Monday, March 3, 2008

solitute and road trips

I have a confession. On occasion, I am a loner. I not only enjoy some good alone time, but revel in it. This is not to say I'm some would-be hermit or misanthrope. I like fresh air. I don't panic at the sight of crowds. But, while I love and adore my friends, I also love and adore the times I can just hang out with me, myself and I. An ideal alone night: a nice glass of Pinot Grigio around 6 while watching the second Beverly Hills 90210 episode on Soap Network (right now I'm right in the midst of the whole juicy Kelly/Dylan/Brenda cycle and I remember so clearly watching these episodes when they first came on, when I was very, very little, and being shocked, just SHOCKED at the whole situation), making dinner around 7ish (something especially yummy, whole wheat pasta with home made tomato sauce and cucumber, tomato and feta cheese salad). A really good night of television makes for an ideal alone night (Monday for example with John and Kate Plus Eight at 9, then No Reservations at 10, or Thursday as soon as new television starts up again when I can enjoy The Office, 30 Rock and Lost). There's got to be some quality internet surfing (a little or eonline perhaps if I'm feeling particularly vapid), all polished off with a Daily Show and Colbert Report hour before bed. If I'm still awake at this point then a good book in bed makes for the perfect end to the night. Nights out with friends are the good stuff in life, the substance. But nights in by myself are what charge my batteries and keep me sane so I can enjoy and stay awake during the good parts of life. And sometimes it's really insanely hard to beat climbing into my pajamas before dinner and spending the rest of the night in vegetable mode.

My last few blogs have been decidedly negative and rage filled, and unfortunately my rage prevented me from discussing perhaps the biggest highlight of this otherwise sucky, sucky past month and a half (I'm sorry, I'm trying to be positive, but there's no denying the utter suckage of so many moments in the early parts of this semester) But I digress. Two weeks ago I road-tripped from Farmville, VA to Chapel Hill, NC with some buddies to go see a show on Will Ferrel's Funny or Die tour. I have never been to anything like it. Imagine a massive coliseum, completely packed with mostly college students, and watching stand-up in this atmosphere. It was nuts, like some weird rock show-comedy club hybrid. And I almost peed myself so, so many times. I knew Demetri Martin would be hilarious because well, if you've ever watched any clip of Demetri then you'd know this. But the other two stand ups, Nick Swarsdon and Zach Galfinakis (I'm almost postiive that's the wrong spelling but I don't feel like looking it up) were awesome and genius. I was surprised when Nick Swarsdon took the stage, because I realized I knew him as Terry, the gay, roller blading prostitute on Reno 911. And he's now one of my new favorite people. And of course seeing Will Ferrell in all of his silly, goofy glory was awesome. But I also loved the whole process of going to the show. I know that you can road trip post-college, but I have a feeling it won't be the same. I have been on countless of these mini-road trips, to concerts, to visit friends. And somehow the very mundane act of being stuck in a car for a few hours becomes something bigger than the sum of its parts. It's the moment when you first pull onto the interstate, surrounded by friends, the whole experience ahead of you. It's pulling through drive-thrus after a concert, when you're still a little giddy or keyed up from the show and hungry in a way you've never been hungry before, for greasy cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets that will never taste better than when you're sitting in the back seat of a darkened car in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It's going through dozens of tiny Virginia or North Carolina or South Carolina towns, sleepy, forgotten southern villages that you could drive through in twenty years and find almost completely unchanged. It's the moments on the way back, in the early hours of the morning, with friends asleep in the back, and the music on high, staring out at patches of farmland underneath speckles of stars. Or the completely random, hysterical conversations that spring from boredom or exhaustion or anticipation. It's getting lost repeatedly, and the triumph of finally finding the place. It's gas stations, loading up on soda and snacks and stretching out sore, stiff limbs. It's knowing that road trips, in all of their spontaneous, impractical glory, are perhaps the quintessential expression of youth for college aged kids. We can drive four hours to see a really great band perform in podunk Appalachia and not get back till practically dawn. We can leave early in the morning and spend an entire day driving without getting fired from a job or chewed out by a spouse. Road trips are almost mythic in the American imagination. Think of how many books, movies, Journey songs focus on the simple act of being on the road. Even more so than where a road trip takes you, there's a simple kind of freedom in movement itself. It's being unattached, uncommitted. It's the beauty of irresponsibility. It's knowing that life will probably never be as pure or as easy as this again.

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