Saturday, October 30, 2004

All Things Are Possible

"All things are possible." These are the words that have been with me since October 20 when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in game seven of the playoffs.

Katryna called me sometime in late September after the Red Sox got into the playoffs as the Wild Card team.

"I can't help but think," she said. "That if the Red Sox beat the Yankees, John Kerry can beat George Bush."

"Stop," I said. "Don't say that! You'll jinx them both!"

For I too, believe in curses. And at the time, the idea that the Red Sox could beat the Yanks was way more absurd and far fetched than that Kerry could beat Bush.

Now I'm not so sure. I'm also, quite frankly, thoroughly disgusted with the campaign--both campaigns-- and more fearful than ever. Not to be a downer, but jeez. Now, I am constitutionally unable to support George W. Bush based on positions he's held probably all his life, or ever since he got sober at any rate and knew what he stood for (if this is, in fact the case): he's got a terrible attitude toward the environment, he's for so-called tax relief which I call "lower taxes for rich guys and corporations"; he's anti-choice and he says "nuclear" wrong. Worst of all, he purports to disdain intelligence and made a mockery of his own educational opportunities. But the nail in his coffin, as far as I was concerned, was how he handled affairs post 9/11. Unlike (apparently) the majority of the country, I was appalled at the way he turned an unprecedented national tragedy into a global-political opportunity to advance his own foreign agenda.

I was terrified after 9/11. I felt profoundly unsafe, and I desperately wanted my commander in chief to make me feel safer. I believe that violence begets violence, and that we were attacked by people who feel supremely unsafe and threatened. These people cruelly used what means they had to fight back. Their actions were wrong, and this was blatantly obvious to virtually all citizens of the world (scenes of Iraqis dancing in the street notwithstanding--and as I recall, those scenes, shown ad nauseum on CNN, were actually taken from years before in a different context.) I'm not suggesting we should have pacified terrorists. I'm suggesting we should have taken that time to formulate a plan in the context of all the world's leaders. We should have--yes--tried to talk to the so called enemy.

"But we don't negotiate with terrorists!"

Well, where does that get us? To a world where the oppressed have no other recourse than stealth; where the citizens of wealthier countries live in constant fear that the voiceless enemy will attack at any time? I'd rather look my enemy in the face and hear what they have to say than insist on ignoring them until they disappear. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that approach hasn't worked so well in Israel.

So I wasn't thrilled to hear John Kerry say yesterday almost verbatim what W. said in 2001: we will "hunt down and destroy" terrorists. He's trying to out-cowboy the president.

Well, just as far-right conservatives must have said to each other in 2000 when George W. Bush was calling for "compassionate conservatism" and trying to come off as some kind of a moderate, a lot of my liberal pals are telling me that John Kerry is not really going to be a cowboy once he's our president. He just has to talk that way now. You know what? I believe them. I know Kerry will be a better president, and that's why I am campaigning for him, and he will get my vote. But I still feel sick to my stomach. This campaign is a horror show. Both sides are lying and distorting and spin spin spinning. It's another kind of war; another kind of violence. It's bad for the soul.

I woke up at two in the morning Thursday from a nightmare: there had been a bad call and the Red Sox hadn't actually won. They were still playing; the Cardinals had caught up and it was 3-3 in the 14th inning. Tom was sitting two feet from the TV and I was knitting and thinking, "it never changes."

But it was a dream. We did win. We broke the curse. Curses are powerful. We all believe in them, even if we say we don't. We jinx ourselves all the time. We say, "I can't sing" because once, when we were little, some mean older person told us that. We say "I can't do math" because we got a C in freshman Algebra. Actually, a C means you can do math. Just not as well as Einstein could. We say "I always get my heart broken" because if that happens even once, it's so painful you sometimes think "I'll do anything to prevent that from happening again, so I'll put out a big sign saying 'it's not possible for me to love. Leave me alone.'"

