Wandering Far

Winning is relevant only if battle was inevitable. Fighting unnecessary wars is stupid. -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

May 29-June 10, 1989

In the summer of 1989, when the women started talking about a working vacation in Colorado, H and I knew better than to put an oar in. There’s such a thing as winning the battle and losing the war, and we’d both been married long enough to know the difference.

 

I have a thing for unlikely matches.

Back in the day, nobody saw The Woman and me as an obvious match. In fact, one night her roommate staged an intervention, listing all the reasons why she should break up with me at her earliest convenience and set her sights on a suitable life partner.  The main theme focused on her perception that I was a dope-smoking, long-haired loser who couldn’t go the distance when the going got tough. Turns out, two out of three ain’t enough.

To my shame, I can’t resist a touch of schadenfreude when I observe that The Woman and I are 40+ years deep in marital bliss with no regrets. In fact, it is our life theme.

 

Live without regret.

It is an attitude, a way of approaching life that I highly recommend.

As everyone knows implicitly from the moment they meet her, and as the inevitable global empirical study has verified beyond contradiction, The Woman is the nicest person in the world. And I am a high-functioning goofball. This is known.

I have spent a lifetime playing Court Jester for my Queen without a nanosecond of regret. If you want a diverting, amusing conversation, I am your man. If you run into one of life’s many tragedies, you want The Woman at your side. This also is known.

To set the stage for the working vacation, in the early 80s my band broke up and my closest friends left town. (A story for another time.) I was left adrift, but I assumed that as I had made friends before, I could make other friends just as easily. I had not taken into consideration the degree to which I am an odd duck.

I have a theory. We are all looking for our tribe, and we live our best life when we find it. In the most unlikely environment imaginable, a radically conservative East Texas college, I lucked into my tribe. I ended up in the aforementioned band with select members of my tribe. It just happened. And because it fell into my lap, I had no idea how rare a thing it was.

I should have known better. I had spent my childhood as a stranger in a strange land. I had bounced around six schools across state boundaries without finding my people. I was a fool to think it would be a small thing to stumble upon another miracle. The band broke up and after a year of concerted effort, I awoke to the truth. You can’t fashion a golem into a soulmate.

I put my head down and soldiered on. I knew the drill. I had lived it most of my life. You take what you can get, even the crumbs, and keep going. Get up in the morning. Do the needful. Pay the bills. Lie down. Rinse and repeat.

Then a thing happened. In the mid 80s, due to various life circumstances, The Woman’s closest friends left town. At first, I chalked it up as the way of life, but as the months passed I realized that what was business-as-usual for the gander wouldn’t fly for the goose. Unlike me, she hadn’t built up an immunity through a lifetime as an outsider. Her nature couldn’t accommodate the life of a drudge. Something must be done.

Her search was no easier, but one thing became clear. It wasn’t enough to find a new friend for her. The relationship would never survive as a one-to-one proposition. It had to be couple-to-couple. And, although he never suspected it and is probably still unaware, that was how it came down to H and me.

Talk about an unlikely pairing. There was nothing obvious about it, but I was determined to make it work. I studied his interests as I have never done for another person before or since. I studied his ways, discovered his favorite music. His favorite reading. His favorite pastimes. We hung out independent of the women. Guy time.

Thus came my first Superbowl hangout. My first dove-hunting trip. I learned the sacred rituals of tobacco and pipes. Watched Agatha Christie movies and read the novels.  Was initiated into the mysteries of sitting quietly on the deck, watching the sunset with pipes and sparse conversation.

Months passed. Years passed. And one day I realized I had set out on a quest to fill the vacuum left by the departure of The Woman’s friends, but in the process I had unwittingly had found my tribe. A new tribe. A tribe of two.  And that worked for me.

For my part, I introduced H to jazz. That was my sole contribution, but it carried weight. Jazz is the essence of relationship. Improvisation. Trading ideas. Building on what is laid down by the other. In the moment. Evanescent. Solid.

Some might ask if a true friendship can be engineered with such deliberation. To them I say you know not of which you speak. I can’t speak for H, but for my part, we came to know each other as brothers. The warp and the woof, the good and the bad.

Here is the test. If you can sit in comfortable silence with a man, speaking only when thought or occasion demands, and feel no awkwardness or compulsion to fill the void with mindless chatter, understanding each other without need for words, then what would you call him if not friend? The best kind of friend in my view.

If you find one such person in your life, you are fortunate. If you find more than one, you are indeed rich and need not defer to anyone. And if you lose that bond, it is a loss to be mourned.

But I digress. This is a story about wandering far.

Thus came the women and their proposition of a two-week working vacation in Salida, Colorado. An older couple had a vacation property in a small town that needed repainting. We had one week to paint and another week to enjoy Colorado, all rent-free. Sweat equity as it were.

I was not a fan. Neither was H. But as intuitive students of Sun Tzu, we knew when to choose our battles. There are some things, objectionable things, that one must shut down immediately regardless of the cost. Then there are things that, while objectionable, if one objects, one will incur consequences far more objectionable than the thing itself. This was one of those things. The second kind. The objectionable objection kind.

And that is how on one hot Texas summer day we came to be driving a rented extended van packed with snacks and children on a trek from Texas to Colorado to paint a house and embark on adventures. Of course I packed the camera. And the chess set.

The chess set had one purpose—to keep me awake on the first leg of the journey.

