My great-grandmother came to this country from Ireland.
Her brother was in the IRA. He killed a British soldier so the family scraped and borrowed to get him a boat ticket to escape to America.
They were too late. The British Army captured him. They tied him to a tree and stuck dynamite down his pants and blew him to hell.
Since the family already had a boat ticket they decided my great grandmother should use it. When she landed in Boston she was 14 years old.
She was married within the month and her new husband moved her to Chicago. They had six kids, one of them was my grandmother.
She got married and my grandfather and she moved to Oklahoma. They became tenant farmers.
When the great depression hit they were 21 and 18 years old and had two kids. One of them was my mother. Sometime in there my grandfather decided to go back to Chicago. He became a cop, like his father before him.
My grandmother was salty stuff. She and her cousin decided to take the kids and try their luck in California. The Irish don’t believe in divorce and I guess being 2,700 miles apart and still married was legal, or moral, or whatever it was that mattered to them. I did always wonder if they couldn’t afford a divorce but my grandfather sent my grandmother a decent sized check every month. And when the big corruption scandal broke and it looked like my grandfather would be implicated they ended 30 years of separation and she moved back to Chicago to stand by him. She didn’t leave again until he died.
In California my mother met a guy in the army. I’ve only my birth certificate to study so I guess they were married shortly after she got pregnant. When I was born she was 15 and he was 25.
She traveled with him from army base to army base until he joined the Air Force to settle in Southern California. There they divorced. I nearly had a brother or sister but he decided it wasn’t his and punched her in the stomach, causing her to miscarry.
I was four when my mother and I started our life together.
Every weekend from the time I was four, every long holiday my mother and I would take car trips. It was important to her that we see as much of the world as we could. Most of the time we slept in the car.
They were always old junker cars. I remember a Salmon Plymouth Belvedere the most clearly. It was always breaking down. Somehow we always got home.
We went to the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland. We travelled old Route 66 I don’t know how many times. We ate at the road side stands and stopped for every ten cent attraction. I saw two headed calves, two headed snakes, a three headed lamb, a goat the farmer was trying to pass off as a unicorn, a house made out of garbage and decorated with bottle caps and baseball cards.
I saw minor league baseball games, church choir shows and brass bands. Anything that the small towns we passed through offered.
I liked being a traveler. It gave me cachet with the other kids I’d meet. All us kids agreed that being on the move and seeing all there was to see was the most beautiful way to live.
On one drive my mother had a breakdown and asked if I minded her driving me all over creation. She cried because she was sad that we lived in a house with cracks in the walls and doors that didn’t seal out the night air.
I had no idea what she was talking about.
When my mother married my step father the trips didn’t completely stop but they weren’t fun any more. My step father drank too much and slapped me around. Weekends had more things to do then to roam around aimlessly, for me and for them.
I still like to travel.
I like feeling like the tourist, even though I own every place I stand.
I don’t like goodbyes, but I like the feelings that come that makes saying goodbye so hard to take.
Maybe its some kind of Freudian junk about trying to recapture that time with my mother. Maybe it was bred into me. My family sure seemed to move all over the place all the time.
There aren’t many places I haven’t been: The two poles, Mainland China, the Azores. That’s all I can think of. There are probably others.
Sometimes I was working, sometimes I was surfing, sometimes it was rock climbing, most of the time it was just to see what made the world different even though I soon saw it was really just the same.
The most spectacular places I’ve seen: Yosemite Valley, Maui, Nepal, The High Desert.
The ugliest: India and Egypt.
The places I’ve seen destroyed and cry over: Bali and Kenya.
Bali was destroyed by the people with live there, so that’s cooler. Surfers discovered the rock reef pipes and started to flock there and suddenly Bali went from cool spot to a border town, as ugly as Tijuana or Jaurez.
Kenya was destroyed by outsiders and developers.
When I first went there I was 19 and we did a motorcycle trip from Casablanca to Johannesburg.
We seldom saw people until we’d hit a town.
When we entered an animal preserve the dirt roads were lined with human skulls and the warning sign that poachers would be shot on sight. The signs were hand painted and in every language they could write or misspell in. The skulls clarified everything anyway.
We took an 8 day detour to see the silver back gorillas.
It was an arduous slow trek. It was worth it. The animals were terrifying, cool and interested in us only as a possible threat. When they decided we were harmless they lost interest in us.
When I went back to Kenya at the end of the 90’s the animal preserves were scarred with criss crossing bus and jitney tracks. The preserve of the silver back gorillas was reduced to the size of a city black. It was surrounded with a parking lot and souvenir booths.
The gorilla were the same but now they were totally disinterested. I don’t know enough about gorillas to know what their state of mind was.
I’m pretty much finished with traveling now.
Not by choice but by necessity I guess. Its a good thing I’m happy with where I am.
I’m feeling better today. Still a alot of annoying pain. My back is crippling me but we’re going to go out to dinner tonight – A Chinese Buffet!
I’m cleaning my jacket with the big inside pockets, so I can line the pockets with plastic bags. The dogs are placing their orders for treats.
It will be fun. It always is.
The a Chinese movie for desert! Protege, the new Derek Lee – Andy Lau movie. I’m psyched.
Life is good.