Where To Now?
Once, many many years ago, I took a road trip with a bunch of friends from college. Not really friends, although we referred to each other as friends at the time. More like contextual friends. Dorm friends. As soon as we moved out of he dormitory (at my particular school, they only let you stay in the dorms one or two years) we kind of drifted apart.
Groups are kind of funny like that. They can form for a specific purpose, and so long as that purpose exists, everybody can get along great, hang out during off times (off times from whatever the group was formed for), and even meet up with each other’s families on occasion. But once the purpose for the group goes away, so does the group.
I saw this once in action when I got a book signed by a famous author of a cooking show on TV. In order to get his signature, you had to wait in this long line, twice. Once in the morning to get your particular number, and then later in the afternoon, when you came back to get in line based on your number.
So the people you stood in line in the morning were the same people you stood in line in the evening. And both times the waiting was quite lengthy, giving everybody ample time to start conversations beyond mere politeness. And having everybody leave and then come back in the afternoon was another factor that added to the feeling of “closeness.”
The people I was standing next to in line had formed this small “group” of about six or eight people. In the two hours or so we spent together, we became like best friends. Exchanged emails, showed each other family pictures, the whole deal. But as soon as the purpose for our group vanished, (we got our books signed) the closeness and feelings of camaraderie vanished as well. Boom. See ya.
That was kind of like the group I went on this road trip with. The purpose for our group lasted much longer, two full semesters, but it vanished just as quickly as the book-signing group once the reason for the group’s existence.
But while we hung out together, it was fun. We shared common enough interests (music, alcohol, girls) and disinterests (school, studying) that it was enough.
So it seemed like a great idea to take a road trip when there was a holiday on a Monday, giving us three days to goof off. One of the guys had recently bought this big van, and we talked him into driving somewhere. We didn’t know where, only that we wanted to go on road trip.
Since we were all pretty broke, we figured we’d have to sleep on the ground, instead of staying indoors, so our only requirement was that we would end up at some open place or campground where we wouldn’t get into too much trouble with our music other loud noise. The problem was that none of us were quite sure where that was.
We knew that in three out of the four possible directions we could go in would lead us to pretty large areas with no houses, but beyond that we didn’t have a clue. So we started driving, not knowing where we were going. Only that we had three days to kill before we got there and back, wherever there turned out to be.
One of the guys was majoring in Jazz, and he was telling us about this period in Jazz history where it was all the rage to play completely extemporaneous music. No notes, no predetermined set of beats or melody (I’m not sure if that is even the right terminology). Just four or five guys playing whatever they felt like playing. Sometimes it would coalesce into something that sounded pretty cool, but most of the time it would sound like utter nonsense, according to this guy.
He said that period in Jazz didn’t last long, as least they didn’t produce a lot of records, because nobody bought them. A few people that were really into the scene thought it was cool, but he explained that it never caught on big enough for that to be any musician’s main playing style.
He did bring a tape for us to listen to, and I have to agree it sounded pretty awful. Not really awful, but like completely nonsensical. Nothing you listen to music for, to relax, to be inspired, to pump up your emotions, would be satisfied by listening to a bunch of guys completely out of sync. It sounded like that brief second or two they sometimes leave on the record when an orchestra is warming up, just before the conductor takes over and leads everyone to play some masterpiece together.
It’s kind of cool, as it adds a sense of so many different people with so many different instruments out there, that suddenly come together and play as one entity. But a whole album of that stuff? No thanks.
We found out that without a specific destination, the novelty quickly wore off. Pretty soon finding a destination became our destination. Our requirements became less and less restricted, and any place that was flat. At first we wanted a place with a nice fire ring, so we could have a fire, but as it got later and later, we just wanted to get out of this guys van. It was one of those vans that didnâ€™t have any chairs or windows in the back, so we were all sitting on the floor.
Pretty soon we just pulled off to the side of the road, sat on the ground, drank our alcohol, and fell asleep.
When they say that the road is better than the inn, I think it’s a given you have to have a pretty decent inn that you are going to. Otherwise the road can be a pretty boring and pointless journey.
The funny thing is, is that you really never even have to get to the inn. So long as you have a solid idea of where you’re going, that’s good enough. But without a known destination, it can get pretty boring, pretty quickly.
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