Thursday, November 06, 2014

Without My Help

Mid-stretch on the gym floor, I was distracted by movement at the glass door. Wings fluttered. I might have heard a thud. Did a bird brush the glass on the way by?

Michelle, my trainer, sucked in her breath and let it out in an long “oooh…”

What did I miss?

“I hate to see things like that,” she said. “I’ll think about it all day.”

I turned and saw a small bird upside down on the pavement, his little chest heaving in what had to be its last breaths.

“I think he was being chased by the bigger bird,” Michelle said.

We stopped stretching and stood in silence as his chest went still.

We finished stretching in solemn silence.

I stood by the door, keeping an eye on her baby while she shut things down in the back. I tried to avert my gaze from the little upside-down body on the pavement.

Someone walked past the gym, making a wide berth around the accident scene. My eyes automatically followed.

“Michelle!” I screamed. “He’s up! The bird is up!”

“What?” Michelle stood next to me by the door. Our friend was upright, his eyes clamped closed, his long beak pointing straight ahead. A slight sag of his right wing afforded a glimpse of a patch of bright yellow feathers, that would normally not be visible unless he was in flight.

“Maybe I should take him to the emergency vet,” I suggested. My mind raced—I had a vague memory that the emergency vet had moved, or perhaps no longer accepted wildlife patients, and I’d left my phone at home. But what could I put him in? What if I hurt him more jostling him around the city in search of a vet that may or may not be in existence?

“Maybe it would be better to let nature take its course,” Michelle suggested. “God knows this sparrow has fallen.”

I nodded in agreement, pouring out the remaining contents of my water bottle on the pavement near the bird, in case he needed a drink.

I started home. What kind of a person leaves a bird to recover on the pavement outside the gym door?

I pulled in front of my house and grabbed my computer in one hand and phone in the other. I dialed the number that appeared on the screen.

“Do you still take wild animals? Birds, specifically?” Yes, the emergency vet still existed, and still accepted wild birds as patients.

I took a two minute shower and tossed on an assortment of clothes that later turned out to be to be a mostly white graphic T-shirt, inside out, over a canary yellow bra, which glowed brightly beneath the wet patches from my dripping, matted hair.

I grabbed what I could find—and old towel and a cardboard drink carrier, and headed back to the gym. It started to rain.

Please be alive, Please be alive.

I screeched into the parking lot and pulled up to the door. He was there! Upright!

I approached the bird. He was sitting peacefully, eyes open, alert. A good sign—he’d survive the car ride.

I took another step toward him and—woosh! He took wing, quickly becoming a small speck that disappeared into the tree tops.

I stood alone, in the rain in the gym parking lot, clutching a cardboard drink carrier and a towel, laughing at the heavens.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Characterizing the AT, Part 3

((our story begins here)

“Don’t let it be Dave,” was the only thought running through my head as the SUV pulled into the parking lot at the trail head where Lisa, my sister, Audrey, and I were waiting.

Our original plan had been to actually walk the 40 plus miles back to where we’d left the car, but fate would not allow us to make it that distance in the time we had allotted, so we’d called for a driver to take us back to the town where we’d left Lisa’s car.

Since we’d exceeded the pace of an entire Boy Scout troop, we didn’t feel too much shame in this fact, but since Dave had already announced his history of making our planned trek in a mere 2 days, we felt that the Husky—impervious to disgrace-- would be the only one of us without at least a metaphoric tail between our legs.

The guy behind the wheel was an ageless mountain dweller who could have been fresh from the set of Duck Dynasty. We piled into the vehicle with him and his fluffy dog Diogi (DI-oh-gee, like D-O-G, get it?) of whom Audrey was not in the least fond, due to the host dog’s baring of teeth.

Our new guide was easygoing and eager to share his experiences living in close proximity to a popular, 17 mile stretch of rails-to-trails known as the Creeper Trail. So tied was he to the health and wellbeing of the trail, he’d earned the moniker “Creeper Keeper” among the locals.

