Pyramids and Rivers

[This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my vehicular walkabout which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.]
I liked what I wrote last time, so that stopped me from writing.
I don’t even think what I wrote last time was all that, but yet… I was pleased with it. So I congratulated myself on finally writing something I didn’t hate completely, on being able to see the smallest glimpse into my own potential, and I shelved it amongst the laundry, dishes and recycling, caused by the xmas carnage of two expensive cameras, lobster dinner, and life.
I really need to stop that. I need to commit to the daily process. Sometimes I write relatively well, sometimes I suck – but that is part of the process. Just keep writing.

My desire to relive and document my experience from the now – as it happened a year ago – seems vitally important and I cannot let it get away from me. There is something here to learn that I’m quite sure I can pinpoint if I look closely enough. Some juxtaposition between then and now and the past. I think.

Trying to remember what each city felt like to me. How I felt when I was there. What stills stands out with its memories and its lessons yet unnoticed?

So yeah. It’s an exercise in writing – but more than that it has the added benefit of learning what the point is. I hope.

I left myself off headed to Nashville in the last post and that leaves me quite far behind myself; for as of today, one year ago, I was in Tucson. That means I am 2000 or so miles behind myself. A lot happened that week. I’ll get as much of it as I can today.

Nashville meant nothing to me. I stayed one night, felt nothing at all and moved on.

Oddly, and part of the dimming of Nashville I’m sure, Memphis was calling to me. Who thinks of Memphis? I certainly hadn’t. Not by a long shot. And yet here I was, close enough to hear it beckoning.

I loved everything about Memphis. One planned night turned into three.
The downtown décor, where I landed,touched me. It seemed soft and elegant while at the same time a bit rouge. Untamed. Blue. Blue stands out in my mind. Memphis
The trolley cars were gaily decorated with wreaths and garlands and pine and bows. Everyone was as friendly as can be. Jolly and welcoming. I gave xmas cookies to the front desk clerks and the valets, Trolley drivers told me the stories of their lives, the history of Memphis, and that if I ever visited in May I’d never leave. One kindly driver with sparkly eyes grilled me about my own life choices as I rode the trolley loop around and around. And too, I’d come from Atlanta, where MLK’s presence loomed, where his tomb rests, to the place where he was killed. I passed the Lorraine Hotel every day. Somber.
The Pyramid that was a developer’s dream, a concert venue for a minute and now defunct with hotel dreams. The majestic river and bluffs that account for Memphis’ placement in the world. The Peabody Hotel and their famous ducks – ducks that spend their days in the lobby fountain and their nights in a luxury duck penthouse. Watching them parade towards the elevator to call it a day, as tourists jostled for a view from the mezzanine around the massive xmas tree. Famous record studios and radio stations and many music museums. A Cotton Museum that I truly enjoyed. Housed in an old cotton exchange, they made it seem like the entire history of America as we know it pivoted on cotton. I had a very strong moment of… recognition?… when I came upon the small tools for carding the cotton. Something akin to a wire scrub brush, raked across another of its kind in order to comb the cotton. I’ve seen this before. I’ve DONE this before. I still cannot place any event of such in this lifetime of mine but I have deep awareness that I’ve used these tools. I knew at once the certain way it had to be done, the angles that make it work smoothest. It was a powerful moment. I stood there with my head cocked, thinking, reaching, trying to remember, trying to understand the moment.

I didn’t go to Graceland. I had joked that it was required since I was here, but I felt liberated in not going. I didn’t go to Al Green’s Church either. I also didn’t go to the Museum at the Lorraine Hotel – but that was only because I saved it for my last day only to realize all too late that they were closed on Wednesdays.

