If you’re in Canada, or you’ve ever lived there, or you’ve ever been to one of the major summer fairs from Manitoba on westward, you know me. You don’t know you know me, but you know me.
I’ll give you a hint. 😉
I was born into a seasonal gypsy life. I don’t mind the word “gypsy”. I’ve been called worse and honestly, I don’t even see it as anything negative in the first place. To me, it’s not a slur. For me, the word holds a nostalgic and sentimental meaning, legends and mysticism. What did kids dream about before they cultivated pipe dreams of “becoming famous” or emulating Paris Hilton? In the pre-socialite, pre-effortless-entitlement days, long before everybody got a trophy just for showing up to the game and nobody heard the word “no”, every kid dreamed of running away and joining the circus.
Well, I was born into that.
We based our existence on truck stops and public showers in between “spots” or cities. We slept in a thin-walled fifth-wheel trailer, either listening to drunks urinate on the wheel wells outside our sleeping quarters, or tilted on the shoulder of a lonely desolate highway as the wind whipped across the northern plains all night.
We took shelter in tall buildings made of glass when the sky grew too green, long after the flags had changed wind direction and everyone in the traveler tribe ran around to all their neighbors to make sure all tents were secured with guy wires made from ropes weighed down by the adjacent parked semi-trucks.
In those days, we didn’t have the robotic automated weather channel on the Walkie Talkie; we had flags and a sky. And we watched carefully. We knew when something was rolling in or fixing to brew long before it hit. And when our spiny senses tingled, we made sure everyone else knew, too.
That was Canada; this is Texas.
That was the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and this is 2017.
Whatever happened to that life?
It’s a string of memories now, held together by ropy and discolored journals.
I still have them.
They’ve traveled with me.
They’re as real as I am, and as old as the original event. They preserve its authenticity, preventing the memory from fading, morphing, distorting.
Maybe one day, I’ll set up a separate blog site and put my journal entries and pictures on it. Like a travel blog, but in retrospect. I’ll blank out the names, of course. But it probably wouldn’t be real tough to figure out who we are.
It’s not like no one knows us. And yet, no one knows us. They know the logo, even if they’re not familiar with the faces behind it.
If you’ve ever stepped up to grab a bag of donuts, you’ve probably seen my face. Any reference to a “Donut Princess” is very tongue-in-cheek; we worked as hard as anyone. I’ve been working, helping in some capacity, since I was 2. I learned to bag the donuts and cashier (no calculator) when I was 9. By age 12, I was training in people twice my age. By 15, I was mixing dough, lifting 20-kg (44-lb) bags of flour; that’s also the year I became the junior manager of a big trailer, and my petite mother’s bodyguard (she had gotten knifed at the wrist by a thug while carrying a knapsack of about $10k at 3am when I was young, and that wasn’t going to happen on my watch, now that I was advancing to high ranks in karate). By age 21, I made senior manager of the smaller trailer.
And then I promptly “retired” from the company at the end of that summer.
The Gypsy Gene never left my blood, though. I’ve started to wonder if it’s actually a part of my DNA or something.
One road leads to another. Where one road ends, another begins.
I’ve moved many miles away from my origins, in search of the home I never had, homesick for a place I have never been.
I live much closer to a different border now.
Every so often, I need a “road fix”, a good long drive that simulates my previous life. Where we get in the truck and keep going and going.
My favorite places now include the Texas Hill Country on west, into New Mexico, Arizona, and probably southern Utah, although of course, the further west I drift, the bigger a chunk of time I need, and the harder that is to come by, so the rarer an experience it is.
As it is, I live on the edge of the Hill Country, where the eastern border of the Great American Southwest collides with the upper limit of the tropics. Aside from the humidity, it’s the best place for me to be.
The further west I go, the more vibrantly my soul sings. Dry lands fill my spirit. The Trans-Pecos region of Texas calls my name, temptingly, daring me to shirk responsibility for a while and wander aimlessly.
I prefer the remote, where the traffic thins out and mile markers become familiar friends. Hi guys; how the hell are ya?
Soon all that’s left is an exhausted sun and an exhausted me, for it’s indeed exhausting, the amount of effort it takes to finally rid myself of other humans. But the sun and I keep going, even if all we have is each other. We can always depend on each other.
The sun is so trusty.
You know you’re in interesting places when you start seeing signs like…
“Hitchhikers may be escaped inmates.”
“Road may flood.”
“Cross winds may become dangerous.”
“Watch for falling rocks.”
Awesome. That’s when I know I’ve driven far enough. That’s when I know I’ve arrived.