Diving Board Chronicles: Top ten (initial) surprises from the road
Funny 'dat. Yesterday marked one month since all of my “stuff” went into storage and Tyra Banks, my 8 year-old Scottie, and I took off on an indefinite road trip to points west. It feels like one year. Perhaps moving from place to place does that to you.
I know it gives you a lot of opportunity to observe. Yourself. Your surroundings.
Some observations are as expected. For example, I have observed that, while I really do like long drives, I really do not like Amarillo. Never have, never will.
But there have been a few surprises. Ten in fact. Maybe you recognize a few yourself.
10. I do not know how to pack. Oh sure, I can neatly fit my shirts, sweaters, pants and socks into two pieces of luggage. But toiletries? Oops. Forgot about those. No problem, I just dumped them into not one, but two, CVS bags. My gym bag had my (very dusty) workout clothes, plus an errant dress shoe in one side pocket. The other side had a bottle of scotch.
9. There is truly awesome food outside New Orleans. I know. Shocking. But if you find yourself 500 or 1200 miles from home, do try the chicken fried olives at Second in Austin; the antelope at The Love Apple in Taos or; my favorite, the green tomato relish at Bubba’s in Dallas. NOLA is, however, the only place that serves 3-star gas station fried chicken (5-star if you are having difficulty standing).
8. Armadillos have the worse karma in the animal kingdom. Drive pretty much anywhere in north Texas and you will see more armadillo road kill than beads on Bourbon Street. I lost count after 50. What do these poor critters’ mothers tell them? “Sure honey, it’s ok. Go play in the street.”
7. My dog’s travel tolerance is 6 cities in 16 days. I know this because when I put Tyra in the car the morning of day 16 and told her we were driving from Amarillo (city 5) to Taos (city 6), she looked at me with the same disdain as a wife whose husband takes selfies at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.
6. Swamp skin becomes fossilized in the desert. I’ve basically lived in a steam room for the past 3 ½ years, never buying any kind of moisturizer and taking up to 2 hours to dry off after a shower. People told me my skin never looked younger. I haven’t even been in the desert for two weeks and just yesterday someone confused me for Keith Richards. Humidity wherefore art thou?
5. Singing is good, SINGING is better. I’m currently in an adobe that sits on an acre and a half of land with mountains on three sides and five neighboring houses. In other words, I’m in the middle of nowhere. One of the best things about being here is that I can sing. Not “shower sing”, but “SING sing.” I tell ya, it feels great. To go all hot mess Patti LuPone and really belt out whatever you’re feeling at the moment. Who cares if you sound like Carrie trying to be Julie? No one is listening, watching…or tweeting.
4. The most sacred place in America is made of mud. I’ve never been big on churches. Too much glitz and not enough Spirit. Then, last week, I walked into San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos. A simple sanctuary, whose walls are made of mud that parishioners refresh each spring, it gets right what churches should be all about: a gentle reminder that all of us are seekers and none of us are alone.
3. Moms really are the best medicine. Tyra and I stopped in Plano, Texas to see my mom for Thanksgiving. The plan was for me to cook. The reality was that no sooner had I unloaded my gym/shoe/scotch bag than I came down with the flu. In an instant, this 48-year-old wandering son became an 8-year-old little boy, bundled up on the couch while Mom kept me full of medicine, orange juice, and love. Which got me thinking: Maybe the reason we, as adults, sometimes take so long to shake off a bug is because, deep down inside, we’re hoping our moms will show up and make everything better.
2. GPS does not work everywhere. Siri, Surly, Sookie or whatever the hell we call that thing’s omnipotence only goes so far. She/he/it can get you through Dallas, Texas but Las Vegas (New Mexico)? The silence is deafening. Wonderful. And oddly reassuring that (at least sometimes) you need a person over a machine.
1. You’re going to get lost. The best truth of all. When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been or, better yet, you don’t really know where you’re going, you are going to get lost (and, sometimes, even Siri/Surly/Sookie can’t help you). Whereupon you have two choices. Frantically try to get back on the path you planned. Or. Go further into being lost. And see what you find.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie. He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.