I awoke from a dream about war this morning. Most of the details have evaporated and become fog by this point, but there is one scene that stubbornly remains. I arrive in a vast field, dropped off in front of a half circle made of beat up military vehicles. All is calm for a moment, almost silent. A little too calm... The wind abruptly stops. A bullet whizzes by. Then another, and another. I believe it was the third one that grazed my ear, leaving a sliver of red on the edge, sort of like you see in the movies. It had the look and feel of a movie set, but after reaching up to touch the wound, and seeing blood on my fingertips, I instantly recognized the severity of the situation. Before I could finish screaming the all too familiar "RUUUUUUNNNNNNN", I was awake, alive, and a bit out of breath. Even though the details were already on their misty voyage, vague images of wartime continued to play out in the distance as I shuffled across the room to relieve the pressure in the dam.
I can't qualify it as a nightmare, really. I never felt fear, or terror. Even as the bullets flew by, I wasn't afraid. In the dream, it felt like just another day. Like I had been at war for a long time, and this was an everyday occurence. It's never felt quite right to equate what I do in life to actual war. Obviously. But if I really get down to the brass tacks of it all, there are indeed a handful of shared elements. The long tours away from home. The regiment, the routine. The camaraderie of our company... and the actual brushes with death. One of the more lethal activities one can do is to get inside a moving vehicle and move about the country on two lane highways and heavy intersections. I'd say that's seventy five percent of what we do. Drive. I've felt lucky to be alive more than a handful of times out there.
This last tour alone was around ten thousand miles, and a lot of it was through rain, snow, ice, and darkness. Horror stories float in through late night hotel television, text messages, phones, twitter.. an entire band from England was recently vaporized in a flash when their van drove off a drawbridge at night. First tour outside of the UK. Horribly unlucky. The danger is everywhere, and it's something that's always just lingering around, waiting for you to have one lapse of judgement, one wink of sleep, one look at a message, one bite of that shitty gas station egg salad sandwich.. it doesn't take much at all. It's generally best not to dwell on the subject, but it's also impossible to completely avoid thinking about it. Especially when you wake up to the entire band screaming because black ice just caused the van to go completely sideways and nearly slam into the back of a big rig. True story. We were somehow spared, and I literally would have just slept right into the reaper's arms. Had no idea any of it even happened until it was over. The mind boggles.
I don't really know why I'm writing so much about this. It's just been on my mind I guess. Close calls and long drives will do that to a person. But it's more than just traffic. A pretty horrific string of famous musicians dying leaves an impression as well. David Bowie. Scott Weiland. Lemmy. Glenn Frey. The close proximity of them dying serves to keep mortality in the forefront of thought. When coupled with being in the throes of the second book in the Game of Thrones series, it seems inevitable that I would come home and write about mortality for a minute. It's everywhere, all the time, but I suppose it's best to ignore it for the most part. It's inevitable, the one thing that we all share, and the one thing that is absolutely unavoidable and unpredictable. We know this. But it's not always so in-your-face as it's been recently.
On our way back to California, almost exactly on the border with Arizona, I came across a dead bird. Those who know me are aware that I have a special fondness for feathered friends. This was a rare find though. It was a long-eared owl. And it was on the side of the frontage road outside of the hotel. I was moderately enjoying a shitty cup of Best Western lobby coffee and walking across to get a look at the border when I encountered it. At first I thought it was a hawk, but it was even bigger. It was recently deceased, and there didn't seem to be any wounds or crushed wings or anything. It appeared that it had just dropped dead while flying silently around during the night, doing owl things. It was striking, and odd. Maybe it's just something that I wanted to see, but it's face appeared to be peaceful. The owl seemed content.
I moved it out of the road and onto the dirt. Contemplated taking a feather because of it's sheer beauty, but I couldn't bring myself to pluck one off. That of course got me thinking about signs, and meanings, and omens.. a cursory googling turned up a variety of information, but there didn't seem to be one clear answer of what it meant to come across something like this. Could be good luck, could be bad luck, could be nothing at all. "The owls are not what they seem.." echoed through my head. (high five and a butt patt if you get that) The explanation I decided to run with foretold of new beginnings, the shedding of old for the birth of something new. I quickly applied that to my life, and it loosely fit, so I'm running with it. Thank you, dead owl in the road, for finishing your journey directly in my path, as a winged, silent talisman. Loud and clear, good buddy.
Since arriving back home on Friday, I've done little but sleep in, eat at my favorite local spots, and organize. I unpacked, re-discovering little artifacts I picked up along the way. A white mask, a copper cup, a folded page of a bible with coarse salt inside, a dream catcher, sunglasses, hotel keys.. (I keep almost all hotel keys, for what reason I don't know yet. Art, man...) I've watched The Martian, the new Crouching Tiger movie, I walked to the beach, I walked on the beach, I got drunk and live tweeted the Academy Awards... but for the most part have mercifully just kept my brain in sleep mode. Until today. I posted yesterday about being super productive, but to be honest I just spent a few hours organizing my photos. Speaking of death, a possible tragedy has happened with the hard drive on my older laptop, which contains photos from the first two years of touring, among many other important files. Fingers and toes crossed that my friend and de-facto Apple guru can save it. That sort of derailed me yesterday, but I managed to keep the engine partially rolling anyway. Fucking technology, man.
So. New beginnings. I have an endgame here, a goal of mine that I've been chipping away at for years now. I'm going to present it properly when it's time (shooting for weeks end), but for now I'll just leave these thoughts here while I continue to do the more labor intensive technical backend parts while chain drinking coffee, rolling thin joints, and wearing an oblong circle into my rug from pacing. The last month was action-packed, incredibly fun, and rewarding. To those who were at the shows and who are now reading this, thank you so so much. Hope you've enjoyed these snaps from the journey and my thoughts about death. I'd promise you lighter fare next time, but who's to say what will spill out next?