The day before was our Salt Lake CD release concert for our new album Shiver Into Spark at Holladay United Church of Christ (HUCC). Normally, on the day of a big concert I have a bit of a routine I like to follow: a quiet morning with a cup of coffee, and a newspaper, then a bit of woodshedding on some of the tough instrumentals, followed by a brief vocal warm up. Later in the day, I’ll go through the whole program with Mary, and show up for the performance in tip top shape. What we hadn’t expected was that our cars were in collusion with everything else that has broken. That morning we discovered our van wouldn’t start. Our other car was immobile due to an electrical problem I was exercising a little too much patience on. However, it was clear that if we wanted to show up to this performance at all, I’d need to be a bit less patient. Mary, who has even less patience than me for this sort of thing had already called a neighbor who is a mechanic and he said he could fix it sometime that weekend. I called my brother, who told me I was welcome to Dad’s old truck but that I’d need to put the spare on it as one of the tires was flat. Sounded fine to me… besides, I had an old broken trailer full of discarded bike parts, odd bits of wire, and some bent stove piping, and a wasp nest I’d been meaning to get rid of once I ran out of patience. A truck sounded like just the thing.
A brother in law gave me a lift out to my brother’s place and we set to work on the tire. Since the truck didn’t appear to come with a jack, we borrowed a high lift jack from his neighbor, and thought things should be a cinch with my brother’s set of pneumatic power tools… However, over the next few hours my usual patience gradually gave way to a mantra of whispered and sometimes grunted words that I think decorum indicates I should not repeat here. The lug nuts had obviously been tightened by some overzealous person armed with a bucket of superglue and the spare tire looked as if it had been entombed with an Egyptian mummy. We called a used tire shop to see if we could buy a couple of tires cheap and were told they had just what we needed and that the bay was empty. We got there 15 minutes later to discover that “empty bay” apparently translated to “there’s only twenty people in front of you.” Following a very patient 2 hour wait, we were surprised when he only charged me $30 dollars instead of the $80 I expected. “What luck!” I thought.
“Only one tire… not so good tire.” He said apologetically in his heavily accented English. Sure enough, it was as bald as Patrick Stewart. Still, it was inflated and meant I was on my way, with a full 30 minutes to spare! I got home, changed and dashed out to load our gear. The universe somehow picked that moment to stage a blizzard. Luckily I had run across a large tarp left over from our tent (which I had recently run out of patience with and discarded due to a large rip, catastrophically failed zipper and a long mosquito filled night) when I was cleaning out the garage a few days before. It was just big enough that all our gear could be wrapped tightly in the bed of the truck and we set off.
We made it to the sound check, out of breath but relatively on time. We had the good luck to be backing up Kristin Erickson (one of our favorite songwriters) for the first half of the show, and were playing tunes from our CD Shiver Into Spark on the second half. Having had no chance to warm up made the whole thing that much more exciting. Hugs all around helped center and calm us down and Kristin loaned me her spare guitar so I wouldn’t have to retune between songs. We had a great sound guy (Bill Green) and the church's music director had hot soup for us in the green room. The concert was warm, intimate and beautiful in a way that only happens when the weather outside is frightful.
When it was over we took our time getting back out into the cold. It had snowed another four inches and was still coming down heavy. I began to worry about getting home in a rear wheel drive pickup with no significant weight in the back and bald tires as well as regret the patience that had left my car (the best one we have for snow) out of commission. Our friend Sterling must have had similar thoughts, as unbeknownst to me he followed us out of the parking lot and down the street, a fact I only discovered when I gave up trying to drive up the .05% grade that lead home. I backed up and turned around, following the path of least resistance towards (and sometimes away from home). The roads were bad enough that the truck wouldn’t go uphill at all, and much to my dismay, I discovered that the windshield wipers had long since lost their rubber blades, and that the fan for the heat and defrost was not working often leaving me unable to see well enough to read the street signs. Adding to my stress was a crowded cab with two muses in the small seats behind the bench, and one muse sitting up front between Mary and I who began loudly worrying about needing to use the bathroom, a worry which continued to increase for all of us as the drive (normally 15 minutes or less) stretched into an hour and a half or more. My usually inexhaustible patience wearing thin, I switched back and forth between irritably explaining that if we pulled into a gas station for a bathroom we weren’t likely to be able to pull out and demanding Mary figure out where in the hell we were since I couldn’t spare attention for anything but the road in front of me. When we finally arrived at home (without any accidents inside or outside the truck) I was pleased to find all our instruments still snug and dry in the bed. All in all, it counts as the most exciting drive I’ve ever taken (even including the time my hood blew off on the freeway!)
Sterling pulled over to talk before he left. “I know you grew up here and know how to drive in this stuff,” he said (mostly I know enough to leave a rear wheel drive pickup with bald tires home when it’s snowing!), “but I wanted to make sure you got home ok. You’ve had a run of bad luck recently."
The phrase “run of bad luck” stuck with me that night as I ran through my mind the list of all the things that had gone wrong recently. It was indeed quite a long list. His words were still running through my mind the next morning when I looked out the back window to discover my beloved apricot tree was gone. It hadn’t crushed the fence though, and hadn’t damaged the outbuilding under it. I had a year’s supply of jam from that tree in the basement, family and friends who help me out in a pinch, a truck to drive, a neighbor who would fix my van, a guardian angel named Sterling, a smart, gorgeous, talented life partner, three beautiful muses, a warm place to sleep, a fantastic gig, a shower that ran, even if it didn’t drain, and people who would come out in a snow storm to listen to my music.
“If that’s a run of bad luck,” I thought, “Bring it on!”