When one makes a living by traveling, most things in your life feel temporary. I use the word temporary with neither positive nor negative implications. I feel that it is an objective way to describe the lifestyle. The pros and cons of this temporary lifestyle is where the matter of opinions lie. One man’s pro is another man’s con.
When I wake up in the morning, I wake up in a bed/bunk that is temporarily my own, in a town that I will mostly likely be at for less than 24 hours. I then eat breakfast, using plastic silverware and paper plates. We then load-in to a venue that will be my temporary refuge. Everyone is different with how they utilize the venues. I tend to mostly stay off of the bus once we have loaded in, but I would say that I am the minority. Most of the crew I’ve worked with tends to hang out on the bus during down time, and the artists’ almost always do. That’s how it has worked out in my experience, however this could just be a coincidence. I generally leave the green-room for the others, (unless we’re playing at a Knitting Factory, because they tend to have sweet green-rooms) and I will find some corner on the dank, moldy floor to read or pay my bills or call back home or do whatever I need to do during my down time.
I then set up a temporary store (I sell merch, for those of you who don’t know) and then I eat one of my single serving meals. The narrator from Fight Club had it exactly right. When you travel, you lead a single-serving life. It’s close to impossible to cook on the bus, so all of my meals come from single serving packages. Whether it’s a bag of beef jerky, or a packet of instant oatmeal, it’s almost always a pre-portioned meal, which for some reason, feels temporary. In movies, when a scene is trying to convey that a character is in a temporary living situation, they always put them in an apartment with a TV (pre-portioned) dinner.
We meet the “locals,” which is what we call the venue staff/stage-hands, and you make a temporary, working relationship with them. Often enough you meet someone who is really cool, someone who you know you would be tight with if proximity were not an issue, but at the end of the day, after load-out, all you can do is give this person a fist pound and hope that AT BEST, you may see him/her again if you find yourself back at that same venue with a different tour.
When everything changes on a day-to-day basis, the constants are very important. I like to have a mug, that is mine and only mine, on the bus. It’s the only kitchen utensil that I have that is not a throw-away. I’ve noticed that everyone seems to have their one item. For some people it’s a glass bowl, others a knife… for me, it’s a mug. Right now, I’m using a “Union Square Montgomery, Alabama” mug, and it’s my constant. I need that mug.
Places can act as a constant. Every time I go to the El Corazon in Seattle, I know that it’s going to get hot as hell in there, I know exactly where they keep their hand-truck, I know the security guy with the braided pig-tails will be there to tell me not to go walking around by myself at night, I know the bearded dude will be there to flirt with and to try to help me carry stuff even though I repeatedly tell him that I’m good… and I know that the coffee shop nearby will have plenty of scattered magazines and other reading material about if I forget to bring my book.
The most important constant on tour is the people who you temporarily grow to depend on. When I’m on the road with the English hooligan, he acts as one of my constants. I know that I can sit near him, and not have to fucking talk. I get in funks on occasion (more frequently than I care to admit), and during these times, I instinctively want to be alone. However, if I am able to talk myself into being near another human, it does usually help. I seem to be able to keep hold of my mind a little bit better if there is someone else in the room. The thing is, I don’t want to talk or feel any type of conversational pressure during these momentary crazy spells. The hooligan is great because he doesn’t ask questions. I can literally crawl underneath his desk (the spot that acts as his temporary working space for the day) and simply say, “I just need to lay here for a minute,” and he’ll let me be. Well, he’ll shake his head at my eccentricity, and say, “Riiiight,” but he won’t ask me what’s wrong, and he won’t treat me differently and I feel 100% comfortable in silence with him. That’s an important constant. When my day-to-day can be such an unpredictable mess, it’s good to know that I can sit by my English hooligan and not have to say anything while I silently work on emotional suppression. I’d like to think that I can provide the same type of sanctuary for him. There have been a couple of times while out on the road with the hooligan, when I knew that something was upsetting him, but I didn’t ask questions. I figured if he wanted to say something he would. I just tried to not be as big of a pain in the ass on those days, and even went as far as to offer to tape up the day sheets for him backstage. I think I may have even brought ice onto the bus one of those days so that he didn’t have to… damn I’m sweet.
The huge amount of people who you meet on tour is without dispute, a major pro to the lifestyle. However, it is not without its’ con counterpart. I am constantly meeting the best people, and you become very close, very quickly to these people. So after a couple of months (however long the tour is), of cultivating amazing relationships, when it is all said and done, it’s just temporary. You inevitably have to hug the people goodbye and hope that paths will cross again.
Home starts to feel temporary too, but more in the way that a recycled bag feels temporary. It’s a perpetual state of repetition, rather than single-serving. You probably see the same friends and hang out with the same people you did before you left, but it’s not like picking up where you left off because that insinuates forward motion; progression in the relationships. No, you begin where you began the last time. Maybe during your time at home, you become closer with someone whether it’s romantically or platonically, but then inevitably, you leave. Things continue in this forward motion for the other person, but “home time” stops for you when you’re away. You come back and things and people have changed; your environment has changed, but you haven’t changed with it. Home feels like a temporary hideout that recycles the same month of your life over and over again.
You visit the coffee shop you go to every morning when you’re home, and the barista recognizes you, and he asks how your “trip” was (a question that I hate because I wasn’t on a trip I was fucking working you twat… but that’s just me being a touchy snob), and you have the same conversation you had the last time you came back. You tell him it was great, and you tell him some little anecdote about some night in some place and he tells you about how grad school is going. You may see him a few times a week for the next few weeks that you’re home, and every visit, you feel a tiny bit closer to that barista who has the freckled arms and easily blushes, but then you leave again. When you come back, you start again at one; that same superficial conversation about how your trip was and how school is for him.
Romantic relationships, fucking forget it. They work in the same way as your relationship with the barista. Maybe you start something really good, and you become close, make progress… but then you leave and when you come back the cycle starts over again at one. Your “room,” at home, if you’re lucky enough to have a room back home to call your bedroom, begins to look and feel like a temporary living space. My stuff is always half packed because if I’m only home for a short amount of time, so unpacking seems pointless.
I get home, and I see my hundreds of CD’s that I just leave packed up in boxes, and I think, I should buy a really nice stereo system, but a stereo is permanent. So instead, I just put my temporary headphones on (I don’t get really nice headphones because they either break or get lost on the road) and I listen to some music that will temporarily enhance my mood, often times recommended to me by some boy who temporarily made me happy and I temporarily think about how I’m going to utilize my recycled day.
I’d like to conclude this by stating that temporarily, I enjoy my temporary life. I do not mean to imply that this is a negative way to exist. The boy with the white hair recently pointed out that If I stopped touring, I would go stir-crazy after a couple of months. He’s right. I’m so fortunate to be doing what I do, but like everything in life, there are things that I love about it and things that really get to me, and sometimes, underneath the adventures and the stacked boxes of t-shirts in the trailer, this temporary life gets lonely.