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Road Trip

I'm growing older but not up
My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck
Let those winds of time blow over my head
I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead (Jimmy Buffett)

Buffett was playing as I headed down the road at seventy miles per hour. I was on my middle age road trip, somewhere between the North Carolina line and Nashville. The last time I had taken this route was in 2001, just before I went to live in Japan. Now it's four years later, and I realize I have not grown up that much.

My kid has.

He's nearly twice his age. He's nearly twice the size. Me, I am a middle age guy who still likes cheap hotels, country music, and riding the road with my radio blasting. It may not be head-banger music, but it has rhythm, and soul, and a touch of southern twang.

The last time I took this trip, I called my old friend Brent in Nashville, and we met up for some bluegrass at The Station Inn like we always have. Brent is one of those guys who went to Nashville after college, and hasn't left.

He has even managed to make a few bucks, and has continued to make his living off of the music business. When you think about the number of talented folks that come and go in Nashville every year, he is a living miracle. A middle-aged guy who makes his living in the music business. Dang.

This time, I didn't call Brent.

I didn't have his number and I had a full schedule, and wasn't sure that he would have the time. Then, lo and behold, while buying some Elvis postcards at the Ryman Auditorium during intermission of the Bela Fleck concert, who comes up and pinches me on the butt, none other than my old friend Brent.

We have known each other so long (over 30 years now) that I was not the least bit surprised by a pinch on my rear (though saddened that it was not some hot Nashville singer with a penchant for middle-aged guys). We hadn't seen each other in nearly four years, then we were back to old times.

He is one of my only friends that I still keep in contact with that has been to Coffee County, Alabama.

He is one of the few people I know that I can still speak of FFA string band contests and land judging competitions, and knows exactly of what I speak. He is one of those guys who has grown older with me, but not necessarily up.

Brent and I did what we normally do when we get together. We ate; we talked of old times, and new times, and even the future.

Then we went our separate directions for another long spell. Note to self: keep in touch this time.

The other part of this road trip that was meaningful was my trip to Graceland. Every southerner ought to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime just to get in touch with their roots.

(Some of us have been a second time for good measure.)

Doesn't matter whether one likes Elvis or not, he is a part of us. If we grew listening to rock and roll, we have Elvis to thank. If we ever shed a tear at a gospel song, Elvis contributed to that. If we danced silly in public and did not feel self-conscious, Elvis went before us.

A few facts I learned from this road trip:

1) I am a southerner, and will always be different because of it.
2) Music goes to the core of my being, and my core is just a little bit more low-down than others are willing to admit.
3) There's nothing like the wide-open road to clear your head (and with $2.25 a gallon gas?clear your wallet too) .

About the Author: Mike Stanton-Rich is "The Leisure Guy.

" Armed with a Ph.D. in Leisure Studies and years studying stress and burnout, he writes regular articles and features about enhancing work and leisure. Catch his latest at: http://www.

theleisureguy.com. Source: www.isnare.com.

By: Mike Stanton-Rich


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