I rode in the sun today. I went east towards Rancho Cucamonga. I’m riding Little Blue. The mountains in the distance have snow sprinkled peaks. In the distance, Big Bear is deep in snow. The riding territory shrinks daily. It makes me slightly claustrophobic to think about that. But the sun shines still and warms my body. Today I am thankful for the heat generating exhaust pipes right next to my legs and feet. Little Blue is a great winter bike for that.

I’ve got a lot of layers on, camisole, long sleeve shirt, long sleeved, collared vest, leather jacket, windproof shell, long johns and leathers and a balaclava. It’s actually too much for this afternoon. It won’t be too much tonight. But right now it’s just bulky.

My destination is the Coffee Klatch. A really cool coffee house which actually won the “Best Coffee in the World” title in Britain recently. For a coffee addict that is quite the attractant. But I’m not there for coffee. I am there to see if I can play there… They recently put flyers on their counters asking for artists, visual and musicians. I called this morning to see what it was about and she said to come down with music and all. So here I am.

It goes well, she speaks really fast, which is something I noticed most employees there do. Must be the high octane coffee. She pulls out the schedule book and writes my name on there and circles it. Done deal. So I now have a date there on December 22. I will have to prove myself by bringing bodies in the shop. If I do well, they’ll book me again. Hopefully I can pull that off.

I head back out. Wow. I did it. Got some work to do : put together a flyer, find a PA, invite folks, put the set list together and cross my fingers. Here we go….

It’s almost the end of the month. One more set of 31 consecutive days that include Christmas and it will be the calendar end of this incredible run.. or should I say ride… that was 2010.

Questions abound in my mind. It feels like this trip was all about learning. These days it seems that my learning is deepening. On the trip I faced the challenges on my own. I perfected the art of “dealing” with the punches thrown my way. I learned and realized that I could handle it myself. No more crying on shoulders type of reaction. Full responsibility.

Now my learning happens among humans. It’s not only between me and my machine anymore. On the road, people are practically décor most of the time. Now, the road is the backdrop and the punches are thrown by people.

The waters I have been navigating go from heartbreaking to achingly beautiful. After all is it not the nature of life on earth? Duality. The good and bad. Happy and sad, win or lose and trying not to fall prey to this group agreement. Trying to stay in the love and the forgiveness. This book I read said that there are only two emotions : Love and fear. It gave me a lot to think about.

Tonight I rode again. Much colder. Got the “Nanook from the North” mittens to help me conquer the cold. At 70 miles per hour 40 degrees gets colder, stronger measures are required as there is no sun to mitigate the wind chill factor. I flowed down the 210 towards Passadena. I’m the only one I’ve seen on a bike tonight. Folks around here finds it cold right now. I’m still northified enough to be able to enjoy the ride and withstand the cold. It’s actually not bad. As I said, Little Blue puts out a lot of heat. I feel the warmth creep through the inside of my boots. I press my legs against the machine and I stay warm. Little metal horse carry me, carry me.

I am always magicked by the utter power of the freeway. Its long lines of concrete cutting through the land, endless, fast, the cars like the pieces of a different Tetris game where the goal is to glide in between instead of piling up. At night, the tail lights, headlights zoom in interminably in each direction. Beautiful, shiny, free flowing particles in the arteries. I love to watch, hear, see wheels spinning around me so incredibly fast. The way they attach and detach from the pavement. A cell phone glows from the back of a car. Little square, blue beacon in the dark. Dashboards of orange or blue, lone presence in the darkened cockpits of cars. I pass the Miller Brewery and surprisingly here you don’t smell hops, but raisin bread. Must be a bakery around.

Nothing beats riding a bike. Life comes back to me in bucketfuls. The roar. The willing acceleration. The Glide.

I think as I ride about how I have to enjoy every second of this. Life is an unpredictable thing. The laughter, the generosity, the opening of hearts. I still have much to learn. Learn about trust, about truth, about opening up, about abandoning fear. Thrust yourself deeper in the curves, so to speak. Yeah. To joyfully lean in the curves with the knowledge that you have all that you need to handle it.

Sycamore amore

November 29, 2010

These trees are beautiful, their long lean bodies stretch to the sky.
They shed their bark, their white skins exposed.
Tree people.
The blue skies, their exposed skins.
Outstretched limbs, patchwork of greys and reds.

And dates… the first real, live, on the tree dates I have ever seen…

split lanes, not hearts

November 25, 2010

definition of split lanes : Lane splitting is riding a motorcycle between lanes in the same direction as traffic.

Been quiet.

The high of Saturday’s show was followed by a discombobulation into a mass of tangled of ugliness.

