St. Louis, MO – “Soundtrack To The Best Time of My Life” -The Firehouse – June 16, 1999

$6 Bucks
Go Carts
Mini Golf
And cheap wine discreetly sipped from straws in jumbo White Castle plastic cups.

It was cold when we arrived in Missouri and windy. The mini golf range was our scenic view from the middle of the nowhere motel. After checking in, we opened a bottle of wine and settled into a room swathed in overtly floral patterns. Chris Delucchi, visibly enchanted by the mini-golf course, started pointing out some of its quirkier features—“Look at those rainbow flaming lights!” he exclaimed with admiration. “Those water fountains gotta be dyed blue.” “Are those plaster dinosaurs?” Soucy asked, moving closer to the window. Kenny joined in, “That’s the greenest astroturf I think I’ve ever seen.”

Perhaps it’s an indication of how low our standards of a good time have fallen but suddenly we were chomping at the bit to play a round. We poured our freshly decanted wine into super-sized cups left over from lunch and headed across the parking lot, ready for a late-night adventure.

I was delighted by how seriously Brian McRae took his game. He positioned his feet with precision at the top of every hole, claiming the direction of the swing was “all in the feet.” He’d hit his lime green ball and stroll to it like it were a hot girl he was pretending not to notice at the bar. He’d monitor the wind, line up his next shot, and then fold his arms and wait patiently as the rest of us laughed hysterically, hitting our balls haphazardly into bushes and fountains. We were the last group to finish before closing time, and I think the mini-golf employees were glad to see the back of us.

The day was hangover gray when the phone rang the next morning. A bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers in a makeshift water bottle vase nearly blinded me. They tottered threateningly close to falling onto a sleeping Delucchi in the next bed over. It was Brian in the next room, calling to see if I’d go rollerblading with him. He remembered something before he hung up and called so loudly into the receiver I could hear him from the other room: “Sal—my friend asked if we wanted to open for Lynard Skynard this weekend? It would mean hanging out in Missouri for an extra few days but I think it pays well…(hehe)” he laughed nervously. Brian does that. He laughs nervously when he’s unsure of how someone will react to what he’s saying. I imagined the four of us up on a tall outdoor stage at high noon playing to Lynard Skynard’s brawdy crowd (in Missouri no less) and the whole southern, beer-drinking, “Sweet Home Alabama,” sunburn-ness of it gave me heartburn. “So…(hehe)… What’da’ya think?” Asked Bri. “Let’s think about it.” I said, “I mean, I don’t wanna let you down but I’m not sure Lynard Skynard’s our market.” Brian paused, perhaps imagining the same heartburn inducing visual and replied “On second thought, that’s a terrible idea… (hehe).”

Wheels on, I rolled into the hallway and skated down the red-carpeted isle to the elevator. I hit complimentary breakfast in the lobby, thinking I’d just grab an untoasted bagel and an orange when I discovered it—My new favorite thing. It sat unassumingly on the indelible, beige, mica, linoleum countertop—An automatic mochaccino machine!!!!! All you can drink, all-day, all you have to do is press your desired cup size, your preferred strength of coffee, slide a paper cup under its lip and hit “start!” Over the course of the day, I took advantage at least 50 cups of complementary mochaccinos. Brilliant invention! What will they think of next?!?!?!

Our blade was desolate. We kept mostly to the flatness of “paved paradises” (parking lots) and side streets. The area of Missouri we were stationed in felt soulless, as though even the breeze was afraid to breathe there. We trekked into St. Louis for lunch and ended up at the top of the St. Louis arch. Even though it was pretty cool up there, we all agreed it wasn’t worth the hour-long line.

The Firehouse is an old fire station. Its rugged brown brick walls are beautiful and strong but unfortunately, they make for an echo chamber of a venue if the show’s not packed to soak up the sound. Our show was NOT packed. Apologetically, The Firehouse’s owners, Christian and his wife Kaylene, let us know we were competing with Dave Matthews Band and Chuck Berry on a Wednesday night, no less, and a home team baseball game was just down the street.

The green room was hot and downstairs. I hung my dress on one of the pipes off the low ceiling and sat in a deep yellow chair. My dress rocked on it’s hanger. I Watched some fruit flies case a freckled bunch of bananas in a silver bowl and sipped camomile tea an anonymous employee had brewed and left for me. And in that moment I thought to myself…

This is truly the best time of my life.

