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(Following is an unedited excerpt of my recent rants about my travels across America to Chicago via LA as they unfold with more to come every few days. I hope you enjoy.)
There’s a whole lot to be said for being on the free and easy. By the ‘free and easy’ I mean being able to do whatever you like on a whim. Whether it’s staying out all night and watching the sun rise over the hippie vans and taco stands of Venice Beach or sleeping in until way past lunch time or packing it up and hitting the road or more appropriately the rails, as in Amtrak rails. I‘m back on the train headed east to Chicago that city in which I grew up and so adore on a sabbatical of sorts from my current home of many years in Santa Monica, California which I also love like I used to love a good glass of whiskey, but that’s another story.
You see there’s nothing like being on the free and easy but also helps if you’re free and single. Being tied down and having the obligations that come with it can be a good thing but for a guy like me can be a bit restricting. I don’t think I have yet reached that point of emotional maturity so many of my friends have in their personal growth. I also never was the kind who needed a lot of emotional safety as most normal people require.
When I say normal, it does not necessarily imply that I am abnormal just more of a, shall I say non conformist. But what is normal as I have often been asked, certainly not anything I grew up with or ever encountered in my life’s journey. I have never really live by the social standards set out for me as a child preferring to live by my own set of rules often setting them as I go. My own life experiences have in large part determined the direction in which my relationships have gone. Not necessarily a bad direction just one not a lot of eligible and sane females cared to go, at least of those I’ve accompanied to the dance and I’ve danced with quite a few in my time.
Over the years I’ve worked on adjusting my life to give me a little more free time to travel and enjoy what’s out there in America. More time to stay in Chicago with family for long periods of time so I never lose a connection with them. I’ve known far too many people in the city of Lost Angel’s from other places who let time get away from them. They get caught up in pursuit of the dream and before they know it years pass and they unwittingly forget about their family and loved ones back home.
I never want to be one of them. Hence, that is reason for the extended trip that I now take yearly. I have a few rules I live my life by and one of the most important ones is to make sure the ones you love know you love them like there is no tomorrow, because you never know when there won’t be one. It seems the more free time I get to travel and discover and spend with loved ones the more that I want. Though I do have my home base in Venice Beach/Santa Monica, CA, I’ve pared down quite a bit over the years keeping only the those things which I need and try to pack light as possible. My desire for the wants in life has waned considerably. Those material things that I find I do want for are usually things I want for my family.
The ability to live as I wish by my own set of rules is not for everyone and does come with its share of sacrifices. The comfort of feeling safe and secure is often fleeting or non-existent. Yet I have myself, what really is safe and secure? Life is a journey to be explored and we don’t get a second shot at it. As they say, life is not a dress rehearsal, all the world is a stage and the show is now. At the end of the show the only stage reviews that really matter to me are those of my loved ones and my own. Those and the satisfaction that I hopefully won’t have to look up from my bed at the end of a good long life and say, I wish I had done that. My safety and security exists within my heart and soul. Home is wherever I go, I am here and I am now.
I once heard somewhere that the life of a writer if handled properly offers more than anything else – freedom.
As result of my choice to be on the free and easy, I currently sit in the dining car of the train headed east from LA through the orange groves of middle California and the arid desert of eastern Needles to sun baked Arizona and beyond. The dining car is where I found I can for a few bucks tucked into the attendants pocket hide from the other passengers to work at my craft. I’m from Chicago and if I understand anything it’s that a few bucks can go a long way. It’s not a bribe so much as it is an opportunity to spread the wealth and help another make a living for providing a small service of sorts. Well okay maybe it can be construed as a small bribe but a white bribe at that. It’s like the old adage ‘a kind word and a gun go a lot farther than a kind word alone.’ So yep, here I am again just like I was almost a year ago to the day headed to Chicago to maybe rediscover a bit of what I lost and discover more of what I love about life, love and being on the free and easy.
From here on out it’s open country, three days and nights on the train, new faces and fresh conversation and a whole lot of learning. It’s like Hunter S. Thompson so famously said, ‘buy the ticket, take the ride’ and that I shall.
So yes I bought the ticket and took the ride and here I sit somewhere in the middle of nowhere Texas looking out the windows of the trains huge viewing car. The expanse of desert is so seemingly endless you can only imagine how many dried up old cowboy skeletons lay out there buried under the brush. Texas is twenty one hours of a whole lot of nothing with a few ghost towns dotted in between busted down oil rigs that were long ago decommissioned. Then there are the few towns that pop up here and there.You can’t help but wonder how the people that live here earn a living in such an unforgiving place.
(To be continued)