25 November 2009

NOT a Blank Space Where My Blog Should Be...?

If there's a cure for this
I don't want it
Don't want it
If there's a remedy
I'll run from it
From it
Think about it all the time
Never let it out of my mind
'Cause I love you
I've got the sweetest hangover
I don't wanna get over
Sweetest hangover...

-- Diana Ross, "Love Hangover," 1976

"Truth in journalism," for realsies. Here goes...

What I would like to be doing right now is waxing ecstatic about the wobbly, winding journey Fall Tour has been thus far, how the band, despite nearly flying off the rails occasionally have righted themselves with astounding clarity and sometimes hilarious and exhilarating freshness...

[Pic taken by author of a sticker on the inside of the strange livery cab on the way to work. Yeah, basically.] 

But... I'm hungover again. I've got another punishing Phish hangover that would've, before my "big exposure" days, caused me to run under a bushel and lock this blog down tighter than a badly laundered sweater. When I didn't plan enough in advance, or accordingly, for last night's Philly Night I, and ended up getting a stiff blast of reality (i.e. I have to be at work today, which I am not even, yet, and it's 9:30AM) at the last minute, not to mention the vague suggestion that bagging last night might make this weekend's two Albany's slightly less of a wringer...I slipped into a now very familiar killer funk.

But I did buy a bus ticket for tonight, about three seconds after 5:30, when to attempt getting to Philly would've meant two hours of travel to get to a show late, and still have to find a ticket on lot = kinda not worth it...

"ZOMG! You write a blog, and you missed a show! WTF? You haven't even bought MSG or Miami tickets! Or a flight! In all this time, you've never gotten a lottery right!  All your roommates moved out, and the rent's going up by 2/3 next month! And you're late to work! Again! Dude, you're falling off!"

Am I really hungover, or am I just frustrated about all the f'in planning that goes into this, while having to be a decent working citizen, and staying sober (which, if done with the proper gusto takes anywhere from 90 minutes to every single second of every single day)? Well, one thing leads to another, as The Fixx said. The frustration about shoving the size 10 foot of phandom into the size 8 shoe of my life, time, resources and constitution...it's backbreaking, and breaking my back, again.

So, like I said, right about now, I "should" be writing my masterful halftime report, as we hit the middle mark of Fall Tour. I'm only really 1.5 shows behind on the listening (i.e. last night, and 11/21/09 Cincinnati...another smoker), and luckily heard most of Syracuse (What? Crazy?) while V-T00Ring with the crazies over on Hoodstream.com. Syracuse (unless last night at Wachovia shredded harder) seems to be my winner of the tour so far, in terms of sheer inventiveness, old-school electricity and setlist flavor, followed by Cobo, which I encourage you to read my overview of, since it sorta got obscured by my Festival 8 redux.

But I'm wiped, and hilariously enough...tour, for me, is just beginning. I remember being at the Gorge on 8/8/09, my favorite day of the year (8 being, after all, my favorite nunber), while plodding my way up a dry-grassy hill with the other pilgrims, making my way to the venue on the seemingly interminable march. There was this blond girl...a tough soldier, you could tell, with a bandana on, poring into her iPhone. She hiked slowly but powerfully up the hill with a vengeance. Then, as if from nowhere, she looked over towards the stage, looming majestically in the distance, and said, "Fuck you, Phish."

"Eeegh," I thought, staring at her, both of us, and all of us, continuing to climb and clamber. Something about that struck me, and has stayed with me. The mixture of humor, anger, adamance and resignation in her voice, as she was right there making paces along with all the rest of us, reminded me of myself. She was alone, as I always seem to be, and was obviously a pro at being on tour, as I am probably, though I'm always thinking I should be harder-core. She was passionate in her condemnation, but the fact that she was there made it clear that, on a level, the magnetism was strong enough to put her on the dry slope, mobilize her strong legs and hiking-booted feet, and move them across time and space to be heading down towards the venue from the campsites.

She muttered it again: "Fuck you, Phish." I'll never forget it. It captured my elusive, hard-to-explain bouts of ambivalence, like a fly between chopsticks. I KNOW why I do it, because when it's going well, the beauty and good feelings are like a dream. But when life and reality bear down, it gets rough.  The conscious understanding that I have to be in my life because neither R-T00R (real tour) or V-T00R will pay my bills or make my boss not endlessly scrutinize me -- it's brutal. 

I went for another mile-long power walk last night during the show, with the ankle and wrist weights, cranking my way over the Pulaski Bridge, getting a sweat on, and jettisoning V-T00R to pretend, just for one night, that I wasn't obsessed and endlessly preoccupied with these four lovable, talented, ever-distant strangers. I haven't even looked at the setlist, and I'm having horrible visions of "Tela" appearing, which will require me being brought to tonight's show on a stretcher with an icepack on my head, and a straightjacket on, to prevent the wild, embarrassed, horrified thrashing from missing something undoubtedly epic (yeah, I said it).

And so it goes. Another day in the life of an "sorta-moderate-not-very-well-prepared-half-broke-ultra-phan." 15 open browser tabs and a pain in my soul. One thing that I do know is that something's guiding me, and though I wonder constantly if Phish is what that force is moving me towards (or if I'm hauling the leash like an ornery Doberman), I keep finding myself sprawled out on the doorstep of this thing. So, struggle as I might (and I have...you've seen the password-protected blog page, if you've read this long enough), the journey continues. Another day, another rucksack of emotions, another fucking show, and probably, eventually...like I've known all this time...another reason to remember why I bother. Hell or high water, it's a relationship. It ain't over till its over, and it hasn't ended yet, not since '93.