On our way home now, speeding along as eagerly as horses heading back to their stable, Kansas stretches out before us—a long, flat, windy place. Over these 9000 miles, we’ve listened to so much good music. If we were to make a compilation tape of this tour, it would definitely include:

  1. John Hyatt – “Come On Baby Drive South”
  2. Black Crows – “Remedy”
  3. Liv Taylor – “Olympic Guitar”
  4. Lucinda Williams – “Car Wheels on A Gravel Road”
  5. Meshell Ndegeocello – “If That’s Your Boyfriend, He Wasn’t Last Night”
  6. Eric Erdman with The Ugly Stick – “Nine Planets”
  7. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials – “Creator Has a Greater Plan”
  8. G-Love and The Special Sauce – “My Baby’s Got Sauce”
  9. Staple Singers – “Love Comes in All Colors”
  10. Donny Hathaway – “Jealous Guy”
  11. The Brand New Heavies – “Make Sauce”
  12. Cymande – “Brothers On The Slide”
  13. Iris May Tango – “Hairdomagic”
  14. Ben Folds Five – “Magic”
  15. Looking Glass – “Brandy”

STB would like to thank the following for making our “Flying V Tour” of the East Coast so damn great:

Big Hand Todd, Dan Beach, The underage dancing girls from Minnesota at The Port O Call, Gary Jones, Kipp, Charles at Harbor Docks for all that phat food, “Big Time” and “Re-run,” Of course: Eric the “Bird Man,” Melba and Mary from the Waffle House, “mom” from Madison, “Hot Po” Tader, I.Q, Peggy, David Starr from Arkansas, “Missy”: Chris’s Mystery girl from Shuba’s, Kim Kelly in Tuscaloosa, Alex Taylor for housing us in Northampton, “Smithy,” Livingston and Maggie Taylor for all of their unbelievable support and loving advice, “The Bubble Man” who ever you are, Ian Selig and Val for up all night in Tribeca, Nimi, Heidi, Cat, and Mikol, Dr. Len and Diane at the Raptor Trust, The kids at the Walden School and Marji and her family (thanks for the chocolates, flowers and “gingew beeww”), Jeffery, Sean Pocock and Mary Jane Rumley, “The Gloms” who probably don’t know who they are, Brint and Liz Anderson… Yummmm food, music, and “one boot playin’ on the porch board,” DJ Image (The parking lot attendant in NOLA), The Porch Board people at Enroute Music, Howard @ Blue Note for the J-45, Jason for the beautiful flowers, Josh for the Safe House, Kate Faccia (thanks for leaving me in Boulder alone!!!!!), “Disco” for supplying Kenny with the cup….(next time bring two), The Paramount for supplying us with our mascot “The un-kind Bud”, Shuckers, All those people who “looked like a chicken to me!”, Those of you who stuck us with the fat ass tab at Walker’s in NYC, Reid’s Ginger Beer, “Key’s to the Trailer,” Laura back in Boulder for everything, Those of you who gave us hours of listening with your CD’s, Ariel, P.I.M, Those cool phone interviewers, Thai Joe, Beccini contestants #5 & #7 From the Windjammer, Gene O’Brian, “Pelican, Pelican, Pelican”, Amityville, all of our parents for their support, Mel, Heidi Wild and Brandon, Nisa, Dave our tow truck driver, Michael White and Mary, and thank you to I-70 headed us West as we speak.

Swarthmore, PA – “Teach Your Children Well” -The Walden School – June 14, 1999

The rain drums on the windshield in heavy metal bullets. It drowns out the music on the sterio. Beyond the window is a blur of blue-green foliage and a ribbon of grey road, which bends like a snake to swallow our van whole. The drive is like being inside a 3D Monet painting.

Flowers in plastic bottles are braced in cupholders and wired to the back of the instrument cage. They jostle and spill around the corners. I love flowers but rarely buy them or cut them for myself. I see killing them for my pleasure as somewhat unjust but I’m grateful to tend to them whenever they come into my company.

Our current floral haul came on board this morning, gifts from the students from The Walden School who showed their appreciation with bouquets bigger than my head. I have a “No flower left behind” policy. I can hear the boys in the band groan whenever flowers are presented to me, be it a handful of freshly picked wildflowers or a dozen long-stemmed roses, they know it’s a full band commitment. These flowers need to be carried from the backstage to the van and from the van to the hotel room. They’ll need to be pruned and have their water changed daily. Hosting them in the van will mean someone gets wet, gets bitten by a thorn, gets a pollin tatoo on their stage cloths or has a sneezing fit. But these are all part of the sacrifices my band makes for me and my commitment to flowers.

