There’s the concept of the “non-place,” a space where it’s impossible to be comfortable due to its inherent transitory nature. Where I’m remembering this from I forget at the moment, but I find that it’s a rather apt phrase for describing what precisely the life of a traveling salesman entails. To wit, living in places where impermanence is paramount, where there is nothing at all resembling an anchor.
True, Heraclitus brought all of this up back in the Presocratic years, and impermanence isn’t exactly a novel concept – our greatest poets and writers, songwriters and artists have been dealing with this shit for ages – and yet these spaces that are designed to mask them… Hiltons and JFKs and Starwoods – they only end up doing the precise opposite of what they’re intended to. Which is why I never let the housekeeping people clean my room if I’m at a hotel – BECAUSE I DON’T ALWAYS MAKE MY BED AND CHRIST ALMIGHTY AT LEAST LET ME PRETEND I’M NOT A STRANGER HERE.
The sterility, of course, is to be expected. What’s somewhat unexpected is the notion I hear on occasion from some of my friends that what I do is in any way glamorous. It’s not, and in fact it’s terribly lonesome and all I want to do is drown myself in liquor and get fired so that I can escape this routine and this rut of going back and forth and back and forth again and again in between places, never being home, or when at home simply wanting to sleep or be alone or maybe, maybe say hello to you.
This is the life of the road, perpetual anxiety, perpetual groping at strangers for some sort of feeling, and upon finding it, more often than not, losing it the next day.
I look out the window of this little courier jet, seated in the exit row on my way to Sioux Falls, head against the latch, knowing full well that all I have to do is unbuckle my seatbelt, pull the lever, and be sucked out into Dakota country. But life is beautiful and cloying and an insufferable flirt – the only one I haven’t yet given up on.