Thursday, November 01, 2007

No Direction Home

By Pauly
Lorne, Australia

How does it feel to be without a home? Like a complete unknown. Like a rolling stone.

I always thought I understood Dylan's words at the exact time I heard them. He wrote the lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone over forty years ago. Yet, I found solace and meaning at different moments.

1992. 1997. 2002. 2007.

At different times of my life, the lyrics and words and music meant something else. Can't explain why. It just did. Different person. Different places. Different feelings. Different own personal psychodramas. Fifteen years ago in Atlanta. Ten years ago in Seattle. Five years ago in New York City. And now... somewhere in Australia, Dylan's words resonate. They haunt. They inspire. They confuse. They belittle. They magnify. They send chills down my spine.

The last three years have been a blur. I've been to so many places that I can't count. I think I've been to nine countries this year. Or eight? Did I count America? Did I forget? Did I purposely forget? And does Monaco count as a country? Or just a principality?

There have been so many faces I have come across on the road that I forget names and forget the last time I've seen people. I had a brain fart a week ago. I bumped into a woman I had met during my first visit to Oz in January. Her accent was Australian and I knew that was her country of origin and that she lived in Gibraltar, but I couldn't remember the last time we spoke and bumped into each other. I insisted that I saw her in London. I wouldn't budge. London, I kept saying. And I was wrong. She politely reminded me that it was in Monte Carlo. That's when I said it's just one long road trip. She understood.

I work in a circus with lots of stops along the way. But no matter where it stops, I see old faces I have not seen in a while. I meet new ones and I forget the rest of the world. I lug around my backpack filled with two weeks worth of underwear and my laptop. I might as well be selling snake oil on some congested corner in the Chinatown of any major city.

I often forget where I've been and thank God for my blogs, otherwise I'd forget where the hell I was in April of 2004 or September of 2005. I wake up a lot in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, not knowing where I am. It's usually in a dark hotel room somewhere and I freak out for about thirty seconds until my mind refocuses. I need Polaroids like the character in Memento to give me a clue and put my anxiety at ease.

I woke up on a plane once after nodding off and couldn't figure out if I was in a dream or in real life. Then I forgot where I was headed. I had to look at my ticket stub. Mile high mind fucks.

I'm jumping so many time zones that have no idea what time it is. I don't carry a watch. My international cell phone is set in military time and in the middle of the night I'm slow to do the math. I make mistakes even during the day. Is it 8:30pm or 9:30pm? My laptop is programed to New York City time. I want to know what time it back home, but most of the time, I cannot fathom the concept of time. Space. Meaning.

There are moments when I wander around the streets of foreign cities, fading into a sea of unfamiliar faces, just like in Dylan's song. I'm a complete unknown which suits me fine. Sometimes I want to disappear and lose myself for days like I did in Amsterdam. That was in August but it feels like two years ago. I briskly walk behind businessmen on their cellphones and zip past slow walking tourists. I'm both. And that confuses the fuck out of me.

I often wonder when I'll get to go back home. The last couple of months I have been thinking about having a home. I missed having a place of my own. I want to settle down and sleep in my own bed and sit on my own couch in my underwear and blast my old CDs as loud as I can. I want to write when inspiration strikes and write all night if I have to, but that never happens anymore since I'm either rushing to another location or have to cut my personal writing time short to make a meeting, or work on an assignment. I long for a place of my own and want the long journey to end.

The fucked up thing is that if I do get what I wish for... a place of my own... I'll get bored in a couple of months and can't wait to hit the road again. I'm a traveling contradiction. I'm not content where I'm going and I'm not content with where I am. I'm caught in limbo and trying to dig my way out if quicksand. Which is pointless. That's why I give up and surrender to the flow. My home is the road. And there's nothing I can do about that.

I'm numb to the tiny sterile hotel chains with horrible art work on the pastel covered walls and the TV's chained to the night stands. And I no longer appreciate luxury hotels with marble tiled bathrooms bigger than New York City apartments. As soon as I get comfortable with one pillow, I have to get used to another one. And as soon as I get used to one bed, I'm sleeping in another. And another.

