3.31.07

So, the word was released yesterday that one of my favorite singers, Brandi Carlile, was planning to play one of my favorite venues in Portland, Mississippi Studios, in just a few weeks. Looking forward to attending this show, it's impossible to not recall the events that happened roughly three years prior, the last time Brandi played Mississippi Studios March 31, 2007. This date is also the exact same day that I gleefully entered Portland as a newly minted resident. The following story is more about the events that led up to that show than the show itself. These events pretty much symbolized everything I had been working for and looking forward to for so long. It just so happenedthat the silver lining was a Brandi show.

Mississippi Studios is a special place and 3.31.07 was a special day for me indeed. I'd been a Brandi fan for a few years by that point and been on "the forum" and everything... but I lived so so so far away from every body and everything (Savannah, GA) that I'd never met anyone aside from randomly talking to people at shows hours away, that were also Brandi fans, so I felt pretty isolated. Anyways, getting out of the South and moving to a new life and living in a place that "felt like home" was a pretty big dealfor me. Ever since I can remember, I'd been searching for a place that felt like home and had randomly discovered it during a work trip out to the Northwest in 04. Since that time I had set my sights on moving out west, but it was a project several years in the making that always seemed to be plagued by opportunities to stay and settle for something safe and secure. However, by winter of 2007 I was going through a prettyrough emotional patch... so instead of focusing on the negative, I focused on the positive, which was moving to Portland and starting a new life. Luckily, it seemed there was a Brandi show at the end of March that would coincide with my arrival... so I wrangled down tickets to theelusive back to back show and plotted my move.

I was set to arrive in Portland a few days prior to the show, but somewhere along my drive across the country (Gillette Wyoming to be exact) I got stuck in a massive blizzard. The days spent in a roadside hotel started to pile up and I found myself about 24hrs away from the show and still a two day drive away with a reluctant blizzard and the Department of Transportation, who was refusing to open the highways, standing in my way.

Going stir crazy in my hotel room, I'd go out to my car and try to shovel it out only to have my hotel neighbors come out to stare at me and ask where in the hell I thought I was going? I'd reply... "Portland, I gotta get to a concert." Everyone told me I was crazy... that the only way out of Gillette was on the state roads that they had just opened, but once I made it to those, I'd have to drive 200 miles north, out of the way, till I reconnected with the highway and then I'd still have to deal with the blizzard once I turned back west. Well,... I was willing to take that chance. My hotel neighbors just smiled, shook their heads and said that must be some concert I was planning on attending. To which I responded..."It is". I mean, it wasn't just about the concert. Sure I was excited to see Brandi, but more than anything else I was anxious to start my new life and I was excited to finally meet in person some wonderful people that I'd been in contact with over the pastfew years.

After successfully digging out my fully packed Subaru, I hit the road at appx 2:30pm Friday with plans on getting to Portland by 5:30pm Saturday evening after a 16 hour all night drive. And, I did just as the people said... I drove 200 miles out of the way till the state road reconnected with the highway in Montana. At that point however, I still had the same massive blizzard system that was stalling above Billings ahead of me. It loomed like a massive dark cloud in the sky... trucks were piled up on the highway still waiting for the highway into Wyoming through the Indian Reservations to open. I was afraid that Montana would close their highways just as Wyoming had. I was afraid that I was going to get stuck in the this friggin blizzard all over once again. I was afraid to have wasted my efforts up to this point. So, upon entering the storm cloud, I stopped at a gas station... filled up, grabbed some Starbucks double shot espresso and hit the road. It didn't take long to see that this wasn't going to be an easy drive. All over the place cars were swerving off the road and running into each other. In fact, my windshield was freezing over and the only way I could see out of my window was through a six inch square. White knuckled driving would be the easy way to describe it.

I was getting scared, things were not looking good for me at this point. So, I pulled off at an exit and called my mom back home in Ohio and asked her for an update on the road and the storm. She pulled up MDOT on her laptop and gave me the lowdown. Right now, the roads around Billings where I was at were a level 5 (as in downright shit ass conditions) but... just 30 miles west... the roads were clean, dry and the sky was clear. I just had to make it those thirty miles and I was home free to Portland (providing I still had about 13 hours of driving ahead of me). Clearly, the best, the easiest and the safest option would have been to settle down in Billings for the night and wait for the storm to clear and then be on my way. But, if safe and easy were my concerns... I would have stayed in Savannah or taken that art teacher/soccer-softball coaching job that was offered to me back in Ohio. However, I didn't want to settle for safe and easy. I wanted to get to Oregon.

