60 Days in Europe Day 55 / July 23

July 23, 2104 – Edinburgh.

From my journal:
Slow morning at the apartment. Laura was gone quite a while moving the car to free street parking and walking home.

We took the bus up to the Castle. Long line, but we had fun visiting. Took the half-hour tour that started at 12:25. Then we walked in the buildings that interested us: St. Margaret’s Chapel (the oldest extant building in the city), the residence with the crown jewels and the royal apartments, the Great Hall, the War Memorial, the War Prison.

Walked the Royal Mile. Along the way I made a quick tour of the Writer’s Museum (Robert Lewis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, with the girls coming in to the see the RLS exhibit, and Laura and Emma saw The People’s Story Museum. Ended (for the WC) at the Queen’s Gallery (at Holyrood Palace, a royal residence). Walked over to the cemetery (The Old Calton Burial Ground) before catching the bus home.

Laura fixed spaghetti and salad for dinner. At 9:00 we all watched the The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes at the Cameo Cinema – a one-hundred-year-old movie house.

60 Days in Europe: Day 54 / July 22

July 22, 2014 – Oban – Glencoe – Bannockburn – Edinburgh.

From my journal:
Got gas and ice for our food and set to drive coast to coast. We went via Glencoe Valley. It was glorious. Sun with clouds. Of course, it took longer than we guessed, which in turn was longer than Google guessed.

I wanted to visit and possibly tour Stirling Castle, and visit Bannockburn battlefield. The girls were arriving (in Edinburgh) around 3:30, and we realized we couldn’t do both. We told them we’d be late, and made a short stop at Bannockburn, where I spent about 15 minutes. Walked the field, viewed the monuments and statue.

We got to Edinburgh about 4:15, but had trouble locating the girls. Finally did, and got to the apartment (Air BnB) about 5:30.

Laura dropped me and Elyse off at the Festival Theater for the 7:30 VAN MORRISON concert. It was terrific. Not as many songs from the first 5 or 6 albums as I would have liked  – or expected – but he was at the top of his game, and the band was second to none. Shana, who warmed up the crowd with two solos and stood as back-up vocalist, is an amazing singer and blew the house away. Loved hearing Ballerina, No Teacher, Into the Mystic, Philosopher’s Stone. Great, great set.

So grateful for all the blessings we are receiving!

 

60 Days in Europe: Day 16 / June 14

June 14, 2014 – Bolzano – Milan – Levanto

From my journal:
We woke about 5:20 and left about 5:50. Even so we are soon lost. We ran about as much as we could (our legs were spaghetti) but got to the platform just as he 6:25 was zooming away. We got on a 6:36 to Verona, but it was the slow train and was not going be on time for our connection to Milan.

While riding to Verona, then Milan, we weighed whether we should push on to Lake Como, arrive late and get an additional  night and thereby make the stay worth the effort (and knocking one night off our planned stay in Levanto/ Cinque Terra); OR: Scrap Como altogether (since they had never received our reservation anyway, and had offered us new location a bus ride way from Varenna) and stay tonight in Levanto instead. When we learned we could get the extra night , and it was costing us nothing to cancel Como, we opted for the latter plan.

Arrived Milano c. 11:00. With a 3-hour layover, we rode the Metro to the Duomo, the Piazza, and lunch. Departed Milano at 2:05 to Levanto.

Arrived Levanto 5:45 and walked to hostel. Checked in, met our Aussie dorm-mates, ate calzone and raviolis down the street, had some gelato –

Gelato Day 13: Levanto. We got 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 peanut butter. Yum. Ate it sitting on the grass in the central park/piazza.

Walked to the beach. Didn’t go on the sand. We saw a thunderstorm out over the water. We went back  when we felt a drop or two. A short while later the storm hit the town suddenly and dramatically. Laura and I haven’t seen a thunderstorm like this since our Oklahoma days. Heavy downpour. Lightning very close. It’s still storming as I write🙂

∼On this day Italy defeated England in the World Cup, 2-1. There was a celebration throughout the land, on into the night. English tears fell like rain. Whatever.

