Newsletter #2

IMG_0252.JPG

Dear Readers,

I felt like the fog of a dream was lifted when I totaled up the days. I've been on the road for two weeks. I made it across the country. Now, I've seen America. It may have been a lot of Interstate 70, but I'm sure I'm closer to really absorbing the lyrics of America, The Beautiful. California definitely does have amber waves of grain.

My first newsletter was about me and my disgust with the word "interest". For my second newsletter I want to talk about community. I guess this roadtrip hasn't felt like such a vacation or an extended trip because I've been staying and meeting up with some really great people. I saw some old friends, some acquaintances turned into better friends, and I saw my Colorado-based relatives, my great uncle Bruce and his wife Betty. The last time I saw them was thirteen years ago!

Underneath it all, it only took me two weeks to discover what that never-do-well Alexander Supertramp from the movie Into the Wild didn't until his dying breath:

Happiness is only real when shared.

I don't regret my decision to travel and drive alone. It was necessary. I'm just starting to see how I want it all to fit together. Alone time is great and I won't turn my back on it, but having a place among people is even better. I felt it when I woke up in Denver last Saturday morning. Mariel asked me to join her and her friends in a recreational volleyball league. I was glad I had enough sense to say yes.

It was bright and sunny and there were dozens of people smashing volleyballs everywhere you looked. Better yet was being part of a team that valued the fun more than winning the actual game. We played for six hours that day and I couldn't have enjoyed more! Seven hours would have been too many.

IMG_0380.JPG

After a night's detour in Utah, I crawled through to Vegas. Let me stress one thing. Vegas is not for the lonely. Sure, it seems like the perfect antidote. They are call-girls and shows and tons of bright shiny lights and green, crisp money to distract you. The problem is that it's all too sad. It's a big plot to get as much money and time from you as physically possible. I had to walk what had to be the length of three football fields through the noisy machines of the casino floor just to get to my luggage-on-wheels in the parking garage. The buffets are never cheap considering you need to play a couple hundred dollars worth of video poker before they comp you anything. Now, I know I'm not delivering any breaking news here, it just had to be said. Likewise, the Vegas police are no help when a poor boy from New Jersey locks his keys in his car. Good thing his spare keys were sitting in his hotel room a good forty minute walk away.

Among the glitz and glam and solitary entertainment, my phone buzzed with an email from my sister, Kelly. She had read my newsletter and told me how my writing reminded her of how she was honing her own skills now in her freshman year at NJIT. It warmed my heart to know that not only did she read what I wrote but took the time to get back to me. For many, sometimes subconscious, reasons, my family is disjointed. We can go days without talking to one another in a decent functional pattern, so you have to imagine my surprise when my sister gave me the best and longest response to my newsletter. It suddenly felt like she was along the ride with me and that's what I was trying to do all along.

But then she ended her message with the sentiment that others have dropped on me: "I hope you find what you're looking for." Everyone keeps hoping I find what I'm looking for, which to me always seems like a loaded statement. Am I looking for something? Identity? Treasure? Trouble? Could be. At first, though, I was annoyed. Here was such a nice and thoughtful response to the travel news I was putting out to my closest circle and I felt like people saw me as some kind of lost puppy. On the other hand, though, I had to realize that a lot of people were envious. I can't help but wonder if that means that people know they need to "look for something" and fail to do it because they can't hit the road themselves.

If I had to nail down what I'm looking for it would have to be a place to fit. No, I'm not searching for a new place to settle down on the West Coast. And I would never trade my family and friends for anyone else. I just need to better understand where exactly on Earth I fit perfectly. It's sad to imagine that some people go through life without ever finding that special spot. So, I guess, after all, I am searching.

I've seen others fit perfectly into their surroundings. My final night in Denver Mariel brought me to her friend's house for a home-cooked dinner. Collin was our host and he experimented with whole wheat pasta and a very involved tomato sauce. No surprise here, I inhaled two plates full. Fast forward to dessert and I found myself shoveling mint chocolate chip ice cream with melted peanut butter on top into my mouth and watching the ending credits to Jackass 3.5. The television was muted because we'd be chatting all day with college football living in the background, and while the Jackass guys were injuring themselves and one another on the screen I had a big stupid grin on my face. I could hear in my head all the dialogue and groans and screams. Everyone in the house was silent, except for the occasional "ouch" in response, and I felt like they were stumbling upon the treasure I already had the joy to experience. To me it wasn't just about the film, it was the community experience I had of watching them repeatedly with my circle of friends back home.

The homesickness has crept in. Even as I type this, my hangover from last night's fun makes me homesick. Maybe it has something to do with wanting to be comfortable. I've been away for so long and it's not even halfway through my trip. I still have to see my Orange County godmonster (the nickname my godmother gave herself) and attend the Earthship Biotecture seminar and sit inside a giant dinosaur's mouth. When I get too homesick I like to remind myself of a quote from Adolph Coors, the man responsible for the brewing company. On my tour of the Colorado brewery, I heard a recording of Coors say, "Waste is a resource out of place." Even though he was taking about the byproducts and packaging of one of America's favorite drinks (not so much mine at the moment), his quote rings true for my entire trip. Everything has a use, a meaning, all we have to do is find it, adapt it, and apply it.

So when the question becomes what I'm searching for, I can say I'm just learning how to put myself in my proper place.

Until next time...

I explode into space.

-dan