October 2016

By Marshall Chapman

It all started with a one-way ticket to Reno.

My friend Joseph and I had decided to attend a life-celebration ceremony for a mutual friend near the Sierra Nevada mountain range north of Truckee, California. This would be the first time in a long time I’d traveled anywhere that wasn’t work related. Some people would call this a vacation. But I’m not sure the word exists to describe what actually happened.

Joseph is a free spirit—a world-traveling adventurer based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which is where I met him while playing a gig there years ago. For a while, I had the wildest crush on him. Now, thank God, that phase is over. We get to be friends, and I get to act sane again.

Just for the record, I like to have my travel details nailed down before I take a trip. Years of playing music on the road taught me the importance of this. Now that I’ve retired from the road, I am fast learning that if I want to travel with Joseph, I have to let go of this concept.

“Let’s just get a one-way ticket then figure it out from there,” Joseph said. “We might want to hang out in Truckee for a few days.”

“Oh … okay,” I said.

We ended up staying just outside of Truckee at an Airbnb on Donner Lake. After the memorial service, it was a great place to relax. For two days we took walks, swam in the lake, and I took a restorative yoga class while Joseph went exploring on a bicycle. On the third day, Joseph asked if I wanted to go to Los Angeles. “We can stay at my former brother-in-law’s house,” he said.

As it turned out, Joseph’s former brother-in-law was a former prominent judge now in recovery (and on probation) after an incident whereby he had summoned the police to his West L.A. house while under the influence. When the police arrived, mistaking them for intruders he began shooting at them. In no time at all, SWAT teams were on the scene with helicopters buzzing overhead. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Okay. So we’re met at LAX by a tattooed muscular guy driving a black truck that rumbled like those trucks in No Country for Old Men. I mean, this truck could eat a Humvee for lunch.

When we arrived at the judge’s house (which I later dubbed Casa Testosterone), we were greeted by three Dobermans plus another bodyguard-looking guy. Evidently the judge had gone to bed. As it turned out, my bedroom was upstairs next to his.

After a nice hot bath, I remember laughing as I fell asleep. After all, this was a first—never before had I fallen asleep in a room adjacent to the room of a man wearing a GPS ankle bracelet. Strange as it sounds, I felt at home. And safe. And when I texted my circumstances to my sister, she immediately texted back: “Bad boys in recovery. Sounds like heaven.”

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit www.tallgirl.com.

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