Back on the Road, Back in the Present

Let’s talk about now. 

Right now. I’m in Arizona, in a Walmart parking lot just outside Tucson. How did I get here? 

A lot has happened since the last travelogue style piece I wrote for Connected States. That post, was on gear testing in the wilderness of British Columbia, something I did all the way back in August of last year, and wrote about in November. After that I went to Cuba, a story I’ve struggled to find an outlet for. Then the Pacific Northwest. Then down through LA, to Vegas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Then back to LA and SF, and quick trips to NY, Park City, and Aspen. There’s a lot to tell, but I’m not going to tell any of it tonight. 

I’ve fallen too far behind in my posts, and rather than let the present moment run further ahead as I try to write about the past, that was never the vision for this journal or this trip. I want you to come with me, as I go, not read about where I was months ago. 

Sometimes you just have to skip ahead. So here I am, in the present moment. 

Somewhere just east of the Arizona/California border.

Somewhere just east of the Arizona/California border.

I’ve been gripped, recently, but overwhelming urges to simply drop everything and hit the road. The voice came loud in mid-January, when I felt like I’d been in the Bay Area for too long around the holidays, and zip, I threw everything into the van and headed south the next day. I spent some time in LA, I flew to Houston to do a piece on NASA, which you will soon see, and I headed down to camp in San Diego for a week. It was peaceful, warm, and idyllic. 

Yesterday evening I returned to LA, parked at a three hour meter in Santa Monica, and grabbed a quick bite with a friend. When we were done, I went back to the van, climbed inside, and closed the door. Suddenly my heart was racing. There was the voice again, screaming in my head, “Go. Go! GO! Get the fuck out of here, man!”

I had half an hour left on my parking meter. I knew the responsible thing was to stay in LA. That’s what my agents and managers wanted. What if an audition came up? What if I had to shoot a video last minute? My friend Max’s voice came to me. It said if I had to turn around and come back in a hurry (or fly back) I could just do that, but I bought this van because I wanted to be on the road. Good point, Max's voice. With five minutes to spare on the meter I reopened all of the blinds, looked up the route to Texas, and found a Walmart a few hours out along the route where I could spend the night. At 8:02pm, exactly as the meter’s timer ran out, I pulled onto the street, and headed toward highway 10. 

Those first few hours of driving east were weird, filled with trepidation. I couldn’t decide if I was running away from something or running toward something else. It felt somewhat out of control and I was relieved when I reached the Walmart parking lot safely. I immediately drew all of the blinds closed again, as is my habit, creating a little bubble for myself. I realized I still had some medicinal marijuana on me and I didn’t want to bring it across state lines. As a first-timer's gift, the dispensary had given me a pre-rolled joint made of shake from all their various buds. I asked the woman if the combined strains would completely melt my brain and she said pretty much. I typically prefer the mellower stuff, but sometimes you want to go out with a bang.

So I stepped out of the van, sparked the joint, and smoked half of it in the span of just a couple minutes. Then I flicked it and walked into the Walmart.

As the sliding glass doors slid open my eyeballs were blasted with bright lights and colors. It felt like walking into Disneyland. I walked up and down the toy isles, the hardware isles. I spent some time in bedding, contemplating whether or not I should spend a hundred bucks on a fancy new memory foam mattress topper for my bed. I tried to research it on my phone, but the internet defeated me. I fled the isle.

I’d giggle, then try to suppress it, and then giggle harder. I ended up buying some antifreeze and a roll of clear repair tape. I stepped into line behind a guy with a full shopping cart. He was dressed in casual but nice clothes. He was in his mid 40s, black, and peering at his iPhone through his glasses. 

“Oh,” he said to me. “If that’s all you’ve got you should just go ahead of me.”

“Oh thanks!” I replied. “You sure?”

“Yeah, man. I’m not some damn foreigner. Go ahead.”

“…I …um… thanks.”

Welcome to Walmart. Welcome back to the road. 

My current plan is loose at best. Tomorrow I hope to get to Marfa, TX, I place I’ve been hearing about for more than 10 years but never been to. I’ll spend a couple days there, probably, then I’ll visit some relatives in Kendalia, TX for a day or two, and then on to Austin. I’ve only been there while SXSW was going on, so I’m excited to be making it there before the circus comes to town. 

From there, I really don’t know. I’ll have to shoot some more Wired videos in CA in early-mid March, and I have another trip to CO planned right after that. I suspect I’ll leave The Beast in long-term parking in Austin or Houston, do my thing in CA, and then return and keep pushing east, but with my whole life up in the air at the moment there are no safe assumptions. You guess as best you can and you prepare to improvise.

Advice for places to go, people to meet, and things to see, photograph, and/or eat are all appreciated. And, as always, following on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is the best way to stay up to date. Subscribing to receive this blog via email is good, too.

Glad to be back in the present moment with you.

-Brent
2.19.16 11:18pm
Tucson, AZ