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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Search of My American Dream

Have you ever had a desire, almost like a vision where you're doing something in the future? Now these are not goals or lifetime ambitions....not that kind of dream. But more like a whimsical pondering, where you could really receive a full visualization of that curiosity. And then you would stab at it with your imagination coloring it all types of vibrant. But the most curious thing about this, is when you forget about the entire desire, only to realize, after looking around, that you are living this very desire, but still feeling bored or, better worded, unfulfilled.

This job that I have now is this exact case. I don't know how many of you have noticed but I tend to get around. If I'm in Birmingham one night, I could be in Arkansas the next, followed by a short romp in New Orleans afterwards. My car is my office. My map my main office planner. I am living that dream. As a vagabond, gypsy merchant.

I recall one of the first desires that I had was planted in me when I was living in Europe and I remember thinking that the world I had once known had suddenly become smaller. I remember all the traveling I did. -All the different nations, even continents I crossed...and cultures I wandered through, and how everything in my homeland seemed smaller, more accessible. While back before my globe-trotting days, everything in America seemed so spaced out. A full day's drive was a very big and major trip. But foreign travel shrinks all that. Also, some serious nostalgia gets a hold of your imagination and you paint your homeland in idyllic colors. Maybe that was my personality's version of homesickness. But even in that questionnable state, I desired not going home to stay, but going home to explore.

I remember particularly sitting in a hotel room in Bangkok. It was late at night. My brother was konked out, snoring up a storm. But I lay on my bed entranced in a very special film. It had came out in America while I was across the pond. And before my brother drifted off to sleep, he was surprised that I hadn't seen it, and that I should definitely watch it, that is, if I kept the volume down. So laying on my bed, my head stretched forward towards the TV, I tried to catch all the rich dialogue that was going on in the remarkable film that is titled, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" You understand that it had been almost 2 years since I had seen people talk like that, since I had seen the very culture that I had sprang from. It was all so wonderful. I might have had tear drops standing on the verge of my eyes when I saw all the greens of the crops and fields. Poignantly, I remember the lighting of the whole movie is given in this sort of yellowish tint, as though you are looking at old faded photographs. It was as though I was looking into the pictures of my Bigdaddy's (my grandfather's) youth and the stories that had so long been quiet there had sprung open and come to life. It was a re-attachment phase back into my roots. I felt it sharply. And I couldn't wait to get back over and explore this mythic land we call the South. For that was another feature that I absolutely loved about the film, it displayed the South as this land of mythology and legend. Ulysses goes bounding through the kudzu-infested land on his adventures, meeting all types of characters, forever running from something (the law; reality; himself), but at the same time chasing after something (love; hope; understanding). You see both Homer and the writers of this script, (and Alfred Lord Tennyson for that matter) had me feel that Ulysses was me.

Then again, I came back to the states and my southern portion of it, and realized that everybody here is rush, rush, rush, go, go, go... but at the same time never really getting anywhere. This rush is all sedentary. It's rowing upstream. Racing in a roundabout. For what? A yard. A plaque. A car and a house, in truth, a sense of accomplishment. True wandering around was never an American dream. We stole the land from the Indians so that we could build two-story houses on them with Suburbans parked outside our garages. (Parking them inside the garages would be pointless, for they are a symbol of our own competence, or rather, veiled mediocrity, to our neighbors, who may just be tempted to think we are losers if they don't see that big, plain vehicle huffing in the drive from all our precious errands.) The white-picketed fence could never be contained in a traveler's backpack. What would it encompass? Surely not, all on this earth that we could call our own? Leave it to Beaver and Mayberry had always had bigger audiences than Jack Kerouac. But yet, there is something in us that is pioneering and pilgriming, that has survived through the periods of the most practical, bland ideals and brought us Kerouac and some sort of restless urge that lies just below the skin where we can't quite scratch it.

Then, I remember going through college and feeling as though I was chained to a system, that might be fine for generating an appropriate income, but is altogether fine in burying one in debt as well. Here, I am not merely talking about college loans, but the entire mentality that is set up by this intangible American Dream, because it is common knowledge the more income I can acquire the more payments I can bear. It's as though it's to be expected the more afloat I am, the more indulgent the plunge into financial waters. An increase in the former, gives us incentive for the latter. All the while, our much hyped about liberty slips away from us. And after our days run and raze, we are but slaves and serfs to rust and rubbish, and the entanglement that makes us all so sedentary and fearful. Thoreau was dead on. We don't own our possessions, they own us.

Enough of my soapbox, more of my crazy-eyed, dream-like whims. While at Harding. my last semester there, I hatched an entertaining thought. Instead of sitting in keyboard-clicking cubicles, or climbing that erudite ladder to goodness-knows where in grad school, or even getting paperwads hurled at me from acne-faced high schoolers as a teacher, I dreamed big and I dreamed bold and I thought to myself, I should spend a year in the indomitable profession of a trucker. Yes, an entire year living like a real Wal-Mart patriot. Cruising the highways and byways. My heartbeat slapping time to those yellow dashes whizzing by. Why, at Harding I couldn't stay from behind my steering wheel, always wanting to go gallivanting about the roads and horizons. I detested the classroom; I loved the sky through the windshield. I remember sitting up in a room overlooking the campus with Jonathan Towell talking this plan over. Instead of being just your average, run-of-the-mill, hashbrown-eating trucker, I would become a sort of scintillating, sparkling character of folklore. I would don a huge Indian Headress and everywhere I go the other truckers and Wafflehouse waitresses would exclaim, "Here comes the Golden Injun or Sundance Pawnee" Or some such name. But some of the more aggressive truckers, and they do exist, would probably just call me that "Crazy Queer" and I would have to fight them. And after a few brawls, cracking napkin dispensers and Heinz 57 bottles over a few mullets, I would win my respect, slightly feared by the rest of the Bubbas and Clems, but secretly adored by the Flos and Bettys. I would dazzle the country. Through hearsay, people up in Washington would hear about my adventures while crossing through Florida. And the trucking community in Vermont would whisper of my escapades in Arizona. I would seem everywhere and always at one time in one place. Yes, it was as though I was hauling the sun as it rose from one end of America to the other, as I rode zigzagging through the Appalachians, hopping across the Mississipp, hovering over the Plains, and hurdling the Rockies...and always there would be sightings...."I saw 'im driving at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to escape a state trooper and then disappear into the desert like a mirage." or "I was there when he clean ran over them herd of sasquatches up in Alaska." and "He was known to dangle his foot to fish for gators at the same time that he drove through them bayous of Louisiana." On and on the stories would roll. America has heard of Pecos Bill, and John Henry, and Paul Bunyan, they were sure to hear of me. But I didn't go that route. I opted on another path.

But circumstances, has brought me around, now, to live just a fraction of that dream. I'm on one long road trip. And I must say, that even with this I am getting restless, bored and unfulfilled I feel that there is much more to do with and in life. So we shall see where that sun-glintering road takes me now.


Blogger Kelly said...

I can't wait to see what happens next. Did you hurl sheep at Stone Mountain?

9:22 AM  
Blogger thepriesthood said...

to Australia, my friend, the unexplored continent. Desert, mountain, and ocean all.


2:47 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Kelly...no, actually the Highlands games were quite boring in themselves (no throwing of sheep unfortunately), but I did have fun with my friends that came and your sister-in-law and her entourage.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous the author said...


Yes! Thank you. That made my day.

3:45 PM  

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