A Sentimental Journey

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I think that somewhere between Buffalo, New York and Phoenix, Arizona I must have hit the bottom. The thing about the bottom is that only in retrospect can one tell if one has been there or not. It might not be recognized upon arrival. Asking one’s self, “Is this the bottom?” is of no use. One  never knows if it might be possible to slip lower still.

Indeed, I did not understand that I had hit the bottom and was on the way back up until I looked through the motley collage of images stored on my camera. I had forgotten about this one. If you have a few minutes, I’ll tell you the story.

When I left Canada, I had no rational excuses for complaining. I had worked some things out. My immediate future was assured, insofar as one’s future can ever be guaranteed. I had settled family obligations as well as a life-long black sheep absentee can ever do. I had visited, conversed with, made the right noises, put on the appropriate clothes and been effusively grateful for all of the kindnesses which seemed to spring from some bottomless well of good will. In short, I was ready for What Comes Next.

The problem was that I could not find reason for expectations. Hope is sometimes a cruel mistress. One becomes timid of the lashes meted out by life. To hope is to expose the stripped back once again to the vagaries of the universe. Where there is hope there is also the risk of pain and disappointment. It is feels safer to be seduced by feigned indifference and passivity, to allow oneself to be dragged along with the flow of happenstance. It is easier to sit there in a nameless airport lounge eating plastic food from a plastic bag and say that I don’t really care any more. If I just keep telling myself that, it will be true. To sit and wait, not knowing for what.

At some convenience store on the way to the airport, Hans and I stopped for a last chance for cheap sustenance. Frugality prevents me from purchasing anything non-essential at an airport. In line with my mood I decided to discover how inexpensively I could fill my growling belly with sufficient bulk to tide me over until the next watering hole. As I perused the offerings my eye was caught by a familiar label from my impoverished youth:

Yes, for $1.86 I could tank up on calories and pump enough sugar into my blood to keep me from getting dizzy. My plan was to eat it in the departure lounge. What I failed to consider was the Spanish Inquisition of our day, the universally dreaded TSA.

Nobody interfered with my right to consume degrading food in a public place until I came to the station where one’s most intimate body parts are displayed as if they were party favors on a giant x-ray screen. I dutifully removed my shoes, my $8.00 suit coat, my black fedora and unpacked my innocent Toshiba computer from its hidey-hole and placed them all in the plastic trays for their trip through the place of exposure.  My ravioli caught the attention of the protectors of our security.

You know the drill. The TSA man stepped in front of me and asked, rather too sternly, I think, “Is this your back pack?” I freely admitted so. He proceeded to tell me that my can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli was contraband and could not be allowed to accompany me to the departure lounge. I told him that I was planning to eat it before I boarded the plane, where it might be considered genuinely dangerous to something other than my digestive system. As he walked away with the potential weapon I dedcided to live very dangerously and spoke the hazardous words, “It’s sad when you’re forced to take away an old man’s breakfast.” He seemed to stumble a little. When he returned a minute or so later, he said, “You can keep it.”

At that point one of those crazy metaphors entered my head unannounced. I pictured a harmless forest animal cowering against a tree as a hunter pointed a gun at its head. When the trigger is pulled all that is heard is “CLICK”. Picture a cartoon of it. That’s what I saw in my head. Maybe that was the bottom. I don’t know. I said, “That’s very kind of you. Thank you.”

And then there was Sedona. Have you seen the beautiful performance of Peter Sellers playing out his best roll in the movie, Being There?  This kind of surreal unexpected turn is what I’m talking about. Things start getting replaced by other things willy-nilly. Fear gives way to confidence, puzzlement to certainty. Laughter pushes sadness aside and depression is savaged by a soaring spirit. Doom and gloom begone! In the movie simple-mindedness was suddenly seen as profound. But Chance could not be transformed until he was released from the prison of pity in which he lived. His transformation was one of appearances and interpretation. Mine is real.

I heard about this old trunk and Grace’s hope for its future when we first pulled into her garage where it has lived for some years in the quiet company of garden tools and old school records:

Grace’s plan for the old trunk was to give it a purpose in life. She pictured it in a place where it could shine and be useful as an humble table for cool drinks in the toasty Arizona afternoons. I saw its beauty and its message under layers of rust and dust. As Grace insisted, paint was not the answer. It would only hide the story of the trunk. I began to formulate a title for my first Sedona art. It would be called Just Returned from a Sentimental Journey.  At this point is is only half finished. My plan is to find two pairs of boots, one pair of men’s boots and one pair for a lady. I will fill them full of concrete and place bolts in the tops. I will then bolt the boots underneath the trunk, the woman’s boots facing to the right on the right end of the trunk and the man’s boots following on the left side walking in the same direction. This will make an amusing table for the patio. Sedona is a place where artistic inclinations can be allowed to run rampant. Nothing is too outrageous.