All things are possible. The world changes. The world changes in ways way beyond anyone's control, in mysterious evolutionary ways. Dinosaurs, it seems, turned into birds. Fierce gigantic dinosaurs! Who weighed a billion tons and shook the ground when they walked! They turned into soaring eagles, clever bluejays, tasty ducks, winsome hummingbirds.

Curses get broken. We say, "I may not be able to sing like Maria Callas, but I can carry a tune." We say, "I can't do calculus but I can balance my checkbook." We say, "My heart is broken, and it is mended; it is stronger in the broken places and I will love again." We say, "this is a new day, a new ballgame. And we're going to win it."

Thousands of college kids have registered to vote. No one is polling them. No one is counting them as likely voters. But on our Folk the Vote tour in St. Louis and Cincinnati, young women came up to me with tee shirts saying "Students for Choice: I Don't Trust Any Bush But My Own." They have fire in their eyes. They know the power they wield in their fingers: the power to vote. The power to change. The power to break the curse of expectations.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Death Rattle and Other Things that Scare Us

Yesterday, in the wee hours of Thursday morning, my hard drive crashed. The Death Rattle had begun Sunday night, when Tom and I came home to a horrific noise that sounded not unlike a supernova in its last millennia, I would imagine. We stared at the screen. It was frozen on an AOL news report on George W. Bush, and the little cursor was spinning around in a misleading rainbow circle, which signifies trouble to Mac OS X users. I restarted the computer and nothing happened except the noise got louder.

"Oh my God," I said, the way people in the twenty first century do when confronted with this problem. "I haven't backed up The Big Idea in days! Everything I love is on this computer! My life is on this computer! Everything I've ever written! My unpublished writings! All my emails, all your emails to me! The beginnings of our courtship! The iPhotos I've been taking of Amelia and Emmett and Reese; the photos of us kissing! The photos of the Adirondacks! My mixes!" I gasped. "My Ultimate Bob Dylan mix! I'll never be able to recreate it! Not to mention all my own new songs, which I will be able to recreate, but still. What a pain."

Tom rubbed my shoulders empathetically, and I spent a sleepless night thinking about what a fool I was and how now I'd need to buy a new computer and how it could be worse, and people in hurricanes had lost a lot more--it could have been my Martin guitar!-- and people in Iraq had lost even more than the people in hurricanes and I was a rich spoiled brat for even being sad about my lost works of ART!

OF ART! I am an artist and these works are like my children! I will never recover from this loss! Once, I wrote a funny story; I was in tenth grade and it was a spoof on the Odyssey, and my English teacher, Barbara Shapiro read it out loud and said I was a genius. I lost it two months later and forgot everything about it expect one line from a song Odysseus wrote at the end, to the Goddess Athena:

O, great goddess with gray eyes like the owl
Penelope has drenched me, please hand me a towel.

That's the worst thing I've ever lost. It's twenty-two years, and I'm still not done grieving that loss. How will I recover from the loss of everything on my hard drive? I won't.

Be quiet! No one cares about your stupid works of art! PEOPLE ARE STARVING ALL OVER THE WORLD! GET A REAL JOB!!!!!

That's about how it went in my head. Then I got up Monday and turned the computer on and lo! Familiar desktop, familiar everything. The Big Idea restored. All was well. I promptly emailed a copy of it to myself and to Paradise Copies to print out to give to my editor and went on my merry way. Did I back anything up? Why should I? No more death rattle!

Until Thursday morning. Tom shook me awake. "Sweetie, your computer's making that sound again."

I stumbled into my office and turned off the computer and slept soundly, knowing that Death Rattle does not mean actual death.

I was wrong. This time when I tried to boot it up, it flashed an icon of an empty folder and a Picasso like face, moronic in its mockery of me, the lazy non-backer-upper who didn't listen to Patty, Jeff, Sheila, Tom, Katryna, my parents, my high school history teacher and my psychic. I got out my glow in the dark plastic angel and wound it up. Nothing. I took the poor thing to some Mac people in town whom I trust and they kept it all day, performing feats of derring do to no avail.

