It was odd, taking a vacation without music. Music has taken me everywhere I’ve ever wanted to go. All the postmarks of my travels have included stops where the guitar case is opened and the music played. If I go to visit the inlaws, maybe it’s a stop at the grange hall to play with the rouge valley drifters, or maybe an afternoon at loaves and fishes, pickin’ with Homer and his friends, or at the mobile home park with those old C & W guys that play that Hank and Hank music, or the camp meeting jamming in Portland behind the old tabernacle with old friends from all over the world. And I build my year around festivals playing miscellaneous stages, and all night jams, and it don’t really matter what state I’m in or what time of year, the music is always close, and that guitar is an introduction to some of the finest people and best times that I’ve ever had the privilege to share.
So traveling without it is discombobulating. I’ve never before had to figure out what to do with my hands. They were always holding an instrument, itching to play.
So this trip to Washington D.C. was odd. Thought I’d give it a rest, see what the else the world had to offer. I don’t know… it sure has a lot less color.
It was a bit of a somber occasion anyhow. I went back to see the wall. The Vietnam memorial. There’s that song, “touch a name on the wall.” I touched a name on the wall. I’m not ashamed to say I cried. And anyway…
Washington D.C. is not a city given to music. It’s gray and lifeless. A city given to beurocracy and dullness, particularly in April, when even the cherry blossoms seem washed out and functionary.
As I walked along the city streets looking at the gray buildings and the statues of long forgotten people who turned out to be less important than they thought they were, I saw a gold tinted statue standing proudly outside of some mausoleum looking building. The brass plate said he was a Financier, a big money man, and I was thinking to myself, only Washington D.C. would erect a statue to a bean counter. And speaking of money, I passed the department of commerce, and marveled to think that it was still open considering that commerce, in this moment of time, seems to have fallen into ill repute in the eyes of the ruling class, and I don’t know…. I sure would have liked to have heard a guitar.
And as I wandered by the marble monuments and the tired tourists, I wondered where the birds were. They must be there somewhere…singing something. But I didn’t see a one, except for inside the airport at New York, where four birds flew around looking for crumbs and chattering up a storm.
But I rode the tour bus, passed the Watergate and mayflower hotel and the tidal basin bay where the nations other dirty work has been accomplished. And I limped through the Smithsonian’s’ dutifully taken snapshots of whatever I thought I should. And I took a picture of an old plow, and thought about all them bluegrass songs about farmers and plowing and mules, and I saw a hundred and fifty year old sign signifying the location of Mt. Zion Baptist church, and I thought about all that wonderful black gospel music
That I’ve played down through the years.
But there’s one thing I really enjoyed in this old and tired city., It was the statues of men on horses. Not the men, necessarily…the horses. I took a picture of the rear end of one. Somehow it seemed appropriate, and in context.
As I was leaving the rental car agency to go back to the airport to leave, I got on the transport bus with some other folks heading out of town. There was this one fellow with a guitar case.
A new friend. A return to civilization. Back to the land of butterflies and wildflowers. And the clouds rolled away.