At the moment, I am lying in bed, listening to Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time. I am hearing the album fresh again after feeling a deep connection to it as a kid. I cannot ever hear it with unbiased ears though. 

When I was 8, our good family friend Danny O'Keefe played a show in town opening for his friend Bonnie Raitt at the Aladdin Theatre. It was summer and a hot day. I was excited at the prospect of staying up late. I went with my family, sat through the performance, and afterwards we went backstage. There was just a small group of us, all standing around back there, and Bonnie came over to me to say hello. She was really nice and had a big smile, a scratchy voice, and beautiful unreal hair. When she came over to me, she was holding a fragrant white flower called a tuberose, and she said, "Here doll, this is for you." As she handed it to me, I could smell the thick tropical aroma of the flower - never before had I seen or smelled such exoticness. 

"I'll tell you a secret. I always keep a bouquet of tuba roses next to my bed," she said, "so that when I wake up next to someone in the morning, I can suck in the sweet smell of the flowers before turning around to them to say 'good morning.' That way he will think I have sweet morning breath."

"Wow, thank you," I whispered, smiling, having no real idea what she was talking about. 

After telling me this little secret of hers, she left. We went home with her album Nick of Time on cassette. I listened to it the next day, and also every single day after that for the whole rest of the summer and on into the fall. I loved dancing to it because it made me feel tough and special, since it wasn't my parents' or my brother's; Bonnie herself had confided a personal secret to me! I felt connected to the music. At the time I thought I really understood all the lyrics too. I could really relate:  "I don't need a man with a monkey on his back, I need a real man." I imagined some dude with a pet monkey that he always carried around on his back trying to date Bonnie.  But she wasn't into it. She wanted a guy who didn't have any pets. Or: "Are you ready for a thing called love? Don't come from me or you, it come from up above, I ain't no porcupine, take off your kid gloves." I pictured a music video in my head - Bonnie as a part-porcupine, part-blues singer, and this guy is trying to be with her, but he has these little kid hands with little gloves on them, and she is totally not into it. 

I remember these images and interpretations so well. They were etched into my head day after day, listen after listen, for months. I can see them so clearly after all these years. I wonder if my family ever got sick of hearing that tape? I know it was slowly phased out with other obsessions of mine, like Bob Dylan, Cole Porter, The Pogues, Jimmy Rodgers and Hank Williams. 

But I don't think my brother ever forgot my obsession with Nick of Time, because last Christmas he gave me a copy of it on vinyl. There she was, Bonnie Raitt with her magic hair and giant belt buckle, standing there on the cover, just as she was the night of the Tuba Rose (to this day it is my favourite flower), smiling, tempting me to play it and be tossed back to 1989 like a fish into a whirlpool. And that I did - I listened to it like I was starving and it was a big hunk of bread and cheese. I played it for weeks every morning as I got ready for the day. All the lyrics still memorised, eventually realising that I had no idea what she was really talking about all those years ago. I laughed about my crazy interpretations, because her words and feelings all seem so clear now, so universal and relatable, as I get older, I relate to lyrics on a real level, and  I am grateful for the ever-changing life of words, and for the way some songs can come back to you like old friends, when you need them. 