All around me is beauty. An otherwise mundane trip to the grocery store is made magical by God’s Own Art:

Even ant hills pretend to be something they are not:

Lowly desert grasses speak of hidden resources of strength in the hard red soil that gives them life:

And I have not yet scratched the surface of the wealth of hard-living flora which speckle the deceptively barren landscape:

I have but a while to appreciate the austere beauty of this desert nearly a mile high in the thin atmosphere. No wonder I feel breathless most of the time.

Three years ago I was here visiting Grace with Eunie. I remember the holiday very well. We were consolidating our lives and planning for a sweet future of growing old together. We saw the Grand Canyon. I got my final tattoo, one I had been planning for a year. Many things have changed in my life since then. The loss of Eunie devastated me. I am still surprised that I survived it. It was a very close call. Along the worrisome way my new tattoo faded, the victim of my impatience to get it done quickly. I lost much ink when my arm swelled from the trauma of a too-quick job. I had in mind to return to the same shop to get it repaired:

The delightfully decorated young lady is a skin artist at Avatar Tat2 in Cottonwood, Arizona. Mery Bear is very skilled and has a deft touch. I would recommend her to anyone wishing to improve on God’s handiwork. Mery did an excellent job of renewing the colours on my arm. It is now bright and cheery.

I am, in total, being renewed. In the process I am happy to find that the best of the past is coming along with me. Eunie is as fresh in my mind as if I had had breakfast with her this morning.

Is this real or am I going to wake up? Time will tell.

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18 Responses to “A Sentimental Journey”

  1. Global Citizen Says:

    A win against airport security! There is nothing worse then rent-a-cop security flexing what they believe is their power. But your “karma” for want of a better name obviously overpowered his evilness!

  2. MadDog Says:

    Justin, Mark Twain had a cute phrase for that kind of authority inflation. He called it “insect authority”. If your ship comes near Sedona, you should drop by. This place is fantastic.

    The “Pathetic Old Man” scam has worked miracles for me many times. I know it is underhanded, but I need every edge I can get.

  3. Jay Griffin Says:

    It’s as real as your response to it.

    May you now soar out of the valley of those shadows of depression.

  4. Global Citizen Says:

    ah Sedona, the only place in the world where the McDonalds store has Turquoise coloured arches!

  5. Ali Says:

    Thats a spunky trunk! Can’t wait to see the photos of it’s next journey.
    I’m surprised they let an old hippy like you, packin’ a loaded can of ravioli thru airport security huh?
    It’s pasta-joke really!………….
    Welcome back !

  6. kristy Says:

    Way to play the old man card!! Hope Sedona continues to treat you well!! Life is full of ups and downs….glad to see that you are on an up at the moment!

  7. MadDog Says:

    Jay, the welcoming spirit here frees me to respond naturally and without fear. There was a prison in that valley; I was an inmate. Now I’ve been pardoned.

    I have a strong sense that we are all together in love and nobody has been left behind.

  8. MadDog Says:

    Justin, you are so right. It’s spooky. One the one hand Sedona is free spirited and nearly chaotic. On the other it is highly regimented. A hippie commune it is not. The absence of the huge Golden Arches is amusing. It’s a point of pride for Sedona that the community subdued the mighty McDonald’s empire and bent it to the sensibilities of the Mother Ship.

  9. MadDog Says:

    Ali, my creative juices are on the flow. I see art in every scrap of wood and rock. I’ll have to get that under control.

    I reckon that the TSA guy did not suspect that I was a man at the bottom with nothing to lose. If he had only realized how dangerous I was at that moment he might not have had the guts to take away my breakfast. It’s nice to be able to laugh about it now. It’s good to be back.

    A very funny vision spontaneously appeared in my mind just now. Picture an emaciated, crazed old man leaping over the counter at the heavily weaponized TSA inspection station. He snatches the tin of Chef Boyardee Ravioli from the hand of the surprised agent and commences to beat him senseless with it while burly uniformed defenders rush to the scene jacking rounds into the chambers of their shiny black semi-automatic weapons. Oh, how I’d love to see myself in the security tapes on CNN! I’d finally get my 15 minutes of fame.

