Turtle on the Run
Ever been to a stage where your entire life, in that moment, consisted of what you could carry on your back? Ever? I’m sure some have, maybe even some here in this room.
The analogies are there for the taking. Hermit crab, snail, turtle. They are self sufficient. Like a mobile home with a heartbeat. I’m busy, as we speak, slipping into my own shell, camper or otherwise.
There was a scene in a movie called, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (based on the book by Milan Kundera,) where the actor, I think it was Daniel Day-Lewis, is despondent, alone, mid 30s, and he thinks aloud, (have to paraphrase, too long ago and could not find quote) "I don't have any keys. I can't remember the last time in my life I did not have a key, to anything, or anywhere." I have been there twice as an adult. 1990, and today.
But many have not been to this stage. I envy them. That sense of belonging. A sense of permanence; living in a home, not a house. Knowing if something goes wrong; health, money, job, broken heart, there is someone who will help you pick up the pieces. You could be, literally, reduced to a very few belongings, just what you can carry, but if you have that person, you have a home.
I’ve been very close to this state. Back in 1990, at the age of 30, my belongings amounted to what I could fit in my Camaro and its tiny trunk. Not much, trust me. When I think back though, I grin with satisfaction at the amount of cassette music tapes and books I crammed into my new four-wheeled abode. Sure, the essentials were strewn about as well, jeans, boots, etc. But those books and tapes are what helped me most in my two month sojourn across America. I must have listened to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” a hundred times, top volume, belting out the lyrics like Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire”.
Back then, I was fleeing California, which had become something all together different for me than the 31st state admitted to the union in 1850. It had taken over my psyche and engulfed me in a constant state of disappointment. I spread the blame for this malaise far and wide, but my name still topped the list of the guilty. I’d made my bed.
But that was 1990. Four lifetimes ago, or so it seems. I ended up in New Jersey, my car broken down, and I had to sell it to some gas station owner who knew he had me over a barrel, and treated me worse than Andy in the Shawshank laundry room. I think I sold it to him for what amounted to beer money for a week. I had a dream once that he’d gotten drunk, drove it into a gas truck and exploded in an inferno.
Even in my dreams, irony insists on being present.
Now, 2012, I face a similar situation. At the age of fifty two, I will actually have even less purchase than I did at thirty. No car. No CDs or books (maybe one of each…hmmm…Sinatra…and The English Patient, paperback of course). Just what I can carry onto a plane. I’m heading east again.
In 1990, when I started out, that Camaro took me wherever the hell I wanted to go each morning. I’d wake up in a flea bag hotel, flip open my atlas, and decide where my destiny lay that day. It was then, and remains to this day, the most freedom I have ever experienced in my life. I ended up in New Jersey, but I didn’t know that until the day I drove into the Garden State, two months after I’d left L.A.; and two months after my oldest brother had taken his life.
Today I have a destination, though it is not without its risks. It may fall through. Money is very tight. My options are stretched further, and my plans have bigger holes, than fishnets on Aretha Franklin. But unlike 1990, I am not fleeing the death of a hero, of a fallen idol. My head is high. My confidence is strong; hell, even my libido hasn’t dipped since then. Knock on “wood”.
I plan to resurface…somewhere. Maybe eventually New York City. The Big Apple. I’ve spent a lot of time there. I fell in love with that city as a kid, many years before I would ever walk those pulsating streets. Maybe I was destined to live there. I don’t know. Figuring out my destiny is a luxury I can’t afford at this time. The future is right now. I know I am more ready for whatever life has in store for me, than at any other time in my life. At fifty two? Yeah, at fifty two. Readiness is all.
Right now, I need a cold beer and quiet half hour to drink it in.
“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.”
Then maybe, tomorrow…the world.