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The Road Has Eyes
My wife Fox grew up thinking she was of Swedish descent. During a trip to her childhood home, her aunt revealed a family secret: Fox’s biological mother was a Native American, a Chiricahua Apache.
Fox and I had already been contemplating a drastic change of lifestyle. We experimented, got hands-on experience and did a lot of research. Swallowing our terror, we purchased a large motor coach and become full time RV dwellers. My wife’s sudden change of identity made journeys to the American Southwest imperative. She wanted to trace her family tree and experience the landscape of her mother’s origins. One of my motivations was to get to a dark sky. I love astronomy and make part of my living taking photos of night landscapes.
Our adventures were funny, compelling and a little spooky. Fox had stuck her toe into an eerie cauldron of Native American shamanism.
I’ve written a non fiction memoir that mixes travel with cultural commentary. The working title is AVOIDING POTHOLES: JOURNEYS IN A CHANGING AMERICA. Written in a novelistic style, the manuscript is complete at 85,000 words.
The Road Has Eyes is a travel-adventure memoir about a huge life transition. My wife and Iwere anticipating an economic crash and we wanted to get out from under expensive monthly payments. We purchased a series of RVs until wesettled on a 38 foot motor coach. We've been living in it for five years. We only wish we had made the change sooner.
My wife learned at age 48 that she was half Apache. It created a shift of identity that made us want to travel to the Southwest. I was motivated by a love of astronomy, and the fact that I was making half my living taking unusual night time photographs. Getting away from polluted skies was important.
My wife has always been something of a psychic and she began to study Native American shamanistic practices. Our adventures took on an edge of the eerie and supernatural as her abilities unfolded and we were carried to mysterious locations and experienced strange "coincidences".
The book also contains essays and observations of today's America.The Chapter DISNEYLAND AS HELL is a touching and hilarious vignette of our culture. BANKRUPTCY BLUES demonstrates that there are ways to get out of trouble that are triumphs rather than defeats.
The Way People Meet
Fox and I met in 1999 by a flukish accident. I was single, and I hated it. I started visiting online singles websites. We all know (or we should know) that the internet dating world is a mad farcical gallery, a circus sideshow of fantasy and bad judgment. We do it anyway. It’s like eating fudge. After the first piece it’s disgusting but there’s no way to stop until it’s either all gone or you go into diabetic coma.
The entire process was nothing short of an addiction. It ate up hours of my day, every day. I looked at photos, exchanged emails, spoke on the phone. Once or twice a month I went on a coffee date, to check out the “chemistry”. I met teachers, lawyers, nurses, psychologists, single moms, doctors. Without exception, they were insane. They no doubt found me insane. I think we would be better off if we stopped pretending to be sane and just wore our madness like outer garments, as plainly as t-shirts. Perhaps someone should invent a temporary tattoo device to put personality profiles on our foreheads. They could be called “Realitygrams”. We could have honest and descriptive self-assessments. “ I am a narcissist with food addictions and a taste for cruel verbal “leakage” with women. I dwell excessively on my childhood abuse. I blame my mother for everything wrong with my life.”
That way everything is out on the table. The above-described man could look for a woman with a forehead saying, “I am a compulsive nurturer. I’m submissive but full of repressed rage. I cycle between anorexia and bulimia. I’m attracted to men just like my father, who could verbally cut a woman to shreds and seem as if this was doing her a great favor.”
Think of all the time and trouble to be saved! I’ve had some AWFUL dates. One night I went out with a psychiatrist who offered herself in marriage after about twenty minutes of light conversation.
“Do you want to marry me?” she asked, in all seriousness. “I need to know right now. Otherwise I’ll make other plans. I’m a catch, trust me. You’ll never regret hooking up with me. I’ll make your life glorious, I’m a fantastic woman, sexually, intellectually. I cook gourmet food. I know volumes of poetry by heart. I can fence, I play chess….”
“Why,” I asked, “are you so eager to marry me?”
“It takes genius to recognize genius,” she said. “You’re a brilliant man. I’ve read your poetry and your fiction. Your work will be read and loved centuries from now. I want to be part of that.”
There was a little red light bulb going off in my so-called judgment, beep beep beep beep. It was saying in that classic Star Trek Computer Voice, “Warning warning, attractive objects may be less attractive than they appear!” Yet there was part of me that was tempted. She was very good looking, with a glossy black helmet of shoulder-length hair. She was a socialite psychiatrist who lived in a five thousand square foot house on Twin Peaks. I thought about being supported in luxury while I played music, wrote novels. I was getting tired of poverty, the struggle to survive, the incessant tension of squeaking by on a pittance. I was actually thinking about it! I was insane to even consider it! Of course, go back a couple pages, where I make the blanket generalization that we’re all crazy. Yes, I thought about it. I knew I wouldn’t marry her! I just couldn’t fight my way through the temptation. For fifteen minutes I could not bring myself to say a clear “No.”
My hesitation made her furious.
