Tuesday, March 27, 2007

driving days

Thirteen hours or so in the van today as of yet. You go into the drive knowing what sort of beast it will be, so the point where you start to stir, get uneasy, need to get out and wander in some gas station aisle, is usually two or three hours from the destination. I’ll stand there between the chips and the candy, stroll along by the glass refrigerator cases, stare brainlessly at novelty statuettes of national monuments, racks of key chains bearing state names, reminding me that I’m in Nebraska or Ohio or Idaho or Arkansas. I’ll feel the glassy eyes of the gas station clerk upon me, let the gentle twinkle of the light radio seep in. When you fall asleep to the vibration and the sun setting and wake in darkness beside the pump, when you grope under the seat for your shoes and stumble inside, the florescent lights illuminate clear down to your soul. You are a tired confused creature upon the dissecting table. Eyes crusty with sleep, clothes thrown on inside out, shoes untied, apathetic just beyond self consciousness… everything in here is horrible for me, I don’t want this in my body… I could totally break my vegetarianism on that hot dog… I’m not really hungry anyway… look at this rack of county albums, I haven’t heard of any of this… orange juice, maybe orange juice will fill the void… gah, everyone is back in the van, fuck it… and we take off again.

At some point, someone snaps. Not in an angry way, none of the emotion is ever really directed towards anyone or anything. Its an act of draining all those things that the van represses into the stratosphere - and often I’m the first one to go. If I’m driving, I start to wail along with whatever is pumping through the stereo, I’ll test Will or Joey with a quote from Spaceballs or Anchorman to see if they are ready to purge as well, I’ll start spewing to Bryce all of my master plans of the moment, rattle off bands that we need to tour with, see what he thinks about that and this and the other thing, inquire how many hours is it to the next city tomorrow, debate when we should get up…

Eventually we all snap, or at least three out of four, and the howling begins, a ridiculously awful pop song or a fucking mega-rock anthem finds its way onto the van speakers and the dashboard becomes a drum set, the road ahead becomes a cheering stadium. I’ll find myself upside down, socks sliding across the carpeted ceiling, my face pressed against some strange corner of a window, a space I’ve never explored. I’ll catch my reflection in it and just start laughing.

We lose concept of the gravity of things out here. Driving a thousand miles in a day, across state line after state line – that’s some heavy shit. We breeze through sprawling metropolises untouched, cross the Mississippi like it’s the LA River, give not a second look to State Capitols and NFL Stadiums. We are becoming just another blood cell in the great arteries of the American infrastructure.

Not to say that the passion is gone or even waning, just that the possibility of a good and healthy meal is at times as exhilarating as a shimmering lake or a cute little red farmhouse. All the senses must be fed. Above all, we’re getting along better as a unit than we have since we began touring. We didn’t bring a merch guy on this stretch – come say hi to me at the merch table, I’ll be working it most likely – so we’ve had no buffer between personalities, yet we are finding ourselves in consistently good natured moments with each other. I think we may just be losing our minds in unison. As we move deeper and deeper into the touring life, our needs are becoming more uniform, our catalogue of shared experiences is expanding, our personalities are morphing and moving to fit in with that of the rest of the band. We know when to give each other space, when someone needs to talk. Maybe we just understand each other better.