My Characters

Posted in Creativity and Chaos with tags , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2021 by coyotescribe

I enter their world every day, and come back with new revelations. Sometimes those revelations tell me to stop, to breathe, and to let in what just happened in the writing. So, I take a break. And eat. Which means I have to wash the dishes first. Unless I make a smoothie. Then I’m good for a while. Today, instead of eating or washing dishes, I took my exhalation to a blog post. Hello.

My novel is coming along—currently in the thick of chapter forty-five. I continually edit earlier chapters, too, via bi-monthly writers critique group zoom meetings. This week was chapter thirty-four. I am reasonably polished, with one-hundred-ten-thousand words and counting.

I’m not saying I’m Diana Gabaldon, but after reading all the books of her Outlander series, I do understand why her shortest was a mere 743 pages. I’m only at 400, and I figure I’ll be done before I reach 500. I’m close to the end… almost sure of it.

My story travels through time, weaves in and out of realities, and is a mix of fantasy and 20th Century historical—1978 being the main thread. The lion’s share of backstory takes place in 1949, 1960, 1962 and 1968. So, yeah. Talk about research. I’m doing mine all the while. But the fantasy part is all in my imagination, which is wild and vivid, and full of grace.

This is my first novel, so maybe with my word count I haven’t given myself a fighting chance to be published. But it is what it is, and I can’t stop now. I have mulled over pages and pages, all over the damn pages, a perennial nature of chapter tweaking. I leave no stone unturned. As far as I can tell, there’s not much more I can cut—unfortunately or not.

With my main character—and his love opponent, plus two additional characters living a Montana otherworld orchestrating their reunion—divergent paths all lead to Totality, including all their backstories, which sometimes overlap and sometimes don’t. It’s a 10,000-piece puzzle. And there are only a few pieces left to insert—landscape and sky pieces, heretofore undetectable shadowy pieces, and the crowning-glory pieces.

I have always known where the story ends, but the long and winding road that gets me there has been the most incredible journey, traversing timelines and worlds, people and history, some of it earthbound, some of it out of this world.

And I’m in there every day just waiting for the miracles, not because I’m desperate, but because I know they’re somewhere down that inward highway. And I’m going to find them—inside my characters.

Update on My Long-Awaited Debut Novel…

Posted in Creativity and Chaos on June 5, 2021 by coyotescribe

I’m working on chapter forty-four. The novel keeps getting longer, the ending farther out… but I swear I’m close! Here is an excerpt: the opening to chapter thirty-seven:

Through the windshield, John watched the clouds dissipate in the night sky. Behind their wispy veils, black velvet and diamonds, to earth fell a fiery turmoil, scattered, wet, soundless, but for one coyote’s howl… In his head, he was cogitating poetic verse. Everything he imagined led him back to her. They’d ridden in silence for a little while, just seemed right somehow. The familiar rumble of his Chevy on the highway sounded different with Cindy driving it. He wanted to tell her everything, but held back. There was so much to say, and no place to begin. The blanket he’d retrieved from the trunk was now draped over his legs as he leaned back in the passenger seat. The blasting defroster had transformed their cold wet clothes into warm wet clothes—no more shivers from Cindy, far less pain in his knee. He wanted it to stay like this forever, but would settle for however long it lasted.

A Crazy Four Months

Posted in Creativity and Chaos with tags on July 14, 2020 by coyotescribe

I couldn’t have imagined working this fervently on a novel, the one I started in 2008 and shelved in 2011. I’m sharing some of the fun with a sampling of vintage photos and postcards relevant to the storyline, which had numerous incarnations dating back to the early 2000s—versions that weren’t right. But now I’m rounding the bend to the finish line. Each chapter takes time to get right, and each chapter is a victory. Loose ends are flowing back into the main plot, ball bearings rolling into their round slots. The whole thing is way too epic for my expertise. But still, I can’t get enough. Amid chaos of COVID, creativity has burgeoned. There’s no going back.

Link to novel research page with vintage images

1970s-Lyndale Motel-wcT

The Poet Boundary Dweller

Posted in Creativity and Chaos, Working magic with tags on June 11, 2020 by coyotescribe

Is it bad that I labor over sentences before I can move on in my writing? I don’t think so. My boundary dweller is the poet, not the painter. The painter pours out words. I labor. It has to sound right. Because, for me, somewhere in the midst of the quagmire, I find the flow and discover little gems, sometimes unbeknownst to me and only to my characters. These little gems are setups (or upsets), and happen through the efficiency of magic. And I desire to make them happen in no less than once every couple of paragraphs—gems that fuel mystery, or gems that are just plain awe-striking. Maybe this is why it has taken me over ten years to write twenty-eight chapters. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel: in my novel, and in my life.

