Climbing

I have a lot of baggage.

Literally, I have a lot of baggage – see examples at right.  Over one two-day period here in August I started the day with a hiking pack and an overnight bag, transitioned to a guitar case to play an open mic, and then grabbed my carry-on and computer bag to head to the airport at 5:30 the next morning.2019-08-22 08.14.41

So, that’s

  • Hiking pack
  • Overnight bag
  • Guitar case 
  • Roller bag
  • Computer bag

Not all of them at the same time.  Not all of them useful in the same way.  And at least one of them more beloved than the others (and P.S.: it’s not the computer bag).

The second favorite bag is the hiking pack, though that relationship is a little complicated.  My son and I have been on multiple significant, multiple-day hikes over a span of years that goes back to about when he was 10 years old.  Many of those hikes occurred in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and many of them were arduous, in the cold, in the rain, and with a pack that made me wonder if my shoulders would ever recover.  Terrain has ranged from flat and grassy to alpine garden to boulder scramble to near-vertical ravine.  2019-08-18 13.21.59

This past weekend’s hike was a one-day, but pretty difficult climb up the Hunt Trail to the peak of Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  

It’s a hard truck. 5 miles in, 5 miles out, and 4400 vertical feet of elevation change. A good deal of that 4,400 feet occurs in what is called the Gateway – a near-vertical boulder scramble at the edge of an outcropping of the mountain. 

We were in fog for most of our climb. This was certainly disconcerting as it could rain at any moment and become very slippery, but in hindsight it actually was very helpful. The fog kept us from being able to see completely where we were going or where the summit was, but it also made us feel a little bit more enclosed than we actually were. In those few moments where the fog cleared, there was a very distinct feeling that we were scaling the outside of the building. In the same moments, there was the realization that however we went up, we are eventually going to have to come down!

But, then we got to the top….

2019-08-18 09.58.49

As you might be able to guess, it’d be easy for me to make the analogy to songwriting, or to my playing, or to performing.  But you’re all smart and creative and feeling people – you can make that connection on your own.

Tonight I’m doing a different type of climbing.  I am reliably informed that we are currently nearing our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet and will be making our connection more or less on time so that I may make it home in that vague in-between place that can be called either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  

It’s a pretty empty flight, and the attendants had us shift around for weight and balance – and I have found myself in an empty row as a result.

As an overly experienced flier, I almost always take an aisle seat so I can get out and make my next flight (or get the hell home or to the hotel).  But tonight, look out that window….2019-08-21 20.34.04

…sometimes you’re reminded to stop, look around, and remember why the climb is worth it.

Fighting the Self Doubts

RedDeerIt’s been a lively and busy summer so far, and last night I just did my 21st open mic night since first getting back out on the stage last September. It’s been a transformative experience, and I am incredibly appreciative of the community of artists that I have been able to find, particularly in Newton, Massachusetts and in Edmonton, Alberta.

I can feel that my songwriting has changed in the last 10 months of performing. Being around all of these other artists is incredibly humbling. The depth and array of talent is astounding. It is hard not to think of it as a competition when these incredible artists get to the stage before you and completely blow you away with their talent, their depth of feeling and performance…   and then, after you get over that little bruise to your own self-esteem and that hurt little being that is inside of you, you can take what you have seen and see it as inspiration for becoming a better songwriter, better performer, and even maybe a little more pleasant individual. 

The hosts of these open mic nights can make or break them. In particular, I have found two events that have become very dear to me both because of the encouragement of the hosts of one and the opportunities that have been presented by the host of another. 

Andrew Geano and Terrance Reeves host the open mic jam at Bill’s Pizza in Newton, MA.  They were there when I first brought the guitar back out of the case to perform live,  and both of them have been an incredible source of encouragement on songwriting and on how to improve my live performance. Please look both of them up – Terrance is a local music producer and mixer in addition to being a great open mic night host.  Andrew is genuinely one of the nicest people I know, and also is an incredible singer-songwriter. You can find his work on Spotify and also find his live gigs here. 2019-08-10 05.52.42

The other gig that has been a source of opportunity for me is Tim Ko’s open mic night at Tommy Doyle’s in Nonantum.  In addition to giving local musicians a place to play, Tim uses his open mic night to find people to take on longer sets around the MetroWest area. It is through Tim that I’m gonna be playing my first longform solo gig on September 20 at Tommy Doyle’s.

 

I have to go catch a plane now, but I look forward to talking with you again soon. Please mark September 20 on your calendar, and I’ll get you more details really soon!