Here in Memphis I met another old friend that I only knew online. Dawn.
Back in the day she ran a newsgroup for diarists and artists called Purple Ink. We were in close touch for years. She even wrote a couple or three articles for my magazine when I had it. But as the years had gone on, newsgroups faded, life went on, facebook came along and she never joined the lemmings. We’d lost touch. I only remembered that she worked for Downtown Memphis which made her pretty easy to find. Bonus points – Her office was about three blocks from my hotel.
Any city gains extra layers when you can explore it with a local. A nice drive around the city outside of downtown revealed coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, and all of it in the conviviality of the Holiday Season. Dawn’s crew had been responsible for most of the holiday decorating I was appreciating so much, so I got a full tour of trees and lights. We ended that evening with a late night wander along Beale Street. Dawn was a trooper on a work night and I had so much fun meeting her and hanging out. So classy she is, with things like a personalized glass drinking straw that she carries in her purse for her iced tea. I hope I get to visit Dawn again someday.

And.
Memphis had my favorite restaurant of my whole journey. There’s a few others that stand out – but none quite as much as Flight. Found by accident on my first arrival night because it was the only thing open near the hotel. Anything could be ordered in a full size app or entrée, dessert or drink, but their brilliant concept was that everything was generally offered in flights. Everything you can imagine came in flights. This was made for my way of wanting to eat. I always want the different tastes.
Wines flights determined by region or winery or type. Martini flights, bourbon flights. Salad flights and soup flights! Ah the choices! The flavors! Beet Pear Salad, roasted veggie soup, – Ah! Where have I put the menu? Of course I took a copy. I salivated over every option both times I visited. Suggested flights could be mixed or matched to one’s choosing. The Fish Flight, the Meat Flight (which had better names) with Bison, Elk, Filet Mignon. The Foul Flight with small portions of duck, Cornish hen and chicken. And Oh! That chicken dish. I have yet to recreate it, though I talk about it often. It was my first ever chicken and waffles. And though I tried many more chicken and waffles dishes on this journey, none was so inventive and well executed. The key was the mushroom maple cream sauce. Yeah, I want that again – I will have to invent it soon.

From the food to the land to the people – Memphis mattered.

               **************************

“Well Nashville had country music but Memphis had the soul
Lord, the white boy had the rhythm and that started rock and roll
And I was here when it happened don’t you all think I ought to know
I was here when it happened, yeah, yeah, yeah
I watched Memphis give birth to rock and roll, Lord, lord yeah.”

Roy Orbison

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Loner in Tennessee

Eleanor Rigby2

Everyone wants love. Right?
Okay well, maybe not everyone. For I have certainly known at least one guy who said he didn’t much care if anyone loved him or not and his actions, and ways of being with any number of women I knew him with, sure made that obvious. I don’t think he believed in love. Or felt it. Or something. But most everyone wants love.

Some people get love. Some people have high school sweethearts and they never let go. Some people have a great love and when that great love leaves the earth too soon, find that the universe sends another great love along in short order. As if these are people whose journeys through life require great love for the lessons they are working Eleanor Rigby on. Some people find love again and again. So often I’ve been given cause to wonder if it could always be real. And some people – it must be said – don’t find love. (Think of any of those fuktards that kill women because they’ve had a lifetime of rejection, or, more benignly, of Eleanor Rigby and a gazillion other human souls.) (I had a teacher in High School who guided a class through Eleanor Rigby. To see the imagery of the ordinary things and the larger picture it presented. I learned a lot that day Mr. S.)

I thought I was one of those who wasn’t gonna find love.
I’ve had some pretty great experiences with some of the men who have moved through my life, but none of them were real love. A decades long affair that I thought was love. But see… I was wrong… Obviously.
How the hell does anyone know what love actually is?
I’ve had mind blowing dalliances with a guy or two, here and there.
But love.
Not so much

After spending my 20s traveling as a Deadhead in a loving and fun filled crowd of thousands, and my 30s and much of my 40s running the hippest café around. Knowing hundreds of inspiring and worthwhile people, watching them fall in and out of love. After decades of wishing someone could, or would, reach for my heart I finally figured out that wasn’t gonna happen for me. That wasn’t my life story. That wasn’t needed for the lessons my soul had come to learn.
Besides I’d been given some pretty awesome love gifts. Adopted by a mother that trusted me, believed in me and worked with my particular, sometimes trying, personality traits without ever faltering in her love. And in High School the universe delivered up a friend that I could never have predicted would be my best friend and my rock to this day. (But both of those are stories for another time, yes?)

