The drive from Ypsilanti was rainy. I was tired and ragged. Eric took over after Indiana. Ben and Ella were happy to see us. We were greeted at the door and welcomed into their thoughtfully decorated old house. The walls were covered with Ella’s artwork, and the maps and haunted iconography that Ben prevented from being forgotten. They framed them and arranged them neatly; bear cubs about to fight, a beautiful young woman holding sickle in a field, an aging photograph of a mountain reflected in a black lake, a Japanese woodblock version of the sea.
We went for a walk and saw the charming old neighborhood where they lived, full of green leaves and relics. There was a mortuary turned fashion business, tattoo shops with chairs from the nineteen fifties, a record store with Scandinavian carpentry, and a garden full of barbie dolls. Ella was a poised and present tour guide. She understood my old friend’s angst and irrepressible energy. Ben and I had been young fools in a sophisticated city once. I liked seeing him land in a small town in the middle of a weary world, once again growing light on his feet.
The show was good. A local named Mark Waldoch played first. He had lots of effects pedals and a strong theatrical voice. Eric and I went on after Mark’s set at a civilized hour. We were able to win over the crowd that filled the small, eclectically decorated room. Afterwards a Native American man played Beatles songs on the harmonica along with the juke box, and a poet named Desmond Bones recited poetry for us outside in the garden while I smoked in the lightly falling rain. He proclaimed himself to be the old man at every party most likely to offer you weed, after he offered us weed and we declined.
We went home around eleven and I talked to Jessie on the phone by the picnic table outside while I presumed Ben and Eric sat in the kitchen and discussed ancient religion, specifically an obscure form of Tibetan buddhism, a study of which made up one of Ben’s former searches. When I came inside they were more or less talking about that by what I could gather, and the death of Christianity in America. I don’t remember exactly. I was distracted, half listening propped against the kitchen wall. After about forty minutes we all went to bed. I slept fitfully and was awoken by the bedroom door flapping open and shut from the rainstorm’s gentle wind through the window. I closed it and went back to sleep.
The next day Ben took us out to breakfast, and to see his furniture making shop in a large old factory building, where he had a retinue of antique sewing machines he was flipping to supplement his growing business. His ingenuity and hustle were heartening to see. Then we went for a swim in Lake Michigan and said good bye. I forgot my running shoes.
((See the setlist and statistics here.))