Touring is rigorous. And while I love my job, it takes an awful lot of work.
First, I have to prepare the presentations. Each one takes countless hours of research and analysis. Then that raw data must be structured and compiled into a cohesive and comprehensible slide show combining historical and musical analysis with audio examples from the songs and interviews with the band members and their associates. All of that must be easily digestible to an audience and simultaneously intellectually enlightening or else the whole project is worthless.
Second, I then have to find a host location where I can deliver the program. I write hundreds of emails to potential hosts, most of which are ignored, but maybe a third of which respond with interest. To book enough presentations to sustain a full-time career takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Third, I must travel to the host location. Sometimes, as in the presentation I gave at the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Library in Zionsville, IN on 1 February 2016, that location is only a 10-minute drive from my house. On the other hand, the presentation I gave at the Liverpool Central Library on 16 July 2015 was 3,207 miles as the crow flies from my then-apartment in Hartford, CT, and the journey took a total of 26 hours from door to door. When planning and scheduling tours, I must ensure that I can safely and efficiently arrive at the location. I plan these tours very carefully, and I have yet to cancel any of the more than 300 programs I've booked so far (though the hosts have canceled a few times, such as in Lake Dallas last week).
Fourth, I have to deliver the presentation. None of the above steps matter one iota if the presentation itself is sub-par.
Since travel is inherent to my career, I spend a good deal of time away from home. I miss my wife and puppy terribly - especially at the end of the day, in between finishing a program and going to sleep. Since February 8, I've spent a total of four days at home (March 4-7), in between my Florida and Arizona tours. And I was ill with food poisoning for all four of those days. So now it's time for a well-deserved and physically healthy stay-cation.
Being a full-time professional Beatles scholar is fun work, and very engaging work - I visit many new places and meet many new people. One of my favorite parts of my job is the opportunity to meet and talk with fellow Beatles fans, who continually impress me through the sharing of their own stories and knowledge. I am perpetually amazed at how much I learn by teaching. There's nothing I'd rather do... but right now it's sure good to home!
JOHN (Aaron's father and traveling companion):
Our time together sped by like a Greater Roadrunner. I'm hoping that meant I had fun on this lecture tour with Aaron. But knowing I had to drop Aaron off at the airport in a matter of hours so he could return home at the end of our journey was worse than a kick in the head with a lead boot.
I was thinking about the past two and a-half weeks and, while we didn't do a lot of soul baring or deep, personal discussions -- neither of us are that type -- our travels were enjoyable. Much of our conversation in the car was him relaying his phone GPS directions, and me asking two minutes later to repeat them. I felt good when he shared his future plans with me. We gasped at the spectacular terrarium landscape that was Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. We marveled at the moon emerging from behind a mountain, or a large hill, depending on whom you ask, while cruising along the highway after an evening talk at the Juniper branch of the Phoenix library.
"I've never seen the moon like that before," Aaron said, and I agreed. The moon was so grand it almost dwarfed the mountain, or hill, like a saucer-sized eye trying to peek over the peak.
Near the airport, Aaron pointed to several airborne planes with navigation lights as insistent as controlled explosions. "They look like ducks in a row," he said.
We approached the highway exit for the airport. The GPS noted we had to stay to the right. "We'll get off the highway onto one of those loopy things," Aaron said, referring to the exit ramp that forced us into a U turn toward the airfield.
We easily found the Delta drop-off zone at Terminal 3. I pulled alongside the curb, hopped out and opened our Chevy Suburban's tailgate to pull out his bag and backpack. We hugged.
"I'm really going to miss you," I said. "I'm going to have to really pay attention to where I'm driving now."
"Yeah, that's one thing," he said.
"Well, there's more than that. I'm going to miss having you to talk to and to point out all the strange things we see on the road."
We hugged again, and he walked off. I returned to the driver's seat and looked for the way to retrace our tracks. I was confounded at first by seeing a sign pointing to Interstate 10, which I knew I'd eventually have to get to, and then a sign for Highway 143, which was the last road we were on before reaching the airport. Should I follow the arrows to the interstate? Or get into the lane for 143? Aaron...?
I made an executive decision (wild guess) and got onto 143. The road to the highway curved to the right and bent back toward the airport. Is this correct? It swerved to the right again, and signs for terminals 3 and 4 suddenly appeared. Oh no, am I going back to the Delta terminal after leaving it just minutes before?
The road took me past terminal 3 and 4 and finally exited to 143. I was able to do it -- go in the right direction without electronic help.
Would I miss Aaron? Of course I would. Would the rest of the trip seem a bit incomplete without him? Yes, it would. Would I eventually get to the point where what I was doing would overshadow the fact he was not there in the passenger seat? I didn't doubt it.
I swung from 143 into the lane that would take me to I-10 South, then to Highway 60 and then State Route 101. As I made the lane change, the full moon -- brighter than any jet airplane's lights -- seemed to balance above the highway in front of me, out of the way of the mountains/hills and making me marvel once again.
It also reminded me that I had no one there to share it with.