Friday, December 5, 2014

Somewhere over Nowhere...

Right about now, I would imagine that I am somewhere over The Badlands - I cannot be really sure - I mean the airplane has this map - but I find it more entertaining to just guess where I am at - and from looking out the window, the muted browns, grayish greens, and square orange fields plowed over for a winters rest - yep - The Badlands.  It looks like just about everything else from past the Blue Ridge to the Cascades - flat - orange - the only thing that really changes are the colors - with the seasons - but the shapes are all the same - big industrial sprinkler circles, rectangles, and every once in a while some out of place landscape that makes me think some God had a good time dripping hot wax on a cold surface - I mean, he or she has plenty of time fuck around with things like that right?

It really doesn't matter where I am, the plane is vaulting along at 548 miles per hour, I know I left Atlanta and I am pretty sure that I am going to land in Seattle - all of the miles in between - on airplanes anyway, become pretty insignificant.  If this is what they mean by jet setting, it seems a pretty shallow way to live - but none the less - a necessity for those of us who want to skip a few miles along the way.   If I am doing the math correctly this is somewhere around mile 228,000 in this calendar year - and being somewhere over nowhere - well that makes me think a bit of all of the miles in between, and those that I missed that really should have mattered.

Back in 1990 I sang in a rock band in Southern California - what a great time to be a 19 year old kid - the era of some revitalized youth movement that took from the success of the hippie generation and turned it into some sort of cynical activism - at least at seemed cool at the time - it wasn't as kitchsy as disco and it wasn't as heavy as that freedom rock stuff you catch on PBS late at night - but it was something different - now I am not quite sure what it was, other than an opportunity to get laid every once in a while, and to take a break and ignore the things that were really pressing (at least what we thought were really pressing)...

At 19 years old, freshly flunked out of college, heading to somewhere to start over - I touched every mile along the way during a 7 day $49 Greyhound bus ride across I-10 - that's what I could afford, that's what I did.  I knew where I was leaving from, and I thought I knew where I was going - but the things that I remember are the miles in between.  The old stale cigarette smelling cowboy - probably the age I am now, riding out to see his daughter somewhere in Texas, he got on in Mobile, and left somewhere in East Texas.  His stories were sad, lonely, and funny - but his hope was evident - he was excited about seeing his daughter.  The single mom traveling to San Diego to try to rekindle the flame with her sailor husband - she got left somewhere in Arizona, we staged a mini-protest and forced the driver to turn back and pick up the lady at the combination McDonald's/Bus Stop in the middle of desert.  The hooker that smelled of weed and liquor - she rode the bus from Jacksonville to Los Angeles - there were only three of us - some sort of modern day Grapes of Wrath like trip - misfits who knew they had a purpose, and we were going to find it in the land of milk and honey in Southern California. 

I remember stopping at the New Orleans bus terminal.  I thought about getting off the ride and going to see my PaPa and MaMa in St. Bernard - but I had things to get to, and a bus ticket, and didn't think much about the stops along the way.  That was stop I should have made, if nothing else, just to say hello - get a free cab ride, enjoy a warm meal, who knows, maybe stop for a day or two.

I can remember stepping off that bus in San Diego. I didn't know where I was going, I had gotten there, I still remember the stink that I carried with me - the bag of things I owned, the hopes that I had - and for the most part, that trip made things happen - I didn't flunk out, I didn't fall down, I didn't fail - and somehow, I still remember the miles along the way.

Twenty or so years later - here I am - on a plane every week wondering when I can stop and feel a few of the miles in between - the people in those small towns, the smell of dry brown fall grass, a cool winter breeze pushing through the warmth.  Stopping and having a piece of toast and some hot scrambled eggs in some greasy spoon on some road that was named after a local hero that gave their life in service of something.  Something a little less canned, a little more comfortable, a little slower than a five hour bounce on a big old jet airliner.  Something where the airline attendants don't thank you for your service, but where a gas station attendant asks you where you are headed, and then tells you the story about their cousin who moved out west to take a job on a fishing vessel, but lost their hand in some terrible accident, and ended up working for a circus down that spends the winters down in Florida.  A little more grounded, connected, less parsed out in routines of meal service, piss breaks, and shifting weight to keep the ass from going numb.

Knowing that I am heading somewhere feels good - knowing that there is something waiting on me gives me some zen like satisfaction - but missing all of the miles in between, it just makes me fell like I am missing the somewhere over nowhere.