Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Open Road

My fellow OHD wrote in his last post that he is working the weekend in an unstable, coastal environment weilding a heavy instrument and operating in front of enthusiastic fans  at late hours of the evening... in other words he might not be able to post. But he will write, he promised!

But it’s funny now that we’ve decided to go down this road together, writing continuously for one hundred days, the universe is conspiring to keep us steadily progressing at the same pace. Last night my internet went out and I wasn’t able to post.

So below, a little tardy, is my post of yesterday. My advantage is that the few people I’ve been informed are following are deep in dreamland right now and you don’t even know that I had technical issues, not that I would EVER take advantage of something so trivial as an eight hour time difference just to buy credit for keeping my word.

Delphi was the medicine I needed after days and days of hot tension in Athens. Really, hitting the road is ALWAYS good medicine. It is one of the reasons I’m addicted to this job regardless of the challenges. When I’m starting to sink into a dark cloud, it is usually because too many weeks have passed without seeing some white lines and big horizons through a nicely sized windshield, and B. B. has as nice a windshield as you could find. George keeps it sparkling.

There are some laws to having a good road trip:

1) Thou must depart at an ungodly hour, 

preferably when the sun is still slapping the snooze bar on its great, solar alarm clock.


2) Thou must stop for coffee, but not until just outside of the city limits, lest thou feelest that good time is not being made. Preferably said coffee purveyor should be slightly off-color with interesting characters as patrons.

3) Thou must have a road companion who is a) good at conversation and b) knows when to shut up and just enjoy the scenery. This is very difficult as these people come few and far between, though the road has a way of teaching you how to behave.

4) Thou must have a destination, even if is completely self-made. “We are journeying to the largest ball of cheese in the world, and then we will go to the childhood home of Mark Twain’s grandfather.” 


5) Thou must have a mission, likewise, even if it is self made. Listening to all of the albums of Led Zepplin in reverse order. Finding the best peach pie on the planet. Collecting water from every body of water you pass or stopping to peek in every old town hall.

6) Maybe the most challenging law of all is knowing when to wander, when to press on, and when it is time to turn around and head back.

My grandfather knew these rules. Like some people have a revolving door of lovers, he had a revolving door of RVs. When my grandmother was alive they would travel together, crossing national parks, stopping for photo opportunities and historical markers, using widespread relatives and grandchildren as an excuse for their continental migration. When she died, sadly due to an accident on the step of the RV, he sold it, bolted down that revolving door and swore he would never drive one again.

No, it didn’t last.

Throughout the decade he lived without her he had at least four that I can remember, each one with it’s own set of charms and quirks. Each time he sold it he would state, crankily, it was because no one ever went with him. Could I go back in time, I would have insisted on so many more journeys in the co-pilot chair. If only I had been able to step back from the hamster wheel of whatever it was I was trying to accomplish (what DID I accomplish?) and see that the moments I felt the most calm, the most myself, happened within the laminate wood-paneled walls of his RV, watching the show through the window, the wild terrain, the sleepy towns, all rolling easily by on the opposite side of the glass, spun out on wooden spools manned by silent, invisible giants.

Unfortunately in a one day Delphi trip many of the specifics in the “Laws” are decided for us, but it still lifts the spirit to get out of the angry champagne bottle and burst out toward the ancient oracle, set in a valley in the mountains surrounded by caves and footpaths. Lucky for us our clients were full of pep and corny jokes. It was a light-filled day.

We have befriended the guys at Vakhos, a taverna we like to take our clients to as it has an oustanding view of a valley of olive trees stretching to the gulf of Corinth and genuine, "Mama made this twenty minutes ago" cuisine. While the clients visit the site, George and I go and sit at a table away from the main dining area and have coffee, read the news, send some emails, you know, very un-mystical sorts of things to do while in Delphi... and each time I’m here I wish I could just stay a little longer. See the village at night. Wander the hills surrounding it. Spontaneously I asked one of the brothers that waits the tables what it would cost to rent a room there off season.

I don’t know what I’m subconciously putting together here, but I have a need to wander, half-nomad style, with a base and a point of reference, but free to roam and without an itinerary.

Not long after my grandmother passed I started becoming increasingly drawn to the color orange. One day I was in a store with my father going crazy over some item in a bold shade of tangerine, and he informed me that it was the favorite color of his mother. Could the love of orange have blown through the air and landed on me when her spirit left, no longer needing to hold onto something so specific as a favorite color?

Could the need of the limitless possibilities in a road have also landed on me when my grandfather was launched into the infinite?

I just don’t know.  Regardless, I have a strong hunch that if I have to stay trapped in this concrete minefield without a few soul-expanding journeys sprinkled in between, my resemblance to him will be much less in his uncharacteristic displays of wild spirit and much more in his characteristic fits of crumudgeondom*.

*For the one Greek reader I’ve learned has taken up reading these posts, imagine an old crab from the sea told to live in a chicken coop. That might best describe what a crumdgeon is, and what could be my fate if I don’t learn how to rise above.