Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars
Glass Plate photo

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'HAGALAZ' or 'Hailstorm.'

- to level.
"..consider what will remain after the disruption is passed - this will be your truth." ruin-cast before our "winter south/south-west" tour.

I sit under the stars back in my northland home. The temp is zero, and the windchill reaches near -20 degrees. I feel the bite of our outdoor hot tub water. I feel the ice form on my wet hair. The tub is a japanese style deep wood tub. Built from a kit. Too costly to keep heated throughout this particular winter, but I'd asked Lynn to turn it on for my return. It is old and worn. But I'm in it.
The rising steam impairs my view of the surrounding bare trees, and the dim light of the kitchen window appears and vanishes. The water is still and silent.
I sip my red wine and water, try not to think too hard about anything in particular, and I slowly get drunk.

Years ago, before cell phones, Lynette and I and a poet friend made our way from Duluth to Minneapolis after a visit. It was winter, near midnight, and half way through the journey when the car stopped running. The outside temp was sub zero, windchill much lower. I was trying to figure out how far away the last gas stop was, thinking of walking back for help, when a pickup truck pulled over. The man inside offered us a ride if we didn't mind sitting with his dog in the cab. He drove all 3 of us to our Minneapolis home's front door. The next day, the news told of someone stalled just a few miles from where we had also stalled on 35w. They had died from exposure because of the arctic cold front which had enveloped the area... they'd attempted to walk for help.

Is it just me, or does everyone flirt with death? Is it because we all know death wins in the end? Do we taunt it to feel better? Did we just give up?

I believe each of us reached a precipice on this tour. The point of self awareness which makes you just hurt.

I know, there's the blow by blow way to review this last tour, and I suppose I could do that. To be sure there were some wonderful times: the White Sands NM photo shoot, The wonderful overnights we enjoyed at each leg of the tour, and the beautiful food and visits we indulged in with each of our hosts... but I'm just not really wanting to go down that road for this blog. Simply this is what continues to pull me back on the road: Friends.

My band mates will tell their stories.
You will hear them. And I will also tell you the details, and the bits of mine when I next run into you at a bar, or over coffee... but for now, this is the story I will tell here:

I wanted to try for a 'sober only' performance tour... I gave up on this half way through when the carbon monoxide poisoning took hold in El Paso TX. I did however, refrain from getting wasted. So there is that. But I can't do what I thought I could. And I'm humbled with that knowledge.

I found performances became brittle... I pushed, stumbled, confessed, and managed, but I couldn't get to the place I love. Where I dissolve. Where music, where voice, where time stops. Where they all become one.
I lost.

My distraction with van repairs took a toll. Rebuilding the differential in Wichita was an expensive blow... but I felt lucky to have found someone who could do it so quickly. Mr. Jean-Claude (Damn Van) however, wasn't through. A minor loose hose lost a gallon of coolant 85 miles outside of Albuquerque NM and at 7pm, 40 miles from no-where, we overheated. We waited 2 hours in the dark, In the van, in front of the pumps of a closed gas station for a tow.
It finally came.
We arrived in Albuquerque by 10:30 pm, just a 5 minutes drive away from our overnight at Jules' place.
The next morning "Pep Boys" didn't charge us for fixing it. (Yay!!!) That night, however, at our gig at Burt's, the audience really wanted our knarly rock set.
We presented '10 BONES,' but I broke, and switched the set to 'sparks and speed' as soon as I saw the drift. It saved the night, and though it was all the music I love, I still went into darkness.

This night was my precipice. Cost, distraction, worry, depression, time, struggle, frustration, the years... and the years.... and the damn years.... and finally, the brittleness of not drinking collided. Everything was done. Anger was god. The world crumbled. I didn't break my hand...(as some of you know, I've broken both hands at least twice.) But I caused a great deal of emotional damage to myself and to my band.

And I apologized.


The El Paso drive ended with a major exhaust leak. We should have gone to an E.R.


I drank a few scotch's so I had an excuse for being so dizzy, and we performed anyway.


I almost fell asleep at the wheel on the drive back to Las Cruses that night. The only thing that kept me awake was the screaming bad leg cramps in my thighs and calves. Jazz road home with our hosts, LeFreak, also drifting off to sleep did his best to help me stay awake, but we both collapsed when we finally arrived at David and Donny's house.

... hailstorm.

Fixed the exhaust leak, but couldn't drive over 65 miles an hour and with no power either. We drove to Bisbee AZ.
My friend Ray (the mechanic,) there in Bisbee, made a house call and took a look. He found the new carb choke wasn't getting electricity, And most likely for some time (even though I'd made sure the hot lead was in place when I left.) My kick-down cable wasn't adjusted right either which added to the loss of power. I had no idea.
The air filter was dripping from oil blow-by caused because I was only ever using 2 of the 4 carb barrels for who knows how long!
4 hr's later, though, I had my old van back. Ray's adjustments worked. The new engine now kicked ass, and we had a killer set at "St. Elmo's Fire."
Then we drove to Phoenix without a hitch, and had another killer set at "The Rock."
The van climbed the mountain roads like a champ into Prescott AZ, and we had a lovely overnight there.
My acoustic set helped me drift back to the place where I love. Where I am lost in the songs... but only 3 people came to the show. With LeFreak, and Jazz, and the gallery owner Kim, and her assistant Laurie, that made 7 in the audience. It was lovely, but also troubling. It was a very tiny and intimate way to close the tour.

As we drove back and slowly descended the mountains, the van began to complain in the lower atmosphere. Time was short. and we kept driving without attempting adjustments... I wasn't sure just how to do them, and I didn't want to make things worse.
3 days into the cold north, the southwest warm choke adjustments Ray had done which worked so wonderfully there, just didn't work so well here. Then for some reason (which I am still investigating,) I lost coolant again, and we began to overheat at our gas stops around 8 pm, (still 3 hr's outside of Minneapolis,) and now, we were in the middle of this brutal arctic front. The engine stayed at normal temp as long as we kept driving, but climbed when we slowed to a stop. I assumed there was enough coolant to get us home by the way it behaved. The engine was too hot to try to take the radiator cap off to check for sure, and we were all so tired from the 9 hr's we'd already driven that day. I didn't want to give up. I kept on eye on the engine temp the rest of the way, riding it through the gauge's ups and downs till we were all back home.

Mr. Jean-Claude Damn-Van now sits waiting for me to gather up the energy to once again head out and sort what it needs... but I'm exhausted, and it's damn cold. Jean-Claude will just have to wait for a while longer.