“Oh, yes, I like to be out there,” he said. “I live outside year round, no phone, no distractions,” he went on.

My mind was reeling, trying to make sense of what I’d just heard. Surely I’d missed something. I decided to keep listening for clue to what I’d missed, so as not to say something stupid.

Lisa, fortunately, just decided to go on in. “Wait a minute,” she said. “You, um, live, outside, year round?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Well, how does that work?” she asked. “You must be cold,” she added, no doubt recalling the conversation we’d had with the Boy Scouts earlier of how ridiculously cold everyone had been in what I’ll just point out was an August evening, a conversation I understood only partially, blessed as I was with a furry bedmate.

“Oh, no,” Creeper Keeper said. “I have my tarps. You might have even seen them, regular brown tarps, all strung up by the steps at the trail entrance, under the bridge.”

“Just like a troll,” Lisa would later marvel, “living under the bridge!” but for now, she simply said, “are you able to cook?”

“Oh yes, I have a double burner propane stove and a gas grill,” he said. “But typically, I just take my meals at the Creeper Café.”

Creeper Keeper went on to tell us about his hammock, his guest room (a second hammock), and his couch (a third hammock), and about his fiancée’s upcoming visit when she’d stay in the guest room, and how she loved the tarps and said she’d even let Keeper stay there after they got married as long as he cooked her dinner. He told us of how agreeable this way of life was to him, of how he didn’t need a phone, had Wi-Fi at work, and just passed his evenings with Diogi snug in their tarp, and of how all this has started after he lost his mom some years prior.

We were riveted, deep into the tale, when, suddenly, the SUV just sort of went silent and stopped.

“Well, my car’s dead,” Creeper Keeper said, in the same sort of tone he may have used if making a weather observation.

Keeper's Window Sticker
“Do you have a cell phone?” Keeper called to a nearby motorist, a man clad in a raggedy red T-shirt and spilling out over the sides of the scooter on which he was mounted.

It was an odd question, considering everyone in the car had phones—rendered useless from lack of cellular service.

The scooter rider shrugged in indifference. Although his speech was hampered by the cigarette stuck to his bottom lip, he managed a remark about the shame that it was that we had to break down just when we did, and how much easier it would be if it had happened just a few yards ahead, around the corner, where the road began a long descent.  Keeper considered this only briefly before he jumped from the vehicle, flung open the door next to me, grabbed the frame of the vehicle and began to run. He ran the car around the corner and to the point where gravity began to take over and he jumped back in.

The SUV thus continued onward, and Keeper resumed his narrative. We coasted for miles, Lisa finally voicing the question no one else wanted to broach:

“So the brakes still work, right?”

They did, he assured us, even as I saw a stop sign looming in the distance.

I shook my head. It had been a good run.  “Well,” I said, regretfully, “There’s a stop sign ahead. Looks like our luck’s run out.”

“Yep, yep there is,” Keeper said, gleefully. “”Good thing we’ve arrived at the Creeper Café!” He gave the wheel a good yank and we coasted on in to the gravel parking lot.

Keeper went inside to “contact Dave”, while we milled about the vehicle, wondering what would happen next.

“Do you think he’ll send smoke signals?” Lisa asked.

Keeper returned with a woebegone look. He circled around the vehicle a few times and then went back into the café while we discussed mutiny.
Keeper's Bumper Sticker

“We’re right at the Creeper Trail,” I said. “Can’t be much more than five more miles.”
The others nodded, eyeing our gear just as Keeper reemerged from the café, which, according to signage, is the home of WORLD FAMOUS chocolate cake.

“Good news!” Keeper called. “Jeff’s coming in the van!”

Mainly what I heard here was “Oh good, Dave isn’t coming,” but it seems what was being communicated was: a burly man smelling of moonshine would be coming in a shell of a vehicle and in questionable company.

