“Nine o’clock the next day and I’m ready to go. I’ve got 600 miles to ride to do one more show.”
Those lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s What’s Your Name paint a picture of a raucous band going from city to city performing by night and traveling by day, sometimes on 600-mile journeys to the next evening’s show.
Such has been my adult business life. No, not the raucous, band playing part; but since 1979, starting as a management recruiter for South Central Bell/AT&T/ Bellsouth, I’ve been on the road from one gig to another, making my living as an actor, consultant, writer, or speaker, and then moving on to the next episode.
It started with recruiting new management hires for South Central Bell. It was technically a 9 to 5, however some weeks I left home on Monday and returned on Friday after visiting at least three college campuses. I could offer jobs to deserving young people and that was satisfying.
Later, I added acting in film and television to the consulting work I did in my firm after leaving BellSouth. For six years it was back and forth from my hometown of Birmingham to Conyers, Georgia to work on the television show In the Heat Of The Night. What started as community theatre and consultation has become a 30-year career in film and television and consultation. In the Southeast, I’ve traveled highways between Birmingham, Northwest Florida, Atlanta, Nashville, Jackson, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah, for gigs on movies, speeches and corporate communications.
I’ve flown into airports in most major cities. I flew into Memphis from Los Angeles to catch a connecting flight home only to turn around and get back on the plane to LA, because duty called.
The longest commute began in 1997, Birmingham to Los Angeles working as an actor out of the Los Angeles market. Then came Florida to LA, back and forth and back and forth until we got a place in Santa Monica and used it as our work home. I still enjoy spending time in Santa Monica with friends, Irish Joe, Michael O, and Sterfon.
Into this second decade of the 21st century it’s been, Charleston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Auburn, Birmingham, Nashville, Washington DC, Dallas, New York. I identify cities by the gig I worked there, Atlanta: Containment, Nashville: Sing Me the Blues Lena, Wilmington: Miracle In The Woods, Jackson: The Chamber, Los Angeles: Fight Club, NYPD Blue, etc etc.
The latest gig was in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve worked Charleston now a half dozen times. I could know more about it. I could have seen more, even visited the few people I know who live there, but that’s the road life. Go in do your gig, enjoy the crew and fellow cast members, another temporary family, and head for home awaiting the next episode of life to call. Home for me is the cherry on top of my life’s bowl of ice cream. Home is where I live my life.
How many final checks have I done? You know where you walk through the room and make sure you haven’t left anything, only in the back of your mind you feel you’re leaving something. It’s a road ritual; like zipping up the final item in your suitcase only to then remember something you specifically and meticulously planned not to forget only to have to unzip, reposition and remember what you promised to remember to pack, in the first place.
Leaving Charleston, I fired up some Allman Brothers and headed to Savannah. In Savannah, I stayed in a hotel I’d stayed in before. For every night I have paid for a hotel room, I could own an entire hotel by now. Sometimes I get to mix business and pleasure. In Savannah, I got to visit with Dixson (our son) and his family.
I am working out of Atlanta again. Looking back there is a sense of pride in having made it work. In having honored my commitments, both business and personal.
When will I stop? I don’t know. What I’ve done for money over the years, I’ve also done for free. It’s what I enjoy. I love the actual performing, consulting, and writing.
There is little more satisfying to me than siting in my office in the early hours of morning writing a piece and watching the sun come up over the Bay.
Then the phone rings, an e-mail hits, a text gets my attention.
“Nine O’clock, the next day and I’m ready to go!”