to simplify 2.0    notes from the open road

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


This was supposed to be something of a pilgrimage for me, but I suppose by now, I should probably have enough sense to expect to be disappointed.

I had just pulled into one of several empty spots right in front of the Walden Pond visitor's center when a park employee suddenly appeared at my window.

"Are you gonna walk down to the pond and cabin site?" he asked.


"Then you should probably just drive down to the paid lot and walk back over here afterwards to see the visitor's center."

"But...I'm at the visitor's center now..." turning my head back and forth to draw attention to the empty parking spots surrounding me.

"Yeah, but you can't park here for very long, and if you're going to do both anyway, you might as well go park there first."

"Okay, but...I want to see the visitor's center, and I'm parked at the visitor's center right now..."

Stymied. "You've got 20 minutes then," and he turned to walk away.

"Glad I don't feel too rushed," I replied. He stopped in his tracks for a split second, apparently ill-prepared for that hallmark of Thoreau's writing: sarcasm. And just for good measure I added "...and thanks for the welcoming vibe."

Idly wondering what Thoreau would have had to say about this exchange, I walked inside to find two rooms full of cheesy souvenirs, the words "Simplify! Simplify!" emblazoned across one useless trinket after another. Maybe it's not so bad that they penalize you for spending more than 20 minutes in this place.

Five minutes later I was back in the van where, committed to riding out every second of my remaining 15 minutes, I sat and did absolutely nothing. Then in another small act of Civil Disobedience, something of an homage to St. Henry, I resolved to get to the site of his Walden Pond hideaway without forking over the $10 parking fee.

Walden Pond
Not as simple as it sounds it turned out, and I ended up leaving the spaceship about a mile and a half away and Walking back. Fine, but then a mere tenth of a mile from where Thoreau built his famed cabin in the woods, I found myself standing at an insanely busy state highway crosswalk waiting for the light to change. Masses of cars screaming by chasing after lives of quiet desperation. Ironic, perhaps fitting, and a bit depressing all at once, but hey, I did save ten bucks, and I'm pretty sure ol' HDT would've dug that.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Full Range

I couldn't bring myself to photograph the damage, so you'll just have to take my word for it that less than 48 hours ago, this end of the horn was looking utterly incapable of hitting anything underneath low D:

Because it was. Utterly incapable of hitting anything underneath low D, that is. But thanks to some pretty heroic work from Portland's Adam Montminy, I'm now back in action with the full range of the instrument at my disposal. All together now – one big collective sigh of relief.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Semi-nomadic friend Ted invited me out to his rustic island retreat a couple of days ago. So rustic that I had to park the van at a landing and have him schlep me out to the place on his boat. There's a lot to like about having a remote island to yourself, not the least of which is the fresh lobster free for the picking anytime you want it. Ol' Ted definitely has some stuff figured out...

Back in the van the next morning, I'm driving up the steep road from the landing, hit a big bump, my overhead bulkhead cabinet door pops open (first time that's ever happened), and out falls my horn. Not good. 28 years I've been playing the same vintage Selmer, it's been all over the world with me, and never has it been damaged in the slightest. Until yesterday.

So here I am in Portland for a couple of days, where I'm relieved to have found Adam Montminy's shop tucked above a Penske truck rental place. As I type this, he's working to bring the old girl back to life, and I'm left to pace nervously around town in the meantime. The damage isn't nearly as bad as it easily could have been, so...guarded optimism folks, guarded optimism.