"It's kaput," said Manuel the Mac Guy. "You can send the hard drive to California to this company that might be able to retrieve some of your data, but they'll charge you $800 whether or not they get anything back for you."

Fortunately, I had only lost two days of writing: Tuesday and Wednesday. Unfortunately, these were two primo days for The Big Idea: I'd written the scene when Rhodie hits bottom in Alaska after being chased by a red truck a la Deliverance. I'd written the scene where Rita quotes Shakespeare and shakes her head in disapproval over the increasing religiosity of her three children. I'd written the second to last chapter of the novel. And I'd written little tidbits throughout the 427 page ms. that were funny and irretrievable to my memory except that I remember they were funny. I spent yesterday and today mining my memory and rewriting, and I'm sure some of what I recovered the old fashioned way was better and some was worse and mostly it's all fine, and it’s true, this is much better than someone dying or getting sick or people getting divorced or your child being called names by the other kids in school.

What I really miss are the photos. Also the emails. Also the sense that all is well in the world. My friend Sheila wrote me that this had happened to her and that she was comforted by the thought that losing things helps us to recognize how little we actually need to be okay, and that sometimes those of us who spend our lives in front of the computer might do well to look up every now and then and recognize there is more to the world than what we have created in our own little worlds.

And I HAVE created a world in my computer. I have my comforting, changing screen saver of photos of family, loved ones, scenes from all over the country that make my heart sing and remind me where I've been. I listen to a constant stream of music from my iTunes. I keep in touch with friends, colleagues, writing students, my editors and agents, family through email. And even this, this blog, what is this if not an online, virtual way of performing? Even though it's been suggested that an acoustic guitar might be superior to a computer, I actually maintain that the advent of computers and emails and this virtual community you are a part of --simply because you're reading this-- has increased compassion, awareness and creativity in our world, not decreased it.

One more thing: as I was driving around western MA today, admiring the leaves, feeling the same sadness watching them fall as I feel about my lost darlings on the hard drive, I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Good planets are hard to find." And I got to thinking about environmentalists, and environmentalism. It seems obvious to me that humans can create toxic substances that could literally poison the planet. That is, at least, a possibility. One of the most common (conservative) arguments from those opposed to "the environmentalists" is derision: "You all are a bunch of Chicken Littles, running around saying, 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling.' You overreact. You are fearful. Calm down."

These same people tend to be the ones who are into Homeland Security, who think the world will be safer from terrorism if we maintain a position of Red Alert in respect to anyone who might seem like a terrorist, namely (these days) people who look like they might come from the Middle East. And to these people, I say, "You are a bunch of Chicken Littles. You are overreacting. Calm down."

So most of us have fear, but why is it that we have fear of different things? What makes one kid grow up to fear destruction of the planet at the hands of polluters and another grows up to fear destruction of the planet at the hands of terrorists? Why is it that when Katryna is afraid she procrastinates and wants to curl up and go to sleep, but when I am afraid I want to race around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to do as much as I can to control my situation, throwing money I don't have at computer technicians and thinking that going out for dinner to a really fancy expensive meal will solve all my problems?

I don't know. But I do know that I am going to take my digital camera out tomorrow and take pictures of me and Tom and Katryna and Amelia and Dave in the glorious fall foliage before it becomes, as our friend Bill says, “Stick Season.” I am going to make a new Ultimate Bob Dylan mix. I am going to finish a draft of The Big Idea. I am going to back everything up to CDs. And I’m going to try to trust that all these things we lose are replaced in some form or another; that we are meant to grieve our losses-even elections, even baseball games- so we can be compassionate towards others who have lost.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Christopher Reeve and West Cummington Church

Blog #6
"There are four things we all need. We need to love, and we need to be loved. We need to know and we need to be known."

