It’s almost midnight as I leave a Death Cab for Cutie concert, traveling north from Seattle and sitting shotgun in a 2008 Ford pickup, a seat more often occupied by a shorthaired pointer and a Boston pug. At the wheel is the band’s drummer, Jason McGerr, relaxed and still sweat-soaked from the show. There are a couple of fly rods in his back seat and soft hackles pinned to the visor, and he drums the dash as he drives in a time signature too layered for me to follow. His beats seemingly bounce outside the boundary of time itself. The past three nights in a row the band sold out the historic Showbox Theater in downtown Seattle to cap the end of an 18-month, 125-show world tour. It was the sixth whirl around the globe for one of the most successful rock bands to emerge from the Pacific Northwest indie music scene, but all McGerr wants to do right now is stand in a river.
This isn’t the first time we’ve done this drive. McGerr is a regular flyfishing pal and my neighbor. For the past 20 years we’ve pounded out separate livelihoods in Seattle’s urban hustle and growth, but tonight we’re headed back to mountainside homes nestled in a north-facing forest on the outskirts of nearby Bellingham.
From our doorsteps, we can look out over the crooked horizon of the Cascade Range with its foothills shrouded in nightshade and shadow. Hidden inside their silhouettes is a beginning, or origin, born inside valleys with snow melt and rain headwatering over cobbles and sand. Down below, these valleys braid together and become the confluence of every river McGerr has ever stood in, and tomorrow morning we’ll be swinging flies through its slipstream.
This is home…