She grew strident. Her transformation from charming to vicious was instantaneous.
“Asshole!” she rasped. “Do you have any idea what you’re passing up?” She grabbed her sweater at the waist and pulled it to her neck. Her eyes burned into mine. She showed me a perfect pair of medium sized breasts with taut little nipples.
“I…What?..You.” My mouth was full of the stones of reality. I didn’t know what to say. This woman was disappearing into psychosis. What wonderful irony!
“Take me back to my car, you fucking pussy,” she finally ordered. “I need a man who knows what he wants. You had your chance, you fat kyke.”
This is internet dating, I reminded myself. Don’t be surprised by ANYTHING, no matter how bizarre. Our world is like a locked psych-ward after the doors have been thrown open.
I drove out of Golden Gate Park and delivered my demented shrink to her Mercedes on Haight Street.
It was a period in which I frequently lost my bearings. On one occasion, lured by a beautiful photograph, I accepted a dinner invitation to a woman’s home. I would be meeting her son and a few close friends. It seemed innocent enough. It seemed Safe.
I rang the doorbell of a presentable ranch house in the North Bay. The door opened with an ominous squeak of the hinges. If I had been living in a cartoon, there would have been a sudden scream of tuneless brass from the orchestra. The apparition that confronted me would have caused my hair to stand on end, my eyes to pop out on stalks and a second ghostly figure of myself would be seen separating from my body and running away in terror.
She wore a hair net. She cradled a bottle of bourbon in her armpit. A cigarette dangled from the corner of her lips and sent swirls of smoke up into watery eyes. The makeup that was daubed on her face looked as if applied by a chimpanzee. She leered at me and smiled the ways horses laugh, with the lips flapping like huge wet paddles, showing me her oversized square yellow teeth. The photo that induced me to come to this house was of a fresh-faced blue-eyed beauty with the looks of a magazine model. If I squinted and applied considerable imagination, I could recognize the model, the svelte beauty. I had been hoist on the petard of my own shallowness!
Rather than bailing out at the first opportunity, I politely persevered. I didn’t have the heart to reject the woman outright. I have been on internet dates that lasted ten seconds. I strode into the coffee shop, recognized my date by her description. I sat down. My date stood up as if she was on the other end of a seesaw.
“Nope, not my type,” she said. She pivoted and walked away. That’s all. It happened to me twice! Had the date lasted ten seconds? It depends when the clock started. When I walked in the door? Or when I sat down?
These ladies were black belts in internet dating. They took me down, bam! I’m not like that. I would never do that.
There were a dozen or so people about the house. Something illicit was going on in a rear bedroom, where the door opened periodically to swallow people. When they emerged there was a glitter about their eyes, a skewed smile, a naughty wink. When I was invited, I declined. I hadn’t come to this place to get loaded on the buzz of the day.
I protected myself by spending time with the son of my hostess. He was eleven and had a set of drums. I made my living as a drummer for a few years. I showed him how to play some rudiments and easy swing rides on the cymbal. He wanted to play blasting heavy metal music and wasn’t very impressed. He demonstrated his playing by thrashing at the drums with fanatic uncoordinated rage. I took my turn again and started doing Gene Krupa licks, and this was more to his liking. He could relate to the primitive, to the boomboombity boom.
He had a sad resigned look on his face. His dad was nowhere, his mom was a decaying alcoholic, his home a location for drug parties. He was not having an easy childhood. He had a Marine Corps haircut, the kind that looks like an oval piece of office carpeting glued to the top of his head. He had pimples, a few missing teeth. I could see the thug he would be in four or five years.
I digress. The story of how I met Fox goes like this: Fox kept her laptop at her best friend’s house. In the course of my online meet ‘n’ greets, I had corresponded briefly with this best friend, and my name had gone into her Buddies List. There was a small problem, because it wasn’t her computer and it wasn’t her Buddies List.
Fox was a deeply reserved woman in the midst of an unspeakably abusive marriage.
The computer was with her best friend because Fox’s husband spied on everything she did. He scanned her computer, listened to her phone calls, brazenly read her mail. Her best friend’s place was the only refuge she knew. She had to embezzle her own money to buy a second laptop. It stayed at the best friend’s house; it was her only private expression.
The next time she signed on to AOL, she saw my name on her Buddies List. “Who is this?” she asked her friend. “Have you been using my computer?”
“I’m sorry,” was the reply. “I couldn’t resist. I hate sharing a computer with Tom.” That was her son. “He’s always playing video games, I never get online.” She looked at my name on the Buddies List.
“That’s just some guy I’ve been chatting with.”
Fox was really angry. She sent me an email and requested that her screen name be removed from my computer’s Buddies List, and she would remove mine from hers. I don’t really remember, truth be told, how the first email morphed into several more emails. Soon we were regular correspondents. Then we started talking on the phone. Then we arranged to meet.
It was impossible to anticipate how profoundly we would alter one another’s lives.