Like the pain of childbirth, the hard parts of touring (hours in the car, unknown mattresses, the loading in and and out of equipment, a nationwide survey of public toilets) are swiftly forgotten upon return. Out "there", aside from keeping hold of the details for the shows and a vague memory of this place called "back home", the need to forge ahead, create anything new, even basic maintenance, all fall by the wayside - gigs are what you're doing, and it's enough. Immediately upon our return from two months of traveling, we pulled the hurricane charity house concert together - we had a full house to raise $1300 for Occupy Sandy. (Eric wrote it all up here.) I include that bit of madness in the touring maelstrom. So now, with the tour and the house concert out of the way, I look at the mountain of things that need doing at home: the endless trips to the post office and still there's the mountain of vinyl and CDs that must be mailed out. The paintings I need to complete for Kickstarter rewards and other things to paint and write. The forms to fill and bills to pay and appointments to schedule. Rooms to finish and curtains to sew to make the house warmer for winter and boxes to sort through. Shows to book because the 2013 calendar looks frighteningly empty. All I can think is "it was so easy out there on tour, when I knew what I had to do every day."
So why was I outside for hours last week with a leaf blower and rake?
I always looked with scorn at those idiots out there blowing leaves around. What a pointless task, I thought, knowing I'd make a few stabs with a rake for old time's sake and leave it at that.
But when our Rochester house concert hosts Rick and Monica gave us a spare leaf blower they had knocking around, my excitement was so barely contained I nearly dragged the thing onstage at the next night's gig.
Not exactly sure how to be one of those idiots, I had to search "how to use a leaf blower" on the internet. I couldn't face the scorn and pity of the neighbors who might see me out there pointing the thing in the wrong direction.
That obnoxious sound, the endless drone you hear when idiots are out there marshaling leaves? I learned that from the inside it's a blessed escape - give yourself over to the monotony and no one can touch you, when you're blowing.
Over the course of a few days, every time I'd be in the house doing something necessary and useful, I'd look out into the backyard and see those leaves on the ground, taunting me, nagging at me and I'd run out there, thinking if I could just create order in the backyard, everything would be alright. I finally started to understand my father on weekends, or our retired neighbor across the street, even my head-injured mother who would see a stray leaf in the front yard and run out to collect it - the course of action was so clear. Finally with the help of a rake ("don't think you can hang up your rake forever, just because you're now the owner of a leaf blower!" the yard expert on the internet admonished) I'd gotten six huge trees worth of golden leaves into a few massive piles.
And then the town leaf sweeper went by. "Wait!" I shouted, "I've got all these leaves right here, ready to go! I just have to get them to the cur-" and the leaf sweeper was gone. Eric, who was inside building a kitchen, assured me they'd be back another day. I couldn't bring myself to keep raking and blowing and just left the leaves sitting there in piles. "Let them turn to mold, let them rot. I'm over this" I thought and went back in the house to do something useful.
But Wednesday morning I'm up early, spending hours trying to figure out how to print all this postage online in order to save time, and I hear the leaf sweeper a block or two away. Why is it of absolute importance that I see those leaves carried away by the sweeper? I mean, what difference does it really make?
I throw on a coat, boots over pajamas and run out with the rake, like a madwoman,lunging, grappling, herding leaves to the curb. A schoolbus full of children roars by, the kids laughing and pointing.
But I did it. The leaf sweeper came and took the leaves away. Back in the house chaos was waiting. But outside, the job was done.