The van lumbered into the parking lot, and a middle-aged man with an unruly mop exited from the driver’s side. His passenger, a cross between a weathered Howard Stern and current Gene Simmons, followed close behind.

“I wouldn’t lie to you, Jeff!” the Stern/Simmons figure whined.

“Look who it is!” Jeff triumphed, “Crazy Horse! He’s back!” Judging from the dual knee braces, unkempt shock of wild hair, and thick pair of foggy goggles, Horse had been out of communiqué for some time.

“Welcome home!” Keeper said, as the trio wandered to the SUV and stared blankly beneath the hood.

We tossed our gear through the back door, avoiding a table saw and sundry other tools.

Keeper took the keys from Jeff (moonshine, don’tcha know) and climbed into the driver’s seat, while Crazy Horse claimed shot gun. I wondered if we were leaving Jeff behind, but, at the last moment, he ran for the now-moving van, through the back door (because the side one was broken) and slid into the seat next to me. Audrey slithered deep beneath the seats.

“Been handing out Trail Magic” Horse said. “Now I’m trying to get out of that piece of land in Kansas. I’m telling ya, Jeff, I came from Kansas, why would you think I lied?”

Horse made no effort to include us in the conversation: it was as though he’d come along on a ride to pick up cargo. We watched him in a sort of amused horror, much as if he’d been part alien, or actually a 70s-era Simmons, in full make up.

Steed prattled on about a recent string of Zero days (official), (unofficial --just do your own research) and I turned my attention to Jeff, who I assumed to be a low ranking hire of tenuous stability. “So you work for the outfitter?” I asked.

“Yep, I do, I own the place, actually. But we’re a team. There’s no “I” in anything except in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Touché.  “I heard that,” I replied, lamely.

“Lisa!” I said, as we entered town, “It’s the coffee shop I told you about!”

“Nah,” Jeff scoffed, “that’s just if you want the $5.00 coffee,” which I did, I oh so did; however, in the interest of hearing local recommendations asked what he’d suggest instead.

“Oh, the Dairy King,” for sure. ‘None of this decaf, or regular—just coffee.”

Lisa’s van came into view and we unloaded, reloaded into her van, said our goodbyes, and headed straight for some 5.00 coffee.

Tune in next time when we contemplate our next move over $5.00 coffee and wind up bunking at Woochuck's with Timber

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Late August: A Snapshot

(This is NOT part three of the AT series. That will come in the next couple of days.)

I have been afflicted with an acute case of Late August and we’re all waiting with bated breath to see if I can pull through to see September.

If I’m being honest, late August has never really been my time to shine. I am always the
last one on the back to school bandwagon, kicking screaming crying , clutching my sand bucket and shovel—it’s unsightly.

This year, I took on yet another class, topping last fall’s record of teaching 4 classes at 2 universities and taking one at another. This fall, I am teaching 5 courses at 2 universities, and still taking one at the other. As alarming as that is, it’s even worse than it sounds as I recently discovered (and by recently I mean pretty much hours before class began) that my remedial class is no longer pass/fail, which is a good development for the legitimacy of the program, but also means that I have to actually grade things which my friends, family, and readers know is my eternal bane. Additionally, I discovered that they raised the enrollment cap on my Freshman Comp course at U1 which means, again, more grading (are you seeing at pattern here). The class I am taking at U3 is a wildcard—not a writing workshop, as I have been advised not to take those for awhile, but, rather a 700-level new media class which really could mean anything but seems to involve an alarming number of text books. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I got talked into taking a one credit class that involves an independent study with a writer in residence. I forgot to mention it, because, I, well, sort of forgot about that. If memory serves me correctly, I have to turn in some sort of manuscript any day now.

Also, in a new Late August tradition, my editor has taken to assigning me grim breast cancer stories in preparation for the October issue, and, this year, threw in a feature about a children’s hospice, as an added bonus. She thought I’d find it “heartwarming.” Of course I can crank out impassioned, gut-wrenching missives about this stuff—I am a hypochondriac, for crying out loud—but the psychological risk it puts me in should qualify me for Hazard Pay.