I tried to negotiate this with as much grace as I could. I failed. There was whiffs of war in the air.

A couple of days ago… I stare at the computer screen. My heart pounds. I re-read the lines etched on the screen one more time. I mutter “no way” then “no…” then “he’s crazy…” I felt a thin veil of despair wrap itself around me. Here was yet another message filled with mounting rage, insulting comments. And not just about me.

The sun was gone, the clouds had filled the sky, night was already setting up shop. I felt cold. I had just returned from my first ever Bikram yoga session, which is conducted in a very warm room, so you sweat profusely and stretch deeply. Sitting on the wooden chair my sweat dampened shirt felt like a death wish.

What the fuck?

Tears started to roll down my face. Here we go again. This is the third time this madness happens. Once is a fluke, twice can happen, three times confirms theory.

Remember my last dash in the desert?

Last week, Ozzy was working away on his computer, phone doing all the stuff he does while I was working away on a translation about natural gaz powered engines and fuel injection. Ozzy is a very wise man. Suddenly, out of the blue yonder he asked me : “Is everyone in your world in harmony with what you are trying to do?”

“Huh…” was my feeble answer.

How did he know? I think he did because the dark spirit was lurking and he sensed it. Some of us just know.

So for the last few days, it’s been heavy, sad, waking up with emotional soreness then plowing through the day trying to make sense of stuff, to rationalize, understand…

I did not want to judge, I did not want to fight… In the end there was nothing I could do. No matter what I’d say, do or try I would be bashed and accused without trial. I would be wrong and I’d have to crawl, beg and be sorry for having done nothing. Guilty of the ultimate sin : exist as who I am.

I am sad for the loss of community, the blessings, the fun, the dreams.

It was the story of a community who adopted me fresh off the road. I practically did not know anyone… I felt so blessed. I have so much love for you all.

Even you Mr T.

We all ride our own roads, trials and tribulations. We all have our lessons.

So this morning I woke up still estranged.

I looked outside : sun.

Remembered the day : Wednesday.

What’s on the to do? Translation, phone calls, a walk…

!!!

The guitar in San Diego!

A month ago I had visited Sam Radding in San Diego to see and try his “Go Guitar” (a guitar small enough and good sounding enough so that I could take on my travels with the bike.) I had loved the guitar, loved Sam and found that the little number was perfect for my riding-music playing dreams.

The temperature outside is around 50 degrees F so I gear up with an undershirt, long sleeves, heated vest minus the electricity (Little Blue is not set up for it) then my jacket and liner and wind breaker plus the leather pants, balaclava inside the helmet and I go. Yeah. Kind of cumbersome… Layering is a way to have all this available gear on the road so I can dress up or down depending on the temperature. Options for the motorcycle gypsy.

I head down the highway and my heart start to lighten. I’ve really missed the road and riding lately.

The sun shines most of the way. As I get near the ocean the air cools quite a bit. It’s borderline with how much colder my hands can get. a few less degrees and I am going to have to pull out the “mittens” I had seriously frozen my hands a few times last year to the point of causing some damage, so I have to be careful.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and I realize that here in the USA it is a huge deal. Everyone celebrates, prepares, travels, is doing something. There is a lot of traffic. Twice we had cops on bikes or in a patrol car zig zagging the width of the Freeway to slow everyone down for some invisible cause ahead. There is something fascinating about following that. Feels like the start of a race. Feels like an unseen line of control. We are all like impatient race horses at the gate.

I get to Sam’s place, it’s good to see him. We go inside. He has a beautiful acoustic lap steel guitar he just made that he lets me try. I’ve never played with that metal bar. Its’ like slide guitar but on your lap. My first attempts were clumsy but I got a little better and started to feel inspired, imagining new sounds and soundscapes…

Then he went out to get “my” guitar.

I am excited and nervous. I feel like I am meeting someone for the first time. Will we connect?

He walks in with it, gives it to me. I find myself shy.

I pluck strings, it’s like I don’t know a single piece of music. I am surprised by the amount of bass tones, I did not remembered them to be so big for such a small guitar. Then the sounds. Precise, co-existing, focused, very present.

I re-position it a few times, I play as we chat. I’m liking it… a lot.

I feel really happy. In my deep heart I would like to just disappear in a corner and play it alone. Then Sam tells me about how even the “above us mere mortals” kind of guitar players do get shy when they try a new instrument. It is very intimate. Personal. I’ve only gotten guitars from stores or from friends, I never had one built so this is my first “ built for me” instrument. When you think of it : the trees, the metals, every part of this instrument was something else that was harvested, mined and manufactured so it’d end up in my hands. I should do a thank you ceremony. She was born for me.

