I’ve been thinking about Ringo Starr a lot, mostly because someone just told me he was turning 91, Really? That seemed so hard to believe. With good reason. It isn’t true. He’s turning 79 on Sunday.. Yes, that is still old but ….. it isn’t 91.
Read more of my ruminations about Ringo, enduring snide remarks, and putting yourself out there at It Don’t Come Easy.
The final stretch is a trip through the deep south. We end up spending the night in town in which the only open restaurant is a fast food chicken place, and the only open grocery store is whatever they sell at the bait shop attached to the local gas station. We patch together a meal from what’s in our car.
The next day, as I drive up the road to my own house, my last rule of the road, #28, is clear. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.
I’ve been listening to my playlist of 25 songs with home in the title. When the list is done, Gabrielle Aplin’s Home is the one I play twice. Make that three times.
I don’t see the video until after I’m in the house. It has such a creepy start that I almost don’t post it, but I watch it a few more times and it wins me over. So much of the country she travels through looks like where I’ve just been.
I could swear I passed the guy in the yellow truck at least once in my travels. In fact, I might have stayed at his Airbnb. Or maybe I saw him at Burning Man. At any rate, the video resonates with my journey, and her song leaves me smiling … because I’m finally home.
As far as rules of the road go, I fear I might have run out of words of wisdom. I feel myself spiraling out towards lofty observations like “always put love first” or inane comments like “don’t forget to give the pets treats.” I guess rule #27 is going to be: If you didn’t learn anything special today, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.
I do have a song for the day, however. It was introduced to me by my sweet and lovely host and I think of her when I hear it. It also is about being beckoned home, and about the things that light our way. At Burning Man, the lights off to the right helped me find my way back to my tent. Today, in this second to last day of my four week journey, she was one of the lights along my path.
A few years ago I made a play list of songs with the word “home” in the title. I was moving across the country at the time, leaving my home of fifteen years, and I was trying to generate enthusiasm for making a home elsewhere. It helped.
As I take a turn driving, one of those songs keeps running through my head, I think because the chorus has something to do with stopping a hurricane.
Tonight, I won’t be in my own house but I’ll be staying at the home of someone I love, and I’m looking forward to it. There will be a home-cooked meal (and probably a very good one) and fine wine and a soft bed that I haven’t had to pay to sleep in. It feels welcoming as I drive through the storm.
I mean it. It makes no sense. I am standing in the middle of a desert so inhospitable that no life form except microbes lives here. It is hot and miserable. The food is lousy and I have no appetite. The liquor all gives me a headache. It’s crowded and noisy and the sounds never stop. The porta-potties stink and I’ve no where to brush my teeth and I can’t even get a damn art car to stop for me even though the sign says it should have been here by now.
What’s worse? I paid $400 to do this. I drove nearly 3000 miles, spent at least another $1000 on supplies, and used up most of my free time for the last month getting my shit together to be out here. And ….. here comes the epiphany. I’m glad I did it. I’m enjoying myself. Worse yet, I’m thinking about coming back here and doing this again. Seriously…
Do you think you could program a machine to do that?
Read more, see more photos and listen to the song of the day at Day 18. I, Human
It’s jazz. New Orleans jazz to be precise, and I realize this is a funeral procession …. Then I notice just how big the procession is. It’s got to be hundreds of people, maybe more. They are getting closer to the temple ….
I’m happy to let my private tears coexist with this noisy tribute. Then I realize the trajectory of this procession will take it into the temple via one of the many curved entrances, and it happens to be the one in which I’m sitting in the dust crying. I’m about to be in the way of the largest single act of mourning ever held at Burning Man.
I spend about half an hour trying to find the henna tattoos, located at 4:00 in center camp. Hot and cranky, I finally give up. This has certainly turned into a shitty day.
Then I stumble upon friends and next thing I know I’m on an art car with some sort of south seas theme. It takes us to a memorabilia-filled tiki bar tucked into a bus and I’m drinking rum drinks and talking to a psychiatrist about phobias when I meet an older burner at the bar who’s been doing this since the early 90’s and he kisses my hand and suddenly I feel so welcome here.
When I arrive, I find a universe that is gentler and more accepting than I hoped. Staff and performers hug, compliment and encourage. Some acts are polished and great fun to watch. Others are raw creations, not ready for prime time elsewhere. Yet, they are cheered on by this coffee-sipping audience that seems to understand the fragility of nascent artistry .
I receive quick and generous praise from everyone for being a warm, helpful and happy human. How odd. Is this worthy of praise?
I’m headed north from Fernley Nevada to the Black Rock Desert to participate in an annual ritual of creativity, self-reliance and playfulness known as Burning Man. I’ve never gone before, making me what is known as a virgin burner. It’s been a few years since I’ve been called a virgin anything.
Then I hit a one lane stretch of road, and just miss being part of the group getting to go through. I wait for 25 minutes, with my left arm baking in the sun, turning red as I simmer. I’m totally cranky, now. It’s time to get off the road
As I post this, I am mourning the loss of a wonderful woman who died last night, and my heart aches for those who called her daughter, sister and mother. It’s starting to rain, and I think on how the sharpness of their loss will dissipate with time, but the sense of melancholy will linger. If I get my one question of the powers that be, it’s likely to be along the lines of “this whole death thing … was it really necessary?” The answer damn well better be yes, along with a reason that finally makes some sense.
Day 7: Cry
I put Hays into this trip because it is the deepest of my roots, the place where I was born and raised, where I came back to be married, and where both of my parents are buried, along with any other ancestor who died after arriving in the U.S. It’s been six years since I was here, and as I cross into Kansas on Highway 81, the rain and the destination combine to form a sense of melancholy.