From the selfie I posted above, you can clearly seem the sum toll all this has taken on my psyche. My anxiety shot through the roof yesterday; I even took to chanting (think Tom Hanks in The ‘Burbs), which, my sister will tell you, is always a Bad Sign.

So. When does May happen again?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Characterizing the AT, Part 2

(our story begins here)

“It’s the last time,” I promised Audrey, hoping her canine ears wouldn’t pick up the uncertainty in my voice.

It was the fourth time I’d traipsed her over the same, narrow bridge of three boards with cavernous gaps. Huskies hate uneven or oddly textured surfaces. Convincing her to go across once was difficult enough; two and three were a huge stretch; now, faced with the prospect of a fourth trip over the Scary Boards, she simply refused, forcing us to fjord a creek back to the trail junction where our new friends, Boy Scout Troop 767 were in respite.

We’d meet the guys about a half hour earlier when Lisa, our map bearer, had conferenced with the scout leader over some directional uncertainties.  Maps were compared, compasses were activated, and we were advised to go back from whence we’d come, across the narrow, gapped bridge. Only problem was, not once, but twice, we’d get a few hundred yards down the path and see a sign or marker that raised uncertainty. Twice now we’d retraced our steps back over the Scary Boards for yet another conference.

I had little to offer the Map Summits. I knew, in a general sense, that we were hiking the area around Grayson Highlands State Park and Mt. Rogers, the highest elevation in Virginia. Prior to this hike, I’d camped twice in the park, and had even scaled Mt. Rogers. Every so often, I’d gaze into the horizon and nod, thoughtfully, “I’ve been here before,” but that was about all I had to contribute.

In the end, Lisa concluded that her map was more accurate, and we went on our way. The Scouts evidently followed our lead, as they came up behind us about an hour later. “I see what went wrong back there,” the leader offered. He and Lisa started talking maps again, and then the conversation turned to gear, good places to camp, watering holes, and the like.

The Troop was subdivided into a fast group and a slow group. As the day continued, it was clear that we were keeping pace with the frontrunners (at one point, we were talking with the faster scouts as they waited for their stragglers, who, when they arrived were greeted with: “You finally caught up with the women”).  These meet ups would occur every couple hours, during which time trail news would be swapped: anyone see the twenty-something with the red ball cap who got separated from his group? Or the girl who got irritated if you spoke to her because she was “in solitude?” or notes compared: “did everyone get their fill of the wild blueberries?”

One particularly glorious break happened in the late afternoon at Massie Gap, a clearing favored by the most delightful characters on the entire trail: a herd of wild ponies. We’d been reclining against our packs, soaking in the scenes and sun when the herd emerged in unison, as if taking the stage for a scheduled showtime. 

After spending time enjoying the ponies, we realized we had about 2 miles left to get to some good camping and, apparently water, which was good because we were running low. Lisa and I had used some filtering equipment to drink from some creeks, and my sister was still in possession of a small amount of pool water.

The terrain grew rocky and steep, and the sun burned potent, deep afternoon rays. Horses grazed along the trail and in the thickets.We scaled rock formation after rock formation. We tunneled through a cavernous opening called Fat Man’s Squeeze. Somewhere along the way, Lisa lost her guidebook, but there was no going back.

We climbed and climbed for what seemed like miles, although we never arrived at the shelter that was supposed to be less than 2 miles from the pony show. The numbers seemed fuzzy, but, as I mentioned, the book was gone so there was nothing to do but go onward.

Finally we reached a clearing that looked inviting, and we simultaneously dropped our packs and staked our claim for a night’s lodging. Every bit of our water was gone, every last drop. My sister thought the promised shelter must be around the corner, so went to look, but came back forlorn and empty handed, finding nothing akin to a shelter or water.

