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This must be the place: No regrets, coyote, we just come from such different sets of circumstance

I looked at my smart phone. Monday evening. It nearing 9 o’clock and it was high time I made it back home. Finishing my drink, I paid my bar tab at the neighborhood watering hole in downtown Waynesville and went home — just around the corner, a hop, skip and jump from there to here. 

This time of year, the late fall/early winter darkness at 5 p.m. feels like 10 p.m., with the ensuing darkness at 9 p.m. reminiscent of a few minutes past midnight. You don’t really want to go home, but you can’t stay here, you know?

Walk up onto my porch, turn the key in the door and enter the humble abode. Grab a cold domestic beer from the fridge and take a seat in the trusty recliner. For someone that has a hard time falling asleep before 2 a.m., I now have to figure out how to keep myself occupied for the next five hours. 

Grab my acoustic guitar from the love seat and strum a few chords. Pull a well-worn Kerouac book from the nearby shelf and read a chapter or two. Forty-five minutes have passed and still more time to try and waste.

For someone who never wants to have a minute pass without a worthy cause, being told to sit still and, well, wait until the sun rises tomorrow is a tough gig. I’ve never been able to sit still. The nuns hated that about myself and my character when I went to a Catholic elementary school way up on the Canadian Border in the 1990s. 

And yet, here I am, some 1,100 miles south as the crow flies. Told to sit still. And wait. Nowhere to go. Nobody to see. Onward to 2021 with hopeful thoughts and sentiments to what the New Year will bring. 

Throw on the stereo. The melodies shift wildly from Curtis Mayfield to Kayne West, George Harrison to Joni Mitchell. Sidenote: “Hejira” is a masterpiece. Did you know that the late bass icon Jaco Pastorius is featured front and center on the album? Also, track down the YouTube clip of Joni rocking “Coyote” alongside Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn, with Gordon Lightfoot sitting restlessly in the background, cigarette in hand and in awe of Joni and her mesmerizing presence. 

The cold domestic beer now becomes lukewarm, eyes gazing out the front window onto Russ Avenue. Not much traffic this time of night, at least these days. The sporadic cat, dog and wild animal passes by the window at this hour. 

Fingers typing wildly on the laptop keyboard, trying, ever so delicately and patiently, to meet deadlines so my publisher has something to edit, to proof and send along to our graphic designer and kick out the door as part of the newspaper delivered to you and yours by Wednesday morning. 

I wonder what the New Year will hold. I wonder how my parents are holding up back in Upstate New York. I wonder how my little sister is doing, some six months pregnant with my second niece and hoping for the best, her new husband by her side, trying to make things make sense for her and my six-year-old niece, Lucy. Let them sleep peacefully. Let them try and live some semblance of a normal life amid wild and uncertain times. 

Joni echoes from the speakers. It’s “Blue Motel Room.” She speaks of a space that I know all too well being an old road dog. Unnamed cities and anonymous hotel digs. Trying to get comfortable in a foreign place. Trying to make something from nothing in your personal and professional aspirations. Thoughts of girls you should have told you really loved then and there, regrets of pursuing faces and places that you knew well ahead of time weren’t worth your time. Onward, eh? 

I wonder what the New Year will hold. Listening to radio and TV broadcasts, reading article after article as to what others suggest or think may be our landscape coming into January and the rest of the new calendar year. 

It’s anyone’s guess, but I remain optimistic. I do. I will always. Sip the lukewarm domestic beer and look out the window for the 581st time of the evening. Four hours to go and maybe my eyelids will finally become heavy enough to pull the comforter back on the bed and I slide in for a hopeful night of slumber. 

There are people I miss, so many damn people. I see them on Facebook and Instagram. But, it is, sadly, not the same. I can’t remember the last time we went for coffee or a beer, just talking, reminiscing and pondering (the past, present and future) as the whole world simply walks by without a care. I, and they, remain. 

Not much traffic this time of night, at least these days. The sporadic cat, dog and wild animal passes by the window. Fingers typing wildly on the laptop keyboard, trying, ever so delicately and patiently. The lukewarm beer is almost gone. 

Thankfully, there are, at least, a few cold ones left in the fridge within reach. Sip and think of the “before times.” Sip and remember the good times spent with incredible people, wild souls that lit the fire within (and still do). I remember them and I salute them from my humble abode. Until we meet again, my dear friends and loved ones.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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