Point Dume-mystery

I will write about the four boundary dwellers later. I just had to post this, along with a very cool photo I took back in 2004, when the idea for my novel was beginning to brew, and years of research initiated.

p.s. Be sure to read my previous essay about navigating self-doubt… … … if you’d like.

Three Understandings for Navigating Self-Doubt

Posted in Creativity and Chaos, Working magic on June 9, 2020 by coyotescribe

Self-doubt is essential to any creative process. Every accomplished artist experiences it, as does anyone who dares to chart a new course in their life, in any form. It takes courage, because when you create art, or create realities, you enter the unknown. If the process of creation were seven steps, self-doubt would be number four, the most determined. If you cannot move through self-doubt, you won’t be able to proceed to the last three steps, and you’ll likely start over again and again, or just give up. Conversely, if you try to skip over that step, you will be hard-pressed to reach the goal line without massive struggle, or find fulfillment even if you do manage to get there.

Creative Process-wildcoyotes

Humorous but revelatory look at the creative process

Here are three understandings to help you navigate your self-doubt:

1st understanding: Self-doubt is not self-punishment or self-flagellation (humorous diagram aside). This is an important distinction. If you’re beating yourself up and calling it self-doubt, know that this is self-destructive behavior, and at best, fake humility. Pride and humility need to be in balance. Always move toward being your own best friend. Engage in the practice of loving self, which includes forgiving yourself when you screw up. Without self-forgiveness, you’ll repeat your mistakes and won’t change.

2nd understanding: There are layers to responsibility in the creation of anything new in your life. The “rah-rah—it’s all good” or “it’s all shit” mantras will disconnect you from your soul and spirit. Don’t let the light blind you to the presence of self-doubt, or the dark keep you mired in it. Always seek to balance between the light (spirit) and the substance (soul).


3rd understanding: Creativity waxes and wanes, and sometimes it can get lost, which can trigger heavy doses of self-doubt. When this happens, you need to push in the clutch and change it up. Pause is essential to retrieve lost creativity. If you’re too busy to pause, that’s when you need it the most. Time is an illusion. It does not have to be your slave master. Use meditation to step out of space-time. Take your self-doubt into your meditation, ask for help in lifting it. Controlling it doesn’t work. Trying to be perfect absolutely doesn’t work. Perfection is brittle and static, and leaves no room for creativity.

A final caveat—your negative ego:

Your negative ego can have a field day with your self-doubt. One thing you can count on: it always lies. So, don’t give it to your ego. Whether you acknowledge your self-doubt, or ignore it, one of the most destructive games your negative ego will play is delusions of grandeur, and delusions of insignificance. Both are a lie, and both will take you down. Your positive ego is supposed to just deliver information from your physical reality. But we, somewhere in our growing up years, shamed it into taking over interpretation of our reality. Make sure you are the one in charge. Harness your negative ego and give it a back seat.

p.s. Do you think I had any self-doubt in the writing of this post? You bet!


Posted in Creativity and Chaos, Working magic on June 1, 2020 by coyotescribe

Day 78. Throughout this pandemic—adding to it our current crisis, the murder of a black man by a smug-faced white policeman, followed by riots and curfews that suppress peaceful protests (which is the right of every American citizen), disrupted by opportunistic thugs—and a president who has provoked violence and hatred, who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself, I’ve been doing what I can on a personal level to heal, to work magic with crystals, to pray and meditate, help my clients navigate their pain, owning my own crap—my rage, my entitlement–accepting and forgiving.

And every day, during this whole shitstorm—me not sleeping, too much histamine in my system, breakouts of eczema, 100,00+ people dying, my cat in a health crisis, waking up at noon, up all night, house clothes worn out, an album release on hold because it just costs too much, helicopters overhead, sirens passing by—every day…  Every day I ask myself the same question: “What can I do?” And the voices of my soul and higher self always reply with the same answer: “Work on your novel.”

