Friday, May 30, 2008

Get Out of Town...

I look back at the last week and it seems a blur, images and sounds flashing in my mind. That I wake up in the same place I go to sleep seems the one thing I can count on. That, and that whatever we do it will be fun and playful. It’s funny because we planned the trip to be leisurely and it doesn’t feel that way. Already the day in San Francisco when, to quote Jimmy, we had “a rare pile of clean laundry, and a home cooked dinner with close friends” seems so long ago. I am trying to figure out when we’ll next have the opportunity to wash clothes or eat in a home. Fort Collins Colorado, where we each have friends, seems very long away, yet with the pace we are keeping I know we will be there in no time at all. Don’t misunderstand, it’s a good whirlwind. We are laughing our way across the country and taking each moment for what is available. When a choice is presented and we find ourselves choosing between “getting there” and having the experience of getting there, we pick the experience. A lot of our planned stops are for just that, the experience. Thus we find ourselves on the Las Vegas Strip staying at the MGM Grand and paying 3 times as much for everything.

There is an energy in Vegas that is different from everywhere else in the world. Like the many climates and landscapes we’ve passed through so far, Vegas has it’s own special feel and, like it or not, it is an experience not to be missed. Being here brings to mind how many years I’ve passed in this part of the world. Not too many hours from San Diego by car, I have visited Las Vegas many times. I still remember the Vegas where a fully stocked breakfast buffet bar was $1.99. Now my coffee from Starbuck’s, usually $1.96 is $4.37! It is by far one of the most expensive places on our itinerary. I am excited to see it through Jimmy’s eyes, and, if I never stopped here again I wouldn’t be missing anything much.

On our way here yesterday we stopped in a place called Tonopah in the middle of the Nevada desert.We started the day in Reno, just an overnight. Tonopah was a very small community with lots of farmers, truckers and people who serve the highway. A big hotel and truck stop were there in case, headed to Vegas, you found yourself in Tonopah too tired or hungry to go on. It is the sort of place where you choose the “safe” menu items, simple food, hard to ruin.

Christopher served us our burgers and as I watched him move around the restaurant it occurred to me what a contrast his situation is to mine in this moment. He was a smart, nice looking, polite young man and I saw the tracks his life could take: Marry a local girl, have babies and live in this tiny place with this singular experience forever, or, GET OUT! I decided to offer a rare piece of advice to a stranger and I suggested the latter. I know it is only my opinion that a life in Tonopah is not a life to cherish, but that’s all advice is anyway, the sharing of an opinion. From the perspective I hold right now, having lived so many years and on my way to a new place, it seemed like good advice. I left Tonopah with a picture in my mind of Christopher packing his things into a rusty old car, headed out of Tonopah into the world to have a grand adventure. On our way out of town as we passed by this place I thought, “I hope he goes....”

DAY 7 - Shoe toss between Reno and Vegas

There wasn't anything in particular we wanted to do in Reno, so we didn't do anything to speak of. It was more or less just a pit stop. We did stroll through the smoky casino of our hotel, but other than the stiff, haggard old patrons that were crusted to the slot machines and drink carts, there was little that sparked my curiosity.

95 South
Highways like 95 south, from Reno to Vegas, bequeath some of the reasons I love exploring the forgotten byways of the Southwest. There are no Starbuck's. There are no Holiday Inns. Just maybe a shithole diner and a place to get gas if you're lucky. In the absence or Corporate America you are gifted instead with an endless expanse of deserts and sun-baked mountains. Every 40 miles or so brings another ghost town with petrified store fronts and pickup trucks frozen in rust. 85 miles an hour on a one lane road that if you drive all day you might get somewhere. You see things that are so odd they make you look twice. Rocks for sale. Plane wreckage at the entrance to a brothel. Rain followed by a rainbow. An old yacht turned into a roadside house. A dead tree kept alive by shoes. The drive we did yesterday was one where every Tom Waits song that played on the stereo seemed to make that much more sense to me then they did the day before.

Just before 10pm we rolled into Sin City. I don't know all that we're gonna do here, but I'm gonna do my best to get in some trouble and play it off like it was all Annie's fault. Peace from the road.

(In the retired army/truck stop town of Hawthorne, Nevada, I ate my first McDonald's cheeseburger of our cross-country drive. For some reason it feels little more like a roadtrip now.)

