BIRMINGHAM—I am eating hotel breakfast in the dining room. This past year, my wife and I have stayed in nearly sixty thousand hotels. That is only an estimate. And I rounded down.
I have become so accustomed to hotels that when I fall asleep in my own bed it feels weird. Sometimes, in the middle of the night I wake up expecting our bedroom to be laid out like a hotel room. You can imagine my surprise when I stumble over an eighty-pound bloodhound and nearly break my neck.
But I have grown to enjoy hotels. Some are WAY better than others. I have become a connoisseur of the conntinental breakfast, which is a French word for “cardboard-tasting eggs.”
This week I have been doing my one-man shows in different cities, and I have more engagements ahead of me this coming month. In fact, we are going to be in Pennsylvania, New York, and—I can hardly believe this—Canada.
Until this stage of life, I had never traveled anywhere. In fact, I have never done anything worth scrapbooking.
I remember when my friends would return from their world adventures and show me pictures. I would get jealous. Having to look at someone else’s happy vacation pictures is a special kind of hell.
You have to pretend to be interested while they relive every painstaking moment of euphoria from their four-week trip to Spain.
“That’s me and Buffy!” the friend might say, “And here’s us doing cartwheels in Barcelona! And here we are jet-skiing with supermodels! And here’s Buffy and I bungee jumping over the La Sagrada Familia, and we were buck naked!”
And you just smile and nod.
Because I have no gauge for what world travel is like. Furthermore, I was raised fundamentalist and have therefore never been naked. My mother said I was born wearing corduroy pants and Hush Puppies.
To tell you the truth, I have never had a big urge to travel overseas. I guess I should be embarrassed about that. After all, there’s so much to see.
But to me there is still a lot I want to see in America. Yosemite, for instance. Yellowstone, Acadia, Niagara, Talladega, etc.
At one time I wanted to visit all the American national parks. And I really got jazzed up about this. My wife and I promised ourselves we were going to do it. We were going to hike, eat lunch on the Appalachian Trail, see the cool things this country had to offer.
But my boss at the time wouldn’t let me off work because he was a greasy little twerp. My dreams sort of died a slow death, and it was my own fault. I should’ve quit that job.
Somewhere along the way, I started writing about my own life. Since I had nothing else to do, I began writing about things from my home in the South. About fishing, little service stations that serve great tater logs, and the sign on I-65 that says “Go To Church Or The Devil Will Get You.”
And oddly enough, it led me here. A period of life where we do lots of traveling. For the first time in my life I have gotten to see a few things I’ve always wanted to see. Like hotel rooms, and continental breakfast sausages made from 100% meat-like product.
I haven’t seen many big things, but I’ve seen tons of little things. Things that might not mean much to some, but they mean everything to me.
Like the small potluck in Kentucky, on the Missouri border, where they served very strange food.
The time in the Texas Panhandle, when I ate barbecue brisket while staring at an alien landscape of wind turbines.
The time in Abilene, when I saw a child driving his disabled grandfather around town in a truck. The kid looked maybe ten.
The time my wife and I saw the sun hanging over Bear Mountain, Arizona, surrounded by miles of colored rocks. We had hiked for three hours until we were so tired that we started crying from exhaustion. Also, because I had forgotten to pack our sandwiches.
I’ve done shows in several states now. But I feel like I should admit something to anyone who has ever come out to see me perform:
I was never supposed to be doing this. Sometimes it all feels like one big accident. I have no earthly clue how this happened, or why, or if God mashed the wrong buttons on his Heavenly remote controller.
The only experience I have telling stories comes from memories of my father, seated on our porch swing, shirtless, running his mouth. I am not a professional anything, and I am not even sure I know what I am. I am just some ordinary guy who never figured out how to load a dishwasher.
And I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t deserve your hospitality to me. Because in my heart, I still feel like that you h man who had a crummy job, working for a greasy little twerp.
Even so, I hope you know how grateful this little twerp (me) is. Not just for coming to my shows, not just for the hugs. But for caring about me, for writing me letters, for inviting me to your potlucks, for making me feel that I finally have a place in this world.
Most importantly, thank you for reading this.
These hotel eggs are god-awful.