I have always been drawn to solo journeys, and in memory the luscious ones are no less memorable than the skin-of-teeth ones. In the decade before my childhood leash was unhooked and I went off to college, my soul was preserved by my silent woodland rambles for hours beyond our dwelling, no ankle bracelet or GPS, just this weird kid feeling safe outside the bounds of “safety.”
We had made many journeys to Europe as a couple, then as a family, but after Johanna moved to Italy in 1998, I started making solo visits when CB was too locked to deadlines or too concerned about our finances. He would bless me and say, “Enjoy. Come back. Stay safe.” There were ecstatic experiences, like hiking alone around the entire perimeter of Belle Isle, sometimes on pretty perilous cliff trails. It took me five successive visits to get all the way around, and the concluding one was very special because for the first time, Conrad was with me.
And then there were the gut-knotting ones, like when I lost my passport, all my money, and my plane ticket in Amsterdam on the day before my return flight. I made it back OK, on time, and with lifetime memories of the kindness of a good friend and of some utter strangers.
And more recently, when my flight home from Paris was canceled by a pilots’ strike, I found myself alone at midnight on the streets of Rennes when the train station closed and kicked me out. It took all the chutzpah I had to stay on the streets and keep asking at every open establishment until I found an oddball hostel that had just had a cancellation.
Now I’m solo in an entirely different place. My own body. Some days I’m strong and active, others I can hardly walk, and I haven’t been able to figure out the pattern. I have become finely attuned to the road-signs between discomfort and pain. It’s the only habitation I have, and I’m doing my best to take care of it and to learn a whole new language and set of rules.
Instead of “don’t go to that bar alone” it’s “don’t eat any nightshades.” All the yummiest stuff: potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cayenne. Thank god onions and garlic are not on that list. It’s learning not to be humiliated about asking for a wheelchair to make gate changes at huge airports.
And on the positive side, it’s discovering that hands-and-knees in the garden is actually helpful. It’s being proactive in researching allies against inflammation and non-harmful remedies for pain. I have an excellent physical therapy team, and Medicare is paying for it. At home I’m learning to be forthright in asking for massage and help with my stretching exercises.
But I have crossed a border without a passport, and I don’t have travel insurance. The best I can do is to remember that the journey itself is what matters, and I have always come back home.
—From the Fool—
I keep a diary so that I can look back in it and see what I did, which I might not have noticed. I never do that except when somebody asks, “What did you do on New Year’s?” But that doesn’t help much because the next day I can’t remember what I did and in the diary it only says, “eqpapqqy.” Still, if you get famous, people want to know all the facts, I guess, so they can do it too.
But I saw where people make a lot of money publishing their memoirs, which is the same as a diary except not every day. You don’t even have to be famous or do something awful as long as there’s a story there. So I looked in my diary to see if I could make some bucks for what I already did.
So, yesterday: Got up, did stuff. Heard the neighbor’s dog Benny who barks a lot. Checked how the wars are going but they’re all over the place. They haven’t done the election yet but they’ll do it sometime. Did some more stuff.
A year ago today: Got up. Had to do a bunch of things and did some of them. Fed the cat but it meowed for more so I gave it some more which it didn’t eat. The wars are not going so good. Took a nap that lasted all night.
Five years ago today: Got up. First thing, I checked on the war. They seem like they’re just about done. I decided to further my career which has lagged of late so I made a list. Tomorrow I’ll start on the list.
Ten years ago today: Got up. People are starving on the news and there’s a war, so I turned off the news. My cat looks tired.
Twenty years ago today: Got up. Did stuff. Bought a kitten. Noticed there’s a war on, but not the front page. Took a nap till the kitten sat on my head. I don’t know what I’ll name her. Maybe something crazy.
Not much in there for a best-seller except the dogs and cats. People like stuff about wars but it seems like there’s an over-supply. I’d better make another list.
It’s still months before the peristalsis of democracy, a.k.a. the Election, and I’m about at the end of my tether. I have nothing to say about the Republicans except to quote E.E. Cummings: “A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.” To me, that includes some who have never held political office, e.g. Tr_mp, or Cr_z and K_sich, who’ve held it while wringing its neck.
But on my side of the fence the manure piles just about as high. I’m not speaking of the candidates, who’ve been astonishingly polite and issue-driven (relative to the American norm). I’m speaking of their fans. Probably I’ll vote for Sanders if he’s still in the race come California—if I can stomach the virtue of his more vehement supporters.
We’re back to the great debate of the year 2000: Do we vote for that swine Gore or vote our conscience for Nader? And if we don’t vote now for the saint, when will we ever do it? Not to bring up the unanswerable question of whether the Greens lost Florida for Gore and gave us Bush and financial disaster and endless war — just to vent my disgust at “voting our conscience.”
I’m spurred by posts on Facebook & elsewhere in the vein of “I’ll never vote for that corrupt she-demon Clinton, and if you don’t want Trump you’d best vote for the Truth and the Light!” Some of these, I assume, are Republican operatives’ disinformation to divide Democrats. But some are quite sincere, feeling their own candidate lacks the fangs to launch a proper attack. Those are the ones that piss me.
In the general election I’ll be voting for the person who (a) has a remote chance of winning and (b) will do less harm and more good than the other choice. To do otherwise, in my view, is supremely selfish—because a great many people, including many who are dear to me, will be affected by the actions of the winner, whatever his/her intrinsic virtue. Kennedy did positive and negative stuff; Obama, likewise. Both were better than the alternative.
I’m thoroughly briefed on the records of Clinton and her husband, and the likelihood, if she’s elected, of many policies I’d oppose—no different from any Presidency I’ve ever lived through. But I look at the people gaining health care, marriage equality, the vague beginnings of reform in the judiciary, in immigration, in foreign policy toward Latin America, and the possibility of a moderately progressive Supreme Court—these are things affecting real people now. Putting my own sense of righteousness ahead of the welfare of millions of people: NO!
Quite true: there’s an irreconcilable divide between the revolutionary who’ll tolerate a bloodbath or mass starvation for the sake of a future utopia and the “gradualist” who works toward the abolition of parking meters. I confess that I tend toward the former in my fantasies, toward the latter when I vote. My work as a dramatist keys me to the actual moments in the actual lives of real people, and when I come into the voting booth I don’t think of hypothetical people a hundred years from now: I think of me and my kids and my gay friends who’re looking for a better apartment and the Mexican family at the beach and the old guy at the ER and so on and so on. I’ll vote for whomever might make their lives better. For me, a vote isn’t a flag to wave: it’s a tool.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2016