60 Days in Europe: Day 11 / June 9

June 9, 2014 – Ravenna & Venice.

From my journal:
Monday.
Train to Ravenna via Bologna. We checked our packs there and connected to Ravenna.

So glad I chose to take a day for this place, a trove of early Christian art and architecture. Also, it embodied in its designs the conflict between conciliar Christianity and Arianism. The mosaic, too, is the perfect art for Christian expression: small, broken, fragmentary pieces are chosen, shaped, and carefully placed into a unified, beautiful whole, to create the image of God incarnate and his people. In short – the church.

Here is what we saw and did today (just in Ravenna):

  1. The Arian Baptistry – with a nude Jesus being baptized.
  2. Piazzo di Popolo.
  3. Ate piadinas. First time.
  4. Saw the Tomb of Dante.
  5. Piazza Garibaldi, with memorials to WW2 dead, including Jewish victims of the Nazis.
  6. Walked through the covered market.
  7. Basilica di San Vitale.
  8. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
  9. Piazza J. F. Kennedy.
  10. Macchiato & cappuccino.
  11. The Neonian Baptistry (Also Arian, also had nude Christ being baptized).
  12. Basilica di San Francesco (Note what a Franciscan interior looks like compared to a St. Peter’s or one of the Duomos. Point made.).
  13. Basilica di Sant’Apollinare, with both Arian and Byzantine (Nicene) mosaics.

– All in less than five hours!

Train back to Bologna, then onto Venice. We walked the wrong way from the Venice station – to Mestre. Then came back, went the other way, to Maghera, and found our hostel, the Columbo Hotel. Very tired, and not looking forward to the dorm, and not remembering what our reservation was – we almost danced when we were told we had our own room!

60 Days in Europe: Day 10 / June 8

June 8, 2014 – Firenze!

From my journal:
We plan to see as much of this magnificent city as we can – in one day.

I guess this is the place to say this was among the biggest mistakes in our my planning: a mere evening and a day to see one of the great cities of the world. I would have easily traded a day in another city for for a second one here: Venice, Nice, even Barcelona.

Breakfast was meager and the coffees came from a machine😦 . Thought of attending (protestant) services, but the internet was splotchy and we couldn’t find English services that suited us. We bused to San Marco: stepped into church and Mass was underway, then went next door to the Museum, in an old monastery. Paintings & frescoes by Fra Angelico. The cells of Savonarola.

Walked to Palazzo Medici-Ricardi and toured.

Walked to Medici Chapels – closed.

Walked to the Duomo. Long line. Giotto’s Tower – Campanile – passed. Walked around the Duomo. On the shady side:

Gelato Day 9: Very good! Ate in the shadow of the Duomo – literally. Melon (cantaloupe) and strawberry.

Bronze doors on the Baptistry.

Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria.

Went to the Galleria degli Uffizi and they let us in. It was 2:00 and we were slated for 3:15. Magnificent. Botticelli, DaVinci, Lippi, Caravaggio.

Before and after, I walked the courtyard (statues of great Florentines).

We walked the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio, but did not go up. Selfie on the Piazza. Crossed the Arno over Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, another superb museum, as well as brilliant residence from the times of the Lorraines and Napoleon. They rushed us out at the end, as it was closing time.

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Florence: Along the Arno.

 

I had a problem that made walking acutely painful and got worse the more I walked. We walked back to the river, and the Ponte Santa Trinita, and there caught a bus to the Stazione. We decided the walking involved in busing the rest of the way was too much, so we took a taxi. By far the most expensive day so far. But also the best food, best gelato, and best museums! Florence did not disappoint; it’s an incredible city.

60 Days in Europe: Day 9/ June 7

June 7, 2014 – Siena – Florence.

From my journal: We were up and ready early. Breakfast at 7:00. We walked to the old city, just inside the gate, and saw the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, the Campo Piazza, the Public (civic) Building.

I climbed the Torre – spectacular!

We sat in a ristorante on the Piazza and  got some spaghetti.

