Riding a Night Train [Part III]: Outro by the Cambridge Canaries

For Part Two, click here

Sunday

The Night Train pulls into the station (a side street perpendicular to mine) not too long before a pale sun rises over Cambridge, MA, where it’s chilly and serene as we all but crawl to my front door. Jacob and Tony elect to sleep in the van, which is a blessing, as their snoring would undoubtedly have precluded any hope for the rest of us getting what had become something absolutely vital: sleep.

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Man of the hour, Carlos, looking some kind of heroic for having just made the drive

We stumble up the stairs and into my apartment, yet again looking like all sorts of hell, but damned if we didn’t earn it. Nick and Carlos collapse on the couch and love seat pretty much on sight. Meanwhile, our dear Peewee takes one for the team by passing out on the floor beneath a hastily arranged bed of blankets. 

Six blissful hours of unconsciousness go by — far and away the longest any of us could claim for the better part of a week — before I wake up to a call from Jacob, who was woken up by Tony, who noisily lumbered off the Night Train in need of air that didn’t reek of a touring band. Mr. Rodriguez tells me he needs to make use of my restroom, only in less dignified parlance. Knowing a number of unseemly stories from his past, I rapidly throw off the covers to go let him in, lest the van become even riper in smell.

Apart from severe exhaustion, the other primary deterrent for making the decision to get out of bed was my being in no doubt that once he and Tony — who are painfully funny individually, but cripplingly so in tandem — were among us, there would be no more rest in our future.

Lo and behold, Jacob proves me right by bursting into the living room with an impression of Tony exiting the van so spot-the-fuck-on it leaves Nick and I gasping for breath. He proceeds to ask if the Eye of Horus tattoo on the nape of my neck is for better visibility into all the gay sex I’m having (again, less delicately put). Truth is, the joke was simply too witty and well-timed to be offended by.

Like any morning after a memorable night out, the best part is regaling each other with all the hilarity that ensued. I tell them the story of my nightmarish hunt for parking, then hear of their glorious debut performance in New York City. It’s discovered that a member of the crew (whose name I will omit) really struck it off with a woman at the bar, but it turns out the woman in question had, in fact, once been a man. None of us judged, and neither should you reading this.

This is hard to explain, but bear with me here. There were elements both of young adult camaraderie and childish innocence when it came to the dynamic in my living room that Sunday morning. It felt as though we were existing in some bizarre splice of a seventh grade sleepover and college dorm room. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy in such a particular way — not in recent memory, at least.

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During a spontaneous acoustic cover of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac

As luck would have it, the surreality continued. We walk from my place in Huron Village to Harvard Square for brunch, and I finally get to show my best friend the town I grew up in. Beyond that, I finally get to spend time with him in person. Although we’ve kept in close touch since my departure from Texas, there’s simply no substitute for face time with someone you unfailingly connect with.

Of course, I had reservations about referencing how close Nick and I are herein. Thus, because that personal bias plainly skews my perspective, you’d be forgiven for thinking these words to be rendered impartial; but that’s okay, I’ve just decided. This is a narrative and not a news report, so I’ll be the first to admit our friendship plays an integral role not just in what you’re reading now, but in all my writing since having known him.

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Looking rakish and smug at a bar called [sic] Ghost Donkey, a name whose origins I don’t even remotely care to discover

Then all we really do for the hours leading up to the gig — booked at a small, popular venue called Plough and Stars — is hang out, shoot the shit. Nick and I play acoustic covers of our favorite songs in my kitchen and on the front porch. The rest go skateboarding around my neighborhood, which happens to be a mere five blocks from the house I grew up in. This wave of nostalgia is sourced from the notion that here are these brothers I never had who are seeing an important part of my life I had never shown them. It was a very good day, I must say.

