Like many people these past few days, I’ve been listening to a lot of John Prine songs after hearing that he was a victim of COVID-19 earlier in the week. So it goes.
I actually got to see perform him live once (which was also when I learned who he was). I went to the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island wanting to see Brandi Carlile (and Scott and Freddie came along wanting to see Andrew Bird). The headliner that day was Prine… and none of us had ever heard of him. But Brandi said he was good, and I trust her musical taste, so I gave him a try and found that I liked his wistful, yet sometimes funny lyrics. (And it turns out I already knew at least one of his songs: “Angel From Montgomery,” which I knew as a Bonnie Raitt song.) And so, as she introduced me to him, it’s somewhat appropriate that as I’ve been listening to Prine’s stuff this past week, I’ve gravitated towards songs he sangwith Brandi, one of which, “Summer’s End,” Brandi did solo earlier in the week as her own tribute.
In this weird time of social distancing that we’re living in, I’ve been more or less confined alone to my one bedroom apartment in Oakland. When I started seeing the numbers and predictions of what this novel coronavirus was going to do, I knew that this time of social distancing — which for those of us that live alone is hard to distinguish from social isolation — would last awhile. It occurred to me that instead of sitting alone and working remotely in California, maybe I should pick up and head home to work remotely from Minnesota where I could be with my parents and my sister and dog… not to mention a yard and a lot more space than my apartment offers. But I didn’t do it and now it feels like that window has passed.
All of this is to say… the line “Come on home, you don’t have to be alone” from “Summer’s End” hit me hard. The first time I heard it, I burst into tears. And as I’m wont to do when I hear a song that makes me cry, I decided to learn it myself. I’m not a great guitar player — and my guitar is currently missing a string anyway. But I have a tenor ukulele, a three string cigar box guitar that I can pretend is a bass guitar, and a copy of GarageBand on my laptop. And from my travels to New Zealand a year ago, I also have a band name for myself: Doubtful Sound.
(Doubtful is appropriate as I can hear every imperfection, but I’m also too tired to go back and re-record all the tracks.)
On our last full day in New Zealand (before a super early flight which lands before it depart, thanks to the international date line), we were awoken to a view of Mount Cook — finally! — after a late night of star gazing. We drove slowly at first in order to stop and appreciate our last chance at the view… and then picked up the pace so that we could spend an evening in Christchurch. A talented cover artist sung us out… not included in the video was that he sang John Denver’s “Jet Plane” at my request, as that was always our farewell song at Camp Ihduhapi, and seemed a fitting way to end the trip. Farewell, New Zealand! It’s been fun!
Laura and I hike around the most beautiful lake I have ever seen — and I have been to Crater Lake and Lake Louise. Also, I briefly get attacked by a giant bee and there are sheep. Of course there are sheep.
We have relocated to Te Anau, where the internet is slower, so uploading this video went overnight. To get here, we drove through the rain a lot and detoured to Milford Sound. But it was an amazing drive despite the weather. Then we went to see glow worms in cave, but weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I got creative in the video instead. Finally, we ended the day with some Tim Tams and Laura made a mess.
More information about the glow worm tour is here. The puzzle which feature Quinn lip syncing (and also me and some other people) was called Temple of Macuilxochitl. (It’s no longer solvable as it involves using information from a jukebox at a restaurant that hasn’t existed for over a decade.)
Today, we drove from Queenstown to Glenorchy (by way of a fantastic garden) to Paradise… and from Paradise, we walked to Isengard. Or at least, the site where Isengard was filmed. A few times we had to pause for some sheep or some cattle. Such is the kiwi life, apparently.
Laura and I drove (probably way too much) today. We recap our today and highlight it with photos and video for you here:
The penguins were seen at Penguin Place, which is amazing and you should definitely check it out if you’re ever in Dunedin. Information on the curling club can be found here. The sheep were everywhere and if Zip was about spotting sheep instead of horses, we’d have lost count way earlier than we did.