Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

It's thunder and it's lightning

A couple of years ago Felicia and I went to a Jimmy Eat World concert in San Luis Obispo. (It was at the VFW, I think. Did Jimmy Eat World ever play big shows during their heyday? The San Luis Obispo VFW was a tiny, wouldn't-expect-to-see-a-concert-here kind of place.) 

The opening act that night was a Scottish indie rock group called We Were Promised Jetpacks. I liked their name, but dreaded actually listening to them. I have a long history of disliking the opening bands at shows I've been to. But they were really good, much better than the headliner show after (though I confess I was never a Jimmy Eat World fan, at least not until they popped up on Yo Gabba Gabba, singing a song on the backs of cats and dogs). 

Anyway, all that to say this: Felicia found out that We Were Promised Jetpacks is coming to Portland this November. We may try to plan a rare date night to go catch the show. I'm surprisingly excited about this. 

I haven't listened to music quite like theirs before. My favorite artists are terrific writers. I like to listen to music where the lyrics are so finely spun that they take my breath away a little. Josh Ritter turns some impressive imagery out in his songs, for example, often in a waterfall rush of words that I really love (and Felicia really, really doesn't). So does Patty Griffin, or Kathleen Edwards, or Ben Gibbard. At first glance, the Jetpacks boys might seem like an ordinary college rock band. But there are some really gorgeous bursts of language in their songs – spare, tight, quivering. That's all it takes to make me fall in love with an artist's work. 

This is one of the things that I do love about Portland (even as, I confess, I'm struggling to figure out how I quite fit into this city): wonderful musical acts come through here. With Squish at home, Felicia and I haven't managed to catch as many shows as we'd like, but we have seen Patty Griffin and Josh Ritter, and Felicia's caught a few shows with friends. I'm hoping that Kathleen Edwards swings through one of these days – I've seen her a few times, but it's been several years now. 

We miss San Luis Obispo more than either of us expected, I think. It was beautiful there, even on its hottest days, and we had friends there that we miss. Squish doesn't remember it; she was less than a year old when we moved north. During my own adult life, I've never lived anyplace longer than the eight years that I spent in Morro Bay and SLO. Felicia was there for eleven years. Listening to Jetpacks now conjures memories of not only seeing them play the VFW, but of cranking their melancholy, crunchy guitars up while tearing down the 101, the top off of the Jeep, doors off, spectacular sunsets and warm breezes. Most of my life I've been homesick, but it's always been for Anchorage and the Alaskan winters that I loved so much as a child. Now that we're here in Oregon, which we dreamed of moving to for years, we find ourselves missing California's central coast. Go figure. We miss weekend trips to Santa Barbara, breakfasts at Tupelo Junction, strolling down Higuera on warm afternoons. We miss the dozen little shops we'd visit every so often, and pulling on our boots and going country dancing at the Grad, or quiet little dinners in Los Osos, where the owner knew our name and always came out to greet us. We'll figure Portland out eventually, I'm sure. Powell's Books and great concert events are a start. 

To make this entire rambling post worth your while, here's Jimmy Eat World, singing on the backs of house pets:

That totally did it for you, didn't it? I thought it might. 

Off-topic – as if this entire post hasn't been one long exercise in wandering topics – but tomorrow I'm having my remaining two wisdom teeth surgically extracted from my skull. 2014 is not only the year of Eleanor and a great new job, it's the year of dental Disneyland. If any ill-advised, groggy blog posts appear tomorrow, you'll know why. 

On the nature of instruction: Remembering Manual

Eleanor is here!