Thoughts From 39,000
Last month I got emotionally heavy. Getting those feelings off my mind is good though. I need that every now and again. Like a sad song, these thoughts can build inside of me and need to be processed out even when I’m in a good mood.
And life has been good for me. Though for you guys it might look slow, I don’t know if I’ve ever been this productive before.
Right now I’m on a flight back home from LA. Cramped up in the middle seat between a sleeping wife…she’s is the best part of this…and a large guy who never learned how to share or not invade personal space. Best not to look towards the aisle… Then there’s the window. The sky. The miles of desert between Texas and California.
After exploring the city (traveling without working is one of my bigger life goals), meeting new people (amazingly talented people my brothers and I are so excited to be working with), the beach, the freak-show, a really great recording studio; it’s been unbelievable.
So I’m in the air. Going over it in my mind. Holding on to it. Listening to the engine.
…of days when we traveled in a used conversion van. Four captain’s chairs. Little beige mini-blinds on the windows. Rope lights everywhere.
I was 21 and hungry for everything.
We’d loaded up with the four musicians, suitcases, and gear, cutting up IH-35.
“What’s comin’ up?”
It was getting hard to stay sitting for so long. “Could use a stretch,” I added.
I was eager to get to Ohio, Dan and his studio; but after switching my weight back and forth for the last four hours as I switched between each leg falling asleep, and I needed out.
We were only a jump northeast of Dallas into Arkansas at a small convenience store. I stepped out of the van for the first time since we left San Antonio, and already in a different world. Hope.
It wasn’t exactly what I imagined leaving Texas would look like, but it was a start.
New horizon. New trees. New air bursting in my lungs, pushing me to the edge between life and dream, for a nobody from nowhere. I had spent years as an invisible. Wanting. Waiting. Sometimes my childhood felt like a slow fall to death. Knowing the world was busting with life happening everywhere else. And I only had to find it. But I was stuck.
“Would you like anything?” The hostess whispered over the belly of my sleeping neighbor.
She was in her late 40’s, well dressed with a floral scarf around her neck like this was a jet off a Mad Men ad.
“Diet Coke,” I said automatically. It’s my junk. My vice.
“More crackers,” Rachel said softly to me, still with her eyes closed.
“And more crackers,” I passed down the message.
The hostess slashed a couple tick marks on her paper then moved across the aisle.
Rachel shifted her head gently against my shoulder.
Maybe because it was our first trip, or maybe because it was so strange, but I remember this rest stop well. Better than the hundreds since that I couldn’t tell you a thing about.
“Hmm,” the lady behind the counter looked me over as the bell rang over the gas station door.
I nodded politely.
“You look exotic,” she said without pause or hesitation. Somewhere between surprise and apathy.
I didn’t know how to answer her with anything other than a smile and another polite nod. A real Texan.
The lady kept an eye on me from behind the counter, as an orange and black calico bounced out from around her feet, rounding the lotto ticket display, cutting thru my legs, and down a small row of protein bars to the back of the store…
I followed, heading towards the refrigerators.
“Where you from?…You look different.”
“San Antonio,” I answered checking back over my shoulder with a quick look at her. She was still staring at me.
I could feel her examining everything about me, detached and scientific. I felt naked. I felt embarrassed.
I tried to keep focused…Sprite. Coke. Mountain Dew…but that feeling of her eyes just burned the back of my neck.
My heart jumped when I felt a light touch brush against my leg, but it was just the cat. Pushing its face into my jeans. Wrapping its tail around the other leg.
“She don’t like nobody around here,” the cashier yelled at me.
The cat sat down to watch me too. Its eyes frozen on my face.
I could hear the lady shuffling behind the counter, “She must think you’re different.”
“Maybe she’s a Texan too,” I laughed but I don’t think she found any humor in it.
The women’s stare turned from cold to angry, “wouldn’t surprise me.”
She rang me up quietly.
Coke. Trail mix. Money.
The cat ran back behind the counter as someone else came in.
She held the change above my hand, “Born in Texas?”
“Yeah,” I had my palm open. Waiting.
Her eyes looked me over back and forth, “Nah, you look too exotic,” she said, finally dropping the coins.
“Here you are sir,” the softness in the hostess’ voice pulls me out of Arkansas and back into the air. She’s holding the drink out to me and searching her tray for Rachel’s crackers.
“Hey, coffee too,” my sleeping neighbor butts in. His voice cutting low against her ear as she reaches over to hand us the bag.
The hostess flinches for a second then holding back her anger, she softly says, “A hello first.” She does it so gently, and with a sweet laugh too, the man doesn’t even notice the poison behind it.
He mumbles something between a grunt and a hello.
She’s calm, but her eyes were ready to kill, “And welcome back sir. Would you like me to get you something?”
The man smiles unashamedly, “Yeah…coffee.”
The hostess flashes a brilliantly white smile and flips around towards the back of plane.
My neighbor is back into his fully laid back and slumped position. A real throaty wind sound is gurgling in his mouth right now as I’m typing this.
Thankfully we will be landing soon, and I’ll have another week before I take off to New Orleans to start a tour. Cutting north up to New York, looping back west through Canada, south along the mid-west and ending back in Arkansas.
It feels like I’ve been here before so many times. But each time I leave I have no idea what to expect. No idea what’ll be at the end of this flight. Or waiting for me in Arkansas. New air. New people. New horizons.