Half a lifetime ago, about twenty-five years, I got a call from my college buddy, Matt Corbin, who asked if I wanted to drive to Alaska with him and make all sorts of money working the fishing season. At the time, I was living in Orlando, juggling four different jobs as a puppeteer at Disney, a stuntman at Universal, a substitute teacher, and a taxi driver. So I jumped at the opportunity.
I’d really admired Matt in college. He was an amazing guitarist who wrote and recorded his own songs, and although it would be years until I got a little more serious in my relationship with the guitar, to this day, he’s still one of my musical heroes. We had taken our first road trip together during Spring Break in my junior year, and a follow up journey to Alaska seemed like a no-brainer.
Although the trip instilled an unquenchable sense of wanderlust in me that later inspired me to take my “Rucksack Letters” journey in 2001, and the journey I’m currently on, Matt went a different direction. While Matt spoke romantically about travel, and even named his kids Jack and Cassidy, after Kerouac and his buddy Neal, I think his true inspiration was becoming his father’s son, a family man who could provide stability and support for those he loved. Of course, his identification with the suffering artist created quite a bit of conflict in Matt’s life since, about ten years ago, he got serious about getting his shit together, and I’m truly comforted by how far he’s come down his chosen road.
It’s been about sixteen years since I’ve actually seen Matt, and I’ve not been good about keeping up with him or any of my other friends over the years. We’d actually just spoken on the phone for the first time in over a decade about a month before I decided to take this trip, and one of the things I was most looking forward to was going to see him in his new life. To say it was inspirational would be an understatement.
Putting aside the dreams of being an international superstar and acclaimed singer/songwriter, Matt has been driving trucks for the last several years, simultaneously scratching the itch to travel while also providing stability for his family. Having purchased what he calls his “forever home” earlier this year, Saturday nights that would have once been dedicated to beer-soaked bar gigs and clouded memories are now reserved for hosting his…