The lights come up and Travis tries to smile at the crowd that is cheering and clapping. But the muscles flexed are in the wrong corner of his cheek, his “smile” pulling tight. He bites his lip, knows that just right now he cannot smile. How he would trade this for friends&emdash;everyone around him a stranger&emdash;his love a haunting apparition. It is rushing, and he can feel it: the future. But if he could hold off change with a real smile he would find every reflection of past happiness and focus its mirrored rays until he burned with joy.

In the dark cave of acoustics, with eyes closed, the notes sent out are secret messages. Their harmony may be an invitation to join up, asking allegiance of fans and followers, who then become managers, producers and photographers, or roadies and groupies, and a myriad of other close traveling mates, united in faith, that keep any caravan of music alive&emdash;a caravan always moving on to the next town, musicians exhausted or not. But Travis is no caravan, he is hard beneath his leather suit jacket and guitar, and he is, for now, playing with a knife at his throat. He is the definition of solo: alone. And he wants to remain that way even though it means there is nowhere to go. Health or success; it seems to be one or the other. He knows his shows to be pointless in the measure of great things, in the big cosmic meter stick of light years. They are God damned pointless. Art, music, writing, gives no one, can give no one, meaning. It does not feed the poor or stop wars. There are absolutely no answers, except that there are no answers. The paradox slips, tragically into the guitar’s strings and some bent halfway note crawls out distorted, and everything, in the moment at least, is lost. There are other ways to recover. There are other ways to blast the people in front of you, but why the misstep? Purpose is a lost cause when you meander down the path of the transcendent, leaving behind those who have no motivation but the embodiment of their narcissistic selves in silly little bipedal forms&emdash;silly little creatures that make electromagnets and learn how to take the sound and the song to a level that has never been attained in all of human history; even the Beatles could not play loud enough in a stadium to hear themselves in the end.

Travis has power in amplifiers that did not exist for one guitar even a generation ago, and then never existed before he learned to emancipate those who listened to him, loud and blasted apart. It is his destiny to blow them away. And he does try. But not because of noise&emdash;because of one note melting into another note, the transition just unexpected, an unknown variable in the equation of music that is thousands of years old and hardly ever re-invented. Though it is random and unrepeatable, it remains fate. He takes it slow. He leads them, from religion to spirit, unsuspecting lambs and rats, both to gullies of life that they deem unforgiven or forsaken&emdash;not up but down. He has been told that God works in mysterious ways, keeps the meaning hidden in his trench coat, as Travis pulls on the sleeve of Life, trying to get its attention, until the arm falls off, and he has learned to call amputation, purpose. You think he likes it? Hardly. He is love found along the way, even when all is lost. The believers say this because what is, has not necessarily worked out in their favor. When it does work out in their favor they call it God’s will. When it doesn’t, they say that God works in mysterious ways. But Travis has God trapped right inside his six-string moment machine. We are all, without question of judgment, God’s children. Travis’s guitar is not God and he is a monkey, and God is nothing but mystery, if only because we can all recognize that God is sure as hell not a monkey. But we are… monkeys with guitars and stages and lights and attention and rumors and gossip and rhythm and music. Travis is hardly mysterious.

He asks them to leave regret and guilt behind, and be done with what they have done. There is no mystery in it. He asks this, with his sound, with his song, because it is all he has ever asked. If it could just all be still, and tonight he plays ahead of himself, instead of behind. He’s pulling at the ethereal nature of existence, and knows it this night. Or at least he is consciously seeking confirmation from the strings. He thinks, and is not lost, in terms of the keys, and plays, while begging so much that he cannot attain what his heart really desires. His best hope against the eternal vacuum and disappearance, entropy or rapture, is his sweet, holy, rounded, kind, reaching sound. He is asking for eternity, and listening to the awful staleness of his playing, he is seeing that he cannot have it. Not tonight. Maybe not ever.