Friday saw me gunning a cheap rental car down the Waikato Expressway from Auckland to Raglan. I was off to play an annual gig with the Legendary Mudsharx. The band is made up of self-canonized old rockers including Dave McCartney from Hello Sailor, ex-Warratah Sid Limbert and blues maestro Midge Marsden. We are all aging, we are all in the drop zone. We’ve lost three good  Sharx over the years: legendary guitarist Mike Farrell, bow-tie wearing saxophonist Clarry Cresswell and, two years ago , piano-smashing-hell-raiser Ritchie Pickett.

We have one rule: no rehearsals. Playing together is a treasured moment and every year is another roll call, another gamble to see if anyone has fallen off the perch. This year looked like a full muster. (Well, it wasn’t quite).

While driving the 1990’s Bluebird I fished on the antique car radio (it still had a cassette player) to try and find the National Programme. No luck. But amidst the fusillade of Auckland FM stations I finally settled on ZM and the voice of the bombastic Leighton Smith. He was solemnly announcing that Sir Paul Holmes had just passed away.

The drop zone. At times like this a man becomes reflective. You start looking for meaning. I wasn’t finding any meaning in the highway flashing by, not in the massive carbon footprint and screeching tires as F3 trials raised the rubber at Meremere nor in the Christmas decorations still up in Huntly.

One would hope to find the meaning of life in the music of someone like Neil Young. After all it was the political savvy of songs like Southern Man and Four Dead in Ohio that got me into music in the first place in the 1970s. But I have to say that his self indulgent autobiography Waging Heavy Peace which I am currently reading offers no clues. It’s all about his cars, his battle with weed, and his model train sets.

Nor is there much solace in the nihilism of Metal. Remember the guys from Metallica weeping with their therapist as they tried to sort out their stuff in Some Kind of Monster? Existentialism, sweat and tears. Meh.

There are some signs of intelligent life out there. Brian May, lead guitarist with Queen, recently earned himself a doctorate in astrophysics. Graeme Downes from Dunedin’s leading lights, The Verlaines, did his doctoral thesis on the music of Mahler. But using big words won’t get you through the Pearly Gates. At least the lyrics of Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen offer hope.

Perhaps an authentic life in music gives us meaning? A touch of Eckhart Tolle, a little insight into enlightenment? Jazz poet Ben Sidren has a great monologue listing the three things needed to be a musician fulfilled : a bad romance, a good travel agent. And (wait for it) seafood. Yes for the touring musician good food trumps the music itself. Midge calls the pies and sausage rolls that touring musicians thrive on “road fruit”.

Leighton Smith finished eulogising his broadcasting mate and a commercial bustled him off the airwaves. It was an ad for The Mad Butcher: “You just can’t beat the Mad Butcher’s meat”. Crack up.

No, not a lot of meaning there.

Road fruit. Well, maybe in the end that’s all there is. It is indeed a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.