Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Road to Tucson, 1984 (A Reverie)

It was my 28th birthday. Like most other days in August, it was a dog day, and I was roasting, in spite of traveling along at 70 miles an hour on Interstate 10 on my motorcycle. It was still early, but with a helmet, leather jacket, boots, and blue jeans, it was toasty.

The long stretches between mountain ranges in southern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona seemed to drag on endlessly.

I was returning to Tucson to go to school, to follow a woman, and to live, after a few years teaching in South America and Mexico. Everything I owned was packed on the bike, and it lumbered up the long grades in New Mexico along the Rio Bravo and the passes in Arizona.

Clouds hung around the peaks of the higher ranges like the Black Range in New Mexico and the Chiricahuas in Arizona. They grew as the morning wore on into towering, anvil-headed giants. Likely by the time I got to Tucson, they would move down off the peaks and spread rain across the thirsty valleys.

All for the good I say. This is my idea of a good time, after all, the way I want to spend my birthday, and the place I want to spend it. It would be nice to catch a draft of cool air though.

I travel pulled forward by a dream -- an ill-conceived dream -- to write. I want to write because I felt, and still feel, so strongly and I want to express, to squeeze,those big emotional questions into some kind of shape. I learned somewhere to discover what I thought by writing into the feelings, the questions. I leaned into the disturbance and stirring of the heart and mind and spirit. I don't know what genre and have little understanding of fiction, poetry, or prose as crafts. I just want to put down in words that which bothers me, moves me, runs me. I found someone in words that I didn't yet know very well.

In other words, I traveled filled with the half-baked notions of a young, white, privileged male who didn't what the hell to do with his life. I believed that the world will actually deliver some of what I wanted, even though I didn't quite know what that was. I was bent on trying to find out.

In that moment, I thrived on the metered hum of the machine as it climbed and descended. The pitch of the motor rose and fell with RPMs I can still hear. The sound mirrors the land as it rises and falls from rocky heights to alluvial slopes. I don't know what I am looking at, but it answers some image of seeking. I associate the open spaces with freedom, adventure, risk, departure. There is a place in the mind where the West resides, and it is the zone of and myth of seeking, of testing one's mettle.

By early afternoon I see the shark-tooth ridge-line of the Tucson Mountains. My socks are soaked through with sweat that has run down the length of my body. The soaking clothes offer no relief that I can detect from the 100+ degree heat.

No matter. I'll stop soon and get a cold birthday beer. I don't know where, exactly. In El Paso, I just went downtown and found a flea-bag hotel. Might as well stay with the pattern.

I exit at Congress, the main street in downtown Tucson. I park and check in at the Congress Hotel. It's an extravagance, but I slept on the ground the last couple of nights.

As I throw my pack on the bed and look out at the mountains baking to the north, I see the red bricks of buildings at the University of Arizona, where I'll start classes in few days. I am enrolled in a master's program in bilingual education, even though I am unsure whether or not I really want to be a teacher. I need to find a job, a place to live, and to call an old friend.

The woman is not here yet. She is coming on her own time, pursuing her own dreams. We will meet and give life together a chance.

Years stretch ahead of me as far as I can see. I have no idea how I will pay the toll they ask.

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