I was a touring musician for the first time in years. After Eliza dropped me off curbside in the early morning hours, I checked one guitar and a bag, then carried a second guitar on. My flight barely made it out of Austin on time as a thunderstorm caused a delay. In fact, on ascent, there was a flash of lightning so close to the plane that we all heard the boom of thunder simultaneously with the strobe of light. Then, finally, I got a little extra sleep. A couple hours later I watched the snow covered Sierras and Cascades go by as we flew north over central California and western Oregon toward Portland. I hadn’t been back to my home turf in years, and it was sweet to see the mountains I had backpacked, camped and skied in when I was growing up in the Great Northwest.
When I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund my new record “Missing” back in September of 2017 one of my supporters, Jay Harman, pledged for a house concert in my hometown of Corvallis. Jay was a big part of my campaign’s success. Now I was on my way to Oregon and, ultimately, Corvallis to do a 90 minute show for 40-60 friends, old and new, at Jay’s family’s home on a hilltop north of Corvallis.
First, though, I was stopping over in Portland for the night to play a set at Artichoke Music. My fellow musician and friend Michael Henchman, whom I’d met in Austin at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance, picked me up at PDX. We had lunch and ran through the songs, then later that afternoon headed through the Friday afternoon traffic for S.E. Portland. It was a warm, intimate gathering at the Artichoke, and I saw some old friends there that I hadn’t seen for fifteen years or more. It was a good setting for me to run through some of the songs from my new album. Michael played fretless bass on four songs and we had a great time.
After staying overnight with an old friend, Mark, who lives in Vancouver, I headed 90 miles south through the central Willamette Valley on Saturday morning. There was snow on the hills and moss in the old growth trees, all of which are in short supply in Texas. When I made the final turn into Jay’s family’s home, the drive looked like the entrance to a magic forest.
Half an hour before the house concert was to begin, a squall blew through. After it passed, a perfect rainbow appeared over the green slopes of Vineyard Mountain just north of us. It was good omen.
Fifty or so friends arrived, some coming from as far away as Sacramento and Tucson to hear the music and see old friends. The songs from my new record all have great stories, since they’re mostly about historical people that went missing. So I told the tales of Amelia Earhart, Percy Fawcett, Everett Ruess, D.B. Cooper, Virginia Dare and Giordano Bruno through the thread of songs. And the three other songs on the record, Santa Rosa’s Skies, Beautiful Bird, and The Life We Left Behind featured more personal stories. Then to cap off the afternoon, I played a new song “Plains To The Pacific” that I’d written about Jay’s great grandfather, who’s parents had homesteaded on the plains in the 1870’s. Jay had edited a memoir by the same title that I’d read in order to write the song. His book “Plains To The Pacific” is available on Amazon, and is an incredibly good read. It is unbelievable the hardships that those homesteaders endured.
The next morning, after hanging out with Jay and his wife Deb, then stopping to have lunch with a small group of close friends, I headed back to Vancouver to stay again with Mark’s family for the night. Then on Monday morning, after an essential cup of espresso at a marina down by the Columbia River, Mark dropped me at the Portland Airport and I headed back to Austin. On our ascent out of PDX we had an incredible view of Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker, and Mt. Rainier in the distance way up near Seattle. It was a satisfying finish to a beautiful musical weekend. And both guitars made it back in one piece.