Historical Tellings from The Road #2; How I Met John Elliott

I left Portland in early January 2006, It was now late June the same year and I had yet to return. We made a crude circuitous route that included Arkansas and Boston, Montana, Colorado, California to Texas and back through Colorado to Lake Tahoe (i’ll make a map someday). The personnel had shifted a few times and now I was traveling alone. I had dropped off a few friends at the Rainbow Gathering and was now planning a 3 day solo camping adventure in Tahoe before playing the High Sierra Music Festival for the first time. It was a big gig for me. My young self had visions of grandeur, still not unspoilt from 6 sticky months on the long road playing fried chicken joints, unpopulated coffee shops, and dive bars.

I drove twice around the otherworldly blue of Lake Tahoe. There wasn’t a single campground less than $35 a night. A king’s ransom. When not fed by the venue I was playing, I was subsisting mostly on canned tuna with avocado and spinach, apples and Clif bars. $35 was a bit less than a week’s worth of food. I asked a park ranger if there were any free campgrounds. She told me about Blackwood Canyon. It was unmarked, 3 miles down a dirt road. I miraculously found the road and after a minute I was being closely followed by a green Honda civic.

I found a lovely spot amidst ponderosa and lodgepole pine. I stepped out of my van just as the guy in the civic stepped out. He sauntered over, smiled and quickly it came out that we were both songwriters. “Shit” i thought “the last thing i want right now is to be around another songwriter! I just wanted some solo time.” I found out later that he was thinking the same thing.

He had just started his first tour as I was just finishing mine. We avoided each other for the first night but on the second night we shared a fire and a meal. We laughed and talked easily. I guessed his sign incorrectly. He sang a song. I loved it. I sang a song. He seemed to like it. We stayed up late in the night and talked by the fire with the familiarity of childhood friends.

The next evening we decided to go to a Casino on the Nevada side of the lake. I had never been to one before. I spent $5 and hated it. John won enough playing blackjack to buy us both dinner. We went to a Mexican restaurant and while we were there, it poured torrential rain. Neither of us had showered in days.

We traded albums and I listened to his constantly. I wore a tube top at one my sets at the High Sierra Music Festival that week and my boob popped out. I’ve never sold so many CDs at one show before or since. (Little did i know that my future husband was attending the very same festival and we wouldn’t meet till 2009!) I went to John’s show in Portland the following week. He was fantastic, full of sparks and thunder. A veritable bonfire of a performer. We decided to go on tour together the next year. I should’ve known he was a leo.

9ish years later and i still listen to that album all the time. We’ve made records together, toured the country, cried on one another’s shoulders, slept in the same bed but never kissed, and shared secrets even though I’m so bad at keeping them. John even served as one of the two officiants at my wedding.

The road gave me the brother i always wanted.

PS-most of this blog post was typed one handed while I breastfed Benny!

From the Water Canyon in Joshua Tree, CA in 2007?


6 thoughts on “Historical Tellings from The Road #2; How I Met John Elliott

  1. I met John a few weeks before meeting you. I saw him play at Cafe Mundi when I first moved here. A few weeks later I saw you at the Cactus and you asked if I would video you at your upcoming gig at Cafe Mundi. Both of you blew me away. Small world.

  2. Raina: I enjoyed this story. It reminds me so much of the many, many similar ones I’ve heard over the years. Like the universe was actually insisting that you meet this guy who turns out to be a way, way talented musician and future fast friend. Becca has told me many similar encounter stories over these years, and I’m still in awe of the power of the universe to arrange meetings (like you and becca, for example) or to otherwise mess with the destines of your generation of folk musician. I love you and all youhve accomplished.

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