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The Column

Driving Forces

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.

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*Paging Paige Page
*Watch While You Eat
*You Have Got to Be Kidding Me
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*Subway Going Under
*Driving Forces
*Singles Anonymous
*Know When to Fold Em
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*What That Mass Email Really Said
*Dude, Where's Your Car?
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*How to Destroy Your Car
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*Please Don't See This Movie
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