So I gradually came to accept this about myself. I was a loner. That’s just how it was. There would be no one to share my journey. Which in the long run is okay. Because I’m strong enough to be my own person and make my own way.

This is not to say that I ever gave up. Merely that I was prepared to be alone. I like myself and my own company. I rarely get bored. And I can find good sex if that’s what I need.

So going on this road trip alone, seemed my destiny. I didn’t know what I’d find. Maybe I’d find love. I have always promised myself to remain open to it and not let past experiences shut me down. But I sure as hell didn’t expect it or go looking for it. (Spoiler; Nor did I find it on my road trip.)
I won’t say – I went looking for me – because that’s too cliché and because I don’t think I was lost. I have a pretty strong sense of self. I know who I am. But I sure as hell was looking for something.
I mean really. Forty-nine year olds do not jump in the car alone with only a general sense of where they’re going for a few months, calling it a Walkabout, without having to admit to themselves that they’re looking for something.

So there I was in Atlanta. Vette (that’s my best friend) had lived in Little Five Points Atlanta for a while in the 80s going to recording school, between Dead Tours she and I went on, so I was somewhat familiar with the place. I remember the funky little neighborhood that was just a short walk from her house. So I got myself an Airbnb place near Little 5. I didn’t know anyone here anymore and I was pretty focused on that fact that I was alone so my Atlanta itinerary was a full one. So much I wanted to do and see. I didn’t have to look to anyone else to see if they wanted to go to the Museum, or to Clinton’s Presidential Library or to pay homage to Scarlett O’Hara and her creator. These were the things I would enrich myself with – Ha!
So take that world! I’m good! I’m doing what I want!

I stayed with a sweet older man and his dog Otto. The man’s wife had recently moved to a nursing home and he was adjusting to bachelor life. He made me dinner the first night I arrived and we talked. He was a retired government worker, well-read, interesting, methodical. He was winding down and enjoying his life. Walking Otto and running errands for his wife. He lived walking distance to Little 5, so most days I started with a walk to get coffee – ah so many good coffeehouses – Atlanta be proud of that.
One day I went for a walk down Josephine St to look for Vette’s old house. I couldn’t tell which one it was. Too many had a tree in the front yard like I remembered dripping with mardi gras beads the day I first saw it. Too many had the same sort of front door approach. Too many were the same color, and probably different colors after all these years. And Vette couldn’t remember the number. So after a couple passes up and down the street I gave up.

I expected to feel more of a connection to the place. I’d spent so much quality time here. But it all felt a little empty I must admit. I chatted with the store clerks in the decorated retail world of Decembers in America, with waiters and waitresses, security guards, receptionists and artists, but it was all so very surface.

Maybe I was looking for my life.
I’d sold the coffeehouse I’d created so I could free up myself to find the next thing. Owning a coffeehouse had been enjoyable for many many years but I’d come to feel like my world was shrinking. Honestly. It was like life had been reduced to ordering large cups. I wanted more than that.
And here I was.
And Atlanta was not the place where my life was. All good. I hadn’t expected or wanted it to be. I just wanted to stop by and say “Hi Atlanta. Hi Little 5. Good to see you again.”

My next planned stop was to go see Vette’s parents in Alabama and hit up Birmingham. There I had been able to find some of the folks we’d been friends with back in the day. None of the closest friends but I figured I had people there nonetheless. Reaching out to them on facebook I had finagled an invitation to crash and attend a Christmas play. It would be good to reconnect.

