My only choice is to give it to you straight out. During the weekend and the first half of this week, I went on two back-to-back road trips. Since returning, I’ve attempted to memorialize the trips into one fancy memoir filled with the deep meanings of the universe(s) and alternative reality zones, but I’m sorry to inform you that I’ve failed.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If you haven’t noticed, I write flash fiction, weird nonfiction, and memoir-type shorts on this blog. These little 1000-word jaunts into my mental world take a fair bit of hippocampic, as well as cerebral-cortical and medial-temporal-lobic energy. To put it bluntly, I set my brain afire twice a week. Unfortunately, it’s already totally lit up, baby!
Now, my mental spaces are extinguishing fast. So, as I said, I’ll tell you straight out that for the first road trip, I journeyed to El Paso with my husband and our friends John and Lisa. John is an incredible playwright, while Lisa is a multi-talented writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Owing to this combination of artistic energy [My husband is an intellectual fireman, all right? He burns things and then douses flames…..], the trip’s success was fated from the beginning.
We stayed in a cheap motel run by Apu [hey, I’m not the one who named him Apu!], ate cheap, tasty Mexican food, and found musical love at the Irish Mexican Festival. We might have even danced to the brass and guitars and accordion. We might have listened to dynamic political poetry slams. Um, yes we did, actually.
And when we arrived back at Apu’s motel after midnight, husband and I said good night to our friends, and I paused on the rise of the motel lot, and I gazed southward. The lights of Juarez caught me, tore me apart inside: they were tightly knit, millions of them sweeping below El Paso. I could have stared at the lights all night, or run into their mesh–or, perhaps, the tightly woven lights would have prevented me entry.
Juarez is no longer the kind of place I can escape with my family for the day or night or spring break. The violence has escalated to the extent that I wouldn’t dare carry my young ones across the Friendship Bridge. Of course, this brings sorrow, and this kind of sorrow inspires events such as the Irish Mexican Alliance and Festival, and so it isn’t worthless, after all. But at the same time, I long for that spring day years ago–the last trip to Juarez–when I crossed the border with my family, and we stopped off at the firehouse near the Friendship Bridge because my husband knew some of the bomberos there. And, later, we wandered the streets and prayed at the plaza church and ate food meant for tourists. Imagine a long wooden table and, by its side, an ice bucket filled with tiny beer bottles.
And that last band at the festival, the one with the diatonic accordion, yes, its music played in my mind for hours after we left El Paso. Through my sleep-deprived state, the lights of Juarez also knit themselves on the backs of my eyelids–a sort of dream scape created only in the mind of road trip survivors.
For the second jaunt, we carted our children to Albuquerque, dropping them off at their aunt and uncle’s house. We met our good friend, Jerry, a comedic author, for Indian food. He, like us, is gluten-intolerant, and Indian food provides us an array of menu items made with rice, lentils, and garbanzos. Thus fortified, we sallied to the Weird Al concert. This concert was Jerry’s birthday present to my husband, and he bought me a ticket, as well, kind friend that he is.
I’ve seen Weird Al, readers of mine. I’ve seen the genius, and what else do I have to do before I die? I watched him cavort with his enormous piano accordions and change costumes every song–I screamed the loudest when he sang “White and Nerdy”–because I am, and can. And the following day, after my senses and mind were overwhelmed with restaurants and motels, we picked up the children, and wouldn’t you know it, but they had visions of parks and ice cream dancing through their minds. They didn’t want to go home, to return to the pleasant resources of one’s own bed and toilet, of ready water and food.
Finally back at my pleasant place in the desert, after too many nights of no-sleep [insomniacs don’t sleep well in motel rooms, or after too much stimulation to their hippocampi, or too many horses and sea monsters], I sat at my dual-screen computer set-up, where I can bounce documents from one screen to the next–and I do, oh, yes, I do! And I did. I didn’t write a word, though. I scooted windows and tabs. I sat and felt empty inside and didn’t know how to write this memoir. What tied my experiences together? What could tie my world together, but my own goofiness?
I left my desk and fell in my bed in my tomb-like room with its black-out curtains, and I longed to sleep and reawaken as anything but a writer, thereby avoiding memoirs and truth and fiction. If I could only, my mind sighed in a tangled web of sleep. If I could only pull a mesh of lights over my head, I might reemerge as an accordionista who dances on stage, throwing my noodly arms and legs into the swing of the moment. Yes, I said noodly because I’m not an artist. I’m a comedian, readers, and it’s time you knew the truth.
I NEED to reemerge as an accordion player. I need to pick up my instrument and start again because I’m an artist, not a comedian, and I think really deep thoughts that only play to the diatonic.