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Friday, December 24, 2021

Food For Thought: Reflections On My Own Christmas Card Story and The State Of The Union


One of the many things I love about winter outings is that it keeps me occupied in the present where I belong.

What can I say. It was yet another pleasant weekend! Those mischievous gods must be on Christmas Break. 

We've had back to back to back weekends of sunny, soul-soothing post-storm snowshoe outings. Could it be I'm falling in love with winter again?


I'm rock'in the shorts with gators again this year.

Dateline Mid-November, 1976: It was a longterm curiosity/fixation, wondering what it would be like to live, play and work in a place with real mountains, snowy winters and wildflower summers. Well, the house sold, much to my surprise. Egads, The Universe called my bluff!

I quit my job, embraced tearful goodbyes, and hit the I-44 turnpike west, towing my new home and a 26 foot travel trailer. With every mile, Springfield, Missouri and all my friends faded to blakc in the rearview mirror. 

I braved an early winter-like storm, buffeted by semi trucks and a headwinds that relegated my prized, packed-to-the-gills, six cylinder "Jimmy" pickup in second gear. At 26 years old, I was frightfully unsure of where I was headed, but I knew what I wanted. After my seemingly healthy dad dropped dead of a heart attack at the young age of 61, I was shaken to the core. It was enough for me to reorder priorities and set a go-and-never-look-back plan. It's one thing to move to a new town in order to start a new job, another thing entirely to strike out with no job, to a place you've yet decided on. I swear, I could feel adrenalin surging through my body like I'd just chugged three cups of expresso. That night, as I lay sleepless and cold somewhere in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma in my trailer's too-short bed, I broke down and cried.  

Dateline Mid-May, 1964: After living my entire 14 years of life in in Arizona, I walked home with a friend on the last day of my freshman year of high school. I found Mom and Dad moving our personal possessions from a newly purchased 14 X 65 foot mobile home mansion into an 8 X 40 foot antique piece of shit trailer. 

The trailer was heavy, one that was meant to be parked on a mobile home lot, not towed like a camper. It was hooked to a jury-rigged bumper hitch on our '56 Caddy (my dad was a very resourceful man with tools and torches and welders). The trailer's hitch weight set the Caddy's ass only a couple inches off the ground. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We're moving???

There had been rumors of "selling out" again. It's not like it hadn't happened before... setting off to who-knows-where-this-time, in search of "Gods Will." But I liked this place. The park had a pool and rec center with a piano where me and a cute neighbor girl played Heart and Soul for hours on end.

The next day we headed east with the ramshackle trailer in tow, the Caddy's bumper dragging pavement and shooting sparks with every dip in the road.

Where we going? I kept asking. God will lead us, came the standard response.

This, is how I was parentally mandated to serve 12 years of detention in Springfield, Missouri...throughout high school, college, a hitch in the military that narrowly missed Vietnam, followed by a "real job." Oh yeah, and there was a marriage squeezed in there between "college" and "a hitch in the military." Life was ok, but something was missing. "Ok" doesn't cut it after a while. I was antsy, felt penned in and penned down in a place that never really felt like "home." I missed the west.


Rumbling along at 45 mph, Dad felt "led" to exit the freeway at Springfield, Missouri. A sign read. "Glenstone Avenue." He drove most of the way through town on Glenstone, seemingly waiting for sign from "God," maybe one that said "Turn Here, Everett and Hilda, I'm waiting." I don't know. It's just that Mom and Dad were so vague when I asked questions, the kind that have no answers. I mean, we were half way across the country and God wasn't talking. I think they felt as lost and anxious as I did that night I cried in my trailer's too short bed, somewhere in nowhere Oklahoma. 

Having almost exhausted Glenstone, Dad hung a left on Sunshine Street. The Caddy's bumper scraped pavement as we dipped through a rather pronounced storm gutter. "Sunshine Street!" Mom said with hope in her voice. She thinks we're on to something...getting close. I have my doubts.

We drove east on Sunshine Street till the sun went down. Suddenly we were out of town, navigating narrow, crooked-as-a-stick rural backroads. Hay fields smelled of clover. A lazy James River wound toward the Mississippi, sluggish, like the people that lived there. "Guess we better find a place to turn around," said Dad. 

We used a field entry to turn our behemoth rig around...nothing short of a 12 point turn due to Moms convoluted hand signals. I stare at a mailbox post that had a "Jesus Saves" sign nailed to it. What a lie, I think.

On our return trip to town, somewhere in the nether-lands betwixt hay fields and Circle Ks, Dad pulls into a trashy trailer park. He marches up to a mobile that had a crooked sign that said "Office." I'm embarrassed. We looked like something out of The Beverly Hillbillies. They'll never let us in.