 

Walked the Duomo, and self-toured inside.

We walked past San Domenico (closed) and caught a bus to the train station . Ran to catch the 2:00 and made it!

In Florence! Took bus #11 to the end of the line and unexpectedly walked a road that went right into a wooded area with no homes. Ten minutes later we reached the hostel, home to an important Florentine family – est. in the 1460s (the villa, that is) and reaching its current shape about 1700. Amazing.

Restaurants were closed until 7:00 so we walked until we found an open kebab joint (The most prevalent fast food in Europe) where a Pakistani-Italian made us dinner.

Gelato Day 8: Right before taking the road back to the ostello. “I hope this is the worst gelato I ever eat.” It was the end of the week and the end of all but a few flavors. They sold us half tiramisu😦 and half coffee🙂.

About 6:30 walked back to the hostel, where an 8th grade graduation party was just starting at 8:00. At 10:30 it sounds like it’s still going strong. Eye shades and ear plugs tonight.🙂 z z z z z z z z z …

 

60 Days in Europe: Day 8 / June 6

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June 6, 2014 – Orvieto – Montepulciano – Siena.

Our room was actually a bedroom in a house. Our host set this table the next morning. ⇒

From my journal: We took a bus up to Orvieto and walked the town.

 

Video: Getting some food at the deli in Orvieto, where Laura’s Spanish has limited success, but gets the job done.

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We took the streetcar back, which dropped us right at the train station, where we took the train to Montepulciano.

Well, almost. The scala. It’s actually ten miles from Montepulciano. We realized that taking the bus to Montepulciano and back in time to catch the train to Siena would leave no time to see Montepulciano. We decided we would take the bus from M. to Siena directly, which would give us plenty of time.

This was a great little town, and worth the trip. Highlights: the views. the Fortezza, Palazzo, clock tower.

Gelato Day 7: On the way from Orvieto to M. we had to change trains in Chiusi. We found a “Cucina Cinese” which I don’t think had one Chinese item, but the two young people working the counter were Chinese-Italians, I think. We had a small cup with white chocolate (L) and biscotti (me).

We arrived in Siena and walked to hostel, unsure of our directions, getting there just four minutes ahead of the cut-off time. An old house (?) with 10 ft. ceilings and access from our room to a yard. After resting we walked through the gate (in the medieval city wall) – Porta Comollia – and had a drink on the small piazza there.

 

60 Days in Europe: Day 7 / June 5

June 5, 2014 – Rome to Orvieto.
Rome is for lovers
From my journal: Arrivaderci, Roma!

Breakfast again at the hostel.
Poor night’s sleep owing to:

A howling cat (Imagine microphone feedback from the Bowels of Hell. Reminder: find out what the deal is with cats in Rome.),
•late night revelers,
•music,
•and um…
The people next door were fully and noisily overtaken by the romance of The Eternal City.
Awkward.

First class train to Orvieto – 10:30. Rome is amazing and wonderful and we saw so much! If I were to spend more time here, I would hang out in the piazzas, and discover more. So much fun and life there. They have been an unexpected delight for me, and I look forward to more piazzas!

Arrived in Orvieto Scala (the modern town) about 11:30. Caught 12:55 bus to Civita di Bagnoregio. Before it came we dropped our packs at a hotel a few blocks away (per Rick Steves) for € 1 each. Then Laura bought us gelato from the train station cafe…

Gelato Day 6:
It was called Mochachino. At the first couple of tastes, I was underwhelmed, because the flavor seemed weak, but as endeavored to discern the mocha and the cappuccino, I began to appreciate the subtlety of the flavors. I am used to strong flavoring and most gelatos I have had so far are rich. So this may have been a poor gelato, or it may have been intentionally subtle, but i enjoyed it all the same.

Citvita was beautiful and amazing! Our first primarily medieval location, with remnants of its Etruscan origins.

 

3:25 bus back to town (Orvieto), then another to our hostel – after rushing to fetch our packs. Our first (and one of few) private rooms. ♥.

