I have taken lots of road trips in my day and always feel ridiculously excited, and a little bit scared, and somehow also a little bit solemn. All travel to me is part of a larger pilgrimage and has deep metaphysical significance and entails the undertaking of various kinds of danger and the certainty of at least one kind of death (and we hope, resurrection) because when you return, even if the trip was only for a week, you are not the same person you are when you left. You have been changed, somehow, even if you can't see or feel the change.
Total sap that I am, I'm always slightly over-emotional at both hellos and goodbyes, and of course the truth is you never DO know if you're coming back. Of COURSE I'll return safely, in good time, but you never know.
I bought my trusty '96 Celica around 2001 and together we have been to the coast of New Hampshire and back; through Yellowstone, Cody, Wyoming, and to the South Dakota Badlands and back; to the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Natchez Trace to Nashville, and on to Spencer, West Virginia, and back; and twice so far to Taos, New Mexico, so this will be the third time I've made that particular pilgrimage. That's not counting the countless trips to the Central Coast of California, the wine country, the Anza Borrego desert outside San Diego, the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the Lord alone knows and remembers where else.
As tends to happen, I've had several automobile mishaps over the years, most notably, perhaps, the time en route to a retreat at a Cistercian convent in Sonoita, Arizona, that my radiator blew at some God-forsaken rest stop on the 10, I had to pay $175 bucks to be towed to the metropolis of Quartzsite (pop. 3397) and, while the one mechanic in town sent for a new part and fixed the damn thing, I spent two nights, in about 150-degree heat, at the local Super 8. (Here's the NPR story I did about that little event). (Tip: AAA Plus. Free tow of up to a hundred miles plus they apparently reimburse if you have to hole up at a hotel).
The odds of such a thing happening to the same person twice are astronomical, right?
Just to be on the safe side, I consulted with my brother Joe, front man, as you may know, for the punk band The Queers, who lives in Atlanta with his Japanese wife Mimi and their hyperactive Australian cattle dogs Tsubi and Mena (sp.?) and, having toured the U.S. and all over creation almost non-stop for decades has many times, especially on one memorable trek across Texas, proven to be my guardian angel/travel guide/helpmeet, calling to check in, give mileage reports, and deliver tips on what exit to take for gas (“The one just past Lee Trevino in El Paso”), a Starbucks (“Forget about trying to get coffee in Ft. Stockton”), or hotel. I stayed overnight in the lovely Texas town of Ozona that trip simply to commemorate the fact that Joe's own van had bitten the dust there on one memorable occasion in 2006, causing the band to miss their San Antonio gig and Lurch, the drummer, almost to have a cabin-fever nervous breakdown.
Anyway, Joe urged me to go to JiffyLube for a radiator flush, which I did yesterday ($96.65). And now all I have to do is gas up, make a Trader Joe's run and a Staples run, and pack ("I'm hardly bringing anything," I'll say as I always do, and when I leave the car will be packed to the rafters, mostly with books and food as I can never quite wrap my mind around the fact that people read, and therefore have books, and eat and therefore have grocery stores, in other places, too). The atlases are at the ready, plus it's a straight shot on the 40 to Albuquerque and I know the way from there. I once made the almost 1000-mile drive from Taos to L.A. in one day but that was somewhat insane so I'll stop for one night, probably in Holbrook or so.
|JOE AND AGGIE'S CAFE, HOLBROOK, AZ|
I mean take Taos itself. Here, my friends Julia (look for Julia [Mary Gibson]'s book Coy Dogs, out in Spring 2013 from Tor!) and Aaron have simply given me the keys to their beautiful and to-die-for home which is situated at the top of practically its own mountain with a porch, amazing views, and a resident bear. Just gave me the keys! Here! We're thrilled you can go! So I'll be at their manse, as I call it, till July 31st (with a week's break from July 16th to the 23rd to attend a retreat on St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Albuquerque) and then if I want to stay on, as I well might, my friend Kris who lives in Taos may be going to Ohio to see her mother from the end of July through August 22nd in which case, here, too: "You can have my place! Welcome to it. And if that doesn't work out, we'll find you someplace else. I'll start asking around around right now"...
As if that weren't enough, my poet friend Lise Goett, also from Taos, is already wheedling and cajoling, I mean very kindly keeping open a 3 a.m. slot for me at the Perpetual Adoration chapel, the scheduling of which she oversees, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
Yesterday my friend Fr. Terry Richey took me out to lunch. I heard from a composer in Orange County who might want me to help him shape a book. My friend Joe lent me a whole pile of music that I am not even going to dip into, so I can properly savor, till I'm on the road: Elmore James, Red Garland's "All Kinds of Weather," T-Bone Walker and lots more.
And my friend Jamie O'Halloran Whitmarsh, a poet and teacher, e-mailed out of the blue and said "Karl and I are moving to a big house in the Hollywood Hills where we'll be able to do a ton of entertaining. You know how we love St.Thérèse and are so excited about your book--would you be open to us having a publication party for you? Maybe on October 1st, her feast day"...Out of the blue!
Out of the blue and yet maybe not entirely out of the blue, because the deeper spiritual movement here, I'm thinking, is maybe “Ask and ye shall receive?”...I would like to think it is "Give and gifts will be given unto you," but really I am so selfish I can't even pretend that's the case and instead am going through some phase where I am daring in some small way to ask and daring to receive and constantly therefore being shown and humbled by the kindness of others. Because when you are very ruled by self-centered fear you not only tend to be selfish, you also almost never ask for anything. Asking requires deep vulnerability and a very uncomfortable ceding of control. The answer might be no! You might look like a fool! You will reveal your pathetic and desperate need! Your whole problem is feeling rejected; why would you open yourself to being rejected again!
That is one reason having the blog has changed, is changing my life. Because at some point I saw, Oh people are going to respond! They are going to share their struggles, their stories, their opinions, their reading recommendations, themselves. We are going to have an exchange. Putting out my tip jar was also huge. Whether anyone ever donated was beside the point (and people have, and I am eternally grateful); the point was that I had asked.
I come from people who consider it a mark of high moral character to never ask for anything. I can give, in a certain way, all kinds of things--as long as I'm in control. So to "put myself out there," as honestly though hopefully not confessionally as possible, with writing that by the very (more or less immediate) nature of a blog, is not always as polished as I might like; in some small sense to have allowed myself to ask (as I also asked Julia if I could stay in her and Aaron's place, as I also asked my friend Kris if she knew of any other places in Taos, as I also put up a Writing Mentor page last year and asked for what I think my services are worth, an action that is now bearing fruit); to believe I am "deserving," are for me the psychic equivalent of Sir Edmund Hillary setting out for Everest.
And that, in my experience--the willingness to step outside our own particular box--is always what precedes transformation. We don't think our way into right acting; we act our way into right thinking. We have to take the leap first. We have to not know how or whether we're going to land.
The question, in other words, is never whether people say yes or no, or whether we did things the right way or the wrong way, or whether or not we die en route to Taos. The question is which master we serve. The question is whether we are willing enough to be loved. That is what St.Thérèse of Lisieux was ALL about.
So for now...
Les Paul and Mary Ford: Vaya con Dios