Whenever I travel, especially when there is a lot of actual travel time involved, I try to set the goal of reading a book or two in that time. I try to not let the time being stuck in vans, airports, or trains go to waste. On this trip I brought Frankenstein and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams. As well as being beneficial from any kind of learning standpoint, it helps the time go faster. A ten hour van ride feels half as long. It is also good for relaxing. Forgetting yourself for part of the time helps you be less stressed when you miss that layover, there is a traffic jam, etc. Trust me, I can definitely use all the help I can get in that department! I almost had a meltdown today trying to get to the van on time as there was an accident on the highway this morning!
One other thing I find is that if you combine a trip with a couple good books it helps to make the trip itself more meaningful and interesting. Scenes from a book fuse with the new places you are seeing in your imagination, and the world expands in front of you.
Apple Watch Review
I’m still cursing Apple for doing away with the iPod Classic, which for a music lover that travels constantly remains the best device for taking your music library with you. (I’m not completely against streaming, but until it pays musicians a fair rate, I refuse. I also don’t want to have to rely on something that needs an internet connection. You think the world is high tech until you travel a lot. Then you are aware of just how many places don’t have service. I was in the Florida panhandle on tour and my girlfriend was working in Orlando. I couldn’t even get basic phone or text service most of the time, let alone internet.) I have never owned an iPhone. I do really love my Apple computer though. These aren’t pronouncements of shame or pride, just facts. However, anyone interested in the latest Apple device will be well served by the above article. It is an extremely in depth review, with plenty of demonstrative pics and graphics, by someone who wore the new watch for a week. I personally can’t imagine wearing one anytime soon, but to each their own.
Going camping in the Texas hill country tonight, so this is probably me signing off for the day. The Texas hill country is stunningly beautiful and looks nothing like what myself, and many who have visited, imagined when we think of Texas. Tuscany in Italy is the closest landscape I can think of. It is usually a deep green full of medium sized trees and rolling hills. I have been all over the world and live oak trees are aome of the most beautiful I can think of. They look like they were created with children playing in mind. There is something warm and comforting in the hill country’s beauty. Many beautiful places in nature overwhelm you with their scope. They can leave you feeling small and lonesome even as you stare in wonder. Meanwhile the hill country is inviting and fills you with a sense of safety, even if it is sometimes probably misplaced. If you are a traveler, and haven’t yet been to central Texas, Google the Texas hill country. I think you will be surprised by what you see.
Heading out on the road again today after getting into Austin late last night. Tonight the Shinyribs band is in Nacogdoches. Tomorrow we’re in New Braunfels. The link above is to the Shinyribs Shows page and you can find details there.
Depending on service I hope to keep posting throughout the day from the van. Until then…
Heading back to Austin from a brief tour of Louisiana. I will catch up on posting when I am home. I did see a sign in a gas station today that said: “Jefferson Davis Law – No Alcohol Sold Between 2 and 6am.” So that happened. I am glad that the ghosts of the Confederacy are attempting to keep me sober in the wee hours of the morning.
In Denis Johnson’s book Tree of Smoke, his epic Vietnam novel, one of the characters come to the conclusion that different parts of the world are governed by different deities. Each area operates under its own unique set of supernatural laws. When one travels the United States, one can’t help but feel the same way. Louisiana is not Texas is not Colorado is not wherever. It isn’t just different cultures and economic forces shaping human behavior, but almost nature itself. The haunted swamps of Louisiana create a different emotional context than the comforting greenery of the Texas hill country. “God is alive and magic is afoot.” The only question is what god and whose magic? Anyone that claims to know is deluding themselves…
Today I am hitting the highway for some weekend Shinyribs dates. Being in a band one thinks nothing about driving to get somewhere unless maybe it happens to be over 10 hours. However, having lived in both Texas and Pennsylvania I know that geography and population density play a role in how far away somewhere feels.
Even though Pa is not small, Texas is a gigantic state. People will think nothing at all of driving an hour or two to hang out with friends or go to an event that they want to attend. Even driving to a city four to six hours away is not that big of a deal for many people, if there is a concert, sporting event, or some other event that appeals to them. Some people will even drive further than that for a weekend without much thought put into it.
Pennsylvania is the state of a thousand small towns. I lived in a small town, but my town pushed right up against other small towns on the borders. People seemed less inclined to drive somewhere spur of the moment. A show an hour or two away would be more like driving from driving from Houston to Dallas in Texas. Even for large concerts or events, events that would only happen once every few years, people seemed less willing to drive long distances for. We were about two hours from Philly, about four hours from Pittsburg. Although we drove to Philly many times for large events, I can only remember driving once to Pittsburg for a large concert. In my experience that was typical for a lot of people.
I’m not saying this is scientific proof, or that there aren’t always exceptions to the rule. There are also cultural reasons for this, as well as reasons having to do with topography and weather. Driving somewhere in Texas, where it doesn’t rain, on flat roads, is easier than driving through Appalachia, especially in winter. However, I do think that people will adapt to their surroundings. When I am in Texas I think personally think nothing of driving long distances. When I go home to visit families the old mentality takes over to a degree.
If any readers have any feedback or thoughts on this, I would love to hear from you. I have to approve all comments, so if you reply you can let me know if you want your comment shared or not.
Have Americans Gone Crazy?
A family member just sent me the above article from Salon. It is about how many people in the world are increasingly viewing America as something to be watched closely, if not outright feared. Although I have traveled less extensively than the author, I have been in several foreign countries over the last few years and can vouch for the overall sentiment of the article.
I remember specifically being in England during the Bush years. Many people would be slightly cold and then sheepishly ask me what I thought of Bush. Once I explained that I voted against him and hated his policies, it was like a party had started. Shots and embraces came out, and suddenly I was everyone’s best friend.
So many Americans have no idea not only how the rest of the world views us, but also how much they know about us. When you go to foreign countries you are often asked deep political questions by average people concerning the U.S. Often these are questions that you are not sure if many of your own countrymen and women could answer.
My Dad has related to me many times a story from a trip to Kenya. He was walking down the street, in an area that was slightly impoverished, and a man walked up to him. After finding out he was an American, the man asked him, “So tell me about Jesse Helms?” Meanwhile I have gone out to drinks with girls here, during a U.S. presidential election, and been stupefied to find out they didn’t know who the vice-presidential candidates were. Now I know that I am drawing conclusions from limited experiences, but there are many more stories that I have personally witnessed on both sides that make me believe that the author of the above article knows what they are talking about. It’s strange out there…