We’ve grown fond of starting our long-haul tours by leaving the Interstate after Reno and driving US 50 to south of Salt Lake City, where we pick up I 70 and keep barreling east. US 50 is a two-lane blacktop, beautifully maintained and majestically lonely. You might see two other cars in an hour. No towns, no billboards, no gas stations. But the beauty of the land can take your breath away: the huge rock formations, basin-and-range dips and swells, and the colors of the desert-like earth.
Not this time. We couldn’t see much at all, and the air was acrid with smoke. Our California fires made the air murky and hard to breathe all the way through California, Nevada, and most of Utah. Then Colorado chipped in with its own fires on the Western Slope.
When we got to Norfolk, VA, it was hot and wet, as it has been most of the way up the East Coast. Not really a surprise (it’s August, after all), but they’d been slogging through two solid weeks of rain. Baltimore was a steam bath. Philadelphia got a rainstorm of biblical proportions yesterday, with cars trapped in sudden roadway lakes. Thursday we head for Bloomsburg, which is flooding.
We’ve driven all over this country in our decades of touring and have slogged through all kinds of weather, but this feels creepy. And the escalation of aggressive driving is wild, making things even more hairy.
But our readings and performances have been wonderful, and our reunions with long-term friends have fed our souls. We’re halfway now, and haven’t had to face any disasters yet. Life is good.
I have a cold and I’m miserable.
We’re in the first stage of our month-long tour, having made a hard cross-country drive, 2,800 miles in five days, and now much shorter hops, but I have a cold and I’m miserable.
Sunday, an excellent performance of SURVIVAL in a gallery in Waynesboro VA, lots of hearty laughter, but I have a cold and I’m miserable.
And last night, at The Venue on 35th, a sweet little space in Norfolk VA, we attended an open mike—a tightly-packed audience of 60+, all colors and genders and genres and ages and levels of talent—that sustained a wondrous energy of celebration, and we’ll do SURVIVAL there this evening, though I have a cold and I’m miserable.
Outdoors it’s hot and muggy and one expects the dog to grow moss, but that doesn’t really bother me, as I already—you get the picture.
Fortunately, in this show I don’t really do much except off-loading the props, doing a comic intro and running a few light cues: Elizabeth is the workhorse. In a couple of days, when we start doing our readings of GALAHAD’S FOOL, I’ll have to come alive and do my best not to fall into a bronchitic coughing fit midway. But I found in performing KING LEAR that the obligation of running a huge jolt of energy through the frame is highly therapeutic: the germs find themselves on the freeway at rush hour and split pretty fast.
Meantime, I have my own personal authorization to sit around, bitch and moan, and avoid doing any serious writing, except for a blog about being miserable.
I’m thinking turtle or snail, writ large. We’re in the final heave-ho of putting our personal and professional necessities into our Prius, providing ourselves with everything we will need for an entire month’s span on the road, away from our bed, fridge, stove, garden, cats, and our increasingly creaky and surly computers.
We’re so damn used to assuming that everything will be within reach, be it fresh garden garlic and veggies for mealtime, or vast digital files of writings and correspondence, or cats to cuddle in times of stress. We’re not neophytes to this process of yanking ourselves out of our nest, but every time is the first time as far as anxiety goes.
Back in the late ‘70s it was vastly more complicated, but it’s like childbirth—time smooths the edges of memory. Way back in the day we set out with toddlers Eli and Johanna and never came home for twelve weeks straight, so you’d assume we’d think this is a piece of cake now. Not.
We have the comfort of a beloved friend who is willing to change her habitation and care for our home and cats, and that’s an amazing grace. And over the years we’ve developed the kind of To-Do Lists and Packing Lists that just require updating, but life is always changing the rules of the game. The ultimate terror is the “what-haven’t-we-thought-of” meme.
But Tuesday morning will come before daybreak, and we will roll out to our beloved HardCore Espresso for a farewell to Sebastopol, and the die will be cast. Whatever we’ve forgotten, we will survive it. On that first day we’ll head east to the magic carpet that is US 50, a simple two-lane blacktop highway of stunning austerity and lonely beauty that gets us just past Salt lake City, where we’ll spring for a motel. At our age, we’re finally abandoning our norm of sleeping in the Prius in truck-stop parking lots.
And then we start counting the rosary of beloveds, too many to enumerate. On this trip we will greet again a friend from our Stanford days, 1963-66. We will spend extended time with a beloved artist and essential friend whom we’ve known from South Carolina in 1966. And we’ll embrace the amazing networker in whose theatre space our daughter took her first baby steps in 1975.
There will be time with a couple whose bond is as strange and enduring as our own, people we knew at a distance when we were all in Lancaster, but have come close to now. We’ll perform and spend the night in the house of a couple who met and ignited during our periodic workshop/playtimes in Philadelphia. There will be a few precious hours with a poet who always stuns us to the core, with whom we’ve been close since our Lancaster days of the 80’s.
Then there’s a couple we worked with in our year-and-a-half immersion in the history of Nevada City, researching, improvising, writing, and producing a play about a searing event in that city’s history. We became bonded members of a sweaty team who brought this story before the citizens who were still disturbed by their history, and created a path toward resolution.
And there are the heroic members of our tribe who have created long-lived and potent theatrical enterprises in such diverse places as Portsmouth, NH, Bloomsburg PA, and West Liberty, IA. Most beloved of all are our ensemble colleagues of Milwaukee’s Theatre X; we had five years together, then they made it shine for thirty more years after we branched off with The Independent Eye. In these days when we sometimes feel we’re sinking beneath the waves, they are an inspiration.
And now I have new family. Turns out I’ve been a Wisconsin girl all along.
These people, these places are our grounding, our connection to family and tribe. We are given the grace, hard-earned, of traveling the bardic road to keep the spark alive. As long as we have the ability to haul our bones out on the road again, we will do it.