Day 6 - Leaving California

Wednesday we bid San Francisco farewell as we crossed over the giant concrete-steel mass of the Bay Bridge. We hummed past the rolling hills Northeast of Oakland until we found ourselves at the doorstep of the Sierras. I don't think that either of us were really aware of what about to happen as we headed into the mountains. At one point I looked over and Annie and said, "We're not in California anymore."

I knew all along that day six would have us leaving the state but I never really gave it much thought. For the first time on our trip our license plates told those who saw them that we were away from home. For me, it was the first time on this cross-country trip where I really felt like our bones were headed east. I think the realization of these things gave us both pause for a few minutes. I have often used the word "surreal" to describe the idea of this trip to people before it started, and for the first five days that's pretty much how it felt. But when we were no longer in our home state, when our car starting saying we were from "somewhere else", and when it really started to feel like we were leaving home, the one-way drive we were on became that much more real.

For me, the panorama that surrounded us kept the heaviness of those thoughts from hanging around too long. We had decided to get off the jet stream of the interstate and wondered down along the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. It felt good to breathe the clean mountain air as we wove our way through the wooded highway. The clouds were bold and damp. "Even when its gray here its beautiful," I recall Annie saying as the car climbed above 7000 ft. We were driving amidst rocky, snow-capped mountain tops. The air was cold, crisp and thin enough to explode one of my favorite pens. "Man down" I proclaimed as I retired the mighty black pen and wiped its black inky blood from my fingers. The first casualty of the trip. Thankfully I had stolen plentiful amount of pens from work so there were others ready to carry on the written battle.

It wasn't long before we were zipping and twisting down Hwy 431 on the Eastern side of the Mount Rose Wilderness. The snow faded from view and we escaped the shadow of the Carson Mountain Range just in time to roll into town in the pinkish-orange light of the setting sun. We had beaten the night to Reno.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Farther From Familiar

As we move further and further from the life I have known, I find myself feeling more deeply into the relationships that are now my anchor. I am anchored, of course, inside myself to the person I am, to my beliefs and my values, to my understanding of the Universe and my place in it. That is good. I am also deeply anchored to my people. As I move away from the physical place my life has been grounded to I feel the energy of my relationships so much more. Jimmy is my main connection, constant and steady he is there when I feel uncertain and need to reach out and touch something solid and unmoving. (He will laugh when he reads that description of himself but it’s true..).

I find myself taking great care of all of these connections. I reach out to friends and family and make sure they know how I feel about them. I let solid steady Jimmy be there for me and try to be careful not to ask too much, not to forget I can steady myself too. I hear my phone ring, it’s Erica, it’s Wendi, it’s Maggie... I have a long conversation about change and stuck-ness with my friend John whose house will be our last US stop on this journey. As I nurture these connections I am aware that as my life changes the way I stay connected with these people will also change. I will add to this list as I build community in the new place we are going. The physical world I live in will no longer feel familiar but the sound of a voice I know will always be something I can lean in to remember that life is a single moment that follows millions of other moments and precedes millions more. That constancy, that flow, and feeling my place in it is comforting to me right now.

As we pass through each place Jimmy asks me if I have ever been there before, he tells me whether he has or if it is “the first time ever in my (his) whole life”. (in spite of the simple truth of that statement it never fails to send me into a fit of giggles). While sometimes my answer is “yes, I have been here before” even so it is not familiar to me because I have not been in this place on this day with this man before so the moment is new to me. For example, I have never before “in my whole life” been through this straw maze on the coast of Northern California with this man on this journey....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 5 - San Francisco

As each of these days go by I try not to look to far ahead and just stay in the moment - stay in the day. With all that lies ahead, it is easy to get caught up in all that we are going to do. I think its the difference between me becoming part of the day, and the day becoming part of me. In other words...

I was weights in an early morning workout,
and the packed markets of mid-day Chinatown.
I was a rented bike in North Beach,
and an enormous steel cable on the Golden Gate Bridge.
I was a Buena Vista Irish Coffee with Annie,
and a taxi ride with a New Zealand cabbie.
I was a rare pile of clean laundry,
and a home cooked dinner with close friends.
I was the twilight horizon seen from Coit Tower,
and the clacking of empty streetcar tracks.
Tonight I am the streets of San Francisco,
and the cold homeless wind.
I am the approaching end of Day 5,
and directions to Reno.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Play a song for me, I'll stay awake a few minutes longer...

