don’t like it.

But the one that I really don’t like is the third version.  It is completely bereft of the creativity that drove the idea the first time and reads as an apologia for wanting to be creative.  There’s also a massive subtext of me apologizing to Her for, I guess, the first two versions of the paper.  I capitulated as completely as possible.

This was before I knew nothing would ever come of the relationship.  But it’s pretty obvious that I was still trying to hold on to my initial idea of Her and She was trying to figure out how to end things at that early stage.

I’ve now figured out what I’ve been running from for these past two years.  The evidence stares at me from the screen of my old Toshiba laptop.  On some level it’s a little frightening how blatantly obvious everything is.

I’ve got this conception of the start of a relationship ending my ability to live my life.  Maybe the problem isn’t relationships.  Maybe it’s that I’m bad at picking the right person.  This isn’t a new observation, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the concept illustrated so starkly.


So Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX is awesome.  It’s this 130 or so year-old building that lacks air conditioning.  But it’s got beat up, squishy wood floors that feel a lot like the Double Door in Chicago and pretty much one of the best vibes I’ve ever gotten out of a concert venue.

The sound check is also completely open to the public.  I wandered in a bit before 6 PM while RCPM was setting up.

They ran through one of their new songs, too.

Now, I started doing my usual thing wherein I took down the setlist.  When the list partially disappeared at the Antone’s show on Friday I decided to be extra careful.  Every line I hit [return], [done], and exited out of Notes to auto save.  Midway through the main set I turned Notes on and – I shit you not – watched about a dozen lines disappear.  Where I had had half a set list all of the sudden I just had “Mexico.”[2]

Either way, it was an awesome set.  Highlights included, in no particular order, “Buffalo,” “Suckerpunch,” “Fonder and Blonder,” “Broken Record,” and the new songs “Empty Highway” and “Heaven on a Paper Plate.”

I’ma slap up my vids of “Fonder and Blonder”

And “Broken Record”[3]

And I’ll borrow Raquel’s vid of “Empty Highway,” since she was standing directly in front of me and has the same camera I do, except in silver.

Either way, it’s been an awesome week.  And it ended with a great show in an awesome venue.


I left my heart in Chicago, my anger in Oklahoma City, my fear in Fort Worth, and my liver in Austin.[4]

I wasn’t really expecting this to happen, since it didn’t really happen during Rogtober, but Rogapalooza became something like a retreat.  Except the worship sections had better music, there was beer, tequila, and whiskey to be had, and Austin, TX is way better than some random youth camp in bufu, Wisconsin.

One of my friends tells me that he thinks this has replaced church for me.  In a real, meaningful way it has.

For some reason there’s a level of catharsis I can only get at concerts, almost specifically Peacemakers concerts.  I used to get it on retreats.  I can’t explain what, specifically it is.

But in doing this, in basically withdrawing from my normal world for a couple of days (and, I think, it helps that I kept seeing the same people, who were there for the same reason…) I hit the reset button.  And, unlike a retreat, where the basic takeaway is, “Be more Jesus-y and evangelize, dammit!” my basic takeaway from Peacemakers shows is this:

So as cliché as it might sound
I’d like to raise another round
And if your bottle’s empty
Help yourself to mine
Thank you for your time
And here’s to life

Or, to put it another way: life’s too short to sit around bitching and being afraid.  It’s best to live life surrounded by good friends, good vibes, good music, and good beer.

I’ve heard that love is a nice addition, too.


[1]The Refreshments “Nada” figures prominently in the second version of that paper, for the record.  I love that song.  I could write quite a bit on the idea of waiting for my cold black, sun cracked, numb inside soul to come alive…

[2]This, then, lead to a profanity-laced tirade on Facebook of epic proportions.  Seriously.  I do not know what the fuck they’re thinking over there in Cupertino, but I would like to have my Notes pages actually preserve my, y’know, notes.  When I’m sitting there thinking of future alternatives to using my iPhone for such things that include bringing back the Tilt and hoping it has enough battery power if it’s not actually on a network or carrying a pen and paper around, the iPhone has officially failed at an extremely basic function.  It’s inexcusable.

However, I did get a response to my tirade from one of my old high school youth leaders.  It started with “Nice swears.”  This would be your basic passive-aggressive reminder from the morality police that I’m living a lifestyle that is not properly approved of.  To which I say, “So fucking what?”

[3]I was walking down 10th Street in Austin on Friday and actually saw an extremely dead bird wedged in to the grill of a big, white van.  I had to think about you…

[4]Seriously.  I gave it to this guy.  He said he’d clean it out, give it a nice bubble bath and massage, and give it back to me in the morning.  He never showed.  So right now I’m using this liver I made myself out of some PVC tubing and old shop rags.


Adrenalin Tim said...

There's an app called DraftPad that has good reviews as a replacement for Notes. It does frequent autosaves and...uh, I don't know what else. I downloaded it but haven't used it much.

BeamStalk said...

Weird Al is in Tulsa on July 15th, just so you know.

The Everlasting Dave said...

Rogapalooza never ends, it just shifts north and becomes Clynemas in July. From Fitzgerald's in Oak Park, July 2nd. They played just two hours, because they weren't headlining, but they still packed a full set in. Behold:

Blue Collar Suicide
I Don't Need Another Thrill
Down Together
City Girls
Beautiful Disaster
(Might have missed one right here, but after reviewing my RCPM/Refreshments collection, I can't for the life of me figure out what it was. Process of elimination says it was something off of Americano or HTU that I wouldn't remember. Shrug.)
Captain Suburbia (By request)
Jack v. Jose
Broken Record
Hello New Day
I Know You Know
Maybe We Should Fall In Love
Green and Dumb
Girly/ Yahoos & Triangles
(Short encore break)
I Do
American Girl