Today, with the curfew now set at 5pm in Los Angeles, I stayed home and completed Chapter Twenty-Eight. The boys from Vietnam made me cry—it’s a pivotal moment in my novel, which is a healing journey through the crosswinds of space-time, and a story I can’t get enough of. I love my characters. They are real. And they love me back by revealing who they are. If I’m strong enough to listen, to get out of the way, they tell me how to mine their story. Despite the unending research required to write a character that is not only a Vietnam vet, but also half Ojibwe Indian, during a time (1978) when Americans had pretty much discarded the horrors of that war and moved on to other things, I feel up to the task. The piecing together of the last part of the novel during this pandemic is what I do to help, a way I can love my country.

1950s-Windy Acres Cafe-wcTInterestingly enough, much of the story takes place in southern Minnesota, including references to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis. The photo I’m posting is where an important scene takes place in Chapter Twenty-Eight, near Cannon Falls, MN. To find out a little more about my novel, you can visit

Grasshopper Medicine for Magicians

Posted in Working magic on October 19, 2019 by coyotescribe

All week I’ve been working to accept seven truths (responsibilities) as part of a seven-day process (taken from the Lazaris Material). Each day I accept and then receive one of the seven responsibilities of being a Magician. Each day I take one truth and make it mine. But Day 6 kicked my ass, and sent me headlong into a wall of resistance. And it was a little grasshopper that helped me jump over the wall.

Day 1’s responsibility was to accept that I am powerful and strong enough to be gentle and vulnerable. In many ways I’ve been living that truth, especially in my work as an intuitive counselor and medium.( So, not a lot of resistance, just letting it sink deeper.

The second responsibility (Day 2) has to do with passion and compassion, and being empathic without being swallowed up in pity or sympathy. That truth was also an easier one to accept. I have come to understand that pity and sympathy have a very short shelf life before they can turn into feelings of “better than.” (“I feel so sorry for them, look at that reality they created.”) Yes, but their pain is in your reality, too. You are witness. How present with their pain do you want to be? What energy do you want to contribute?

Day 3 was a little more challenging. The responsibility to accept was: that I am flexible and fluid enough to transmute and transform anything I want, whether changing a reality I have already created into a more positive one, or changing a reality that has not yet been born into something I want. As I typed these words I felt some resistance, triggered by the cogent messages in childhood around suffering and self sacrifice as a mark of love. If you do things for yourself, you are being selfish, and not a true servant of God.

That’s a whole other subject that I will simply condense into a one sentence response, because the resistance to this truth has permeated my spiritual growth. The measure of our self love is the measure of how much love we are able to give, and in turn, receive.

Day 4 responsibility was an easier challenge to accept, perhaps because the desire of it has been a theme in my life: I accept that it is important to always seek freedom and self determination. It’s about reaching for your human dignity, your character, vision and vitality, because that’s where you’ll find that freedom and self determination, that self reliance. I love this truth.

Day 5 responsibility: To accept that I am humble enough to transcend anything I want. It’s based on the humility that just because something has been, does not mean it will be again. It can always change, whether it has been consisitently good, or not good. With humility you approach each situation with an openness and responsibility.

Which brings me to Day 6, and the little grasshopper that waited for me on my recently purchased Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen dieselgate car. I was in a hurry, heading back to the bookstore where I give readings part-time. I had signed out early and come home after a very frustrating day, knowing I needed to process some not-so nicety-nice feelings, to relieve the pressure of my outrage around some issues at the store.

You might assume that Day 6’s acceptance would be one of grave responsibility, but it’s the brightest truth of the seven, and probably the reason why it gave me the most resistance. I needed to accept that I can create light, hope, dreams, visions, and the opportunity and means to allow them to be, that I do already love enough to dream, and that I’ve got enough courage to let those dreams come true. I can inspire and uplift, and create the means to allow that light, hope, dreams and vision to manifest. “There is never a darkness that doesn’t also have light, for it is light that defines the boundary of darkness.” —Lazaris

I really need to let it in that I never dream a dream without also creating the opportunity and means to allow that dream to come true. This is how the grasshopper helped me.

Grasshopper medicine is about aspiration, and taking a leap of faith. Aspiration is part of spirit, which is filled with the breath of life, and with the inspiration (and aspiration) to live that life elegantly and gloriously. In other words, to live that life in alignment with your Higher Self and Soul. Within spirit is also a dynamic aliveness and compassion that can work miracles, and a vibrancy and vitality that can awaken destiny. And there is a responsibility that can generate breath-catching change.

According to “the grasshopper spirit animal chooses those who want to move ahead in life with their innovative thinking and progressive approach. When you are inspired by the grasshopper totem, jump forward and get past whatever is trying to keep you or hold you back.”

