Question marks.

October 7, 2010

I sit at the Starbucks. Just got back last night. Back from Tennessee, back from recording, back from working 16 days straight and giving all I had and putting together this amazing project. Creation is my fuel, my drug, my drive and I got a big, huge shot of it these last two weeks. I’m so proud and happy and utterly satisfied with this whole thing. But right now I’m feeling pretty funky.

Yesterday I got a ride to the airport. Thank God. Checked-in. At security the alarm went off for my bag. I had to take my coat off. Then they called a “female attendant” Suddenly I realized that my helmet has not made it through the x ray machine, I feel slightly panicked. I know there is nothing wrong with my bag. Why the alarm? I now imagine them bringing me in a room and get me to strip down and be poked and prodded, why else call a female attendant? I’m so tired. My mind is mush. My emotions are going wild. The female attendant shows up and pats me down, I submit to the exercise. Arms up. Arms down. I know it’s better to stay neutral, calm. I don’t have anything to hide. They get my bags through the x ray one more time .

After long moments a security pow wow and discussions a security guy says: “we apologize for the inconvenience”.

I put my jacket back on, put my back pack on, grab my suitcase, my guitar and walk off to Gate C-2. Tears start running down my face. I try to breathe it off. They just flow. I get to the cafe at the Nashville airport where they have live singer-songwriters. I sit down. A guy sings really well. The tears roll some more. The waitress approaches.

“What would you like?”

“Can you give me a minute?”


She walks away. I’m trying to wipe off these stupid tears and they just keep coming. Rolling down.

I finally order soup.

“It’s really good soup” she says with sympathy in her eyes and voice. The singer songwriter ends his set. I sit there for a good hour, watching country music videos. Holy big music biz machine. It’s on steroids. There is one song with the golden country music couple, Faith Hill and her guy Tim Mc Graw.

“I need you”….

What do I need? Do I need? Need?… I go pay my bill and walk off into the terminal.

I go get a magazine for the flight. A luxury. I get Guitar World. I used to get Guitar World at home and read it cover to cover. It’s the Jimi Page book 3D special issue. There is a box of guitar picks at the register. Only in Nashville. You never know when you need a pick in Nashville, show off your stuff in a jiffy.

I go sit at Gate C-2. I take the very last seat at the end of the row, there is an AC outlet in the wall. I get my laptop out. Try the Wi-Fi but it’s not free so I write instead.

A woman asks me if it’s OK to plug her phone in the outlet. “Sure”
She plugs in, she’s on the phone already, was probably running out of power. She is a true southern belle. Countryish looking dress with pleats and a skirt that goes just above the knee, tickle the men’s minds but in a proper way. She’s on the heavy side but in a cute sort of way. American pieish sort of way. Make-up. Hair in waves and waves of black curls expertly cut to create volume, balance the figure.

She talks about abortion. About vaccines given in third world countries to “abort” people. About stem cells. There is a sort of scientific tone to her voice, but there is also an edge that makes you think of crusaders. The edge of the sword. Righteousness.

She turns to the wall to try to keep her conversation more private but it’s a small recessed corner that acts as an echo chamber so we all hear it more of the one sided exchange. A man takes a seat a few chairs down from me. We look at each other at about the same time and our eyebrows rise in unison.

“They use the stem cells of the unborn but they have proven that this does not work at all, they can only grow hair and stuff like that but that’s it….”

I try to focus on my thoughts, my writing…

“They make the laws…. They decide…. ….Oh I haven’t told you! ..,,, I spent the last week with….. He took me out to the…. He was very respectful….”

“Passengers for rows 10 to 20…”

“That’s for me” I said to my neighbor.

He eyes the lady on the phone and makes a face. I said “ Yeah sometimes I get glimpses into people’s lives and it makes me feel so good about mine…”

I gather my stuff, he notices the helmet. We talk about riding, He rides too. I told him about the trip around the USA

“I always wanted to do that” he says he’d like to go up the East Coast to Canada and possibly catch a hockey game in Montreal.”