Lisa was already pitching her tent, and I was assembling raw materials to try to rig mine up for use. Astute readers may recall that I snapped a tent pole on last year’s hike, and efforts to secure a new one had failed. Before we left home for this year’s hike, we attempted to patch up the pole, but the prior evening, it had snapped again, just before twilight slipped into dusk. A long line of paracord from Lisa and some quick thinking by my sister had secured the shelter enough to get through the night, but I knew I needed something with more stability, particularly as the trees in this camping area weren’t arranged as conveniently.

If I am going to be completely honest here, the tent collapse was one of the scariest things that has happened to me on any adventure, ever.  One of my big fears on the trail is losing my dog. Dogs go missing on the AT with some frequency, typically due to poor human judgment (for instance, dogs go missing at Massie Gap because they are off leash and fall in league with the horses). Although pictures will confirm my canine was always super-leashed, huskies fast, unpredictable, and prone to taking off after…anything. So the thought of being in the middle of the woods with my dog and no shelter was frightening enough to spur me into serious, tent-making action.

About that time, familiar faces came over the crest. The faster Boy Scouts had arrived, tired and also without water.  (At this point, can we all just collectively appreciate the full impact of the fact that hearty, teenage Boy Scouts and their Leader were on pace with us and without water: both are key points when assessing the veracity of our guide’s claim that he could walk our route in 2 days (we were NOWHERE NEAR the halfway point) and that we shouldn’t bother ourselves with carrying much water).

“That was rough,” the leader said, resting his palms on his knees and catching his breath.

“No kidding,” we agreed.

“Do you know how much further the shelter is?” my sister asked.

“We lost our guide book,” I offered.

“We have it,” the leader said, producing the book from a side pouch in his pack. Excitement coursed though the camp.

“Are you guys just staying here?” the leader said, surveying the scene.

“Yeah, we’re just done. We think we can make it until morning and I need time to construct my tent out of raw materials.”

“Let’s take a look!” he said.

About three minutes and a yard or so of duct tape later, my tent was probably stronger than the day I purchased it. (Side note: on future trips, I plan to wrap a few yards of duct tape around various cylindrical pieces of equipment: perhaps my mug, or even a tent pole—just to have it on hand).

“Would you like some food?” my sister asked, emptying out the contents of her backpack. We’d already decided that we were tired of carrying the food and had been actively looking for a place to ditch it. Two points here: never again will I criticize Katz in A Walk in the Woods for tossing his food, and, I can, evidently go for days with little more than a jar of Nutella and peanut butter.

We spread our food across the grass and, to our delight, the young scouts parsed out the goods. Everyone was exceedingly happy, albeit a bit thirsty. The scouts decided to go a bit further down the trail and we strung up our now-much lightened laundry bag of food and called it a night.

Tune in next episode when we'll meet the Creeper Keeper and a trail legend.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Characterizing the AT, Part 1

“I’ll bet you’re happy,” Lisa said. “You’re meeting people, making trail friends, all the stuff I wouldn’t allow last year,”

It was true. Long time readers may recall my disappointment during last year’s Appalachian Trail section hike over issues like, well, not meeting people or making trail friends. Added to the fact that neither of us had Trail Names and it seemed to me that our AT experience was missing some key components.

Friends, I am please to share that those ills were remedied on this hike. We met characters, people, I mean, authentic, Appalachian Trail char-act-ors, straight from central casting. I couldn’t be more pleased.

We were able to leave our vehicle in a parking lot in a small little trail town in Western Virginia. My sister, who joined us this year, arranged for Dave, a weathered, bearded old soul, to take us out to a pre-selected trailhead. On the 45-minute drive, my sister peppered him with questions, to which he gave what proved to be the most useless answers.

“Will we need to string up our food to keep it away from bears?” she asked, nervously.

“Nah, I wouldn’t bother,” he said, overturning every bit of published or anecdotal wisdom on the subject. After insisting that bears didn’t frequent the area, he offered a follow up story about a man whose backpack—chock full of credit cards, cash, and gear—had been stolen by a bear earlier this summer. “We still have teams going out to look for it on occasion,” he said, shaking his head.