One of my rules for myself on this journey was this – I can stay anywhere I want to stay as long as I want to stay. I can leave anywhere sooner than planned if that’s what I wish to do. And I can change plans and change direction any time that looks like a decent idea.

That was why I blew off Alabama and headed to Tennessee instead.

I saw something on facebook that changed my direction.
I wish I’d seen that there was a big Xmas Jam concert in Asheville because I’d have gone there and I would have gotten to see a bunch of friends. One especially that I was excited to visit. He wasn’t on my original idea of what my direction would be but now that I was going to Tennessee… Except he had gone to the Xmas Jam that I didn’t know about and I missed him too. I didn’t worry much about such things as missing people. I knew I wouldn’t see everyone I would love to see. A lot more of that happens later in this trip. And my fall-back thought is always – I’ll catch ya next time I come by. For I always always always imagine there will be a “next time I’m in the area.”

What I did see, and what I decided to do, was go to McMinnville Tennessee to a bluegrass Pirate Christmas concert at an underground venue. Underground! Bluegrass! Pirate! Sign me up!
It was held in a cave! Cumberland Caverns to be exact.

But here. Here is where I came face to face with really being alone.

I got there early. The cave wasn’t open yet. The gift store and surrounding porch were filling with small crowds. Families. Friends. There was some stereotypical mountain folks. Some families that looked like they could have come from Hartford. And a crowd of six friends that caught my eye. Big men with beards and their women. One of the men wore tie dye. I struck up a conversation with one of the women when only four were present. “Been here before? Is it nice?”
She was friendly and then the last two of their group appeared and she turned from me and never looked back. They were my people in this crowd. I could tell. I heard their conversations as we waited in the line now forming outside the cave. I tried again and again to find another way into saying “Hello, I’m alone, you’re my people, can I hang with you for the next couple hours and enjoy some camaraderie and newfound friendship?” But none came. I gave up.

I immersed myself in the cave. The way they turned it into a venue. The placement of the bathrooms, the concession, the backstage. Nature made a perfect little theater here.
The show was mediocre. I expected top tier talent at a celebrated underground bluegrass venue playing me some twanging xmas music. What I got was second or third tier talent, dressed as pirates with a Santa roadie, playing decent, but not memorable, sorta Celtic, sorta contemporary, xmas music. And I guess I should have expected that something so obviously cheesy (What the HELL was I thinking – Xmas – Pirates!?!?) was going to be aimed mostly at the many children in the audience.
“Let’s let them all come up here and sing badly!”
I don’t begrudge the hopefully great memories those kids made that day, but a stage full of pirates talking down to children wasn’t what I wanted from all this. (And I didn’t yet know I was missing Asheville’s Xmas Jam.)
I spent some quality time with my camera. Pirates and kids can be quite photogenic.

Oh and I did get a bit of recognition there when they asked from the stage “Who has traveled the farthest to be here today?” That got me a couple stickers and a poster.
And when it was over and we climbed the winding passage that leads back to the topside of the world, I thought – so much for Tennessee – guess I’ll head back towards the original plan and head back on down towards Alabama. I could hunt up people along the way. There’s a diary enthusiast I know in Signal Mountain or in Chattanooga my mother’s brother’s ex-wife’s sister. (Yeah follow that. Billie and David had been divorced forever but she remained family. Billie had told me before I left to look her sister up.)

Ah but then I got out on the road, those winding hill roads of nowhereville, and I took a bit of a wrong turn that got me headed north.
I looked at the map.
Ah. Fuck it. Guess I’ll go to Nashville. I’ve got an ex employee who plays clubs there – maybe I’d find him playing. And to Nashville I went.

 

[This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.]

Muddy horses

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.

 

I cruised into Christenburg, Virginia, hunted up a small church on a side street, and arrived just barely in time for a Toastmaster’s meeting. I participated in the meeting and had a good time but I had missed out on the pre-meeting gathering and couldn’t stay afterwards because I had to connect with the Airbnb host who was expecting me deep in the mountains.