Sure, I don't have to pay rent or a cable bill or an electric bill. But I'm getting stuck behind inbred dipshits in airport security lines and always draw the retarded cab driver who has no idea where his dick is, let alone my hotel.

I always think that the next assignment will be the one that gets me home. I'm a hired gun. A free lance. That's where the term originated. Warriors for hire for the next battle. I always fight the good fight, and when the assignments are over, I'm exhausted and try to piece my life back together. I have more deadlines looming. The email backed up. I missed another friend's birthday. Another ex-girlfriend got married. Another friend had another kid. I missed out a juicy chunk of gossip. Another movie came out that I wanted to see and I'll have to wait to catch it on another transatlantic flight. Another one of my favorite bands was in New York City and I didn't get to see them, again. And no, I didn't catch the final play that sick overtime game. I missed it all. My hotel doesn't get ESPN and I haven't heard the opening song to Sportscenter in I dunno how long.

And that makes me even lonelier.

I chose this journey. It's my own doing. I have no one to blame but myself. Along the way, I found my voice. I made a fortune. And I stumbled into the spotlight of fame. I found love and made some new friends. I've collected enough material for ten novels and four screenplays, but of course don't have the time to write any of that down. I look at pictures I took and can't believe that that's me in the photos or that I was the one taking them.

Flashbacks. I get a lot of them when I finally stop working and allow myself time to think and let my mind wander. Nicky and I rented a car (although the Aussie term is hire a car) and we drove the Great Ocean Road, which is the equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway except you are driving on the other side of the road. As I gazed out to sea, I was bombarded by flashbacks from this year. All those cities I traveled since I got into poker. All those people I met along the way. All those bets I lost in Las Vegas. All those dark hotels rooms when I woke up dazed and confused in the middle of the night.

As I watched the waves roll up along shore, I had flashbacks of my lukewarm childhood in the Bronx. And jarred memories of being stuck in the trenches on Wall Street. I thought about following Phish throughout the Pacific Northwest with Angela many many many moons ago when I actually had hair down to my ass and I'd be slinging pharmies in Shakedown Street so I can earn enough gas money to get to the next show. I thought about old classmates I had not seen in years and friends that I had lost touch with. I thought about what my brother was doing at that exact moment or what song was playing on Senor's car radio as he drove home from work.

I started worrying about my writing and my inability to improve my craft on the fly. I've been on the road too much and for too long that my ability has gone stale and my creative juices had dried up.

I thought about how lots of people booed Dylan when he went electric and started playing what he wanted to play and not what the audience wanted to hear. Over the last 18 months, I have grown more and more angry because at my inability to evolve as a writer mainly because of the lofty and unattainable expectations that people have thrust upon me. I have bled my heart out and entertained the masses for free for four years and they take and take and take and I rarely get anything in return. All they want is the same old boring shit that I thought was hip and funny three years ago, but that stuff is so arcane now that it's the last thing I want to write about. I go my own way and say fuck it and continue to do what I'm going to do. Poker has been my blessing and curse in the same instance. Dylan turned his back on the boo birds and continued his evolution as a musician. I've been trying to do the same, but I admit that I can still feel the hot breath on my neck from the unsatisfied ones and that constant pressure makes me want to walk away forever and go home. If I had a home to go to.

Everyone wants a piece of me and there are some days when I barely have anything left after the vultures have plucked my soul apart. I have to start over from scratch and reinvent myself.

I'm directionless. I only know what the next flight I have to catch is and I remind myself to stop worrying and focus on the now. That's what is important. I still get up and write every morning and those words will never be seen my human eyes. I still write for me first and that's why I get out of bed. Well, I get out of bed because I'm an insomniac, but I guess I write because it gets me off and as long as I'm not shooting up dope in my arm or drinking a fifth of Jim Beam before breakfast, I must be doing something right.

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was escape my home and see the world. And now that I'm seeing the world, all I want to do is escape and go home. I've seen too much, too fast, and I need time to let it all sink in so I can enjoy those moments I missed. And then... I can finally sit down and fully express what I've seen and experienced over the last three years.

The journey continues. I'm still on the road, except right now, I have to drive on the other side of the road.

* * * * *

Here's Dylan playing Like a Rolling Stone in Newcastle, UK circa 1966.

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