So, I pulled the car back on the highway and steered my way through the visible six inches I had of blinding white snow. Still, cars were going off the road left and right... I just held my breath and focused, trying to make out the road ahead of me and reminding myself that right on the other side of this mess was dry, clean pavement. Eventually, I noticed the cars coming the opposite direction had very little snow on them. This gave me hope... I must be getting close. I noticed less and less snow on the oncoming cars... and somewhere in front of me... the sky seemed to open up. Finally, instead of my car sliding through inches snow it changed to rolling on wet pavement. The wet pavement then turned to dry pavement and the sky cleared, and there above me were stars. Brilliant white shining stars nestled in a deep deep navy blue sky. I looked behind me to see the massive storm cloud still hovering and dumping on the land and I breathed a massive deep sigh of relief. I had made it. I had finally gotten out of this storm that repeatedly tried to stall my progress. Now, nothing stood in my way (other than a lack of sleep)... I was enroute to Portland to go to a concert.

Needless to say, I drove all night. I stopped to get gas at any chance I could for fear that I would be stranded in the mountain passes over night. Somewhere outside of Missoula I stopped my car at a rest stop for a few hours and caught a cat nap till about 4am. Then, it was back on the road... 8 hours and 24 minutes till Portland. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. I saw the sunrise in Idaho and entered Washington state with a giant smile on my face. From there it was south to Oregon and the magnificent Columbia River which I followed all the way pretty much into downtown Portland where I was greeted with a brief rain shower upon crossing the city limits sign. At 3:30pm I unloaded my car at my friends house in SW Portland and then found my way over to Mississippi Street at about 5:30pm to greet my best friends that I had never before met. I don't think at that point anyone could have wiped the smile on my face. I don't know if I was happy just to be out of that car, to have finally arrived in Portland, to eat some decent food that wasn't cooked in a hotel microwave, to meet my friends, or to get to see Brandi again.

To say the least, both shows that night on March 31 were great. Brandi and the boys were seemingly on fire. It was the second stop of their tour for "The Story" which was set to be released a few days later on April 3rd and I think they were so amped and excited to get started. Mississippi Studios is such a small and intimate venue that at that time, could only seat about 70 people and the band sounded amazing. During the show I filmed a few songs (I actually had problems keeping the camera steady since I was so fatigued from driving) regardless though, I put the videos up on youtube and watched the view hits start coming in. Later that month, Brandi showed up on Grey's Anatomy and Conan O'Brien with the title track from the album and then well, there were commercials during the Olympics and now American Idol singers trying their hand at singing her tunes and therest is pretty much history. In fact, due to the popularity of AI and the debate on how the song was sung... my video on youtube is getting even more play now at about 1,300,000 views.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was after the show I was getting Brandi to sign my ticket stub and I told her all about my trek through the blizzard to get to the show. Then, Brandi proceeded to tell me a similar story about how once she drove through a massive blizzard to get to an Indigo Girls show and afterwards, told Amy Ray all about it. Amy Ray looked at Brandi and after hearing her story just said... "that was stupid". It was at that moment that I realized Brandi had just called me stupid. Good play Ms. Carilie, good play. :)

Back prior to all of this in December of 2006, inspired by a hiking trip I had taken up Mt. Hood to see Timberline Lodge the March before, I got a tattoo on my ankle that simply said the words "snowshoe". To this day still, quite often people will see it and ask if I really like snowshoeing enough to get a tattoo of it on my ankle? I just have to look at them and laugh. See, "snowshoe" the tattoo isn't really an activity, it's a just word that symbolizes not settling for less than you want. Snowshoes are designed to float on top of the snow, they allow for easier passage, they help you reach your goals. Without them, one might be tempted to just stay in one place. To let the snow and the struggle pass. To wait for spring time to come and the storms to clear. However, before you know it... spring has turned into summer and then to fall and back into winter. Next thing you know, winter after winter has come and gone all those dreams and aspirations you had are now just faint memories. Stories you tell your kids about things you wanted to do, but then things got rough and well... life happened. But we should all strive to be a snowshoe. To float on top of the shit and get to your destination... to reach your goals and achieve your aspirations. To get where you want.

Really, looking back at that blizzard in 2007 with my car loaded full of all my possessions (including snowshoes)... it's not surprising that I kept driving. I had a concert in Portland to get to afterall. :)

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