And I do. I want you to know who I am. That's why I write. I want to be loved. That's why I sing. But as I was sitting in church yesterday, listening to the parson preach, I thought, "Is that really all? Because I seem to need desperately to know that there will be enough mangos, salmon and butternut squash in my refrigerator for the rest of my life. I need to know that I will always be able to pay my heating bills. I need to know that if I or Tom gets sick, I will have a way of paying for it.”

I want to be set for life.

The minister is Stephen Philbrick, Parson (a word which means--drum roll please-- "person,") of the Congregational Church in West Cummington, MA. Tom and I discovered this church in early 2004 and have been coming here as often as possible ever since. Tom had a party last January, shortly after we began dating, to introduce me to his spiritual friends. Ann, Andy and Susan represented the Catholics; Rick the Buddhists, and Sharon was batting for the Baptists. Sitting next to Spiritual Friend Fran Henry, I said, "And where do you practice your form of spirituality?"

"At this little church near where I live. The minister is a poet and a shepherd," said Fran.

That was enough for me to want to check it out. A poet and a shepherd? Sold.

The first time we visited, Stephen, a strong man in his fifties, wore a kind smile that made me feel he wanted to be friends but would wait for us to let him know we were ready. He was also wearing a big button saying, "This church affirms all marriages." Another plus. I was comfortable. Fran was there, sitting next to Stephen’s wife, Connie, a potter like my beloved Aunt Elizabeth. Connie had huge beautiful eyes that looked straight at me, clear and welcoming.

But what won me over completely was the music. After a moment of silence at the beginning of the service, a small white haired woman named Penny, her back to us, began playing the piano and humming along softly. She was singing to herself, to God, maybe to us, inviting us into some kind of private meditation. And I felt the elusive Holy Spirit; that intangible Presence I've been looking for all these years. Sometimes I find the Spirit in an unacceptable receptacle, like a Grapevine church full of people who are going to vote for George W. Bush. I am not proud of my prejudices against fundamentalists. I recognize that my level of charity is that of a particularly unevolved Neanderthal, but there you have it. Think of it as a kind of spiritual tone-deafness. In order for me to come to God, God needs to be packaged in a way I can tolerate. God must know this, because She certainly has sent me wonderful teachers over the years in various guises: books by Marcus Borg and Thomas Merton, lectures by Thich Nhat Hanh, funky churches and spiritual centers all over the country that, for whatever reason, felt good but not quite like home.

Penny let me know I was home. She played “How Can I Keep From Singing” and “Abide with Me” and led African American spirituals, the kind my parents taught us when we were kids, singing around the kitchen table with an acoustic guitar. She stood on her tiptoes and sang with her head thrown back and joy pulsating out of her dancer’s body.

Then Stephen began preaching, mixing personal anecdotes with interpretations of the Bible I could get with (God as Superego in the Garden of Eden; Jesus, in saying He has come not to unify but to divide, as an “individuator”—encouraging us each to be true to our own peculiar Light), mingling scripture from the Tao and the Baseball Book of Wisdom with all the Gospel preachers (including the Gospel of Thomas.) This was the church I'd been looking for since reading M. Scott Peck's A Different Drummer in 1990, a book which calls on churches to be havens for community building in our suffering, fragmented post suburban world.

Stephen also shared his poetry with us:

I am water,
You are clay
I am what the world needs
But you are what it is made of.

When we meet: mud, and muddy water;
Thickening, loosening, even (a little) panic.
Waiting for each to settle,
Within each.

It is a gospel of courage and honesty that he preaches. He preaches against the Iraq war, but he also preaches against the knee jerk reaction some of us liberals have of demonizing the US, automatically assuming our government means harm. He laments the war on terror by pointing out that by calling it a war on evil, we ignore the evil within ourselves: “The evil in ME; we can learn this anywhere, from any argument we've ever had with someone we love.” He goes on to say that we can learn this from Jesus: “if we know ourselves we will realize we are the children of God (yes, just as we really are.)” We have within us heavens and hells aplenty, but it is not what goes into our mouths that creates sin. It’s the hate that comes out of our mouths. The deeds that we do, the words that we say.