She was a veterinarian’s assistant for large animals and had a couple horses. On the Airbnb ad the place looked comfortable and I liked the idea of spending some time with some horses.
I called her and she said the place was kinda hard to find and since her and her boyfriend had yet to eat dinner, did I want to meet in town for a bite first?
Sure! Awesome!
I’d been renting out my extra bedroom on Airbnb for a few years. I didn’t find it uncomfortable at all to invite strangers into my home. In CT I had been feeling a lack of worldliness and I’m pleased to say that opening my home to travelers was a wonderful experience. A German couple, an artist from West Virginia, a grad student from Oxford, a chain saw carver, cross country cyclists who arrived in a rainstorm, a young Russian man who’d just landed a great job here and was looking for an apartment to bring his family from Russia. I found it wonderful to sit and chat with these folks, or go out to dinner on a couple occasions, so I was delighted with her invite.
Only one time with an Airbnb guest did I have a poor experience. A lawyer father of a Wesleyan student.
“A single woman living alone here?”
I was trying to show him around the house. He starts peeling off his shirt.
“Oh I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable, I have to change quickly and be at a function. I’m sure if I have any questions I’ll find you. And if you need to find me my door will be open all night if you need anything.”
Yeah. Unh. Thanks.
He called a couple hours later, said he’d be out late and asked if he could stay an extra night. I told him no. I couldn’t accommodate that.
I slept with a milk crate in front of my bedroom door, with a vacuum cleaner balanced on top of it. I didn’t actually expect any trouble from this guy. He was just sorta creepy and smarmy. He and all his stuff were gone when I woke up.

Virginia Tech town. My host and her boyfriend were friendly but extremely spacey, both of them. Conversation was punctuated by dreamy stares. After a decent dinner at a student hangout I followed them up into the mountains. I had a few moments of – what the fuck am I doing?stardust
I called my then boyfriend, made sure he had the exact address, and if he didn’t hear from me in the morning he should do something about it. I dislike fear when it shows in me. What do I have to be afraid of?
Seriously.
Maybe you’ve not seen the meme, but it’s true –
Stardust. That’s all.

There wasn’t much to see of the place, it was dark. The horse pen did come pretty close to the back of the house. And two of them came to say hello. As they did I noticed they were standing ankle deep in mud.
Inside the room was comfortable enough but it turned out the internet wasn’t working, nor was there any cell service. I sat on the couch for a while with them and watched the local news. Snow coming. Overnight. Or starting early in the morning. Yeah. Deep in the mountains.
I half joked that I should leave now before I get snowed in. They made plans for how to deal with a morning of snow and assured me that I could stay a second night free if I got snowed in. I had zero desire to do that. I felt like I was running from snow. Like this send off onto my journey had a weather push that was still going on. And with no internet???

The place looked dingy in the daylight. The entirety of the horse pen was mud. It was still grey above, still threatening snow but I was getting out early enough. The horses looked tired and looking at them tired me. I wished them sunny skies and less mud as I backed out of the driveway.

I left early enough to have lunch with my friend Deb in Mooseville, NC and then I went on to Anderson South Carolina where I spent my first night in a hotel. I rather enjoyed it. Upscale wanna be highway-side food just steps out the door. Clean comfy room. It was a nice place to bring all my shit inside and rearrange a bit. I was excited about tomorrow’s itinerary.
And here’s two blog posts from last year about the next few days…

I Visited The Georgia Guidestones Today (One year ago Today!!!)

Atlanta Whirlwind

Pools

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to keep pace with myself last year. This post I wrote the other day and was reluctant to publish. But… I’ve edited it…

yellowstone

Yeah BFD. I got in the car and drove through some snow and met an internet friend.
Why do I act like (think in my mind like) it was some momentous thing.
Like I broke some restraint.
Whose restraint?
No one was trying to hold me back.
I can’t actually think of too many times anyone has tried to hold me back.
Me. Me who sometimes does amazing projects. Who tries to stop me?
There have been friends who laughed at me and told me I’d not go anywhere.
Luckily I managed to let them go. Since that kind of attitude is completely counter productive to the kind of life I want to live.
What did I think I was accomplishing? That morning. It was my first morning. It was cold and snowy.

