I had just wrapped a Saturday afternoon performance of the Odyssey in the lunchroom of Easton High School in Easton, Maryland, a small town an hour southeast of Baltimore across the expansive Bay Bridge. The occasion was the Maryland Junior Classical League Convention.
The show was over three years in the making: I was booked to play the MDJCL in April of 2020 but… well, you know what happened.
We (the MDJCL chair and I) were able to reschedule my visit for the 2023 MDJCL and with this performance Maryland became the 46th state in which I’ve sung my Odyssey songs.
I said my goodbyes to the generous and appreciative teachers and students and hightailed it to the airport to catch the last flight of the evening back to Chicago, a bookend on a travel-filled day that started at home well before dawn.
12 hours in Maryland, state 46 of 50.
I repeated that number to myself as the early evening sun flashed on the Chesapeake Bay. Why did it feel even more significant than I thought it would?
Then I realized: for the first time in this pursuit of performing the Odyssey in all 50 states, the number of states in which I’ve performed is greater than my age. And assuming my June show in Idaho happens without incident, this will be the case until I turn 50.
Homer’s Odyssey is about a lot of things.
When I wrote my Odyssey, I was most interested in what it had to observe about identity and home. “Who am I?” I’ve sung 358 times and those performances have become the answer to the very question I posed.
Over twenty years after I wrote those words, at which time I was similar to Telemachus in age and mindset, I sing them as Odysseus. I sing them with the voice of someone who has lived and journeyed. And suffered. And fucked up. And wanted. And fallen short. And been diverted.
But persisted. But persevered. But endured.
But endured enough to be over ninety percent of the way to a goal that is both as meaningful and as arbitrary as calling a place home and thinking it will be the panacea to your most human existential anxiety.
State 46 of 50 for me at 45 years of age.
My flight was delayed. Of course it was. What could be more Odyssean than a flight delay?
Odysseus would have loved a good airport bar.
Homer probably would have, too.