We leaned back against the bumpers of a couple cars, half in , half out of the garage green room of the venue, a warehouse behind the VFW. Railroad tracks, a dozen junked Subarus, mist rising from river to city roof tops to inky stars.

“Is it raining?” Bran said, “ I unloaded 3 bags of stucco and left them by the front door when I left. Shit.”

It was a sweltering summer’s night, and I found myself sitting under Antonio’s accordion in the dimly lit Cantina, sweaty arms and legs stuck to the padded booth cushion, about to be serenaded. I had asked for the ‘cheapest red wine you have’ and gotten it and I ‘d done my best not to attract his attention but Mercedes got a notion to stare at him and now we were reaping the consequences.

Just south of the Chateauguay wilderness there is a hayfield long and narrow in the summer night - a full moon hangs to the south while the dipper shines north. I’m standing on an empty festival stage coiling microphone cables, looking up at a magnificent starry dome. The crowd has left trodden carpets of grass and a silence worth waiting for .


After the rock and roll spectacle is over, a caravan of cars heads single file out of town and turns right up the Maple Hill road, red taillights disappearing and reappearing in the blowing snow. Not far from here in the craggy, hawk-haunted hills, my friend Cindy is probably burning the midnight oil with her chocolate brown fiddle, flying through the night on ancient Cape Breton tunes. 

I’m in the Ford truck with my mother, having steadied her up into the cab earlier with promises of a typical landscaper’s adventure. We’re idling in a construction zone ten miles into the rural outback, sitting immobilized on one of the few paved roads around. It's time to turn off the engine. We've been aiming south and are just past Wank’s Garage. I’m glad to see he still waves to me, even as he’s made enemies with most folks in town.

The view from the porch of the Smith’s settled over Jimmy like a song as he puffed at his cigarette, squinting into the late afternoon sun.  Here just a few miles east of Crow Peak in Vermont’s northeast Kingdom, autumn was coming early and the threat of frost was stimulating food production in the Smith’s kitchen. After two days of non-stop eating and recording, Jimmy was ready to attempt the guitar solo of his lifetime. 

The thousands of miles I’ve just traversed in my worn out Subaru seem as vast as they are. My drive across Ontario last week, from International Falls to Cornwall, was a whim made up around Bemidji, Minnesota, predicated on my weakness for the allure of lonely, secondary highways going north.

Our current piece of real estate, a polished parquetry floor, is covered: a vast array of  blinking & humming electronics with a heaping side of fine acoustic instruments. Not un-typically, I’m crawling on my hands and knees just about half hidden behind a velvet side curtain, sweaty hands fumbling for guitar picks as elusive as car keys.

He hadn’t returned our phone calls, but that sometimes happened when his computer was using the phone line so we decided to just drive over. After 40 minutes navigating the familiar hills and valleys, we turned at the old bridge and wound our way up twisting roads into Tweedsville. The whole town seemed perched under a bower of ancient fir trees, just barely holding on to the sides of the raging winter river. But with the addition of colored lights on the trailers and camps, the mood was festive. Christmastime on the back roads of Vermont was the best I could imagine.

We crossed the Boston Common and got to the Orpheum early enough to stand in line with a sense of ease, enjoying the hum of the city, the balmy evening air and the sociability of the pre-concert crowd. The letter, tucked away in my bag, was quietly giving me a sense of mission. I was different from all the other concertgoers, connected by secret wiring to the heart of the crowds' flesh and blood center.

It was one a.m. and admittedly, we were drinking. “You know you’re old enough to be my mother,” he said, and I smiled, nodding, unable to disagree.

“Can I ask you a question,” he continued,” and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. I don’t exactly know how to say this but … how has making music changed for you now that you’re past fifty, in comparison to, say, when you were my age?”

It was back to business as usual: Cousin Teddy was back in Boston playing all the cool clubs and I was in Vermont playing renewable energy festivals, barbeques and sports bars with punching bags. “Listen to this,” I said, turning up the CD player in my car so the guys could hear what was coming up on the disk.

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