Part I –
Chapter 1 – The Workingman’s Blues
In the dank, dimly lit taverns, in the glare of the stage lights exposed in front of the throngs, in the comfortable shelter of admirers, the journeyman paid his dues getting through, with Evangeline by his side.
The trace of every road he’s run span out of the wrinkles in his eyes and brow like flesh spiders fed by the expansive time spent grinding at the foot of the masses.
Moments of peace and clarity taunted him while he sang and played to the day’s paying customers, Evanginle stage right holding things down, his parents long gone, but still summoning their love of song and puritanical devotion to work and faith. He already knew the virtue that all there is is work and the road. Finding his strength in breath, devotion to the moment. Even with the undeniable evidence of his own physical state of decline, in the pocket, those moments, he’s assured of his indestructibility.
And even though his parents had passed on, they surely would have been proud of the journeyman’s commitment to the work. His father always envisioned the journeyman as an agent of pure living and progress and during his life tried to set him on the righteous path. His mother saw no fault in the journeyman and lived in awe of how he walked, and talked, and sipped from a beer bottle, and delighted when the handsome, lanky journeyman would saunter in from points unknown with hair a tussle and eyes strong, but sleepy, spend a few days recouping, before heading back to the road.
But it was Evangeline, his muse, nurse, gypsy, punching bag, and road mate that loved the journeyman the most. There was no seam in her devotion. To Evangeline, the journeyman was the embodiment of the actualized self. But is was Evangeline’s own unwavering belief that the journeyman was bound for glory that powered the cogs which she and the journeyman traveled upon. She booked the gigs, she promoted him at every turn, she did 90% of the driving, she managed money (being both hard and seductive when needing to get paid). She herself came from humble, simple beginnings, and all along the road saw the faces of the lost and displaced, and used those sightings as validation that she and the journeyman were ascending to a higher order, answering to a more important calling.
And truth be told, people did love the journeyman. They loved his songs, and his stories, and his lack of facade. And it was this ability to propagate love inside of people that saved the journeyman in the dark hours of the night, when pain was home and uncertainty, and doubt echoed like banshies in the rafters.
The notion of happiness had long been confounding to the journeyman, easily understood as a defined term, impossible to render in reality, thus abandoned as an issue of relevance. But bumbling along interstates, back roads, to backwaters, capital cities, embraced by the fans, validated in the media as a purveyor of hope and distraction, but it was in his own head and soul where there were no echoes of praise or semblance of joy. And after the applause was gone, and the wheels were rolling on, and the ringing in his ears rising, through the white noise sang in the language of his own sacrifices and struggles were restless dreams awaiting.
The journeyman did not deny the existence of the discontent and confusion that seemed to be growing in size and scope in his mind. Too much the realist and pragmatist to not ponder the tickling torture that the foundation and love of his parents, and the stalwart support and love of Evangeline would not present him with peace of mind. Furthermore, the journeyman had a growing belief that all the knowledge, support, and love provided by the people and places in his life would never exalt him out of his current plane. His music, the road, the shows, the fans were important, but at the end of the day, they were just effemra. He would not deny that which brought him to where he is today. While the work has not set him free, it has allowed him to ponder things another day. And while the love and affection of others has absolved the sins he’s perpetrated, he can help but ask the question if his own unhappiness makes the happiness he creates in others nothing but the fruits of a fraud.
But if this life of his was a fraud, the music, the miles, the words, the endless nights, then what? If his parents were misguided then who’s the guide? If Evangeline’s devotion was a fugazy, then where to seek the truth? He hadn’t found any other answer to date, or shall we say nothing has presented itself.
But as a member of the working-class, he knew things for sure, he knew how to survive, had acquired knowledge in areas of self reliance, fear of god, subjugation of emotion, making money go far. He was a skilled musician, a master story teller, a trustworthy friend, a feared adversary. And perhaps more telling than all, is belief in faith even knowing the only thing worth knowing is unknowable.
As a performer and a conduit for the songs and sentiments of men, women, and time gone by, there are many nights that find the journeyman earnestly singing about the power of love, the transcendence of good over evil, faith in man and god above. And these historical artifacts are real, curated and presented by troubadours and tramps like the journeyman, and Evangeline, and those many, two eyed souls they encounter on the road. This historical well spring of beautiful, haunting, affirming written and performed testaments exists. But why has no man been able live forever protected in beauty of the song?
Even his beloved parents, who bestowed in him so much, who are intractable from any aspect of his life, who lived good, honest, hardworking, god fearing lives, with piety and calm, did they know joy and peace in their life times? And if not them, doing the quiet humble work of a good life, day in and day out, then who? And as stark as the answer was, the journeyman knew he was the answer, as his parents were there own answers.