Dad scored the only site left, and, in spite of Mom's help, managed to sandwich our rig between two equally ramshackle trailers. "So is this where we're going to live?" I ask, eyebrows raised. 

At dinner prayer, Dad asks God to have His way in our lives...to show us His plan and guide us. I was skeptical, even at 14 years old. After so many years of unanswered prayers, my sister's suicide, and, after a thousand prayers, the fact that Rita Curry didn't ask me to dance on Sadie Hawkins night in elementary school, well, if there is a God, he sure picks and chooses the prayers He answers. 

Across Sunshine Street I noticed a big house. A few kids played football in a grassy runway next to a couple small airplanes. The planes are secured with ropes to anchors in the ground...in case of tornadoes, I learned later. People who lived in trailers didn't bother.

One of the kids looked my age, so I wandered over. His name was Paul. Over the summer Paul and I grew to be best friends. Technically, he was my only friend, but it helped quell some of my anxiety regarding uprooting from Arizona and wandering aimlessly in an unending search for Gods Will. 


That fall I started my sophomore year at Glendale High. The School was only a couple years old, evidenced by shiny tile floors and brightly colored lockers that lined the hallways. 

My first hint was that kids dressed fancy at Glendale High. Guys wore trendy paisley patterned shirts with button down collars. I couldn't compete with my K Mart wardrobe. 

Hardly anyone rode the bus. Hell, most juniors and seniors had their own cars, Mustangs, GTOs and even a few Corvettes.  I found out that the well-to-do had migrated to the burbs, new subdivisions with curvy paved lanes popping up everywhere east of town, so many that Glendale High was built to handle the influx of upper-crust families trying to escape city-life. I remember my first day at school, how out of place I felt dressed in my old sneakers and clothes.




My first car was a VW Beatle. I inherited it after my sister, Sally Jo, took her life. No more riding the bus for me. I got a job working at service station after school...pumping gas, changing oil, greasing cars. I learned to change belts and water pumps and fix flat tires. I was friendly to customers as I washed smears of bugs off their windshields, especially the gals with mini skirts. One night a customer took note and asks how much I make. I told him 75 cents an hour. He said he was opening a gas station down on Glenstone and he'd pay me a buck an hour to come work for him. I took him up on it. 

I remember how sweet it felt to have money. I told Mom that from now on I would buy my own clothes. Of course I was glad to do it because she only shopped at discount stores like K Mart and Yellow Front. 

I opened a checking account and went downtown to a swanky Men's clothing store. I was going to buy a couple paisley shirts and a pair of Levis, but when I saw the price of the shirts I about passed out. 16 bucks! I ended up walking out with one shirt. I wore it to school every other day, hoping people wouldn't notice. Suddenly, I knew what it was like to be poor, at least poorer than almost everyone else at Glendale High.



In retrospect, seeing nowadays how so many parents smother their kids with toys and clothes and skis and fancy bikes that cost five grand, I'm glad I had to endure class consciousness and the instability of parents always in search of God's will. It toughened me up a little bit...maybe even enough for me to uproot and head west, without a job or destination.





 

Home is more a feeling than a place. A quote on Juliet's recent post, Liminality, from her More Life, Less Waste blog, reminded me how much I love and have missed reading Donald Miller's philosophical/theistic take on life. "We get one story, you and I ... And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.Donald Miller

I would add to the above quote that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and so, too, the definition of "wasted time." You see, one man's junk is another man's treasure. Individuals differ when it comes to generating meaning and substance in their lives. 

To me, the bottom line is, Life is not a story about me so much as it is a story about us the collective, the "neighborhoods," the mutual, shared, collaboration, cooperation and in-commonness of our humanity. As I see and read the news these days, most of us seem to be headed in opposite directions, and I worry that we are slipping into a "Me First" mindset (thank you Donald Trump), a my rights, my politics, my AR-15s, my religion and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead attitude. Not even Christmas can put a dent in this kind of self-centered powder keg. 

Are we now on the precipice of the ultimate axiom that precedes collapse or, dare I say it, Civil War? Be it Church, State or Societal Disenfranchisement based on Inequalities: The rot of Disunity chips away at the very foundational precepts that once inspired brotherly love and positive purpose. And now, as we all know, our House Divided is at risk of, well, collapsing.

I hope you enjoyed the above Christmas Cards from one of our snowshoe treks up on Red Mountain. 

