Some people get through long drives with great road tunes or intriguing talk radio. After touring for 24 years I’ve found that conversations can help me. Since I tour alone that means I’m talking to myself or my GPS Marcia. She’s a great conversationalist (I love how she admonishes reCALculating) but really, what gets me to the next gig is food.
M&Ms are the perfect road food ‘cause no matter how hot it gets they stay self contained. Chocolate bars, not so much. Right now I’ve got some pieces of art in my travel food bag that requires a yoga position to get out of the wrapper. Oh the sacrifice one makes for Good Chocolate. (Organic fair trade 85% cocoa. Yeah, baby.)
I don’t measure trips by miles (or clicks or bad billboards) but by M&Ms. I can make a small bag last an hour if I’m going about 70 mph on an interstate. It can be an issue if I’m pulled over. “But officer, I was only going 30 M&Ms per hour.”
Listening to my music it’s clear where my passions reside. I have one song about chocolate, one about potato chips, one inspired by cheesecake and one called “Dark Chocolate.” That last one isn’t about chocolate … exactly.
Occasionally I get food gifts from fans. Often it’s chocolate. No complaint there. One enterprising fan gave me a gift bag of chocolate, potato chips, cheesecake and pork rinds — the latter because I used to tell a story on stage about sharing housing with a pig.
I need to write a song about lasagna and salad so I can get a good meal.
During one tour I got caught in an ice storm. Fortunately, I found a motel but there was no restaurant nearby. I didn’t bring my usual food box so I was stuck with what I found in the vending machine and left over from my last restaurant meal. It’s amazing how far you can stretch a box of biscuits and several bottles of root beer. Three meals, it turns out, but never ever dunk a biscuit in root beer.
A few years ago after one long day of driving I collapsed in a motel in a tiny Midwestern town. The only restaurant was across the street. It featured bright orange vinyl booths and a menu where almost everything was smothered in canned gravy. I was heartened by the fact that they had a salad bar so that’s what I ordered.
I scooped brown edged iceberg lettuce and watery carrot shreds on my plate. There were two dressing choices – lumpy light brown (Thousand Island?) or bright orange french. I slopped some of the latter on top. I skipped the other “salads” swimming in mayonnaise (one piece of macaroni was doing the backstroke) and the orange (Are you sensing a theme?) gelatin pitted with canned pineapple. I contemplated making a dash for the door and checking out the motel vending machine but they’d know where to find me. Anyone who eats that much gravy is bound to own guns. I definitely didn’t want to piss them off.
As I pushed the weary vegetables around on my plate the waitress slumped by and said, “Honey, you can eat all you want.” I simply smiled and thought, “This IS all I want.”
I was able to eat that meal but I wasn’t so lucky another time. My stomach started clenching up on the long drive to a gig. After nearly doubling over with pain I stopped at a rest area and curled up in the front seat of my truck. I considered calling my producer and telling her I wasn’t going to make it. We musicians are like the post office though so I forced myself upright and made my way to the gig.
My voice was ragged from the end of a cold so my audience probably thought my pasty color was from that. I struggled through the show, judiciously timing my breaks. I even stayed to sign albums. Fortunately I had no gigs for a few days so I holed up in housing – an apartment I thankfully had to myself – and ate only plain yogurt and drank gallons of water.
An hour after coming home from that tour my partner broke up with me. But that’s a topic for another blog. Or just listen to my plethora of break-up songs. While you’re at it, check out the food songs too and tell Frito Lay they need me for their next marketing campaign. That fat check could buy a lot of chocolate. Maybe I’ll share it with Marcia.