“Yeah you got to do that once for sure”

“Have a good one”

“Yeah you too, ride safe”

I get in line. I realize that the system is not rows but categories. I am in the category 5 which puts me way down the line for getting on the plane. I go ask which category is up

“3” The man says.

I go back a few steps waiting. The counter guy for American Airlines is eying my guitar with a look approaching panic.

“Miss…” He says.

I go back to the counter.

“You can’t take this on board.”

“I was going to gate-check it.” I reply.

“ Oh. Oh good.”

He walks over with the pink tag and puts it around the handle.

Something is not right. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I have a funny feeling… I check-in, walk to the plane door. Leave the guitar there next to the strollers. I don’t feel good about it but there are no logical reasons to feel that way. I walk on the plane and ask the flight attendant “ got my guitar there with the gate check. Is it OK?”

He says yes, he says there is all sorts of instruments on board, guitars, violins, accordion… we could all play, except for mine, I’ll have to play spoons because my guitar will be under. I reply that I will be good with spoons especially with my french canadian pedigree… Ha, ha, ha…. Right…

I go sit down to seat C 13. I settle in. The tears start rolling down my face again. Can’t stop them.. Damn.

We take off. After a while they come down with the beverage cart. “Would you like something to drink” to the right. “Would you like something to drink” to the left. I am hungry. I ask if they have food. There is a $10 sandwich and chips.

“We don’t take cash, do you have a credit card?”


She comes back with the sandwich, I hand her a $10 bill.

“Uh… we don’t take cash” I realize what I did and I start apologizing as if I had kicked her in the chins with steel toe boots. I am a mess…

The free movie comes on. A flick about a black kid rescued by Sandra Bullock and Tim Mc Graw who becomes a football player in the NFL. I hope I can just obliterate any feelings watching this. Not cry all the way to California would be nice.

It’s not too bad. I manage to vacate my mind for an hour or so.

We land.

It’s pouring rain. Looks like Vancouver Where am I? …And where is Leo?!?
Oh my… I left Leo at the studio. I can see what happened, he was in the bed, I rolled the sheets off… I was in such a daze… Leo!!!!! I text Perry immediately : think I left Leo at the studio…

We deplane. I look for my guitar with the gate-checked items. Not there. I ask a guy who is obviously wearing earplugs about it. He says :

“ We sent your guitar to the carrousel, it’s a violation of ATA regulations”

“But I’ve been doing this for a long time… never had a problem…” My heart starts pounding.

My guitar! I can’t deal with this right now I’m going to falter and die. Oh my and how will I know where it went? What if it’s not there? It won’t have a proper tag …. I walk to the beautiful flight attendant and ask her for help. I must look like I’m about to have a heart attack. She takes me to the counter. We tell the main counter guy and I say “Do you know how upsetting that is!!!” with an edge of madness in my voice. Geezus… I’m totally out of control… But against all odds it works because the guy walks from behind his counter down to the plane, out the door, down to the baggage handlers and emerges back a few minutes later with my guitar in his hands. I am SO relieved. He says something, blah, blah, it’s a violation, blah, blah… But I have my guitar. “Thank you! Thank you!” Tears roll once more down my face.

At the baggage claim Steve and Sunny are already there. The sight of them brings a feeling of relief. We hug. I tell them about my tears and as I do so I start to feel a bit better. They are all smiles. They are there and I am going to be somewhere tonight.

We hit major traffic on the way back. I can’t believe they put themselves through all this hassle for me. I am so grateful for their help. We talk about the bike. There is a serious issue with my transmission, 3rd gear is dying. I can still ride if I shift through 3rd. We need engine gaskets which are hard to find because the bike is 27 years old, availability… but they do exist. OK. That is all OK. I have a place to sleep, a bath. I’m OK for tonight.

But after that? What?

