Category Archives: friends

Settling In. Traveling back.

For the past seven years, I’ve been on the move. Some places I stayed a few months,  some a couple of years.  I settled into apartments in Mexico, China, Costa Rica and Los Angeles, plus, at my daughter’s request, I lived with her and her children outside historic  Charleston, SC.  Except for Los Angeles, where I actually got my stuff out of storage for a short spell, I purchased or borrowed what I needed to make myself comfortable wherever I happened to be in the world.

House on canal in Venice Beach, CA

House on canal in Venice Beach, CA

The Cabin

The Cabin

I learned a lot about myself. My odyssey taught me that my most useful attributes are my improvisational skills, and the ability to be flexible. I discovered that although coffee is  preferred, tea will do just fine; that unusual spices and unidentifiable food make eating an adventure, the struggle to communicate with those who speak different languages is challenging: sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, that the best adventures happen when one is lost, that fear is overrated. That we are basically all the same.

L

Amigas: Barbara & Linda

Amigas: Barbara & Linda

Cindy, Wyatt n Bullit

Cindy, Wyatt n Bullit

Mis Amigas

Mis Amigas

Moving crew

Moving crew

ast year I felt compelled to go home.  Unfortunately I didn’t have one.  I had a 10X10 storage unit in Tehachapi, in the mountains between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mohave Desert.  I didn’t belong in the south. My daughter had her own life, and a family that didn’t include me. I missed my friends in California. Maybe I missed the state itself.

I headed across the country in Margaret, my Mini Cooper to my friend, Brandon Maggart’s, house in Venice Beach. Maybe it was the beach, the craziness, the chaos.  What ever, talking to my daughter, Alice, on the phone, she said, ” It must feel good to be home.” Ah, she understood. Still, Brandon’s, although I was totally comfortable, and I loved having another writer to share thoughts and words with, was not my home. I went back to Tehachapi, then to Bodfish and Lake Isabella. Searching.

My cabin in Lake Isabella is surrounded by woods and rocks. Outside my window three Hummingbirds argue constantly about nectar rights at the newly hung feeder. Abby, my friend Sherry’s  dog, comes to visit and to do yoga with me. At night I have a commanding view of the valley lights  stretched out below me as a long strand of rhinestones gracing the neck of the sparse mountains above it.

My Tehachapi friends rallied to pack the uhaul truck. That I have these good friends fills my heart.

Bedroom in cabin.

Bed in cabin.

Opening the boxes, I find pieces of myself that go back to my childhood. There are letters to my mother while she was in the hospital having me. A photo of me in my dad’s arms, my great grandparents surrounding us and several of my grandpa Naughton, the main man in my life for the first decade of my life. My home in Foxburg, PA was the flat on the second floor of his Irish bar. Across the street the beautiful Allegheny River flowed, sometimes leisurely as if it had all the time in the world, sometimes raging as if it was angry, to Pittsburgh.

A small three-legged table that was  my grandma Emma’s sets beside my bed.  I eat my meals on her red, separated plates. A hobnail vase of Mary McCoy’s, my mom’s first cousin and closest friend all of their lives,  my Mother’s bible, so important in her life, a banjo and a dulcimer made and given to me by different men who hoped in vain that I would become a musician.

Through countless photos and  mementos, I wander back through the years to my son’s births and deaths, my daughter’s births and schools years, their marriages, and the birth of my grand children, to life before my teenage brother was killed by a drunk driver, my ill-fated marriages, the fulfilling comedy years, to the time I could pick up the phone and call my mother. I wonder why my daughter doesn’t want to talk to me. Through photos and articles, I revisit countries I’ve visited, men I’ve loved, and people who have both inspired and thwarted me.

The past gives us perspective for the future. I see a busy one filled with the talents of my friends, music, stories, laughing, sharing and travels. This time when I leave, I’ll have a place to come home to.

The Cabin

The Cabin

The Cabin

Kern County California is bone dry, but still has the most beautiful wild flowers anywhere. Even the cacti are bursting with swollen magenta buds. Tiny yellow daisy-like flowers carpet the ground making a stunning back ground for the blue lupines, and numerous other flowers I don’t know the names of.

I drove through the canyon from Tehachapi to Lake Isabella feeling like I was in cowboy movie shot in the l950s, or back in the Andes in Peru. The Kern River snaked below the winding road flanked by sheer rock wall cutting into the skyline.

Until I move into the cabin on the 30th, I am staying with my friends, Pat & Mike, musicians and home owners who also work in the desert on behalf of the desert tortoises.

