Friday, June 7, 2013

Peter Case - As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport

I wrote the review of the Peter Case performance before I read his first book, a brief autobiography about the early days when he rolled out of his hometown of Buffalo, New York and made it to San Francisco without any real plans of what he would do when he got there.

To do such a thing today would be seen as foolish. I remember telling my father once that I was going to move out west, hang out with some friends and become a recording engineer-a pipe dream, for sure, but a solid enough explanation in my mind to justify packing up and moving.

Almost immediately-like any good father, I suppose-began to dismantle my plans, pointing out the blatant lack of planning and how I would have no reliable source of income when I arrived to my destination.

I didn't care, man, I wanted to be free of all of this oppression man!

It's a common trait that many from the Midwest throw up, this notion that the region is so backwards and stifling that it somehow prevents a young person from achieving their dreams. It's nonsense, of course, because the reality that you can actually make your dreams in an area not known for it's culture and social agenda. Instead, living in the Midwest only means that you'll have to work harder in addressing the very superficial reasons you have that are pressing you to leave.

For years, I was bitter at my old man for telling me the truth. The reality is, if I was truly ready to pick up and split, I would have done it. But my dad's concerns made real sense to me, and yes, I'm an only child, so the idea of moving so far from the nest at that time also weighed heavy.

I looked at friends that had made similar choices, and was impressed at how little they ultimately used their new surroundings. It was an endless barrage of part-time jobs just to keep a roof over their head, and all of the shows and social events that they promised to embrace suddenly became something they couldn't afford.

Then there were those that completely abused their lack of a family safety net. They met with other lonely souls and brought their lives to the brink of addiction, some of whom are very lucky to be alive today.

Me? I stayed home. And although I'm not suggesting that my decision was one that everyone should adhere to, it is a choice that worked for me and one that I don't regret making now that I'm in a place where I love and around people that I love more than my own selfish needs.

And while I have no tolerance for those who depart because they feel the region somehow suppresses their dreams, I can abide those whose dreams require them to leave. In Peter Case's world, California was a different planet compared to Buffalo-and it came at a time when a lot of young people were doing the exact same thing.

When he reached Chicago, a man boarded the train on a cold winter night after Case. The two were remarkably similar: both had long hair, army bags full of clothes and a guitar case. Both were heading out West to begin whatever, although the gentleman he sat with was a couple of years older than Case and had been out to California on a few occasions.

He offered Case some advice: keep to yourself.

If it seems like I've spent a large amount of words talking about myself rather than As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport, it's because of the book's brevity than my own need to tell you the intimate details of what a chickenshit I am. Peter Case is someone who made the journey, and someone who made it for the right reasons.

Of course, that may be easy to say since he later became a renowned singer-songwriter, making the journey worth the hardship. But what makes the book so great is that you never get the sense that everything will end out alright. There are hints of Case's talents, but since he's very good at talking down his own abilities, there's always a sense that he could easily get shipped back home at any point. I mean, he lives in a junkyard at one point. I don't recall any Dylan stories where he's sleeping in retired vehicles.

At 51 pages, I finished As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport in the amount of time for a lengthy bowel-movement. And while I didn't actually read it on a toilet, the ending did have me holding my breath somewhat, with Case and his friend holed up in a small, Mexican seaside town with no gas, no money, and no skills in the Spanish language.

All he has is a guitar.

I believe As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport is a precursor to a larger book, or maybe it will be released in various increments, like a kick-ass e.p. Whatever comes next, I'm hooked. Even if I know how this story ultimately ends, I want to read about it and live vicariously through Case's own will to keep moving.

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