What a joy it was playing for the kids at Walden. The day started off late, with Chris S. tugging at my toe to wake me up. It was already 10:30 AM.

Sharing a room the night before, Soucy and I laughed at our reflections side by side, brushing our teeth in front of the mirror in the bathroom like an old married couple. With a mouth full of fluoride, I asked him if he’d be willing to join me at the Walden School the next day. “I love kids,” I confessed, rinsing my mouth out, “but I don’t quite know how to relate to them. And since you were a 5th-grade teacher before becoming my guitar player –” Chris suddenly became very serious, taking charge of the situation as though performing for 6- to 14-year-olds required the skill of twenty bomb disarmers.

“We’ll need to practice,” he declared, abandoning his frothy toothbrush on the sink to retrieve our guitars from the van. Unsheithing the guitars he spoke to me a mile a minute. “We should play ‘Happy Now’ and teach the kids how to sing the different parts. And ‘Song For Kim’—just make sure you watch the ‘f’ word. We shouldn’t play ‘Red Room,’ it’s too suggestive.”
“But Chris, it only says, ‘I kissed a boy…’
“Well, maybe it’ll be OK. But avoid the bit about going to songwriter’s jail; they’ll think you’re serious. Sarcasm and kids don’t mix. Also, we should stick to songs from the CD. Marji said they’ve been listening to it a lot. We should do ‘Sign of Rain’ and you should teach the kids how you write about images. Maybe we should include a song like ‘The Cat Came Back the Very Next Day,’” he suggested, strumming the tune on his guitar. “NO!” I said firmly. “They hired us to do our show, and that’s what we’re going to do.” I began to wonder if inviting Chris was such a good idea. But once I relinquished control and let him take the reins, everything went smoother. It was clear this meant a lot to him.

Katie, Sally, Marji, Katie’s friend

Marji, the teacher who’d arranged our performance, wanted us at school by noon and mapped our route from the hotel meticulously accounting for traffic lights and even the weather. Her family—Larry, Katie, and Ryan—treated us like royalty when we arrived, surrounding us with chocolates, Reid’s Ginger Beer (my fave), and a student-crafted welcome banner. Katie and her friend even made me a star and ribbon crown to wear on stage. In a classroom turned greenroom just for us, we gathered on folding chairs around a blue plastic tablecloth, delightedly drinking no-name cola and gorging ourselves on homemade sandwiches from a pickle-juice-soaked platter.

Kenny, Bri, Soucy & Delucchi backstage at The Walden School

The children gathered in the assembly hall at 12:30, their eyes peering up at me from a sea of blue, orange, pink, and green tie-dyed shirts. As Soucy choreographed, I sang and then answered students’ questions. After the second song, Chris leaned over his mic and, wide-eyed, asked, “Wanna talk about songwriting now?”

The students made me think in ways adults rarely do. When I talk to adults about songwriting, I speak to what they already know. But with kids, I had to start from scratch and use a vocabulary they would understand. I told them, “Songs are pictures born from emotions.” I told them “You can draw a picture of a song just as easily as you can write a song from a picture.” To show them how, I asked the kids to close their eyes and see what images came to mind during the next song. Chris and I played “Sign Of Rain,” and then called on raised hands asking them what the song had brought to mind.

“Christmas,” one girl said. “Summer,” said another. “A van driving through leaves,” “rain,” they all wanted to chime in. I told them they were all right because there is no misinterpreting the meaning of a song. “That’s the beauty of art,” I said. “It’s allowed to look, sound, feel, and smell different to everyone.” We did the same exercise with “Waiting On an Angel,” and the children’s vivid imaginations blew me away: “I see an angel holding her child,” “I see an angel riding a horse through the sky,” “I see angels at Christmas time.” And then one girl pointed at me and said, “You.” That nearly melted me into a puddle on the floor.

It was a fabulous gig; my favorite of the tour. After we played, we signed CDs and I found myself in a hurricane of tie-dyed children who wanted Sally Taylor stickers and for me to sign their tie-dyed backs and yearbooks. I tell you, I love those kids at Walden. In challenging me to teach them about songwriting, they ended up educating me about the spirit of muse. I clearly have much more to learn from children.

