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Where not all roads less traveled are roads...

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When I was young like Juliet


Imagine you're a "Millennial" from Seattle. It's been cold and wet for weeks—downright dismal, with more drizzle and snow than should be allowed...

You work three jobs in order to pay rent to extortionist landlords. A "high price," indeed, and I'm not just talking about the rent. But you're young and strong and smart, you have dreams and a "fuzzy" plan to get there. You might even leave "home," go someplace with shorter winters, less rain, and more sunlight. In the meantime, though, Seattle is "home." You could do worse, except for the traffic. 

One of your three jobs is walking dogs for people who don't have the time, mostly because they work three jobs, too. Your second job is part time, in an office. At least it's indoors out of the weather. And finally, you (what else?) wait tables, praying the cold and rain doesn't put a damper on tips. There are many such people in Seattle/Everywhere nowadays. One of them intersected our path a couple weeks ago. Her name is Juliet, lovely daughter of fellow Red Rock's Gangster, Chris. We gave her a grand tour of Arid-zona. 


From left to right... Chris, Juliet, Maikel, and Susan
It can be difficult to pull off a getaway from one job, let alone, three. But Juliet somehow managed 4 days in a row, hopped a "big ole jet airliner" (Boeing, no doubt), and touched down in Tucson on a sunny mid afternoon. 

It must have been a jolt to her seasonal clock and senses. A web-footed, coffee-cultured/brew-pub Seattleite enplanes during a spitting snowstorm, only to deplane a couple hours later under a cloudless cobalt dome of high pressure. What dazzling orb through yonder windshield breaks, casting such light and warmth on pallid skin? 
Tis the Great Southwest, Juliet, welcome to the sun!  




Bobbie and I, along with Susan and Maikel, were privileged to share favorite hikes and destinations with Chris and Juliet. Perhaps "shared" is not the right word, as it was more an "intervention" (sorry Chris). We pummeled them with a string of outings during a benevolent stretch of "Chamber of Commerce" weather—sweatshirt crisp mornings and teeshirt afternoons—trekking lush Sonoran Desert trails. Poppies and globe mallows blossomed, along with jojoba bush (pronounced ho ho bah), all abuzz with the drone of Africanized bees. Colorful hummingbirds darted flower to flower in their hurky jerky fashion.





Maikel and Susan went into full Junior Ranger mode, acquainting Chris and Juliet (and us) with the details and names of local flora and fauna... a college level crash course in biospheric studies, with no Final Exam. Juliet was on vacation, after all, while Dad, Chris, is retired. And me? Well I can't see the point of memorizing names of thousands of "things" I see for only a couple months a year when "pretty" covers them all. 
  
Left to right... Phys Ed major, "No Slackers Allowed" Bobbie (Let's pick up the pace, people!), Juliet, Chris-Daddy, and Junior Rangers, Susan and Maikel (looking for biodegradable toilet paper).
We invited a few Rv friends over and demonstrated the "Art of Happy Hour," a Chitchat beer break for Geezers after working a long day at retirement. 



I guess my tender psyche couldn't cut the gloom in the Great Northwest, what with all the rain, snow, and shadowless light. Imagining days or weeks without feeling the warm caress of ole Sol on my face, well, might as well close the casket lid. 


Les Miserable, Missouri is no "Seattle, but the milieu of oppressive heat and humidity certainly played a big role in driving me west. It was tough to watch all those "Bridges" burst into flames... the job, kinfolk, friends, house, yard, garden, not to mention plastic possessions that somehow morphed into anchors, the kind that wiped "freedom" from my vocabulary, ate a hole in my bucket list, and undermined my resolve to jump the "rut." One hot, sultry day I snapped, called a realtor and put the house up for sale. I had to do something, and I was pretty sure it wouldn't sell. But "fate" called my bluff. Two months later I was driving into a setting sun.

Somewhere around midnight, in the pancake plains of Kansas, amid characterless cornfields and stinking stockyards, I suffered a full blown, caffeine induced, panic attack, and wept like a baby. Dear Lord, what have I done...  


















I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like had I settled for Les Miserable and not followed my heart. Would I have put on the same "Coors" beer gut that most of my old pals now have, traded 35 years at the Kraft Cheese factory next door for a pension, settled for vacations to Lovely Ouray instead of moving there... rode motorcycles instead of mountain bikes? Hell, would I even be alive, after snuffing out that little flame of what's-out-there curiosity that burns deep inside all mankind? Fortunately, I knew the day would come when I would regret the treadmill I was settling for. Staying, suddenly became more frightening than leaving.   


Everyone comes to forks in the road, where choices must be made that will alter the course of, not only their own lives, but those of children that might follow. High stakes, choosing between security or following your heart, family down the street or thousands of miles away, old friends or new. Left or right? Choose with your brain or with your gut?  

The biggest "fork" in my road came when I was young, naive, and bold. Hell, I was a gutsy "hero" among friends who secretly desired to "jump their own ruts." I can still see them waving goodbye, feel the lump in my throat, the knot in my stomach, and taste the tears of regret I shed one lonely midnight in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, when I was young like Juliet...  






