It was late 1992. Me and my legendary Plymouth Voyager were on a long road. I had just signed a contract with Green Linnet Records in Danbury CT, and had a budget for the recording of my new cd. They really wanted Johnny Cunningham to produce the cd. I was going to be in Portland, Oregon the next week and that’s where Johnny lived. I love the Oregon coast and in particular Cannon Beach, because it holds so many great memories for me. My family vacationed there a few times. I hadn’t been back since I was fourteen and I really wanted to see it again.
Johnny and I met up at a great pub and we had an amazing couple of hours together. I had it in my heart that I wanted to sleep that night in Canon Beach and after we had finished dinner I set out, in a pounding rain, to drive the 50 or so miles to the coast.
Memory is a lousy tool for remembering anything.
In my boyhood memory it was a straight, quick road from Portland out to the beach. What I didn’t remember was the summit between Portland and the coast. I didn’t factor in that Dad always made that drive in the summer. This, however, was early December and the wind was howling in from the Pacific.
As I began to ascend the summit the rain turned to light snow, then to snow deep enough that I could feel it scraping against the bottom of the van. I realized that if I stopped I’d be stuck and there was nothing for it but to try to plow on through. I made the summit and as I came down the other side, the snow turned back to rain and I began to relax.
Now, having not remembered that summit, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I had also forgotten a second summit. I started to climb once more and as before slowed to a crawl, fish tailing, and skidding bumper deep in snow until I had passed the second crest. Descending the second time and looking at the odometer, I knew that I should be in the clear and was feeling righteous. I rounded a corner and there, across the road was a herd of elk. I hit the brakes, went into a driver’s side skid and came to rest ever so lightly against an indignant looking but unharmed buck.
They sauntered off, I caught my breath, cursed hubris and proceeded to Canon Beach.
When I got there, the town was buttoned up against the storm. I saw the motel that our family used to stay at, went into the office and enquired after a single ocean side room. $160 dollars a night was the reply. A bit too rich for me and i began to feel disappointment welling up inside me. It wasn’t the ritziest of motels and if that was going to cost me that much in December I couldn’t really see how I could stay a couple of days in town. I also didn’t want to be driving around all night.
I drove south a ways and on that end of town was the Hallmark Resort. Why I thought that was going to be cheaper I don’t know.
I pulled in and had to really push the van door hard to get it to open against the wind.
I walked into the office and the woman behind the counter looked up. I said hello and enquired what the price would be for an ocean side room. She squinted at me.
“What do you do?” she asked.
Strange question, I thought
“ I write.”
“ Do you like storms?”
“Love ‘em.” I replied.
“ You need room 342.”
Definitely the oddest front desk experience I had ever had.
“ What does room 342 cost?”
“ How long you want it for?”
“A couple of nights.”
“ for you, 80 bucks a night”
I grabbed my stuff from the van, walked up three flights of stairs and in a corner on the northwest side of the building found room 342. A fireplace, picture windows on the north and west sides, sliding patio doors and a deck. It could not have been more perfect.
Two days later, and 4 new songs in hand, I left room 342 to continue down the coast.
Three weeks later I was in Vancouver recording the CD that would win me the Juno award.
And that’s what I can’t teach you in songwriter’s school, I just know that sometimes you are offered room 342 and you just have to trust and take it.