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The Column

Driving Forces
7/24/05

I don't know what it is about the open road that makes it so appealing. Maybe it's because when you're headed somewhere, you don't have to be where you've already been.

In other words, the road represents potential. Usually that potential translates to fast food induced heartburn, a messy car, and lots of gas money, but the potential is there.

We all love road trips. We get three of our closest friends together and yell, "road trip!" which is code for, "let's all go somewhere and do the same stuff we do here, but in a different place!" At first glance, that makes about as much sense as spending $2.50 for a gallon of gas.

It's now Sunday in Indianapolis, towards the beginning of a 10-day trip that includes a few other stops in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. It makes sense that I write about the road from Indianapolis though - the city advertises itself as "the crossroads of America." I know every city needs a nickname, but I laugh every time I hear that. That may as well mean, "Indianapolis - we're on the way to stuff."

There is some stuff actually in Indianapolis this weekend: there's a huge music convention and a meeting of a local Thunderbird club. I can't afford the music convention, and the T-Birds were cool for the ten minutes it took me to see all of them. So I have spent most of the weekend doing exactly what I would have at home - writing and sitting in traffic.

Being adventurous, I tried taking a different way home from lunch yesterday. I ended up spending an hour in one lane of a four lane highway, watching the other lanes being fixed. I guess the open road has got to be paved sometime.

What could go wrong this weekend has. At the rental car place, I came down with an illness known as "Kia Rio." Symptoms include little to no shocks and the horsepower of a unicycle.

Thursday, I performed in Lancaster, Ohio. The show was largely populated with rotund men and women with no necks and all the political open-mindedness of a general in the Crusades. My material about America getting dumber and fatter went over real well. Actually, one couple really liked me. They weren't from Lancaster.

Ironically, I had trouble finding parking for my terrible car. I choose the word "ironic" not because the car was already as terrible as the parking, but because the crowd was made up of people who usually park in their yard. Luckily, the open road beckoned the next morning, and I was on my way to a place with much more potential.

I was thrilled to get to Indianapolis Friday. I was less thrilled when the DSL in the hotel was down the entire weekend, when it took me 42 minutes to get a tuna sandwich, and when only four people showed up for the first show. Yesterday, my dinner was prepared incorrectly, a woman yelled at me for no apparent reason, and the second show was cancelled. The first show had four people again. But it's okay because tomorrow I go somewhere new. Somewhere with potential.

There was one show I actually enjoyed - Friday's late show. Within the crowd, there were three friends who were on a road trip. I asked them why they didn't go to Vegas or New Orleans or a more typical destination. They said that Indianapolis was easy to get to. In other words, "Indianapolis - it's on the way to stuff."

The craziest part of this whole trip is not the problems I've had with food or audiences or travel or rude people - it's that I'm enjoying myself despite all that. I'm enjoying myself because I took this trip to experience something different. And while I could have any of these problems in Los Angeles, it wouldn't be quite the same. So yes, there's not much potential for anything else here. But I still have that for tomorrow.

And the allure of the road is not just potential - it's that things will always be a little different. Jack Kerouac even wrote that the allure of the road is based on experiencing ridiculous things that will help you write columns. Of course I'm paraphrasing here.

When I'm in Los Angeles, I hang out at the same few places, eat at the same few restaurants, and spend time with the same few people. But here, I experienced something different. Sucky, but different. And that's why I enjoyed it.

I recommend you take a trip whenever you get the chance. If you can take a trip across the world, do it. If you take a trip across the street, do it. Just break out of the routine you have established for yourself every now and then. You might get caught in traffic, but you'll have a story to tell. You might even be able to squeeze 800 words out of it.

Speaking of which, this column is just about done. Which is perfect, because the desert I ordered yesterday is almost ready. Potentially.

