Return at the Speed of Sound

February 23, 2010

Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s standing in front of you  [from Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay“]

We’re flying from California to Maryland, a five hour gulp much better served luxuriously over 4 weeks.  We had a great time, and we thank the many families that hosted us, showing off their parts of the country in such gracious style.  Special thanks go to Dawn’s sister Gail and her husband John, who entertained us for the final 5 days of our trip in San Diego.  It was cool meeting up with my uncle and three cousins as well…..

 What I will miss:

 The 1996 Honda – it went out in glory, and the attachment I felt to it at the end was unexpected.  A corroding junk heap sitting unused in the driveway proved to be Seabiscuit, a champion that easily handled the 6000 miles required of it.   We proudly donated it to a homeless shelter in San Diego. 

Long drives through wide-open spaces.

Connecting/reconnecting talks with family and friends.  How can I make this happen in my future? 

 What I gained:

It was reassuring to spend 24/7 with Dawn without kids for a month, and always feeling like something new and cool was going to happen the next day.  We both felt a “honeymoon” effect at stages in our trip.

Basic blog skills, although just a couple minutes ago I accidentally deleted “The Other Jewish Guy”, which I reconstructed minus the comments.  I obviously have a high need for social approval, which I got from my wonderful readers’ e-mails and comments.

Recommendations:

While driving across the south, Dawn and I (well 99% Dawn) read aloud  to each other Haltzman’s “The Secrets of Happily Married Men”, a brilliant and rather humorous book on how men can achieve happy marriages.  Chapters include You’ve Got Male, Beware of Marriage Counseling, Make your Marriage Your Job, Know Your Wife, Be Home Now, Expect Conflict and Deal with It, Learn to Listen, Aim to Please, Understand the Truth about Sex, and Introduce Yourself.   We were stunned by the insights, and quite entertained.  While it’s suppposedly meant for men, we think it best read as a couple together.

We also loved the CD book by Ann Tyler – The  Accidental Tourist; see if you can figure out which girl the guy picks.

My Future Goals:

Live in an adobe house with Spanish tiled roof.

Trip to New Mexico with grandchildren.

Another month long road trip with Dawn across the northern USA in a year or two.

Creative ways to serve others “with reckless abandon”.

Good-Bye, for now, and thx for supporting/joining us on our little trip – please stay in touch.  Don’t know if I will blog again in the future…..Love you all, Vinny and Dawn

DAWN SAYS:  Well, we’re home.  I must say it feels nice, although who would believe that I would have been ready to drive a few more days.  It was delightful to end our adventure at my sister’s in Coronado, with my parents there too.  My mother is recovering famously from her radiation treatments, a wonderful answer to prayer.  She and my Dad (89) were remarkable in all the traipsing around they did with us.

I was reaquainted yesterday with a “70ish” couple who have travelled the world in their retirement years.  True, they are richer than we’ll ever be, but I was inspired when Jan told me that some of their best memories were of the two of them.  This trip was good for me to feel so comfortable “just being us”.  I’ve had a harder time with the empty nest than I thought I would.  So, I’m ready for the next adventure, the next stage . . . both of which will occur in a couple of weeks with the much anticipated arrival of our 1st grandchild! 

It has been splendid, seeing the majesty of God in the diverisity of landscape, and of people.  We’ve been the recipients of amazing hospitality.  Now we’ll see how we handle “real life”!  🙂       

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The Other Jewish Guy – recopied Feb 20 post – (accidentally deleted and recovered, but lost all comments, sorry)

February 23, 2010

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.  [from Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages]

My  mother-in-law Betty and I went for a walk on the beach this morning.  She has recently been diagnosed with breast and lung cancer; at 86 years old that doesn’t sound too good to me.  But she’s very relaxed about it, kept saying how great her life is/was, and was equally excited about life ahead with Jesus.  I asked her if she was sure she was going to heaven; she looked at me like I was kidding.  Interestingly, in an earlier unrelated conversation that morning with my Dad, he made the comment that “just because you believe something doesn’t make it true”. 

