On the road where the night is black
On the road where you don’t look back
There’s a white line in the distance, where it’s going nobody knows
If it’s anywhere you’ll find it
On the road… (Enter kick ass slide guitar) – Leroy Parnell’s On the Road from 1993
I like the song, even though I’m not a big country music fan. I guess I just like the idea of the song. People looking for answers, the secrets to life’s mysteries, and some contentment…if it’s anywhere you’ll find it, on the road. For whatever it’s worth, I’m always on the road, and the answers ain’t there. But there is something to be said for the search. I love the road.
I am currently a little road weary, but it doesn’t change how I feel when I get behind the wheel of my beloved Buick Le Sabre. The leather seats, the cobbled together stereo system, the 29 miles to the gallon 6 banger, the slow leak in one tire, the hand prints on the rear window from my double-jointed son, the foot prints on the front windshield from my dis-jointed daughter. My car smells like a mixture of Old Bay seasoning, cherry air freshener, and feet; none are able to win the battle for aromatic dominance, so they just kind of fold around each other and stake out an equal presence. It’s nice. I love my car mostly because it gets me home safely to my family week in and week out. This ice blue grandpa car has helped me generate revenue for 3 years and over 120,000 miles. It’s a great car.
It usually takes about 100 miles to adjust to the fact that I’m leaving home again. For another 3 or 4 nights I’m going to be away from the only people who truly love me. That first 100 miles are the worst; I make any excuse I can to call home. I know this drives my wife crazy, she’s not much for phone chatter anyway, and…I just left.
“Honey, could you get me a new toothbrush when you go the store?”
“Hey Baby, I’m gonna be getting some golf knickers from UPS tomorrow or Thursday, keep an eye out for them, would ya?”
“Could you check and see if I left the iron on?”
I come up with the most ridiculously, stupid stuff to ask her about, or to remind her of. I just need to hear that voice one more time. I need to hear that impatient tone that she uses when the caller ID shows that it’s her man – her man who just left 20 minutes ago, the man who is perfectly self-sufficient under the most difficult of circumstances, but seems to be playing the “needy” game 20 minutes after he walks out the door. I don’t really know why I do it, but I do it every trip. I think maybe I do it because deep down in the depths of my drama queen soul, I want to call and catch her crying because she misses me so much. That’s not likely to happen. She knows I’ll be home Thursday, and she has stuff to do. But a boy can dream.
So after the first 100 miles pass, I’m either close to an airport, or still 2 or 3 hundred miles away from my destination. If I’m flying, I’m excited about how I’m gonna feel when I get on the plane. I’ll take my seat, I’ll look out the window, and I’ll say a little prayer asking God to get me home safe to my family, and to keep me from having to use that little bathroom, and then I’ll smile with absolute amazement that someone is willing to pay me to get on a plane and go somewhere and tell the world about the things my company makes. I feel exactly the same every time I fly…it is a fantastic feeling.
But if I’m driving, after that first 100 miles, I’m getting excited about what the day will hold – who I’m going to meet, where I’m going to stay, what will I eat, and what I’m going to see or do. Maybe there will even be beer! I’ve done a lot of great stuff; the coolest stuff was never planned.
I have sung on stage at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville – on my 50th birthday. A couple of weeks ago I went on a helicopter ride over the city of Detroit. I’ve played golf on PGA courses, I’ve caught a shark, I’ve been to Little Big Horn, I’ve been to at least 15 major league baseball parks, and I’ve seen the mansions of Newport Rhode Island. I have watched waves crash on the rocky Maine coast, I’ve piloted a tug boat, I’ve stumbled across an alligator, and I’ve seen soldiers run full speed into the arms of someone who has waited for their safe return. I once watched a Marine meet his 18 month old son for the first time. Also, because of my job and the places that I travel to, I’ve been able to connect with friends that I haven’t seen in years. I’ve laughed so hard that beer has spilled through my nose, and I’ve been reduced (or enhanced, depending on how you feel about such things) to tears talking with people about things that move them.
You see the ugly stuff too…the poverty just 4 or 5 blocks down the street from the Newport mansions always makes me sad, and even a little angry; such contradictions shouldn’t be so close together. I had to rescue a puppy one time in Iowa when a big corn-fed idiot threw him out of the window of his big red truck. That sucked. I’ve watched towers burn after airplanes crashed into them. That sucked too. I’ve watched people treat each other poorly. That always sucks. But actually, the ugly is quite rare; in my experience, ugly is the exception.
Singing on-stage at Tootsie’s and the helicopter ride have to go down as the coolest, unplanned “adventures”. Watching someone in uniform come home to a loved one is probably the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever seen. Hugging a friend that I haven’t seen in years is probably my second favorite thing I ever get to do. I love the road.
