Friday, July 30, 2010

The lonely road

Many years ago my world ended at the age of 30. It happened the day I moved out of my house, away from my wife and four-year-old son, and into a drab apartment. Divorce happens and when one is young it truly seems to be the end of all that matters.

Happily, we are profoundly ignorant in youth.

These days, nearly 30 years later, I travel with my darling Carolann and our precious girls,
Cricket and Lady. Our 35-foot Class A motor home is perfect for us and so are we. I also hit the road alone frequently because I must. For that I have a Lance camper and Ford F-350. And when I go, I travel in my own good company because after my first thirty years of living I learned something rather delightful.

I like me.


"In solitude, where we are least alone." -- Lord Byron

Shortly after the separation I was forced to go on vacation alone. Still buffeted by the emotional storm I set out for a week by myself in a too-big rented house along the Northern California coast which, of course, was where my now ex-wife and I had spent many happy times together. Great choice, huh?

For the first time in my life I was truly alone. At the age of 30 I spent my first night ever in absolute and despairing solitude. I cried myself to sleep and the sound of it was disturbing.

"With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves." -- Eric Hoffer

It's odd, I remember thinking, to pass entire days without uttering a single word because there was nobody else to hear it. So, several days into my forced solitary confinement I tried talking aloud to myself. It was a comically depressing exercise and I soon gave it up. But then a funny thing happened. I continued to hear my thoughts.

This, too, was a first in my life and a stunning one.

It was a distant voice, quiet and almost shy. It was I, trying to get my own attention. And so, I began to listen.

I told myself to get out of my wallow and take a shower. Leave this place for awhile, I said. And so, we did.

"I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity." -- Einstein

I put on nice clothes: slacks, dress shirt, tie and jacket. I took myself to a nice restaurant and when I boldly asked for a table for one I added, "by the window, if possible." I ordered wine, treated myself to an expensive meal and had a nice, long, quiet internal conversation while watching the sun slide behind the Pacific.

"People who aren't alone are rather noisy, aren't they?" I commented. "Yes, they certainly are!" I replied with a grin. And then I opened my notebook and began to write my impressions of the people around me in the restaurant. My inner self did the eavesdropping while I wrote descriptions. I gave them names. I invented their lives and I found I enjoyed them as well.

"What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely alone can be." -- Ellen Burstyn

By the end of the evening we went back to the rented house near the thunderous surf and amazingly, it was no longer empty.

No place ever has been since.

Copyright © 2010, David L. Williams. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Box o' troubles


I have an odd affinity for wooden boxes.

I have some nice ones, too. Some are old and ornate, some are not so old and plain, but they hold my treasures. I keep all sorts of mementos in a couple of them but most of them are empty.

Well, not quite. The biggest one holds my hopes and dreams.

Today I’ve decided to designate one of my beautiful wooden boxes as my troubles box. It’s Saturday morning and I’m going to dump all my troubles in that box for the weekend.

I’ll take them out one at a time next week as I need to deal with them.

Is that silly? I think it’s brilliant.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wanderers Anonymous


My name is Dave and I have wanderlust.


I inherited this compulsion from my father, the late Don Williams. He lived for the fever. It was unyielding.

He would throw a few things into a bag and hit the road alone with only a moment's notice to his wife. She learned to be okay with that. It was who he was. He needed to chase the horizon every few weeks or he would surely wilt and become a joyless, withered old man.

He would jump in his old Ford pickup and speed away from California as quickly as possible.

Achieving Nevada he slowed and began to breathe easy. Meandering across the desert in the good company of his own thoughts, he stopped occasionally to stretch, take a walk, kick a few rocks and get a cup of coffee and a sandwich. He chatted amiably with the waitress and the truck driver seated next to him at the counter. The three of them would inevitably find things in their lives, sometimes people, they had in common. If Dad whiled away most of an afternoon in idle conversation he'd find a motel room. A snort of scotch and a snootful of Louis L'Amour would soothe him to sleep for the night.

At the hint of dawn, he'd move on, eventually showing up unannounced on the doorstep of distant relatives in Utah. The visit might last an hour or two, sometimes a day or two.

Soon enough he would reunite with his heart, which still lived in his boyhood home in Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyoming.

Sweetwater County, where the wind whips the jackrabbits mean.

Trout as big as a man's arm frolic in Green River until a Super Duper garnished with a savory red salmon egg invites one to fight its way into your creel.

Here's a little secret most wanderers don't know: when you travel through Wyoming the horses you see on the prairie are still wild. If you don't see a fence, that's because there ain't one.

