It must be the years of living with two parents in the Army, the conditioning that comes with that lifestyle of continual change and the constant feeling of being on-edge. And though we moved around this gorgeous country a fair bit, in comparison to my neo-army brat counterparts, I was lucky. I had sustaining friendships that weren't uprooted every year, more like every five. As a small person, I knew two coasts, three states, and four cities before I even knew that I knew them. My first memories are a hodge-podge of patchy images moving with tall oak trees and Barbie doll birthday cakes gobbled up in vast backyards of itchy green grass. I also gleam snippets of me, my one and only very special brother, Wes, and our uncle Kenny- who is notoriously fond of rusty treasures- all on our hands and knees, searching for the leftovers of early American settlers buried in the cool mud of an abandoned Virginia battlefield.
When I was around four, my mother and father packed up once again and led us to Washington D.C., trying for a more exciting place, I suppose. Memories from this point are more precise...the hazy remnants of early childhood falling off like the eggshell of a newborn chick. I spent six years in what I can only call bliss, for I knew not of the impending changes that would arrive only months after my tenth birthday, nor did I even have the capacity to project much farther than my next lemonade stand, mud-pie business, or rope swing takeover. My friends and Wes -and sometimes his friends- were my world, as was my dog, Magic. In the humid Maryland summertime we ruled our rickety outdoor forts with elaborate, eternally changing sets of rules. We chased the ice-cream man for what felt like miles, crying out for a drippy Mickey Mouse face on a stick. In fall we raked leaves, sometimes for money if we were lucky, but nonetheless we were always inclined to jump in them whilst praying we dodge worms and sewer rats. In winter we built igloos, and played "kick the can" under the ancient Oak tree. I was perpetually too slow and always caught. If it was too cold, our steamy breath would billow out of our hiding spot, exposing us to whomever was it, huddled together then frantically launching our miniature legs into the sprint of a fugitive. Spring gave us eggs to hunt and with fervor characteristic to small children or adult geniuses we dedicated endless hours picking out each and every neon ellipsoid to be found. This was my life for about six years: dictated by four rich and fluid seasons and the equally sumptuous soul food delivered by the cocoa brown hands of my surrogate African mothers. In my eyes, everything else was minutia.
One typical mid-year day I was teaching myself “When the Saints Go Marching In” on my Casio keyboard when my parents arrived home with what was presented as an option, though in hindsight it was a greatly successful manipulation. I got to choose where we were to move next: Georgia, Arizona, or Saudi Arabia.
All I heard was “Peaches”, “Cowboys versus Indians”, and “Sawbee Adababia”…whatever that was. Naturally, I chose adventure and mystery. And what could be more thrilling than wild horses, men with long-rifled guns, Indians in face paint and a terrain crawling with critters. Furry, spiked, mean, stinky critters. Arizona we were headed.
I spent many a year in that desert very unhappy. In writing it looked much more appetizing, but that was before I could discern the difference between dessert and desert. The former proved to be much, much sweeter. It took me until I was able to drive to begin the appreciate the beauty that had been blossoming in fuchsia cactus flowers, setting in the purple sunset behind a jagged mountain face, squirming in colorful scaled skin, and swirling in a haphazard dust-devil through a parched stretch of clay. Once I began to acclimate to the insane heat and warm to the spicy green chiles, soft Oaxaca cheese, and the tart nopales jelly made from our front yard cacti, I was able to call this my home. When driving to a friend’s house, whether it was five or forty-five minutes from my own, I could take small dusty roads through relatively unknown territory and pretend to be the first explorer in the emptiness. I embodied the rugged cowboy that initially formed my image and expectations of Arizona.
This rosy period was short lived though, as are most infatuations. It faded like the saccharine passion of new lovers and while it lazily slipped away, I knew that I would have to leave. I understood that if I stayed in the gentle apathy of the Arizonian desert culture I would grow languid.
So, I did what I know how to do well. I moved. Far away to the Bay Area of California where I have remained since. And though technically still in the same area for 6 years, I can count the homes I’ve inhabited like roses in a bouquet. Here, the longest I’ve remained in one spot is two years. And that felt like the yellow brick road leading to permanent imprisonment.
As a result of my many moves, as well as being reared by two travelers, it does not surprise my loved ones any longer when they hear of my next step that includes some sort of move. I feed off the instability the change produces, the newness that bubbles up and out it.
This leads me to my next step- one wholly different than any others lain before it. Uncreatively named “The RV Experiment”, it is exactly what it sounds like. Well, that actually depends on what your associations with RVs and experiments are. I’m not producing methamphetamine. Nor am I what one may call trailer-trash; I’m not planning on getting a shotgun, a hound-dog, or a sloppy wife…though, at least one of those may be good protection for a gal living off the grid. No, no. I’m living in my RV for one year, beginning with December 16th, 2011, which was the first night I officially lived in it, having spent the entire night tucked away in the fleecy sheets of my lofted bed. “Sweet Pea”, as she will be referred to for the remainder of the experiment, is a 1977 Dodge Establishment with a 440 Engine. She’s OLD. Technically she is considered a classic and I’m kind in saying that she is ugly. Something more along the lines of….busted. Anyway, she works. And that’s what I was aiming for when purchasing this hunk-o-metal. This experiment is designed to document at least one year spent living off the grid, per say, in an urban environment in unconventionally urban housing. I aim to describe my experience with as much candor as I can, and it appears that it won’t be difficult to find prodigious humorous scenarios to boot.
This is entry #1.
Many more to come. Thanks for following me on this journey.