After seven years traveling the world,  I’m looking forward to spending some easy time, writing another book, hiking, kayaking, and visiting friends in Italy come fall, and generally learning about this high desert terrain, where the gold miners struck it rich or died trying. In spite of the drought, the river and some creeks still have water, and

Wildflowers in the front yard

Wildflowers in the front yard

hiking trails are plentiful.

It is true one doesn’t have to go far for adventure. Check out your own back yard.

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Home.

Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where they have to take you in, if you have to go there. It’s in your heart. It’s with your family….

As I type, I am in the kitchen of the Backpackers Hostel in Ensenada, Mexico. I’m drinking tea, munching on a dark chocolate Milky Way.  It occurs to me that I am capable of making myself ‘at home’ just about anywhere in the world. But, I’ve  been seven years on the road. Seven years!

A year or so ago I began to long for my own home, to make a place for me again. I want my art on the walls, mementos of my trips, photos of my family and friends, a pot of tomatoes, some herbs, a bunch of red geraniums trailing over a wall, or porch railing, the smell of laven

 Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

Moving crew

Moving crew

Mis Amigas

Mis Amigas

The Cabin

The Cabin

Wildflowers in the front yard

Wildflowers in the front yard

der, a hammock, a clothes line, the freedom to be naked if the mood strikes, if it’s sufficiently warm out.

It never occurred to me when I sold my house that I would miss it. Then again, maybe it’s not the house I miss. I began to travel a couple of years after my son died. Maybe its him I miss. Perhaps it’s my friends: belonging, the comfort of being accepted-warts and all. It’s being around like-minded,  folks who care about each other-who care about me.

A couple of months ago I packed Margaret, my Mini, and headed across the US back to California. At present I am at Brandon’s in Venice where I lived over a decade-longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. But, Venice is congested, and expensive, and the mountains are calling me. The music my talented friends play, beckons. The warmth of affection, solitude to write, hiking trails, laughter.

A couple of weeks ago, I was back in Tehachapi and Kernville.  Being there was easy. Being with friends is that: easy. Uncomplicated.  I’m ready for easy; knowing the language, where the post office is, biking to the bank. I’m ready to resume my soirées, St. Patrick’s day parties; ready to write more, maybe finally get the one woman show underway, the books published, to hang out with old friends, make a few new ones, to make a home for me again.

 

Hope Surges on Route 66/ I 40 across the USA.

According to distance-cities.com there are 2,471.06 between Charleston SC and Los Angeles,CA. If one were to drive non-stop, it would take 1 day and 11 hours without stopping to pee. It took me seven.

Creek Casino, Muskogee, OK

Creek Casino, Muskogee, OK

The main routes across my expansive country are Interstates 80, 40 and 10. I chose 40 which is also the old Route 66 known as Main St US.

Route 66 cafe

Route 66 cafe

Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch

A, made famous in the l960s by the song, Get Your Kicks on route 66, and the Route 66 TV show.

Back then it was all about the cars: colorful sexy, sleek, gas guzzling automobiles that felt like they were floating down the road-back seats big enough for three or four kids and a dog, or for making making babies.  In fact, my twin sons were conceived in a jaunty push-button, two-toned salmon colored dodge on a sultry summer evening in July, 1960.image

One has to deliberately exit the interstate to get to the old route, but to do so is a total trip into the past. I thoroughly enjoy the stores and restaurants that have been run by the same families for generations. I’m moved thinking I may have shopped in some of them during my first trip across the US with my mom and her friend, Tacy, in l953 when I was ten!

Eight years ago, on a road trip with my friend, Sherry Gaskin, we stopped for the night at the Route 66 Motel. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but the flouncy bedspread, and lace curtains could have been in my grandmother’s house.

As part of the price we were given breakfast vouchers for the restaurant next door: the Road-Kill Cafe. Although it didn’t feature opossum or freshly fender-whacked deer, we discovered that meat and potatoes were de riguer. When we both ordered oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, the young, pregnant waitress, peered at us with a blank stare. Within a few minutes she brought us coffee. While we sat waiting for our food,  customers around us came and went after devouring plates filled with bright yellow, slimy eggs over easy, accompanied by generous hunks of crisp bacon or sausage, potatoes, and toast or a plate piled high with four inch biscuits smothered in beige gravy. 

Finally we inquired about our food. She didn’t flinch. “This is the ROAD KILL CAFE. We don’t have yogurt, or fruit  or oatmeal,” she replied. “Oh. In that case we’ll have # 2 scrambled, with bacon and wheat toast.” we answered in succession.

