If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration. Nicolas Tesla
Near the end of December, during long foggy walks along the beach at Pismo, I was able to reflect on the last image I had of the desert. On the way back to the coast, I had spent a morning in Laughlin, Nevada. This concrete oasis, on the edge of the Colorado River, sports a half a dozen casinos and not much else on the Nevada side of the river and housing developments all the way up the hill on the Arizona side. I walked ‘Casino Drive’, which serves as a low-rent version of the Las Vegas strip. There’s about a six-block radius with sidewalks. I entered into the caverns of a couple of casinos. Dark, stale, even the view of the river minimized by half-shades. Every available space rattling with lights and jingles, in a maze of slot machines. Whichever way one turns, within fifteen feet one is directly confronted with a dazzling screen offering spectacularly unbelievable rewards. The few people on the machines at 9 o’clock in the morning looked like they lived out back, pale ghosts waiting to haunt the tourists with stories of their sins.
In less than two miles of ‘strip’, all the restaurants, except a McDonalds, were discreetly inside hotel/casino buildings. Those buildings were interrupted by empty lots, the ever-present desert – which may have been waiting at one time for somebody to do something with all that space, but now had just given up.
I expected to see some restaurants, maybe a couple of country music theaters, perhaps a nightclub. But no. A marijuana dispensary on a hill overlooked the river casinos and a country music bar sat off on its own at the top of another hill. I saw several entertainment billboards and I did not recognize a single name. I suspect Laughlin is a good venue for cover bands. If I wanted to punctuate my experience with something that was not-Nature, this was it.
It was back at Pismo Beach, on the day before Christmas Eve, that the rain caught up with Alice and me. It rained hard for six hours. The first leak appeared over the bathroom sink. One leak, then two started to seep onto the cab bed. We had not sealed the edges well enough. I brought out the saucepans and the plastic containers. Fortunately, I always zip up my camera bags, but they were soaked. The rat-a-tat of the rain was interspersed with the plop-plop drips into the pots. If we hadn’t put a covering on the roof, amateur though it was, I felt like Alice would have been washed away from the inside out. The clear solution was to stay out of the rain.
I drove up to San Jose for Christmas, spending a warm family day with Nancy and my two sons with their girlfriends. Presents, dinner, board games. I am lucky to have such a loving family. My sons are 31 years old. They are both doing well and seem to be happy. Like every parent, I’m not sure how that happened, but I am incredibly grateful.
At the end of 2016, I had no idea about the future, except a vague plan to travel north. I was beginning to feel a subtle resonance between the inside and the outside. Occasionally, I was feeling a sense of identity with my natural surroundings. As if I belonged somehow. Boundaries seemed to soften. I felt a familiarity, in some ways a shade of what I felt with my wife and sons, as if we were interwoven … made of the same stuff. It was only a glimpse, but I had a sense that there was more to be had. A gate was opening to an experience that I had only suspected. My plan in 2017 was to find more of that.
I stayed in San Jose through to the New Year. It felt good to see how well my family was doing. Now that I think about it, it was a slight, but deep, relief. I was about to take off on a journey during which I wouldn’t see them for at least six months. It was a heavily textured feeling, realizing that they didn’t need me any more. Fortunately, one of the benefits of age is that I was genuinely happy about that.
At the beginning of 2017, the worst storm in history was bearing down on the West coast. Alice and I turned tail and ran to Palm Springs. I was learning to segment the journey into parts. What was my goal for the day, for the week, for the month? What did I have to do to prepare for that? I tried to extend the planning to a year, but my mind wouldn’t reach that far. Not enough information yet ….
Glen drove down from Canada to finalize the sale of his house. I drove over from Palm Springs to meet him. Another friend, Stan (with whom Bonnie and I had lived in Long Beach), came in from L.A.. We spent a night catching up. Glen worked as a fishing guide in British Columbia and Stan has been a computer consultant since we lived together in 1975. Stan had developed an automated self-improvement system he had put online, called the Mind Mirror. He was the first to get a bio-feedback machine, back in the day. We got stoned and played golf on a 9-hole course down the road in the desert. Three or four rounds, I’m not sure.
The next day, we drove to Oatman, supposedly a ghost town. Glen thought there might be an opportunity for some pictures. In reality, it is just an old mining town on hill. Its star attraction, advertised far and wide, is the freedom a hundred or so burros have to wander around the streets. I wanted to get a picture or two, but the exposures were thrown off by the dazzling reflections of the bright and shiny tourist objects that twirled and flapped from every store front. We joined the other tourists playing ‘step around the burro shit’ in an attempt to find anything authentic. Unsuccessfully.
