Susie is on her laptop at Starbucks, I am home at my dining room desk with The Boss blaring “Human Touch” while I type. In 12 hours, I will be in the weekly meeting with my co-workers where we compare notes about our workloads. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer describes it perfectly: We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
Long and short, I am home. On my Facebook page, I posted a video of Soul II Soul’s song “Back to Life.” The refrain is “back to life, back to reality.” I don’t much care for the song, but it is so damn appropriate for this evening. Susie will be walking her shoes off looking for places that are hiring, as well as exhausting her laptop keyboard applying for jobs online.
I dread the backlog of work that awaits me. My pod already resembles Fibber McGee’s closet, and with my having been gone for a week, I will be buried in work. I’ve encountered it before, I’ve overcome it before. I will do so again. That doesn’t mean I joyously anticipate it.
All in 10 days. I have been in nine states. I have walked in a venerable footrace, a phoenix which arose from the ashes of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Three thousand miles of pavement rolled beneath me after I left San Francisco and began to head toward Florida to watch Susie graduate from high school.
Susie went through changes in the past week. Until Friday night, she was a high school student. She is now a high school graduate. Her worries revolved around tests, grades, prerequisites, and activities then. Now, she joins the endless line of young people just out of school who are looking for jobs, and she will learn she will not get a job overnight. She will master the art of frustration.
And until today, she was in Florida, and was a visitor here in Ohio. (This was a flipflop from the original situation when Steph and I parted ways in 2011, but it looks like we have come full circle. Susie is back living with me.)
Like any other trip, there are milestone moments, moments where I may (conceivably) look back and laugh, even though there is nothing funny about them at the moment. I’m slow to come around to that; I am still plotting revenge against the playmate who stole my Matchbox cars when I was in grade school.
The Lone Star Exile. I knew when I began planning the trip that the California-to-Florida bus trip would involve a long drive across Texas at its most desolate point. I put a positive face on it at first. When my bus pulled into El Paso, instead of editorializing about how the city looked even more dismal than I remembered in 1987, I posted on Facebook: The prairie sky *is* wide and high!
Robert Nedelkoff and I became friends because of our common interest in Cincinnati novelist Robert Lowry. During the time I was waiting for my bus to Dallas, I bought an El Paso post card and mailed it to Robert, mentioning that I had a “layover… in guess where?” (Robert Lowry published a short story, “Layover in El Paso,” in his short story collection The Wolf That Fed Us. It was–very loosely–the basis for the Sophia Loren/Tab Hunter movie That Kind of Woman (1959).)
Hours out of El Paso, 450 miles to the east via I-10 and I-20, the bus’ headlights stopped working. So, my fellow riders and I spent many hours at the Greyhound station on the outskirts of Abilene, Texas. We were about 180 miles from Dallas, where many of the passengers were ending their journey, and where I was changing buses to go to Atlanta, Orlando, and finally Titusville.
The night life in that part of Abilene revolved around the all-night 7-Eleven and the Subway restaurant. Greyhound was nice enough to spring for subs for all the passengers, and I was happy that I was aboard a Dallas-bound bus before dawn, even though my checked-through luggage and I parted company at that point.
I kept Steph current with what was happening through text messages. We were both biting our nails worrying about my getting to Brevard County in time for Susie’s graduation. I had planned to arrive Thursday morning, with the ceremony the following night. The people at the Greyhound station in Dallas managed to salvage the situation. Instead of sending me through Atlanta, Orlando, and then Titusville, they issued me a new ticket, via New Orleans, Mobile, and Orlando, landing me in scenic Titusville only four hours later than I had planned to be there.
This meant, alas, that the clothes I had with me were the ones I had worn across the country, so I made a trip to Goodwill to buy khaki Dockers and a blue oxford for the graduation, as well as some new (to me) T-shirts.
Camera – 30 -. It’s frustrating to have a camera on which you have spent some good money die on you. My Nikon digital camera took its last picture last Friday night, and uttered its final breath just after I downloaded the pictures of Susie’s graduation. I am not angry about this, because this happened after I shot pictures of Susie’s graduation. All I did was curse under my breath, go on Target’s Website, and order a new one (a Sony Cyber-shot digital camera).
And I revert to my old habits. A detective who specialized in missing persons cases said that when people elect to disappear, they may change their names, physical appearances, or occupation, but they seldom make an effort to alter their interests or drives. If a man with a history of compulsive gambling disappears, a private detective would devote most energy to staking out race tracks and casinos. An alcoholic will most likely be found in a bar. I’m in a city not 100% familiar to me, and what do I do? I walk to a record store.
The walk was 5½ miles, which was not much considering all my walking before, during, and after Bay to Breakers, but good after three days of almost non-stop sitting on the bus. I walked from Merritt Island to Caroline’s House of Records in Cocoa Village. (And the walk across the Indian River on a very narrow pedestrian strip on the bridge was the most frightening part of the entire journey!) I bought about $50 worth of vinyl, probably nothing valuable or historic.
So, in addition to wringing my hands about the workload that will fall on me tomorrow, I am bringing some signs of triumph to the department meeting in the morning: My Bay to Breakers bib #29201, and a picture of Susie the high school graduate.
In case you missed it.