She has a California heart, was made by the hands of a free spirit, a master creator… she is different, perfectly crafted, special. She is mine. I think Alberto my sculpture master would approve of her minimalism.

It was then time to go. Sam invited me to come back at some point, he would teach me some building skills, he also gold mines, fish, cook… I am welcome. I am so blessed. I tell him. He smiles.

I put my gear back on, then we went outside. I shivered going back in the cold air. We figured out how to carry it. Little Blue is not a pack horse, it’s a thoroughbred so I decide to put the guitar on my back. The case has one strap so it is crosswise across my back. We tie a bungee cord around my ribs and the guitar to hold it down and prevent it to catch in the wind. It is so light, I don’t even feel it. A twinge of worry… Can’t have anything happen…. we say goodbyes and I head back up to Los Angeles.

Sam the master

strapped on

I end up splitting lanes almost all the way from San Diego to San Dimas. Long week end. There are numerous fender benders and accidents. Me and Little Blue are well acquainted now and I marvel at it’s steadiness. I basically ride the strip of asphalt about 6 inches wide between the newly painted lines and rows of plastic reflectors. The paint is so thick it pulls the tires right and left, but on that strip it’s nice and smooth.

I am focused, in a sort of zen concentration where I am not really “looking” but more like sensing. The bike is so solid, the lightest grip is needed and it will go where you think to go.

At one point, the sun was going down over the Ocean… what a view, some clouds, the golden glow.. then on my right I see our shadows. The bike, the guitar on my back and myself. It was just the coolest thing.

When I get to San Dimas my heart smiled as I see the warm light in the windows. Ozzy and Melanie have been so amazing to me. They are both so beautiful, admirable, creative, strong and we also laugh a lot. They are a gift. I am so grateful.

I walk in with the guitar still on my back and a stupid grin on my face. I need help to undo that bungee cord. I am realizing how happy I am about this thing. Then I pull it out. I’m just beaming, I feel like a child. I am amazed. It feels good to be happy after all this heartbreak and tension.

Today was great. I got my new little one. I also got to ride. I am sitting in a warm, beautiful place with amazing people. There is still magic, in truth, magic is always there… Sam is a magic person. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and there will be much to be thankful for.

I am so incredibly sorry for not having been able to navigate this crazy situation and the emails to a peaceful conclusion. I wish for forgiveness.

His last words were : “ Now go away.” As if that was ever possible…. All, everything is in our own hearts. None can be deleted or ignored. Challenges are lessons that cannot be learned through judgment, violence or denial. I could go to the end of the earth and I’d still be in his world that is how that works…

I wish for grace. I wish for love. I wish for understanding and patience. I wish for music, wind, beautiful souls and the courage to stay true.

Ah

November 22, 2010

Control.

I had a great show last night at the Coffee Gallery, the magic of playing music with Forrest is developing, taking shape, evolving. A language, rich, textured, drum hits, rhythms melding to the strings, the sounds, the voice, it’s alive. It’s music.

Standing up on the stage I feel this immense gratitude towards the people who dared to leave their homes and leaving their TVs and computers behind to experience a 3D artistic experience as Steve would say. What a gift.

Control.

As I play, the fingers go, the voice goes, the body goes, words, notes, sounds, there are fine lines drawn, meshing the comfort, the daring, the knowing, the unknown. Volume. Tone. Delay. Phase. The room, the travel of sound waves. Faces look up. Eyes closed. Bodies sway, or don’t. The core of the reactor is ignited and the momentum accelerates. This electron finds a matrix. exists.

a song a path, a road. A destination with a map. Curves, warnings, speed limit, accidents, surprises. The reaching of souls. the understanding. Communication.

Control.

My face moves, involuntary muscle contractions. Sweat runs. The body of the guitar is slippery. A quick re-arrangement of the position of the guitar. The pick moves between the two fingers, a string is hit and resonates, unwanted tone amidst a tight chord but there it is. “Celebrate it” as Perry would say. Breathe. Let go. Plunge in unknown waters and trust fate.

Control.

I finished the set, it felt like people were ready for it to stop. Then I heard “Done already? No!” but half the equipment was unplugged already. Then it was a fun, beautiful series of conversations, laughter, hugs, going nuts and just being there unapologetically happy. I love this place, it’s people.

Control.

My travels took me right to this moment in time. The unplanned, unprepared, goalless trip brought me to this moment. Unexpected meeting, recognitions of souls up on the Angeles mountain. Meeting Forrest was almost an accident. He was about to leave. He stayed. We played music. It connected. Oh the magic that has revealed itself. Perfectly unplanned.

