When I was a young pup, probably 12 or 13, I used to have a nightly ritual on weekends, holidays and summer vacations. Two shows, late at night. “Spenser: For Hire” on Lifetime and “Route 66″ on Nick-at-Night. Each show spoke to me on different levels, maybe defined me in some subtle ways.
By this time I’d read most of Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” series. His mythology was already deeply engrained in me. As was Travis McGee. Tough old guys who weren’t emotional, who shoved emotions down and just focused on the job. Who’d seen some pain and as soon as that pain could be worked through they went back to the mission at hand. Guys who were mostly self contained and independent. They were sexier versions of the men I thought I was supposed to grow up to be. That I thought all men were supposed to be. Spenser was a fighter, literally and figuratively, and kept getting back up no matter how hard life or the bad guys beat him down and he almost always accomplished what he promised to do. He always accomplished his personal mission, the that HE chose to accept, but once chosen he followed to the end, no matter what the price. That was in me. On some level, the way I thought my dad was telling me, had trained and sculpted me, I was ready to grow up to be that man.
On the flip side there was Route 66. Happiness and wonder was found by those two guys touring this great nation in a convertible corvette. Two guys, both bumming around and being small time heroes in each story, helping people out as they went, finding time to work and earn money to drive on down the road to the next adventure and the next great love. I had no home, I had no great love. How could that NOT appeal to me. I was already traveling across the country already, just at a slower pace.
I liked those last night routines. They were a sign of me gaining trust and responsibility from my parents. I was the only one staying up watching the shows. I was the one responsible for protecting the family by locking the doors. I was the one expected to shut the house down for the night. And I was expected to wake up early enough the next morning to do whatever chores were required of me for the day.
While doing those chores the wheels were turning. Plotting. Dreaming. How could I travel the world like that? My dad was too… responsible, too organized, not trusting enough. As a product of him and his upbringing I never had the confidence, the trust to walk away from good housing, food, warmth and safety to strike out on my own without a guarantee of the next job and the accompanying paycheck.
Not too long after that the motorcycle bug really bit me. I’d always liked them, always wanted to ride, but this was different. I couldn’t stop dreaming about touring the country on a bike. I started dreaming about getting a job like Charles Kuralt, paid to tour the country and report on quaint stories. Or of being a motorcycle reviewer, talking a magazine into letting me do long distance/touring reviews of bikes. At one point I added the detail of taking a camera to the dreams. Not that I wanted to take lots of photos at that the time. For some reason as much as I loved the idea of being an artist, I couldn’t get serious about photography since my sister was a photographer. I think I wanted my own “thing”. But I thought if I had a gig as a travel writer, it’d make sense to take a camera with me. And I used to think the camera would give me a level of access to locals while touring. Like a conversation piece. I even said maybe I’d take the camera without film, just carry it around to give me an excuse to wander around.
So. That started over 25 years ago. And I thought about it and then forgot about it as I moved on to other dreams and fantasies for years. But the other day it kind of hit me. The motorcycle is ready to go. I’ve dumped a lot of money into getting things “just right” on it over the last six months. I’ve got the money and vacation time in the bank and to go on short tours. The boy is old enough and independent enough that I don’t feel guilty having “me” time. Last summer was the start of it. Just weekend trips, but they happened. The photography is coming along. I don’t HAVE to do travel photography, but if I wanted to, I could. I probably couldn’t sell the photos or make a living off of it, but I could enjoy it and I’m good enough that I’d be able to surround myself with beautiful shots that I took.
Parts of my life haven’t gone/aren’t going the way I want them to. Pretty normal for anyone, right? That’s ok, I do my best to balance accepting life as it comes and dreaming/planning/plotting to get things the way I want them. It’s really weird to have this realization that although I wasn’t actively working on this master plan for the last three decades, I’m really close to having, to some extent, exactly what I was fantasizing about all those years ago. Especially since I’d either forgotten it or repressed it because it didn’t seem possible for so long.