King Of Prussia, PA – “I Donwannago Home” – The Concert Under the Stars – June 13, 1999

I never want to get off the road. I want to keep going, and with only a week left on this leg, I’m feeling anxious. I’m going to miss the middle-of-nowhere-ness—the heartbeat of the van on the highway over its control joints. I’ll miss the slow strobe of street lamps, which pass Moby from one post to the next in halos of light. I’ll miss the scent of small towns (no two smell the same). I’ll miss sampling bakeries and coffee shops, window-shopping along Main Streets, wondering about who owns the minimart here or why there are two antique baseball card stores in town. I’ll miss arriving anonymously and leaving like a friend to be missed. I’ll miss coco-coffees at gas stations and complimentary continental breakfasts in hotel lobbies. I’m gonna miss living out of a bag, only owning what I can carry. I love the road. I love the cyclone dance of it and learning how to breathe in chaos. I’m scared I’ll hate my apartment when I get home, that my walls will feel tight around my shoulders, and that I’ll feel trapped and without myself, as I did after coming off the West Coast tour. I’m scared of being alone, without my band. I’m scared of standing still.

The Concert Under the Stars was held at a picturesque outdoor venue. Our stage was adjacent to a picnicker’s paradise where, in an hour, our more-than-appreciative audience would unfurl blankets and hold children captive in their laps. A quaint gazebo stood behind the stage like some sort of perfect, life-sized wedding cake decoration. This is where we were told to take shelter if the rain in the forecast came to pass. Big, bruise-like purple clouds loomed overhead. But, like a reverse rain dance, the second I started “Sign Of Rain,” the sun came out and blinded us, shining over the right side of the lawn sitters. A great photographer named Jeffrey Sidelsky captured the moment….

Bryn Mawr, PA – “A Glomless Night” – The Point” – June 12, 1999

Soucy’s parents live in Millington, New Jersey where they run a bird rehabilitation center, “The Raptor Trust.” They nurse injured Bald Eagles, Red Tail Hawks, Vultures, and Owls before they return them to the wild.

Dr. Soucy Sr. gives us a tour of his facilities which cater to every raptor from the smallest open-mouth ospray (needing hand feeding every hour with a little silver spatula) to the gnarliest, copper-headed, tare-your-throat out Eagles. It’s bird world over here at the Soucy’s in northern Jersey! I’d never seen eye to eye with a raptor before and Dr. Soucy (Len) let me hold an array of them on my arm. Slipping into a stiff leather glove, I got to meet a red-tailed hawk with one wing, hold a beautiful heart-faced, barn owl, and got to chill with some vultures who looked like cloaked supervillains. We had the pleasure of eating lunch with Ms. Soucy on her birthday and to share in her banana birthday cake. Our visit was cut short by the long drive ahead of us to PA.

The Point is a historic folk venue. While the name of the venue has been shortened (It used to be “The Main Point”) little else about it has changed including the street it stands on. My ol’ man used to play here along with Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Brown. It’s a coffee bar at heart and performances are early enough to bring along a kid or two.

The stage is the focal point of the room. It’s low as a tall curb with a huge oriental rug on it. I love a rug on stage!! It makes me feel so at home and I can go barefoot which always makes me a better performer.

Soucy and Sal at soundcheck

The Point was packed for our show and the caffeinated coffee-sipping faces draped delicately against pastel couches were vastly more attentive than the drunk whisky-swilling faces propping themselves up on our usual bar crowd. My stories felt funnier, my guitar sounded brighter, and my CDs sold faster they had any right to. Best of all there were no“gloms.*” We were loaded out before the sun had a chance to set and we delightedly watched it descend from a splintering park bench eating take-out vegetable chow mein and chicken fried rice. What a gift it was to get an early night.

*“Glom,” refers to the one, or sometimes two people in a crowd who attach themselves to the band, or to me, the way super glue attaches to your fingers, and as you frantically try to disconnect your digits, the glom just gets more fingers involved. We’ve discovered there’s usually one in every crowd. The telltale signs you’re dealing with “A Glom” are

  1. They ask really inappropriate questions or tell you deeply inappropriate things they think will endear themselves to you, i.e.: “You know, I slept with your father back in ‘68.” Or “What color underpants are you wearing?”
  2. They follow you backstage, or into the bathroom and get in your van without being invited.
  3. They stand too close to you while you’re talking to someone else and answer their questions before you can.
  4. They ask “Do you have any SHWAG CDs?”
  5. They eat the band’s ‘food and drink rider’ backstage without being invited backstage.
  6. They grab your guitar and start singing your parents’ songs…badly.
  7. They ask if I can get them JT’s autograph.
  8. They don’t understand that when they see you running in the opposite direction, you’re running away from them, and instead of taking the hint, they try to keep up.
  9. They tell you they’re your parent’s friends when really they’ve only just seen them on the other side of the street (keeping their distance no doubt, due to their well-seasoned “glom” radar)
  10. When you tell them you’ve gotta go. They say they’ll meet you back at your hotel.

