Extracts from Daniel’s Notebooks.
#1 Bone Chip Confetti
These moments and memories exist in a sort of snow globe. I’m keen to collect as many as I possibly can. Sometimes they will be in the form of a song. Sometimes they will be a postcard. Sometimes they will be a rough sketch without any details. It doesn’t really matter. But one day, when I’m old, and my mind is on the blink, I’ll be sitting somewhere and I’ll be reminded of this time. It might be the distant sound of bass thudding through paper walls, or the strangely unique scent of disinfectant masking cheap beer, or the taste of a Mexican Breakfast. It will shake me up as though I’m inside the snow globe and it will all come pouring down all around me. I’ll close my eyes and hold out my hands and try and catch tiny flakes of bone chip confetti.
I want to remember it all. The excitement and the frenzy and the wide eyes. The sticky floors and dark rooms. The graffiti scrawls upon every single dressing room or depressing room. Every strange character that has appeared and said something to me that no one else has ever said. Every girl I have ever fallen hopelessly in love with who has disappeared with a sleight of hand. It’s a magic trick! My biggest fear has always been to wake up one day and realise I’ve lived the same year eighty times. It’s never been a trip to go and find treasure, but only ever to find treasure in the trip.
This is my fourth SXSW and the scale and spirit still amazes me. Everywhere I go I find my mind and body pulled in different directions. Walking down 6th Street at night is like being pulled apart by horses. Music spills out into the streets and drags you one way and then another and I’m stretched out far too thinly. And everywhere I look there is something new and exciting that captures my imagination. And the people are fucking weird but all wonderful and there is always something in the corner of my eye and I keep turning around to look but it disappears too quickly and I’m spinning and I’m dizzy and I’m happy. And my body has been covered in a sheen of cold sweat for the last five days and maybe it’s not just the humidity.
Time is stretched out in a similar way. When you start drinking before midday then the late afternoon feels like the early morning, you know? Everything becomes distorted and I’ve no idea where I am. And there are few hours for sleep and I get up early and have cold pizza and black coffee and it all begins again. The hours melt into one another like new lovers in the smallest corner of a bed. You can’t separate them or keep them apart. It all happens too fast and all you can do is get swept along in the tide. No point trying to swim against it. No point trying to do anything other than enjoy.
Forks of bright lightning takes over the night. And they keep coming down, over and over and over again. And there is almost no gap between light and sound so I know I’m close. But it doesn’t rain. It’s still hot. It’s still fair. The night is just split by constant cracks in the sky. I keep waiting for a hand to reach down. And I think it wouldn’t be the worst way to die. I mean I don’t wanna die, but if I get struck by a bolt of lightning in Texas then at least I’ll go out with a good story. I’d take that over living to an old age and falling asleep one night and never waking up. I even dipped my foot in the swimming pool, just in case.
And earlier in the evening I went to a tattoo parlour where C. stained his skin with a different kind of memory. Just as we walked in a gun was fired somewhere on 6th Street and the crowds all ran away in a frantic stampede. The guy at the shop jumped over the counter and locked the door to stop everyone rushing in. And all I could do was stand in the window and watch thousands of people screaming and running and hiding. You could work out where the shooter was because everyone was running in opposite directions form that exact point. Twenty seconds earlier, you know?
We end up going to a place called Whip In, not far from our motel, but far enough away from the centre to avoid all the annoying music industry types with their glittering lanyards and cold indifference and sycophantic drivel. It’s just the locals here and I prefer them. We stay outside, watching the lightning continue to strobe the Austin skyline. And empty beer cans and fairy lights are strung like stars across the night. And I feel more comfortable in places like this. Everyone is just drinking and dancing and staring at the big sky. I start people-watching.
I see a cute girl standing with her boyfriend and a bunch of his friends. She isn’t talking but she is smiling and dancing to whatever song the band are playing. Her boyfriend grabs her wrist and sits her down. He’s embarrassed by her. He’s a complete dick. She stops smiling and I feel terrible. Nothing breaks my heart more than a girl who is too scared to shine, who stays quiet or fades into the background because she believes she should be demure or modest or feminine or whatever other bullshit construct is keeping her down. God, I wanna shake her and tell her how wonderful she is and see her explode with a thousand colours like a goddamn firework. I decide to go and dance with her, if only to piss her boyfriend off, but something else happens and everyone is suddenly moving on again to somewhere new. There is never enough time to do all the things I wanna do.
Last night we played The Bluebird Theatre in Denver. The altitude of the mile high city was fucking with my head and just a few beers made me feel dizzy. We drove three hours after the show and spent the night in a strange motel in Wyoming, one of those motels in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing and no one. It’s the kind of place where horror films begin. The carpets are faded and the lights are blinking and there is a strange smell that reminds me of being in my primary school classroom. I swear of all the senses smell is the most evocative of nostalgia.
We planned to leave early to drive eight hours to Salt Lake City, but snow has fallen all through the night and we can’t get out the door. I’m writing from the lobby, drinking awful coffee and staring out the window. You can’t really see more than five yards because the snowstorm (Storm Selina, I’m told) has swallowed up the morning. The snow is piled halfway up the glass suggesting it’s about four feet deep. We have no snow chains or gloves or scarves or even warm jackets. Two days ago we were in the swimming pool and now we’re stranded, unsure if we’ll be able to make it to the show. I suppose I like it but I don’t really know. I dislike that we’re not moving, but the vast expanse of white is fun to stare at. It’s pretty peaceful here. I suppose I’m in a more literal snow globe right now.