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The view from our room in Orvieto.

After checking in, we shared a pizza at a neighborhood place. While we were praying a man two tables away was watching us. We tried to do an Italian crossword puzzle on the paper place-mats. He came over and showed us a homemade flier, taking to us in Italian. We thought he was trying to sell us his personal driving services. it turned out he was asking us to correct the copy on his flier – the English was terrible. I re-wrote it and a bilingual woman at the next table translated it back into Italian for him. He was very happy. It was the first day of his new business.

 

 

60 Days in Europe: Day 6 / June 4

June 4, 2014. Rome.

From my journal: We had put in our itinerary for today a trip north to Cerveteri, to see the Etruscan necropolis, but decided instead to spend our last day here in the city. We had a leisurely start. Breakfast at the hostel, then the Metro and bus to the Via Appia Antica. As we proceeded down the road on foot (the IMG_1230wrong way, it turned out), we ran out of sidewalk and followed a sign to an info center. We never found it and ended up in a suburb, farther than we wanted to walk form the Via. Just as we were about to take a taxi, a bus came that got us to within a few minutes of the San Domitilla Catacombs at 1:15 – closed until 2:00, so we went on and found the San Sabastiani Catacombs. Wow. We loved this tour which, if anything, took us too swiftly through the underground cemetery.

Coming out, we proceeded down the Via, wanting gelato but not finding any to Laura’s liking (locally made). We probably walked 2-3 miles. When we came to a  crossroads we caught a bus back to a Metro stop.

It turned out to be in Laurentia, where the gift shop lady told us the Tre Fontane Abbey was. With her directions we found it and visited the church which supposedly marks the spot of St. Paul’s martyrdom.

We returned to Termini, ate at Alfredo’s again (shared a pizza), and went to the hostel. After doing our laundry and getting some of our things ready to go, we went out for gelato.

Gelato Day 5: a chain store called L’Orso Bianco (White Bear). Okay, which means: pretty darn good. If I ever eat a bad gelato, stop the presses. We doubled up this time: Laura chose sour cherry; I chose dark chocolate. The latter was put on top of the former, and made a good combination.

Video: Rome III

60 Days in Europe: Day 3/June 1

 

June 1, 2014 – Sorrento – The Amalfi Coast.

From my journal: Stopped at the market deli next door and got picnic food + biscotti, and went a little further to a cafe for cappuccinos and biscotti. Walked down to the Porto to learn about ferry transport to Amalfi Coast.

 

Decided to go by bus and caught one back to the train station.

Bus to Positano, where we got off. Walked down to the beach. First time in the Mediterranean!

Ate and boarded a fast boat to Amalfi.

This meant going directly to the far end of the coast and working our way through the other towns on our way back, rather than the other way around, as we had planned.

Amalfi:  Wound our way through a great medieval passage to the Piazza and walked through the Cathedral.

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Gelato Day 2! 36 Flavors: I got ciocollato and arancia (chocolate & orange), L. got coconut.

 

 

 

 

 

We then made our own exploration of the old walkways, looking in vain for medieval aristocratic houses we read could be identified by ‘turrets.’ No one knew anything about these, but we did venture into the residential area above the central downtown into run-down, very old buildings. One sign dated a street (via) to the twelfth century.

A colorful and amusing return followed our stay in Amalfi which stretched later into the day than we anticipated.

We opted for taking the bus back to Sorrento, the last of the day, marked by an hour wait (third in line), brazen line-cutters and projectile vomit on the bus.

8:00 dinner again – made a salad from the store – bought a mix, tomatoes, and  oil, plus cheese and olives left over from lunch.

 

60 Days in Europe: Day 2/May 31

Italics are used for my original journal entries.

May 31, 2014 – Ciampino – Herculaneum – SorrentoIMG_0370

Awoke at 5:30 well-rested. Packed and went to cafe and enjoyed tea, cappuccino and pastry at an outdoor table. 