If you fear you, or someone you know, is a glom it’s not too late to seek help. Just call 1-800-Glom-Anonymous.

New York City, NY – “A Musical Reunion” -The Mercury Lounge – June 11, 1999

The venue wore vampire black…Typical of New York, so I wore red.

Our trip into my hometown earlier in the day was chaotic, to say the least. Cabs and trucks with signs that read “Caution: Toxic Material” darted in and out of our lane, expecting our extend-o-van, chock full of heavy musical equipment, to be able to stop on a dime. Brian, cursed behind his teeth, behind the wheel as he navigated the congested highways. It was a maddening cycle of stopping, accelerating (to avoid being cut off), and slamming on the brakes, all while backseat drivers yelled conflicting directions: “Not this exit,” “Get off now, turn left… Left!,” “Do not go over this bridge! Whatever you do, avoid the bridge! Oh no!” The heat was oppressive. We bit our nails to the quick and with every jolt, engaged in an impromptu, all-afternoon, abs workout. But eventually, we made it to the Mercury Lounge and somehow, despite the chaos, managed to call all our old friends to invite them, last minute, to tonight’s show.

We were two hours “fashionably” late for our sound check and asked to leave the stage almost as soon as we arrived so the staff could set up for the first event of the night; a fancy private party we clearly were not invited to.

If I were generous, I’d describe The Mercury Lounge’s greenroom as a dungeon designed for a play about Hades. We corkscrewed down so many castiron flights of stairs I lost count. The underground landscape was illuminated by yellow bulbs that flickered and jittered to the beat of the traffic above. We were escorted through a maze of insulated pipes painted black, down below the subway system, down deep into the hot belly of the dark city.

Huge mutant black flies buzzed threateningly passed us like knives swimming in shark-like patterns. How did they get down here? I wondered. They looked like part of some lost dinosaur lineage or a gruesome subset of the fly mafia. Our escort unfurled a spool of keys and ushered us inside a cell-like closet. Inside was a bench on a cement floor, and we took turns sitting on it, swatting away meaty mob boss flies and waiting for midnight for our set to begin.

When we were released from our jail-like greenroom and took the stage, the black box of a joint was full of friendly faces. I recognized people in the audience from 3rd grade, 6th grade, Tabor Academy, Brown University, and summer camp. I saw family friends, friends of family friends, friends I’d met on vacations, and even friends who insisted they were friends who I swear I’ve never seen before in my life.

My glorious brother Ben showed up with his girlfriend, Bridge to surprise me. I didn’t even know he was in the city. He sneakily jigged in front of the stage mid-set. His face shone out of the darkness like a Francisco Goya painting. I thought he might have shaved his head bald but when I instinctively called him up to sing with me, I saw he had, in fact, dyed his hair white blond; a style I hadn’t seen on him since grade school. He looked great and it was beyond glorious to have him with me on stage.

Wired after an inebriating gig, my brother, a crew of old friends, and a handful of new acquaintances who insisted they were old friends, cabbed it to Tribeca for dinner at Walker’s. Somehow I got stiffed with a $300-dollar bar tab. So much for new old friends.

Back across town, we limped, through the slow strobe of lamp-lit streets, to our pal Ian’s pad. The last surviving soldiers of our group hiked a steep flight of marble stairs to find our beret-wearing host at his door wearing a guitar and little else. Inside, the party raged on. With a hodge podge of Ian’s instrument-wielding friends, we played until 4:00 a.m.

An air-conditionless apartment made near nudity a necessity and we stripped and nessled into a pile of Moroccan rugs. A dozen candles guttered in the early morning air. An assortment of comfy sofas cupped out tired bones. Incense billowed through stained glass bay windows, and a tall arched ceiling offered the perfect amount of reverb to our well-spent voices. The music and incense eventually lullabied me and tucked me into colorful dreams. I fell asleep on a velvet maroon sea of a sofa, my head propped against a stranger’s shoulder, my feet rolled up like a splif, in a sheepskin rug.

Northhampton, MA – “Buying my Guitar” -The Iron Horse – June 10, 1999

What can I say? I’m guilty of excess this day but how could I leave that J-45, 1945 behind?

She hit me over the head with her starburst mahogany face and her chipped nail polish varnish. There was a small brass plate riveted to her black, calloused, case that read “Smithy,” The name some previous owner gave her no doubt. She had a yellow tag woven between her strings, begging me to lean in; to read between her lines: “1945, J-45, Do Not Touch.” But Howard, the owner (after thoroughly vetting me, requesting my wallet as collateral, and checking me over for potentially scratch-causing zippers and buttons) said it’d be okay to take her on a test drive.

