That Lonesome Valley

At least I didn't sob when we put my daughter on the train in Angouleme yesterday. My mother used to do that every time we said goodbye and it always made me feel bad. Like the life I'd be returning to was so unspeakably awful, such a disappointment compared to what she'd hoped for me, that maybe a total meltdown was in order. Or did she just miss me so much as soon as I was out of sight, that the mere thought of the void I was about to leave turned her into a blubbering wreck?

All I could feel yesterday morning, as Hazel regarded us from under perfectly lined eyelids, smiling sweetly and waving calmly from her window seat on the TGV, was pride, hope, happiness. Even though so many questions remain unanswered for her just-starting-out grown-up life, and even though she barely washed a single dish all week and constantly bummed tobacco rollups from Eric's daughter Luci's boyfriend Luke, being near her - even to say goodbye - makes me glad.

It was good to be together with "the kids". We ate a lot, watched Peep Show, wished it would stop raining. Then Christmas turned sad with the news of Vic Chesnutt's death. Eric and I had been invoking his name frequently during the Kevin Coyne tribute shows as there was a point where he was supposedly going to come to Belgium for the shows - no doubt a mere pipe dream of the well-meaning but inept promoter.

I remembered him saying, southern boy-style "I love me some Kevin Coyne" when Eric and I played with him in Angouleme last spring, replacing the missing Raveonettes on an interesting double bill. He'd been pretty surprised to see us in the middle of the French countryside. I liked him from the first time I shared a bill with him at Fez, back when I'd just begun playing solo shows, and after that I always looked forward to seeing him, at this club or that.

At Winnipeg Festival a few summers ago we were on one of the workshops stages together, where everyone had to play favorite cover songs. He started strumming "Ode To Billie Joe", one of my alltime favorites, and I got all eager and joined in immediately on guitar, as musicians are wont to do.

"No." He shook his head at me so emphatically, I practically threw my hands up above my head so he could continue with full confidence that I wasn't going to play any more. It filled me with admiration, knowing how hard it can be in those free-for-all situations to demand the right to play completely solo, without the well-meaning participation of anyone who has some inkling how the song goes, and often those who have no clue whatsoever but just need to keep busy. He apologized as he started again, saying his timing would be too hard to follow.

Boy was he right. He played the song like he was telling a Flannery O'Connor story, and I listened. I know he was a very creative songwriter - he should also be remembered as a great, unique singer.

It broke my heart, the statement from his record label saying he died surrounded by family and friends. He was loved by many, many people. But this line keeps running through my head, from a Kevin Coyne song called "I Confess" that we'd been playing last week, with Kevin's sons Rob and Eugene: "I'm a rebel and a rebel is alone." Kind of like someone might sing "Everybody's got to walk that lonesome valley, they got to walk it by themselves" at a Southern funeral, it comforts and explains, a little. Only Jesus doesn't step in to sort things out.

I did feel like crying today, after we dropped Luci and Luke at the airport. They're expecting a baby. Breathtaking, wonderful news. Wreckless Eric a grandpa! Me, I just want to follow them around with an umbrella, open doors, make sure they always have cups of tea, seats on the train and that everyone treats them well.