In the last two weeks I’ve returned to the scene of two different Large Man tales. Last week I was at Rocky’s Italian Grill in Louisville (see The People You Meet…The Large Man Chronicles, Feb. 2010) and my favorite bartender was there, Vashta – she now manages the place, so I was being served by a strapping young man named Adam. I listened to live music by a talented dude named Josh, and I sipped on an American I.P.A. by Schafly Brewing out of St. Louis, and I was just happy. I was recognized, even though I hadn’t been there in over 18 months. I thought at first that it was because I’m just so attractive that even a girl half my age couldn’t get me out of her head, but as it turns out, it had nothing to do with my looks.
Back in February of 2010, I was putting together a little cash vacation fund, and I was collecting $100.00 bills, a few of these bills were in my wallet along with my travelin’ cash. Vashta was leaving the next day for a trip to PA, and I thought it would be nice to leave an extra $20.00 in her tip for her trip. I even left her a note saying, “Let the Large Man buy your first tank of gas”, or something stupid like that. Well as it turns out, I didn’t leave a twenty, I left a C-note from my stash (I may have been slightly impaired). I realized what I had done after I got back to my room, but it’s not like I was going to walk back to the restaurant and ask for change. It was funny, but also a little troubling…
Two points need to be made here:
- A 50-year-old man leaving a $100.00 “extra” tip on a $30 dinner bill for a girl in her twenties that is not a friend or family member, while generous, is a little creepy…thank goodness Vashta didn’t see creepy, she just saw generous.
- While I do okay in my day job, I don’t make the kind of money that I can afford to leave $100.00 creepy old man tips for 20 something year old girls who are not friends or family.
But…I survived, I made payroll (kid’s allowances) that week, and Vashta didn’t take it the wrong way. When the new bartender, Adam, heard the story, he assured me that he and I actually were friends, and were quite possibly related too. To which I replied, “Nice try bud – bring me a Dogfishead and shut up!” He brought the beer, and then continued his bartending tasks. I like this kid, he’s gonna go far in this business.
It’s very nice to have someone recognize or remember you, no matter the circumstances. I travel all over the country, and parts of Louisiana as well, and there are only two places that I have to visit when I’m in the area…Rocky’s is one of those places. The food is great, the staff is always friendly, there is an eclectic collection of beer choices, and it makes me feel like I’m not so far away from home. I love Rocky’s.
Another “must visit when I’m in town” place is Perky’s in Alta Vista, VA. (See Perky’s…The Large Man Chronicles, July 2010). The biggest difference between Rocky’s and Perky’s is that when you’re in Louisville KY you have lots of choices – but you still choose Rocky’s. When you’re in Alta Vista, VA, well…you have Perky’s. But that’s okay, because you would choose it anyway. Nobody at Perky’s recognized me (I’ve never left a $100 creepy old man tip though), but all the same faces (and if I’m being honest, all the same tight jeans) were still there. Perky’s is a place that has a vibe. I ate there tonight, I drank a Tallgrass Brewing Company I.P.A., I had a steak, and I talked to 3 people who I didn’t know, and a 2-year-old little girl from the table behind me wanted a sip of my beer. My facilitator for the evening was Melanie, and she made me feel like I was the most important person in the joint. When she checked in on me, she would put a hand on my shoulder or on my forearm as she asked, “Is everything to your liking. How’s that beer? You like that?” Again, I don’t feel so far from home when I’m with people like Melanie. It’s a great restaurant filled with good county people. If I am close, I must go.
It’s all out there people, On the Road. I love it. I’m sure in some ways it takes its toll on our family, but this life on the road also allows Mrs. Large Man to be a stay at home Mom, that’s a pretty good trade. It also allows this Large Man to be content, fulfilled, and continually challenged in the most positive of ways. I have been around people who hate their jobs. They meet the day with dread, and at the end of that worthless day, they meet their pillow with resentment. That is no way to live. As I said in the beginning of this rambling, I don’t think the “answers” are out there, but the road is a good place to clear your head from clutter or fill your head with possibilities… answers come from within.
As much as I love the feel of my Buick’s leather seats under my large ass, the anticipation of a new destination, or the comfort that comes with visiting an old friend or a familiar bar, the best part of the road, and my favorite part, is the great big squeeze from the little the arms that are thrown around me when I get home. You know you’re living right when you absolutely love the journey, but still the best part of the trip is coming home. I’m living right.
I’ll be home on Thursday.
“The kisses that I live for, the love that lights my way…” That’s another country song, John Denver did that one. I like the idea of this one too, even though I’m not a big country music fan.
Thanks for reading.