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 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).|
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.
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...