Day 17 – 9/13, 12:15pm, Humbolt Redwood State Park CA
Last night in Arcata was the first gig that felt deeply affected by the biking. In Vancouver, I had just landed, so it was still theoretical (except for the crash, of course). It was long rides to Seattle and Portland, but nothing like what I covered over the past five days, and I gave myself a day and a half of recovery time before each of those gigs. Yesterday, I rolled in straight from the road, bone weary yet the taste of the trip’s revelations still fresh in my mouth. As I told the audience, definitely a night where the curtain between the conscious and the subconscious is particularly permeable.
Luckily I was joined and held up by three excellent musicians – the tubaist and trombonist Gregg Moore, whose affable hospitality was matched by his creative wit, the exceptionally sensitive young drummer and vibraphonist Jonathan Kipp, who made perfect choices balancing texture and propulsion, and the magnificent violinist Jenny Scheinman, who played some music of truly breathtaking, transparent delicacy. Gregg’s loft (partly through his homemade cookies, soup, and bread) transforms into a place of real fellowship between the performers and the audience. And a great crowd came out; if the equivalent per capita percentage of the population came to one of my NYC gigs, I’d pack Shea Stadium. Arcata definitely has a vibe, lots of young wanderers with white dreds and scruffy dogs, a half-naked tattooed wizard juggling balls on chains in the plaza, but also a real sense of community, creative, and classic counterculture.
Exactly the kind of concert I’d hoped for in creating this tour. My own head in a wonderfully discombobulated space, in conversation with musicians who intuitively understood the spaces I’d traveled through. (While Jenny and Gregg have had internationally celebrated careers, and Jonathan is sure soon to begin one, they all grew up in the area and recently found their way back.)
Exactly the kind of biking I’d imagined over the past few days as well. The previous day I made the possibly unwise decision to climb the 1100 foot elevation, triple peaked Crescent City hills at the tail end of a hundred mile day. It was pretty brutal. I was screaming obscenities old and new, with images flashing in my head of me suffering abuses at the hands of a fleshy S&M dominatrix named Gravity, her heel on my knee and her whip on my butt. But then I made it to the top, and was rewarded by a 3.5 mile downhill ride through a rich forest, my first appetizer of redwoods, that I barely noticed through my sweat-blinded eyes on the way up. I landed on a glorious stretch of beach, the sun low on the western horizon, the waves massaging the rocks and shore. I felt actual, undiluted elation at that moment.
Now I’m at the cusp of the Avenue of the Giants through the Humbolt Redwood Forest. I’m meeting my old buddy Chris Jonas, who in addition to being a composer and saxophonist of precise and particular brilliance, is a documentary filmmaker par excellance. He’ll be joining me for the next three and a half days as I go into Berkeley, culminating in a double bill of his Goggle Saxophone Quartet and me conducting Phillip Greenlief’s 12-piece OrcheSperry. Hopefully he’ll grab enough footage to come up with a short film on the project. So I am delighted to have a dear friend along for the next leg, (and excited by the brief luxury of a support vehicle!), but it will likely cut back on the diary till I get to the Bay Area, so I’ll check back in after Tuesday.
Two final notes. I passed the geographic midway point of Vancouver and the Mexican border. It was a good feeling. (It’s all downhill from here, right?)
And to my father: happy 75th birthday! I doubt he expected the seeds he planted on the bike rides we took through Boston when I was a kid would grow into something like this.