Hoisting Smithy onto my knee was a holy event; an introduction to a musical sage. I was humbled by the intimacy of holding her small body against mine and held my breath to slow my heart. I wrapped my left hand around her worn neck and shook hands with the tree she’d been born from. I caressed a D from her mouth and then an Em. She hummed the way hearts do when lovers touch after they’ve been away for a long time. In a trance, I played chords I thought she’d like.

Smithy was full of joyful ghosts; spirits of the trees and air and rain that made her. Spirits of musicians who once sang to her and co-wrote songs with her and took her out on troubadour-ing adventures. I imagined these old retired ghosts sitting together inside her sturdy sunburst mahogany body, playing poker, teaching one another favorite songs, and trading in tales from the road, sheltered in her dusty ribs. I could feel them change my mind about cords I’d had in my mind to play, silently calling out in smoky breath, from the belly of her shadows, between her strings: “Yeah yeah, that sounds great honey, but we’ve heard that already. Let’s try something more like this…” and my fingers would dance a new course I’d have never considered working. Over the course of my half-hour test drive, I could feel Smithy begging to get back on the road, pleading to co-write future albums with me and teach me her secrets.

So, how could I leave this guitar behind?

Long Island, NY – “Days off with Mama” – Stephen Talk House – June 9, 1999

My two days off with my mom on Martha’s Vineyard were delicious. She fed me on memories of her childhood, tucking them around me like feathers in a nest. Like a thirsty plant, I drank her history in gulps letting her sensory-rich imagery add new coats in scene-by-scene detail. She painted a picture of herself as a young girl, growing up in an apartment building in Greenwich Village which her father bought to house his entire extended family. There were grandmothers living together on the 3rd floor and naughty uncles in the basement. There were crewel aunts with voodoo dolls, cousins who organized family choral groups, and doormen who shuttled them between each other’s lives. She was a free-range child in this colorful building of characters, visiting different familiar portals whenever she got tired of her current settings.

Lucy, Uncle Peter, Mama

She described how she used to steal jewelry from her mother, like Robin Hood, to give to her nanny Allie 2 floors down. It became a joke the grown-ups had as they watched Andrea Simon’s jewelry carted out in little Carly’s heavy pockets each morning to be returned by Allie before dinner as they all laughed behind their hands at young Carly’s early Socialist instincts. Mama described her sister Lucy’s love for bread inspiring her to hoard and, later for others, to discover molded glutenous stashes in the back of drawers and under beds. She gifted me visuals of her mother’s high pompadore hairstyle and shoulder pads which bolstered her 5’4” frame to what my mama considered Amazonian proportions. She described her mother’s wide toothy grin and charm bracelets that tinkled when she came to kiss her goodnight in mink stoles before the theater. She recognized her father’s charm, creativity, and depression. She remembered his last days huddled in a topcoat in an overheated room pulling down the shades on the windows and locking the doors as a means of shutting death out. We drank tea, our long legs tucked under us like deer hooves, laughing in bathrobes and leotards meant to inspire some form of fitness that never came to pass.

Despite the restful break at home, I found myself missing the road and my band even more. My pal Heidi, who’d already planned to attend our NYC show, offered me a ride and on a overcast morning, picked me up down my long, puckerbrush-lined, dirt driveway. In a reversal of roles, I kissed my mom fairwell and headed back on the road.

We were on track to meet the boys on Long Island well ahead of schedule, but just before exit 1 on I-495 N, Heidi’s check engine light illuminated. “Check Engine?” Heidi mused aloud before panic set in and smoke billowed from under her hood. Something metal inside the car screamed and green coolant splattered the windshield. This chaos was exacerbated by our convertible’s top being down. We pulled over, wet and coughing, and I called AAA.

Our rescuer, Dave, towed Heidi’s vintage Aston Martin and, charmed by Heidi’s beauty, repaired her car on the spot. We expressed our gratitude with a CD and a dime bag of weed and made it to the Long Island ferry just in time.

Stephen Talk House at first glance, looked like your run-o-the-mill Long Island bar, but inside, lining the walls, were photos of every famous musician you can think of. It was surreal to think I’d be playing on the same stage as legends such as – Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Taj Mahal, Ronny Wood, Keb’ Moe, Luther Allison, Koko Taylor, and Kris Kristofferson just to name a few. Unfortunately, we hadn’t publicized our gig very well and The venue was quiet, save for a few delightful fans and sports enthusiasts there for the NBA playoffs, their occasional cheers reminding me of past gigs played under the shadow of televised sports.
Despite the mixed audience, we had a memorable night, hoping for a return – ideally, after the Knicks win an Eastern Championship.

