I’m thinking that a lot lately — i want to help you lift enormous things. It’s a lyric from “At Transformation,” off the Tragically Hip’s latest album. It gets stuck in my head a lot, but it’s not a thing I actually say very often, because it’s dangerous. People take me up on it, and then I’m proper fucked. People were taking me up on it when the Tragically Hip came to town a few weeks back, in fact.
gord downie, the tragically hip. the riviera theatre, chicago. 2012-11-03
But let me back up. The Hip is the band that gave me music back, and I would love them for that alone if it were necessary, but it isn’t. I love Gord’s voice and his stupid pants and his dorky dance moves and his rivers of sweat and Rob’s tacky boots and shiny pants and long hair and Johnny’s drummer face and those videos where Paul just chainsmokes on stage while singing and Sinclair’s rubber chicken head thing he does. I love the bizarre narrative lyrics about shipwrecks and polar bears, the occasional drum machine, songs in E minor. I’m gonna get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy.
The last time the Hip put an album out — 2009’s We Are the Same — I went to a handful of shows, three of them in the Netherlands. Three shows, three cities, three nights, and home. It was such an intense and emotional and amazing experience that I decided next time the Hip goes on tour, I’m going with them. I started planning for it. I talked to a financial planner, I figured out what I needed to do, I started doing it. I was going to write a book about it, a little bit about my shenanigans but mostly about the way US/Canadian relations play out in a concert pit. Because oh boy, do they ever, especially in Europe. It was going to be a really good book, you guys. I was going to call it something lolariously awful like “We Danced the Sidewalks Clean: A Year on the Road with Canada’s Band.”
Turns out that was a serious statement to make, that I’m going to follow them for an entire tour. It would probably mean quitting my job and just doing it, because it is unlikely that any job — even mine — would give me a year off to follow a band around. They don’t give women a year off when we have babies, and while making a record is often compared to making a baby, probably someone else making a record doesn’t qualify me for extra maternity leave. And so when I took the job I have now, in late 2010, I warned them: “By the way, when the Hip next go on tour, I’m probably going to quit and go with them. It’s looking like 2012 at this point, so you’ve got maybe two years of my time.”
“Okay,” they said. “We’ll take it.”
Now For Plan A came out a few months back, and then the tour dates were announced. And so then there it was: Am I really going to quit my job and do this? My job is different now, in ways too numerous and complicated to even try to explain. My life circumstances are different — I live by myself, I have a lease, I bought some furniture and it’s really quite heavy, what would I do with the cats? The apartment? The fucking lead-lined icebox?
On top of that, when the tour dates were announced, I had already decided to go to Europe and follow The Revival Tour around. I love the Revival Tour, and when those dates were announced sometime in July, all I wanted to do was go to the other side of the world and forget about everything for a while. It was perfect. I waffled a bit because of the money and the logistics involved — those dudes do not take days off — but I finally decided yes, I’m doing it, I will buy the plane tickets tomorrow. And then “tomorrow” brought me the Hip tour announcement and I had to put up or shut up and that was a very, very difficult decision to make.
I shut up. I’m torn about it, but I did not quit my job (though I did make the threat). I like my job, for all I sometimes wish I didn’t and for all the stress and absurdity and drama involved. I’m good at my job. It pays me well. My coworkers are wonderful mad geniuses. But my book would have been good. I would have liked writing it. I think someone would have liked reading it. So that was hard times.
But there is also the fact that following Chuck Ragan, who runs the Revival Tour, is a much healthier life choice than following Gord Downie. Gord — through no fault of his own, I really must stress — drags me around like he’s got a hook in my heart, which basically he does. Following the Hip means I spend a lot of time sobbing and having Feelings. Following Chuck, though (and here I also need to stress that it is not about the individual dudes, okay, it’s not that kind of thing)… I don’t love the music any less, I just love it differently, less painfully. It’s not the kind of love that hurts, the kind of love that’s spent the last year grinding me into sticky paste. I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t even take the thought of it.
So I put off the Europe trip for a few days so I could see the Hip in Chicago, and then I got on a plane and went to Croatia. I guess this post is part one of some kind of series. Part two is the Hip show, how it was the one transcendently dangerous break in a 72-hour marathon of helping people lift enormous things; part three is 12 shows in 12 cities [in six countries] in 12 days. That one might take me a while, but I’m working on it.