For the second straight day I’m on the road in the pre-dawn darkness.
I’ve got an almost five hours drive from Lexington to Wheeling, West Virginia, where I’ll be performing at The Linsly School, a show that will mark the 45th state in which I’ve performed my Odyssey.
As the number I need to reach all 50 gets smaller, each new state seems to take on added significance, like a delayed homecoming, and West Virginia is no exception.
It’s just before noon as I pull into the parking lot of the school, a mostly boarding school just into West Virginia across the Ohio River. It’s an absolutely beautiful day, in the 70s and sunny. The forecast suggests this might be the last nice day of the year and after I have lunch with my contact I sit outside and kill the hour or so until the show, enjoying the unseasonable warmth.
The students file into the small lecture hall, filling the 100 plus seats almost full.
After a brief introduction, I’m off, singing with no microphone. Every Odyssey show on this run has been done without amplification and it again triggers a nostalgia in me for the early days of my Odyssey performances during which I would avoid amplification almost to a fault: I maintained (and still maintain) that there is a big difference between experiencing music (and therefore the story) unmediated, without the help of electricity at all. I believe it acts differently on the brain (and the gut).
My voice was worn from the six shows in four days and I steered it in service of the story: a guy singing about a guy who has been away from home for 20 years *should* sound worn to the point of breaking.
After a wide-ranging discussion and appropriate goodbyes, I was back out into the warmth to embark on a seven hour drive home. I stopped in downtown Wheeling for coffee and took in its distinctive midwest post-industrial decay, a decay I’ve always found beautiful in that it suggests past glories not so far gone but inevitably fading, a sort of transition period in which these monuments to human endeavor are still alive as shells of past glory.
I wonder how many ancient stories of glory decayed to the point of disappearing entirely? Surely that number outweighs those we have by an almost inconceivable magnitude. One story that has not is that of Odysseus and I couldn’t be prouder to be a conduit for keeping it alive.
Seven hours is a long drive but it feels shorter when it’s a return home to a loving wife and a couple of silly pets. Home really is who you are and every time I come back from a tour I experience that rediscovery. Five more states to go…