In January, I set out with the Unchained Tour again for ten days of story slinging. I've posted my favorites but all of the photos are here. The photo booth shots are by Amurica. The cast and crew shot with the bus is the work of Andrew Von Goeliner. The rest are all me.
We touched ground in all these towns: Chattanooga, TN; Huntsville, AL; Nashville, TN; Memphis, TN; Booneville, MS; Oxford, MS; Birmingham, AL; Montevallo, AL; and Carrollton, GA. I got a mitten-loan and fire-pit hang with Sara Kaye Larson in Memphis. Spillit Storytelling let us in their homes, fed us dinner, and took a billion pics of us in their photo booth. In Huntsville, Alabama we held a show in a mill with a crank elevator and floors cut with nails from its boot-making history. In Nashville, I walked through freezing rain with Jose Ray and Christopher Paul Stelling to Third Man records, Jack White's recording studio. In Oxford, Mississippi I ran away to get some reading at Square Books and overheard the employees talking about how cool our show was going to be. After the show, Dottie Knight let us crash her birthday party. We got our wits rattled at Graceland Too. In Birmingham, Alabama we played in a former masonic hall that also is a creative writing center for kids called Desert Island Supply Co. That night, friends from my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama drove a few hours to see the show and say hello. In Carrollton, we got tour tats and George took the stage to personally thank everyone for their work.
I never think the next tour can be as good as the last, but they are always wonderful. Our boss man/cult leader George Dawes Green always throws a lovely cast of folks aboard, fast friendships are made, and then kept long after. It was a very cold tour and the bus heater couldn't keep up. There were multiple Walmart stops for heat pockets you can slip into your boots, sleeping bags, and wool socks. I might be experiencing a viable ache from the present lack of all that hugging and real vs. artificial warmth those days fed me.
Micaela Blei almost loses her towel giving hugs in the morning. She also has three things she does before she goes to sleep and they are, as follows: she says something she's grateful for, something she wants, and something great she did today. If you're her bedmate, you play this with her. I still do, away from her, some nights. Also, she sleeps in headgear.
Annie Duke never ran out of stories or generosity for that matter from advising me on one of my own stories to throwing down the bones for my first tattoo, a bluebird on my shoulder(blade).
Tim Manley trusted me with his stories, shared his sleeping bag, and was always up for talking all night.
Peter Aguero tells a different story every night. When he heard I was going through a difficult time, he told me to tell him about it, and then he said whenever I feel low to come marching up to him because he would make me feel AWESOME.
Christopher Paul Stelling, now one of my best friends, let me have the same conversation with him about a hundred times, shared his whiskey, has a built-in adventure compass (John Wilkes Booth's grave for a dance, anyone?), is a grown-ass man, asked me questions to distract me from the tattoo needle, and gave me a cigarette after, which it turns out I needed.
George Dawes Green, through our endless conversations about story, reminded me that if you're seeking comfort just talk about it. Telling stories is the best kind of deep breathing if you have some courage and humility. Samita Tcb Wolfe, my longtime friend and producer lady, gives levitation hugs. Jose Ray, I would be your superhero any day, you just let me know. Anita Sundari Akella, thanks for reminding me it's more important to write my book than to date, and there's nothing wrong for a second with just being alone. VG and Isaac Hammons most definitely must be tired of hearing me talk about stories over their playlists, but still are the first and last faces I see when it's tour time again. Bonnie Blue Edwards shot beautiful footage and shared her okra.
Some things I'll take with me from this tour is to screw the rule or game book and say what I mean and feel when I want to, to never sleep too late, and to regret nothing.