Today is Christmas Eve. It's snowing outside as Bobbie bakes a pumpkin pie, and the house is filled with warmth from the hearth and holiday aromas. The wine and Prosecco are beginning to flow, and it will no doubt soon loosen tongues and giggle boxes. Sugar goodies are within arm's reach no matter where we sit, and the turkey is thawed and ready for baking. It will be stuffed with dressing, as well as provide stock for Bobbie's heavenly gravy that I intend to spread liberally atop dark meat, mashed potatoes and the aforementioned stuffing. Bobbie also has homemade rolls at the ready for heating @ T Minus 10 minutes before blastoff. I'll prepare a salad, which will likely go untouched until tomorrow or Sunday or whenever we feel the need to undo damage to waistlines. A series of winter storms are on their way, which should put us "above average" snowpack for this time of year and make for great snowshoeing up on "Red."

I am grateful for all who continue to read this blog, in spite of its rambling author/editor/photographer. Bobbie and I wish you the best of health and the happiest New Year ever!

Peace Out, 

And be sure to keep up with Bobbie's Getting High With Two Old Broads Youtube Channel, especially as winter has her in snowshoes instead of hiking boots!

Now go take a hike!

26 comments:

  1. A welcomed read today!! I love getting to hear about the defining moments of your youth. We’re a little jealous of your white Christmas It’s 70 degrees here… Love you Big Guy!!

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  2. There certainly does seem to be a lot of selfishness out there in the world these days, hopefully the better side of humanity will prevail in the coming months and next elections. Though I have my fears about that being possible...

    Enough of the depressing...wishing you and Bobbie a wonderful snowy Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!

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  3. Bobbie & Mark, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from a blog admirer. Keep the old and new stories coming, as each one is a gem. To 2022 with sun on your faces and a trail under your boots. Cheers!

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  4. Merry Christmas! Enjoyed your story and photos. I also made a pumpkin pie, vegan, of course, but it paled in comparison to those Bailey's brownies Bobbie made!

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  5. I too enjoyed your trip down memory lane and the Christmas card photos! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Bobbie :)

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  6. Seasons greetings to you both. Thanks for all your posts and beautiful pictures, they always make for interesting reading.

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  7. Merry Christmas Uncle Mark and Aunt Bobbie! Love you both and wishing you peace and happy trails.

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  8. Merry Christmas Mark and Bobbie from snowy Flagstaff

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  9. I’m reading this post Christmas morning. What a great gift it is to hear the story of your life’s journey combined with those wonderful photos in the snow under cerulean skies. Life is good.

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  10. Thank you for the great Christmas card, beautiful photos. Merry Christmas to you both, we're having a white one as well.

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  11. I'm grateful to have met and befriended you and Bobbie and hope you keep telling tales. Merry Christmas to you both and look forward to getting together again. Jim

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  12. Merry Christmas Mark and Bobbie, enjoyed your trip down memory lane. We hope to see you down the road. -scamps

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  13. Merry Christmas to you and Bobbie. Beautiful postcards. Love that brilliant blue sky and pristine snow covering.

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  14. A life ain't a life 'til you live it! Your restless wandering away from the hand you were dealt, so to speak, landed you a memorable journey and a wonderful life with Bobbie that continues to satiate that primal need for adventure and discovery. Seems very successful. Thank you for sharing!

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  15. Thanks Mark and Bobbie, love your adventures, glad we could share some hikes last spring at Klondike!
    Enjoyed Mark's back story and want you to fill in the missing parts. Good to see you in shorts.

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  16. An interesting read and beautiful postcards. As I tip-toe back into the blogging world, I'm grateful you're still here. Happy New Year!

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  17. Thanks for the read. Made me think back to my inflection points from Cape Town to present day Venice, California.2022 will bring us ups & downs and I wish you & Bobbie plenty of "the glass is half full" and enjoyment of the road ahead.
    Till the next time .....

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  18. Great thoughts and pics, as usual, from you, Mark. All the best for a Happy New Year to you and Bobbie.

    Joe and Tracey

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  19. I think your life story could make a good movie, too bad James Dean is not around anymore :)
    Anxiously awaiting those Bunny Slope videos......
    Happy New Year to you both ❄️
    D & A

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  20. Yesterday I took a level walk of about a 1/32 of a mile in my yard on my snowshoes. I haven't been on them in 10 years or so.
    I am so impressed seeing the walk (shoe?) you showed us today. Whew, I got beat just looking at your pictures. A swell pretty day for sure. I love living in the snow on a bright sunny day. Especially when I get a break from moving it here to over there someplace..
    Thanks.

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  21. Your blog is missed! You two okay?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Cousin...took a holiday break, but working on a new post now. In the meantime, Bobbie is posting a hiking video every week on youtube. You can view them here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChK1r8Yi7-OkpEbDawYDavQ or go there by entering Getting High With Two Old Broads into your browser :) Hope all is well back east,
      mark

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    2. Good to hear you're fine. We're doing well. Will check out Bobbie's blog.

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