walmart parking lots

I take a strange pride in the fact that my family is fine sleeping in Walmart parking lots overnight.

I suppose this isn’t the most common of reasons a father and husband may grade his shepherding favorably, but for me it’s a mark in the pros column.

I bet I’ve done several things in a Walmart parking lot that you’ve not. I’ve made spaghetti and fried eggs in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve taken a shower in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve watched a movie with my family in a Walmart parking lot. I’ve pooped. I’ve shaved. I’ve slept soundly through the night. I’ve done it (yes, it) in a Walmart parking lot.

This morning I woke to Father’s Day in a Walmart parking lot, and, man, I couldn’t be happier. I mean, my family is here and we’ve got our little space and we’ve got plans and ideas and things to talk about and share with each other and learn together.

Wherever this family goes, whatever we do, I feel like we’re ready. If we can be happy making love and eating spaghetti in a Walmart parking lot, what really can shake us?

Peace.

attending

Last night, my my thirteen year old daughter took me to a concert.

Sure, I paid for everything and drove, but I was the guest at this event. And what a thrilling experience, to be shown new things by a person you swaddled.

The show was good. The music is catchy and the production was simple but fun. The real standout for me though was seeing thousands of tween and teen girls so deeply and completely under this young woman’s spell. Teen girls may be fickle, but last night they were transfixed – hanging on every word, every movement. It was adoration, it was admiration.

And, I know it’s such a dad thing to say, and I also know I’m not supposed to start sentences with “and,” but I’m gonna say (and do) it anyway: I was warmed of heart to see that what these girls were soaking up from their guru was a message of positivity, self confidence, love. Listening to her between song banter I heard young Ms. Eilish affirm them, empower them, and give them license to be real (which many likely don’t yet know they need from no one).

Keaton asked me after the show, “Dad for some reason I feel like the girls at that show were ‘good,’ because, like, Billie is ‘good,’ know what I’m saying?” And yes, I did know, and yes, I told her I knew. Subjective as it is, the air of the place seemed to hum with “good,” and the whole vibe felt like a bit of a foil to some of the more potentially negative versions of what kids see as fame and accomplishment.

I know it’s a stretch, but I swear I could see a sea of young girls around me trying on who they are, becoming themselves bit by bit. Bouncing around and turning to their moms and dads with huge smiles as they sung along, maybe forgetting for a minute we aren’t really hip enough to share this with. Daring to just let loose and scream if they felt it.

Most of the time, Billie didn’t even need to sing, the crowd hitting every word in tune and time at the absolute top of their lungs. It was a thing to behold, and hear, and kept me in perma-smile the whole evening. Sharaun said that because most of my concert experience is swaying gently back and forth to “stoner music,” I just don’t understand a “good pop show.” Well, whatever, Sharaun… excuse me for never being a thirteen year old girl.

Watching Keaton let go a little, do that thirteen year old girl at a “good pop show” thing, screaming and jumping and just feeling, was great (although I was wise to pretend like I wasn’t watching, of course).

I think I was an OK dad. Perhaps not a cool dad, but I don’t think I was a total square, either. Can OK dads use the word “square?” For most of the show I was watching Billie, letting Keaton do her thing. At one point though I couldn’t resist and turned around to give her a quick side-hug out of happiness for the good time we were sharing. She allowed it.

This kid is pretty cool, you know? She’s also very important to me. Oh, God, how has she grown up so fast? Are we doing OK by her? Is she turning out alright?

Hugs.

bonjour!

Hey, friends.

It’s a beautiful day in Quebec. The bottom bread of the sunny-and-warm/rainy-all-day/sunny-and-warm sandwich we’ve had since crossing the border. The sky is that cloudless blue and the air tastes/feels clean and the lakes are pristine.

And the bugs. Black flies and mosquitoes in biblical proportion which, to be fair to Canada, have plagued us since Vermont. They love my life blood and are relentless. I dance around outside and wear layers and cover my face with my Buff and look like a cat burglar.

And everyone smiling and saying, “Bonjour!” And poutine and gas prices that look all kinds of wrong with too many numbers and commas in them.

Tonight we sleep at a winery outside Montreal, and Keaton and I are doing a daddy/daughter dinner and concert date, finally seeing Billy Eilish, she’s been so excited, and I’m excited to share the experience with her. Let’s pray the tickets I StubHub’d are legit, not sure I could explain our way in in my broken highschool French.

Chewing up the kilometers. Later.

kids

Waking up with a headache, when there’s no reason to wake up with a headache, is frustrating.

Lemme relate to you a story.

This past Sunday we dropped in on a church in northern Maine. We got up early, showered and dressed, and the ladies made their faces and hairs nice (boys’ faces and hairs don’t have more than the one mode). We made the RV into traveling mode and jostled the ten minutes into town over the awful Maine “roads.”

This church was in a highschool gymnasium, with folding chairs and put-up/take-down front pieces. Lots of people and a really good representation of kids of all ages were milling around finding seats and visiting as we arrived. In good church fashion, several folks came and introduced themselves to us as a visiting family, which I always enjoy. Inevitably we end up explaining our current road-trip lifestyle multiple times.

