June 22nd, 2005
I remember this one as one of several I made by looking out the window on a train trip from Roanoke (well, actually, from Clifton Forge, Virginia) on my way to Washington, D.C.
My 19 year old self was on his way to see a David Byrne concert in D.C. I had no reservations for a hotel or motel, and I went a day ahead. I was either not crazy about the idea of driving, or I had been banned access to the car because of the two wrecks I had had prior to moving to Virginia. That’s a whole other story.
Anyway, the train ride was really wonderful. I got to read, and to draw, and to think. It was the furthest I’d ever gone anywhere, alone. I had gone to Fullerton and Los Angeles before on my own, but never where I was going on my own, and not staying with anyone. I had no idea at the time, but it was a big transitional moment for me, where I was starting to realize I had some measure of independence.
I arrived with my giant backpack, after sundown. I wandered around Georgetown and found a dinky little motel. The room, I swear, was about 5 feet wide and 20 feet long. I settled in, walked to the Tower Records in Georgetown.
In the years before the internet one could not find good music easily. A Tower Records was like a temple of music. Roanoke did not have much in the way of music stores, and like the character in High Fidelity I was just enough of a jerk to judge people by their music. Well, not entirely, but music taste was a much larger factor in how I judged people back then. I picked up two cassette tapes — the soundtrack to the movie Stormy Weather, and The Sensual World by Kate Bush. And I think I found a by-the-slice pizza joint and went back to the dinky motel for the night.
I remember feeling dislocated, but it was an okay dislocation. Like, I could have done anything, but I really sort of didn’t.
The next day I went to the Library of Congress and took the tour. I was geeking out in Library mode. I had worked at the main Downtown Library in San Diego the Summer before and it was so cool to see the inner workings of the LoC. I think I also went to the National Archives to look at those old, crucial pieces of paper.
That night I saw David Byrne on his Rei Momo tour. It was a good show, but the thing that sticks with me more than anything, and which I think I have never shared with anyone, was at one point Byrne yelled at the crew that they were messing up the lights. It seemed to be so out of step with the clinical, logical Byrne who I had idolized in Talking Heads, and whose collaboration with Brian Eno My Life In The Bush of Ghosts was so inspirational to me.
You kids may not remember, but My Life In The Bush of Ghosts was full of tape loops and was part of the curve of electronic and experimental music that now we pretty much take for granted. Of course then it was all done analog.
Byrne’s outburst was a “these gods have clay feet” moment for me, and while the concert was a lot of fun, 16 years later his meanness to the crew stands out to me. Perhaps because I too have moments like that, and it’s something I have been working on understanding and lessening. Not the outburst itself, but the mental state that leads to it. Sometimes a person has to vent, but usually if you need to vent, somewhere along the line you were not taking care of some other vital aspect of yourself.
I think the show was at Constitution Hall. Somewhere in one of my scrapbooks I think I have a ticket stub.
I think I took the train out the next day. Perhaps I went to another museum the next day, but my memory is hazy. I remember it took a lot of planning to pull this little trip. A trip pulled off without the use of email, the web, mapquest, or cellular phones.
It was a good trip and I’m glad I kept this drawing as an artifact to stimulate my memory of it.