In a mighty slow return, I beat Ethan to the morning and having slept with my feet towards the east window, awake to the brightness of the room before opening my eyes. As a traveller its regular to expect one setting and shake morning disorientation to find another but I can tell I’m not on the van floor and lay still in the sun yet to lift my eyelids. Maybe it’s an effect from the light coming through but I take a moment to recognize what seems like a psychedelic vision. It’s blue and symmetrical. An intricate pattern resembling some sort of spiderweb spreading outwards from its center. It feels peaceful and seems to be connected to my state of contentment. It pulses for a minute and fades away. I open my eyes.

The room is as bright as expected. Records and a turntable under the east window. Quadrant shelving to its left completing the vinyl collection. The south wall of the living room has a built in bookshelf made to hold a small library but contains only five pieces. I take hosts up on ‘making myself at home’. My version of this is looking through the fridge, not necessarily because I’m hungry, but to get a read on what type of place I’m at and taking books of the bookshelf. Rarely do I have the snooping pleasure of a vinyl collection. I hit the fridge already in the wee morning hours while Ethan was showering. Cottage cheese, salsa, a strange fruit. Condiments. Tortillas sitting out.

The vinyl is sorted by artist. Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Towns Van Zandt, Marty Robbins, Waylon. The usual second-hand collection. We share an appreciation for Zandt’s “Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas” – a gift I bought for Mel during one of Dave’s long weekend sales at X-Ray Records. A split Daytrotter Sessions catches my eye, Doc Watson/Delta Spirit.

The bookshelf has two major titles. Confessions of St. Augustine and synchronistically, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – the classic I brought with me. I leave them untouched and return to the couch to put a few minutes into Owen Meany. 

“Let’s Eat!”

From down the hall Kinsella interrupts my flow.

We depart on foot. He gives me his word that my van is good where it’s parked. A voice from an above balcony politely lets me know that if I don’t move my van from the bus lane it will be ticketed. I u-ball it to the other side of the street.

After a couple Google Map overshoots we find Longman & Eagle. A farm-to-plate breakfast joint. We eat up our wait to get a table by snagging a fresh brew of Jo in the building’s attached donut shop. Our tables ready inside. I let the server know that if someone’s excited to clean one of the tables on the closed patio, we’d be excited to sit out there. We move and through default, force them to open the patio. It fills. Two, eleven dollar classic breakfasts turning down the one dollar, PBR, add-on. Half way through the pan-fries, Kinsella takes the add-on. 11 am. Completely through my meal, I take the add-on. Kinsella drinks it. 11:30 am. Two in the tank. Life is good.

Any spare time outside of driving has been spent on throwing together routing and possible shows to attend. A Starbucks off the interstate in Wisconsin gave me the research time that led to attending The Hoyle Brothers show. Of the local groups I skimmed, a duo named after a prominent Chicago street prodded a little research as it shared a similar name to that of my partner, Melanie’s, stage name. Belle Plaine and Simple. Really, not that strange considering the local geography. I took a screen-shot to show her upon my return.

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Waiting for Kinsella to finish up the second PBR we continue conversation about national identity, politics, and music. He’s genuine with his Canadian interest. It’s always safe to start with the stereotypes and evolve from there. Yes, we’re generally polite and lean slightly left. I tell the tale of the Trudeau’s and character develop Tommy Douglas. Hockey is something we all grow up doing but the more intelligent move towards baseball. I talk the Jays up. We’re both fans of real country music but that only comes from being fans of punk, metal, and hard rock. I tell him about my work with Belle Plaine, he tells me about his work with… Belle Plaine. I’ve slipped into Bizarro world. I go back to the screen shot on my phone – whoa, sure as shit.

On the walk home Kinsella lets me know he’s from South Chicago, Irish decent. Where Firemen are their Cowboys. A romanticized profession, always saving the day.

Our night is going to include the 20th anniversary street party for The Hideout. He’s a Lawrence Peters fan and let’s me know that Lawrence is the country guy in town. We’re both tired and agree that the next hour is best spent sleeping. I’m kept awake by a repeating 8-bit sound loop from an ice cream truck circling the block. I spend the whole hour trying to figure out the time signature of the damn thing. I record it to attempt later.

Tacos and a pit stop at Coles to check out Dan Whitaker. We pull up to The Hideout. A club that calls Neko Case and Kelly Hogan vet-bartenders. A club that hosts Americana heavy-weight, Robbie Fulks, every Monday night. Chicago’s most loved small venue.