Pittsburgh, PA – “Uncle Liv” – Three Rivers Festival – June 6, 1999

I’m up in the air. Uncle Livingston is flying. He lets/makes me take off and fly the plane for a couple of minutes, under his supervision. I’m scared, and who could blame me after my plane accident in Peru, landing on the PanAmerican Highway and hitting a car. *(See plane accident here. Be sure to scroll)

My voice is scratchy, and I’m exhausted after an all-night drive from Ocean City, MD, to Pittsburgh last night.

We’d rushed loadout and departed at 2 am after the gig.  In the door light of the passenger seat, I changed out of my pink top and tight black skirt trading them in for green sweatpants and a pair of knee-high orange striped tube socks. Starting a road trip so late at night reminded me of road trips we used to take from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard when I was a kid.  Since my mom was not fond of flying we’d drive up to our summer home in an old 1978 New York City Checker Taxi my dad bought and painted white.  

We’d slip out of our apartment on 135 Central Park West after the scary paparazzi that swarmed our stoop from noon til night had all gone home. I remember the coldness that bit at my exposed skin as my father bundled me in a duvet and escorted me from the building to the chubby car. I remember the empty streets and the traffic lights that turned from green to red for no one.

Inside the Checker, my dad would have laid two massive cushions from our couch upstairs into the foot well on either side of “the hump” and that’s where Ben and I slept while my mom and dad took the front seat and blinked back sleep to drive through the night. My mom would wake us when we got to The Woods Hole Ferry.

Those mornings on the water, the first boat of the day, sipping clam chowder from styrofoam cups, feeding gulls oyster crackers off the bow of the deck. Those moments with my mom and dad still together, before the sky shook off the stars, before the haze lifted off the shoreline, our eyes still coated in dreams- those were truly the best times of my life. I can still feel the excitement of summer just beginning, barely opened, like an unwarranted gift.

Back in the van, I propped a hard-cover book behind me to support my lower back and pressed some yellow earplugs into my ears. Brian drove the first shift and somewhere outside of D.C., stopped for gas. In the parking, Bri made silly pig faces and grunting noises at me which I videoed through 4 a.m. blurry eyes. We sang “Happy Now: …stopped for coffee on the way….” when he returned from the gas station with two pipping cups, one for each of us. Our singing woke the rest of the band.

We all swapped seats and Delucchi took the wheel. Having secured the comfiest seat for the first stretch of the drive, I agreed to the least comfy seat for the second. The least comfy seat is the one directly behind shotgun. It’s wretched because you have to sleep with your knees propped into your chest in a vertical fetal position. Somehow as the drive continued, I managed to maneuver into a horizontal position with my feet against the door panel but when I woke up at 6:00, Soucy’s butt was on my ponytail stapling my head to the seat, so I just went back to sleep.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh it was sweltering. The haze was thick and it was as muggy as the inside of a shower stall. My pants stuck to my legs as the five of us birthed ourselves from Moby’s womb and slugged through The Three Rivers Festival fairgrounds. Dazed from the all-night drive, we wandered past cotton candy and fried dough stands and shacks advertising “Chick’n on a Stick’n” and “Veggitarian’s Delight All Pork Hotdogs.” For breakfast, I chose a $4 Chick’n on a Stick’n” and a cherry snow cone which melted immediately in the heat into a pool of cherry slush.

Our outdoor arena featured a giant lawn and a big stage with a white clamshell dome where we found my glorious, tall, and very awake, Uncle Livingston. He was a sight for sore eyes and his Taylor-isms made me miss my ol’ man. I was delighted to introduce him to my band who fell in love with him on the spot, mesmerized by his interminable energy and captivating storytelling. When I mentioned we had two days off he offered me a ride to Martha’s Vineyard on his plane in the morning. I took him up on it.

Now, halfway through our 3-hour flight, and almost at the bottom of a thermos once full of coffee, Liv excuses himself: “Can you hand me that gallon pee jug in the back?” I giggle as he puts the plane on autopilot and turns himself around in his seat. But half an hour later I’ve got to use it too!

The clouds are curdling up here as we float close enough to skim them like foam off the top of a latte. The peacefulness of the untouched sky is unmatched save for some of the snowshoed forevers I’ve been privileged enough to meet.