Control.

This morning my body was tired. My head still smiling from the fun I had the previous night. I made my special blueberry pancakes, then went for a walk thinking of possibilities. The wind was crisp, bulky clouds floated above, some white some gray, every plant drenched by the massive amounts of rain that have dropped from the skies over the last 24 hours. Each step makes me feel the pavement as I wear thin soled shoes, must walk lightly. Look around. straighten the spine towards the heavens. I am in California. I am in the midst of endless possibilities.

Then I came back and checked my email.

Control.

Tie with barbed wire the unbound. Excise the light with a sharp scalpel. Judge. Invalidate. Build a cage of steel and cement, mark the boundaries, set a ceiling, accept scarcity. Nailing a butterfly to a board so to own it. Crucify an innocent to appease fear and desire.

I sighed.

So. Sighs or not. Here is the test : let it go. Let it be. Be true. And keep making music.

Fuck control. It’s the tool of the weak.

Music night tonight at the Coffee Gallery. It starts at 8 PM with a few performers opening, I don’t have the list yet then Forrest and I will be on at around 9 PM

Music night is always good for me, it makes my life make sense.

see you there if you are aournd.

here is the promo blurb

Catch the Canadian recording artist &
motorcycling adventuress’ musical
stop at the Coffee Gallery

Danielle Hébert with special guest
Forrest Robinson on percussion
@
The Coffee Gallery
2029 N. Lake Ave
Altadena 91001
2 dates
November 20th 8 PM at the
Coffee Gallery Front stage

suggested donation: $10

Website : http://www.daniellehebert.com
Blog: http://www.daniellehebert.worpress.com
Facebook: Danielle Hebert Music
Reservations : 626-794-2424

Back into the sun

November 19, 2010

My Vancouver peoples…

Erika wore the fashionable “recycling bag emergency rain hat” with style and poise. I love Erika, she stays there, behind, up North in Canada. She forges and will weld her life to her own design. She opened her home, heart and drove her car all over the place for me while I was there.

David sits at Livingstone studio. David is a scientist, a sculptor, a husband, grandpa and he is such a good friend. He carves marble in the shapes of his passions, patiently. David was born in California and he told me of a few amazing places I must see down here.

Chris and Camille,
Chris is one of my very favorite people in the whole wide world… Like a brother, a kindred soul, he’s recovering from the motorcycle accident, Camille is an angel, beautiful wonderful angel.

Then there is Jessica, Jean, Karen and family, the gang at Bear, Bruce, Jean Michel, France and quite a few more I did not manage to see.. I love you so much.

Tuesday morning YVR

it was an ungodly hour to get up… 5:30 AM. It’s pitch black out there… Erika comes close to my bed and says : it’s time to wake up. I can’t even open my eyes… I had my alarm set for 5:40… 10 more minutes… argh…

Scott came to get us, we all went to the airport together, more hugs and goodbyes. Then I am on my own. Check in, boarding pass, security, I am grumpy. I make it through and when I put my boots back on the little metal tab to pull up the zipper on my left boot rips off… sigh. I use my Nexus pass and get through customs in a flash. That was $50 well spent. I had to do the retina scan… weird…

Our flight is delayed, we have to change gates, we have to wait another hour… I get to work on a translation job I got so I don’t mind the delay.

We board. Seat 8A, window seat. I have not done the window seat in a while… I make a peace offering to my neighbor in 8C with a piece 5 Rain flavored gum. The initial frown goes, she smiles. Right on.

we take off

we have a very friendly flight attendant. She wears mickey mouse ears and jokes all the way. She is funny and ended our flight with the rendition of an Abba song with altered lyrics, full lungs, full emotion… she said she’d keep her day job…

the coast.

the land

and the California sky

I have arrived. I am back. I am here. Whoa.

It’s warm, sunny, bristling with expectations.

It’s kind of unreal. Flying 1500 miles is unreal… But I am here. I smile. A lot. I have these bursts of “Oh my Gods!” We celebrated by going to Bob’s Big Boy historic restaurant in Burbank with Sunny, Steve, Ozzy and Melanie. I love these guys too. All of them met by pure coincidence (if you believe in that) on that fateful morning on Highway 2 up in the Angeles Mountains.

Time and space. Now. Ozzy called it a “Dawn” he’s right. A Dawn for a beginning, new life. Where or what that life will be, I don’t know, what I would like is to stay on a path of truth, of light, the music, the fulfillment, the wide open road….

