It’s funny, the things you realize about yourself at 2:00 AM. Maybe you realize it while wandering around the desolate Sunday evening streets of Hollywood, or maybe while climbing an impossible hill. My brother and I walked down from the Puscifer concert at the Greek Theatre in L.A around 11:15 PM this last Sunday night. We had been counting down to the date since the previous year. Tickets came out in December and sold out as fast as they came out, I was without a ticket. My brother had two. Last month while I was in Colorado shortly after I’d handed my brother a bottle of Maynard’s Chubacabra wine I’d brought up from Arizona, Kent handed me a ticket to Cinquanta.On our way back down to our hostel after the show, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard and then turned on to some other street, and then another, and I realized at some point that we were going the wrong direction. I had not been paying attention to where we were going. As the little sister in the relationship, I had gotten used to trusting my older brother’s judgement. We walked over 3 miles to get back to our hostel that night. I was in leather flip-flops in creepy areas of Hollywood, my feet were starting to ache from the non-support of the shoes, having exercised so much lately with comfy shoes. It pained them to slide back and forth across that leather. Running to keep up with my brother (common theme in my life), because he was hurrying from being tired and ready for bed, my mind wandered back to various similar moments I’ve had in my life. To the Camino de Santiago, to when I was four on a little pink bike and he was 9 on a bigger bike, and then to those damn difficult hills I keep struggling with back home on my bike, and running.. I suck at running, doesn’t mean I don’t love it, but I suck at it. Regardless, I’m always tagging along.
We had had the perfect evening at Cinquanta, aside from the outrageous prices at the venue. We enjoyed perfect wine, a great crowd, and they sang all of our favorite songs. It was the best concert and venue I have ever been to. Maynard James Keenan knows how to bring a crowd together. When not performing, he sat on stage, half the time in a blue button up suit jacket, his legs crossed, tapping his foot to the shenanigans happening on the stage. It was HIS birthday party. These shenanigans at any time could be a Roman warrior with a staff marching around the stage, to a man dressed up sort of like a cross dresser, or a member of KISS with platform shoes, to 3-4 other people sitting at his picnic table with him drinking out of a hillbilly chalice. His music certainly has a different sound, it evokes a different sort of vibe, with the rhythmic, methodic tone of it the crowd can’t help but sway back and forth together. You could say it was a certain type of person who would go to a Puscifer and Perfect Circle concert. “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm of the War Drums,” I hummed to myself as I walked through the crowds, crowds of people who “march to the beat of a different drum.” It is the band’s battle cry to stand out and stop being a sheep in society. Maynard’s 50th birthday party reminded me of why I’m happy that I’m weird. I stick out a little bit, I like weird music, I do “crazy” things as they say, and I’m okay with that. Everyone threw their hands up in the air bobbing along to the beat, and singing methodically to the lyrics
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons
I’ll be the one to protect you from a will to survive and a voice of reason
I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and your choices son
They’re one in the same, I must isolate you…
Isolate and save you from yourself …
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giaZnIr-faM I’ll certainly admit that the industrial and methodic beat draws me into the song, and then Maynard’s ethereal voice holds me there, clinging to each word like a tear that doesn’t want to drip down your cheek. Maynards voice has that effect. The music from the concert was stuck in my head all day today, I’ve been catching up on my bike rides. I was cruising along in the 102 degrees into a head wind and stared at same dreaded hill that keeps destroying me. Its not even a big hill, thats why I’m so angry about it. I want to charge right through it. I realized today that I’ve hit a bit of a wall, I dread that hill. I keep doing 20 ish mile rides on the ol’ Cannondale and I’m doing great on distance, but I’m not improving on these hills. My asthma wraps itself up so tightly around my lungs, it strangles me. I can’t figure out how to work out of it. What is it that puts these road blocks in front of us, these mental or perhaps physical blocks that keep us from moving forward?
Most of asthma is a mental thing. I clicked into a different gear, heard my chain slide down to the lower ring and jammed down onto the pedals to try and keep up with the boys, I was losing speed quick. I panicked, why? I don’t know. Probably because I couldnt accomplish what I thought I could with my own determinations. My lungs wound tighter and tighter and my lips were dry, my throat was dry, my nose was running, it was 102 degrees and my engine was overheating! My own lungs were holding me back. Maybe it was the heat, or my determination, or my failure at that hill but my eyes wanted to water as the two of them disappeared up towards the setting sun ahead of me, blurred by my own exhaustion and lack of air, and the sun’s blinding rays. Maynard’s videos for the Puscifer songs at Cinquanta that played in the background were often panoramic desert images, cactus and a rolling desert facade, just like the one I’m living in. It was gorgeous imagry and I could feel the passion and love that Maynard has for the desert in his music. You see, Maynard also lives in Arizona, he knows the heat, the beauty, the danger and mystique of the desert. The javelinas, and lack of water, among other things. But I failed at that hill again, I pulled out my inhaler (something I hate to do, and rarely do, but always have on hand for just such moments.) My breathing wasn’t going to recover from that on its own. At the top of the hill I caught up again as they relaxed from their sprint. And then comes Puscifer to mind again as I could see and think straight again. You see, the desert isn’t just flat stretches of dirt. Its much more than that.
“I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne, why can’t I cross this river?”
There are also green-grassy stretches and trees and lakes in the desert, it even snows up north. Whatever your river may be, a wall, a river, a hill, a challenge at work. We’ve all got something blocking us from where we want to be. I hiked some 160 miles of the Camino de Santiago with a backpack strapped on, I’ve hiked above 12,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains and I can’t rock this damn hill. I’ve had rivers in my Master’s Degree, in my overseas travels, but mostly with my asthma. I find myself chasing the ones in front of me to keep up, just like I always have with my older brother, my whole life.
It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river
Far in front of the ones behind me, but not able to keep up with the ones in front. I’m always chasing, and I need to figure out how to get out of this rut. But whatever it is, I know that forward motion is the progress. To move forward you must have motion and balance. And if we aren’t moving forward, than we are we going? Nowhere! It looks like the answer does lay in the lyrics, I gotta learn how to follow their lead .. to work as a team. So next time I’ll drink my protein drink and banana. I’ll have to go at this from a different angle. I’ll get that hill, even if it involves someone else’s wheel.
“You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst.”– William Langewiesche.