04 June 2013
Tonight we are sailing at 22 degrees south latitude under clear skies on smooth seas with a 12-knot breeze. After being hammered for the last 3-days with 30-40 knots of wind gusting 45, and big seas, this feels a true luxury. I watch the Southern Cross slowly turn in the night sky with its pointer stars and realize that we are leaving it astern. Tonight was the first time in a long time that I've noticed the Big Dipper - all strange and upside down with the crux simultaneously visible. The North Star is below the horizon, but we sail toward it. The Milky Way is there again clear and bright. There are long tail shooting stars and Steve Earl is playing on my iPod underscoring the moment. Late night watches are often special. I remember when I first discovered late nights in college. It was a space in time previously unknown to me - where I could listen intently to music and not feel guilty about the things I should be doing during my waking hours. I mean, these were not really my waking hours. So what if I just borrowed a little time from my sleeping hours? I found that music was somehow a portal to this new dimension. Since then, I have been a night person and as a musician, I've probably experienced the most fun a person can have during these hours in time where everyone meets and just enjoys music and the moment with none of the clutter of the days cares. Most of the time we are just too busy to stop and ponder the experiences and the people that have been responsible for bringing so much joy to our lives. Night watch tends to be a perfect time to reflect on just those things and tonight a flood of thoughts and memories start to come - too fast to really capture and I just let them on through. As I listen to Vassen, I'm reminded of my buddy Ian, who plays the Swedish nickelharpa with virtuosity and the time I convinced him to do a solo set on stage at the Alaska Folk Fest, saying he'd definitely get some female attention if he did...and he did. And when he, my late friend Gerard McDonnal and I played a rocked up electric Irish set at Humpy's on St. Patrick's Day. And of the kick-ass dream trad band I'd like to have formed with both of them and Chris Behnke that would never be. Poncho and Lefty comes on and while I've never really loved that song or had time for it during the day, I savor it now and think of riggers Keith and Ray's heartfelt rendition and wonder how those guys are doing, having most certainly rocked the William H. Seward Yacht Club again this year. That's followed by a bluegrass song bringing back to a random tues night, where I found myself at the packed Brown Bear Saloon with Suzi and Linda, my Irish music friends - crashing a little impromptu show by the best of the Alaska Bluegrass scene. The music that night was beyond good. It would be impossible to replicate and I felt so lucky to be there wishing i could share it and knowing I'd remember it forever. Kate Hamry met me with a bright smile and warm hug, I talked with Todd who said he really liked my bands CD I'd given him in Juneau, and danced a memorable waltz with Rebecca Mohlman. It was awesome. Then there was the time I first heard three of what would become some of my favorite artists, Spiff Chambers, Leeroy Stagger and Tim Easton. Arriving late to the packed show at the original Taproot Cafe, I got the last table, not 3-feet from the stage, front and center. Sipping a Dutchess, I sat mesmerized at Spiffs guitar playing and hung on every word - not knowing I'd become attached to his Walking Song - which even now brings a tear to my eye. I'd later be elated and feel so lucky that Spiff would end up opening shows for my band. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot that night watching Tim Easton shred on his trashed black Gibson j45. I had. There's all the crazy late night playing music in my room upstairs at the Alaskan Hotel during folk fest with Caitlin, Gerard, Liz and Ellie May. And the bow dance..... Then there are the guys and the band. More fun than an adult is supposed to have. The rehearsals. All the gigs: The Brown Bear with Whipsaws, thirty below zero in Talkeetna at the Fairview Inn, the Marlin in Fairbanks, where after downing a 5-hour energy drink, I watched Steve literally turn into a human pogo stick during our set - banging his head on the ceiling beam. The Telepalooza gig at the Sitzmark we Aaron Benolkin sitting in, opening for Lucero in Girdwood, opening for the Bodeans at Bears Tooth on the big stage, Oceans Fest for Son Volt. All the Taproot gigsï¿½.... I do miss the scene and just creating music with great people. I wonder how much home will have changed by the time we get back. How much we will have changed... Lolo tells me sometimes every song that comes up on her iPod during night watch makes her tear up. Maybe it's the late night time warp. Maybe it's the music. Maybe it's the time to ponder the memories....of friends so very far away.