A long straight road to a Broken Hill

A googlemaps look of "Broken Hill, NSW" brings me to a flat barren map with little red markings labeled "Broken Hill Visitor Center", "Broken Hill North Public School",  and "Broken Hill Conveyancing".  I  zoom out a few clicks and see some spots of green where the regeneration reserve is, and way out on HWY B79 there is a Broken Hill Airpot. If I keep zooming out and out and out, Broken hill becomes close to water, close to Mildura, close to Victoria, close to the ocean. Tazmania becomes just a little dollop of land dripping off of the edge of Australia, and a few clicks  later, Broken Hill  is only a few inches from where I am now. You wouldn't ever think it by being there though. 
Just earlier this year, I was driving down  a long dark road stamped smooth and straight right through the Desert. After packing the rental car and the van full of suitable snacks and large amounts of gear, we drove for hours through those little Australian towns peppered with Op shops where you will always find something hand made or untouched by the present mess of  the last two decades, and bakeries claiming to have the best vanilla slices in the land. Before too long the miles between towns grew in number. The dirt changed colour and the buildings ceased to exist. Unexpected wild goats with the most noble goat faces, like kings and queens, ran free through the land, their hoofs kicking up the bright red dirt as they went. They seemed to stop what they were doing as we drove by. Turning their heads hung with beards, looking with their earthen wild goat eyes under all knowing brows as if to say " What on earth are you doing  out here?" 
They were not the only animals to be seen, further off the edges of the road where wild Kangaroos, hopping up dust trails with their long feet. I wonder if their strong tails leave tracks in the dirt, as they search for the odd clump of grass to have for dinner. The earth was so red, the sky was so blue. No other cars were in sight.
As the night fell faster it stole the red colour from the ground and sucked the blue from the sky. Sparkles began to shine from the blackness that had replaced it. Suddenly headlights were the most precious things we had. There was nowhere else to go but straight. We were headed to The Palace Hotel, a time capsule of a Hotel from the early 1900's when mining was booming. The guts of the earth blasted out from underneath the deserts crust, bringing riches and unlikely populations out to the barrenest of land. Its a giantess of a building. Unlike here, Hotels in Australia especially out in the country are the centre of everything. You can stay there, you can drink there, you can eat there, you can live there. There is nowhere else to go really. The first time I pulled up to The Palace Hotel, It's presence filled me with a special kind of safe haven feeling, the feeling you get after being out in the sun all day and walking into a nice huge cool place prepared to take care of you. But that feeling is also mixed with a sense of uneasiness, a tilted reality  sprinkled with led dust.  It is stemming from the fact that you don't know who else is hiding away in those rooms upstairs, and what it is that brought them all the way to Broken Hill? Its giant hotel walls are covered in murals of desert style fantasy and renasaince paintings withbig blue painted skies. The carpets are deep maroon and lush, the ceilings are high, there are staircases long and wide that can take you all the way to the top. There are empty stages that echo still of wild nights to be sure. 
But I am getting ahead of myself, we had not yet even arrived.


When it is cold outside there is nothing like a warm bed with lots of blankets. Everyone thinks so. When it is cold out there is nothing like walking down the street using all of your energy just to keep warm, right into a little shop where they have the heat blasting so you can feel all your tense muscles relax, it makes you want to shop. When it is cold soup always sounds good to eat.
It is cold, and breath can be seen all over the city. Downtown bus stops, gas stations, movie theater lines and bicicle paths. Visions of our lungs work apearing and disapearing every few seconds, a constant token of the cold. We are not smoking, it is just winter.


The first snow of the season in the pacific northwest, Portland, Oregon came with a gentle push 3 hours north and came down with a force later that night while most of the people were asleep. I know it started up north because I was up on the verry tip of the country where the gentle salt water curves and hides among the intricate edges of the shore. I was in a little town called Port Townsend mostly up on the hill where the hospital is. The hospital room has a pretty view of all this water and land, the boats floating calmly in the harbor, the neighboring islands stationed deep in the water.
My Gradpa is 96 now and on the 3rd floor. He went through a 6 hour surgery just the other day and pulled out of it better than I would have guessed. He was hungry and talkative but deaf as an empty room. You can yell as loud as you want but he wont hear you. Next to him is a little purple lined notebook, pages filled with lines longing to be comminicated like " i love you", " have you gotten out of bed?" and "Nelson Mandella Died today." These are the ends of the conversations being documented. His ends are floating over his head and out the door living on only in my faulty excuse of a memory. My memories are unreliable unless I write them down or take their picture.
His girlfriend came to visit. I talked to her for a while as though we had met before but I'm not sure we ever had. She patted his head and kissed him and showed me her cains. She uses two, and one was the same cain her Grandfather used when he was an old man in Germany. She remembers waltsing with him and his cain. She mentioned in passing her childhood in Panama, but was quick tempored in reply to any questions I asked. I don't know this woman who is sititng at my Grandfathers bedside, I get the feeling he does not either but when you are nearing the last years of your life on a small Island you may long for a companion. And that is why she is here.
I am here because this is my mothers father. I spent summers up at their house, playing with Rosy the dog, eating the apples from the orchard and holding onto the electric fence with my cousins for thrills. I am here because of all the fond memories collected down on the waters edge. Birthday cakes blown out behind the wind guards of driftwood and handfulls of treasured rocks of green yellow and blue filling my pockets on the drive home.