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On The Road

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The Spring Break road trip I took last week was what I needed to maintain my sanity for the rest of the year. In the tradition of Kerouac, there's something great about the freedom we have in this country to drive until our butts become permanently carseat-shaped, hop up and down all night to the tunes of a great band, and then drag in to our crappy day jobs exhausted but happy.

This year I went on a little road trip and enjoyed a couple of concerts by my favorite band, They Might Be Giants. (Now, of course, they didn't book Charlotte on the tour, even though TMBG is geek rock, and Charlotte is home to more than enough geeks to pack Tremont Music Hall for a night. Just think of all the IT people and computer geeks that it takes to run a major banking industry town like Charlotte. If you're one of those geeks, by the way, let me recommend TMBG to you. They're so nerdy, you'll love them. But I digress.)

The first show I attended was in Atlanta, where every street and building is named Peachtree, and visitors are required to get lost once or twice in the course of their stay. The concert I went to was in Buckhead, which is the part of town that is just like Charlotte. There were gazillions of sports bars, a Have a Nice Day Cafe, a Bar Atlanta and the prerequisite Irish pub. So if you go to Atlanta, hang out in Buckhead -- at least if you want to feel at home. The only difference between Atlanta and Charlotte is that Atlanta has a few other neighborhoods, too.

Actually, being in Atlanta really made me appreciate Charlotte. The traffic there is just out of control, and the average speed limit on the interstates is probably 80 or 90, which almost makes you appreciate gridlock. And the housing in Atlanta, in addition to being exorbitantly priced, is also just plain scary. In Buckhead, for example, it seemed that all the housing developments were gated communities; one of these communities was actually called "The Plantation," which is the height of irony. Rich white people were the ones who initially brought slaves to the United States, which of course the slaves were not happy about. Once slavery was forcibly ended in the South, racial and socioeconomic strife grew. So what did the rich white people do? Naturally, they moved into gated communities to protect themselves from poor black people, and they call their bricked-up fortresses "plantations." Don't tell me they don't have a sense of humor down in Hot-lanta.

Anyway, once we got to the Buckhead area and found our concert venue, we were chagrined to discover that it was an all-ages show. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on you young folks, but normally I hate being at a rock show with you. I enjoy concerts for the music, while the below-18 set seems more inclined to enjoy smoking cigarettes and looking old. Plus, having seen a show at this location before, I was expecting it to be fairly awful. Smoking and drinking, leading to cigarette burns and beer bottles to trip over, were rampant the last time I was there. There was a time in my life when a concert wasn't much fun unless there was plenty o' smoking and drinking. These days, it's the opposite. (I know, I know, I'm a young fogey.) But I was pleasantly surprised by this concert. Everyone standing down in front of the stage was a fan, and I didn't get a single whiff of cigarette smoke. Which isn't to say that the place didn't smell fairly foul by the time the show was over because it did. You get that many people smooshed together, hopping up and down for a couple of hours, and you're going to get yourself some funk.

There are very few things that give me the feeling I get at a really good TMBG concert. It's like being around family, only instead of being your actual family, it's a family you picked. It's a family you actually have something in common with, aside from genealogy. It's just cool to stand in a crowd of a hundred people, every one of whom actually know all of the words to "Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)." Hey, I mentioned earlier that it was geek rock.

Onward. The next day we were back in the car driving to the next TMBG concert location: Charleston, SC. This drive took us through some desolate spots in Georgia and South Carolina, and in one of them I made a terrifying discovery that changed my life forever. It was Easter Sunday, and there on a street corner in some small town was a man with a sign that said, "THE BUNNY IS A LIE!" You might want to sit down. It turns out that there is some sort of religious holiday associated with Easter. It's not just about candy and Easter baskets. Needless to say, I was floored and spent the rest of the drive to Charleston immersed in deep reflection.

But I perked up in time for the Charleston concert. The family atmosphere wasn't exactly the same, although there were some Charlotteans present, but it was a lot of fun just to watch the College of Charleston students drink, dance and smoke pot all evening. I have to admit that by this time, I was ready to get home. Charlotte may not have They Might Be Giants concerts, but at least the traffic's manageable, we haven't grown into one giant gated community yet, and nobody here is out for the blood of the Easter Bunny. *

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