Give me a song to sing
Harder than it is to bring
Back all the years I’ve wasted
For so long
Give me an open road
A meadow and I’m on my own
Livin’ so far from home
For so long
--Lost Immigrants, “Song to Sing”
Some things are best understood while in motion.
This, I think, is what attracted me to the Lost Immigrants in the first place. …Waiting on Judgment Day was an album in motion, an album about motion. It brought forward all of the longings I’ve had to never stay in one place. It reminded me of a me I’ve always been afraid to be.
My sister tells me that when I was younger new places scared me. Apparently my parents would have to take me to the place where an event was going to be and show it to me before I’d go. This sounds weird to me, foreign. After all, I decided to go to Western Illinois without ever visiting. I like to say that I only spent 22 hours in Texas before deciding to move, but in truth I’d already made the decision before my flight left Midway. It was the only choice I had.
Well, the only good choice.
But, by the same token, there are still plenty of examples of my fear of the unknown. I can wrap that all up in to one big category and slap a label on it: women. There’s the big one, the fact that I spent nearly two years trying to make it work with Her, even though I knew it wasn’t going to after seven months, strongly suspected it long before that. Since then, though, I’ve stayed resolutely single, always finding excuses to avoid getting out there. When I meet someone I probe for flaws, which I usually find fairly easily, since I think I seek out broken people specifically so I can say, “I can’t deal with this again.” It’s much easier to say, “I keep meeting crazy women,” than, “I don’t want to move on with my life.” It’s easier to blame someone else than work on what I need to work on.
In all honesty, though, I don’t know what it is that I need to work on. As strange as it is to me, I get no shortage of attention from women these days. As far as I can tell I have a lot to offer and other people seem to recognize that. But…but it doesn’t seem to matter that much. My main concern seems to be an attempt to figure out how I can keep someone else from coming in and making my life more complicated. It’s easier, I’ve realized, to re-live and re-imagine the past than to face the future. It’s also much easier to wander than to attempt to stay in one place.
I’m gonna drive on to that next sunrise
I ain’t worried about the weather
On the old horizon
I’m facing every storm on my own
And I close my eyes and grit my teeth
With an old guitar and a good backbeat
To find the only life I’ve ever known
I’m a rolling stone
--Lost Immigrants, “Rolling Stone”
I plug Pasaporte in to slot 6 of my Mazda’s in-dash CD changer. There’s something about buying a CD that matters more than downloading music. Sure, I will soon enough be ripping the disc, putting it on my computer and in to my mp3 player, but for the moment it’s a physical, a tactile thing.
I live in a world that’s loosely defined by four freeways and bordered by two airports. I could get on I-35E and take it north to begin a journey that would eventually take me back to Chicago. I could get on 114 and take it to Love Field or D/FW, either of which would allow me to get on a plane back to Chicago. That great city I once called home.
The last time I was in Chicago it was a frigid January night. Few people were out on the streets, so it was basically just me, my 2004 Cavalier, and the city I hated leaving. As I got back on I-55 south with Lucky Boys Confusion’s “City Lights” playing I didn’t look back, didn’t check my mirrors.
Don’t look back. Don’t ever look back.
That’s a funny thought, coming from me, of all people.
I think it’s simple
You’ve got to take it slow
Grab the wheel
Hold on don’t lose control
Drivin’ all night with an AM radio
No matter where you are
You’ve got too far to go
--Lost Immigrants, “AM Radio”
Dallas is already becoming painfully hot. In my world it’s not supposed to be in the nineties before my birthday. It’s not supposed to stay in the 80s or even the 90s overnight. The idea of going outside in late May or early June is suppose to be a joy after a terribly cold and dark winter.
Still, I drive with the windows open, the sunroof rolled back. The hot air is far more bearable when moving across my face at 60 miles per hour. I barely use the air conditioner.
I don’t know what it is. I’ve never much liked the idea of using the air conditioning in a car. Part of it is a gas mileage thing, at least for low speeds and short distances. But part of it is the sense of connection with the world.
Part of it, too, is the sense of motion. It’s much easier to feel like you’re going somewhere when you feel the wind pushing against your face.
I’ll be on the freeway for a while, but I’ll never take it too far. It always leads back home. And that home is no longer Chicago.
You want to get out of such a desolate place
In a land of broken dreams and hollow eyes
You read the sign on every sunburned, worn-out face
And you’ll be miles down the road before they realize
You’re leaving Laredo you’ve got to get out of town
You’re not gonna let the bad ones drag you down
You’re leaving Laredo you’ve gotta pack your things
The time is now to get out and let the whole world sing
And you’ve got a lot of life to live so you can show
You’re leaving Laredo
--Lost Immigrants, “Leaving Laredo (Or the Night Gilberto Hit the Floor)”
I think I had to leave Chicago. There’s really no way around it. I wasn’t so much in a rut as a well. I spent most of my time in the four walls of my apartment, pretending that I wasn’t wasting my life.
But as I get older I realize that I never really had a clue about how to properly take stock of the differences in my life. I seem to think that the fact that I look different than I used to, drive a different car, live in a different place, means that I have made the important changes.
When I was in college I started screwing around with my hair. I shaved my head, then I dyed my hair a neon green. I shaved again, then died my hair a color I came to refer to as “piss yellow.”
These days I’m losing my hair. I can’t help but wonder if my college experiments contributed.
Either way, having weird hair didn’t change who I was. Moving to Dallas didn’t change who I was.
But this time around I have to actually confront it.
And every stretch of highway
Is another lonesome tune
But you lose a little faith going town to town
They tell you Jesus walked on water
And you know it to be true
But so do those demons you’re trying to drown
--Lost Immigrants, “Leaving Laredo (Or the Night Gilberto Hit the Floor)”
My last two major life transitions were accompanied by a brief uptick in the consumption of alcohol. I chased the night, as it were, going to bars. But I also just kind of kept beer around the house, probably as a reaction to living in a house where the mere thought of the consumption of alcohol would drive my mother insane…er than she already was.
When I moved to Brookfield I started to gain weight because of the alcohol. That hasn’t happened here, but mostly because I’m still focused on losing the weight I gained over the course of the last few years. I’d rather not reverse all the work I’ve done.
And I’ve learned that drinking doesn’t solve a single problem, anyway. It’s passive. It’s suicidal, really. Alcohol keeps you from facing the world you live in. Eventually you have to come out of the haze, realize that the problem you were hoping would disappear is still there, and the only options are to try to fix it or go back in to the haze.
It’s better to just fix the problems right from the start.
It’s a new day and a brand-new life
And I can’t recall a single word she said last night
My heart is bruised from all the blame
Why is it all my tries at love end up the same?
Heartache can drive you up the wall
Make you wonder why you ever loved at all
I guess I got some news for you
I’m looking for my second chance and this is what I’m gonna do
I’m gonna drive on down this highway
Until the pain in me is gone
I can’t look back
No I’ve gotta keep moving along
If you think you’re going my way
I’ll be headed out at dawn
Honey don’t be late
‘Cuz these wheels keep rolling on
--Lost Immigrants, “Rollin’ On”
The wind blows in my face. The Lost Immigrants blast through my speakers.
I point my Mazda in the direction of the lights of Dallas.
It’s not home.
But there are worse places I could be.
That’s enough for the moment. Whether it continues to be enough remains to be seen.