Took a short train to Roma Termini. Struggled to arrange our train to Sorrento via Herculaneum (Ercolano). L. scored 2 bus. class seats on the express to Naples, dep. at 10:15. While waiting we strolled the neighborhood and split a ciabatta from a local spot.

Raining in Naples.Caught train to Ercolano Scavi. Entered ruins 1:15 (sun shining) – after pizza and gelato!

Herculaneum – 1:30-4:30.

Train on to Sorrento, with Nigel, Melissa & Dena, from Nottinghamshire.

In Sorrento, we met an older English couple as we ate at an outdoor table.

…Trevor, who along with his wife Cindy, we met when we went to a nearby pizzeria @ 8:00. They live in the Lake District. Also married 30 years. He organizes outdoor rec for people with disabilities; she teaches Pilates.

They made some suggestions for when we visit the area in July: Catbells Walk near Portinscale on Derwent Water, Honister Pass, and a scenic route for our drive north to Oban in Scotland.

Video: The bell tower chiming in Sorrento.

 

60 Days in Europe

Welcome to my daily, day-by day account in words, pictures and video of our five-country,

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60-day European tour we began two years ago today. Each post will be published on the day exactly two years from the corresponding date on our trip.

The text is mostly from the journal I made as we traveled. I usually wrote just before sleeping each night, sometimes adding a note in the morning. My entries are uneven, sometimes just recording mundane facts about where we went and what we saw, at other times trying to add a little flourish here and there about how wonderful the the sights and sounds and tastes were. When I didn’t do that, it was usually because I was tired, not because the day wasn’t amazing.

IMG_1451I hope you enjoy it.

Italy          May 30 – June 18
France      June 18 – 21
Spain        June 21 – July 5
Paris         July 5 – 7
England   July 8 – 20
Scotland  July 20 – 25
England   July 25 – 29

 

The Trip that Changed My Life | Part Three

And we headed down south with just spit and a song
But they said “Sorry son it’s gone gone gone”
-Bruce Springsteen
Seeds

 

April 1st – 3rd
The first of April, 1982 found me and Mark making our way toward Hobbs, NM, thumbing it out on Interstate 10 in the Arizona desert, reading our Gideon Bibles and hoping for a ride from the ever more seldom-passing drivers.

From a spot near Benson to another somewhere on the hundred or so miles to Lordsburg, we whiled the better part of two days. Finally we got a ride, but got dropped once again at a spot well short of a human population center. This time we were taken to rest area 25 miles west of Lordsburg, with nothing in between. The sun was going down. We slept under concrete picnic tables.

In the morning we were awakened by one RV after another making their morning stops. After talking about it, we decided it made no sense  go back to the road, when everyone inclined to stop was doing it right here. We couldn’t just stick our thumbs our, though. We’d have to ask for a ride. We split up and began walking up and down the long line of motor homes, looking for friendly faces. I found a man in his sixties and his wife and asked if we could at least go as far as Lordsburg with them. As he looked me up and down, I waved Mark over. The man was thinking about it, but wanted a feel for us, to make sure we were safe. He had us sit a spell and chat.

Stagecoach

One of the rich experiences of hitchhiking is that a surprisingly diverse range of people will pick up a hitchhiker, but they all have this in common: they want to give a ride to a stranger. It’s remarkable when you think of it. The inside of a car, or the cab of a truck, is such an intimate space, and inviting a stranger to share it with you is a generous, even a friendly gamble. Sometimes drivers are tired of driving alone. Or they are paying forward the rides they got when they were on the road. Sometimes they want to save your soul, or share a joint or a sandwich, or add a little spontaneity to a routine drive. Whatever the motive, they have this little albeit sufficient bit of trust, enough to reach out to a stranger and help out. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m sad the psycho killers have all but ruined such an honored custom.

After he had a sense of us, he said we could ride with them. He was a retired rancher, and they were spending a good part of the year on the road. They were solid, conservative, Midwestern Protestants taking on a couple of Northwest lefty drifters, and what a fine time we had! This was one of the nicest rides we got. It came right after we had spent the last of our money, and we didn’t know how we were going to eat, or how many days we were from Hobbs.