Archives
*Kings vs. Sports Illustrated
*Paris Hilton is No Mother Theresa
*Putting the "Fan" in "Fanatic"
*Thinking Man: Happy New Year
*Jewzapalooza
*I'm Listening
*Punky Brewster Scares Me
*Don't Get Smart With Me
*Checking Out a Check Up
*Yeah, Thanks
*Steve Hofstetter is Your Friend
*Post Halloween Wrap-Up
*My Letter to Me
*The Night the Heat Went Off
*Turn That Crap Off
*You Might Be a Redhead If
*To My Future Children
*Shine Your Shoes, Mista?
*Flying Forward
*DotCom Dating Dish
*Paging Paige Page
*Watch While You Eat
*You Have Got to Be Kidding Me
*Come Home, Rachel I. K'Benjamin
*Get Out Of My Bathroom
*Subway Going Under
*Driving Forces
*Singles Anonymous
*Know When to Fold Em
*The Mirth of America
*Also Known As
*Smooth Criminal
*What That Mass Email Really Said
*Dude, Where's Your Car?
*Thinking Man: Can't We All
*You Might Be a Redneck
*A Nice Hawaiian Punch
*100,000 Friends
*Mine is Bigger Than Yours
*Good Answer
*T Stands for Terrible
*I Love You Guys
*Mitch, All Gone
*Birth of a Hate Mail Archive
*Never Do Today What...Ooh, Shiny
*Can You Hear Me Now?
*Fast Food, Slow Digestion
*Homeland Security, Eh?
*Quality Training Purposes
*The Show Went On
*Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
*Putting My Foot Down
*Breaking the Chain Mail
*Happy Valmochrismaweenygiving
*Mr. Clean's Illegitimate Brother
*The Quest For 10,000 Friends
*Forgetting Paris
*Magnetically Challenged
*New Year's at the Barefoot Boogie
*Instant Carma's Gonna Get Me
*The Biggest Loser
*Steve vs. Kentucky
*Gone in a Flash
*How to Destroy Your Car
*Ghouls, Goblins, and Candidates
*My Freedom From Your Freedom
*Drive Unto Others
*Please Don't See This Movie
*I Love The Clip Shows
*Column of Atonement
*Happy Anniversary, Sugarhill
*Life, 9/11, and the Interstate
*Your Band Sucks
*Spending Wisely
*The Blind Dating the Blind
*Grilled Cheese With a Side of Hip Hop
*The Drive to 25
*Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God.
*Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House
*Seacrest! Out!
*Harder Than You Think
*Glad To Be Here
*Thought for Food
*Feeding the Meter
*She's Ready For Her Close Up
*Paging John Hughes
*Excusing America's Gas Problem
*Extra, Extra, Extra Long Time
*The Finals Countdown
*Your Friends and Mine
*The Future Mrs. Bueller
*Toasting Not Toasting
*A Tall Order
*Snaking Your Engine
*My Hair is the Color of Tomato Soup
*The Solace System
*You Say Potato
*It’s Getting Less Cold in Here
*This is Not a Virus
*Pitchers and Catchers
*Another Night Not at the Movies
*Higher and Higher
*To Write A Wrong
*They Call it Super for a Reason
*Imagine All the People
*Lost Wages, Nevada
*This Just In
*Why Are All My Stands Red?
*For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls
*Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale
*I Want To Be That Guy
*Felicity Doesn't Always Mean Happiness
*That Time of Year
*My Cranberry Sauce Looks like a Can
*The Legend of Fat Dead Steve
*Two Beldings in One Building
*Happy Halloween From Happy Valley
*Three Stations and Nothing On
*15 Shots of Nostalgia
*Here's To the Dancing Guy
*Teaching an Old Dog New Sticks
*If You Could Choose Just One Dumb Question...
*Obligatory Pun on The Word Tired
*I've Grown Accustomed to Your Wet Nose
*What Do You Want For Your Birthday?
*What a Long, Strange Trip
*Open Letter to My UPS Man
*That Better Be Your Foot
*The Abandoned Lot is Always Greener
*Putting Down the Pieces
*Take One Down, Pass It Around
*Here, You Throw This Away
*Being Green at the Box Office
*Who Wears Short Shorts?
*America is an Okay Place to Be
*You Can't Stop the Rain
*Don't Feed the Alpha Males
*Don’t Sweat It
*The Special Plate Blues
*You Deserve It
*The Return to Popcopy
*They're Real, and They're Spectacular
*Keeping Your Prom Misses
*Guerillas in Our Midst
*That Weird No Bread Holiday
*The Ballad of the Buttless
*Something About Being Twenty-Something
*Have You Seen My Cell Phone?
*War, Huh, Yeah, What Is It Good For?
*Leggo My Ego
*I'm a Spazz, You're a Spazz
*Can I Please Keep My Pants?
*Engaged in Conversation
*Welcome to PopCopy
*Hold Me Closer, Tiny Bathroom
*My Two-Bedroom Furbee
*All’s Fare in Love and Daytona
*Open? Shut Them
*I Am Everyday Pimple
*Here Comes the Judge Show
*When, Praytell, Were The Days of Auld Lang Syne?
*What Are You Up To This Weekend?
*The Waiting is the Hardest Part
*A Night Not at the Movies
*Funny, You Don’t Look Flu-ish
*Does This Baby Come With Airbags?
*When The Hogan Family Was Still Valerie
*Blue (Haired) Tuesday
*In Loco Parents
*Moving Is Like A Vaccuum: It Sucks
*Thou Shalt Not Save the World and Get the Girl
*Like Oil and Stuff That Hates Oil
*How to Get Hatemail
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*It Happens to the Best of Us
*Talking To A Piece of Junk Mail
*When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
*ICFS Disorder and Celebrity Kid Growth
*Electricity and Other Things They Cut Off
*When Pigeons Fly
*Goodbye, New York, Goodbye
*La La La-la La La, Sing a Happy Song
*What To Do at Work Besides Work
*Why is This Column Different From All Others?