The Art of Going Alone: A Story in Three Parts

Part One: The Concert

The Summer of 2018 was not the best I’ve ever had. I was going through an unexpected breakup, my job was boring me to death, and there were heat waves that left my bedroom at upwards of 95 degrees. I was feeling restless, lost and uncertain – my confidence low. So I did what I normally do when I’m feeling out of sync: I stayed busy. I started hiking on weekends, made loads of plans with friends, signed up for a few trail maintenance crews. The summer went by quickly, as it always does, so I started to stack up plans for my September. Nearly every weekend was filled with out of town adventures or people visiting. A whirlwind of beautiful distractions.

The final piece of the puzzle came from a spontaneous decision in mid-August. I had found out that Josh Ritter – a longtime favorite singer-songwriter of mine who I wrote about here – and Jason Isbell, a new favorite singer-songwriter of mine who I’m sure I’ll write about eventually, were playing a show together. I was over the moon at the idea, having never seen Isbell play live. Only one problem: the show was at an amphitheater outside of Missoula, Montana.

I’d known about the show for a few months but hadn’t thought too much of it other than a daydream. I knew I’d never find someone to go with me, since the only Josh Ritter fans I knew were busy that weekend or lived out of state. But it stayed in the back of my mind and I kept checking for tickets. Finally, a few weeks before the date, I decided fuck it, I would just go alone.

And that’s exactly what I did. I left my office in downtown Portland on a Friday afternoon and drove 5 hours to Spokane, Washington. After a quick overnight rest, a shower, and breakfast at a local diner, I hopped on the road again and was in Missoula by midday. I hung out with my AirBnB host for a bit, went for a walk to get lunch (and ice cream) and before long it was time to head to the show.

The Kettlehouse Amphitheater is an amazing venue set in the hills of Bonner, Montana, along the bank of the Blackfoot River. The evening was still warm as I took a seat on the grass and sipped a beer. It was a lovely view and a lovely night. I only felt odd being by myself at the very start. Then I settled in and watched my surroundings fill. Chatted a bit here and there with people squeezing their way onto patches of lawn around me. Missoula is small – the fact that everyone seemed to know everyone made me smile. I laid back and stared at the sky.

The show was amazing. I sang along with every song as loud as I could manage – my voice already hoarse from singing so much in the car. Ritter was as charming as ever and Isbell was pure precision. When it was over I was just so happy. I could not have cared less about being alone. That night, that trip was for me and only me. I packed up my things and let the crowd carry me toward my car. Back at my AirBnB I wrote in my journal, set my alarm, and went to bed. I had a 9 hour drive ahead of me the next day.

Part Two: The Ballet