I am logically inclined toward my Dad’s way of thinking.  My understanding of eternity is equal to my knowledge of carburetors.  Paradoxically, I have long experienced a conversational relationship with Christ; maybe my willingness to “go with God” in the face of  uncertainty defines faith for me.  Given the unsteady ground upon which I stand, you will  understand why I don’t like evangelism.  Imagine (thx, John Lennon) if everyone could give everyone else a break on what they believe.

OK, so this posting is mostly a lecture.  WELL EXCUSE ME!  Somehow, in my egocentric reality, I feel that people want to hear my philosophy of life.  So I promise again to finish up my beloved blog tomorrow, to include some final pictures.  Love, Vinny

From the Gulf Stream Waters to California

February 18, 2010

A blanket of newspaper covered his head,
As the curb was his pillow, the street was his bed.
One look at his face showed the hard road he’d come
And a fistful of coins showed the money he bummed.

Only a hobo, but one more is gone
Leavin’ nobody to sing his sad song
Leavin’ nobody to carry him home
Only a hobo, but one more is gone [from Bob Dylan’s “Only a Hobo“]

Here I am, looking at the Pacific Ocean.  Me and Vasco Balboa.  I hope all of you have the opportunity to cross our country the way Dawn and I did, a slow, relaxed journey witnessing the diversity of people, the abundance of landscapes.  We watched the Olympics last night in the Coronado home of Dawn’s sister Gail, along with her parents and a few other relatives.  It was cool to see the backgrounds of America’s champions:  Apolo Ohno, an Asian American from Seattle, Shani Davis, a black from the southside of Chicago, and Shaun White, a white surfer from California.  Is this a great country or what.  I have loved taking our family on cross-country trips to see America, and this 3 week tour of the southern USA has been no different.  I especially enjoy taking hour long walks early in the morning in whatever town we happened to be; today I was struck by the difference between walking the manicured and immaculate ocean-side streets of Coronado (average price of home – $700,000) and the dirt alleys and poorly paved streets of Alamogordo, NM (average price of home – $70,000).  This tale of two cities revealed people equally friendly, performing various chores in the early morning sun.  Note that another famous American also enjoys walking the streets of poor communities – see recent story of  Bob Dylan getting picked by the police for vagrancy – http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=8331830&page=1

I hope you recognize the fun I’ve had writing these daily travel blogs; I am thinking, however, that tomorrow’s edition will be the last – we made it to San Diego, and are enjoying  the hospitality of Dawn’s sister Gail, husband John, and my still wonderfully healthy in-laws, Hap and Betty.

Living in the Past

February 17, 2010

While riding on a train goin’ west,
I fell asleep for to take my rest.
I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn.

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung,
Our words were told, our songs were sung,
Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied
Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside.

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold,
We never thought we could ever get old.
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one.

As easy it was to tell black from white,
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right.
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.

How many a year has passed and gone,
And many a gamble has been lost and won,
And many a road taken by many a friend,
And each one I’ve never seen again.

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain,
That we could sit simply in that room again.
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat,
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.  [from Bob Dylan’s “Bob Dylan’s Dream“]

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.  I like to play the song above for Abby and Adrienne’s friends, jokingly telling them that their friendship will wither and die.   

The drive from Flagstaff through the great Mohave Desert into Los Angeles is my favorite, and doing it again with Dawn, restepping my journey to and from USC in the early 1970s, was magical.  For the first time, we were on the road when the sun rose, on I-40 somewhere east of Kingman, AZ.   I probably made this 500 mile trip 15 times during my college years, back when the interstate was not completed, so major chunks of it were on old Route 66.  My decrepit cars broke down several times in the desert, the most memorable being a time around midnight when the rear axle bearings crushed, starting a small fire by the left rear tire.  I had no water, and couldn’t put it out, but after an hour or so, a couple hippies drove by, poured a beer on it, which doused the flames, but also exploded the tire. 

My college days were the loneliest part of my life, and sometimes I truly felt that highway was my only friend.  I remember wondering what kind of family I might have, or even if I would have one, or if a girl would ever like me, and here I was, driving with Dawn, talking about each of our children, and I am thinking, boy, did this work out better than expected.    

 This trip did harken back to the perilous car rides in the 70s,  as our 1996 Honda started to deteriorate.  The knob controlling the heat broke off, the passenger window kept coming off track, and the brakes started getting mushy.  But we made it to LA, and my old USC campus, which is much classier than I remember.  We are almost to San Diego, and I am starting to wish that we had more than just a few road miles ahead. 

