Friday, August 3, 2007

"Sign, Sign - Everywhere A Sign"

I see the signs. Des Moines – 200 miles. St. Louis - 260 miles. Omaha - 190 miles. Every time I cross paths with an interstate here (and it happens a lot), I see the signs for these cities and feel just a hint of a tug.

I miss the road, I can't lie. I miss waking up in the morning and not knowing exactly where I’ll be headed. I miss pulling out my road atlas the night before a road trip and looking at all those choices, the different ways to travel to a new destination. How far West do I want to go? Do I want to keep on main roads? Or am I more in the mood for corn, pasture, cows and silos? Of course, I also miss stopping into a Braum’s any time I have a craving for one of those scrumptious hamburgers. Or popping into a Sonic for a hot fudge shake. Yes, yes, I did that every now and then and thank God for Bikram yoga, that's all I can say. Add all this up and I suppose I know what I’ve always known. I love driving. And I love driving on the open road, experiencing new places and faces.

Still, not being independently wealthy and understanding that it’s time to take Eldercation to another level, sanity has certainly prevailed. Well, I suppose this is what you’d call sanity. I know it’s important to plant two feet some place for more than a moment and to work on the book, so that’s precisely what I’m doing. I started a part-time job a couple of weeks ago and it’s pretty challenging, I have to say. I’m learning a lot, stretching my boundaries and that’s always a great and productive thing to do in my book. Add to that, the company I work for is built on a terrific business model, involved in very interesting work. Add to that, I can't remember the last time, if ever, that I've worked with and around a nicer group of people and that says a lot about the company when you think about it. And add to that, I work for a wonderful, smart and special boss and with an equally thoughtful, smart and fun co-worker and ... well ... there you have it. I really couldn't have planned this any better than it's unfolded for me. So as much as I miss being on the road, I also know I’ve created a system now where I can get some smaller doses of road-tonic whenever I choose go that route. My new work schedule allows me to take off on a Friday night and not return to KC until Tuesday evening. That kind of break cries out for the short trip out to the Kansas countryside or back east toward St. Louis. Or perhaps a turn north to Iowa or Nebraska. Every time I head up to Garden Village in North Kansas City, I can’t help but notice those signs, providing a fresh menu of cities and potential adventures. I’m comforted knowing those places are just a short drive away. The fact is, my plans for Omaha were already in place when I walked into KC Bikram yoga and then had my brunch with Aliya on The Plaza. I'd already done a lot of my Nebraska advance work and the only reason my feet stopped moving North was because my cornhusker ExtendedStay man, Ernst, didn’t have any hotel rooms - a huge convention was being held in Omaha the weeks I wanted to be there. So, there was literally was no room at the inn.

And so, there is was. The next thing I knew, I was living in Kansas City. And I couldn’t feel more content.

Do I get lonely here? I can’t lie. The answer is a resounding, yes. But, the isolation and quiet serves a purpose for me, too. I’m working hard to turn that sometimes lonely feeling into production. All that time in New York when I could have been creating the website, doing five times ... twenty-five times the amount of interviewing and what happened? Not a hell of a lot. Who knows what was happening back then? I felt stale, uninspired. Tired. Worn down. You can put any label you want on it but the fact is, I wasn’t getting things off the ground. For some reason that didn’t happen until I stepped onto that plane and watched Shea Stadium fade into the background. The website wasn’t born until I sat in my Dallas ExtendedStay with my Wendy’s takeout salads and started to write about my lost luggage, Kansas cowboys tearing apart apples with their bare hands and ... then ... the people appeared. First one, then four, then forty. The next thing I knew I was 150 interviews into the trip and was turning people away, doing my best to keep up with the requests. And to think, back in November I was worried I’d be twiddling my fingers and waiting for the phone to ring.

Well, the good news is in five months I haven’t twiddled my fingers once. This latest leg of the journey has served to remind me how many people there are to meet out here. It’s endless. And that endlessness is exciting to me. I can’t wait to dip in again but I’ll be doing it in shorter spurts over the next year or so. Of course, a day will come when I’ll tackle another strip like I did a few months ago. Perhaps just West of here. My God, I hardly even scratched the surface of Texas - seeing just one tiny piece of that great state. And as far as the other visited Midwestern states go, I only saw small sections of those as well.

Shhh... Can you hear it? Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho ... I think I hear them calling. No, I'm not losing my mind. But I’m pretty certain ... now, wait a minute. What am I saying? Strike the "pretty." I'm absolutely 100% certain I’ll be heading West at some point. Just not now.

For now, I have work to do and I'm happy to be doing it.

Will I be glancing at road signs as I go about my business here?

Now, what do you think?

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