“It’s pretty, huh?” says a man who has just walked in the lobby. I watched him fail to light a cigarette outside the entrance for about ten minutes before eventually giving up. His eyebrows and beard have been covered in snowflakes which he shakes off like a dog. “Man, I love the snow.”
I’m gonna go stand outside.
#9 Grizzly Creek
Every single road from the motel was closed and they kicked us out at midday so all we could do was go and sit in a nearby gas station with a whole load of angry truckers. We sat in the window and continued to watch the storm and drink coffee and eat day old hot dogs and girl scout cookies. It was three o’clock before they opened any roads but we couldn’t get to Salt Lake City in time so the only option was to head back towards Denver and go through the mountains to make sure we got to Boise.
Five minutes into the drive we knew it was a mistake but there was no option to turn around on the winding mountain road. The snow was coming down so thick and fast that you couldn’t see more than five yards into the headlights. And the roads were so narrow and uneven that it seemed inevitable we would crash off at any sharp turn. And we travelled 10,000 feet up and across, straight past signs warning us of avalanches. And we drove all night apart from a two hour sleep break where we pulled over to the side of the road at a place called Grizzly Creek. Part of me really hoped we would be awoken by a bear banging at the van window. No luck.
We woke up early in the Seattle Edgelands, making our way in towards that famous Needle as though we were the cotton sliding through into the fabric of the city. The tourist checklists are fine, but it was only once I got the monorail back out to the fringes that I fell in love with the new. We explored the Pike Place Food Market and were hit by a kaleidoscope of noise, and smells, and tastes and colours. I sat down on a terrace and drank a beer, looking out over the crowded streets. And from where I sat I could see all of the city, but also out over Lake Union. And the afternoon sun was pouring down and kissing my skin. And in the distance I could see mountains covered in snow.
The streets were filled with thousands of strangers, here for Sakura Con. The guests of the anime convention were all in incredible outfits of bold colours and knee-high socks and bright wigs and weird fetishes. They were an incredible collection of beautiful outsiders, you know? And maybe I’m wrong but I got the impression that these people would be the kind of people you normally wouldn’t notice, who would fade into the background in real life. And yet here they were, ostentatious and outlandish and the centre of attention; misfits who were coming together and taking over. I fucking loved them all. And I got day drunk in a dive bar called the Honey Hole and when I arrived at Neumos for soundcheck I couldn’t speak for fear of slurring.
#21 Santa Barbara
California is too beautiful. As we drove down the coastal line the skies seemed to turn into a new blue. And palm trees line the streets of Santa Barbara. And it all seems like a gigantic movie set. And Brian Wilson’s voice is playing through my head as though the needle is stuck. And every time I see a Californian Girl i think he was probably right, you know?
We don’t have enough money for a motel in the area and don’t wanna drive three hours after the show so announce from the stage that we’re homeless if any kind soul could take pity on us and provide a spare bed/sofa/floor. Incredibly several offers come in as we’re packing up our gear. People are kind in Santa Barbara. Just as they were in Oakland.
A girl call Mattie approached us outside. Enhaloed by the Santa Barbara street lights she looked like a goddamn angel. She was wearing a nice dress with a rose-print pattern. Her disposition was calm and inviting. She spoke softly and quietly in a way that immediately made you listen.
“You can stay at my place if you still need somewhere.”
“Is there enough room? I don’t wanna impose.”
“Yeah, my family kind of own this commune. We have people stay all the time.”
“What kind of commune?”
“There are lots of artists and musicians who live there, you know? We’ve built lots of huts and there’s always a spare one or two. It’s not a problem.”
“It’s like Neverland,” said her friend. I trusted her friend’s reaction. She didn’t have to be modest because it wasn’t her place. Something in her friend’s smile suggested it was pretty special.
We followed her car to Montecito. It was dark so we couldn’t really tell where we were going but we ended up in this absolutely incredible complex built into 12,000 acres of woodland. There were all these really cool massive huts spread out in the middle of this pastoral paradise. It was overgrown and wild and beautiful and there were rows of pink lights strung out between the buildings to light our way. It was Shangri-La. It was Arcady.
I followed blindly as Mattie gave us a tour around the complex. There was a bar and a swimming pool and a bocce court and artist studios and pianos and squirrels and dogs.
“What the hell is this place?” I asked. Mattie just smiled.
She made up beds for us in a hut near the centre. I can’t really do the place justice. I can’t find the words to capture just how amazing it was. Everywhere you looked there was something creative and charming and quaint. Antique signs and instruments and pieces of art.
“I’ll leave you guys to get some sleep. See you in the morning.”
When I awoke I had no idea where I was. Because we had driven in at night we didn’t quite appreciate the setting. From my bed I looked out a window that faced a mountain. I could hear music and laughter from nearby huts. I went downstairs and found Mattie in the kitchen in a white dressing gown. She was making coffee and oatmeal and the doors of the hut had been slid open so the nature would literally spill into the home. She held up a peanut and a blue bird flew straight in and took it in its mouth and perched on her shoulder as she continued to gracefully float around the kitchen. It was like a Disney scene filtered through a Tumblr wet dream.
How did you get here?
“You got some time before you have to leave?” she asked.
“A bit, why?”
“You wanna go down to Butterfly Beach?”
Of course I did. I smiled. The ephemeral is always so bittersweet.