26May2008 Monterey California

We talked about rest days this morning as we walked along the coast. There is so much to do and even with 44 days of journey, not time enough to do it all. We want to see everything, touch everything, experience EVERYTHING - and everyone. Of course we will have to make choices. This conversation took place on the way to breakfast. We were both very hungry but wanting to see the beach, touch it, walk on it, photograph it. I have traveled all over the world and all over the United States and the beach on Monterey Bay is by far the most beautiful and vibrant beach I have ever seen. Walking down to touch the tide pools I had to plan each step carefully to be sure not to step on any living creatures. If my toe touched one they would let me know I had over stepped by cringing. Ouch! In spite of mass tourism and an administration bent on ecological destruction it captivates me that there can be so much life in a single small spot of the planet that I must stand on my tip toes not to crush some living being. This is rare on our planet and I took a moment to breathe it in. 

Jimmy and I both tend to engage people in conversation and the stories, ours and theirs, begin to unfold. Before long dinner is over and it’s 9pm and Jimmy hasn’t had his walk on the shore and I haven’t written in my journal and there are things I still want to do but, up since 6 and cramming experiences in to every moment, my body would not cooperate any longer. Riding on coffee and practiced at napping and working late into the night (from years of holding a “second job” as an artist) Jimmy lasted a few hours longer than I did last night. When I am sleeping I rest well. Mentally exhausted I don’t recall my dreams which must be so entertaining! I am pacing myself as we begin this long journey. Like a marathon I have to be careful not to run too fast. I want to last the distance. You can all help. I am an extrovert and I am fueled by contact with humans (sort of like a vampire without the hickey). You aren’t intruding. Write to me. Call me. Let me know I am in your hearts and minds and I will be energized by knowing you are with me on this adventure. 

We started yesterday in Los Angeles, one more kissy-huggy goodbye with my mom and sister and then on to breakfast at one of our mutual favorites. The relationship with my sister has not been easy these many years. Somehow when someone leaves it makes it so much easier to set aside old hurts and embrace them. Perhaps because we know we may not get another chance. Perhaps because it is easier to not reopen the wound when contact is minimal. Either way, it was good to see my little sister turn the corners of her mouth up when she looked at me, after so many years without seeing her eyes twinkle for me. On the road by 9 and headed up the coast we passed through so many different landscapes yesterday that in hindsight it is all a blur. Thank goodness for photographs that bring back the moments and allow me to recall what made me so exhausted at the end of the day. 

I have a journal, hard not electronic, that I am keeping on this journey. It has a very special purpose (to be revealed at a later date). Yesterday I wrote that it is important to take time, even when I’m tired, to experience the moments that I am walking through with Jimmy on this trip. This moment will be available just this once. Some famous person once said, “You can rest when you’re dead” (May West?) and so I will hold to that as we move through these crazy days. I will have time later for that coffee, that nap, that time when nothing is being asked of me and I have grown capable of settling in to those moments. I have lived enough years to know that the Universe can suddenly remove the option of special moments with a certain person and I have learned to embrace the experience, not in a fearful way, but in a way that honors the beauty of what is here today and may not be tomorrow. It is almost noon and very soon we’ll head up the coast to San Francisco. We’ll spend 2 days there visiting friends and experiencing a city we both love but have not seen through each other’s eyes. Some of the best Bikram yoga studios in the country are there and I will want to take classes and even try to teach a class or two there. With the speed at which our lives have been moving this year, Jimmy has never taken a yoga class from me. I wonder on some days if that wont happen until our studio opens in Buenos Aires. I have never seen him paint. We are traveling together on a journey toward building a new life, a new community, out of a business that will allow us both to do something we very much care about, two different ways of expressing ourselves to the world in one place. I am so excited about watching that unfold. I can hardly wait to write that story. But wait... I get ahead of myself. I still have this day to move through...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 3 - L.A. to Monterey

Annie at Pfeiffer State Beach. She was a soldier today as both a driver, navigator and friend.

Panorama of Bixby Bridge on Hwy 1

The Pacific...where westbound highways go to die.

Less than 10 minutes after being in the motel room, I realized that if climbed on top of a few pieces of furniture I could monkey it up into this empty loft space of our room.


