I walked off the airplane in Buffalo Thursday afternoon but my feet still hadn’t touched the ground. I floated through the terminal, down an escalator. I passed a stranger, no, a fan, there are no strangers in our little world, going up the escalator.
“See you at the Ball!” he said, and shot me two thumbs up.
“Can’t wait!” I exclaimed. Feet still hadn’t touched the ground.
From the stairs to the left of me, another fan chimes in, “Festival’s canceled, dude.”
“No it isn’t,” I replied.
“It really is though. Because of the flooding.”
“No, it isn’t,” my feet were losing altitude, “and don’t joke around about this stuff.“
I turned the corner to baggage claim, and saw Phish shirts everywhere. Backpacks and camping gear and bright colors and the traveling menagerie that accompanies and identifies our home, no matter the city. I started to float again. I’m home – 3,000 miles away – but I’m home. But, their faces… this isn’t what home looks like. This isn’t what home feels like. The pieces are all here, but they don’t fit. I see my fiancé sitting against a wall, she wears the same expression. I recognized her, didn’t I? Where am I? She holds up her phone.
My feet hit the ground harder than an asteroid impact. My world shrunk. My home disappeared before my eyes. I was no longer floating, there was no atmosphere. What is happening?
The relativity of time is a funny thing. I’ve been to four-hour shows that were done in a minute. I’ve met friends once, but I’ve known them forever. I’ve planned and traveled and flown and driven and walked and danced for a lifetime, but the moments are gone all too soon. I’ve lived within a jam where time was infinite. I don’t know how much time passed in the Buffalo airport: 60 seconds or one minute or another lifetime, it was all the same, undiscernible. But I’d do it again. All of it.
I’d look at her face again. I’d walk down that escalator again. I’d board that airplane again. I’d pack my bags, wake up before the summer sun, and float again. I’d see my 70th show again, my 50th, and my 1st again. I’d withstand the Austin heat again. I’d sleep under my car at the Gorge again. I wouldn’t sleep at all again. I’d meet all my friends again, hug them again, and kiss my person again. I’d cry at shows again and I get goosebumps again. I’d dance again. I’d buy my first album and drive around the neighborhood for hours listening to it again. I’d sit outside my brother’s room, listening to Junta’s “Fee” through a closed door again as I wondered, “What is it about this that is calling to me?” again. Even knowing, especially knowing, what I know now, I would do it all, again.
With Phish, as with life, the journey is the destination. The home to which I earlier referred: that’s real, that exists. If you’ve been there, you know it, you are my family, and you are welcome in our home. Our home exists within the journey of Phish, no matter where they are or are not playing, no matter the date or set or venue, or no matter the destination. Close your eyes. Think of that moment for you, that moment that brings you home. You’re there. You’re home. It’s real. It exists. Yet, you aren’t at a show, you’re inside your head. You know exactly the path that takes you home. You know exactly where you’re going, and how to get there, and why you’re supposed to be there. No matter where your feet are or are not touching the ground. These are the thoughts, the reflections and echoes of reality, of home, that transcended time in the Buffalo airport. Lifetimes washed over me in no time at all, balancing the gravity which was pulling me to no place at all. I would do it again.
Phish has provided me, us, with so many journeys. No amount of words I can write will ever describe the fulfillment and nourishment and feeling of being alive that they have, and continue, to provide. That’s why we do this. There is something more to this. Our world within Phish, and hopefully our world outside of it, does not exist exclusively at show and it does not disappear when Phish is not onstage. It exists within all of us, always. When you high-five a stranger, no, a fan, wearing that shirt, he is your brother. When you give a nod to the driver with the bumper sticker, she is your sister. When you cry together in the airport, we are our family. When we dance and celebrate at a show, we are alive. And we will do it again.
Phish has provided me, all of us, with a journey that has never veered off course. It has led me to exactly where I am supposed to be. And Phish will do it again--for when you are here with me, I trust you to lead the way. And when you’re not, I follow you, and have never been led astray.
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