“You drove this wreck here from Texas?” The Coordinator says as he looks at my ten year old pickup truck sitting in his California parking lot.
“Yeah.” I say and give the hood a loving pat. “By way of Maine.”
At the moment I am doing Directory Work and spending a lot less time in interesting places and a lot more time in places no one wants to visit. One of the great short sights in all Assembly Line Portrait companies is that they fail spectacularly in utilizing one of the things that make their companies worth working for-travel to interesting places. They bitch and moan that they can’t get people to work for them because of the travel, and yet people like me who want to travel, are not allowed the option of traveling to places we want to go.
I have worked for Companies that sent me around the country, but the hours were long and the drives were often hard. Six days a week with the seventh day set aside for six hours of travel. This was also not a perfect system, you traveled all over the place, but seldom had time to do anything you really wanted to do. The Company, of course, liked to say that they were not paying us to be tourists, they were paying us to take and sell portraits. I miss those days of seeing a new State every week and going to all those wonderful touristy sites that every state has by the hundreds. I don’t miss the dingbats that ran the company.
Putting Road Warrior into Careerbuilder brings up a list of mostly sales and nursing jobs and the occasional odd job like one I found once working with blimps. I seriously thought about that one for a couple of days. Basically George Clooney in Up In The Air had my near dream job-well, minus the suicidal downsized.
People who travel for a living aren’t going to Six Flags and Disneyland, as a general rule, but you can find good places to eat and see a lot of cool things out the window as you drive from one middle of nowhere to the next. There are still a number of states I have not been to, with Colorado being the closest-not that it is all that close.
During the dead days of summer, I often end up doing a bit of traveling. I am never sure if this is just because other Assembly Line Portrait photographers want a few days off, or because I am willing to go to places several hours down the road. I have gone to Florida, Mississippi, and Kansas on short notice in the summer. I prefer the more northern states in the summer, but that just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
I was in far Eastern Oklahoma not too long ago. Lots of trees and hills and big skies. The way home took me more into the flat lands and miles and miles of corn. It reminded me of being in Pennsylvania just a little, I spent one summer in Pittsburgh and bought some of the sweetest corn I ever tasted from a guy in a pickup truck beside road. I tend to remember most places by the food we ate and the sites we saw. The sad part is that I still tend to do that, even though I know I should be thinking about taking better portraits. Of course, I take pretty good portraits by rote now.
I let my subconscious do most of the driving while I listen to audio books and watch the world roll by. I don’t like this kind of stuff enough to become a bus driver, but I do like driving for a few hours and seeing the changes in the world that come from just a few hundred miles.
I meet a woman the other day who was 82 years old and was so proud that she had spent all but two years of her life in this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere. I live in a big city and like having any food, store, movie, or amusement that I can think of. The people in the small towns like to remind me that they have no traffic and that they know everyone in town. I don’t have much interest in knowing everyone in town and the reason there is no traffic is there is nowhere to go. I have also always had this idea that I would like a big farm in the middle of nowhere-but then my idea of the middle of nowhere is not that far from where I live now.
I spend a lot of time in motel rooms and I like to catch up on odd little shows like Mythbusters, The Colony, and Pawn Stars. I also tend to watch a lot of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. When I travel alone I end up flipping through the channels half the night, only stopping for a minute or two here or there. If I have wifi I might spend a little too much time following news links and catching up on old blog buddies. I almost always end up heading to Wal-Mart to buy some Circus Peanuts and the usual odds and ends that I run out of on the road.
I like motels with Steam Rooms and Whirlpools and hot breakfasts, but I mostly just take whatever can get. The closer to the Shoot the better.