I am searching Amtrak routes. Why? I hate flying. I actually don’t hate to fly. It’s just the thought of flying in a mile high Pringles can. With the right amount of Margaritas I could maybe look forward to it. Unfortunately, Margaritas don’t last for months and it’s the time leading up to the flight that freaks me out. I have single handedly talked Delta into and out of non-cancellable tickets, four times, for the same trip. Once, we flew from Atlanta to Acapulco and drove home. It took six rental cars, one way each. You see, I am persuasive and imaginative. You’d think I could think myself safe. But, then I would be able to think myself thin….Anyway, as I pilfer the railroad routes, I find myself longing for the warm Carribean breeze of the Yucatan, where hotels are old monasteries, dressed in fuschia Bouganvilla. Or, I am sitting in waist high water in Playa Maya. Under the leaning palm tree, sits only a taco stand and a plastic table with four chairs. The water is aquamarine and it’s so clear, you can watch the fish swim past your knees. It’s completely Gilligan’s Island. Or sometimes, my view is a sunset from a tiled patio in San Miguel de Allende, overlooking the cactus and scrubbrush and faraway mountains on one side. Terra cotta rooftops and patios overhang scarred pastel walls of the city, in the other direction. Cobbled streets snake between sidewalks, half a person wide. Church bells ring in the zocolo. A tall stray dog passes me on the street. He seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere.
One of my earliest memory is sitting in the hallway leading to the bathroom, saying, “Mooooooommmm, come on”. At least that’s how I remember it. My mom’s particular about her hair and in 1971, she had a lot of it and it took a lot of fixin’. She didn’t have long hair back then. It was short, black and big. Yes, she’s a white woman and we were in Cullman County Alabama, freshly divorced from my dad, with a red pontiac and big sunglasses, bigger than 80’s sunglasses. I think they had to tone them down for the 80’s. People started to take stuff a little more seriously 10 years down the road. But there I sprawled, across the hardwood floor in white tights and white patent leather shoes and a red and white polka dotted bow, tied to the top of my big red hair. But my mom and that can of Aquanet were one wih the mirror. And I remember, it involved a bunch of teasing and maybe a pick, but I’m not exactly sure about the pick part. The rest of my life, say, after age 10, it was more of hot rollers and a big brush kind of hairdo. Anyway, I waited. And waited and waited and waited and waited… And finally, it was deemed acceptable enough to sit on top of her head at the Cullman County Courthouse, until, sometime midday, she’s push open the enormous wooden door, marked, “ladies”, set the enormous black purse on the counter by the sink and pulling her pocket mirror out, check it from all points, refreshing where neccessary with adequate amounts of Aquanet, in the red bottle.
It’s taken me the first three days of January to motivate myself into being excited about this new year. This Christmas was so chaotic, I found myself longing for peace and solitude, at least from those other than my immediate family. Now, nothing but the roar of the fire and the tap of the keys fill the room. Occasionally, the dog snores from under the tapestry tablecloth he’s claimed for his nap.
Maybe the quiet has coaxed the truly meaningful things into view. Maybe it’s just the new moon. But January is the beginning, again. I cringed at the thought of traveling that same well-worn path. Banality, or it’s threat, was a foot on my head. But today, I remembered, I have to make it my own. I forget, a lot, that it’s not the destination. It’s how you travel, whether you dance sometimes along the way, what you stop and see and hear. There are miracles unfolding at our feet, buzzing past our ears, sitting still right beside us, running in the hall, firing nerf guns at the t.v..It’s not even a road. It’s one of those books about “Can you find it?”. It’s about seeing, all that which you thought the same, as new. But you have to be still for a moment and listen. Close your eyes and see. Joy isn’t a neon sign. It is a dog, hiding under the tapestry, having a nap.