Getting our cars out of Kari’s driveway and going to her corporate employment place, getting me a guest ID. Going to a Toastmaster meeting. And then hitting the road again when she went to work. Such a grey day it was, driving across the north of Virginia.

Luray Caverns, closed when I drove by. Or rather I’d be too late for the last scheduled tour. That had been a big one on my starting itinerary.
I visited Luray Caverns once in the 80s. On a lark on the way to spring tour one year. It led to a bit of a cave obsession over the next few year’s worth of journeys. Anything! Anywhere. To get underground and see what the earth can do.
Such wondrous places. Caves. Eons of time piled up to see. Glistening, towering stalagmites. Dripping, growing stone hanging delicately from vaulted ceilings. Deep blue green waters. I once saw some blind fish in a cave in Tennessee. Swimming endlessly back and forth in the pale green water.
But this day it was only pale grey skies.
I was not going underground. I was heading for the mountains instead.

Isn’t that just like life? Plan one thing and another happens.
I had reservations at an Airbnb place near Virginia Tech. And if I was on time, a Toastmasters meeting in the same town – Blacksburg Virginia.

hours later…

Stream of consciousness takes over sometimes…

Little brass hummingbird drinks from a brass water dish thingy. Sitting in the utility sink with a softly glowing green pool in its dish. Reminds me of an underground cave pool. Caves. That’s the second time today.

The desire to see those types of pools again, often, is strong. Always.
Sigh, it’s just brass polish. Not a magic pool.
That’s why Luray was such an important destination as I set out. I need to see it. I knew it as one of the most commercialized caves even back in the 80s. But with good reason. I remember the formations as impressive and accessibility as a joyous walk through the world. I want to experience that majesty again.

Is that why I’m on this road trip?

Partially, yes. But I just had to pass it by.

This Road Trip is bigger than Luray.

In dreams I often see such a deeply colored pool in my front yard. It’s as large as the yard (different yards in different dreams) with comfortable looking craggy boulders splashled around. The water is the clearest thing I’ve ever seen. I see the depths – more boulders, like lava, artfully tumbled below. And the colors! All colors of the rainbow, so bright, electric even. Inviting. I’ve seen pictures of places with underwater scenes almost as vibrant as my dream but I’ve never seen one in person. Sometimes the photos I see of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful give me the same impression of the pool and colors in my dream. But not quite.

It’s my anniversary

12-8-2013 Deer Park

One year ago today my car sat parked up on the lawn outside my front door. It was cool and sunny in Connecticut but apparently there were some weather issues to the south. Rather attention grabbing weather issues.

I was preparing for a mad dash to Baltimore as the first leg of my journey. I had picked the date rather arbitrarily. It was a Sunday. I would leave at noon. But with reports of Baltimore having snow currently and, more of concern, by early evening it would turn to rain that would freeze on contact. Baltimore drivers were cautioned to avoid driving if possible. And I wanted to go there?

I wanted to visit my childhood friend Donna. Perfect yes? A little check in with my past as I stepped into what some friends called, lovingly, my mid-life crisis. Five and a half hours. A good first day’s drive.
Do I delay? Is it smart to drive into guaranteed frozen roads? Funny question. Is anything about this road trip “smart”?

The weather system, moving north, would be here in CT tomorrow. If I didn’t leave as planned I’d probably not leave tomorrow either. I asked the cat’s opinion and got nothing.
Okay. Well. Maybe I wouldn’t get as far as Baltimore but I could get somewhere. Drive as far as is safe then get a hotel. No procrastinating on this. I shall not be stopped by weather. Sheesh. Part of the whole point of this trip is to get away from the winter weather.