As it turned out, we traveled in their motor home for two days. They drove us about 350 miles, to within  70 miles of Hobbs. The first day we went as far as Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where we stayed for the night. Along the way we stopped at a KFC, and when they realized we didn’t have any money left, they bought us lunch, and fed us thereafter.

lone-highway-to-guadalupe-mountains-texas-292824

Interstate 10 dips south at Las Cruces into Texas. I remember my shock as we swung near the Rio Grande and I could see across the rail tracks, fences and the river what looked to me like a shanty town in Ciudad Juarez: the houses of paper and tin and others of bare, crumbling cinder block. The contrast between the two cities, where the houses on one side were only a thousand feet from the houses on the other, was stunning.

And then there was this land we were driving through. As I crossed the Western and Plains states in 1978, I fell in love, deeply in love with the American landscape. Now, cruising across the great desert Southwest, entering Texas and then New Mexico for the first time, I was falling in love again. This was the land that starred in the old westerns I grew up watching with my grandpa, and my dad, who shared this romance. Open, hard, dry ground – red and yellow dust – sprinkled now with green –  against a blue and white sky. There is history here, and timelessness, air that can choke or drown you, but let you breathe deeper than you ever have; land that fights you but also frees you.

At the Park, I believe we pitched a tent outside the RV. The next day they dropped us at Carlsbad, NM. We were one ride away from Hobbs, a roof over our heads, some food and the next chapter of our lives.

By Boston Public Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With any kind of luck, Troy lives at the Barton Motor Court!
(By Boston Public Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

As we set foot in Hobbs, I looked around. Picture west Texas, just six and half miles away, and you’ve got Hobbs. It was a flat, dusty town, and there was only one reason I could think of for having a town there, or any place like it: oil. That’s just fine by me. Oil is why I’m here.

I pulled out the Rolodex card with notes about how to find Troy. Eventually we made contact. Troy found us at the Totem Grocery, a convenience store on the main drag. (The building is still there, with the Totem sign over the door.) After all the introductory remarks were dispensed with, I said something like, “Well, what do you say you take us to your place so we can drop our loads?” I was thinking of a cool, shaded room, and some real food.

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

We were on the western edge of town. A few sparse businesses, like the Totem and the Caprock Lounge, open fields of scrub, pump jacks – little more. Troy led us in a straight line north and west out into the middle of the field next to the Totem. In a few minutes we came upon a 20-foot canvas army tarp spread out on the ground, with a backpack, a sleeping bag, some empty food cans, some books, and some pots and pans. All around us were pump jacks bobbing up and down. Troy stopped.

“What’s this?”  I asked.

“My place.”

“Your place? This is where you’re living?”

“Yes, it is.  I guess it’s where you’re living, too.”

“You told me you had a place to live. I mean, indoors.”

I looked at Mark, expecting him to be as incredulous as I was. He wasn’t.

“You knew? You knew he was – ? Oh, crap.”

Troy had moved to the field because rent was costing too much money, and money was tight because…

“Well, the work has kind of dried up around here.”

“Dried up? That’s why we’re here – to work. Dried up? You haven’t been working?”

“Not as much.”

“But you made a lot of money. You saved your money.”

“I did. I had some money. Until a few days ago. Somebody came through while I was gone, and ripped me off. I had a little with me, though.”

My heart sank a little. When Mark and Troy first talked about this, they knew they wouldn’t get me to come down here if I knew we were going to be camping in an oil field. That was probably true. But if I had known that work on the rigs was falling off – never. Never. I felt betrayed. They had both lied to me. White lies to them; to me, black.

There was no shelter, no shower, no refrigerator, toilet or sink. No water or electricity. No food, no money, and who knows, maybe no work.

Welcome to Hobbs, the Oil Capital.

April 4th – 21st
Now my grievances against my friends were having a cumulative effect. But what could I do with them? Me, not much. So I filed them away in my overstuffed file labeled, “Crap I don’t want to keep but can’t get rid of.”

