20,000 Mile Playlist

07/13/2009 at 12:39 am | Posted in Music, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 5 Comments

I used to be not-a-great-driver, hiding in the ranks of those humble, honest few who rate themselves below average behind the wheel.  A Facebook quiz would show my driving style to be “cowardly space cadet,” because frankly, cars scare me.  All of them.*

Not any more.

Last year I drove more than three hours solo for the first time ever, from Seattle to Portland (with traffic of course). I stopped for free coffee in the rest area, sweating and hoping I wouldn’t lose focus and total the car.  I was terrified the whole way.

Last week I completed a road trip that took three months, on which I averaged 1,666.7 miles and 3 packages of wasabi soy almonds per week.  I drove 85% of the time, and navigated in every major metropolitan area north and west of Texas, save Las Vegas, which you can keep.

(Road trip music playlist below.  Some of it’s life-changing.)

What do you learn from an experience like that?  A lot. I have aphorisms by the bundle if you dig those:  What others can do, I probably can too, given enough coffee. / Necessity is the mother of courage. / Growing up doesn’t feel like being mature & in control, but rather like waking up to realize you’ve done things you thought you couldn’t. / People are mostly gracious and kind in proportion to your own gratitude and kindness. / Road trips aren’t like the movies, except for when they are. / Even in new surroundings and among total strangers, you find a way to filter your company, and you mostly miss meeting truly different people. / Cars may or may not respond to verbal encouragement, but no one will ever convince me they don’t. / You can’t park for free. / This country is gorgeous all over, and not nearly as big as I thought.  Canada? Now that’s big. (Listen when I’m talking at you, Texas.)

Mostly I learned how deeply distance is mental, not physical.  I often covered 500 miles during the day to play a show the same night in, say, Denver (hypothetical).  And I had friends living on the other side of Denver, or 20 miles outside of it, who insisted it was “a shame I couldn’t come do a concert closer to them, and they’d catch me next time.” I don’t get bitter about a slight like that, but I do feel a little sorry when geography has such a hold on people.

So often folks got stars in their eyes when talking with me about doing all that traveling. “Living the dream,” they’d say, in every city. But I wondered: are you actually dreaming of traveling all over, or of rejecting the life you’ve built so far and leaving it behind? Because if it’s travel you dream of, nothing’s stopping you. Gas is not THAT expensive. What’s five hours from you that’s interesting? Take a weekend and go see it, for goodness’ sakes. It’s good for your soul, good for your love of home, good for your kids or parents.  I grew up road tripping with my family, and I suppose I took it for granted that you can fall asleep in Oregon and wake up in California without buying a plane ticket.  There are people everywhere who don’t have faith in this simple physical fact.

How were the concerts? The concerts were concerts!  They were lots of fun.  A YouTube search will tell you more than I could, since some folks have posted video.  House concerts are nearly always the best if you ask me.  Even though I played some great venues, Poor David’s Pub in Dallas, Lestat’s in San Diego, the Chai House in Seattle, nothing compares to the fun of meeting people at home.  I played for tens and fifties and hundreds, and almost never had what I’d count a “bad” or “not worthwhile” gig.  So — successful tour!  The second half of it was financially self-sustaining, too, thanks to all of you.

After seeing most every major city in the west (except Las Vegas), I can conclude with certainty that I’m happiest in Anchorage.  Being home is so good. It took seven grueling days of driving to get back home, and it’ll be the same to escape again, but I have no interest in moving.  Alaska is home for now.  I’m trying to pick up pieces of the tour, get some sleep, book new shows, and start scratches of the new album that will be my baby for the next 6-9 months.

My own personal Infinite Playlist was very important 0n this trip, because my car had no iPod input.  I revisited my CD collection, which I haven’t done in quite a long time.  And I listened to it for hundreds of hours.  So here’s the list of albums that just would not leave the 6-CD rotation:

I listen to more hard rock and rap than you might expect, too, but it doesn’t get put on repeatedly like this stuff.  Links will be up later.

I’m trying to think of more to write about the trip, but I suppose I need some questions to answer, because I share my random thoughts about travel & geography on Twitter for the most part.  So ask away!  Blog entry on the new album coming soon.

All my best –

Marian

*Ex. 1: When my Mom drove with me to college in 2000, I happened to be behind the wheel when we first hit the freeway near Oakland (it was one of those freeways ending in -80, for you who will ask).   I saw six lanes going in one direction for the first time in my life, so I hyperventilated, pulled off into Hayward somewhere, and got lost in construction for an hour.  Mom took over.  Ex. 2: I walked and rode the bus in Alaskan winter for six months to avoid learning how to drive the manual car my husband bought.

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  1. I confess to being that prisoner of geography. A few years back I decided to attempt a sustainable lifestyle which led to a number of changes. I’ve tried driving less in the past, but as long as I have a car as an option I’ll use it more and more until the bike is gathering dust. To avoid this trap I sold my car. I still go places, but as the distance gets greater travel requires more planning and more compromises to the weather, daylight, and transportation schedules. Your well written description of the advantages of car travel and seeing more of this great country of ours (and Canada) is insightful and I won’t disagree. I also see the advantages of a slower, more local lifestyle. I thrill to watching the world go by at 10 miles an hour. I like being a part of the weather, the season, and the ever changing songs of the birds that live in and visit our neighborhood. I like not having to set aside special time for exercise or meeting the neighbors. I also enjoy, when we do go on vacation, that I get to see every meadow and every meadowlark between my house and where we are going. I don’t enjoy that most folks think I’m nuts, but I’m getting used to it. Occasionally I miss out on things really cool things that a car would so easily solve like an intensely gifted musician performing a scant (or a long depending on point of view) 30 miles from my house. I’m delighted that in the end I did get to see you perform and it was everything I had hoped for. It was never my intention to make you feel slighted.

    • I so admire your lifestyle Dave! You’re right, there’s a lot to be said for “being where you are” too, and taking the distance in real time.

      And just to be clear, I chose Colorado as a hypothetical location, because the specific instance I’m thinking of happened in another state and with some other people closely connected to me (who will probably never read this blog). So I wasn’t referring to you. Besides, you went to great lengths to connect with me, even if those lengths didn’t include driving a great distance! And I really appreciate it.

      • “And just to be clear, I chose Colorado as a hypothetical location, because the specific instance I’m thinking of happened in another state ”

        Whew. I can be pretty dense with social signals sometimes, and it would not be unlike me to completely miss the fact that I’d offended someone. I think one of the reasons I’m comfortable with little travel now is I did so much travel when I was younger. Alaska is the only state I haven’t been to and Antarctica is the only continent I haven’t been to. Hmm. I’m sensing a pattern.

  2. I agree distance is mental, I drive a hundred miles every Monday to visit some friends of mine, and I don’t mind it at all. But then my friend from Philly comes visits for a week and doesn’t even stop by to say ‘Hello’. Some people are just more willing to travel than others, and I know some people who refuse to even drive a car. We know that everyone’s a little different.

    Maybe next year when you’re in the SF Bay Area you can come play a house party for us? I’ll keep an eye on your travel schedule and try to sync something up. :)

    That a lot of music, I have to be honest and admit I haven’t heard any it, I’m sure. Most of my music is video game or movie soundtrack.

    I kind of wish you had geotagged your trip with some kind of GPS but I know that would have been something a little more intensive.

    All-in-all a successful trip I gather, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. :)

  3. Free coffee ?! Wow, we get no free coffee here in the Midwest :)


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