I tipped her a dollar because she was surly, and the service was shitty. Sherry left her five. “Why’d you do that, Sherry?” I asked. “Oh, she’s a young, pregnant woman who lives in the middle of nowhere, working at the Road Kill Cafe. She needs something to brighten her day.” Ahh. Compassion. Random acts of kindness. I have a lot to learn from my friend.

This past trip, I stopped in Muskogee, OK, made famous by country music legend, Merle Haggard, with his song, Okie From Muskogee, recorded in l969. The song was Merle’s tribute to the values of folks in Oklahoma, and his renouncement of the  hippie movement going on in San Francisco. I was there to rendezvous with my dear friend, Kate, who’s living in Kansas, whom I had met in the 1980s in San Francisco when I was doing stand-up. We explored the sleepy town, had a hot chicken salad smothered with yellow cheese, at the new Creek Casino, and walked around an expansive park, where I unknowingly gifted to a lucky person a hand loomed scarf I’d  bought in Guatemala a few years ago.

Mole @ MEXICAN FOOD, AZ

Mole @ MEXICAN FOOD, AZ

Next I stopped  to visit with my new friend, Sandra, in Albuquerque, NM. I met Sandra and her mom, Rosa, in the Amazon jungle the previous September at the Nasty Monkey Hostel, (my name for it), Puerto Narino, Colombia. When Clare, another traveling acquaintance and I were invited to celebrate Rosa’s 70th birthday, we gladly accepted. Attended by two boys under ten, we drank beer, unidentified whiskey, and Rosa and I danced. Two old ladies cutting the rug in the jungle, happy to be alive.

L-R Ruby, Rosa, Claire, Sandra

L-R Ruby, Rosa, Claire, Sandra

The US is expansive, and diverse. Immigrants came from all over the world looking for freedom, to strike it rich, farm, and many other reasons. Aside from our deplorable treatment, and annihilation of the majority of the native Americans, I remember when our politicians compromised: when the country and we the people were priorities. Now, our politics are a mess. Congress has become the Tower of Babel, unable to communicate with each other, servants controlled and dominated by corporate greed and billionaires such as the Koch brothers.

Interstate 40

Interstate 40

However, zipping along in Margaret, my Mini Cooper that was a Christmas gift from my daughter, Anna in 2006, the windows down, the sun roof open, a CD blasting, and cruise control set to keep the speed legal, cruising from state to state, across highways that are still superior to most in the world, it was easy to forget our troubles. It was as if hope surged through the air. Even the ticket I got for an illegal lane change, while I was on the phone not paying attention, could not dampen my love of this place I call home.

 

 

 

 

Muskogee, OK, North America

Creek Nation Casino

Creek Nation Casino

Kate & Ruby

Kate & Ruby

image image1,134 miles across North America and I’ve reached Muskogee, OK. Muskogee was not on my bucket list. However, it’s just a four hour drive from Lawrence, KS, where my friend Kate lives, so it seemed a good place to rendezvous on my drive across North America. 

Muskogee is a quiet town. Kate, Mary Jane,  and I are crusing Main Street. No one is burning their draft cards, probably because we haven’t had a draft since Merle Haggard put Muskogee on the map, but Old Glory does still wave from the court house. I didn’t see any white lightening at the new Creek Nation Casino, but the hot chicken salad smothered with yellow cheddar cheese was a first, and the wine too sour for me to drink. Not a first, but close.

I took several photos of  inside the casino and the  cleaning lady held down the button on my iphone taking several priceless photos of Kate and me before the guard stopped our illegal actions. Casinos- such a surreal place to to throw  your money away.

Was Merle’s guitar blue?

Unfortunately, The Museum of the Three Civilized Tribes was closed, but the park was bustiling with children and folks walking around the lake. We slid down the yellow tube slide at a  smaller park, shrieking like old ladies,  and watched the Canadian Geese forage for acorns until a woman in a near-by house brought out the bread. Salt and sugar over raw nuts anytime!  

Canadian Geese Muskogee

Canadian Geese
Muskogee

Kate and I met in the early 80s. We lost touch, but she tracked me down through the  internet. Now, We are righteous, old liberal women, agast that our country has been taken over by corporations, and worst of all, that folks don’t seem to notice. Still, we find many things to laugh about, and Kate, bless her, can even remember some of my long retired, comedy routines.

Last night in Amrillo, TX,  I had supper at a restaurant that sported a large sign MEXICAN FOOD. Enuff said. The home made mole was delicious.

Today, I’ll drive 4 or 5 hours to Albuquerque where I’ll spend a couple of days visiting my new friend, Sanda, whom I met, along with her mother. Rosa,  in Puerto Narino, Colombia,  during the summer.

The road, new friends, old friends. Hose me down.