It 8:37 PM Pacific. No, wait, Central.
Or maybe Eastern?
Is there a time zone between Pacific and Central?
I’m in a fog, unsucessfully trying to sleep since I boarded this flight. Middle seat, by the way.
The dude next to me is eating peanuts. I’m allergic to peanuts.
The overpriced bacon cheeseburger from my layover in Salt Lake City is mixing with the tequila from last night's L.A. celebrations and I have to fart passionately.
Any other time I would have been completely miserable on this plane, but for the past two weeks I've been sleeping on the ground in the wilderness, pooping in gas station bathrooms and staring out the window for hours with nothing but the corn fields of Iowa, the hills of South Dakota and the mountains of Wyoming to entertain me. I've been eating nothing but San Francisco tacos, L.A. Korean BBQ and Roscoe's chicken and waffles and I’m pretty sure I've been keeping Pepto Bismol in business. I just drove 3500 miles with four dudes in a car from D.C. to Portland, Oregon. Think three hours on a flight can stop me? This is the most comfortable I've been in days.
Fuck it, I'm not going to be able to sleep. My last cheeba chew has worn off (god I love L.A.) but I can certainly still write. So that’s what I’m gonna do.
When I set off on my journey two weeks ago I had no idea what to expect. I haven't taken a car trip for more than eight hours in years, so the idea of spending a week in a car was frightening. In preparation, I armed myself with music. I downloaded albums I had always meant to listen to, the ones I'm too ashamed to admit I haven't studied enough, I would finally, truly comprehend the greatness of The Chronic, dig into Common's early work. Hell, I grabbed podcasts and even bought an audio book. If I was going to suffer, stuck in a car with three friends with literally nothing to do, I was going to come out of it a better man. By the time I reached the west coast my appreciation and knowledge of music would be oozing from every pore, much like that Taco John burrito in North Platte, Nebraska. Quick review: never, ever, ever, ever, set foot in a Taco John. The only thing lit about it was the heartburn. Also, shouldn’t it be Taco Juan?
Anyway...I had dreams of sitting in the backseat, crafting incredible and amazing reviews of albums past and present. I was going to listen to Surf so many times I'd be able to write the greatest follow-up review ever. Even Jack Kerouac wouldn't have shit on me. I was dreading the long hours in the car, but I was looking forward to finally having a chance to sneak under the bleachers with my main girl Surf for hours and hours of intimate time. I was looking forward to writing as Missouri blurred by outside the window, dropping fire into Nathan’s inbox every time I hit up the code for the wiiifiii. Whether it was Boise, Idaho, Nebraska or the black hole that is North Platte, Nebraska, I was not going to let a cross-country road trip get in the way of my writing. I live, eat and breath music, I could do it on the run, in my sleep.
Reality had other plans.
When I arrived in Portland I was mildly hungover, (Boise got the best of us the night before) scatterbrained and rockin’ a shaggy, spotty 15-year-old boy beard. I opened up the computer to see my checklist completely unchecked. I hadn’t gotten to one single album I had meant to. Fuck. No big deal though, my trip wasn't over. I still have flights and stays in San Francisco and L.A. to get through this stuff, plently of time to write my travel magnum opus.
Well, now I'm sitting on this plane in my last pair of clean underwear thinking, "Shit, Nathan's gonna kill me."
I feel bad. Terrible. As my flight gets close to National airport, I can feel the tension in my shoulders start to mount. As soon as I land the journey is over and it’s back to the turbulence of paying bills, maintaining stressed relationships and the weight of responsibility. Shit. I should have done more. How could I slack off that much? Welcome back to the real world, Lucas.
On the other hand I don't regret a single second, except maybe Taco John. Yeah, I definitely regret Taco John. I think I've made it clear in the past few years how much I truly love music. It's my sickness, my cure. It satisfies my appetite and leaves me wanting more. Comment section tough guys have been known to tell me to chill because music isn't that important, to which I always reply it's my job, my love, it is that important. I always thought they were completely full of shit, but you know what, maybe they were right, at least in part. Ok, so I didn’t learn about how The Chronic changed hip-hop, nor did I really study Resurrection, but I’ll never forget when we took mushrooms and spent the day chilling at the basin of some rapids with a giant mountain behind us. I could have listened to Surf for the 90th time, but instead I put away the headphones and did things I'd never do at home. I went days without checking Twitter but when I’m home I can’t make it through a movie without seeing how many RTs my last article has.
Did I listen to some music along the way? Hell yeah I did. Driving into the Badlands blasting "Easy Rider" was just too perfect, and the long trek through Iowa flew by thanks to a Disney sing-a-long; front all you want, but "Prince Ali" is a classic. Music played an important role, but it was a different one, a supporting member of the cast instead of the leading star. I went from having to listen, having to be the first to hear Surf, to listening when I felt like it. The world didn’t end when I wasn’t on top of the new mixtape or single. I could have spent one of my two days in San Francisco listening to Leon Bridges’ new album, one that I have been eagerly anticipating, but instead I got some of the best tacos I’ve ever had, and life and music are not mutually exclusive. Now I can listen to Leon Bridges with the deep, unshakeable knowledge that I've consumed some of the best tacos on Earth. If anything, that makes me more qualified to critique an album. I still love music as much as I did before I left, but what I didn't have then was some perspective. Listicles, Twitter beef, labels and dare I say it samples, are just a piece of a larger landscape. Music is my everything, but it shouldn't be my only thing, and sometimes it takes stepping away to realize just how much something means to you.
It’s not just about music either. We all have this desire to feel deeply connected to the world, thanks to the internet and smart phones it’s not hard, but in tweeting, Facebooking, Tindering, checking DJBooth, ESPN and whatever else, we often lose track of the world just outside of the screen. I realize now that I had lost track of that world. So be sure to close the computer and do something new. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic road trip, but it should be something that gets you out of your comfort zone.
Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back, still obsessing over music and writing better than ever thanks to the cornfields of Iowa, the mountains of Idaho and yes, even Taco John.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]