“How long should the route take?”

“Eh, I can do it in two days,” he said, which, we’d discover, was basically the same as saying, “I set a land speed record over some treacherous terrain—I’m surprised you haven’t heard.”

“What about water?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t carry much, certainly not more than a liter. There’s so much water everywhere.” Which completely explains why we spent a whole night and an hour’s walk the next morning, seeing not so much as a mirage, as my dog liked dew from the grass.

“Well, hopefully you won’t need me,” he said, cheerily. “After I drop you off I’m heading home. No phone or electricity. Only way to get a hold of me is smoke signals.”

Unvoiced doubts about the veracity of these reports surfaced in all of our minds within the first half hour of our vertical, rocky trek, although audibly we all chalked it up to solid planning on our part. “Good to get the tough part out of the way early,” one of us would say, to which another would reply, “Yes, if he got it done in two days, it surely gets much easier quite quickly”; or, my favorite: “Really, since we didn’t start hiking until 4:00, everything we do today is just a bonus.” At this point, the only outward sign of doubt in our guide we my sister’s refusal to empty her bloated waterskin, filled from a hose at Dave’s shop with what tasted like warm pool water, although further cracks in our collective confidence in his facts were evidenced in our clunky efforts to string up a laundry bag laden with victuals.

“Oh say, does that overstuffed white bag still hang!” My sister’s voice greeted me before I left my tent the next morning.  Indeed, the bulging bag swung, unmolested from a limb on the outskirts of camp. After cutting it down, I pulled out the coffee and brewed some with the pool water. And with that, we went on our way, surviving  our first night in the backwoods by basically reversing everything that old coot told us.

Tune in next time when our little band of travellers falls in league with a Boy Scout troop, a trail guardian, and an AT legend.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Simple Post

“She had pared herself down to an essential something that I wanted.”
---quote from an otherwise inconsequential novel I perused earlier this summer.

Saturday night found me crashed on the couch in a post-Appalachian Trail stupor, clicking through information about zero waste lifestyles, tiny space living, and recipes for homemade versions of drug store staples.  It’s fascinating reading to be sure, but why I’m drawn to the cause of hardcore naturalism is the larger puzzle.

The events of my summer have revolved around questions of simplicity: what it is, and what it means.  The summer months have seen me poking through the detritus of strangers and family alike as I simultaneously discovered estate sales and assisted in two major moves.

Although I have acquired some great pieces at the estate sales (a gorgeous antique scale, a wooden treasure box, and some vintage cameras, to name a few) it hasn’t escaped my attention that the process was really just an epic yard sale of someone’s life: the dishes they ate from, the art that inspired them, and even the photos and scrapbooks they kept, all up for grabs to any stranger waving a bit of cash.

One of the moves I helped with involved serious downsizing, and, at times, it seemed that the pile of stuff not going to the new house rivaled the one that did. As the piles accumulated, I wondered if I were required to reduce my belongings by half, what would make the cut?

While those around me were shedding stuff, I was shedding weight: my own form of ridding myself of excess.  Then, as if by design, circumstances pulled me away from comforts I would have previously deemed nonnegotiable. It was as if an invisible ratchet tightened around my metaphoric backpack of essentials, squeezing out half the contents and challenging me to make do with the rest.

I packed for Haiti with an air of confidence: it was familiar; I knew what I needed, I knew what could stay behind. I knew what health precautions to take, and which ones were overkill. At one point, my confidence rose so high as to yield the thought that it really wasn’t THAT much different than packing for Florida.

Yeah…because I apparently forgot that Florida has electricity and running water, and roads and all sorts of amenities that the remote Ohso community in L’Asile, Haiti does not.  See, the thing was, I thought we were going to stay at a mission base, when we were actually venturing into the forgotten outreaches; the Haitian equivalent of our Appalachia. Even our Haitian guides from Port au Prince were alarmed by our conditions, which included staying in an concrete building and the use of a communal chamber pot. Because I had packed for nothing more bracing than a Sunshine State sleepover, I spent the week bedding down on a concrete floor in my thin sleeping bag.

