When I was 16 years old, I remember taking off one weekend in 2001 for a Santana concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Upstate New York). Hoping into my dad’s minivan, my best friend, Ben, and I merged onto Interstate 87 South, bluebird skies overhead with junior year of high school just around the corner.
Seeing as the van had a six-CD changer, we stopped at the (now defunct) Peacock Records in Plattsburgh for some much-needed road trip music. Wandering the aisles of endless records, I picked up a copy of The Steve Miller Band’s “Greatest Hits 1974-78,” an iconic collection that could easily sum up the 70s in the 14-song LP.
Within that two-hour or so drive to Saratoga, Ben and I sang along to the entire album. I can still distinctly remember howling to “The Joker,” a cigarette in-between my knuckles atop the steering wheel, the sunroof open and swirling with the summer breeze of the Adirondack Mountains, “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker, I get my lovin’ on the run, you’re the cutest thing, that I ever did see, I really love your peaches, want to shake your tree…”
And though the Santana performance was stellar, as expected, what really sticks out forme from that adventure was that something clicked in my head. I wanted to keep moving. I didn’t want to turn around right after the show and head back to my childhood home. I didn’t want to go back to high school, or at least hoped for my time there to fly by and stop right at graduation.
I was restless, still am, in many respects. As Steve Miller famously sung, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future, I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea, fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me…” so do I continue on down the ole dusty trail.
And while Steve and Co. cruised through a raucous set in St. Augustine, I couldn’t help but notice the irony, perhaps, of where I was. For many, Florida represents the end of the road, a state (of mind) when you put the brakes on your endeavors and try to “live the good life.”
At the amphitheater, I realized, at 31 years old, I was quite possibly the youngest person there, and by at least 20-25 years. Although timeless, the music of Steve Miller does, in fact, belong to my parents — I was just lucky enough to be present as a kid when they cranked his immortal tunes.
Looking around at the massive audience, it hit me — these folks ain’t stagnant, they’re reclaiming their happiness. Your parents didn’t move to St. Augustine to, well, “die,” they came here to get drunk, get high, make love, all while tossing a handful of glitter and another log onto the bonfire of their winter years.
Not all in attendance dropped their dreams to join the workforce and “keep up with the Joneses.” My parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers, changed the landscape in terms of innovation, culture, equality, progress, sexuality, politics, the arts, and, most importantly, how to make the most of your time on this hurtling, orbiting rock in space we call Earth.
During “Dance, Dance, Dance,” the crowd, full of grey hair or no hair at all, had Miller’s back, as voice after countless voice echoed out of the venue and across the Atlantic Ocean, “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, if you keep on dancing, you’ll never grow old, come on darling, put a pretty dress on, we’re gonna go out tonight…”
And I suppose like the “story about Billy Joe and Bobby Sue,” I, too, will always be on the run, finding currency in the purity of life, which, if you haven’t figured out yet, is meaningful friendship, hearty conversation, immersion in Mother Nature, and a deep well of curiosity you work hard everyday to make sure never dries up within your bountiful soul.
When my eyes flutter open each morning, I roll over and let out a big yawn to that great big world outside of my door. “OK, world, I’m up, I’m up. Time to make the coffee. Time to seize that carp everybody keeps talkin’ about.” The clock ticks away, with every moment a second to decide what direction you will go. But, remember, it isn’t about choosing wisely. It’s about that beating muscle within your chest, that nonstop workhorse that acts like the world’s greatest well witch, just as long as you let it lead the way.
And if you need a soundtrack for your wanderin’ and ponderin,’ hopefully your Steve Miller albums are within reach, “You know you got to go through hell, before you get to heaven...I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on, you know the big wheel keeps on spinnin’ around…”
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 The inaugural Folkmoot Music Showcase and Spring BBQ will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 19, in the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville.
2 Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host Joe Lasher Jr. (country/rock) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26.
3 Tipping Point Brewing (Waynesville) will have an all-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Ian Moore (Celtic/Americana) on Thursday, March 17.
4 The monthly Creating Community Workshop will feature “Adult Coloring” at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 19, in the Atrium of the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva.
5 The Cut Cocktail Lounge (Sylva) will host a “Honky Tonk Angel Contest” with the Honky Tonk Players all night on Thursday, March 24.