In the grasshopper symbolism there is an ongoing dance of balance between having your feet on the ground and having your thoughts in flights of dreams, your head in the clouds. Grasshopper encourages you to dream and to put your dreams into action.

Words connected to grasshopper medicine: Dream World, Creative Manifestation, Balance, Freedom, Song, Sun, Wind, Earth, Discipline.

I need to be more courageous, and take that leap of faith, knowing I can create that light, hope, dream and vision. And to realize I can create the means to allow those dreams and visions to manifest. I will work on my limited beliefs around it, ask my subconscious to help me reprogram where, out of an old sense of safety, I might’ve instructed it not to open that door. Because I want to aspire, and inspire more dreams—for me, for those I love, and for the world.

Day 7 responsibility to accept? Stay tuned.

References: (Initiations of Magic) (grasshopper spirit animal) (grasshopper symbolism)


Path of Totality – my long-lost novel

Posted in Creativity and Chaos on August 16, 2017 by coyotescribe

Inside the umbrage of the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse, I would like to point out that America’s last great eclipse was thirty-eight years ago, its path crossing the Pacific Northwest on February 26, 1979. That event is the catalyst for an extraordinary and otherworldly reunion that occurs under a Montana sky at the moment of totality. Thus why I titled my novel “Path of Totality.” Twenty-one chapters written, maybe fifteen to go. I think it might be time to work on it again, even though I’m about to take songs into the studio to make a singer-songwriter album. Everything seems to be happening at once.

1979-Feb26-LIFE-The Moment of Totality

As part of my celebration of this astronomical ecliptic event, I am including a short blurb about my novel and posting the first 3-1/2 pages to introduce my main character, and bring him back into the light.

Short synopsis: In 1978 a soul-wounded Vietnam Vet—who’s half Ojibwe Indian—is mysteriously reunited with a childhood friend, a Caucasian girl he’d known for eight days in the summer of 1962. Their reunion ignites an adventure through the crosswinds of space-time with the help of two unearthly women developing and teleporting photographs from the girl’s long lost camera.

The Boy in the Photograph

Chapter One

Sunday, August 13, 1978

From inside his ‘66 Chevy Impala, John could hear the tires whirring over blacktop along Southern Minnesota’s Highway 14, not because the windows were rolled down, but because there was a new rust hole in the floorboard behind the front seat. He turned up the volume on the 8-track player already cranking out Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watch Tower.” He wanted to drown out the whirring in his head that was something else entirely: choppers over jungle.

He turned south on 22 to bypass Mankato city traffic and avoid a lot of gear shifting. His leg was acting up again. John had trained his left foot to toggle between the clutch and brake pedal, but frequent stops and starts wore down his mental focus, and his patience. Eventually he’d have to cut over to westbound 60, which would take him to the godforsaken town he was headed for near the Iowa border. He peered through scratched lenses of his horn-rimmed shades at the map sprawled over upholstery shredding like post-harvest cornstalks. The wind whisked through the side-open vent windows and tousled his wild Indian hair, loosening more and more of it from the leather tie that’d been his half-assed attempt to feign civilized.

The Chevy slammed over a bump and the glove box flew open, spilling all its guts to the floor—crinkled empty cigarette packs, old Burger Chef coupons, and John’s The Portable Poe paperback.

“Shut your fuckin’…” He leaned over and hit the metal lid three times before it latched. He was used to the stupid unhinged mechanism, and he’d had his fair share of bumps in the road—just didn’t tolerate sudden movements of any kind, no matter how familiar. He was the one that was unhinged, despite how long it’d been since Vietnam.

Americans were discarding their memories of the war as fast as they could. And while everyone forgot, more and more Vets were crossing their line of demarcation, a decade’s passing since their time of service, since the day they’d come home from Vietnam to this foreign country. Some of the older Vets at the VA hospital described it as a kind of mystical anniversary, consecrated by a runaway locomotive crashing into a long-abandoned station, moving faster than a speeding bullet. It’s as if no time has passed, no time at all. And there was nothing anyone could do about it. And there was damn sure no light at the end of the tunnel. Demarcation Day was the day you realized to the core, it was never gonna get any better.

Today was John’s twenty-ninth birthday. Of little consequence now, because last Monday he’d crossed over the line, and it was like getting wounded all over again. His runaway locomotive had rolled in right on schedule—ten years to the day since his return from Vietnam. No lights, no cameras, no pats on the back, no nothing. Just nothing and nothing more, ten years of nothing. Birthdays didn’t mean shit. And this fucking trip, he didn’t much care if he was coming or going.

