Learning to Enjoy the Ride

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Part of my evolution into a guy who isn’t a complete idiot, has been a regular date night every week. We try to find new things to do, or at least return to the things we really enjoyed. Don’t want to waste a date. If it’s lame, it doesn’t happen twice.

Last night involved several hours on St. George street in St. Augustine. We have been there dozens of times and always wish we could do more. We run out of time before we run out of things to see. Last night involved several live music venues and some amazing food. Great night.

We talked about the search for variety and trying new things. It got me thinking about how much time I spent traveling, working shows. I established a few rules for myself, while on the road. I have also learned a few things from my wife, that I wish I had known then. Just a few thoughts for you guys who are becoming certified road dogs.

Avoid any restaurants that are available in your hometown.
Traveling creates opportunities to experience new things. For the first few years, I just ate what was available and familiar. Human nature. Sure. The chain stores understand this. That’s why a cheeseburger tastes the same at BK in Seattle as it does in DC. We like familiarity. Even though it’s boring.

Part of the deal was to try something I had never eaten before. I wanted to find new things, while traveling, and maybe see if they were available at home. Don’t be afraid to try new foods. You never know what you might find.

In Columbus, Ohio is a restaurant called The Happy Greek. We found it while looking for something I never had there, before. The first time there, I told the waiter I wanted whatever the chef considered his favorite dish. I just let him pick me something. Wow. It was the best meal I ever had in a restaurant. We worked a show in Columbus three days, every years, for about four years. It became my mission to eat there every year. Never would have found it without that rule.

Try to take time to visit local attractions.
A lot of shows are quick. In and out. No time to hang out or rest. Others dump you into some random hotel and leave you there for a few days. Turn off the tv and get out. Every town has something unique. Go find it. Even if you draw the short straw and have to drive the equipment truck cross country, there’s plenty to see while driving.

We ran a few shows in San Antonio one year, then had to get to Oregon for the next events. We had five days between the end of one and load in for the next. We saw everything between Texas and Oregon. Spent a day in Vegas. Pulled over and jumped into Lake Mead. Hit every goofy roadside attraction. Wandered around the Hoover Dam. ( driving an RV, pulling a trailer, not the big truck.) Finally got into the Alamo. Found a random antique car museum in the middle of nowhere, with an incredible steakhouse next to it. Stuff like that. Not just stopping for gas and rushing to the destination, missing all the fun stuff.

Make use of the downtime.
There’s probably something you always wanted to do. Play guitar. Write a book. Learn to paint. Get a degree. Anything. Use the down time to do stuff. Do not park your butt in front of a hotel tv and spend every free minute there. Wasted time.

There’s normally no kids or regular routine. The distractions and normal responsibilities you have in your daily life are missing. Fill that time with stuff you wouldn’t get to so. I had a young guy traveling with me once, who had never built a model car. We had a free day, so we went and bought two cars, paint and glue. We painted parts in the parking lot and built cars in the room. He had a blast.

Stay away from the temptations.
Marriage and family killers, not the band. They are awesome.
Sitting idly in a room is a great way to flip through channels that cause problems, not solve them. Porn addictions usually start with curiosity and end with complete detachment from reality. Don’t get caught in that trap.

One guy, who was working for me in Vegas, didn’t like me. “Man, if anyone else was running this crew, we would have seen every strip club in Vegas by now.” I apologized, but told him it wasn’t happening. Even though I was a jackass for most of my career, I didn’t cheat on my wife. I didn’t go to those clubs. I wouldn’t even go to Hooters. Think of King David and Bathsheba. You do stupid stuff while sitting on your butt being idle.

Stay connected to your family.
Call your wife and kids every day. Text or call at random times, whenever you think about them. Make sure they know you are thinking about them.

I ended up in a few compromising situations out there. It seems that no matter how old or fat I looked, there were still lonely women who wanted my attention. I wasn’t the smartest guys out there, but I didn’t fall for that. Whenever I got into an awkward spot, I called my wife. I didn’t want something like that hanging in my mind. I definitely didn’t want anyone on the crew to mention something that looked bad without her hearing it from me first. Be careful out there. Trouble is waiting for the idiots.

Get to know people.
I met some great guys on the road. I worked side by side with some legendary techs and performers. I missed several opportunities to get to know them because I had other stuff I wanted to do. Even when there was an hour of down time, I would often miss opportunities. Not all, but some. Feeling like I had to be productive 24 hours a day.

Not just the big names. Take time to know people. Waiters, cab drivers, roadies. Be nice to folks. Let them talk. Hear their stories. Someone told me that a candle loses no light by passing the flame to another candle. It’s not a drain to talk to people. Listen to their stories without the need to throw in opinions or argue or pass judgement. Just let them talk. Find out what makes them special. Enjoy the slower pace. You never know what might happen by just listening to someone.

Slow down.
You only love once. Enjoy the ride. Not with selfish crap that hurts you or others. Don’t abandon your family or responsibilities. Just enjoy a slower pace and soak it all in. Focus on the good stuff and try to enjoy life.

I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until I realized I couldn’t smile at my wife. I had allowed my own ambitions and drive to make me pass the good stuff. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Don’t be that guy.

Any career is stressful if your focus and priorities are twisted. Your purpose and meaning is in your family, not in the job. Relax a little. Enjoy the ride.

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