It all depends on how I define this journey to figure out when it began. Perhaps it began last night (Saturday the 6th) when I, fetishist that I am, went down to Santa Monica to dip my toe into the Pacific. Or it began this morning when I set off on my odyssey.
I was getting quite restless driving to the freeway on LA surface streets. I longed for the open road. And no sooner did I find it than I made a wrong turn, not changing lanes so I could stay on the 10 freeway east. When I turned around, I drove a delightful little neighborhood just east of downtown and realized how much of the city I have yet to explore even after living eight years there.
Much as I liked that neighborhood, as soon as I left the LA urban glob, I delighted in the open spaces. How beautiful is this country. And the colors of the landscape, especially the reds I saw today in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. As the sun was setting in that latter state, it created new shades of magenta and purple in the evening sky. Blending with the graying horizon and the hues of the landscape, it almost seemed those colors came from a distant planet. They wouldn’t need CGI if they filmed a science fiction film here.
And there were the cliffs, like the crumbling battlements of long-since deserted ancient fortresses in a land once ruled by giants.
I began the journey listening to the final CD of Rob Inglis’s reading of The Lord of the Rings. How many times can I hear that story and still love it, becoming a little bit misty-eyed as the narrative’s last line when Sam, having watched his friend set off for the Undying Lands, returns to his beloved Rosie, “Well, I’m back.” What an ending! And I hear those words as I begin my journey.
I spent the better part of the rest of the day listening to Derek Jacobi‘s reading of The Iliad. Sometimes it seems he’s reading Hera as the kind of queen you find in West Hollywood, not one who reigns on Olympus. Still, though abridged, it’s a wonderful reading.
Sometimes when I was driving, I would just switch off my CD player, enjoy the landscape and let my mind wander. Ideas came to me about any number of things, from Log Cabin’s folly in again garnering headlines by attacking a Republican to the meaning of marriage, to the need for a leader who can unite America after the divisive politics of the last fifteen years so we can better wage the war on terror. But I mostly considered non-political topics, like the enduring power of The Iliad–how men (including yours truly) today often erupt in a rage similar to that which defined Achilles (and Agamemnon) in this two thousand-year-old epic.
As I heard Jacobi read Athena, I again pondered her role in the epic and thought about my own dissertation and the presence of the feminine in our own lives. And wondered what we gay men could do to better integrate those feminine qualities in our lives so as to balance our own masculine instincts. Something it took Achilles a whole epic to learn. The gray-eyed goddess wasn’t the only one who helped him learn to temper his rage and battle-fury.
And I thought of relationships, how a believable portrayal of a human relationship in a “archetypal” situation makes a movie worth watching. Because in life, relationships, real relationships are what makes live worth living. Much as I enjoyed traveling alone today, there were times today when I wanted to share the beauty of this great land with a friend!
I also realized that nearly every piece of bad advice I have received in my life had been offered with the best of intentions. That those who steered me in the wrong direction had not meant to harm me, indeed, many had wanted to help me. But, they just did not know the full context of my situation. Which, I guess, is always a problem for dispensers of advice.
There was more that I thought of. Much more. Much, much more. Perhaps it was just the open spaces, the break from the clutter of Los Angeles–and my apartment.
The one thing I do regret is that I gave myself little margin for error–or adventure–on this journey. That there are times when I wanted to stop, pull off the road and take in the beauty of it all. I envied the woman I saw at a rest stop who was sitting a picnic table and reading. I wondered what that book was and whether I would have enjoyed it. And if we had both read the same book whether or not we could talk about it.
But, I need to press on with my journey so I can make it to Charlottesville in time to see my friend–and lunch with my law professor before traveling to DC to see some old friends — and a few readers of this blog.
Well, one day perhaps, I’ll set off an a cross-country excursion without an agenda and can stop along the way, or take a different route than originally planned, just deciding to go somewhere because the town name sounds interesting. I had wanted to make it tonight to Tucumcari for that very reason, but I began to fade just east of Moriarty, so decide to stop here. And today I had also wanted to stop and explore the Petrified Forest and experience the mysteries of the ruins of Chaco Canyon.