At one point, as I was happily chatting with someone, I glanced over at Keaton, our thirteen year old, and noticed her eyes glistening, wet. Upon further inspection, I could tell she was working diligently at not crying. Concerned, I concluded my conversation and, when the coast was clear asked her simply, “Is everything OK?”

“Yeah,” she replied. Liar.

“It’s just that you look sad,” I say. Dumb dad. That did it.

“I am,” she said, and the tears came easy, they were already brimming, and her face flushed quickly from the effort of finally letting go what she’d been holding in. Seeing that actually crying in church was obviously worse than almost crying in church, I didn’t press it. Put my hand on her back, watched her compose herself, and kept churching. But I was curious.

Later in the day, back in the campground, there was a moment where it was just us. I dared ask, “Hey what were you upset about this morning in church?” She considered for a moment, “I was sad that I didn’t have cute clothes.” A couple hours later she sought me out to say, “Dad remember when I said I was sad because I didn’t have any cute clothes? Well I wasn’t sad, I was embarrassed. Especially with all those other kids my age around.” The distinction seemed very important to her.

Oh, I see. I didn’t expect that.

And at first I thought how silly… and that I could never recall feeling that way, let alone crying in public, over such a thing as a kid her age. But then I found myself remembering how badly I wished I had one of the cool Billabong jackets everyone was wearing in 7th grade, and how much I wanted name-brand jeans vs. the discount store kind, and how my shoes needed to have air in the soles or I’d never make friends.

So, I found myself in a position to both offer sympathy and empathy. Re: empathy, I didn’t bother. From experience the parental “I know how you feel, I’ve been there too” tack isn’t well met in teenagers unless accompanied with a very specific story in which they can imagine themselves, and anyway this wasn’t the time. I didn’t really go heavy on sympathy, either. Instead I just said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“It’s OK,” she said.

And it was.

Kids.

ears down

Maine wins the “least cellphone reception in USA” award, for sure. It also ties with Louisiana for worst roads. Lovely, though… miles of untainted beauty. Too bad it’s under snow most of the year.

You ever wonder what signs and portents really are? Just simple confirmation bias? I’m sure there’s a doctoral thesis somewhere I could look up that’d give me the psychology or neurology of it, but it’s maybe more fun to imagine that the clouds are taking the shapes of the answers to all my questions.

Portents, though… if I went in for that stuff this trip would be rich with them. Things I read, people I meet, trees and mountains and water I stare into… the universe is on my wavelength, or I its, and we’re, like, communicating, man… And, it’s one thing for the air to tingle with personal messages for me…

… but it’s another thing entirely to listen.

That, dear friends, feels crazy.

west is the rest

Well, today is the day.

In a few hours from now, I’ll drain this coffee mug for the second time and we’ll drive away from Cobscook Bay State Park in Maine. And, if you know anything about downeast Maine geography, or US geography, for that matter, you’ll know that we really only have two of four cardinal directions available to move in.

Sure, we could go north into Canada, but that’s still a few days now. We could head back south, too. But no… today is the day we aim west and keep going… all our movement from this day forward starts with a capital W: W, WNW, WSW. Today is what I’ve been calling “the big turn.”

I’ve slacked on writing, I know. We had guests twice in the RV, people who flew out to stay with us for a week each. It was an excellent time both times but I wanted to be present and my normal morning constitutional time wasn’t as readily available. I think that’s why the writing took a hit.

Or maybe it’s this: I’m scared to go back and it’s all I want to write about, and not write about.

Not physically or geographically back. Worldview back, me-time back, wage-slave back. I’m still the same guy, just more potently so, having been distilled over the course of this trip, casting off the cruft that I’d invited to settle. Going back; regressing to ten hours days, corporate grade levels and titles… I finally just cast that chaff to the wind.

But keeping going is part of the process, the road has more refining yet for me, I think. Like I said before, moving in a particular direction doesn’t necessarily mean ending up at a particular place.

Hugs.

still does

One time a long time ago, back in highschool even, I received a compliment that sticks with me to this day.

Y’all have that? Something you remember someone saying about you, the way you act or respond or do something, that was so nice and so meaningful that years later you recall it fondly and it still has meaning to your pride? It’s funny, how something so small, maybe even said offhand, can have such long-term ego boosting power.

In my case, I wouldn’t think Sharaun has any memory of what she said back then, let alone that I still think of it to this day. Yes, it was Sharaun, my then girlfriend now wife, who’s simple words then still make me feel good now, some twenty years later.

So what did she say? Well, we were jogging together (for some reason), and she turned to me and said something to the effect of, “You’ve actually got a really nice running form.” That’s it. Maybe something about my stride and arm movement, I don’t exactly recall.

If y’all know me, and how absolutely uncoordinated at anything physical I am (reference material), let alone how insecure I am about my physical and sporting prowess (reference material), you might begin to understand why this particular small comment meant, and means, so much to me.

I don’t know if I have good running form, and I pretty sure she’s not qualified to make such a judgment, but her saying that really made me feel great.

Still does. Hugs.