I hated Naples. The garbage. The exhaust. The scooters. The humidity.
Naples feels like the beautiful daughter her father can’t manage so he heaps her with abuse, it being so close to love.
Let me put some perspective on this. I had spent almost seven weeks in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Not quite a desert town but dry enough to make ones sinuses bleed. It has pecan tree groves and green chilies but it’s no Mecca for stimulation. I’m not blaming Las Cruces for my being an asshole. I am an asshole. I get it. My dad used to say, ‘everywhere you go there you are.” Well here comes the heavy weight. Asshole.
I weeded a yard overgrown, cultivated lantana, petted dogs, lit citronella candles, mother-fucked mosquito bites, concocted savory watermelon salads, wrote instantly trash-able journal entries, swam in blinding sunlight toasting me dark Sienna and wore seersucker shorts and a washed-to-translucency Beauty and the Beast t-shirt, everyday; there was no damn reason to do otherwise. I’d hit a wall. Should I stay? Or should I go? Stay for what? Go where? The Lexus was totaled.
They say there are signs of depression.
“Time is finite. Take action,” the mantra I’d written it on a scrap of fuchsia paper has traveled the world with me. “Always move forward, always choose intuitively. You’ll know what to do when you get there.”
After the death of my aged mother who had dementia, I left Chicago. For six months I had been sleeping on a friend’s couch after my failed move to California and subsequent job loss. It’s fair to say I wasn’t thriving. My Honda CR-V needed repairs outweighing it’s worth. I took a job hosting at a restaurant that transitioned from one-parent families and gal-pals eating okay bar food to sloppy groups of privileged graduate students space-hogging the bar and aisles. And the music sucked. I rode a bike to work and home at night, a protracted ritual of attaching lights, donning a helmet, locking, unlocking, locking, and removing the lights at one a.m.
In Tennessee my former sister-in-law shared her home while I waited for my mothers small estate to settle. Debts were paid and I purchased a used 2006 Lexus SUV. Believing I was both traveling cross country to deliver a dog, Scout, to my nephew in Boise, Idaho and answering the question, “do I want to live in California again?” I spent a month in Ojai, above Santa Barbara. Turns out, I don’t.
The cost of living squeezes grown adults into shared housing, and depending on the owner/lease holder, some wish the renter to have little or no footprint, meaning, live out-of-sight. I saw matchbox studios with no kitchens, a former garden shed-cum-apartment sans storage, a drafty sunroom at the rear of a house for $850, its prehistoric kitchen and bathroom only accessible through the back door. Prior to delivering Scout to Boise we spent two nights in a dog-friendly Santa Barbara hotel where surprise, surprise, many day laborers reside, cooking on grills outdoors, clothes hung and strung up in their shared rooms. This side of the California Riviera is not often talked about.
Upon reflection, I was under the influence of van-life, car-camping, converted Sprinters and travel blogs presented by glowy young women doing yoga handstands outside their $75,000 conversion vans, their instagram-y disappearing-solo-into a hazy desert sunset photos. I know, I sound like an old crank. I did take a 1986 VW Vanagon for a spin. The seller explained he’d include the out-of-print manual, any, (read many) extra parts and demonstrate how to manage the richness of the gas on a homebuilt gauge. I never called him back.
The appeal of beach life having lived on the Chicago Tundra for much of my adulthood, is strong. But what does one do at the beach all day if not lifeguard or surf? I mean as a lifestyle? Factor in managing a social-media-cute dog who runs off every visit until a minuscule speck on the beach, and when I finally catch up she is drinking chilled water from the hands of a stranger ready to issue me a citizen’s arrest for being a neglecter, her pathetic eyes saying it might be true. I dropped the dog off in Boise.
And certainly not in any order here, but for the record, Idaho is a Triangle of Mystery.
I toured twisted green mounded hills and swerved on catching view of densely blue and flattened lakes, RV campers silently dotted about, passing tens of signs informing drivers there will be loose cattle on the road and no refills on gasoline for hours. Only the Indian tribes have gas and they’re not saying where white lady. By the time I did reach gas I was thrilled to pay four-fifty a gallon delivered via antiquated pumps. Also, there is no cellular coverage in this psychic vacuum so don’t try calling 911 when you see a motorcycle go down, but drive a further thirty miles to the nearest tribal fire department to report it. There, a dozen large American Indian men gathered in the dispatch room who moved not once as I relayed my story. No urgency, no hurry. A phone call was made as they debated who might have responded thirty miles ago. Duty done, I left. Later when I recalled this story and tried to find it on a map, it did not exist.
Did I skip Reno? I did and not without cause. Apocalyptic. Don’t go there.
And Bend? Bend was sold to me as ‘super beautiful’ by a nameless family member who just got a dog. I obviously do not understand what one means when they say super beautiful and scruffy trees, dry hills and ranch houses are all I see. I do not have a diagnosis for my malady,
I only know its symptoms…wishful thinking and unrealistic expectations. It’s quite painful, the let down.
Portland was a warm rosy climb up a steep hilly garden, cozy-shoppy neighborhoods and chain stores we have everywhere, Pottery barn, Restoration hardware.
But Salt and Straw, fucking great ice cream no matter how herdish to wait on line. Not sorry haters, I love it. Looking back after two months in Italy, I sampled copious amounts of gelato and am yet to be convinced they weren’t all the same flavor. I applaud the Roman pistacchio-mandarin and zabaione-honey-coffee. For the high dollar calories I want to be blown away, at least a little bit. Gelato, in my opinion is a Disney world experience, an overrated sweet confection for the indiscriminate palate. ( Did I mention I don’t like musicals?)
To be continued.