I threw some final, questionably necessary, items into the car, locked up the house for the house sitters arrival later in the day, said my goodbyes to the lovely seven pound elephant Miss Voodoo, and went to say goodbye to Vette and Rob at the Wadsworth Mansion Xmas craft fair thingy.
And that was it.
I was on my way. On the road again!

It was smooth sailing right onto and over the George Washington Bridge. Splendid day for the start of an adventure.
And then it started to snow. Pretty at first, I drove right into the thick of it. By the time I reached Elizabeth, NJ there was two inches on the ground. As I moved south the snow piled up quickly. Driving started to become treacherous in spots. Somewhere this side of Philly an 18-wheeler nearly ran me into a bridge abutment. That was a bit nerve wracking. It was kinda sleety. Traffic was slowing down.
What was I thinking? How many people are pulling over now to grab hotels and wait it out? Ugh.
How much farther to Baltimore? I can do this… Donna was on alert that I was attempting this. I texted and told her I was still on the way as far as I knew.
Traffic stopped.

I looked at the map again. I was hours behind schedule already. This little jaunt to Baltimore was becoming an ordeal. I looked at the map again and saw Newark Delaware not too far ahead of me. I had a friend there. A friend I’d known for years but had never met face to face. We were both in an online book group many many years ago.
The book-a-week group had always been a favorite of mine. Members read anything at all with the mere goal of trying to read 52 books each year. Then we’d write blurbs about what we’d read. I got many great unexpected reads from years spent reading with those ladies. The group kind fell apart when our beloved leader Donna got a nasty brain cancer and left this plain of existence. (Although I had never met Donna either, we were close. I still miss her.) She was our center and without her we drifted apart. I kept in touch with a few of the members, and facebook brought a few others back into my world. I always expected I’d meet Kari someday. We clicked right from our first emails. And she had extended an invitation to me to stop by. I figured I’d do so on my return. But. All this snow…
Wonder if she’s home? Wonder exactly how far it is? Wonder if she’ll let me crash there? I don’t have her number do I?
Traffic absolutely crawling. Snow and sleet and other icy particles collected everywhere.
I opened facebook to send Kari a message. It was the only way I had to contact her. I sent her my number and said “Text me, I’m stuck in snow traffic.”
She called right away!
Ha! She was stuck in snow traffic too. Had gone to a funeral today in Wilkes-Barre and was now trying to get home. Different highway. Same reality.
Sounded like we were both about the same distance from her house.
Of course I’d be welcome!
There was a big rest area just before her exit. We’d keep in touch and meet there.
Text message received – “I’m here.”
“What do you drive? Where are you parked? I’m two miles away.”
Cars are crawling into the rest stop and there’s no parking in sight.
But look! There! Through the slapping of the wipers, there’s a person standing outside a car widely waving arms! What a fantastic sight! Yay! Kari! You look like a crazy lady! Hello friend!
I have the biggest grin on my face reliving the moment.
Who would have ever thunk this is how we’d meet? Ten inches of snow on the ground. Sleet pelting our faces. A quick hug and a “follow me to my house” shouted over the general roar of the highway and the sleet.
Fifteen minutes later and we were warming and drying at her kitchen table.
A half hour after that we were out in the world again at a pub for some late night drinks, some warm food and to finally get to know each other.
The late night snow silence of the University of Delaware and the fire-warmth of The Deer Park Tavern were so far removed from the life I’d been living for years. I was elated to have launched. And to have landed, not just safely, but oh so enjoyably.
Thank you Kari!

(Alright here’s the deal folks. I’d like to think I’ll spend the time to relive my journey in a way I didn’t have time to write as I did it. Plus I should be writing and I haven’t been. I’m rusty. Bear with me.)
(Oh and hey. It’s not the first time I’ve written this story. Look there if you want to see pictures, or to see how I spent the next morning with Kari.)