24 comments:

  1. I feel fortunate to have been born at the end of the forties as its very hard for many youngsters today. Very pleased you decided to keep on blogging. Cheers.

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  2. Another great post. Thanks for all that you share in words and photos. ~ Rich

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  3. You describe Seattle so perfectly! Altho it took a draft notice get me to leave, I am gald to be 'FROM' Seattle and settled in San Diego. Always enjoy your blog, insight and words of wisdom.

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  4. Far and away one of your best posts. It's good to know more of your story, and as usual it's wonderfully written.I'll show it and your blog to friends and family. Some to let them see someone else besides me explain why I just let go of my house to hit the road. Some that need to be encouraged to walk away from their own traps.

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  5. Good to hear from you...especially as I sit in the drizzle and gray of the Pacific Northwest...albeit the supposedly sunny east side of the Cascades. It has been a nasty winter, and I didn't get to spend much time in the deserts this year. You make me smile and you make me sigh. It's all about choices. I keep wondering about mine at the moment, but by this time next year I'll be toodling around in the deserts again. Thanks for writing, Mark. And no, I could NEVER live in Seattle. Wonder if Juliet will break out.

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  6. your question was "what have I done". My answer is " started to live". Been there done that also.

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  7. So when is Juliet moving to Tucson! ;-)

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  8. Hey Mark what's all this ranting about Seattle, it's our 2nd favorite city in the US to visit
    come Sept. We have spent more time in Seattle than any other large US city outside of Calif. So much to do, so many great seaford restaurants, ferry boat rides and all that Great Coffee in September : )
    October of course it's the San Juans. You nailed that header photo. Hope to see some poppies later this month in Central Calif then will trip up to Mt. Vernon early April and take in the Tulips for only the 2nd time, will pray to the Sun god on heading out.
    Stay Thirsty

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    1. My dear Sonoma nomads,
      No problem with Seattle... a fine city it is (minus snarled traffic). Seattle's winter weather was my point... though I know there are those that find it agreeable, I'm not one of them. Of course you pick September to go, the best month of all!!! Try January and get back to me :)).
      FYI, I LOVE Whidbey Island, might even be able to live there... in September :)
      Still thirsty, if it's beer you're buying,
      mark and bobbie

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  9. Hi Chris, Great to meet Juliet. Maybe we'll meet her in person one day.

    Forks; Aren't they great - pick one and enjoy the trail. Ever thought of a rewind? I want to go back and try the other one, or is that reserved for our dreams?

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  10. You were bold to follow your heart at a young age. I waited until years of corporate drudgery sucked me almost dry before I had the courage (along with my mate) to buck the system.

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  11. I'm grateful for a daughter who is willing to spend a few days with the old man, and for friends who are such good guides! Seattle is a great city, but of course I only seem to go in September. I think being young is harder nowadays and I'm not sure that I would want to do it again. Unless, of course, I could do it knowing what I know now.

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    1. Grateful for a Dad/Guide such as you, Dad. -Juliet

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  12. One thing young Juliet has in her favor is good, solid role models like you and Bobbie, the Wise Ones, and not the least of which is her clever, kind, and fun loving Dad. You all showed her how good life can truly be living a minimalist lifestyle. It took me until my 50's to figure that one out!

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    1. Are you calling Goldie "minimal?" :))
      I'm thinking more "sub-minimal." :(

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    2. uuuhhh...somehow, I think owning a feng-shuied, imax-windowed, art-decorated mountain villa in Lovely Ouray balances Goldie out. ;-)

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  13. This is wonderful and inspiring. Even to a 60 something. This winter I took the dog and traveled to FL and AL for a few weeks. In AL now enjoying sun. It's going to snow in MI this afternoon. I'm trying not to giggle.

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  14. Geez Mark, how did you encapsulate so perfectly the feelings in my heart and the thoughts I hold onto in my mind? It was nothing short of lovely spending time with all of you in Arizona. It was another reminder of where I want to be, and how I can achieve it. It gave me a great deal of inspiration moving forward and also was just plain fun. Not to mention that as I creep towards my 30th birthday this year, I really appreciate any opportunity to be called and thought of as young :) Ahhh, perspective. Beautifully written and very insightful, I am sharing with friends and family.

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    1. Thank you Juliet... hang on to that "inspiration." It will get you through the rest of winter :)
      Mark and Bobbie

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  15. I can't imagine going back to my old life. Although I am still working, it is on my terms, and only 5 1/2 months of the year.

    Beautiful photo of the poppies.

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    1. Long time, Teri :) Good to know you're still out there :)
      mark

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  16. Wonderful post Mark! Listening to my gut / soul / heart has always led me onto the right fork and that feeling of trepidation you describe, quivers within as a reminder to go for it!!!
    Imkelina

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  17. Ive come to that fork in the road. Living in L.A. and thinking of selling everything and moving back to MD to be near family. altho i love california its so expensive here and i could make a killing on my house right now. my only fear is finding work. employers dont seem to eager to hire 50somethings these days. Luckily i have a decent job right now although im sick to death of working in a cubicle stuck indoors all day. Im afraid if i cut that cord i wont find another full time job. But I keep hoping!

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