Thanks for the ride Uncle Liv.

Baltimore, MD – “Jah Works & Fat Head” -The Recher Theater – June 4, 1999

When we rolled up to The Recher, the marquee was packed tight with names, like a towering stack of steaming flapjacks. There we were, nestled among the eclectic mix – us with our folk-rockin’ tunes, Fat Head representing funk and rap, and Jah Works bringing the reggae heat. Despite our wildly differing genres, we found a joyful camaraderie between our bands. Over the course of three sound checks, six pitchers of beer, and a wardrobe malfunction (where Jah Works bass player lost his shirt to a wayward female fan who illicitly gained access to the stage and rippled it off him), we found kinship. We weren’t just acts sharing a stage; we became each other’s biggest fans, cheering from the crowd, celebrating the rich tapestry of sounds we collectively brought to the table. Fat Head even gave us a shout-out during their set, slipping lines into their rap like, “Ya betta stay for Sally Taylor, she ain’t gonna fail ya! She’s the queen of the stage, came from Boulder just ta play-fo-ya.”

After our notes faded into the rainy Baltimore night, we traded for one another’s CDs and checked routings, hopeful our paths would cross again. Playing at The Recher was a breath of fresh air after so many smokey bars. It had an elegance about it, clean and grand, with an extra large disco ball hanging from the ceiling – like a giant Christmas tree ornament – a glittering lighthouse that seemed to bless our makeshift family of musicians.

And now here’s a little confession before I sign off. I’ve been misspelling our Dellucci’s name since the day I hired him, and boy, am I red in the face about it. Spelling has never been my strong suit, but that’s no excuse. To Delucchi and the entire Delucchi clan – I’m truly sorry. There, I’ve said it.

Goodnight, Baltimore. Here’s to more nights of unexpected friendships and diverse music that brings us all a little closer together. Now onto Phili to play with Uncle Liv!

Washington, D.C. – “The Week of Determination” – The Iota – June 3, 1999

Yesterday, as we made our way into Washington D.C., I was struck by how lonely I feel in cities. It’s a peculiar loneliness, one that suggests being without myself rather than simply without others. As we circled the drain of exits leading into the city, I reflected on the transient nature of our experience out here and the unsettling nature of this nomadic existence.

I called Kipp from the hotel room, desperate for some company after the rest of the band left for dinner. I was thirsty for reassurance I was out here doing the right thing and not just spinning my wheels. The last few weeks have been rough. It’s nearly impossible to convince myself I’m elevating my career when I’m advertised under a 25¢ beer sign, hosting a bikini contest between my sets, chipping my teeth on bouncy plywood stages, and getting heckled to play James Taylor songs by drunken frat boys. It’s depressing. Kipp’s voice was a balm of warm sunshine. I caught him on his cell phone over at our friend Stu’s place in Boulder.

“The relationship book says you were born in the ‘Week of Determination,’” he said. “I’m not worried about your career one bit. Even when you get all weird and self-conscious and stuff, because you’re so damned determined!” “…And cute,” I heard Stu pipe in from the background. “And cute,” Kipp repeated. “I’d come to see you even if you had nothing to back it up,” called Stu. “Your insecurities stand absolutely NO chance against your spirit. You’re much too good and strong for your fears to stand a chance,” said Kipp.

I felt like Popeye post-spinach. Kipp saved me from drowning in the sewer of my thoughts, and I went to sleep affirming his wonderful words to myself, “I am determined. I am strong. My fears don’t stand a chance against my spirit.” Thank you, beloved Kipp.

When I woke up, the sun was shining. It chased away the cobwebs of yesterday’s self-doubt.

The Iota was across the street from a Whole Foods Market, and while the rest of the band unloaded the van I stole away to restock our dwindling supply of Reid’s Ginger Beer (which, frankly, I cannot live without!!!!).

When I entered the dark venue, arms full of green bottles, our promoter was confused and pouring over our contract with Delucchi. He’d intended for us to headline the show “…with special guest Lisa Cerbone” (a local act) but we’d accepted an opening slots payment. While willing to headline, we didn’t love the idea of only getting paid $100 for a 90-minute set. We decided to draw straws with Lisa for the headline act and ended up, happily, opening for her at 9:30.

It’s amazing how vastly my emotional weather pattern can fluctuate from day to day out here. I mustn’t forget this tomorrow when I’m certain to arise with a freshly baked batch of fear and uncertainty.

“I am determined. I am strong. My fears don’t stand a chance against my spirit.”