Inheritance

February 15, 2010

They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky  [from Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind“]

The past few days were spent in the Santa Fe area with my Dad, my brothers Mark and Alex, and their wives Ruth and Donna.  I looked forward to this section of out trip; it was cool to meet some of my Colorado kin in New Mexico.  (thx, all you guys, for coming down – it meant a lot, and was a real highlight.  and thx, Alex, for lining up all those free hotels and meals).  My Dad is healthy again, after his heart attack last  June; we hiked up some Pueblo cliff dwellings today, he never seemed to breath heavily.  All of us laughed and teased each other like old times.

Dad was widowed almost two years ago at age 80, and misses Eunie a lot.  He says it will be hard to find someone to match her as a partner, but he is starting to look the field over seriously.  We biked from Pittsburgh to Washington DC a couple years ago, and he is again in great shape.

I am glad to see  a lot of his traits carried over to me.  First is that all-important skinny gene.  I guess tied into that is a passion for competition, sports, the outdoors, betting on anything.  My Dad loves travel, reading, and classical music; so do I.  (He is not a Dylan fan, which I guess is OK).  I am sure that my addiction to backpacking directly relates to the many hikes and camp-outs we had when I was a kid.

Anyway, tonight Dawn and I are celebrating Valentines Day by ourselves in Farmington, up in the NE corner of New Mexico.  We wish Happy Valentines Day to all our loved family and friends, and miss you…..we look forward to a couple more days of travel alone to the west coast, spending a little time in San Diego, and and then back to Maryland, if we can find our house in the drifts.  Love, Vinny  

Planet New Mexico

February 14, 2010

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.  [from Bob Dylan’s ‘Every Grain of Sand“]

Southern New Mexico is unlike any other place I’ve seen; Dawn and I visited Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument back to back, and if we saw UFOs afterwards (which were reported 50 years ago in nearby Rosewell), we would not have been any more stunned.  No picture can really do Carlsbad Caverns justice (Ansel Adams tried, but didn’t like the artificial lighting), but I hope the photo below gives you a taste of the eerieness as you walk into the entrance.  Ansel did have this to say about the caverns:

“The caverns are something that should not exist in relation to human beings, something that is as remote as the galaxy, incomprehensible as a nighmare, and beautiful in spite of everything”.

White Sands was equally unworldly; the texture and whiteness of the endless, windblown sand dunes made for some breathtaking hiking.  Dawn and I initially kept saying how much our kids would have liked these wonders; now we are saying grandchidren.  Get to work, kids…(Dawn’s editorial note:  married kids).

Close to You

February 11, 2010

She’s a hypnotist collector,
You are a walking antique  [from Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me“]

 These pictures were taken exiting Texas.

Yes, we were happy to successfully navigate the 1000+ miles crossing of Texas – didn’t run out of gas, and weren’t bit by rattlesnakes.  Actually, it was a lot of fun – Texans are egotistical, but good-naturedly so….on to the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.  A quick lesson for my geographcially challenged readers:  New Mexico is part of the United States.

This trip is partly a laboratory experiment to see how Dawn and I do together on a 24/7 basis.  More to the point:  Will Dawn be able to withstand my hanging about the house in these retirement years?  These first 17 days have been encouraging, at least to me.  Nary a cross word, we seem to be happy with each other just about all the time (Dawn might be able to offer additional insight).  Granted, we have been entertained by 7 different and cool families along the way, with great scenery (Texas is not a total eye-sore), which has made things pretty easy.  

Mostly, I am grateful for Dawn’s attitude.  This constant traveling is right up my alley, but is not necessarily her cup of tea.  Still, she consistently wakes up (an hour or two after me) excited about the upcoming day’s adventure.  Today should be good, our first look at Carlsbad Caverns.

PS picture of Allison below, taken in almost the same place (but in May, 2007), was clearly inspirational to us….

