So many bad ideas and so little time
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The problem with being a romantic is that I am prone to make decisions based more on dreams than financial logic. I keep reminding myself of this as my hands grip the wheel of the rumbling, smelly 1974 Chevrolet RV. I’m considering the vehicle as a future home, which I worry might guarantee an existence as a lonely, stinky man. And what worries me even more is that in some moments I feel like that’s what I want. There must be something wrong with me – compared to my clean, married, homeowner friends – and maybe it’s that romanticism nibbling at my blood cells.
Somehow, driving the rattling metal box down Grass Valley Road toward Harvey Gap, I’m not thinking about the broken camper door, which might fall off its hinges with a good bump, or the busted skylight in the bathroom unit. The engine heat blasting down on my right foot through a crack bothers me a little, but I’m much more intoxicated with the sunset, which beams through the dirty windshield and warms my imagination. Miles of sagebrush and barbed wire pass through peripheral vision. The large circumference of the skinny steering wheel jostles under my palms and fingertips, and my brain toys with the American dream like a silver coin in hand: freedom – what is it to me and what might be my path to it? The well-established route suggests I keep my nose pressed in a career for many years so that I might enjoy security and retirement and all those trips and leisure activities that enables. However, this “off-road” adventure I’m considering might very well be part of my “career,” which is what I’m thinking.
At this point I should disclose that I also recently made the mistake of picking up Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” for the second time since I was about 17. From what I understand, he came to hate that book, as he considered himself more of a novelist than an existentialist and yet his essays from a stint in the Utah desert are among his most widely quoted compositions. I must admit part of my dream entails having a book published that would earn royalties and assist in furthering my meandering adventure. That is probably the most arrogant aspect of my vision – that I could actually do that – but then no one would ever pursue a horizon if he or she didn’t have a level of self-assurance for finding the way and making the distance – like a climber gazing up 3,000 feet of rock with a smile and starting from the ground, one step at a time. So, yes, that’s where money eventually enters my equation (money always comes in somewhere). But that is probably a long way off – and remember, that is only the means to enable me to continue my writing, my exploration, my attempt to live a life according to my greatest values. So then, as I drive the unofficial Cox family heirloom west, the question becomes, what are those values? Certainly not material wealth, though I can’t deny lavish luxuries always have an appeal on many levels (i.e., Playboy bunnies and movie stars for company as well as cushy chairs and beds). My greatest value, I think, is feeling at peace with my immediate surroundings – a sense that I understand and communicate in all sorts of ways with the world that gives me life and that I somehow contribute toward that peace. I was told that, in his later years, Abbey called writers a bunch of spineless idiots, or something like that. Well, maybe I am and maybe I’ll come to hate a book of mine as well, but for right now the thought of living in a creaky RV for a winter in the middle of the desert doesn’t seem so spineless.
When Kasey and I get back to his house and park the Chevy back among the tall thistles in his backyard the smell of old, burning oil permeates the air. Wasps, for some reason, are also flying in and out of the grill, a little pissed off. I lift the hood for a look, if for nothing else than to feel a little smarter about a stupid decision I’m tempted to make. I don’t really know what I’m looking for; the engine obviously runs but I’m not one to see at a glance how well or how many miles it has left. Then Kasey points out the wasp nest on the underside of the hood, near my face. Oh! I step back and then we notice two more. Kasey, like his dad, refuses to admit fear and with only a slight hesitation, he begins to pluck and throw each nest into the weeds. Wasps hover menacingly in every direction, their hind legs hanging down like rocket pods on Apache helicopters, but none seem to want to hurt us. However, that perception might stem from my romantic nature in believing that we – all living things – can live so harmoniously. And that’s what worries me. I just hope I don’t make a decision that ends up stinging me in the butt.
Derek Franz also hopes you’ll give him a lift if you see him broken down on the road. He can be reached at rockgripper8000@ yahoo.com.
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