XXVI. "Prodigal Thoughts w/ the Long Winters"
The plane was unloading and I was in the back. I remained seated for about ten minutes, after we felt the slight jolt confirming our having stopped outside the B terminal at Sea-Tac airport. After waiting for everyone in front to gather their bags (which might have shifted during the flight) I stood, swung my canvas bag across a shoulder — thus temporarily yanking a headphone from my left ear — and, with my coat draped under an arm replacing the headphone — enter Philip Glass piano chords, stage right — saluted the flight attendants and red-nosed pilot before making my way up the jetway. The initial draft of cold, evergreen air was delicious. It has been 11 months since last I was home.
Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Crocodile Café.
Tonight's bill: Ghost Stories / Slender Means / Long Winters
What do you do when you haven't been to the Crocodile for a long time? You get there earlier than you need to and sit alone at a table with the first hard copy of The Stranger you've held in the past year and politely order a coffee and bowl of veggie gumbo. After the gumbo arrives, you immediately order a glass of water; without ice.
You've arrived at the Crocodile early because you've been looking forward to this show since you bought your plane tickets from Newark to Sea-Tac. You've never seen Slender Means before — but having heard them on a friend's wedding soundtrack, you're looking forward to it — and you've never heard of Ghost Stories (but being on this bill, they must have something crazy-cool to offer). You've seen Long Winters several times; enough in-stores and appearances at Sasquatch! side-stages you can't really remember if you've actually ever seen them at the Croc. Probably; definitely at Sunset.
Seattle is great. This is what you've been thinking while you've been sitting there. Seattle is great. All the men have beards and plaid. The women have no makeup, tangled hair and sweatshirts. Everyone looks like they wear to work the same thing they sleep in the same thing they go out in. It's great; it's home. No pretension and no performance. The bands are in the audience and the audience may as well be onstage; enough other bands here for that. Everyone is just like everyone else is just like their dream, narcissistic mind-in-the-mirror image of themselves. There are no backstage personalities or hidden interiors between strangers, and strangers are only one or two friends away from being connected. The network is tight. But in New York, everyone is a competitor; everyone is bent on getting somewhere other they where they are right that second. To a New Yorker, the future is just a block away, and if anyone gets in the way, they're gonna get run them over.
But in Seattle, everyone is where they want to be; everyone is in a constant state of becoming that which they hope to become. Often, we don't know what we want to become; someone happy, someone proud, someone stronger, wiser, more accomplished more talented; but we know that if we are on a track that keeps us happy, if we are in a happy state of becoming, that ephemerality will only lead to something greater, which we will be easily able to define as Loved.
You look at things differently here. You wake up on Capitol Hill on a clear day and look west to Queen Anne and the Space Needle, out past to the water and out past further to the mountains. Possibilities of distance and time and beauty. You say hello and notice the people on the street. You meet people in coffee shops and know the names of the different staffs at Sonic Boom Ballard versus Sonic Boom Fremont; you remember the Long Shoreman's Daughter and the gumbo and the Croc, and you get there early to enjoy it because you feel like you're being run over by trucks in New York. You're content with being someone living in the present, because you're content being in that state of becoming. You're in New York to try and become a writer, and you're only there because New York is where you have to be if you want to make money for that sort of thing. Thus, the melting pot of talent; the leftover stew of ambition and shit and struggle – high in carbs and protein, low on taste.
In New York, and along most of the East Coast, people are more worried about what they will become than whether or not they are becoming right now. They worry because they are so worried about the future that they don't know where they are in the present.
So now you're at the Long Winters show. Ghost Stories plays, succeeds on half the songs to get the crowd excited and buzzed, succeeds on the other half to entrance a third with subtle intensity of what they call "slower songs" and send the other two-thirds into conversations or the line for drinks. Ghost Stories, or at least the guys from the band, stand next to you as fans for the Slender Means set, which is a raucous, circus orchestra set; the crowds is bumping and buzzed and smoking like chimneys, lighting them up before the smoking ban falls like a net, dragging hot orange dots out the door to surround a tin bucket full of butts.
You make your way round and round, running into friends, meeting new friends, talking to people you just met about how the live version of "Ultimatum" that John plays solo is worth the price of admission alone. The Croc is jammed — full capacity, on a holiday weekend. You think for a moment that it might be strange for everyone to be out the day after Thanksgiving. Aren't people home for the holidays? Shouldn't people be spending time with their families? Then you think, I got here early.
Pushing out into that same crisp evergreen air at 1 am, thinking about the plane ride 36 hours away and getting ready to drive home, you take a deep breath through the nostrils and look around at the moon and the green neon above your head. The taller builings down 2nd Avenue, and you think how this looks so much different than the 2nd Avenue you love on in New York.
This is a small town; a community of friends, built on watery, green hillsides where great music is loved, and great loves are made into beautiful music.
Or maybe it's all bullshit? Maybe this is just your way of wishing for something greater than the present…hoping or thinking that Seattle must be better than New York. Maybe everyone is subject sometimes to "the grass is always greener…" syndrome.
Whether or not, it doesn't matter. You need to become more productive. Set yourself to work with the Long Winters playing in the background and a Ghost Stories pin on your jacket. Start writing something — a better column is just another type of better mousetrap, and my finger hurts.