Sunday, March 23, 2014

traveling with a BB in a boxcar

“I’m not sure the guy even existed.”

I am in a motel room in Golden, Colorado, and Louis is telling me about his grandfather who, before coming to America, was a sheep herder in Italy. He could talk, Louis says, on and on. For hours. Telling stories of various things. Of old-timers. Of invaders. Of legends. Of Giuseppe Musolino. Louis had started out talking about The Iliad and The Odyssey. The guy who may not have existed is Homer.


Earlier
Heading out on a morning walk; the air is cool and dry. A warm sun climbs through a broad sky. It is calm, temperature in the 40s, the first day of spring. Later, with a borrowed bike, I head out to the desert beyond a red concrete wall on the edge of a housing development. It looks kind of like a vacant lot. Something was to be built here, but then it was not.

Part of this tract is protected by a low fence that seems not so much a barrier as a polite suggestion; I could step through if I wanted to. But that area is being preserved, a restoration of wildlife. I follow a faint road along the fence, going as far as I want, then turn back. The sun grows hot.


A recurring life lesson: If I took things less seriously, things would be less serious.

Also, I only give pieces of the story.


But for that there is a reason: I only know pieces of the story. I think about that at night, not while walking in the desert.

Out in the desert, I see flowers, scrubby plants, broken bottles, plastic bags, plastic bottles, rocks, twisted trees, clumps of wire, scraps of cloth, cable, dried up dog shit, jagged boards, bees, a desert quail.


I hear the quail before I see him. He softly peeps a short string of peeps then stretches his neck, throws back his head, lets loose a call.

Later—I think the same day—I will go to a casino and bet on the Cubs to win the 2014 World Series. I will get a receipt on which it says “$10 to win $550.” I cannot lose. I have had the pleasure of betting on that which I love, a dusty, ridiculous, mothball of a dream.

Back to the motel room in Golden, Colorado
I went to Las Vegas in order to drive to the Upper Peninsula with Louis and Finnigan. The first night we stopped in Beaver, Utah, where we happened upon the Surewood Forest Candle Company. The owner told us he used to live and work in Vegas. He was a dancer, a choreographer, worked with the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr. and Juliet Prowse. Now retired, he and his wife have this gift shop in Beaver where they make candles, molding many by hand, shaping the wax with their thumbs. Some of the candles glow in the dark.


A long time ago, when I was a kid, a cousin said something about my sister’s brain rattling around in her head like a BB in a boxcar. It is the kind of comment that sticks with you, and it is an apt description for how Finn, a lovable mixed-up terrier, behaves in a vehicle. That first day on the road, he bounced around the truck like a BB in a boxcar. Fortunately, it wore him out. The next day he slept.


Both days of travel have been filled with fantastic scenery and vistas, ranges of rock in battleship formation, piles of mountains draped in ski slopes of snow. I do some of the driving, but mostly I am just along for the ride.