For a change, friends, here's a Hobo Travelogue that's right on time--early, even! I'm out in southern Ontario, it's beautiful this time of year, and I'd really like to see friends while I'm here, since I won't be back 'til this time next year. My dates are as follows, starting tonight:
Mon Oct 23 - Amherst Island, ON - The Lodge, with Ali McCormick opening
Tue Oct 24 - Toronto, ON - The Cameron House, one set, 8pmish, with special guests
Wed Oct 25 - London, ON - private event
Thu Oct 26 - Eganville, ON - house concert
Fri Oct 27 - Pefferlaw, ON - house concert
Sat Oct 28 - Ottawa, ON - Tunes After Noon at The Black Irish Pub, 1pm
Sat Oct 28 - Ottawa, ON - Little Angels Blood Cancer Fund benefit concert
Sun Oct 29 - Peterborough, ON - Gilmour Street Music Hall house concert
After this run wraps up I'll be flying back home for a few days, and then hopping on a plane to Australia. I'm playing Bendigo Blues and Roots festival that first Thursday, and then Healesville Music Festival for the rest of the weekend. Further along, I've got Mullum Music Fest, a tour with the mighty Liz Frencham, some downtime over the holidays, and then a run with Bramwell including Cygnet, Illawarra, and Newstead Live festivals, and three weeks around Taiwan on motorbikes. All the tour dates, as always, are listed on my news page.
As some of you dear readers already know, I had a pretty big wrench thrown in my works two weeks ago. After a great, mostly sober and productive run out to Washington and back, visiting some lovely spots in British Columbia that we'd missed earlier in the summer (and enjoying it all the more now that the smoke was gone), I returned to Edmonton to get my ducks in a row. That Saturday afternoon we had a love-filled reunion show at the Black Dog, in the company of the Second Chances and a ton of old and new friends. It's a gig I hadn't done in ages, and one that feels like the best of old times to me. But after the show, hanging with old friends in the pub I haunted all through my university days, I ended up letting go of the reins.
I'd been making a lot of progress this year with taming my drinking habits, and taking better care of myself, but every so often it was punctuated by getting high-school drunk and forgetting about tomorrow, which of course only made tomorrow and all its responsibilities heavier when they'd roll around. I've been reading a lot on depth psychology and the shadow self over the past while, trying to understand that part of me that just wants oblivion.
Most of the time I'm under control, but on occasion, in a new city where no one knows me, or all alone and overwhelmed some nights, or around old friends that I have heavy-drinking history with; when I know I won't be judged, and there's no one I'm trying to impress, well, sometimes I just let go.
I spent the Sunday afterward sobering up, answering some email, going to a movie by myself, and eventually, out of loneliness, strolling into O'Byrne's to have a pint and listen to the open stagers. A bunch of friends trickled in, and I ended up playing, and it was fun, but I retreated to my folks' place in Sherwood Park rather than get swept back into the party. I had tons of work to do the next day, and I wanted to get back into my routine at the gym. Still, a glass of whiskey at home couldn't hurt, right? And it did make me feel better. Like nothing else, booze keeps the booze-ghosts at bay. I fell into a dreamless sleep.
On Monday I woke up with a pain in the centre of my abdomen, radiating through to my back. I'd felt something like it before after a bender, but never quite like this. I took a shower and laid back down, hoping it'd go away, but within half an hour I knew something was seriously wrong. My folks took me to the hospital, and by the time they were triaging me I was in the worst pain I've ever experienced. I've put my body through some serious stuff over the years. Crashed my motorbike plenty of times, gritted my teeth as my appendix burst on an all-night bus ride in Taiwan, groaned as they scraped out the infected wound and stuffed iodine-soaked gauze into it every day in the hospital, but none of that was even close. I was writhing and crying out in pain in the stretcher, desperate for any relief. They shot me up with Fentanyl (which does have a bona fide use other than killing unsuspecting street users) and started in on blood tests to figure out what was wrong. In my panicked state I genuinely wondered if I'd come to the end of the line. It'd be okay, I thought. I'd let everybody know I loved them. I'd done a lot of what I set out to do. But my poor parents! And all the unlived life that still strains inside me!
It turned out to be acute pancreatitis, almost certainly brought on by decades of heavy drinking. I wasn't going to need surgery, or have to spend the rest of my life hooked up to a machine. Despite the intense pain, it was pretty easy to find a silver lining in it: an opportunity to step into a new chapter of life, to leave the boozing behind once and for all, and make a long-overdue pivot to the life I'd been putting off. There are so many serious conversations I've been avoiding, so many books I have yet to write, so many songs I've yet to sing, and so much work I've yet to do in hopes of making this world a fairer, better place. For me, booze has tended to cloud those priorities, to blunt the sharp edges of my responsibilities and conscience, to provide a comfortable place where I can ignore my soul's higher calling. Well, that's done now. Who knows, maybe a year or more down the road I can see about enjoying a drink here or there. But I'll never be drunk again, and I'm actually grateful for that. I'd worn out that old life, but it took my body saying no for me to finally move on.
My digestion still isn't totally back online, and I'm still in some pain, but I've already enjoyed my first sober Folk Music Ontario conference, and am looking forward to my first sober Australian summer, and my first sober North Country Fair. I realize this might sound like a downer to some folks who look forward to our yearly drunken meetings, but hey, I've always only ever wanted to tell the truth, and it can't be any different now.
I've already played nine shows since I got out of the hospital, and I'm on my way to play another tonight. I'm incredibly grateful, every time, that I get to do this for a living, and that there are people like you in the world who want to hear the songs. I promise to keep 'em coming.
Thank you for believing in me, and loving me even when I haven't loved myself. Be kind to yourselves and each other, friends, we're all we've got. Big love,