History Lesson in Old Texas

February 10, 2010

Then the padre will recite the prayers of old
In the little church this side of town.
I will wear new boots and an earring of gold
You’ll shine with diamonds in your wedding gown.  [from Bob Dylan’s “Romance in Durango”]

My friend and host Jeff tells me that he is afraid to do anything noteworthy while I’m here, for fear he will find himself in the blog.  Sorry, Jeff and Gale, our visit to your town of San Antonio has been magical.  First, the crazy “South of the Border”-like tacky signs welcoming us to the tourist trap of “Buc-cees”, e.g.,”you can hold it – 61 miles”, or “your throne awaits”.  Dawn says they had the biggest and best potato chips ever.  We loved going to the rodeo, and River Walk is worth the hype.  Mostly, though, I was captivated by the series of 4 Franciscan missions that course through old-town San Antonio; it is easy to feel the adobe walls and put yourself back in time 250 years.  It was also an emotional reminder of my traditional [and wonderful] Catholic upbringing.  However, the Spanish Mission experience also highlighted a personal issue I have with many evangelistic efforts, the idea that your religion/culture/way of life is in some way superior to others.  In this case, the result was the subjegation, and ultimately, destruction of numerous indigenous Indian cultures.

I give the Catholic Church credit, though, for trying to fix their mistakes.  They are a beacon of light in the poor Hispanic communities around here, and I think their recent apologies to the Jewish people for centuries of abuse, and to Islam for the Crusades was impressive, and points out our need to reconcile and build relationships. 

If I can wake Dawn up, we will take off on our longest [and most dangerous] leg of our journey, the trip through west Texas.  We’ll keep you posted on how rattlesnake tastes…..    

Bob Dylan

February 8, 2010

0l’ Howard just pointed with his gun
And said that way down on Highway 61.  [from Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited“]

I got side-tracked with my missing home post yesterday.  The homesick article was written in my head while sitting in a church service in Houston (shout out to our small group back home – the sermon was an attempt to jump-start life groups at their church – it reminded me how cool our life group is).  But speaking of Bob Dylan…..

The day before yesterday we were heading west on I-10 [the road we are generally following across the country] an hour or so from Houston when we hit a total standstill – the westbound lanes were closed.  I pulled into a gas station, and asked an old-timer the best way around the mess.  He pointed his crooked finger in a northerly direction, and said, you want to go that way, down highway 61.  Well, that must be right, I thought, as the lyric above rang through my head.  This black lady in the parking lot saw me get into the Honda, and asked if I knew where I was going.  I said, sure, that way, down on Highway 61.  She followed us for two hours, as close as a tick on a dog, until we made it into Houston.

Somebody e-mailed me today, saying that Bob Dylan was not God.

DAWN SAYS:  There is enough variety in this vaca to make it always interesting.  Thought I’d say a few words about being on the road and how we pass the time.   Because we’ve had a couple of decades of kids singing  in the back seat, we never really got into books on tape, save the wonderful “Advertures in Odyssey” stories.  Listening to  “The Accidental Tourist” has been a real perk.  It’s a new story to both of us and the narrator really cracks us up  . . . laugh out loud funny!  We’re at Disc 11 of 12 and enjoy speculating which woman he’ll choose at the end.  

The car has been holding up amazingly well.  A few whistles and groans have caused some concern, but then they stop.  At least so far.  We were glad a burning smell was the car in front of us.  Vince is concerned that if he opens the hood too frequently the cable will break (again) and then he won’t be able to open it at all.  Jeepers.   My cousin Ron told me that if your car breaks down in TX you’re doomed.  Rattlesnakes come and bite you and you die.  I’ll try not to think of that when we go on to San Antonio today.  One thing for sure, I  love my man and his adventurous spirit.

Homesick

February 8, 2010

If today was not an endless highway,
If tonight was not a crooked trail,
If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time,
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.  [from Bob Dylan’s “Tommorow is a long time”]

We are enjoying the southern hospitality of my brother Peter and his wife Cindy in Houston, but my heart today is in snowy Maryland.  Maybe it was hearing Abby’s lonely-sounding voice from England, or thinking about my family in the middle of the storm of the decade.  I wish I were there.  I hope all our friends and our kids are doing well…

The trip has been wonderful, and at the half-way point, Dawn and I are looking for more adventures to share as we head into the wild west.  But it will be great to go back home.  Love to you all, and thx for staying in touch via blog comments, e-mail, and calls.  Dawn and I miss you, Vinny

PS  signing off at halftime of the SB – go Saints!