I got an email from the Go Guitar builder, the guitar will be ready next week. That is part of the plan…

I am still the electron. Coursing. A more internal voyage right now for sure. it’s as if the pieces of the puzzle are getting into position. it’s not quite clear yet, but I have jobs to accomplish before I can do that.

But I know one thing for sure. It is perfect right now. To be here is perfect, to have been in Vancouver is perfect, I trust the spirits and the Gods as I thrust myself forward, in the sun.

the last 3 days

November 15, 2010

YVR

Eau-Canada

the flight was fast, efficient. I walked on the plane and was surprised to see no first class section. All my last flights were on an American airline or another and they all had the first class thing.

It’s an egalitarian system : no leg room for everyone. Ok with me, I don’t need much, But it reveals another mentality.

I talk to one of the flight attendant he thinks I am an American because I am outgoing. Canadians are polite… with the exception of Quebecers who like to laugh, protest and sing loud.

I got to my seat, offered my row mate a piece of gum. I always do that, it fosters immediate affinity… And better breath, which can really be a major savior…

I pulled out my book, read for a little bit but it’s not really working so I pulled out my CDs. Only Jerry Cantrell would do. He’s been my musical travel mate… He does not know it mind you. But he’s been in Flagstaff, Louisiana, New York, motels, campsites under the moonligh, in the sun, in my mom’s living room in Quebec…. pretty much all over the place unapologetically rocking me and Leo out.

There are TV screens but it’s $5.50 bucks for a movie and I don’t want to spend cash on that. So I got the music blasting and I channel surf. ET (entertainment tonight) HD is playing.

I get to see a beautiful girl going under the knife of some creepy plastic looking surgeon. Shiny looking surgeons talking to other extra groomed surgeons, looking all serious and meaningful, women sitting in well behaved, straight backed, appreciative, so much to be learned.

There is something so bizarre about this. We watch insecure beautiful people get butchered as if it was just a regular thing. The results are creepy. Their newly improved features are a little too sharp or a little too plump, a little too straight, like the sculpture of an average artist. Pretty good, almost real yet lacking the genius of nature. They sell a DVD of this girl’s journey under the knife. Who buys this stuff?

Then I got to see cartoon characters saving a robot cartoon character, the news: I got to see people coming off of a cruise ship in San Diego… some sort of smoke disaster… They are all OK and smiling happy to speak to a reporter and a camera, be heard and seen.. I get to see Marie Osmond looking really upset on Oprah. It’s outlandish, voyeuristic…. Thankfully I can’t hear what they say… I hear Jerry sing “ …takes a hammer on a nail…”

We land, it’s cold. I put on my jacket. I get through customs

“Have a good day”
“Thanks”

I’m now officially in Canada.

It’s clean. Damned clean. Shiny. Wow.

I get through the last security doors, Erika is there, I’m smiling really wide “whoo hooo!!” I holler. No, I can’t be quiet about it. We hug a huge hug over the barrier. People look, smile. Approve.

We drive out. It’s so quiet. No traffic. There is no one around. It’s dark. Damp. There is no one to be seen.

I said it out loud : “It’s so quiet…”

With Erika at the sushi place

We go for sushi, it’s not the greatest. We laugh, that is great. We go to Erika’s place, blow up an air mattress and go to sleep.

Friday morning.

I wake up. I’m frozen. An air mattress in cold weather turns into a block of icy air. Brrr… The apartment is a tiny studio facing Vancouver Island in the distance, it is at the junction of the South arm of the Fraser river and the ocean. The sun shines shyly. We get up, eat, get going. We roll down Cambie street. I am a bad passenger. I get motion sickness and I’m searching for the brake pedal and clutch on the floor…

We get to the studio where my stuff is stored and it’s so, so, so good to see Jamie, Sheila, Ted and Ryan. Big hugs. Big smiles. It’s like I never left and it’s also like visiting a past life, something that was, a long, long time ago. They want to know everything.

I tell my stories and I see people’s eyes get that distant look. They either tell me they are jealous or tell me about their past adventures. They wish for the space, the time, the absence of deadlines, the openness to what life can bring.

Around 5 PM I head out. When I lived here I was either riding a bicycle, driving a car or my motorcycle. No transit for me. I have to get to Stanley Park, to the Rowing club for my gig tonight. I end up riding the Canada Line, the sky train built for the Olympics that will take me at Georgia and Howe. The train zooms rapidly, 1,2,3 stations. I get off. City center. Georgia street. Downtown Vancouver.

There is an immense sense of unreality. Of being a tourist in a dream. I will play tonight. The night is dark, the maple trees are red-orange-yellow, shedding their coats of colors to all winds. The city shines with Olympic leftovers, sculptures, structures, shine and glory.