“This is not America bashing. This is a native son grieving."

Tom and I left the church shaken. Our minds had been exercised, along with our hearts and our spirits. I have been to wonderful churches that exercised my mind. I have been to wonderful churches that exercised my spirit. Likewise, my heart. But never all three at once. We felt so happy, so full of joy, so deeply seen and loved it was almost hard to take. We told our friend Ann Turner about the experience. She nodded, and talked about the first time she felt God’s presence in that kind of way. “It felt like ‘savage joy’ and that it was so fierce, strong, and all- encompassing, that God knew I couldn't take it in all at once. That He had to let me feel the joy of his presence in little bits, suited to the small handbag size of my heart.”

She told us about someone who was praying, and he was so filled with the joy of God's presence, that all of the buttons on his waistcoat popped off as his chest expanded. That’s how I felt leaving West Cummington.

While we were tearing down after the Iron Horse last Saturday, I said to Dave Hower," I envy you getting to be in so many bands. I am going to miss playing with Katryna so much."

"You could be in other bands, too," he pointed out.

I shook my head. "Somehow, that would feel like cheating to me," I said. "Maybe what I'll do is see if I could do some music at my church."

The next evening, at 8pm, Penny called me up. "Nerissa, we've been talking. Any time you'd like to do music at West Cummington, we'd love to have you. In fact, I'm going away next week. Will you take over?"

So yesterday, Tom and I made our now familiar trek up the mountains to the little white church with no bathroom. Tom drove. On my lap were copies of the two hymnals and the folk song supplement, plus my own copy of Rise Up Singing. I still hadn't decided what to do. I don't play piano, so "Abide with Me” was going to be a challenge. But I'd circled Cris Williamson's “Song of the Soul,” and also my favorite from the Christmas Revels, “Lord of the Dance,” and of course “Amazing Grace.” I also ventured my own “Give Me A Clean Heart,” a song I’d swiped from an amazing church in Amherst I went to once called Hope Church.

"I've never been more nervous in my life," I told Tom.

"Why?” he said. "You do this all the time. You'll be great.”
I shook my head emphatically. "It’s totally different. This feels like service. If I screw up in The Nields, I’m just making a fool of myself. If I screw up at church, I’m letting down the whole congregation. It’s disrespectful."

Tom looked at me and grinned. "You think what you did last night at the Railway Cafe in North Adams wasn't service? Besides, I was at church a few weeks ago when you were in Philadelphia. Penny forgot the words to one of the hymns and the chords too and she laughed and everyone laughed. No one's going to care if you screw up. It just reminds all of us that we’re human."

This made me feel better, and I remembered the first time I'd ever performed my own songs. I was fifteen and in high school, an all girls’ school called Madeira in Northern VA. My voice teacher wanted me to sing my own songs for the recital. This would've been fine, except when I got up there to play and sing, I noticed with dismay that my hands were no longer my own; they were trembling as if they had suddenly decided to engage in the Hippie Hippie Shake. Also, I no longer knew any of the words to any of the songs I'd ever sung, let alone the ones I'd written. I looked out in to the mass of teen-age girls, all of whom surely hated me and had been plotting my fall for eighteen months, or at least would giggle about pathetic me on the way back to classes.

"I've never done this before," I said after attempting to put my trembling hands in the general vicinity of the fretboard of my guitar. "And I'm really scared."

The entire auditorium exploded with the applause that only an all girls’ school can produce. They clapped courage into me, and I played my first song. They gave me a standing ovation. I haven’t really ever had stage fright since then.