Later that evening, the last of the tour, we ready for a show all of us already knew would have a sparser turnout than those previous. Sunday nights aren’t exactly the liveliest for live music, which is fine by us, because we just treat it like a private gig of sorts. All the staff and patrons at Plough and Stars are nothing but gracious, helpful and friendly throughout. Everyone is substantially more relaxed than we were this time yesterday, to collective relief.

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Serena [pre-gig]

Overhead the soft, red lighting is dimmed just so, an ornate rug decorating center stage, wide mirrors adorning the walls, all of which lend to a very cozy, intimate setting that facilitates the sensation I’m seeing my own personal show by a band that would one day be impossible to see in such a small venue.

A sensation that endows me with visions of bragging rights in the not too distant future, which aren’t helped by the fact that my experiences on the road thus far have made me feel truly a part of the band. Delusions of writerly fame notwithstanding, such a feeling meant that at least one dream had been realized over the course of this weekend.

Playing before the Beast is a band called The Breakfast Project, who are just super cool, simply put. Their lead singer is a charismatic, well-dressed man of color with moves like young Prince and the vocal range to match. He is supported by a bassist, drummer and guitarist who pull off the difficult trick of sounding at once steady and energetic. They are a great opening act, supportive as they are talented, but then comes the reason for my going on tour in the first place.

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The Breakfast Project getting groovy

Keep in mind, this is the first show I’ve actually been able to experience, so I am more than a little excited. No matter how many times I see the boys perform, I always position myself front and center, so as to properly absorb the experience. I’m delighted to say that, as ever, they blow away everyone in the room — including The Breakfast Project, the bartender, the manager, and myself.

Pay attention to this part, because it’s important. I have listened to the Handsomebeast discography endlessly, both live and in the studio. They’ve also shown me a few unreleased tracks from their upcoming album that sound better still — keep an eye out for that, by the way. 

Nonetheless, seeing them perform before my eyes never ceases to impress. And I think the most memorable thing about the Cambridge show isn’t Peewee’s mind-boggling guitar solo on “Lonely”, nor Jacob’s jaw-dropping drum solo on “Little Moon”, or Nick’s irresistibly catchy medley of the early 2000’s classics “Ride with Me” and “Ignition”, but in all possible sincerity, the following realization:

For over three years, I have supported Handsomebeast because they are very talented, very close friends of mine, and all working tirelessly to make real a dream that’s extremely difficult to obtain in today’s world. But what I came to realize, sitting semi-soberly at Plough and Stars with maybe 20 or 30 other souls present, is that I now support Handsomebeast because they are a genuinely phenomenal band. 

Yes, I’ll admit to getting exhilarated and feeling proud by seeing my best friend owning any room he plays like a rockstar, but listening to that set, seeing how far they’ve come, it dawned on me that, in actuality, I really wasn’t there to support my friends. Rather, I was there to support one of my favorite groups of all time by watching them play their music — and I do mean that.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Beast

After the last song, when everyone is either speechless or cheering as loudly as possible, we all just kick it and close down the bar. There are no groupies, no mountains of cocaine, and only a bit of tequila — guess who? — but mainly just good vibes and good company. We sell some merch, take some pictures, and huddle up once more to savor the final hours of a truly unforgettable tour.

To be candid, the scene was a little sad, but not in an unpleasant way. The closest thing I can compare it to is the feeling of leaving home after your first trip back from college — would that I could better explain why…but that’s just how it felt. As the boys pack up the gear, Nick teaches me the simple procedure of breaking down a mic stand, telling me “you’ve gotta learn this stuff for our next tour”. It was a very small gesture that meant a great deal to me.

My alarm is set for 6 AM. We take the four and a half hours of sleep available and do not complain. While I’m getting ready for work (and they for a 37 hour drive back to Houston) we quietly prepare to say goodbye; but that didn’t sit quite right with me, so when I walk Peewee and Nicky to the Night Train for one last time, we hug casually and warmly, then exchange the words below:


“Well, boys, I love you, and I’ll see you soon.”

“We love you too, brother. See you on the next one?”

“Yes, you will.”


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Until the next one


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