I have a note in my iPhone that was created on April 5, 2016, and last updated on September 19, 2017.
It's a list of states in which I'd played the Odyssey up to that 2017 date and it's got 33 states on it.
From what I can tell, it had something like 26 or 27 on it when I created it in 2016 while flying from Louisiana (where I'd played at Tulane) to Florida. I remember tapping it out while sitting on the plane and being surprised that I'd already performed in that many.
I'm fairly certain that early morning accounting in 2016 was when it occurred to me that performing my Odyssey in all 50 US States might be something obtainable and worth pursuing.
I'm not sure why I stopped updating the note in 2017 but since then the going has gotten quite a bit slower when it comes to adding states to the list, further complicated by covid and going well over a year between traveling for performances.
I added four states in 2018 (NJ NE SD NH), two in 2019 (DE ND), and two in 2020 (HI WY) before the pandemic shut the year down and canceled a handful of confirmed (AK and MD) and likely (OR and KS) shows as well as interest in a couple more.
It's not inconceivable to think that if not for covid I'd have been in a position to reach all 50 states in 2021.
Instead I came into 2021 stuck on 41 and not knowing whether resuming my quest would be practical or even possible.
It looked like that might be it for 2021 until my contact at Benedictine College in Kansas, with whom I'd been in touch for a possible show in the fall of 2020, came through and booked me as part of a 3 day swing that included a Blues of Achilles show in South Dakota.
I was thrilled. To get two new states in addition to my European tour felt like a massive victory for a year colored with so much uncertainty.
I woke up on a Wednesday morning in Vermillion, South Dakota, after a great visit and Blues of Achilles show there. The four hour drive down to Atchison, Kansas, was easy and I took a quick run around the small town and beautiful campus in the unseasonably warm afternoon sun.
A festive dinner with a good group of professors and I was onstage in a well-kept auditorium in front of a hushed group of students. It was my first in person Odyssey performance without wearing a mask in the continental US since February of 2020. The sound was amazing, the discussion personal and honest. Afterwards I adjourned to my host's house for some rye whiskey (it was Kansas after all) and more conversation around Homer.
It was all, in a word, great.
The next morning I was on the road early for the 8 hour drive back to Chicago and state number 43 was in the books.
That leaves OR UT NM ID MD OK and WV.
Why is this 50 state goal so consuming for me? It started out as a hook, something to pitch to press at the appropriate time, maybe something to build a book around... but it has turned into more.
It's become a symbol of hard work, persistence, patience, endurance, and creative thinking.
So, essentially all the traits embodied by... well, you know who...