10 Years Down The Road, The Buzzard Circles Back Home: Pacific High On The Road

by Russ Riviere

I know the only buzzard poetry
It’s a song from the skies
you can only hear it if you know one of us guys
It lulls me to sleep
and it keeps me up
You can only come down
if you’ve been up…

My Dad gets back from one of his expeditions, he’s got this beautiful buffalo luggage, it’s been 10 years; it’s his return from odyssey. 10 years since his dying and I feel like clear-eyed Telemachus having faithfully waited for his Father. He’s beaming, not unpacked, telling stories; blinking through tears I’m astonished… This dream made me want to be in California on the tenth anniversary of my Dad dying, the tenth anniversary of me really writing in earnest. So Heartwood Institute, a healing center in the hills above Garberville, invited Pacific High to play on Earth Day, the very day… They also offered a money guarantee. So we built up some dates around that, and planned a jag into northern California.
We had five performances lined up and a couple R&R days planned into schedule. We felt strong having just recorded our Pacific High album which was now being mixed, having just performed at Worthy Fest, and having just bought our new p.a. (from Mojo).With this little tour just beginning and performance dates to come back to, things felt ready… then Buzzards arrived. Buzzards arrive in the North here when it’s dry enough to fly, buzzards don’t fly wet. Three buzzards flew through low and tipped their wings over our place, the Lazy R…  a real good omen, me and my Dad, and my boys communicate through buzzard, our tree man totem.
We had to leave Jason Vick, our percussion man to hold the ground for us here (he and Em have a baby coming!) So we three, my sons and I, hit the dusty cayuse on four/twenty excited to play our songs, sell album pre-sales, Raw Cha Cha Chocolat, and our T-shirts at our shows. We have a song called “Ital is Vital” about keeping healthy, and with Marlene’s raw food in our cooler we were ready to roll.
Drove through the night after Easter Dinner at Nanny and Bubba’s, road tripped to the curly Redwood Lodge in Crescent City and day-slept, getting used to rock star time. Then Heartwood. What a drive getting out there, real California. We brought the rain; they really need it down there so our pressure drop was welcome. Those hearty good-hearts danced in the downpour so we gave them our all; a three hour show (with a couple breaks to attempt covering our brand new gear.) They gave us Love, Lodging and Lucre, and we were down the road.
A little more fun, gorgeous driving and we had a night off in hometown Bolinas with Mom’s lasagna. We laid low Ezra, Jae and I not really contacting any friends. This was a medicine quest of sorts, a completion; a return… and a solid departure. The buzzards continually gave show, fresh sign.
Our acoustic set at the Coast Cafe (we have an acoustic set, Victor?!) This was a joy. Playing for old friends and family (Angel’s daughter so cute buying a T-shirt!) We did manage an unplugged sound and had a closeness and good feeling around the room which thoroughly made us know: this is right. We also did pretty well on the lucre (let’s face it: part of the sucre is in the lucre.)
Across the street on the same Thursday we set up at Smiley’s Schooner Saloon (est. 1851) for our usual electric set of songs. We had Rob Lenhoff, from school days, sit in with us bending reeds on his harps, added a killer local element. The Golden State Warriors were playing a ball game which we lost. The bar where I turned 21 full of more or less the same swillers as 21 years ago… a little younger I guess. Made our second guarantee, but no merch sales; didn’t want to risk soaking T-shirts in whiskey. (Brought the rain.)
Before we left Bolinas I got my Dad’s buffalo robe and pipe from P.J. (his widow). Left the carriage house, the meadow, and the valley with a little sigh, but saw buzzard sign in the sky that said: “Things are well.
Off to stellar house party at Sausalito, International Pasta night at Stefano’s. Made another show happen with San Francisco Bay and city lights in the background and sophisticates in the house. Warmed up into a set which found it’s energy mid-stride and then really took off, sisters-in-law particularly whooping it up. (We did well in Ital Chocolat, T-shirts and pre-sales.) Heavy buzzard energy was felt. (Brought the rain.)
Sweet Saturday morning cappuccinos in Sausalito, dropped sister Jenny Lee in Petaluma, and up the trail to Westport house party in Mendocino at the home of the westernmost family. Set up (in the coolest off-grid house ever!) and played the first set to the sunset party atmosphere over the pacific, good feelings ran very high! We had Sister’s third grade teacher Don Armstrong on steel, coincidentally, which brought the twang we love so well. Our family band played to families and a couple and their baby on into the night, high over the pacific. Tatanka Russell, fellow tree man and aptly named, on his medicine path, blessing his relationships with joyful seriousness; a do or die ecstatic. Played at a high level, brought the rain.
The whole next day we took off and spent there; Ezra, Jae and I, being shown the deep redwood valleys and bold and broken coast by deep-hearted old friends, our hosts, the Fox family. That warm clear day was our final rest and a dear highlight.
As we’d tracked down there and back we’d seen, heard and felt many powerful things, messages from the animal kingdom and sweet country places; cool coincidences. Relationships increased with each other, and with more new people. The themes threading through our road trip kept resolving themselves readily, like the whole trek was meant to be this way. Like light pouring through the fog, there was a brightness to it, and a rightness. We’d taken risks and managed them, we’d heard a call and moved to it. Our music got stronger, pressed to the strain of playing various crowds; places. We wrote new action: Westernmost man; solidified recent action: Evergreen State of Mind; and powered up our song list.
Back up the Pacific Highway we headed with strongly renewed vulture buzz and Pacific High feeling strong. Rolling forward and soaring back, spiraling upwards we have a good trajectory. We are moving into festivals, album releases, more tours, writing and playing all the time.
…There ain’t no sorry
and there ain’t no tomorry
Just an ever-widening
Circle in the sky
goodbye Buzzard
(or as the first-nations say: Hoy! See ya.)