Monday, 27 October 2008

Half Way Hopeful

Heading out of Montreal en route to Toronto, on a rain-soaked 401 highway, we speed south through Ontario, on the first day of serious rain we’ve seen for a while. We take a full 20 minutes to pass a huge convoy of RVs, flocking before heading south for the winter on their annual migration of retired adventurers, jeeps towed behind, throwing up a dangerous spray that reduces visibility to feet and increases braking distance to miles. It is a reminder that touring like this is more of a challenge, the occasional nine hour drives between cities taking their toll on energy and conversation. Not for us the comforts of the European tour bus, with the flat screen, lounge, beds and kitchen… but there’s something satisfying about really feeling the miles rather than just waking up in a new city. More like sailing compared to flying, and about as wet.

Thank god, then, for the comedy channel on satellite radio, that offers respite from the continual heavy rotation of classic rock that clogs the airways in North America and Canada. It’s as if time and culture stopped sometime around 1976, before Zeppelin split and punk burnt down the houses of the holy. It’s not a bad way to travel, imagining myself aged seven again, listening to Blinded By The Light, wearing jumble sale clothes and counting down the days to the release of Star Wars. Hearing those classic clips of Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, Richard Prior et al reminds me that it isn’t just rock stars that die before their time.

The shows have all been fun to play, some bigger than others, but they're all special for their own reasons. I’ve been given a scarf, and bottle of Canada’s only Single Malt Whisky - so bring on the New York winter – you hold no fear for me now. I love the change from Fall to Winter here, the trip from Boston to Montreal left me more exhausted by the beauty of the leaves on the trees, ablaze with every shade of yellow and red – than by the actual driving. That’s Steve’s job. And to think he laughs at me because I don’t drive. He’ll figure it out one day.

Now, with the final Montreal and Toronto shows done, making good on last year’s promise to return, it’s an early start and a thirteen hour train ride to New York City. The train moves so slowly I could get out and walk alongside and still be in the city before the Amtrak wagons roll into Penn station… but I don’t. It’s on these train rides that ideas for songs come, that dreams come bubbling up from interrupted sleep. Dreams of downing tools and moving to a place somewhere upstate, settling down in a quiet little town and forgetting about everything. Dreams of spending my days fishing in the Catskills. Dreams of Barack Obama in the Whitehouse, George Bush in the ground, and dreams of a brighter morning on November 5th. Half way between things is a nice place to be. Half way between sleeping and awake, half way between seasons. Half way between cities, half way on the tour, and best of all, half way hopeful.


  1. Nice photograph. It looks like a painting. Did you take it?


    PS: I don't drive either.

  2. I was gonna bring some organic hummus, but then, what would have I done with hummus in my bag all night?

    Anyway, this is the best season to be in Canada, those colours are the last colours we see and then it's all white...and white, and more white....

    "Ô Canada ! Terre de nos aïeux,
    Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux !
    With glowing hearts we see thee rise
    The True North strong and free
    From far and wide, O Canada,
    We stand on guard for thee
    Et ta valeur, de foi trempée
    Protégera nos foyers et nos droits
    Protégera nos foyers et nos droits"

  3. You can add me to the non drivers fan club, though the roads are a safer place without me. I failed on everything except my emergency stop, I did it so well my test guy almost went through the windscreen which is a pity he hadn't then I could have re-sat my test:-)
    Sounds like bliss the scenery you are seeing, The Fall is such a great name for Autumn, we tend not to notice the changing colours of the trees through the haze of downpours and fierce gales we have had, kind of knocks them pretty leaves of the trees before we can
    Half way would be such a great song title, you have described being in a good place so well, its a pity we have to come out of the half way stage to face real life every day.
    That dream of Obama in the Whitehouse is becoming more real, fingers crossed:-)
    Enjoy the rest of your tour and your Malt whisky:-)x

  4. It's a gorgeous time of year to be traveling, right before the leaves come down. ^_^ May many songs come of it.

    Glad to have contributed to the fight against the winter cold! We were so happy that you came back to Canada, and hope you'll make it back again. In the meantime, the live CD is standing in and sounding great!

  5. "He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eyes that's halfway hopeful."

  6. Full marks for the spot! One of my favourite books by one of my favourite writers. I'll try some others, see if we can get a little literary quiz going on - he said, nerdishly.

  7. I intended to write out scarf care instructions, but I didn't quite manage. Soaked it in cool water with a gentle soap for a good 20 minutes or so (swish gently if you like [it's fun!]). Roll it in a clean dry towel and then squeeze the water out (feel free to stomp on it to do so--as long as you don't twist or wring, it's cool). Then lay it flat to dry (it dried overnight when I first washed it); at this point, you can stretch it a bit for a little more length (by the time I saw how short it was going to be, I didn't have time to start over--oops!).

    Alternately, you could play two nights in Toronto next time, and I can wash it for you then. ^_^ (I had to try at the very least.)

  8. "Nerdishly" is a great word and had never heard of DeLillo or "Underworld" before. This blog is so educational!

  9. You fixed your banner! How wonderful.

  10. If literature is your specialist subject, Tom, could you come help our Thursday night pub quiz team oop 'ere in Leeds when you get back? :)

  11. and how hopeful now? More than half-way? How jammy for you getting to do a gig today of all days!! The atmosphere this evening will be fantastic before you even start! It must be wonderful to be there - enjoy it and have a great night!

  12. Alors, heureux?

    I am not as enthousiastic as others, but relieved and maybe halfway hopeful now.

    Enjoy your gig !


Leave your comment, observations,screams of outrage here, and clothing and grooming tips.