I am on a balcony in Boise, Idaho, drinking coffee and watching cars zip by on an expressway. Under the bridge is a skate park where local kids land tricks well into the night. Across the street from the skate park, homeless people convene. Even the destitute of Boise are beautiful in their own craggy way. This is a town of pretty people. I had no idea. Anyone in Boise having a bad day should immediately fly to the Rust Belt and spend an afternoon as a solid 9 and the envy of the sack-faced peasants of aisle 12. A sunburnt Boise homeless woman with a dog would pass as an eccentric lesbian millionaire in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I've been on the road for ten days now. I left home and drove to Rochester, Minnesota for a great weekend at Goonie's, the club there. I stayed in a nice hotel and I was plied with free drinks and food. Coffee was right there when I wanted it. Saturday night, after the shows, I was fed shots of whiskey and taken to a bonfire. I woke up in my clothes, in my room, reeking of smoke and sheepishly calling the front desk to ask for a late checkout.
The next couple days were question marks on the calendar. I was going to Minneapolis, then to Fargo, and then driving to Boise (another 17 hours from Fargo) for my next club weekend. At both of my stops, I was scheduled by comic brethren to close out an open mic while the show runner passed a hat for donations.
Sunday I found myself crashing at the house of some old friends from Toledo, who live in Minneapolis now but who weren't home. I had an awkward bit of small talk with one of their roommates, then got a fitful nap on their bed in their room, feeling a little out of sorts from the night before and a lot disconnected from the world around me. I made it out to Coon Rapids, about 25 minutes away, to do the mic at a place called Willy's. The show is apparently notorious as where comedy goes to die, but I wound up having a great time, I made some money, and I started feeling like the world was properly on its axis after all. I made it back to the house, found the spare key under a brick, and let myself in for more weird sleep.
I got up Monday and headed to Fargo. Interstate 94 is so weird and bumpy that at one point I pulled off the highway, certain something was wrong with my car, but it was just bad pavement. You'd think with all the driving in Michigan I've done, I'd know the difference by now. I got to Fargo and my friend's place, and we hit Romo's for some of the best tacos I've ever eaten, then a brewpub to kill time and do trivia before the open mic.
The show started late and ran long, but people were enthusiastic and stayed till I closed it out at the end. Again, the hat was passed and my nomadic weirdness was rewarded. I met some cool people, and another comic who lived down the street agreed to let me sleep on his couch.
Tuesday was where I found myself at loose ends. While Joe's black cat nuzzled my face and got hair all over my laptop, I sat at his kitchen counter, soaking up stolen wifi, and watching a heat wave course across the weather map toward me. It was gonna be 101 in Boise on Wednesday. Did I want to drive into that in my old car? The bumpy road noises rattled my confidence in my trusty Maxima. I started poking around on Priceline looking for cheap flights, the thought of a 17-hour drive (each way) looming over my shoulder.
Obviously, flying was going to wipe out what little I make as a feature comic, but the difference between the flight and the gas money wasn't as big as you'd think. I didn't factor parking and taxis and things like that into the equation, but it's been a good while since I've flown, and this was my first time flying to a gig. It was a learning experience, if nothing else. And it was nice to drive back to Minneapolis, park a car, navigate their terminal, fly to O'Hare, wait an hour, board a connecting flight, and fly to Boise... and still get into town six or seven hours before I otherwise would have.
Tuesday during the day was interesting. Once I left Joe's place, I couldn't go back in, and I was basically homeless (though lucky enough to have a car) till I met my friend JD at a concert we'd decided to attend. I spent time at a coffee shop, ordering refills when I felt too conspicuously like a loiterer to use their wifi and restroom. I drove over to a park and sat at a picnic table reading a book for a couple hours. I got more Romo's and enjoyed that. I went back to the coffee shop. It was the longest day of my life.
After the concert, I slept on JD's floor in my sleeping bag, then woke up all kinked up and fuzzy to drive back to Minneapolis and the airport. It was quite a culture shock after my day of travel Wednesday to arrive in Boise, call a cab, and end up at the comedy club's condo. It was nicer than my house. There was food in the fridge, snacks, coffee, a washer and dryer, clean towels, toiletries... I arrived with my bag of dirty laundry and a sleep deprivation twitch in my eye and I found an oasis of peace.
The next morning, I made coffee that was already in the cabinet. When I poured my first cup, it was hot as hell, so I got an ice cube out of the freezer. I didn't even really think about it. But that's the beauty of changing circumstance. The day before, I bought coffee at a gas station, got down the road, took my first sip and realized it was scalding. No way to fix it. Such a trivial thing, not having ice, or a coffee pot, or a place to take your shoes off, or somewhere to wash your clothes. Trivial until you don't have what you want. Trivial until you get it back again and feel like the king of the world over ice cubes and a bed.
Way back in the day, I ran my life into the ground. I wasn't ever homeless, exactly, but I did some time in some places where the water was shut off, or where bats flew in through a hole in the roof, or where my rent went to someone else's bag of weed and the utilities were a day-to-day gamble. It's easy to forget how close you are to that life. This particular kind of weird nomadic broke-ass traveling is a good reminder. You start to be thankful again.
The last few days in Boise have been neat. It's summer so the attendance at the shows has been light, but the room itself is amazing and takes great care of the comics. The condo, as I've already stated ad nauseam, is beautiful. I could sit here and look at the mountains and listen to the skaters' wheels roll all day, in my shade and comfort. There's a Trader Joe's and a bunch of nice restaurants about a ten-minute walk away. I'm a lucky fool and I hope my antics on the stage somehow justify the largesse that the world has given me.
All that said, I can't wait to be home. I'm tired and I need a haircut and even in these luxurious circumstances, you start to feel grimy and out of sorts. As I finish this, it's Sunday afternoon. There's been a horrific mass shooting in Florida and violence at home in Ohio, and it feels like I'm sitting in Rivendell soaking up the R&R before I venture out into an inferno. I know that's not true. But I also know I want to be home, in my house, with my kids.
This was a good trip. I hope to make it again. I won't forget how tiny the mountains in the distance make this big city feel, or how surreal it is to drink a beer in a metal tube 35,000 feet above the Rockies, or how comedy is a day pass into the lives of so many people. I will try to remember when some other traveler asks for a haven in my town, on my show, to open my arms to them, as so many other people have done for me. And I'll do what I can to make this all meaningful and part of a life lived as best I can.
Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.