In the middle of January, Alice and I crossed California back to Pismo through the rain. We stayed at Pismo Dunes (for $42 a night), because the state park was flooded (and would be closed for the next six months.) The leaks were depressing, although not unexpected. I was running low on funds. I knew where I wanted to go in the Spring, but not in the next two months. I had a toothache. My two favorite places to stay were going to be closed for the next six months. Once that negative ball gets rolling, it picks up all the unfinished stuff.
When plans don’t work out and things get difficult, sometimes I see myself playing vulnerable. I have an unconscious, learned reaction to give up. Another vestige of childhood with a drunk for a father. I don’t think I am fundamentally a quitter, but I go through a phase where I would prefer just to give it all up when things get tough. In England, I would totally give up on Latin homework on a regular basis. In American high school, I was on the cross-country team. During a two-mile race, at about a mile and half, I would get a tremendous urge to quit. It would all feel impossible. For a minute or two, I would be right on the edge of giving up. Then it would pass, and I would enter into an almost dream-like state … as if I were in a movie. At that point, I would die rather than lose. I even, eventually, learned some Latin.
At times like those, it was a mental weight that pulled my spirit down. How stupid to buy an RV that obviously was going to leak. How foolish to go out on the road without a mechanical clue. How reckless to give everything away in order to grow. How can I live on so little money. How much do I miss my family. Questions that somehow felt like facts. My spirit will win eventually … I have been around long enough to learn that I will keep going, despite what is going on in my head. I can still get thrown off, but not as often and for not as long. Being depressed, when the weight of unfulfilled emotion presses the spirit flat, is part of finding one’s way in this world. It is one of the colors of life. There are just times when one has to wait.
So, after I got over my whining, I set about rectifying the situation. I bought a tarp at Walmart … an institution with which I was becoming quite familiar … big enough to cover Alice’s roof. I stopped by a dentist in San Jose and donated a couple of teeth. I joined Thousand Trails (they had campgrounds all the way to Canada) and made reservations in Las Vegas to get out of the rain.
It was in Vegas that I learned how many of the members worked with Thousand Trails. Bob, a retired iron worker parked next to me, was building a carriage at the rear of his rig for a freezer and generator. He took a cigarette break to explain that Thousand Trails had a rule – two weeks maximum in one place – and then you had to be out of the system for a week. Presumably this was to prevent people living in the system full-time. Every two weeks, Bob and his wife would drive their rig a couple of blocks south, down Boulder Highway to a park where they would stay for a week at $20 a night. Then they would return. Three weeks at $3 a night and one week at $140 … $203 a month rent. He said he had been doing it for a couple of years.
It was also in Vegas that I tried to resolve the wi-fi problem. In these big Thousand Trails parks, the signal never seemed to reach to me. My son Alex had given me a wi-fi booster kit. Supposedly, the higher antenna would catch the signal and the computer brain would amplify it. The laptop then would connect to an interior network in the RV, rather than the exterior broadcast itself. The interior ‘brain’ boosted the signal.
Each place fosters its own frequencies. In Arizona, it was the pick-up trucks, sunsets and the sunrise. In Vegas, it was the sirens and the swoosh of boulevard traffic. That’s the treasure in travelling … a dose of something different … sounds, sights, smells and so on. I am beginning to accept that we are each a point on a sliding scale, when it comes to perceiving qualities. We each may literally not be seeing the same thing. Each person is unique in their abilities to perceive the world. Some are more empathetic than others, some are more adventurous, more musical, more this or that. Some of us like new frequencies more than others. We are tuned differently. This can be a problem when it comes to relationships, esp. for those at different places on the scales. It’s always been an issue for me.
By the second week in February 2017, I was parked at Oasis Palms RV Resort, by the Salton Sea, which most definitely has a smell … a character, all its own. I would return to Oasis Palms a year later, where I am now, as I write this. Looking back, I can see/feel the vibration I got to know as me. The signal in all the noise. The note that stayed the same as I went from place to place and the other frequencies changed. I am/hear that note now. It’s about all that survived the 69 years. In the shift and flow of Nature itself, any thing we choose is going to change. I am always the story behind the scenes.