Vicarious Escape

A eighty-year-old friend whose husband died recently called me from her road trip this afternoon. She was waiting in her grandson’s driveway in Prescott, Arizona for his arrival. She had just gotten to his house when she received my text, in response to an earlier phone message from her, expressing interest in her follow-up ideas for a book about how the U.S. would be different if Europeans hadn’t invaded it. I wrote about that a few days ago. She wanted to talk about “the book,” as if I were going to write it. We had a brief conversation about it, but then talk turned to her trip.

She had stayed with relatives in Kansas until a week or two ago, when she embarked on a road trip that took her to Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada (the latter two, she admitted, only because she went to the “four corners.” She stayed in  an AirBnB room in a house in Taos and a in a “dump” motel in one or more of the other towns she visited along the way (Mesa Verde (CO), Santa Fe, Las Vegas (NM), Flagstaff, etc.). Last night, she stayed in a seedy motel in Flagstaff, but had a wonderful experience over dinner at the Weatherford Hotel, an elegant old place (she said), where she dine alfresco and talked to visitors from France and Belgium and where her waiter agreed to serve her a martini and toast her late husband (“but he was probably drinking water,” she said).

I admire my friend for her adventurous spirit and her determination to do what she said she would do. Long before her husband died (but when it was apparent he was dying), she said she wanted to take a road trip after he died to visit friends and family and to experience life “on the road” as a solo traveler. In fact, she wrote a number of “travelogues” that were written as if he had died and she was on the road. She read some of them to her husband. Now, she’s actually doing it. Her dog, Cooper, is not with her as her stories said he would be, but she’s living the stories nonetheless.

I’ve had similar “fantasies” about embarking on a solo road trip all over the U.S. and Canada, stopping along the way to work (if I could get it) just to get a better sense of who these people I pass on the streets really are. I’d like to get to know people, more than just superficially, who are utterly unlike me. People whose lives followed different paths than mine or whose circumstances simply prevented them from following their dreams that may well have mirrored the life I’ve lived.

On an entirely different topic, a Facebook friend and fellow blogger (Chuck Sigars) who I’ve never met posted some intriguing bits and pieces today about a film in which he played a starring role. I decided to download the film from Vimeo for $8 ($4 to watch online if you don’t want to buy it). I haven’t watched it yet, but I will. And when I do, I will offer my honest assessment of the film. That’s scary. What if I don’t like it? Hell, it’s just like critiquing someone else’s writing. You don’t say “you should be eviscerated for writing such swill!” (At least I don’t.) If you don’t like the intensity of the narrator’s obvious lust for the protagonist, you might say “I think your narrator’s emotional attachment to the protagonist came through clearly. I think you might want to consider distancing your narrator a bit, giving the reader the opportunity to come to her own conclusions about the protagonist.” Anyway, when I’m in the mood to watch Winning Dad, I’ll watch it and write about it.

Continuing my stream-of-consciousness diversions from linear thought, another Facebook friend (I met her once while I was in California) posted a photo of herself on Facebook, along with the caption, “61 yo and my upper lip is disappearing. A lifetime of giving lip, I guess.” My response, based on a hilarious exchange with my brother and his wife while we were visiting in Mexico, was “This reminds me of a misunderstanding of a Simon and Garfunkel lyric from Outrageous. ‘Who’s gonna love you when your lips are gone?’

Everything is a memory. Nothing is now. Nothing is this moment. That makes the admonition, “Be here now,” a distraction, a misdirection, an attempt to distort the present, which comprises nothing but memories, with a present void of both memories and wishes.

The paragraph above is irrelevant to the remainder of this post. But, then, you may have noticed.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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