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Not even two weeks ago I returned from an art trek to the Southwest. In a week I’m embarking on another road trip that will take me through the South, then slingshot me to Niagara Falls near the Canadian border and back.
Have you ever wanted to burn the impurities of modern life from your psyche?
Living like a monk on the road will do it.
Here’s how I live on the road:
— Awake early, generally before 6 am.
— Out the hotel room door within 15 minutes.
— Drive for an hour or three and then have breakfast. If I’m in West Texas, feel queasy for the next 24 hours. If I eat twice in West Texas, the next day’s a goner too.
— Drive again
— Meet an artist and talk shop. What’s cookin’? What is their process like? How do they work? Who do they love? (If I’m feeling impertinent, I lob in all sorts of questions about love and romance, lust and yearning.)
I saturate myself silly with their universe . . . I admire the hell out of their creative space, because I am a junkie for all things expressive.
. . . . . . .
That’s the clay artist Dawn Renee laughing it up in her Arizona studio. It might have been something I said, but I’m pretty sure it was the heat.
You hear this all the time: Dry heat is better than regular heat…
But I don’t buy it.
My friend Gil Vega was the one to point this out. That we had a scientific method for determining whether people preferred dry heat to wet heat. In the form of our gym — the one we went to for years in New York City.
Every night after a workout the steam room was overloaded. You practically had to take a number to get in. It was like a popular night club. Always full. Next door was the lonely sauna. The infernal cubicle serving up dry heat that would crackle the inside of your nose hairs. There was always plenty of space in there. In fact, it was isolating in the sauna. The party was next door, in the steam room.
(Or the hot tub — the really wet heat.)
— Then you know what? Drive some more.
— Somewhere there’s a nap. Because I live for them. Short and power packed. Like this sentence.
— I pull over for a mid to late afternoon meal, my second and last meal of the day.
— Then, this should be no surprise by now, it’s a road trip after all, I drive some more. Drive till the sun extinguishes itself on the horizon.
— Of course, every hour I’m taking quickie exercise breaks. The kind that start in the East (yoga stretches) and end in the West (pushups; knee bends).
— It’s an invigorating rhythm. Drive, break, drive, break, drive, break . . .
— I bring audiobooks and lecture series to listen to . . . but the great enormity of my time is spent in silence. Feeling the road thrum beneath me. Feeling the experience of it, steeping in it. Watching. Rapturous.
No matter where I’m at I’m ravenous to watch the landscape unspool before me.
(Except Texas. I don’t know anyone who likes driving through Texas. Not even Texans.)
— I check into a hotel. My hotels are much classier now. I even pad around in bare feet sometimes.
Not so in the motels and road joints I stayed in during the crash years. There’s not enough pumice stone in the world to slough off the amount of skin you’d have to cleave off for sanitary purposes were you to tread across those fetid carpets.
— To save time and hassle, I hand wash the clothes of the day in the sink and hang them to drip dry.
If I’m out west then they’ll be rock dry by morning. I could step right back into them if I so desired. Back east I have to hang them in the van near where the sun comes in through the back windows. If I’m lucky they’ll be ready within 48 hours.
(Dry heat versus wet heat again.)
(This time dry heat wins.)
— I bring 3 sets of clothes, rotating, rotating, rotating throughout the trip. Keeping it simple frees me to the experience.
— I might then go down to the gym. This trip I did something new . . . and I liked it. I watched a talk on my tablet, very TED like but not an actual TED.
I enjoyed the experience so much I surfed YouTube for more — and walked over an hour on the treadmill. Big, lunky strides to get the sitting out of my haunches. So I could go sit some more.
— Back in the hotel room I take up my laptop. And I create. I write. I write to you here. I write on a project. I respond to emails. I own a gallery and that biz is impatient. All businesses are. I whip responses back like the road ninja I am . . . so I can start the next day fresh, without a backlog.
Then I squeeze out a little bit more. I type up notes I’ve jotted throughout the day. I type up fancifulness my blottoed mind is coughing up. I’m tired. God I’m tired. Finally nothing works anymore. Not my fingers, not my imagination.
— If neurons are still firing, I take up my Kindle and read.
— Did you notice? No TV.
The last two nights of the past trip I let myself loose and watched 3 back-to-back Big Bang Theory episodes. Each night. But nothing nada for the previous two weeks.
— Finally, like a monk, in the dark, sitting erect, I meditate. I fall into that playful and pregnant vacuum, that void where all things light up.