He pulled a cigarette out of his breast pocket, shoved it into his mouth, pushed in the lighter below the dash, and glanced back at the map. He retraced the course to his destination, paying marginal attention to his driving. John was dressed up, at least for him, a wrinkled beige shirt and a US Army-issue necktie that hung loose around his neck. A moth-eaten wool suit jacket was draped over the front seat, out of style and out of season. He suddenly yanked the tie through his collar, and twisted it around his hand like a boxer’s wrap. He fisted the map, punched a hole in it. He would never travel this road again, so what the fuck? He tossed the map and the tie on the floor with the rest of the junk just as the lighter popped out. He lit his cigarette on the tiny hotplate. Whatever doubts he’d had about leaving his buddies to travel this far into unknown territory was alleviated only by the slim chance he might be getting some money.

He almost hadn’t noticed the typewritten note on the VA hospital bulletin board. His policy was to read only the hand-written scraps of paper, because those were from Vets, mostly advertising vehicles for sale. John was hoping to find a small trailer and an electric coffee maker at a good price. When he received his latest government check, he’d gotten the idea to expand the hideaway—where he and four other Vets lived—to include a kitchen with electricity, so he could make real percolator coffee, and not the instant kind anymore. But there were no trailers or coffee makers for sale.

The note had caught his eye, way up in the right-hand corner, his name in bold print: Looking for John Goodsky, please contact regarding inheritance. A long distance number just below it. The lawyer refused to give him any information over the pay phone, other than the deceased had left him a package..

A warm wind howled through the vent windows and buffeted John’s face. The smell of earth was changing. The city to the north had infiltrated the air, John’s senses attuned to it. He was all-too aware that his prescription sunglasses didn’t hide the American Indian that flowed in his blood. He glimpsed his legacy each time he happened to see himself in the rearview mirror. His full wide mouth like his mother’s, and straight nose: all visible below the shadow of the brown frames—a dead giveaway. Above the dark lenses his forehead creased with the ceaseless strain of too many memories—the Vietnam giveaway.

There was white blood in him, but it was Ojibwe that claimed half of who he was. What he kept hidden to the outside world was the unusual color of his eyes, a charcoal-brown, like the dark fur of a timber wolf his mother used to say. She had told him, one day he would allow someone to look into them, and it would be that person’s spirit who would cause his eyes to spill the accumulated sap from the maple trees in the lost woodlands of his people. John had let someone look into them once, when he was a boy, after his mother died, but he wouldn’t let himself remember, protecting his heart from what he’d become.

John looked at his weathered hands. They gripped the steering wheel so tight the reddish tone of his skin had drained from the knuckles. Though he was only twenty-nine today, he, John Goodsky, was lifetimes old. He pushed in the cigarette lighter again.

* * *

Copyright 2020 Tysa Goodrich

Why Did You Leave Me All Alone?

Posted in Creativity and Chaos on January 22, 2015 by coyotescribe

(From The Story Surrounding the Song series)


The song was written in 1980. I have rerecorded this demo of it in 2015:

Below is a partial chapter taken from my memoir about life on the road as a female rock keyboardist, singer, songwriter.

(chapter excerpt from “What A Fool Believes” – a rock-n-roll memoir)

August 1980

I sat at the kitchen table under the yellow wall phone, waiting for Sandy to answer. The overhead fluorescent light spilled colorless halos over the tile floor, flickering morse code warnings.


“What’s wrong?”

“I’m leaving him, packing everything and getting the hell out of here.”

“Okay,” she said. I could tell she was trying to sit up in bed. “Are you sure? It’s one o’clock in the morning.”

“I can’t stay here another minute. He’s not home yet, and I don’t have a clue as to when he’s gonna show up.”

I had been thinking about it all evening, sitting there, taking bites from my macaroni and cheese dinner, being taunted by a mouse who peered at me from under the stove. As if I should get up and do something about it. I was fighting myself, turning it over and over in my head what had happened last weekend, when he left me waiting all night, waiting for him to come home from his gig.

It had been one of the cooler nights last week, providing relief against the daytime summer broil, which stubbornly refused to exit the wood-frame house we just moved into. I sat out on the front porch, with a view of the soap factory across the street. I smoked cigarettes to alleviate the scent of perfumey soap scum, which permeated my “off the road” existence.

