The last time I drove to Kalamazoo, a couple months ago, I painted a portrait, recorded a talk, went for a walk with a dog through a snow-covered park.

Now I’m driving there again. The portrait I painted wasn’t used but I made other images to decorate the CD, recombined some of the elements for a poster and the world’s tiniest sticker, and now it’s time to celebrate by sharing it with the world.

The travel part of a trip becomes rote once it’s repeated. I’m already familiar with most of this one from the five times I’ve come to pick up books in Wyoming and Saline. I listen to a show about violence interrupters in North Lawndale and East Garfield Park while passing endlessly repeating trees and clusters of signs for identical fast-food, gas, and lodging.

Driving has never been for pleasure but now that I do it so infrequently it serves as a kind of time-out. A chance at what feels like not-life, a kind of sensory depravation. Because I don’t care about what’s out the car windows. This is just a means to an end.

I’m early as usual so I go looking for food. I drive a mile past the venue to a downtown area. There are a couple bars packed with drinkers that I decide against. Then an old-school pizza joint with only pizza and Coca-Cola products on the menu. The oven is by the window and takes up roughly a quarter of the room. It’s not bad. They party-cut the pie the way we do in Chicago.

Then I drive back to the venue and park. It’s an old brick structure with a couple out-buildings. A small factory or warehouse in earlier days; now a recording studio, a listening room, and a rabbit warren of other creative enterprises. I sit in the car and read my book because it’s too soon for the doors to open. I hear the intermittent noises of soundcheck.

Inside a few people are already milling about. The doors to The Clover Room aren’t open just yet. Around the corner is a lobby area with drinks and merch. The CD and stickers and Jessi’s old record is there. Her opener, Kait, sells a beer stein and coffee mug, both labeled BAD MOTHER to a hulking man she doesn’t know. I help her pull the cardboard box of wares from under the coffee table where it has become wedged, so the man can choose from several glaze options. After he walks away she remarks, That doesn’t happen every day. She doesn’t know the guy and he hasn’t listened to a note of her songs yet.

The room is overfilled with listeners and is probably as good a small audience as a musician could ask for. I’ve known Jessi four years but have never seen her play. She’s a natural. Some people look right onstage, others don’t. It’s not necessarily a matter of talent or anything quantifiable. I tell her afterwards she belongs up there.

She invites me to the after-party but I have to get back to Chicago. I have to drop off posters I made, go to an art opening, then another record-release. Full dance-card. The drive back is through whipping rains. There are were tornadoes reported not too far away. I don’t pass any.

I’m glad I got to see Jessi do her thing and to help her get the music out in front of people. Listen/buy here.

Mallory and I talk over Santa Sangre and I write about Edna Ferber’s The Girls.

A limited-edition cassette of a Mute Duo concert at the Bottle just went up for pre-order. That’s a recent collage of mine on the cover.