[Screenshot of 1,000 Phish-related browser tabs open, and that's just one window. Image by author.] 

I'm going to take this opportunity to relate some of the Buddhist teachings I'm familiar with, that remind me of the spot that I'm in, with respect to Phish. It would be easy for me to be inflating Phish's ego(s) to the point of relating them to those in a position of enlightened beinghood, but sometimes I really wonder. The stamina, dedication, willingness and desire it takes to do what they do...it's either borne of extreme egotism, altruism, insanity, or resolve...and I know that, living in samsara like we all do, for them, it's probably a gumbo (*cough, cough, play it*) of every one of those things.

Anyway, the story of Milarepa goes like this: Milarepa was a poor mountain boy that had a very harsh childhood and young adulthood, who learned and practiced black magic, to kill many of his family's enemies. Wracked with guilt and aware of his wrongdoings, Milarepa turned his mind toward the Dharma, and sought out the great teacher, Marpa, and requested teachings. Hooo-hooh, boy...teachings he received!

Marpa, at one point, instructed Milarepa to build Castles of stone, and, once built, instructed his disciple to tear them down again. Like in the Myth of Sisyphus, with the poor guy rolling the big stone up the steep hill, then the stone rolling back down again, over and over, Sisyphus had to, for what seemed like forever, abide by the task. Similarly, Milarepa had to complete his tasks. He did so. He built up and tore down many castles.

Then Milarepa went into mountain retreat, into caves and practiced the Dharma. Eating nettles and surviving under the most profoundly difficult Mountain Yogi circumstances, Milarepa became Tibet's most famous and revered Yogi. Well, whaddya know, Milarepa eventually had his own student, Gampopa. Gampopa came to Milarepa's area and sought him out, as Milarepa's reputation had "traveled" far and wide. Gampopa prevailed upon Milarepa to give him teachings, and Milarepa was very difficult but gave Gampopa many, many profound teachings.

Finally, after many years, Milarepa decided that his teachings to Gampopa had come to an end. And Gampopa was encouraged to leave his teacher and go down the mountain, into retreat in the caves, and turn to teaching in his own way. The day for them to part came. Milarepa walked with Gampopa down to the stream that was below the particular cave that Milarepa occupied at the time. Milarepa, in one last teaching to his student, told his disciple cross the stream alone, to seek his path. Then Gampopa, turning around to wave goodbye to his Sacred Teacher, saw Milarepa turn around and lift up his robes, mooning him! Milarepa revealed his hairy, bestubbled, leathered-up, calloused, beaten up ass, as a last teaching to Gampopa about the importance and the rigor of meditation, of sitting, of practicing and of the perseverance required for liberation. (Thanks to Sapan R. for some of the humorous recounting of that tale)

Maybe our intrepid girl phan was feeling the shine of the Moon of Phish. It can be blinding, but also very, very enlightening, not to mention, rewarding, once the skin heals and the sting wears off.  So, I'll continue to drag my weary shit-ass up the mountain, because the mountain just seems to keep dragging me up it. Just finally looked at last night's setlist...DAAYYYUMM! No "Tela," thank Bob, but there were some twinklers I'm definitely kicking myself for missing live:

-- The first "Cities" since 8/5/09 Shoreline, which I'm also grateful to have been present for, my first West Coast show, scooting along and spinning my way into the venue as the place tilted over in full, oceanside groove formation

-- EFFIN' "CAMEL WALK"? Definitely a bustout, not a far-far bustout: last appearance 2004, but only played 5 times in the new Millennium. Fudgesicles! I love this tune...the last time I saw it live, ironically, was 12/12/97 at the previously-known-as Pepsi Arena, where I shall be Friday night (got a ride for that bad boy, so everything's pretty much in place...bring the ass and the Flow will follow). 

-- "The Wedge," also seen by me up front at 8/8/09...hey, it's looking to me like I was kinda done a favor by a lot of these tunes being repeats of ones I've seen before, recently, in a far better mood, with much more rest. The only "Wedge" between 8/8/09 and last night was the one I missed at 8, on 11/1. So, like, yeah.

-- "Twenty Years Later"...huh? There it is again! Saw this one on 8/8/09, but did NOT see it on 8/16/09, the Summer Tour closer. Don't get me started on that one.

-- The first "Mango Song" since 8/8/09, which I'm grateful to have seen at the Gorge, right up front row, the legendary "Mango Opener," only the second one in Phishtory. Before that, "Mango" last appeared in 8/2/03, officially qualifying it for bustout status

-- I got a "Mike's > Simple > Weekapaug" at 6/2/09 Jones Beach I...this time, it's sprinkled with a dash of "Slave to the Traffic Light." That's got to be something interesting.

Some others I always like to see but missed last night are "Moma Dance," "Reba" and "The Curtain (With)" (with "With" seeming to make a massive comeback as format of choice for "Curtain"), versions of which I'll be happy to hear, with the snappy gusto of Fall 2009. But for the most part, it seems like last night was sent down by the forces of Grace and Providence, to prevent me from being hauled down to Philly tonight crying, with my ass in a sling.  

You see how it goes? Some unavoidable humor, a little nostalgia and statistics, and I'm back on the train. Got into work finally -- I'd like to think no one missed me, but I told my boss I'd be late and he may have rolled his eyes again -- and just found out we can all leave at 2PM. Wow. Whew! This shit's intense. It's like family, yeah, phamily, a quizzically comforting cramp I'm sure a lot of people will be feeling and remembering this week: ya can't live with 'em, ya can't live without 'em, but they're always going to be there, whether you like it or not. 

Basically: T00R on! (*strangles self*)


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