We want to be known, Stephen said in his sermon yesterday. We want to love. (And some of us want security.) I signed on this morning and saw that Christopher Reeves had died. Even though, as readers of this blog now know, I prefer Spiderman to Superman, I loved Christopher Reeves. He was an example to me of an intrepid spirit. When I was going through my divorce and feeling very sorry for myself, I had a quotation of his above my desk:

Q: “How do you get through your life without feeling sorry for yourself?
A: Oh, I feel sorry for myself. I allow myself to feel completely miserable and self pitying for exactly one half hour a day. Then I stop. It’s essential. But it’s equally essential to count your blessings and keep hope alive.

The bad news for me is there’s no such thing as being set for life. I would’ve said, before June of 1995 that Chris Reeves was set for life. Then he was thrown from his horse and suffered a spinal chord injury. Still, he got to live for nine more years with purpose and love; he knew, he was known; he loved and was loved. He made himself see that every day, just as he advocated for others, becoming more and more a vessel for compassion and empathy as the years went on.

The bad news for me is I don’t get to lead a life with total security. But I can sing at the West Cummington Church; I can let myself be seen and loved by these people with the kind faces, and better yet, they can teach me to go back out into the world knowing how to see, know and to love. And when I am awake to this, I am so filled with happiness that the buttons burst off my waistcoat.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why I Like Spiderman More than Superman

Blog #5

I liked Superman when I was a kid, but not as much as I liked Spiderman. I liked how tortured Spiderman was, how geeky, how bewildered by his own nascent powers. But Spiderman disappeared from TV around 1976, and all I could find was the George Reeve version of Superman. Perhaps Congress was offended by seeing the colors of the American Flag on an arachnid during our bicentennial. Somehow Superman seems more American, more clearly patriotic. He is quintessentially American in a way Spiderman is not. Spiderman was twisted and confused, cursing his strange spidery gifts even while using his talents to help The People, practically Bolshevik. Spiderman was maligned by the media, whereas Superman, in his Clark Kent guise, it could be argued, WAS the media. And Superman was beloved; he leaped tall buildings in a single bound, after all. The people never turned against him. “Look,” they said. “Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”

One thing that intrigued me about Superman in 1976 was the story of George Reeves.
“He killed himself,” my father told me.
“Why?” I said, horrified. At the age of nine, this was the first suicide I’d ever heard of.
“Well, I think it was because he tried to play other roles, but no one could see him as anything other than Superman,” my dad explained. “The same thing happened to the kid who played Dennis the Menace.”

This morning, Tom came back from walking Cody to find me glued to the TV, watching a DVD of the last episode of the second season of The West Wing, the one where President Bartlett curses out God in Latin in the National Cathedral after his secretary, Delores Landingham gets killed in a car crash.

“Do you watch any current episodes of this show?” Tom asked me later when we were eating breakfast and reading our newspapers.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like it ever since Aaron Sorkin left. Now it’s just ER with politics instead of patients. Now it’s about big dramatic plots and crises in the lives of the ever tormented characters. I’m not interested in that. I liked it when it was funny and smart and had natty dialogue and was more about how the story was told and less about what the story actually was. Also, I have a theory that TV shows should only last three seasons anyway. After that they jump the shark and become unbelievable.”

Tom nodded. “Congress should pass a law like the twenty second amendment to the Constitution barring any TV show from lasting past three seasons. “

“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe that would’ve saved George Reeves and Dennis the Menace.” I was grouchy. Tom was reading the Boston Globe and I the New York Times. Kerry is doing better, but the race is too close to call and the Bush machine is probably going into diabolical overdrive. Last night I prayed hard for good things (other than reelection) to happen for my political enemies, but my heart is still a screwed up muscle of partisan fury. Checking to see if Tom had better news, I noticed my hero, Bob Dylan’s photo on the backside of Tom’s Globe and I shrieked. He has a new book; an autobiography! The Times had an article on the front page of the Arts section:

“The Old Him is the hellhound who taunts Bob Dylan. From time to time this 1960’s deity surfaces driving nostalgists to rhapsodies (the Old Him is back!) but making Mr. Dylan angry enough to want to bite himself… ‘It was like carrying a package of heavy rotting meat,’ he writes about his most celebrated songs. ‘I couldn’t understand where they came from.’” (Janet Maslin, New York Times, 10/5/04)

I love Bob Dylan, and reading this reminds me that my heroes are not Superman or anything having to do with TV shows. Bob Dylan has made forty albums and been on a never-ending tour since the mid eighties—-twenty-five years AFTER he started touring in the first place. The article in the Times ends with this “epitaph” from his book: “Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.”

