#GinsAcrossAmerica: Love, Loss and the Great American Road Trip
“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” ~Henry David Thoreau
The myth and the promise of the open road have held my fascination since I was 12, when I first read Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ and wanted to disappear into the dark underside of America, exploring the country in a Benzedrine-fueled wonder with my fellow Beatnik poet outlaws (the fact that I was neither a Beatnik poet outlaw nor an amphetamine user was irrelevant). At 45, I’m still not an outlaw, but the dream has held true for me all these years, through love and loss and heartbreak and regret and moments of stunning beauty and happiness.
“I took a drive today. Time to emancipate…” Pearl Jam, ‘Rearviewmirror’
My father had fallen deeply into the grip of his illnesses in fall of 2014. At the time, I was two months into a corporate job that I hated. Maxine and I were upstairs in his apartment, having one of the few (to that point) truly in-depth conversations we’d ever had. (Elliott was good at being a dad, not so much at being a father, offering wisdom and perspective). I told him how this job was making me miserable and that I wanted to quit. I knew I could resume consulting — and though I didn’t tell him this, I wanted to be here to help him, too.
His response was unforgettable. “Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em ALL. Do what you want. Do what makes you happy, David.”
So this road trip is inspired in part by those words. This is what I want, right now. Doing this makes me happy.
I spent two years taking care of my dad. Helping him manage doctor’s appointments and business affairs; providing comfort and counsel and handling all of the mundane tasks that are necessary when someone is so incapacitated that they can’t care for themselves any longer. I watched him become overwhelmed with depression and shrink from a 220lb man to a 100lb body in a bed, wondering how his life was so suddenly ripped away from him. Most of it was unspeakably awful. I’m glad I did it, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. What kept me going through it all was the promise to myself that when this was over, I was hitting the road.
This is a fulfillment of that promise.
Five weeks after my father died, Maxine lost her battle with cancer. In a way, losing my dog was even harder than losing my father. People have complicated emotions and difficult relationships, especially with family. Dogs offer only unconditional love. In every vision and daydream I had of this epic road trip, Maxine was there. My companion and co-pilot. Maxine, who’d been with me through my darkest days and at one point was the only thing keeping me from giving in to the desire for oblivion. Her paw is tattooed on my forearm because I want her with me every step that I take, forever.
This trip is for her, too.
2016 has been a year of healing. Of processing profound loss, including the loss of a relationship with a woman I loved completely, loved immeasurably.
“There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away/they haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets…” Bruce Springsteen, ‘Thunder Road’
2016 has been a year of new beginnings, from getting back in shape to adopting Pearl, who’s turned out to be an amazing gift of pure love and boundless joy. Of recognizing my own resilience, of growing comfortable in my own skin, of the importance of putting my own well-being first. Of the tremendous gratitude I feel every day for simply being alive and able to feel all of this. Of being able to do this. And for having an incredible network of friends, for feeling so much love and support, and for being able to reciprocate it too. I never take it for granted.
This trip is the epic opening chapter of the next phase of my life. This journey is an internal one as much as it is physical; a dream fulfilled, with discoveries yet to be found. Escaping the ghosts of the immediate past with the beauty of distance, even while ever aware that I cannot outrun what’s in my head no matter how far away I go.
Pearl and I hit the road September 1st. The route isn’t exact, but we’re starting up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and then heading to Burlington, VT. From there, we’re going to Niagara Falls and staying along the northern route through Chicago, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and through the west to Washington and then down the coast of California, for starters. We’d love to see old friends as often as possible along the way. We’ll make some new ones too, no doubt.
I’m going to write and post photos here, with other stuff on my social channels. Please join me in sharing the journey.
Much love to you all.