The old Blue Max band was gone. Him and me were all that was left. He just started doing a single act because our duo tour had fried itself to a crisp. The last gig we played, in Cleveland, was at the Harley Hotel. During those six weeks I managed to skim enough money off the overhead to abet my own escape, because even then I was having really bad feelings.

Last Friday night out on the porch, smelling soap, had been the crowning glory. I ended up writing a really great song. Maybe I could get a record deal. That very thought was how I had kept myself from going crazy, pouring all my insanity into music and lyrics.

It wasn’t until 5 A.M. that I finally heard the prattle of his Volkswagen fade into the misty silence before it zoomed around the corner. What kind of a fool does he take me for, telling me he got drunk and passed out in his car? Yeah, passed out with his pants down. I pictured the whole thing with a vividness, like thirty-five millimeters feeding through a film projector. And now, one week later, the images were stuck in my head as this night began rolling into the wee hours.

When I hung up the phone with Sandy, I moved like a ricocheting pinball through the house, pulling the rest of my clothes from drawers and the laundry baskets, gathering my music books and songwriting journals, kitchenware, anything I considered to be mine. My body electric fueled a roaring bonfire of fury. I couldn’t get my own song out of my head. It had become the culmination of two years on the road working with him. I should’ve never broken the cardinal rule of touring rock-n-roll bands, especially when I was the only female musician.

The song was my refuge, my way out. It was worthy of itself, because it told the truth. It was a hard-driving Abba-like rock-n-roll freight train of anger. There’s a line in it that basically summed up my weak existence: I didn’t have the nerve for losing you.

It flowed out in one of those endless streams of creativity, amidst a freak out, sitting on that rickety porch with my guitar, pumping out lyrics: I waited all night, burned the porch light, but you kept me in the dark. I had kept myself in the dark for too long. I needed to shine a light on the situation. My light. My song. My coping mechanism.

I threw my bulging suitcase into the trunk of my 1970 Plymouth Valiant. I squeezed as much of my equipment into the back seat as I could, but I had to leave my Rhodes piano and speakers behind. He would have to ship them to me. I wasn’t going to wait up for him one more night. I was out of here. And I wasn’t coming back. Not this time. Not like the other times.

I was high. Not on weed, just on adrenalin. I was being lifted out of hell. I scooted into the driver’s seat, took one last dreary look at the pale green porch, and slammed the passenger door. I was tightly wedged between the door handle and the mountainous stack of books and clothing on the front seat.

“Fuck you,” I railed out loud, flipping the bird to the house, then at the soap factory. I lit a cigarette and drove away, leaving Ohio for good.


Star Struck (a touring musician UFO story)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2014 by coyotescribe

Nothing on earth could have prepared us for what happened following a Christmas party we played on the night of December 16, 1978. Back then, and even now, most of what I’d be telling you about would be the gig itself, because everyone always wanted to know: What’s it like standing up there on stage playing rock-n-roll music? But it was after the gig was over when three of us in the band found ourselves in the midst of an otherworldly encounter that transposed our chronic anonymity into a star-filled unveiling.

But first, because there were so many inquiries into our lowly existence as rock-n-roll musicians, I will make a brief reference to the elusive routines of our working Top-40 band. We, along with a slew of other undistinguished musicians, made our money by covering the songs of FAMOUS musicians. We cranked out our gallant renditions from small stages inside clubs and hotel lounges across America, where music fans came to hear live performances of their favorite hit songs.

People from our audiences often said to us, “You make it look so easy.” It wasn’t easy. It never just happened, unless you practiced: practice alone, practice together, practice alone againwe called this woodsheddingand then take a couple of nights to crash-and-burn a new song onstage, facing humiliation before it finally sinks into the groove of, “Oh yeah, it’s pretty easy.” Eventually that song becomes a part of the band, and we, its immortal conduit. A side note here: One onstage train wreck is equal to three hours of rehearsal. Still, for us, making money playing other people’s music was a whole lot better than selling shoes. Even with the late night equipment tear-downs, truck loading, and pot-laced road trips that spawned the strange and irreverent things that went on inside this odd kind of familial musical mix, we were thrilled to be Top-40 musicians. It was our stepping stone to the dream.

We had driven up I-70 from Dayton, Ohio in the one-ton white Ford band truck, loaded with our equipment. The Christmas party was a one-nighter on the outskirts of Columbus, a raucous affair held inside a gymnasium-sized old barn decorated like a holiday block party, with strings of colored lights hanging between lampposts, snowmen and support beams. Sawdust everywhere.