And you know what? It was OK. All of it: the concrete, the creek we had to fjord multiple times a day, flowing with mud and animal feces, even the chamber pot. It was all nbd.

Ditto for this year’s Appalachian Trail section hike. A last minute change of route took us deep into the wilderness: no camp sites, no showers, no bathrooms, no potable water—just hardcore, backwoods, girl vs. nature type stuff. And that was OK, too.

Which brings me to this concept we call “simplicity.” How exactly, is scaling endlessly rocky inclines hauling 30 extra pounds on my back simpler than sitting on my couch staring at screens? How is growing and preparing food easier than popping a can or pouch? Why is DIY anything more minimalist than prefabbed? Simply put, can what we label “simplicity” accurately be called “simple?”

I am not sure. I just know that there are areas in which I’d be happy to pare down: fewer chemicals, less waste, reduced clutter. I want to breathe fresh mountain air and pick my dinner from a tree. I want sunshine to bake itself into the fibers of my drying clothes. I want to scavenge raw materials and transform them into functional art, creating a living space of sensory delight not available in any catalog or display. I want to eliminate go-to plastic solutions in favor of creativity; to stop reaching for the paper towels every 5 minutes, to stop cleaning my pores, my pots, my floors with chemical-company potions. I just want it to be…simpler.

Only time will tell if this is a rant or a renaissance. For today, it’s just baby steps: leaning less on the Bounty I can buy on a roll, and more on the abundance I’ve already been given.

This week’s reading List:

And…to be fair: even though I am not reading the novel, the excellent quote at the top came from Jessica keener’s Night Swim, a Friday freebie from Nook.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"When Tomorrow Comes"

“There’s some really good ear candy happening there,” Robbie, a producer at The Minister’s recording studio nodded in response to a tweak his partner, Rob, at the soundboard made with a slide of a switch.

The session was going well, but after an hour plus of tweaking what had already been christened the second “final” cut of the track, I knew we weren't done yet.

I was excited that The Minister invited me to the recording session for his first ever single, “When Tomorrow Comes,” and even more excited that he hired me as his photographer (and by hired, I mean he suggested he might buy me a cup of coffee). We’d shot several hundred pictures in various lighting conditions, with myriad equipment, and from sundry angles. “Turn toward the camera,’ I’d say, or “Let’s try closing the shade.” Photography is a medium with which I’m comfortable; I know the language, and well versed in the lingo.

But when the Rob(bie)s started fine tuning, I felt like a visitor in a foreign land. They’d pontificated over issues I couldn’t hear: “It’s like a ball of music pushing the vocals,” Robbie said, frowning in response to about 2 seconds of melody they’d replayed at least a dozen times; or, “It takes the microphone away,” one would offer. “In a good way,” the other would respond. “Yes.”

I tried to hear the nuances: when an adjustment added “tons of aspiration,” or when they decided to “sweeten up the high end,” but I was operating at a primal, grunts-and-gestures level. Then Robbie sat back, crossed his arms behind his had and made an observation: “”Talking about music is like dancing about architecture,” he said. Rob agreed so heartily, he grabbed a marker and scrawled the quote across his board.

I suppose it’s appropriate then, that my son is proficient in a medium that defies words, because I am bereft of prose when it comes to describing the experience I have had over the past weeks, waking up in the night with his song running through the corners of my brain, trying to remember through my half-awake stupor the name of this musician and then recalling that it’s my son.

“When Tomorrow Comes” is out there now, on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon—probably wherever else you might go and look for music.  I encourage you to drop a buck on this piece of ear candy and, if you can find verbiage to describe your experience feel free to give it a try in the comments!

Brandon Davis "When Tomorrow Comes"--available now from all major outlets


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