  10. MadDog Says:

    Kristy, I’ve been playing the pitiful old man card for years, long before I really looked the part. I once cried my way out of a US$1,000 excess baggage charge at the Frankfort, Germany airport. It took me half an hour, but it was worth every tear. Really, I’m shameless.

  11. Ali Says:

    Hey!! Don’t subdue those wild creative juices Jan.
    In my experience, inspiration can be very contageous and is quite often brought on by happiness.
    So let ’em flow and share the joy! Anyway, this world can never have too much rock and wood art …….. SO GO CRAZY!

  12. MadDog Says:

    Ali, I saw one of those incredible red cliffs yesterday on the way back from Phoenix and I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to paint every other rock green. I may find it difficult to stay stay out of jail.

  13. Ali Says:

    Purple would be, like, wierd man…. but green, yeah that could be nice…….haaaaa ha !
    ( BTW… I want what you’re having!! )
    Stranger things have happened in the name of art you know. If a guy named Christo (now famous for his over sized gift wrapping) could get away with wrapping a 5.5 mtr high, 2.5 km long white nylon fence around the county of Sanoma in North California, you can surely manage to paint a bit of the Arizona desert rocks green yeah? Sadona- Sanoma… is there a pattern forming here??
    Jail- Shmail… We’ll post bail…let yourself go!!!

    Chef Boyadee and his can of Raviola may well have inspired you on to greater things Jan….Look what happened to “Andy” after tasting a can of Campbell’s Tomato soup! ha ha ha
    Long live art, love, happiness and humour!!
    Bring on the photos! xx

  14. Ali Says:

    Hey Jan, I love Hunter S. Thompson. (The King of Gonzo Journalism) Do know of him?
    He said, (amongst thousands of other notable things) “If you’re gonna be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up” ha ha ha.

    PS. Im sorry for spelling Sedona incorrectly in my previous response.

  15. MadDog Says:

    Ali, I’m having so much fun that I’m getting behind in my replies – sorry. If you like HS Thompson, you’ll get a kick out of this Youtube clip of him in 1988 on the Dave Letterman show.

    Who cares how it’s spelled? I certainly don’t.

  16. MadDog Says:

    Did I mention purple? Where did you get that? What have you been smoking? What is it that you think I’m having, anyway? Hey, I’m on a natural high.

    I think Christo was at his best when he gift-wrapped the Reichstag. It took him 24 years to get approval. I suspect that I’d not live long enough to have my rock painting blessed by the Sedona Town Fathers and Mothers (and resident aliens). No, I’ll have to take the risk of my first jail term. Well, I haven’t done the jail thing yet. I’m surprised that I haven’t gotten around to it.

    I have never figured out how Australians know so much about old American TV shows. I remember Andy Griffith raving on about the wonderfulness of Campbell’s soup. Did that lead to artistic fame? Huh?

    Nice photo of Grace in my latest post.

  17. Ali Says:

    Smokin?…me smokin??… NEVER! If you breath enough of this Toogoolawah air, you get a bit weird and start to find humour and colour in everything. ( Too much cattle dip I’d reckon! ha ha )
    There must be something good in that Sedona Air huh? ….What ever it is, you just keep sucking in the magic ok, ’cause it’s doing you the world of good.
    Surely, nobody will notice a few green bolders amid the red, especially the aiiens…
    Thanks for the Letterman Link BTW.
    Now, as for Aussies and old American TV. OH.. COME ON NOW ……You can’t fool me here. Aunt Bee would NEVER, NEVER, have permitted Andy or Opie to have eaten “TINNED” soup….she was the Queen of home cooking in Mayberry!!
    Besides, EVERYONE knows Andy Griffith became famous for his musical ability, and not as an artist ! Nobody can whistle like Andy! haaaaa!
    IT IS a lovely picture of Grace Jan. Hope to see more soon.
    PS I rememember Reichstag..I think he got into a bag of trouble over it in the end…(maybe not jail tho?)

  18. MadDog Says:

    Ali, I do remember getting sort of high in Toogoolawah. I attributed it to the eucalyptus oil wafting through the air. I really think that on some days you could see a haze of it in the atmosphere over the forests. Or, it could be the cattle dip, eh?

    You are right, Ali. I do not recall ever seeing Aunt Bee open a tin of anything. She reminds me of my grandmother, always cooking.

    Okay, I’m going to cut this short, because you’re going to want to spend some time with these links. Here are not one but TWO parrots whistling the theme song of the Any Griffith show. This is the best one. And here’s another.