Christ Church

vancouver night

art

Hotel Vancouver

more art

I walk all the way to Denman, then off to Stanley Park.

I get to the venue first. I’m early. Chris will bring my Gibson 175. I see Bruce, the organizer, big hugs, big smiles, stories, we all shine. Chris gets there and I’m so glad to see him. He limps a very serious limp, the result of a nasty motorcycle accident at the track in Portland. But he is a major trooper, Camille, his girl is there too. We talk about all this stuff… crazy. I”m so glad they both are getting over this.

We are the last to take the stage. It’s really fun. Especially when we get to songs from the Alien Suite, because Chris was on that album and we toured all over the place back then. It’s beautiful. A lot of faces are riveted to us. There is even someone who sings along as he knows the lyrics, Stuart, my beautiful friend.

We go back home, pull out the air mattress, go to sleep. A good day.

Saturday morning.

I wake up tired from too short a night. Things start slowly. I get to the Steveston studio where I used to work with the master, Alberto Replanski. I see my old friends, smiles, hugs, lots of questions to answer. I stay for a while, help out with some design questions on some of the sculptures… They all want me to stay, to work on the stones.

studio whimsy

this was a horse I had started, I sold the stone to Sveltlana and the horse became a man...

By mid day we finally make it to Surrey where the van is. It’s a full size Vandura circa 1984. It’s covered in a blue tarp. It looks smaller than I remembered. It rains a nasty cold rain, it’s getting dark. It kind of sucks all around.

I get to the back doors, pull out CD boxes, there is water getting in there and I see that the stupid tarp is not water proof. It smells musty. I see my easel, boxed sculptures, tax papers… I put those closest to the water leak. Of course the boxes I want are under really heavy stuff… I finally get what I need and we can go. I thought I’d get a t-shirt and a couple of personal things but it’s getting too dark, impossible to see and I”m getting a strange “wanna go” feeling. I lock the doors, pull the tarp and tie it again…

We get in the car and go. It’s miserable, dark, cold and I am damp all over. Yuck.

I feel the feeling of not wanting to feel, resist, then allow it to be for a moment and close the door. Deep breath. Stuff, past life, emotions, history and the weight of time and space.

We get to Steveston, hang out some. Pull out the air mattress, plug in the earbuds and listen to Jerry one more time “…. By the way father created hell on my own…. “

Sunday Morning.

Grumpy pumpkin past halloween prime

hip windows on Granville street


fall

Up, coffee, yogurt, I walk out to the bus stop to get to vancouver. I go to Wicked Cafe, the best freaking coffee ever… then to my hairdresser who clucks disapprovingly when she sees my hair… she fixes it all up, color, cut, looks and feel awesome. The I go to the West End, meet Jessica a friend and massage therapist. She gives me a two hour massage. She says my body lets go better now, that travel was good for me. No shit.

We chat, hug, smile. Time to go. I walk up Robson Street, thankfully it does not rain. I get on the sky train, Now I’m sitting at a coffee shop writing, waiting for 10 PM because Erika asked to have time with her boyfriend.

Tomorrow is the big day. It’s shipping day, my last day here. Lots of things to do.

I can’t wait to fly out. Fly into the sun, the music, the vibe of California.

Flying to Vancouver

November 13, 2010

LAX

is this airforce 1?

So many people, the loud speakers bear their names appropriately. Here we all are, under this temporary roof. I felt nervous when I checked in. The West Jet waiting line is short, the airline desks to my left are packed, people lined up into a geometric maze of nylon gates standing, over burdened by too much luggage. In my line, there are only 4 people but it takes a long time for all of them. One man has this oversized weridly shaped container a sticker on it says : something or other Kitchen. It is about 3.5 feet high, made of two tubular structures of about 1.5 ft in diameter each with locks… Cooking pots? The man is negotiating with two male attendants who don’t seem to care. An Asian family of 5 is at the other computer terminal, it looks complicated but they are laughing loudly, carrying on, not a care in the world. At the third and fourth terminals people of whom I can only see the shoes and pant legs because of a cement structure look like they have been parked there for a long time if only from the body language of the feet and dropped hips.

The man ahead of me is elderly. He moves slowly, carefully, he looks fragile, he has a strange wind etched Nordic beauty, his blue eyes framed by white hair that reminds me of a snow drift. His skin is haled, fine, gracefully creased. He moves lightly and slowly to the counter, his papers in one hand pulling an orange and red european looking suitcase with the other. When he tries to push down the handle of his wheeled suitcase his hands tremble and don’t seem to have the strength to push it all the way down. His fingers are delicate, his bones look diminished, brittle. It makes me think how our lives seem to have the length of a quick intake and release of breath. In, then, pfft. Gone. The glory of youth until the fragility of old age then death.