Our band was called Blue Max. We were a Steely-Dan-kicking, lean-mean top-40 machine: guitar, bass, drums, and me, the chick keyboard player—an anomaly in 1978. Larry was our sound man. We needed him for more reasons than just mixing our vocals. Mostly we needed his crazy comedic shit to keep us all sane. We toured all over the Midwest, East Coast and Southeastern states. It wasn’t a glamorous life—Rolling Stone magazine wouldn’t have needed to know our activities from gig to gig—but we constantly reminded ourselves we didn’t slide shoehorns between stinking feet and stiff shoe leather.

We arrived at the gig and unloaded our gear onto the stage, doing our usual head-butting. We had this new silver backdrop that was now part of our standard set-up routine, another piece of equipment that had to be set-up, hooked-up, or hung-up. Our blue-and-gold 5-foot cloth replica of the German WWI flying medal lay inside the folds of the metallic curtain as we unwrapped it. Our Blue Max logo looked impressive hanging over the silver drape, especially when we centered it right above Terry’s drums. But tonight we had an obstacle: a moose head. Our backdrop had to be collared under the neck of the barn’s mascot, who peered out over the crowd from smack-dab in the middle of the backstage wall. We decked him out with boughs of holly, adjusted his silver bib, while the Blue Max was relegated to the no-fly zone behind my keyboards.

We wailed that night, and the crowd went ballistic for rock-n-roll. For our encore, we featured Gary on Alvin Lee’s monstrous 12-minute Woodstock rendition of, “I’m Goin’ Home.” It packs more punch than a runaway locomotive. Gary arched back so far during the guitar solos he looked like he was crouching under a lowering limbo stick. No one wanted us to stop. Whenever people felt that good listening to the band, the music always soared, rebellious and untethered. As loud as we were, it didn’t matter that we couldn’t hear each other; we’d been together long enough to know each other’s rhythms and patterns. Sometimes, something just happens in a moment of a song, or a solo—or on those rare occasions, through the course of an entire night—that can’t be explained. It’s kind of like a needle slipping into the groove on a record. There’s nothing you can do to get out of it, unless you willfully knock yourself across the vinyl. The music just turns underneath you. That’s how easy it had been that night.

Those who followed our band hoped-upon-hope to catch our rising star, while we fantasized about a life of fame that would one day be. They would come to watch, listen, drink and dance, as we the musicians (front-lit by stage lights, back-silhouetted by a silver, metallic 90-percent-reflective backdrop) stood upon beer-soaked stages, inspiring crowds for grueling four-and-a-half-hour-balls-to-the-wall nightshifts. We never lost sight of the dream, and we thrived on the sheer amplitude by which the magic of our music condensed into one glorious stampede. “We were the shits, man,” as Steve, our bass player, would say.

Wind-socked by the buzz in our ears, we tried to think of new ways to enhance equipment teardown, starting with a joint outside. A celebration smoke. Like so many other times, we reminisced about the night’s music and the crazy shit that happens to us on the road. We were packed up and out on the highway by three in the morning. Saturday had relinquished its claim on the night, while Sunday took over the wee mysterious early-morning hours. Larry was behind the wheel of the truck. Gary and I rode with him. I sat in the middle.

It happened somewhere between Springfield and Dayton, sometime between 3:30 and 4:00am. I-70 was virtually devoid of traffic. We saw oncoming headlights of another vehicle maybe once every five minutes. The whir of the tires had silenced us to non-verbal communication, though we were all awake. We knew that about each other. Gary and I knew we didn’t have to keep up the conversation to help Larry stay conscious behind the wheel, and Larry knew we were okay enough that he didn’t need to play court jester to keep us on a smooth track. Gary and I had broken the cardinal rule of touring musicians: Don’t get involved with anyone in the band.

It was a cold night. Snow was thick on the ground. Yet the roads had been cleared by muffler exhaust and the reeling rubber tires of holiday traffic. We played no music on the radio, as our ears required a much-needed rest. Our thoughts were internal, and seemed to be connected somehow, like the silent panoply of stars in the clear black winter sky.

Out there in the night, a star brightened above the southern horizon. What had once seemed like a pinpoint of an especially brilliant star now grew larger. Not a word was said. The three of us waited, staring at the light. Nothing unusual of course, maybe a tower off in the distance, a helicopter with its search light on, a plane maybe. We waited.

It moved closer, with such precision I could already feel an intention behind the expanding light in the sky. I finally broke the silence, and asked, “What IS that?”

Gary replied curiously, “I don’t know.”

