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On Our Anniversary

Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.  --St. Augustine

Interstate 5 North, CA

It's been a year, folks.

I realized this the other night, while I was sitting in my aunt and uncle's living room in Ville de Quebec around a dinner of cheap wine and popcorn. They were asking me something about a job I used to have and suddenly, I was telling them everything. Like, everything. Exemplary family that they are, they actually wanted to know. (Which makes all the difference, in being listened to.) As I was telling them about how the job in Sebastopol didn't pan out, and how the couple at the restaurant in San Diego sparked this idea that didn't register fully until much later, it occurred to me,

"Tomorrow will be a year."

SLOHS auto shop, San Luis Obispo, CAIt felt like something but I'm not sure like what. It wasn't exultation, or trepidation, or even impatience with myself for not being some kind of genius or superstar already. It was just acknowledgment.

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If you made a Venn diagram of the reactions I've received, the biggest circles would be "dubious" and "romantic." There might be several lesser circles, as well. But the point of intersection would be "improbable." No one thinks this is something you can do for very long.

And I've been doing it for a year.

More than a year, actually. I'm writing this several days later than the actual one-year anniversary of my departure to follow the connoisseurs. I kept thinking I ought to write something, in recognition, but I couldn't think of anything that sounded wise enough for the occasion.

And then...well, a lot's happened in the days since that anniversary. Maybe this particular coin was a year in dropping--I don't know. Certain internal chemistries of mine have changed. Chief among them is not constantly waiting for a sense of success as motivation to continue.

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Brewerytown, Philadelphia, PA

On this day in history, I left San Diego at about 2pm, stopped at a Cricket store in Encinitas to buy a new charger for my phone, and took the scenic route north to Los Angeles. By 7pm, I was sitting on the curb in front of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Studio City, watching the tow truck lift my Jeep onto its back, my insides foaming with a mixture of panic fear and wan gratitude that I'd signed up for AAA only the day before.

Today, my car has racked up 115,000 more miles and runs like a champ (thanks to Niko, Danny, and the guys at Irvine's Auto Repair in Mt. Pleasant). But I'm also locked in a thumb war with the DMV because they require my car be re-registered as a salvage, since the other party's insurance agency declared the General a total loss. (Never mind that all it broke was the radiator.)

Fern Hill, Barnet, VT

Viewed from that angle, not that much has changed. I'm still behind on my school loans. I still sweat the 15th of every month, when the bills come due. I still feel a little embarrassed when I give out my business card to people, wondering how the sight of this website will stack up against the picture they have in their mind from my description of the project. I still feel crazed with envy when somebody else's blog post goes viral or their feature gets the cover instead of mine. I still don't write enough, or well enough, for my own satisfaction. I still wonder if anybody really wants what I have to offer.

Welcome Diner, Phoenix, AZ

Nevertheless, I feel...

Settled.

Ha! ...one second, while I laugh maniacally...

Guys! That's what everyone thinks my lifestyle categorically excludes!

That's the thing they say I'm going to have to give in to, someday, when all this horsing around is done! That's the thing that I've feared for so, so long.

I'll be damned...not only is it here, but I like it.

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Last night I was standing against the wall at a swing dance club in Quebec. Watching a bunch of people that I don't know, could barely communicate with, I didn't feel elated or terrified or lugubrious. All I felt was what I always feel when I'm out dancing--"I hope somebody asks me to dance soon."

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Maybe it takes a year, to feel that you are what you've become. Maybe it takes a year to become fully convinced that the shiny new thing will stand up to scuffing use. Being a grown-up, being healthy, married, a parent, a homeowner, a free person, a Kerouacian poser--whatever it is you want to be, it's good to feel settled in it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, DC

And motherfucker, it's hard. Anywhere but where you really truly want to be is so much easier. You don't care if it gets dirty and abused. It does so much less damage to your sense of worth, your identity, when you aren't appreciated in a role that you don't really appreciate, either. Hell, that bonds you to the unappreciative--you have that in common with them, that none of you think you really belong there. Doing something you really want to do will always isolate you, and alienate others. You can feel them, no matter how much they love you, wondering "Why do you get special favors?"

Last year, upon the wreck of the General, I had this body-slam epiphany that I needed to say "thank you" for everything before I even knew why. (Hence the gratitude list.) It should be no surprise to you that I believe in God...in Jesus, in fact...and that I think prayer works. Not because we pray, but because God is kind. Or will be, anyway, if you ask him to.the Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

This year's epiphany is that often, I don't want to ask him to be kind. Because then I'd probably love him, in response, and he's got a lot to make up to me first, before I'm willing to do that.

The last year was an exercise in believing that I can't screw up his will, and declining fear on the basis of his faithfulness to provide whatever I need to do his will, including inner direction.

This year, I anticipate exercise in asking for special favors.

Making requests not on the basis of his will, but on the basis of his generosity.

Miss Emily's library, Memphis, TN

If you think about it, it's really just another form of gratitude. An emphasized form, maybe. "I'm so grateful for the generous nature I believe you have that I have no qualms about advancing this further request."

For me, it's just a mantric idea, at this point. Last year's "say thank you before you know why" has become this year's "special favors."

I might make a list...I'm not sure. The idea is still a little bit scary to me, of putting it out there. Of looking like a fool for believing God was that good.

Um...but okay. This one has been floating along in my mind for several days, ever since returning to the land of CBC. You know one thing I really want? To sit in a room with Ira Glass, Marc Maron, and Jian Ghomeshi, and talk about why we love interviewing people.

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY

There. That's a special favor I'm asking for.

And I feel a gut-level of peace in asking it. That's always the signal I can't ignore--when my head is scrambling for its notes and, from the neck down, everything else is kicked-back Alka-Seltzer relief.

That gut-level of peace is what I felt last night in the swing club. It's what I feel about writing before I know whether anyone, even I, is going to appreciate it. It's what I feel about writing unadvisedly long blog posts.

It's what keeps me from feeling a "Made it, ma!" sense of accomplishment about my one-year anniversary of road life. It's not that remarkable; I didn't prove something unlikely. Everything's equally unlikely, if God is who he says he is.

Portland, OR