Each song the journeyman sings night in night out, whether a telling tale of lost love, or a stirring story of overcoming odds offered a balm for the open wound if his discontent. When the words rise from the person, in concert with his guitar and sentiment, for that moment the wound is cauterized, the circuit complete, or was it. As powerful as the music and moments are, of the other troubadour souls the journeyman has known, and there’s been many, no have found lasting peace.
“I’m going to run through tonight’s set, will you come sit and listen” the journeyman said to his faithful companion. Evangeline followed him into the front room of their hotel suite and sat 10 feet away, sitting cross legged on the door.
The journeyman pulled his guitar from its case, sat on the edge of the couch and began to finger the strings into a rolling melody that was sweet and slightly sad, humming and singing along. For the next couple of hours, from song to song the journeyman sang of sadness, surprise, revenge, family, magic, in an uninterrupted string. His eyes often closed. The warm sun that was dripping through the window when the journeyman started, had resolved to a cool bluish-gray tint ushering in the evening.
As the last hints of the notes of the last song decayed off into the atmosphere, Evangeline rose and went to the kitchen to prepare a pre-show meal for the journeyman, who sat silent and motionless on the edge of the couch, one hand on the neck of his guitar, the other draped over the body of the guitar, eyes staring out the window into the city as the blue dusk descended.
I’m going to the Catskills, I’m going to New York. Evangeline’s stomach dropped as she slowly moved a knife through a head of lettuce. Raising her gaze from the cutting board, connecting her glance with his, Evangeline saw there was no question, he was going.
“And me?” Evangeline said. “Have you thought about what happens to me?”
“You come with me of course, let there be no more discussion. We leave first thing in the morning. We need to be in upstate New York in 2 days.”
Dizzy with the news, paintings and portraits of Evangeline’s changing world danced in her mind’s eye, not all good, not all bad, but rich and vivid, Evangeline stood in silence for a long moment or two. She wanted to go with him and knew as the journeyman’s new destiny awaited, so too did hers, perhaps in parallel.
“Well, what’s it going to be ‘E’, are you in or are you out”? The journeyman half sang, half spoke to her as he, half smirked peering over his shoulder to the motionless Evangeline.
“Well, I need to sleep on it.”
“You know there will be no sleep until I know.”
“Can we talk about it over dinner?’ She said.
“You know I won’t be able to eat not knowing.”
“Yes, I’ll go. And you’ll be fabulous, and it will be fabulous. And if not, we can always return to the road ourselves, we know how to make that work, we know how to do that. Now come and eat something. We need to get to the show soon.”
The journeyman placed his guitar back in the case at his feet and stood from the couch. His aging body crackling as he ascends to a standing posture. Walking towards the dinner table, Evangeline is already sitting, with a welcoming smile as she waits for him to sit.
“It will be fabulous” she said. “Now come and eat.”
Chapter 2 – The Devil Makes Three
The journeyman and Evangeline made the long drive to the Catskills of New York. As the miles passed, along with faces and motions of mothers, truckers, hipsters, homeless, hopeless, firefighters, teachers, whores and more, the journeyman and Evangeline both meditated on what was to come. Allowing their minds to live in the moment and discard (even if temporarily) the weighty carcass of their past lives, and be reborn into the new world, which awaited them at the top of a long, unpaved, pine lined old logging road.
Standing at the foot of the road, the journeyman had no other goal but to surrender himself to the experience, become part of the unit, forsake his individual calling, allow the musical intent of the group to be a singular focus, and hopefully within that validate that in fact, the dissolution of the self is the secret’s secret.
The journeyman and Evangeline ascended that logging road to the old wood framed house tucked among the pine trees and underbrush. The first day rolled into the first night, which rolled on for several weeks. Endlessly rehearsing, milling about the property, watching the machinations of the scene. It was a bit overwhelming, being around so much communal activity. The journeyman needed to fight the urge to retreat, to escape to the seclusion in the woods, or simply down the old pine lined logging road. But day by day, he got more involved, not only with the music, but with the machinations, with the planning, with the daily operations of himself and those of the family.
The journeyman learned to live within the structure, he became the structure, up early, eat light, rehearse, break, contribute, rehearse, dinner, contribute, wind down, lights out, rise and repeat.
He was one among many, he became singular from many, taking on the stories and experiences from the songs he was singing and the souls he was living with.
And so it went, weeks to months, months to seasons. Deep, changing seasons, from the hopefulness and excitement of a crisp fall day with lots of activity in all directions, to hunkered down, denials of deep winter, to the joyous rebirth of spring, followed by the sun wallowing of summer. End over end, always changing.
The journeyman did his time in the woods, ever hopeful of progress, and while moments were had, wispy teasing fleeting moments, in the pause of his days and nights, that thing, that longing was still there.