Just a couple days after my 50 state milestone show in Oklahoma, I flew out of Chicago on a Sunday morning to Boston for my last two out-of-town Odyssey shows of the year.
Monday’s performance was at Pomfret School in Connecticut. This show has become an annual tradition five years running thanks to my now friend Todd who teaches a semester-long class on the Odyssey to high school upperclassmen there.
Tuesday was a return to UMass-Boston for an Odyssey show after playing The Blues of Achilles there in March.
The weather was cold but clear and I went for a run in the late afternoon Sunday sun alongside a reservoir. I found myself reflecting on how the Odyssey treats the aftermath of Odysseus’ fully realized return home, both in book 24 and in the understanding that he will again leave Ithaka.
Modern audiences find book 24 unsatisfying which I think is the point: once you achieve the thing for which you’ve been striving… life goes on. Normal, complicated, flawed, often unsatisfying life. And that life has consequences that reflect what you did to achieve your goal.
I ate clam chowder at a local bar and worked on booking for 2024.
The next day I got up early and drove the 30 minutes to the beautiful college-like campus of Pomfret. I met Todd and we caught up on what had happened in the year since we last walked the grounds. Again it was cold but sunny and beautiful. I set up in a lodge like space with picture perfect acoustics, the same place in which I played in 2019 and 2022. The class of a dozen students sat in a semi-circle in big arm chairs barely 10 feet from me. The early start meant my voice sat in a bit of a deeper register but I made use of it and sat into some of the lower songs. The modest tension I felt in my upper range really drove home how lucky I’ve been with my vocal health in the past few years. Right as I got into the songs that are related to the last quarter of the poem, someone in the audience sneezed and I smiled to myself: Telemachus’ sneeze in book 17 is one of my favorite moments in the epic and here it was in the room, during the performance, happening at the appropriate time, a favorable omen.
After I finished, every student asked at least one question. I told them this was my 367th show and one student wondered if I remembered how I felt at my first. I blurted out “scared” which is a version of the truth. A better more nuanced answer might be “uncertain.”
Todd and I caught up more over a late breakfast and I was done with my obligations for the day and on my way to an inn in Cohasset, a coastal town south of Boston. The inn was exactly what I hoped for: a place to enjoy the rest of Monday, celebrate my year, and think about 2024, a sort of very brief retreat to recharge. I went for a run along the water, read book 16 of Emily Wilson’s Iliad translation in front of a fire in my room, and found some seafood for dinner.
In the morning, I explored a different running route and holed up in a coffee shop to work before my afternoon show at UMass-Boston. I read Iliad 17. I drove 45 minutes to the campus of UMass and was pleased I remembered my way around from my visit in March. Soon enough I met my contact and set up in a small but comfortable room in their Campus Center building that overlooks the bay.
The department had food and drink for the students and a nice crowd filled in. In my introduction, I encouraged the audience to move around freely while I sang if they wanted more food, something I would never have permitted let alone suggested even maybe a year or two ago. I’ve come to enjoy the sounds of the crowd being part of the performance. It feels more authentic to an oral tradition that most certainly went hand in hand with eating, drinking, and sometimes raucous crowds.
My voice was at full strength and I took advantage of that strength.
Afterwards, we had a great discussion: several students had also been at my Blues of Achilles show in March, which added a nice layer to the questions. I got myself some pizza (the bard eats last!) and was on my way back to the airport. Where my fight home was delayed because that is the most Odyssean thing that can happen.
There was no Tiresias to be found at the Legal Sea Foods by gate A6 of the Boston Logan airport, a place I consider my own personal Hades.
But if he was there, what would he prophesy for me and my Odyssey? Have I satisfied the Muse or whichever spirit has compelled me to push towards performing my song in all 50 states?
Or is this merely one stop at home on a larger journey? I'll keep my eyes and ears open for whatever omens come my way.