Our day started with breakfast Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood and ended with the sunset in Monteray. Today would be one of our longest driving day so far - 8 plus hours. Outside of the L.A. swat teams that had shutdown the 101 North just before Ventura, traffic flowed pretty smoothly for us today. Ironically, I didn't think there was anything strange about leaving Los Angeles under those circumstances. It just felt right.

After a quick bite to eat at the Downtown Brewing Company (a sweet-ass music venue with awesome food) in San Luis Obispo, we made our way onto Hwy 1. There are few words I can say that will do the stretch of road from San Luis Obispo up to Monterey justice. Kerouac, Jeffers, and Steinbeck had pens that knew it well. Ansel Adams and Edward Weston brought their cameras here to rest. All I know is that if there is a more beautiful drive in the United States it has yet to grace my eyes.

What intrigues me about the road is the vast quantity of lessons it can bring you from people you meet and places you experience. And if you're really fortunate, once awhile in your life you get to have one of your teachers sitting in the car next to you as you do it. I don't know how but somehow I was dealt five aces today. It's 2 in the morning so I'm gonna quit while I'm still ahead.

I leave you with this postcard I made for a few friends 4 years ago on my first, and only other jaunt, up this stretch of coast. As I read the words now I guess that maybe some things never change...

Peace and much love from the road.

Restless - 11/19/2004

The last 2 months my soul has become increasingly restless.
It keeps me up late at night,
and wakes me early in the morning.
It makes me drive till I know not where I am anymore,
To where my surroundings cannot define me,
To where I am forced to attempt to define myself.
Slowly I find fragments of what I search for.
I find it in long hours behind the wheel of my car,
And daily commutes on the pedals of my bike.
I find it on winding alpine trails,
And before towering granite faces.
I find it in the twist of my camera’s lens,
And the turning pages of sun dried books.
I find it in the wisdom of an old hitchhiker,
And the pessimism of a close friend.
I find it in the pounding thunder of crashing waves,
And the crisp silence of a mountain meadow night.
Yet despite all that I have found,
I know I have infinitely more yet to find.

Day 2 - Making Out With L.A.

Breakfast at The Original Pantry.
Willshire Road to the Getty.
Van Gogh, Cezanne,
and Irene from Ireland.
Kissed by the sun.
Looking up at stone sculptures,
over the City of Angels,
and through Beverly Hills.
A winding double yellow line.
A Sunset Strip double expresso.
Another cold night,
a new old school army coat,
and family dining in Hollywood.
Hotel Cafe's red velvet curtain.
Kissed by vodka and 6 acoustic strings.
Midnight and nothing left in the tank,
accept 4 dollar gas.
101 South.
Little Tokyo hotel pillow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 1: San Diego to Los Angeles, One Small Step

Day 1:

Morning came and, restless, I got up the first time I woke instead of turning over to go back to sleep as I normally would. Everyone else was strangely quiet, even Jimmy. They slept until 7 and so I was up the first 2 hours of the day alone. I emailed a couple of people, read the news and felt my way into the day. When I finally got up to make coffee the cat joined me. She wasn’t content with me so she proceeded to do what I actually wished I could and wake everyone up with her incessant yowling. Soon the morning was moving fast and with many small delays, almost as if San Diego had an orbital pull on us, even though we intended to leave, we couldn’t quite get out of the county. I was standing at my broker’s front desk waiting for them to track the FedEx package that was supposed to be waiting for me there, with my replacement credit card in it, when I realized that even if I knew where the package was I wouldn’t have it in my hand, so I told them I needed to go. I got in the car with Jimmy and with nothing left to do or take care of before we could leave we headed for the highway, and north. The weather was so dark and cold and rough that it was not like San Diego at all. The traffic was slow and it was as if the place was holding us, not quite ready to let go. I felt like that too. I want to go. I want this so much, this grand adventure and a life in a new place with new people and new experiences. Still, it was so hard to see my son Alex trying to say goodbye this morning. So hard to hear my friend’s voice saying how sad she is and that she will miss me so much. So hard to imagine that I will likely never live here again. We didn’t get far today, but we got out. In the end all the delays and the weather and traffic couldn’t hold us. Our stuff is gone. We have to go. The time has come to leave. Blended with all the sadness was an incredible sense of purpose and certainty. 