I have this theory that it is a gigantic blessing that my band, the Nields, never made it big. It’s a blessing that we never had a hit. To have a hit is to be defined by that hit. To not have a hit means you are continually trying to write a better song than the last one. To have a hit is to continually try to write something that is as good as the hit was; or else to write something totally different, to reinvent yourself (as Dylan did/does so well). But what if you just want to keep being yourself?

Also, having a hit or not having a hit can’t protect you from the suicidal thought: “This is the end.” George Reeves thought it was the end; Dennis the Menace did too. Aaron Sorkin might or might not have had that thought, but certainly I’ve had that thought about The West Wing. And I’ve thought, “This is the end/My career is over/ The band is over,” so many times I can’t even count. I remember thinking this in 1995 when we finished making Gotta Get Over Greta and had to drive from three in the afternoon from the studio in North Brookfield, MA to Black Hills, NC to perform at 10am the next morning at a festival. Katryna had a polyp on her vocal chords, and I thought she might never sing again. The entire time we were onstage, I thought, “This is the last Nields show ever. Katryna will lose her voice and we will never play again.”

I had that thought “We will never play again” in 1998 when our record company folded and took our CD back catalogue with them.

I had that thought in 1999 at Oberlin College when we’d decided to make a huge change in our touring and have Katryna and me do more duo gigs and fewer band shows.

I had that thought in 2000 when Katryna was pregnant with Amelia.

I had that thought in 2001 when the Nields did the last show with David Nields in New Haven on the Green.

My Buddhist friends tell me that everything changes and the quickest way to create a climate of misery is to try to hang on to what is past, to fight the change. At each stage, I’ve been able to do this, to say, “OK, well if this is the end, I’m going to enjoy myself for this last show.”

My Christian friends say the one unforgivable sin is suicide, because suicide is the complete absence of faith, the most willful declaration of self-assertion and attempts to control circumstances. Suicide is saying to the world, “I’m not able to live with this condition any longer. If it can’t be the way I want it, I quit.”

It’s never really the end.

In our own version of the never-ending tour, Katryna and I were in the middle of an ongoing conversation in the Van just last week.

“Remember that folkie we opened for in the mid nineties, the one who said, ‘If I win the lottery, I’m never playing THIS club again?’”

“Yeah,” I said. “I remember. Hey stop at the next rest stop. I need coffee.”

“Fine,” said Katryna who was driving. “Well, if we won the lottery what would you do?”

I thought about it. I probably would buy some more clothes, but not a lot because too many clothes confuse me and I always end up wearing the same thing day after day anyway. “I’d hire someone to drive so I could read and write in the back seat like I used to when we traveled as a full band. Also, fly first class.” I said. “And I’d lower our ticket prices so more people could come to the shows. And I’d buy Patty season tickets to the WNBA. What would you do?”

“Hire a tour bus with a jungle gym in the back; open a college fund for both my kids and pay the band members to tour with us sometimes,” said Katryna. “And sleep in hotels where they give us soft terrycloth bathrobes."

Winning the lottery notwithstanding, we’ll be on the road again next March, back in the van, doing our shows, staying in Comfort Inns and lugging our guitar and suitcases full of CDs around Chicago O’Hare airport, reading O Magazine with Hoi Polloi in standard class. I don’t know why we don’t have to be Superman in order to by happy, but we don’t. Like Spiderman, like Dylan, we’ll look backwards and forwards and shrug and enjoy the music that we’re making right this moment.