I'm romancing the place. Frankly, if you've ever driven through that country you have probably driven through without noticing. I-80 is straight and fast. You go thataway, zipping past the offramps for Green River, Purple Sage, Rock Springs and Reliance. If you do it in a winter tableau of prairie white the freeway exits may actually be blocked with signs reading "Town Closed".

Keep moving, wanderer. Rawlins, Laramie and Cheyenne lie east, dead ahead. Pinedale and Aspen Hole -- I'm sorry, Jackson Hole (but never just, plain Jackson) -- are north on Highway 191.

The Tetons are always in sight. Salt Lake is a hop, skip and a sandwich stop away.

Move on when you're ready and not a moment sooner.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bugs

Mel Gibson is a bug. He needs to be squished.

He is famously handsome, funny, lovable, talented and wealthy.

Which is why he must now be squished.

It's what we do to our icons, right? We make 'em bigger than life, take away their material needs and leave them alone to wrestle with their emotional needs.

It's the deal with the devil, the price of fame and fortune.

And then, when they get as rich and famous as they're going to get, when we're about finished with them, as they get older and stumble and we can smell the fear we jump on them like a pack of wild dogs.

"'Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!'" *

There is no excusing or justifying Mel's behavior but there is a reason for it. I don't know what it is. It suggests a raging psychosis that must be chemically treated and held in check.

But, hell. I don't know. How would I?

How would you?

I don't care what happens to Mel Gibson. Well, I do care but only in an abstract way. What I care about more is the cheap thrill we get from the pervasive, nonstop media airings of Mel and Oksana's dirty laundry.

It relieves us to mock and spit on our icons.

Who cares if Mel eats a bullet?

And while we're at it, send that booze-sucking slut, Lindsay, to jail and throw away the key.

We made them. When we're finished playing we'll destroy them.

"The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering." *

Lighten up, it's all in good fun. These people aren't real people, we invented them.

It's not my fault Michael Jackson was weird; I didn't kill him. He did it to himself. He was weird.

And I was finished with him, anyway.

"We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never seen nothing." *

It's been a week. The story is old. Oksana will thrive. Mel will live or he won't.

Who's next?

"'after all we aren't savages really...'" *

* William Golding, Lord of the Flies

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sting of the road


I am thrilled by the fever of wanderlust.

I am dazzled and excited every morning I awaken someplace new.

Like most RV vacationers, Carolann and I think about full-timing when we're able to retire. Wandering at will, from here to there and then someplace else; it seems like the perfect reward for two lives well-lived.

We've punched our workday time clocks for forty years. We've each loved, lived and lost a first marriage. We've raised our kids, separately at first and then together. And now, still in our fifties, we've been together for 22 years -- nearly half of our lives.

We've done right, well and honorably. We're in love, we deserve each other and we're not letting go. Not ever.

So, what's next?

Do we have what it takes to live a life of vacation?

Carolann and I agree that even if we were able to whittle the stuff of our lives down to what we could carry in about four cargo bins and a closet we'd still like to have a sticks and bricks house of some sort just to feel the security of being tethered to normal life, the only life we've known. And who knows, maybe we'd get over that after a couple of years of wandering hither and yon.

I'd love to hear from some of you who have done it. And here's the big question:

Don't you ever want a vacation from your lifelong vacation?

I once read a story about a well-to-do, elderly widow who lived aboard a cruise ship. She had the finest and most expensive stateroom on board. She had daily maid service, room service and every fabulous meal of her life was prepaid with no preparation or cleanup required. She was constantly and lavishly entertained, sailed from one beautiful port of call to another and made new friends every week. From time to time she had family members join her and occasionally she would disembark and spend a week or two with some of them.

But she eventually grew lonely.

She was literally and figuratively adrift. While living a life of complete luxury and freedom she came to miss the one thing she had given up: purpose.

This is what scares me away from a fulltime RV life.

I worry that after six months, or a year or two, we'd start to run low on anticipation. The thrill of the unknown would be tempered by repeated experience of life on the road. We'd learn to expect the curves, the climbs, the static-though-changing views; everything good, bad and indifferent. We would start thinking there's no need to go rushing down the highway every week or two because when you've seen one RV park you've seen them all. I worry that I would come to hate RV park offices, maps, rules, TV guides and WiFi instructions that nearly always require assistance.

Eventually, we'd hook up and chill out. With nowhere in particular to go and no reason to keep moving we'd just move when necessary because the parks have rules about staying in one place too long. That, in fact, would become the metaphor of our lives.

We'd want to go home but would have none.

(Cue music: Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is?)

Melodramatic? Probably. I'm just imagining, after all.

I've heard the lectures, read the blogs and seen the books about all the wonders of living as a full-timer.

But there has to be another side of it.

Those of you who have tried it or are still living the good life on wheels, please help me out here. I'm really curious.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved
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