We landed in Los Angeles for visit with my mother and sister. We picked my mom up for dinner and because Jimmy is so good at asking questions, and maybe because she knows I’m going far away, she talked with us for the 1st time in years about something other than her health. We talked about politics and she let Jimmy see, and me remember, the powerful and opinionated woman she was in her youth. My mother is the reason I am the woman I am. She is the reason I can go away to South America. She is the source of that sense of fearlessness. Maybe it was genetic. Maybe it was learned. I don’t know. Probably some of both. No matter what has passed between us in the years since and how long the road has been to learning to be a powerful woman in ways she didn’t know how to lead me, I still remember that woman standing in the face of power, so physically small, yet somehow so big and so un-moveable. I can see her, all 5’3” of her, with her curly red hair, standing facing a police officer on the grass in Washington DC with a sign that read “We Shall Not Be Moved” or “Women & Children Are People Too”. I can see her in small towns in Mississippi and Tennessee and other places across the South standing up to people who would deny others their rightful place in our society. As small as she was she never backed down in the face of power. Sometimes that got her nose bloodied. I learned that even if it hurts you follow your heart where it wants to go and you never let fear choose for you. It was nice to see that in her again yesterday. It is one of the things I love about being with Jimmy and hope to learn by watching him, that way he has of drawing out of people the very best in them. Maybe that is why everyone loves him so, because they are at their best when they are in his presence. I laughed inside when my mother talked about going out and marching again. She said if the people go, she will go with them. That would be a sight to see and if she went I would go to, just be there and to get a picture to show to my grand children when I tried to explain the kind of people they come from.

I sat tonight in the company of a man I deeply love and respect and watched that woman I remember come to life for him, just a little. We drank a lovely wine and we ate lovely food and listened to other tables laugh and talk and when the night was over my eyes welled up. My mother is 68 and she is not well. I am going very far away and don’t know when I’ll be back. This night, after a long hard day in coming here, was precious to me and I was sad to see it end. I was not sad to see the end of day 1 though. It was a tremendous day and it feels good to be on the road. The story will begin to unfold from here. I’ll keep you posted...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Travel Dates

And So It Begins...

I quit my job last week.
Our stuff is boxed and gone.
It sits in some West Coast port,
bound for the open seas and the southern hemisphere.
The only key left in our possession is the one for our car.
One key.
No home.
So I guess we're unemployed and homeless.
Despite their traditional undertones, those words make me smile.

Tomorrow a 44 day, cross-country roadtrip begins.
It ends with a one way flight to Buenos Aires.
There we make a go of opening the Yoga/Art Studio.

The blog is set:

Follow along as little or as often as you like.
Pass it on to anyone you want.

Here's list of the places we'll hit along the way, and the days we'll arrive there:

Los Angeles, CA - May 23
Monteray, CA - May 25
San Francisco, CA - May 26
Reno, NV - May 28
Las Vegas, NV - May 29
Ogden, UT - June 1
Fort Collins, CO- June 3
Somewhere in the middle of Iowa- June 7
Winona, MN- June 8
Gilman, WI- June 9
Milwaukee, WI- June 12
NYC- June 19
Connecticut- June 23
Boston, MA
- June 26
Philadelphia, PE- June 29
Washington D.C.- July 2
Buenos Aires, Argentina - July 6

7 years ago, I wrote these words down in one of my journals. At the time I was back in Wisconsin working two jobs, just trying to save enough money to get out to California. Now on the eve of this journey, for the second time in my life, what I wrote back then seems somewhat fitting:

One morning I will awake,
and I won't be sleeping here anymore.
I'll look around me
and everything I see will be unfamiliar.
My shadow will have no name,
and all that I know will seem incredibly minuscule
in relation to that which I don't.
As I start that day I will know little or nothing of what it will hold,
and it will be then that my soul will take in,
and then expend, its deepest breathe.

Take care friends. I hope to catch you on the flipside, whenever and wherever that may be.

Peace and much love,

There are a million places I know all of you from on this email list. Some I have grown up with. And some of you I have been fortunate to have randomly had a chance to sit next to on an airplane. Plus everything in between. While you have had some glimpse of who I am, there's one person who you most likely don't know. She is one of the most amazing people I've ever had the chance to meet. And she is the the one embarking on this journey with me. My partner in crime, my girlfriend, Annie. Without her this surreal adventure would not be possible. I know I don't say it nearly enough, but thank you Annie for you just being you, and all that you bring into my life. Usted es mi rayo del sol, mi amor.

Friday, May 16, 2008