A Hearse in the Wyoming Night

hearse cropped

I was 18 and I was in Berkeley California when I got the opportunity to travel halfway across the country in a hearse.

I was a new follower of The Grateful Dead and the hearse idea was symbolic and appropriate. What Deadhead wouldn’t jump on such an opportunity?

The hearse was old – a 1963 Cadillac Hearse – so she needed a mechanic. A good one. Someone who would always be there no matter what happened or where.

Steve hired Bob. Bob was a hardcore Punk Rocker, also from Berkeley, and he knew his way around carburetors, gaskets, filters and everything else required to keep an old car moving. While this seemed like an unlikely pairing it worked rather well. Bob was able to fix every problem that cropped up and, mostly, he had fun doing it.

Many years later I bumped into Bob at a party. He introduced me to a friend of his who kind of sneered and actually said something along the lines of – “You KNOW a hippie chick?!”

Bob was delighted and recounted the tale of the time he rode cross country as a hearse mechanic. His Punk Rocker friend was horrified!

“You did DEAD TOUR?!?! That’s SO lame.”

And I had the very memorable and enjoyable experience of listening in while this hard core Punk told his friend all the reasons why Dead Tour was not at all lame – in fact , it was about one of the coolest things. EVER.

“Dude! The parties! The drugs! The dancing! The CHICKS!”

I’m not so sure his friend was convinced but I loved hearing his perspectives and his glowing endorsement of the way we liked to do things.

Anyway.

It was very late one September night. I was asleep in the back of the hearse with 3 or 5 other hippies and Bob when they world started to sway. When I opened my eyes we were swerving all over the road as I tried to think who was driving – do they have control? What’s going on? The hearse rolled to a stop.

From the front seat – “Bob. Wake up man.”

Grumbles and growls as Bob crawled out from piles of blankets to assess the situation while the rest of us pulled the covers deeper over our heads.

We’d had a blowout and now we had a flat tire. This was Bob’s responsibility and we were all pleased it wasn’t our job as we snuggled down into the blanket warmth, grateful that we didn’t have to get up. It was obviously cold out there.

US night lghts

Mmmmm. Not my problem.

Ah but then. Bob told us we all had to get out while he changed the tire.

Guess we hadn’t thought of that.

It was 2 or 3 am and who knows where the hell we were. None too cheerful about having to crawl out into the cold, we tripped over each other and ourselves and fell into the night.

Shiver.

And look up.

HOLY SHIT!

Yeah, not very eloquent but I think we said it collectively.

We were somewhere in Wyoming along Interstate 80. And we were 50 miles from any town in any direction.

And the STARS!

The STARS!

milky way

So close you could almost reach out and touch them.  Stretching from horizon to horizon and looking like you could take a short hike over to see where they’re standing.

Seriously. Have you ever seen that?

Have you ever seen the Milky Way?

Do you even know what it looks like?

There are not a lot of chances to see it on the East Coast. There’s just too much ground light.

Here, in Vail, AZ, I’m about 20 miles southeast of Tucson and it may well be the darkest sky I’ve seen in decades. The sky is so filled with stars here that Orion – who stands proud and alone in my Connecticut front yard – is almost lost among his celestial companions.

And you know what???

milky way faint

I can see the Milky Way!

I can SEE it!

That slash of brightness across the night sky.

It’s a bit faint here. and it has been so long since I’ve seen it that I had to ask to be sure – IS that the Milky Way?

It’s not the brightest it can be. It’s not what ancient peoples saw when they looked up. It’s still tainted by ground light somewhat.

But you know what – It’s THERE and I can see it!

And if you have never had the pleasure – I implore you – at some point in your life – and the sooner the better – get thine ass somewhere crazy-dark and look!

Seriously Look!

LOOK at the sky!!!!!!!

 milky way apod

(Most Milky Way images from Astronomy Picture of the Day.)