I feel very unsettled. It’s as if there is no ground to stand on. Part of me wants to hit the road. I got on the bike today and the familiarity of the wind felt like home. It’s as if finishing the recording has left me in a big open void. I gave all and now I am a shell.

Sitting at Starbucks is the closest thing to stability in my life right now. It’s getting cold, winter is coming and I don’t know how I’ll face that. Yet.

This afternoon I looked at the guitar case and the pedal case sitting against the wall and the truth of the matter is : I can’t carry that along with me on the bike and it freaked me out. From Nashville I brought back the air mattress and a towel and a face cloth I had purchased. And that too seems like some sort of huge liability. I don’t have room for this. Today I was going to get to Altadena, but the thought of not knowing where I was going to sleep stopped me.

I don’t know how to look at things right now. I feel weak. I am weak. I can’t keep asking everyone to help me out….

I can’t go home. There is no home. I can’t ride off, the bike needs a transmission. I’m here getting favors from all these good hearted people… can’t keep doing that forever… For the last two weeks the music has been my home and it was really great. Really great. But that is over now.

I don’t want to come across as a damsel in distress and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. That is not the point. I chose every bit of what is going on. It’s just that in this very moment I’m blind, blind with a broken compass and tired to no end. Very likely, a temporary condition. But right now, somehow, I just wish I that for just a little moment I could let go of all questioning, all answering, all defenses and abandon myself into a hug and just fall safely, deeply asleep.


7 Responses to “Question marks.”

  1. David Walker Says:

    I have a hug for you Danielle. Ending a creative process can leave you feeling sad and empty for a bit I think. Maybe a post partum blues!

  2. lindakingston Says:

    and here’s another HUGE hug for you danielle……..all the way from ny.

    love ya and thinking about you

  3. Madeleine Says:

    Je te serre dans mes bras….
    Mawie xxx

  4. angelina Says:

    Big hug!!

  5. John Doheny Says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why they made you put the guitar underneath, and out of Nashville of all places. Where they should know better.

    The AFM signed an agreement with all the major carriers about 8 years ago. They are required, by law, to let you put your instrument in the overhead bin. I used to carry a printed copy of the agreement (I downloaded it off the AFofM website) but I lost it a while back and never replaced it, since I haven’t had a problem with this in years, and I fly a lot. The worst that’s happened is I’ve had to take a later flight if the bins are full (since people take huge amounts of crap onboard with them now) but after that happened a couple of times out of Boston last year I just made sure to always book a seat at the back.

    They should never have put your guitar under.

    • Yeah I don’t know what that was all about, there was a whole bunch of instruments on the plane, they did not let me bring mine possibly because I was one the the last and the plane and bins was getting really full. but I’ve done the “gate check” a number of times and never had a problem, suddenly it’s a violation of rules???

      I need to get a smaller case. Mine is the rectangular type, it looks big, and they all kind of freak when they see it, while it takes less room than an acoustic guitar case as it’s at least half the thickness.

      I had a copy of that agreement… but since I have had no problems I did not think necessary to have it along…

      Hugs John.

  6. John Doheny Says:

    Actually one of the reasons I switched to a ‘gig bag’ from my old rectangular coffin of a tenor case was because of this. Ticket agents don’t really ‘see’ something slung over your shoulder, whereas occasionally I would get somebody who wanted to argue about the square case, since it cleary doesn’t fit into that little wire sizing thingie they have there. That’s why I started carrying around the AFM agreement.

    I also try to avoid seat assignments near the front of the plane, since the bins fill up fast these days. I swear people bring so much crap on now, it’s like getting cracked in the head by a cratefull of chickens riding a Mexican bus.:-P If by some horrible twist of fate I wind up near the front of the plane and there’s no overhead storage left, I refuse to board without my horn and take a later flight. The couple of times this has happened in the last year the gate attendent re-booked me as ‘elite access’ just to get me out of his hair lol.

    No way I’m letting them put my horn under there. they break it every single time.

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