His license plate holder indicates he is part of the 101st airborne and his movement and hair color suggests he hasn’t been active in quite some time.
I watch him struggle to get into the car and wander towards him but he anticipates my offer and waves me off.
“You aren’t coming home with me so I have to be able to do this myself.”
I nod and smile and move on to other business. It is only a couple of hours since I met with a retired marine but this time I am the old man.
Don’t know how many years I have on him, but it is enough. He says I seem like a shy guy and I say I can be.
“Did you do your boot camp down at Pendleton?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t like California.”
I want to ask him if it is because he didn’t like Boot Camp because San Diego has some of the best weather you’ll find, beaches and lots of other fine attributes but the meeting takes us in a different direction.
Instead of asking I give a two minute demonstration, “just put it in and in a couple of minutes you’ll be smiling.”
The three men watching nod their heads and one asks me how I can shift so naturally from topic-to-topic.
“I don’t know. Doesn’t always feel natural or smooth to me, but I have learned to push my way through. Sometimes you pump, sometimes you grind and sometimes you float.”
Dan Fogelberg is singing Longer on a station on Sirius and suddenly I am a kid sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon.
We’re somewhere in the Sierras, not sure if we are on our way to family camp or heading back to Southern California.
My kids haven’t had the same consistency of family vacations that my parents gave my siblings and I.
We went somewhere every year and I knew that come August we would be in the car rolling out on a new adventure.
But my kids have been lucky enough to fly far more than I did and have gotten a bunch of experiences I didn’t.
Though it sometimes bothers me they have moved a few times it also makes me confident they’ll be less sheltered and more capable of rolling with the challenges life presents than others.
They’ll know how to get along with all kinds of people and won’t be surprised the same way as some of the kids who have been stuck inside bubbles.
That is worth something.
But there are moments where we talk about places around California and I realize they don’t know the state the way I do.
It is not a horrible thing, but I want them to see Yosemite, to see the Redwoods and Sequoia. I want them to see old gold mining towns and to get a better idea of the California I know.
Not talking about it in the sense of trying to show them a memory either and at the same time I want them to see Texas.
They have seen chunks of it, it is hard not to when you drive between Dallas and LA and then LA to Dallas.
Sometimes they like to tell me the drive between states is proof they know what it means to take an old fashioned road trip.
I nod and smile and tell them it is only partially true.
“We didn’t have phones to play games or stream music/movies on. You could look out the window, read, or play car games. And you didn’t have a guarantee of good radio stations so you hoped the tape player worked and that you liked whatever your parents liked.”
They call me old, roll their eyes and I laugh.”
Got memories of sitting in the back of a convertible cruising around Santa Barbara while listening to the Steve Miller Band.
Heard tell of a potential opportunity that might lead to a visit there and starting to dig into a few others.
Looking like there will be a fair amount of travel in 2020 from the Deep South to the West and perhaps the Midwest and the East.
If the rumors are true I might finally hit that Rock and Roll Museum but we’ll take it step but step.
Given the past five days I have been pleasantly surprised with how well some things have gone and have had to remind myself to take a deep breath and settle down.
“Don’t get too high and don’t get too low–you’ll be less likely to be disappointed.”
That is what the voice inside my head says while another answers, “maybe it is ok to let go. Maybe this is finally it. Maybe you stumbled into something.
Joni Mitchell on Sirius and the memories keep flowing freely and it occurs to the parents I remember from when I was 10 aren’t even 40 yet.
They have four of us to deal with and they are just figuring it out as they go along.
Probably a good thing that I didn’t realize this 40 years ago, but still funny to think about.
And now 40 years late I stare at the picture of the convertible and think about taking it to go find America.
Think about the other countries and cities I want to visit and start to think about how to make it all happen.
Not willing to dream my life away, some things will happen, with or without others.
It is not complicated, just put it in.