Our accommodations for that evening were at The Gonzo Inn (expensive - and worth it), where we were booked under the aliases Waylong Smithers and Nelson Muntz, Simpsons characters. Security is a never ending concern for musicians of Peart's stature - especially when they're as intrinsically private as he is.
"Neil wants to be known for his hands, not his face," offered Michael.
privacy is more important than ever in the wake of Peart's recent "sabbatical." to
avoid having to re-live past events over and over, he currently isn't
doing any "meet and greets" with fans, or granting any interviews.
As Shelley told me, "Cycle World and Modern Drummer are it."
me a copy of the September, 2002, issue of Modern Drummer with him
on the cover, and I read it at my first opportunity. According to the
author, William F. Miller, Peart is a changed man. "
"In my many get-togethers
with him in the past, there was never any sense of weakness or vulnerability.
The old Neil was driven, self-assured, strong, brilliant and at times
a tad aloof. He's different now. Brilliant? No doubt. Confident and
strong. Perhaps. Aloof? No way. There's a greater sensitivity in him
today, a look of compassion behind the eyes. Neil Peart has emerged
from tragedy an even greater human being."
Strong words, and ones for
which I have no basis for comparison. but in my two days of paling
around with Neil, he struck me as a happy go lucky guy - polar opposite
of the nerdy intellectual I'd envisioned while listening to previous
radio interviews. Not to mention a gracious host: He and Michael picked up my
hotel room, meals, gas...my money was no good, they said. "You're our guest." And
so in one evening, I recouped all the money I'd ever spent buying Rush records
- first on vinyl, then on CD. The concert ticket score would be settled by the "All
Areas" laminated pass that Michael had given me that morning, with the words, "You
must be special, because NOBODY gets one of these."
I certainly felt special.
We had dinner at a restaurant that Neil had discovered during a previous visit,
predictably talking about music and motorcycles, each obviously curious about
the other's "gig." At one point, I noted that Neil had
been into cars, cycling and now motorcycling.
"What's next," I asked.
"Nothing," he replied. "Motorcycling is it."
A "serious" journalist, if afforded
this opportunity, would no doubt have asked The Big Question, something to do
with the unfortunate turns that Neil's life had taken. But I couldn't do it.
Reading his book, I got the sense that he'd had enough sorrow to last two lifetimes;
he didn't need me to bring him down.
And maybe it was the wine, but as we talked
about past albums and concerts I could feel myself regressing, the inquisitive
journalist replaced by the teenage Rush fan I used to be. A teenage Rush fan
sitting across the dinner table from Neil friggin' Peart.
It was a memorable
evening. After dinner, we walked down Moab's main drag, ducking into the Back
of Beyond Bookstore, where on Neil's recommendation I purchased a copy of Desert
Solitaire, a superb novel about author Edward Abbey's experiences as a park ranger
in the nearby Canyon lands National Monument. Or "Money-mint," as he called it.
then retreated to Neil's suite for a nightcap of the Macallan, poured from the
flask made famous (or infamous) in Ghost Rider. Noting our upscale surroundings,
Michael remarked that because the other two members of Rush travel in private
jets that cost 10 times as much as Neil's bus, the management company lets him
splurge on hotels.