My turn comes.

“thanks for waiting” the pretty female attendant says with an accent from Eastern Europe.

“No problems” I reply. She said that because the old man was so slow. No problems because in fact I loved watching him as it was like a slow dance. Plus I’m in no hurry, I have not been in one for months. Don’t intend to be in one any time soon.

“Any bags to check in?”

“No I’m keeping it simple.”

“Yes, you sure are…” she said that eying my small nylon back and small backpack. Simple. Minimalist. Light.

“It’s cold in here… the air conditioning…”

”You are from Canada and you find this cold???” she replies.

“Guess I’ve been here too long…” I reply not believing one word of it. Conversation, you know.

“Have a good flight” she cheers on. “You too.” I reply and immediately feel immensely stupid for answering so mindlessly…

I make my way to security. LAX is a large airport. My leather jacket is draped over my right shoulder. Got my backpack on, I pass the old man on my way to security. There is a long line of passengers awaiting the ritual. I stand in line. Move a few steps. Stand in line. I don’t like this but I must conform. In front of me is an arched structure, I believe Melanie called it the encounter “We always wanted to come here and have a martini.” that would actually be cool, next to the runway… see the planes take off, laugh share a good time as the sun shines…

sky and steel

The sun is heading down, the sky is pink and purple and blue. The white arches and structures around make a perfect counterpoint. It’s beautiful.

Encounter

I don’t want to leave.

I really don’t want to leave. This strange, crazy land of impossibly large freeways, cars, infrastructure, humanity, deserts. I don’t want to leave it.

I think that maybe this is why I am nervous.

The first stop is “show your boarding pass and passport. The woman wears a blue uniform. Her hips are wide, her face is young, her hair pulled back. Her uniform is somewhat worn, she looks at the boarding pass, at the photo, shines a blue light on the passport, hands me the lot back .

“Thank you”

“Thank you”

I move on up the stairs, there is an escalator but I try to move my body as much as I can. We line up again between nylon belts. We are so well behaved. People exchange glances. Men look at women. Many have their heads bent over some sort of illuminated device, phone, camera, I Pods. A platinum blonde wearing bright red lipstick, a beret, large black sunglasses perched on a plastic surgerized nose looks fashionably bored while focusing on an I Phone.

I get to the security gate. Take my shoes off, unload my bags into 3 white plastic baskets. We all do. Funny how my minimalist pack suddenly looks like a lot of stuff… The man in front of me has his pants hanging loosely, so much so they look like they could fall off his lean body, his belt, shoes and jacket off. It makes us look like criminals. One basket for the laptop, one for the bag, the shoes, one for the clothes. I have to laugh looking at the line of people, unshod, waiting for their bags to go through the X ray machine, then waiting to go through the body scanner. Along the line there were some signs explaining what is seen via this scanner. The human body’s outline, some large blood vessels coursing the large parts of the body, the shape of breasts and genitals… On the signs the bodies are anonymous, fairly lean in a shapeless, inoffensive sort of way. And if you are shy… Whatcha gonna do? We don’t do anything. If you have any inhibitions about your body, too bad. We all conform to the rules for our safety.

I went through without a hitch. Off to Gate 28. I’m 2 hours early, but that’s OK. I would not want to have to go through this heavy passenger traffic and be late for my flight. Way too much stress that would be.

I stopped at the Route 66 restaurant, had a burger, road food, well it was awful. The servers were working it. “I like you” one said to me. Yeah right. On the walls they have all sorts of memorabilia and semi old antiques. License plates from Mississippi, Utah, Nevada, California… and more… Visions from my voyage flash in my mind. Flagstaff… Texas… the sun, the skies, the road, the sound of the engine. I’ve been there. I’ve seen these places… I don’t want to leave…

I feel strange here herded with the people. I’ll be in Vancouver in 2.5 hours. I would do that in … about 4 days. 3 if I pushed it. I would feel the heat, the cold, the hard ground, smell the gas while filling up, smell the sage and then gradually the essence of the evergreens as I’d progress towards Washington state.

Here I smell the jet fuel coming into the terminal. It’s noxious, poisonous aura. It’s so quiet. So many people, so quiet. Only a couple of kids make noise, the odd cough and the chatter or the airline workers among themselves.

Right now I am sitting on the ground near gate 28. I am on the ground because I am plugged into an AC outlet, so I can write this. The previous flight en route to St Paul has left. The crowd for the Vancouver flight trickles in. Mostly Asians.
I don’t want to leave.

