Gillian is benevolent.

I back away from the opening door, her cheeks raise to moon the bottoms of her eyelids as her mouth breaks. Her smile takes me to promotional shots seen throughout the years and I am struck. Wireless glasses and silver hair pulled into a loose ponytail. She’s casually dressed, I have interrupted her at home. Her hands cool as my misplaced handshake grasps early, softly holding just her fingers. The mistake seems intentional as one would never show a matriarch aggression. I disclose my citizenship, indulge her on small details of my return visit to her city, and reveal curiosity as the reason I am at her step. Our exchange is cordial and fluent. I articulate my writing desires and express appreciation for her art. Without my suggestion, she regrets a tour of the studio as they are in session. There is a mutual appreciation for our encounter and I am directed to follow up. I naturally bow with my hands together and walk backwards off the couple steps.

I am overwhelmed and show my gratitude, jumping between talking to myself and a greater architect. Hunter’s Custom Automotive industrial-sequence sign catches the late afternoon sun like some digital effect, more sparkle than ever as I cross the street. Westward up the Main Street hill. The downtown core begins to light up, notably the ears of the Batman Building, colloquially referred to opposing its official AT&T corporate title. An addition to the visual that inspired Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album. Its ears stretching past its architectural compeers, The William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower and the once tallest, Fifth Third Center.

A humid chill goes through my jean jacket, my ignorance to anticipation of Tennessee’s winter. Walking past Koi Sushi I bristle whatever body hair I have and pull my coat to cover the back of my neck. Usually slung over a shoulder, my side-satchel swung around in-front of my groin, its weight locking the back of my collar up and slightly pulling me forward in an effort to speed my step. I break gate and scamper up to Mcferrin Avenue. A new condominium welcoming me back into my neighbourhood, its modernism. The complex’s name with that musical/historical association Welch has recognized; Amplify On Main, 1 & 2 bedrooms, now leasing. My wrists starting to stiffen, unable to push deeper into my pockets and my shoulders hunched as I make it under the threading of electrical lines and up to Ross Early Learning Center. Two years old, the brick building educating the children of the areas long time and newly incorporated residents.

West on Marina Street. Shacks being stripped and renovated. No trespassing signs. Portable basketball hoops, gutter garbage and a take-a-book/leave-a-book literature exchange – nothing of interest, glancing as I hurry down the hill. An indecisive rain feeling out its release with the odd pelt against the back of my hairline, my head tucked down exposing the space from under the rear brim of my felt cowboy hat. As our front door is rarely entered, I run around to the rear of the house as the weather makes its decision just in time for me to save myself. The mile walk, to be better prepared for.

The boys are playing with a taser, given as a family Christmas gift. A lighthearted argument over the degree of pain it would inflict with the odd joust as one would put a dead mouse in another’s face. “I’ve been tazed before, bro – it’s not that bad.” Its staccato’d cracks of blue. I continue as I were, a quick shower to bring up my body temperature, my jean jacket in the dryer. I return to the kitchen. the remnants of a pretty heater bong rip blown out the side door and a quick discussion about “premium Tennessee kush”. Enticing.

I’m still working out marijuana’s place in my life having not touched it for over a year, the odd cheat by breathing deeply in its burning presence. As I have seen my writing progress without it, I am curious as to its effect now on my creative self. Alcohol has been relatively easy to withstand, the physical habit of a drink in hand as hard a battle as any. But the movement of consciousness and certain paths opening through a little grass – I have yet to find an alternative. Marshal offers me a brownie, downing two himself. I accept and place it by my computer.

A body high to be properly chosen. My usual mistake, conditioned by smoking, unable to properly estimate length of time before it “kicks in”.

A couple years back.

“I don’t think they’re that strong, Trav” – “Hmm, I agree. Its been an hour.” – “Another?” – “Sure.” Fifteen minutes later. “Yeah, still nothing.” – “Fuck it, let’s go for toke outside.”

Five minutes later to myself: “Alright Blake, you know that you have arms, think this one through” – completely locked into the couch, feet up with my hands behind my head, out of vision.

I had my wisdom teeth removed in late October 2015; the height of my usage. At all cost to avoid dry sockets, I abstained for two weeks and fought the addiction of the euphoria. I made myself a batch of tea while on the fence of attending a seminar one night on “live performance”, Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method presented by our provincial music support system; SaskMusic. The science understood but never having actually making a batch, I concoct a tea recipe by boiling down some shake with a little butter and milk into a creamy skim of liquid at the bottom of a pot – the THC binding to the dairy’s fat molecules. The potion added to a Contigo mug of hot water, peppermint tea and a touch of honey, I decide to make my way across town to the seminar.

Jackson pushing why bands should choreograph their movements and me, paranoid that I might be called upon in front of my peers. Him, teaching big arms movements and shaping the flow of the show. Me, imagining my head attached to my body without a neck and getting the giggles – grateful that I happen to be sitting beside my publicist at the small chance of a public and professional trainwreck.

Time and Place. Allow an hour and a half to process. Stay at home, watch Frank Zappa DVDs.

I leave the brownie and drive down to 8th Avenue South with time to spare before Easton’s show. I’m in no rush to make sure I get in as he offered to leave my name at the door to ensure my entry.

The Basement shares its home with Grimey’s Record Store. One to the rear and the other to the building’s face, respectively. Grimey’s Too – next door. The brands expansion to house more tangible media in a shared space with Howlin’ Books and The Frothy Monkey Coffeehouse. With an up to date collection of today’s musical literature, Howlin’ Books holds the preloved as well.

To insure my growth, I have assembled a mental list of literary treasures that I am on the continuous hunt for. I refuse to dive into the Game of Thrones craze before finding it’s first edition hard cover used, a handful of philosophy and poetry works share the list. The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Unancestral Voice by Owen Barfield and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Admittedly, all caucasian males with an unnerving view of women. However, my recent interest in Gloria Steinem has me asking for help from a shaggy-headed employee.

ZZ Top’s “La Grange” pounds on the in-house system, distracting us both. I’m led to a Steinem biography I already own and my help confesses his love for the Texas trio. I make my way to a back room as Billy Gibbons’ eighth note intervals broaden post solo and lead back into Frank Beard on the snare rim. The riff softens, a syncopated snare fill and Dusty Hill kicks back in to fill the iconic groove. I shuffle into the spiritual section and find some C.S. Lewis, Gibbons’ pick squeals moving on every quarter note. As the track fades I find Mere Christianity, reading the first three pages in the silence that fills the last five minutes of everyone’s workday.