We watched. It seemed to be coming our direction, but we couldn’t be sure.

Larry joked, “Hey, why don’t I flash the brights and see if it’ll come right to us.” Then he proceeded to stomp on the high-beam button a few times, flashing our brights at the glowing object. There was no one on the road at that point, just our loaded truck racing along at 70-miles-per-hour.

That was the last funny remark Larry made that night. The object distinctly changed course after he performed his mock summoning ritual. It moved steadily and slowly towards us. We stared in wide-eyed wonder, still asking ourselves the question.

“What IS that?” said Gary.

I continued our circular conversation, “I don’t know.”

Dumbfounded, Larry kept driving. He leaned against the steering wheel, trying to keep his eyes on the road as well as the approaching light. He was scared, I think. But gradually his awe overtook apprehension, until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He slowed down and pulled off to the side of the expressway. We just sat there with the truck idling, the three of us watching this thing move closer and closer toward us, unwavering. We couldn’t yet decipher whether we were imagining it—that maybe we had all gone off our rockersor that this whole thing was really happening right before our very eyes, and we weren’t making it up at all.

It just kept getting brighter, brilliantly white, almost blinding as we stared into it. Then suddenly the craft beamed long monoliths of light to the ground. We thought maybe we were seeing aircraft landing lights. But then, a split second later, the lights seemed to be vacuumed back up into the object.

Larry said, “What was that!?”

Gary and I didn’t answer him, because we had already opened the passenger door and were now scooting off the high vinyl seat. We landed in a pile of snow along the highway, in our stocking feet. We had taken off our shoes earlier to warm our frozen toes by the truck’s blasting floor furnace. But now we stood shoeless, unaware that our feet were slowly being numbed by the stinging prickles of snow.

Larry turned off the engine and the headlights, but he stayed in the truck. Outside, Gary and I were captivated by how black and still the night was. In contrast, the rock-n-roll buzz in our ears shouted inside our heads. Not a sound was coming from the approaching craft. We waited for the bright light to come nearer, hearing nothing out there except the muffled snow-covered terrain of Ohio farmlandscut fields of corn that made hollow whisking sounds whenever a momentary shift of a cold breeze lightly tapped broken cornstalks. Arbors of trees separated adjacent fields and stood like silent sentinels guarding against clamorous intrusions. The winter freeze had left only a memory of the warm breath of earth, whose occupants were supposed to be fast asleep right now.

Larry had slipped out of the driver’s seat, and now stood with us in silence. I felt the pull of something. I think we all did. This night we were bonded together by a linked experience, producing in each of us an opening to new possibilities of what lies beyond. We felt our connection to it, to them, in fact, whoever they were. I could feel their curiosity. And at once I felt at peace. I was lifted by an inexplicable exuberance. A multitude of goose bumps electrified my whole body. The icy winter night fired my internal passion.

We watched the vessel’s bright white light blend into a soft blue. And as it moved over us, everything around us seemed to grow even more still. The world hushed to a dead silence. Time stood frozen. The backs of our heads were resting between our shoulder blades, our eyes looking straight up, our mouths agape. We saw four red lights beaming in a trapezoidal pattern from underneath a smooth metallic surface. It was hard to sense the outline of the craft, but I could tell it was at least as large as a small commercial plane. Below it, I could make out a circle around the red lights, and what looked like a diamond-shaped frame around that. As I found out later, Gary saw it as a long oval-shaped design, with the red lights located inside a circular indentation. He committed to memory what was for him the most significant moment in his life.

The craft was not more than a hundred feet directly above us now. I held the hand of my soul as the hope of the possible made me giggle out loud, and I reached up towards the glimmering red lights and called out, “Hello!” It paused. We held our breath. And a timeless wink was transmitted from this unearthly vessel. Then it started to drift away in a completely new direction, veering off to the northwest. It moved away from us with the same preciseness as it had approached.

We watched for as long as we could as it moved further into the distance, until it blended into the fabric of stars. Then we became aware of our frozen feet. We reluctantly climbed back into the truck and closed the doors. Larry pulled back out onto the empty highway. A kinetic silenceaccompanied by the hum of the floor heater and the tires’ steady rumblefell over the truck cab as we drove the rest of the way down I-70 to Dayton. From that moment, there would be what came after, and what had been before, and perhaps much of what I remember about the before and after will fade from me, but nothing would ever be the samenot after, and maybe, not even before.

Written by Tysa Goodrich

For our dear friend, Larry