"Butterflies have it easy in the insect world. Total beauty privilege." -- Wiley Rogers
Migration can be a loaded word. Though any of us can get to looking pretty haggard if we've been trying to nap on the back-of-the bus mattress as we rattle down the interstate, we have very little in common with your traditional California "migrants". Not the Dust Bowl refugees, not my grandfather who came here from the Philippines as a farm worker before WWII, not the many migrant laborers from Central America in California's fields today. We're just a group of middle class singer-songwriters out of San Francisco temporarily living in a converted school bus for fun. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But there is one famous California migrant I do identify with: the monarch fucking butterfly.
Around this time of year, flocks of monarch butterflies start to head south in search of warmer pastures. And a lot of them end up in cities we've been visiting. The morning of Day 2, on a hot tip from the UCSC trailer park residents, we swung by Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz, a preserved eucalyptus grove "winter safe haven" for monarchs. If you ever go, bring binoculars. Those trees are usually grey-green, not orange-brown -- all those far-away "leaves" are butterflies. The next day we saw more of them swarming the foliage by a path to the beach in Santa Barbara.
For us, as for the butterflies, travel is not a single event but a recurrent fact of life. We swoop down the coast spreading color as easy as spreading our wings, drinking nectar wherever the ivy blooms. Due to our aesthetic value (...and a lot of coordination, preparation, and labor) we don't have to worry much about being swatted, sprayed, or fumigated by our human hosts. In fact, we've found ourselves in some pretty hospitable habitats.
The non-metaphorical butterflies delayed our departure from Santa Cruz. Also, we slept in. Instead of leaving at 7 AM as planned, we didn't actually town 'til 1.
What’s the road like? Ocean views and palm trees and military bases and helicopters and oil derricks and strawberry fields and ditches to pee in and gas stations without bathrooms and red-winged blackbirds and strangers reacting whether it’s to honk, wave, yell, or ignore and Derek borrowing my headphones which are better than his and also he doesn’t know where his are, and me borrowing Derek’s sunglasses which are better than mine and also I don’t know where mine are, and Angela drawing and drawing well somehow even though the road is often too bouncy to even pick your nose properly and James working, scheming, thinking, napping, staring, and really all of us taking quiet time alone in the corners of our little house, and, almost always, Wiley grinning and grimacing in the rear view mirror, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.
We arrived at Drum Canyon in the dark, where Whitney Freedman -- a Splendor welder, builder, film editor, problem-solver, and very, very gracious host -- gave us beds, burritos, and Klondike bars. There we ate, slept, showered, talked, and did basically anything we could that wasn't riding the bus and putting on a show.
In the morning, Day 3, Whitney fed us eggs, and then we explored our new surroundings in an ATV. The property we stayed at in Drum Canyon has been in the Freedman family as a vacation home for a hallowed 11 months. It's several acres large, home to many low fields of Lima bean fields, lots of poison oak, an overgrown olive orchard, a broke-down 100-year-old homestead, and a big-kid playground Whitney built for an on-premises festival this spring, and a bulldozer. And it’s also where Splendor got it’s makeover (gem bubble and side stage) last summer.
From there, we took a luxuriously short drive to Santa Barbara, where we had “lunch” at 4 PM and Wiley inadvertently bought a hat that made him look like a babely bus/surf version of Steve Zissou.
From there, we headed to Whitney’s parents’ hacienda home, and parked Splendor in a very respectable neighborhood, where the ocean breeze rustled through palm trees. We took a very short walk to the beach and came back to set up for a show.
The line-up was the same as in the trailer park the night before, but the vibe was very different. We played in the lovely living room of the lovely Sam and Mike Freedman, to an audience of their friends, acquaintances, and dogs. It was plush, indoors, chill, and there was a ton of fancy cheese. After Angela and I played, there was a brief intermission and bus-tour, and then James, and then Derek.
A notable, imperfectly remembered bit of banter, from James:
“I was going to play a chill set, but then I realized our friend Pancho had to leave the tour for a while, and isn’t with us tonight. And Pancho’s kinda like a cross between Jack Nicholson and Charles Manson. With a guitar. And it can be pretty disturbing to be in the front row for one of his sets, in the best possible way. So...I’m going to try to play a few rockers.”
After the show, I stayed up late on the lightning-speed WiFi, finally finished our first blog post, and slept indoors for the second night in a row.
When I woke up, Whitney was already in the kitchen working on breakfast, and Pancho (AKA Jack Nicholson/Charles Manson with a guitar) was on the bus! He drove through the crack of dawn to get to us. Upon arrival, Wolfgang antagonized the Freedman dogs, though they were 10 times his size, and Pancho monologued about how shitty his acting gig was, and how much he wished he was with us instead. And then, before bidding Santa Barbara goodbye, we locked up the bus and all ran headfirst into the ocean.