Sunday, July 30, 2006

Road Apples, Mules and My Return to Earth

One of the major problems with traveling a great distance for an event is that there is a heightened probability that the event will not justify the effort. Such was the case when we ventured almost 300 miles to Connecticut to see the Dave Matthews Band and Gov't Mule in Hartford, Connecticut.
The endearing charm of both bands is that one could follow either of them from city to city and never see the same show twice. That has as its downside the fact that one of the shows may be the dog of the bunch. I've seen the DMB four times this summer (twice in Camden and once in Hershey, PA) and twice last year (Camden and NYC) and I would say that Saturday's show ranks as the dog of the bunch. My friend, who has seen them dozens of times, agreed that it wasn't one of her favorite shows, either.
I've seen Gov't Mule even more than Dave, but always as headliners of their own shows. I wondered how they would react to opening for such a big act. Their set was subdued and I thought, too laid back for a crowd that wanted more energy from a night that clearly needed a cooling breeze and some exciting music, but they're promoting a new CD, so I guess concessions must be made.
Dave's set was equally mellow, and too much so for an evening where the discomfort of high heat and humidity were exaggerated by the impatience of waiting for something exciting to happen. So ... as they say, you pay your money and take your chances.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Upon returning to the car after the show, I discovered that I had left my driver's side window open. Fortunately, nothing was missing from the car, so I chalked it up to the honesty of concert-goers, when in fact, I was parked so close to the car next to me that it probably wasn't noticeable.
One of the chances one takes involves the travel to get to wherever it is you're going. In the case of the northeast, that often means traffic, congestion and construction. The traffic is a given. We're in the famous northeast corridor, and the amount of people exceeds the space to house us by about 2 to 1. The great conundrum is that construction projects need to be done in the summer, which is precisely the time when people want to travel. If you could build a road in February, go ahead and do it. My ass is inside keeping warm by the glow of the TV. But they can't. It has something to do with concrete, I think.
All those things don't amount to much until you add in the incessant toll booths and the congestion they create. On vacation in the southwest, I drove for 2 weeks (almost 2,600 miles) and never paid one toll. All of it on pristine state and interstate highways, crossing 3 states. I wondered how Nevada, Arizona and Utah did such a good job of maintaining their roadways without a seventy cent toll every 15 miles, like we have in New Jersey. Every time the brake lights illuminated, I thought there was some sort of accident up ahead, but no! Soon, there would appear a PAY TOLL 1 MILE AHEAD sign, which not only served as a warning, but as a reason why traffic has crawled to a near stop. Add to that the ceaseless and senseless lane-changing by aggressive drivers who think that the world moves in their wake -- [WHY DO YOU NEED TO BE IN THE MIDDLE LANE, WHEN THE REST OF US ARE MOVING ALONG QUITE NICELY, AND THERE ARE A THOUSAND CARS AHEAD OF YOU?] -- most notably by 3 Porsche drivers, moving in tandem at 90 mph, weaving along I-95 -- and you have the makings of what we call 'an accident waiting to happen' - a few of which we saw on the way. But it all comes to a screeching halt when we arrive at the toll booth -- the driving equivalent of a buzz-kill.
We tax people without children (like me) for schools, tax liquor and cigarettes even if you're buying them as gifts and charge property taxes to people (like me) who live in condominiums, all of which falls under the general umbrella of taxation without representation. We fought a war over it a long time ago. Perhaps we should wage a similar fight over the ridiculous toll road system that we have come to accept here in the northeast? It isn't the hardest problem in the world to solve, and I suppose if we really wanted to, we could, if it weren't for the patronage jobs and corruption that is not only built-into the system, but is embraced by it.
Meanwhile, Fiona Apple would have been worth a climb of Mount Everest to see, but I only had to go about 20 miles. Sometimes, the best things are right outside your door. No tolls, traffic or congestion - just art, expression and great music. The brightest star in a Universe of dull, brown dwarfs. She would be kicked off American Idol before her hands were warm around the microphone, but I'd buy ice cubes from her in Alaska sooner than I'd buy another Ford from Taylor Hicks. In some ways, it's sad that artists like her have such trouble finding an audience, but in another, selfish way, I'm glad that the audience she has found has me in it.


Pam said...

I spent 7 years of my childhood in the NE (my brother was born in Hartford). I don't remember much of it, but I remember going to visit extended family and the towns and houses seemed so close together. You'd pass through 3 towns just driving down the street. It was bizarre after moving south and having so much space everwhere.

Forty_Two said...

I listened to a member of the Libertarian Party being interviewed a few years ago. She was advocating the privitization of the road system. If you owned Main Street, then you were responsible for maintaining Main Street and you could charge people to use it.

Just imagine the number of toll booths you'd have to pass through just to get to work every day.

Anthony said...

OK, so we'll check off the Libertarians as having an answer to the problem. They're not a factor anyway.

I don't know which was the bigger waste of time: (1) interviewing a member of the Libertarian Party or (2) listening to an interview of a member of the Libertarian Party.


Kate Michele said...

Anthony!!!! You put your picture up!! How cute are you??

Ok enough girly talk on to the post at hand....

Reading the part about the tolls reminded me of going to Pittsburg for the Plumb concert and paying over 3.00 in tolls and I remember saying..."whats with all these crapy roads? I thought that was the point to collecting a toll...."

I have always been a fan of Foina Apple...In high school I think I was the only one!! I feel that some aren't cool enough to get her!!

kimmyk said...

I thought you were gonna tell us someone broke your window...who knew people were still honest?

She is a pretty girl. I've never heard any of her stuff before. *ducks* I'll google her and give her a listen.

Anthony said...

No ... in my drunken state (now known as Connecticut) I inadvertantly left the window open. A rookie mistake by a veteran. All's well that ends.

I would suggest the Extraordinary Machine CD. There are also links to some videos on her web site, I think. Link on my blog.

The_SRV said...

Too bad you had to go through the something-hole of the universe, Connecticut.

Cool blog, cool read.


-Steven G. Erickson a.k.a. blogger Vikingas