My less-skinny butt is hanging off the edge of my thirties. Some resolutions feel necessary. I’ll travel more. That’s one.
I will enjoy my forties as much or more than I enjoyed my thirties. My thirties were pretty great. Sure, I married and separated from someone, and that has been right shitty; however, looking past that shows me some exceptional moments, Life in the making.
I traveled more in my late twenties and early thirties than any other time in my life.
San Francisco and all parts in between here and there showed me that most of the west is…empty, but teeming with some undefinable and untamable energy. I’ll take that trip again, more slowly next time. We were on a tight schedule and arrived early, with no keys to the house because the bearer of the keys was at a music festival in the mountains, no cell reception. We camped in the back yard of my friend’s new house with a tent I bought in Wyoming. The tent was cheaper than a motel room, and it was a fine tent. We were almost out of road money, so a reusable place to sleep seemed like a good use of my last forty-five dollars. Our smattering of time sleeping in it was worth every penny. Wyoming has even more coyotes than Temecula, California. Imagine that, Nance!
Houston is ugly, but San Antonio is a gem. I saw a river that I didn’t know existed, and heard a band I didn’t expect to be good, but I was too shy to dance. The tequila there tastes better, too, and the Mexican food is real food, not just five ingredients rearranged on plates and called different things. Pollo Ahumado under an umbrella on the Riverwalk, feeling released from prison, breathing real air for the first time in years…
New York felt strangely familiar. Tourists asked for directions. I gave them, probably wrong ones. In one weekend, I saw the UN, the public libraray, Ellis Island, Wall Street, and accidentally Ground Zero just months after 9/11. Rubble still lay in the holes, and a chain link fence on one side held so many flowers and notes in memoriam that the fence became a wall, the sidewalk impassable. I hadn’t wanted to see that, but later, after many tears, it was the good kind of accidental tourism. Mike Tyson fought Lennox Lewis that June, and I watched the match at an Irish pub where I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying. Lennox won, after eight long rounds and after being almost comically head-butted by Mike early on. A rumble, genuine disgust and anger, had replaced the drinking songs that lured me through the doors from the street, and if Tyson had won, I think I would have run. Americans not loved at that place in that moment, but when the Brit knocked out the American idiot, all was happy again. Strangers bought rounds for the whole place, and I walked out a little drunk and a lot thrilled to be walking down Houston Street on a Saturday night.
Reno smells like hot dogs and stale beer and cigarettes, but Virginia City is so beautiful and remote that I’d live there, if I lived alone. The Sierra Nevadas are killers, snow in June, but the Truckee River never seems anything but almost-frozen. The Donner Party were understandably fooled by the desert warmth below.
I nearly went insane crossing the Great Salt Lake. Time stops on that whiteness. I had to get out, pull over and stop, to touch it again and again. It was real, and it really was just fishy smelling salt, fish so old that they shouldn’t smell any more, but no one talks about that. Morton’s factory in the distance, with fish and acrid desert in my nose, made me want to never touch a navy blue canister of table salt again. I still get gaggy over the little girl holding the umbrella, and sniff every new container. Fishy? Never. So weird.
Jamaica forced me to get a passport, finally. That’s a story for another day. I need more time to pass to tell it well.
California changed me, three times. First, the San Francisco chill and smog obliterated the California of my imagination. Orange County never ends, but Santa Cruz and its boardwalk feel about my speed. Second, a Los Angeles heat wave and a wedding to do made me realize that hotness works for me. I can do hot. Later, Temecula and San Diego after days in a hospital in Pasadena with my beloved friend reminded me that life goes on, and life ends, and there’s not enough love in the world to change that. If there was, my friend would still be alive. Being swept to peace, myself, after such grief…I’ll appreciate that forever. Going to a ranch in the country and listening to coyotes outside the window and walking with my long-far-away dear friend might have saved my own life. That friend and his family, also my dear friends, reminded me that peace at home is normal. I didn’t have any of my own, in frozen Illinois. We spent a day racing around L.A. seeing people, seeing things I’ve only seen in movies, but I can’t remember anything but the hug I got when I answered the door in my jammies.
Now, a new decade to poke through or race through or use up has been given to me. I have a temporary companion in the world, my beautiful baby girl. She has seen more of the world at eight than I had seen at twenty-eight, and I like that. We will see more before she leaves me to be a Grownup. She’s good on the road, my sparkly daughter. It takes flexibility and curiosity and tolerance to travel, and she owns all in spades. We’ll go places.
By the time fifty happens to me, should I be lucky enough to see it, she will be eighteen. Did I realize that until right now?
Yes, we’ll go places.