And hey: the Alliance was re-allied, after all. And that was great. Together again. I rather marveled at where our friendship had brought us in less than a year and a half: from our homes back in Missoula to Seattle, then dispersed in opposite directions, only to reunite in this of all places. Being homeless and nearly destitute was a small thing. In fact, in light of our travel plans, it was funny. We were back to laughing at our self-made predicament.  Situation normal.

And there was an amusing irony here, that only now occurs to me. What did we do back in Missoula? We griped about our small-town captivity and longed for the freedom and opportunity to make our lives what we wanted. No parental constraints, no demands from school or jobs to hamper us. We didn’t want our lives mapped out for us by family or teachers or society. Freedom, baby.

Well, we got what we wished for. And you know what that freedom looked like? Eating VanCamp’s pork and beans out of a can on a dusty piece of canvas in the middle of an oil field. No jobs or school or parents to pin us down, push us around or rob our time and energy. All the time in the world, in fact. Freedom, baby!

* * *

Not a lot happened in Hobbs. The three of us lived on the tarp for the rest of April. Every weekday we rose early, dressed for worked and went to the Totem Grocery. There we waited as the roughneck crews stopped for coffee and food on their way to work. If a crew was short a guy or two, they’d pick someone up. This is what Troy had been doing. The more work, the  more likely a guy wouldn’t show, so when the rigs were hopping, Troy would get plenty of work. Problem was, the big oil boom, which had been going since 1978 or ’79, was going bust. Just in time for our arrival.

We went every day, but weeks passed, and we never got hired. We would spend the rest of the day on the tarp, or at the library, two miles away. At night, or when the weather was bad, we often took shelter at a place across the road from the Totem, which was a service station with a cafe and a store. (Also still there, under new owners.) The girl who worked there like to flirt with us, and we’d flirt back. We’d drink coffee, and occasionally drop a quarter in the jukebox.

It is no exaggeration to say that every week I spent in Hobbs felt like a month. This is how it had been for me since El Centro. It wasn’t that nothing happened, or that I was particularly bored. It’s that time, every hour, every day, crawled. It moved so slowly because, apart from going to  the Totem Grocery every morning, the notion of time grew irrelevant. I looked at my watch only out of habit, but next to nothing we did needed to be timed by anything more than the rising of the sun. Never again have I experienced this, but I remember it well. I believe it is not possible for this to happen if I have any sense of my current situation being in any way defined or delimited by time. The fact is I live with this time-definition every day, and the only way I know to be rid of it is to not know what is happening next or when. That doesn’t happen on a camping trip or a even a meandering vacation, if you have a job or family to get back to. I was floating, drifting through the days, as if I were in a raft on a river without any oars. I didn’t know where or when I could or would put out.

I only know three dates from that month. The first two are the day we arrived, and day we left. The third is April 21st.

That morning Mark and I woke up to Troy rousting us.When I looked at him, I couldn’t believe what I saw. He was standing there, wearing his army coat and his backpack, ready to go.

“What are you doing?”

“Guess.”

“You’re leaving? You can’t be serious!”

“I am leaving,” he drew out like a carefully worded announcement. I sat up, my mouth open.

“Just wanted to tell you guys: So long.”

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. I had 2600 views for the year, even though I offered only eight new posts. If you were one of my visitors this past year, thank you and Happy New Year! I hope to post more frequently in 2012, so I hope you’ll check back. Also,  I love getting comments!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Black History Hero: DeNorval Unthank

DeNorval Unthank, MD

In third grade at Alameda Elementary School in Portland, one of my friends was Gregory Unthank. Gregory’s grandfather was one of the best known names in Portland’s African American community. Dr. Unthank was one of those local heroes who persevered and served tirelessly through times of hostility and bigotry. Their sacrifices and courage made all the difference in the historic struggle for civil rights and justice.

You can read biographical sketches of Dr. Unthank here and here.

“A Negro may have a few more doors closed to him and he may find them a little harder to open, but he can open them.  He must keep trying.”
Dr. DeNorval Unthank, 1899-1977