A friend of mine on Facebook pointed out the fact that I have created a new reality for myself. It hit me. He is right. So this right now feels somewhat surreal.

It will complete a loop. Vancouver – 15800 miles of road – Vancouver.

As rain clouds amassed to the North I hopped back on Little Blue to get back to San Dimas.

I got to say me and Little Blue are g starting to have fun… and feel like being one with this bike, feeling the gears, the brakes the tires on the road the responsiveness,

Bikes.

Power.

Wind.

Smells.

Sounds.

To glide through traffic, across states and continents, to be nimble, quick, free. These moments riding wash off all concerns. Alive. I am alive on this machine.

I get to San Dimas and go to the Coffee Klatch. I rolled into the parking lot and picked a quiet spot to park Little Blue. I walked towards the coffee shop and noticed an older motorcycle, looks like a similar vintage as my Suzuki… I walk inside. Order. Walk towards my table. That is when I saw another person with a helmet. We smile. Motorcyclists… we are family.

He’s a young guy. He tells me about his bike : a 1983 Kawasaki 750. His first bike. He asks :

“What do you ride?”

“Well I’m riding a Buell right now, my bike is in the shop. It’s a 1983 Suzuki GS 750. We laugh.

He asks me where I am from.

“That could be a long story” I said. I tell him about the trip, the miles, the people.

“Oh… That is really inspiring…” He says. I feel there is more to this. There is something unusual and interesting about this kid.

We chat about our “vintage” bikes, mechanical problems and difficulties to find parts. I pull out my laptop and show him a photo of my bike.

“oh, cool!” he says.

I don’t know the whole story but this kid ended up on the streets. He was living on the streets, at some point he got helped by a “recycler”,

“He had to recycle all day to eat, going in dumpsters and recycling in order to get a meal in a restaurant. He took me under his wing…I looked at him one day and realized he was invisible. No one would see him. There are all these invisible people, bums, living in the society… ….I was invisible too” He said.

“One night, I told God : OK, I give my life to you. Show me the way. I will serve…” The next morning a woman woke him up as he was sleeping near the bushes near her house.

“She handed me $20 and asked me to get coffee. That’s when I came here. I meet a lot of neat people here…” From there, one thing led to another, and he found himself looking for a job. He was walking around with a bunch of job applications when a man asked him :

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for a job.”

He said he did not have a resume, but thought about all the things he could do… made a list and handed it to the man. The man is a master mechanic for Porsche cars, racing cars, builds custom parts… He started working there, sweeping the floor… Now he is learning to weld…

“I would really like to make a trip like that” He said. “But I have some responsibilities. I promised I would stay where I live for a year… I got to keep my word…

I know he will take that trip one day. It’s written in his face. It’s written all over him. We talked about possibilities. About forgiveness, he pulled out a bible, read me one of the proverbs.

“There is 31, one for every day.” he said with a knowing grin.

He read one of the proverbs, number 21 I think, something about how forgiveness will open all the doors. He got up to do something. I pulled out my laptop to check emails and answer a few.

I started packing up my stuff. He came back. We exchanged contact numbers and emails.

“well, take care” he said

“shiny side up” I replied.

“Huh?”

“You know, shiny side up, rubber side down..”

“Oh!”

I left the coffee house. Looked at his bike. It’s got… experience, not unlike my Suzuki. I went and straddled Little Blue and started his Harley heart. Constant, adventure…

Tomorrow I am flying to Vancouver. Yeah, I’ve kept that under wraps as I was torn between joy and worry about going up there.

I guess I too will have to leave it in the hands of the Gods. But I trust they will be there, the Gods and my angels and my nose, still guiding me, leading me step by step towards the only thing we really have: every single precious moment.

the tip jar at the Coffee Klatch

Halloween at the sharp Kitty

Kitties

twisted shadows

yes, communication

hmm hmmm

a new friend

Heart shaped leaf

November 8, 2010

I wasn’t going to write another post today but then I saw this…

Just a leaf and some rain drops from this morning’s showers.

and I was just blown away.

So much grace in so simple a form. Life, death, redemption.

I overflow with gratefulness for all the gifts.

For the chance to change my reality,

for the chance to be, to better myself,

for the chance to have been hurt, pushed and challenged so that I could rise.

California with your sun, your energy, ebullience, creative minds, I ride and walk your streets, roads and highways, I meet your people, I feel your vibe and your heart, I bask in this cool morning after rain or I burn in the broiling afternoons of your king sun.

I got me, I got me guitar, I got me friends, I got me heart and me strength, I got me life.