I hush myself. Rule six needs to be no second guessing, I decide. The cornfields are lovely. The trucks are few. Iowa stretches on out to the sky. The day is mild, so I roll my windows down low and turn my music up high. The corn won’t mind the noise at all.
We stop for lunch and my sister insists I try one of the many flavored long island ice teas. I’ve already had a glass of Rose and it’s only 11:30 and hard liquor doesn’t sound good …. but this is vacation, and who could resist a blood orange long island ice tea. Two sips into it and the headache starts. Bad idea. I should have resisted it.
Rule three, I decide, is if it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.
I invoke rule two, forgive myself for the mistake, and go back to slowly sipping Rose aboard ship. The wind blows through my hair and I decide, headache or not, this is going to be a good day. My sister reminds me of what our father used to say on days like this…. Now this is living. He was right, it certainly is ….
Today my music keeps getting interrupted by Google Maps. The app is experiencing ongoing frustration because I have chosen to take a slightly longer route and not drive through Chicago. Nothing against the windy city; it’s a great place but I don’t want to drive through it.
“We’ve found a route that is 19 minutes faster,” it chirps as soon as I’m on the highway. “Touch screen to accept.” It continues to try to route me through Chicago for the next four hours. An algorithm apparently cannot comprehend why I’d rather drive a few extra minutes to enjoy rolling countryside and less traffic.
So if the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, does the journey of 6000 miles begin with 6 steps? Just wondering ….
This morning I left for a 28 day trip, the longest I’ve attempted in decades. The first 12 days will involve me driving over 3000 miles by myself, in a car loaded down with a bicycle, tent, air mattress, camping and cooking supplies, food, and all the clothing and necessities of life for four weeks. Oh, and lots of music stored on four different devices with three different ways to play it. I may be foolish, but I’m not stupid….
During these first 12 days I’ll be staying with 7 different Airbnb hosts, and if tonight’s lodging gives any clue, it’s that this will be interesting. I’ll also be retracing significant places from my past , something it is time for me to do.
For some bizarre reason I’ve been coerced into performing a duet for the ceremony, along with my best friend who actually plays the piano well. I’ve been given the easy part, but I am still praying to all the gods I’ve ever heard of for the strength to not screw this up. Absolutely everyone in my young life looks on as I strike that first note. I focus. I breath. I begin to play.
Today, I face the fact that one of the reasons I write is to leave something behind.
“Oh, so you want to be immortal?” you ask. No. I’ve studied too much astrophysics to think anything in this universe will last forever, and enough history to know that few humans leave a noticeable footprint more than a few generations into the future.
The key word to me is noticeable.
Somewhere in my heart, I think if you leave something of value behind, it will affect others who will do the same and so on. Yes, I’m enough of a realist to expect the effect to diminish with time, and to recognize our life expectancy as a species probably isn’t all that long, anyway.
So? It’s not an influence that lasts forever I’m after. However, the idea of leaving a little of me here for awhile is something I’m driven to do. Like I said, individual tastes do vary.
Is a shrinking world a good thing? We now feel the pain of distant events in new ways. The sorrow they cause is difficult, the increased desire to help is laudable. I was searching for a video of a song to convey that feeling, to stand in contrast to the various videos of “Far Away Places” that I posted on my other blogs.
I found this instead and realized that it was perfect. Maybe that’s because it’s about the way the world could be. Or maybe, it’s about the way it really is and we just tend to forget.
Along with the many tragic aspects of this incident is the side effect of how it serves to further separate the people of this world. No society exists on this planet that does not have its crimes; larger countries have more. Crowding, poverty, stresses from modernization and the integration of different cultures adds to volatility everywhere. But when the awful event occurs in the back yard of somebody else who lives far away from you, it is easy to think “Oh, that’s the way they are.”
My stories make it obvious that I love places that require a difficult journey to visit. Greenland. Bhutan. Antarctica. Tierra del Fuego. A small village in Nigeria. A lake in the Mountains of Guatemala. If it’s hard to get to from where I am, I love to write about it.
No place is more remote to a Texan that the island nation of Kiribati. This south pacific country of 100,000 people is made up of 33 low-lying coral atolls with a total land area of about 300 square miles. More spectacularly, it is the only nation on earth to set inside of all four hemispheres, and it covers a million square miles on the globe.
In fact, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a song about hope … It basically says I’ll be there to help you , because no force is big enough to stop me. It’s the last part of the that message that gets my attention; the idea that nothing can be so big and so bad that it can’t be overcome by someone who wants to make things better.
The Dixie Chicks sweep the 2007 Grammy Awards with their album “Not Ready to Make Nice”
Accept and move on. That doesn’t mean backing down on my principles. It does not mean making nice with the people who put us into this mess. In fact, hanging on to what I believe and refusing to look the other way regarding hateful behavior is going to help me get out of this funk. I’m determined to find a way to say goodbye to a world that is not going to be, and then to work my hardest to see that four years from now I’m singing a very different kind of song.
This is a post about Aretha Franklin and wearing a hijab and my mother’s funeral, and it comes to you from a cafe in Marrakesh Morocco.
I’m staring out the window at the crowds of tourists and locals crossing a busy street in front of the Koutoubia Mosque as I write. I’m alone in this city, far out of my comfort zone, and I’ve just ordered my first couscous. I settle into the ornate red pillows, ready for a genuine Moroccan experience, when I recognize the unmistakable voice of Aretha Franklin in the background.
Now I like Aretha as much as anyone and maybe more than most, but she is kind of getting in my way here, and it’s not even one of her better songs. I listen more closely and I feel the ghost of my mother snuggle into the pillows beside me.