Here is a life tip. If you have a long road trip ahead of you, start just before sunset and drive through to sunrise. Of course, you must employ strategies to stay between the two ditches. A good selection of podcasts is a good bet, but we had no podcasts in the 80s. I took the midnight shift, H riding shotgun, the wife and kids in the back. My plan was threefold: conversation, chess, music.

I talked with H as long as I could, but when conversation flagged, I engaged The Number One Sun in a chess match. He sat behind me, magnetic pieces on metal board. I gave him the first move, he told me his move, I told him mine, and he made the move on the board.

We proceeded in this fashion for a hundred miles or so, getting into the occasional fracas when he failed to move my piece as instructed and the game on the board failed to match the game in my head. He fell asleep before checkmate and I resorted to CDs  to distract me.

The sun came up somewhere around New Mexico and we switched drivers.

Eventually we arrived at our destination, not much worse for wear beyond a road-weary bone ache and an exploded bag of Ruffles in the back of the van. Altitude and air pressure, real things, with or without ridges.

-o-

The first week was devoted to painting a two-story, gingerbread-infested house too cute to live. But I wasn’t allergic to work.

In high school I worked summers on a truck farm, picking all manner of vegetables and fighting off bull nettle and various wasps and snakes and other varmints. In college I paid the bills as a janitor, a brickyard worker, a resident Gentile in a conservative synagogue, on the cleanup crew in a turkey processing plant, and stripping airplanes for painting. And as the editor for the college newspaper, but I don’t tell anyone about that.

During that week in Colorado I learned a few things about myself. The most salient detail for the job at hand was that when it came to heights, the best I could hope for was clinging white-knuckled to a ladder while painting the trim on a second-story window.

Some people will tell you that you need to push the edge of the envelope, take it to the next level, face your fears and conquer them.

Those people are idiots. I say that in a spirit of love. To the idiots. I love you, but you are an idiot.

When you’re climbing 20 feet in the air with a four-inch brush in your back pocket and a bucket in one hand, trying to figure out how to take the next step without taking your hand off the rung in front of your eyes, all the Tony Robbins burning-coal pep talks in the world can’t peel your fingers from the one bit of aluminum that stands between you and certain death. 

Tell it to the next guy, the gee-whiz aw-shucks guy who was born yesterday and just now fell off the turnip truck.  But don’t tell it to me. If that is what it takes to soar with the eagles, I’m happy to roost with the turkeys on a lower branch. Those turkeys are smart. Just ask Ben Franklin next time you’re chatting with him.

I did manage to paint the accent color on the trim of a circular window that looked in on the landing of the staircase, and I was proud to do it.

That left it to H to hang off the roof with one hand while painting the gable window with the other. We made a good team, the groundhog and the gable monkey. But I must point out that he was a lineman for the county, and I could beat him in chess. Just saying.

What you looking at?

I think I might have gone off course there. Where was I? Oh yeah.

The highlight of that week was listening to KDMN 1450 AM (now KSKE) out of Buena Vista, which the locals called Byuoona Vista, as we learned when we made the half-hour trip there to pick up a spray rig to paint the broad expanses of the house. It was the kind of radio station that read the principal’s honor roll students, high school, junior high and elementary, and good on ’em. 

My favorite news stories of that week were of a power outage and the new truck stop in Fort Collins on I-25.

The first story started with reports of a garbage truck fire. The announcer said, “Sightings were reported at the 700 block of Main, the 800 block of Main, the 900 block of Main . . . ” The driver continued, oblivious, to the dump, where, when he checked his rear view mirror and realized his truck was on fire, he panicked and hit a utility pole, knocking out power to half of the town for a few hours.

He reminded me of a dump-truck driver I knew during my time working at Henderson Clay in Marshall, Texas, a wiry twist of a man with an attitude to match. He could cuss a streak so blue it should rightly be called indigo. Since I can’t recall his name, let’s just call him Twitch.

The job of taking tickets from the drivers dumping sand was the cush job, but Stormin’ Norman had it locked up, mainly by being worthless at doing anything else, so I spent most of my time stacking wet bricks on railroad cars headed to the kiln or dry bricks headed to construction sites. Not a cush job by any stretch, the curse of the competent.

One glorious day, Norman quit and the one-eyed foreman tapped me. It was a simple  job. Sit on a log in the shade and wait for dump trucks to arrive, guide them to the edge of a 40-foot cliff of sand where they would back up just enough to hang the tailgate over the edge without backing over it, and then dump their load. That done, I would hand them a ticket and they would head back for another load.

All the other drivers accomplished this task without drama, but Twitch was his own worst enemy. Sometimes, despite my coaxing, he wouldn’t back far enough before dumping his load, leaving a large pile that would block the next driver. Then I would have to track down the front-end loader to come and push it over the edge.

On this occasion, Twitch couldn’t seem to line up with the edge. After several attempts, he slammed the truck into first, popped the clutch, and the truck convulsed forward. He slammed on the brakes, ground it into reverse, and popped the clutch again, but the truck did nothing. Horrible noises emanated from the transmission as he shoved the shifter hither and yon and tried again.

Eventually I walked up to the truck, looked under the chassis, and noticed that the front end of the drive shaft was lying on the ground. I tapped on his window, cringing at the thought of his reaction when I told him that he had busted the U-joint.

It took me a while to get his attention, but eventually he climbed down out of the truck and looked underneath. When he grasped the essence of the situation, without a word he reached into the cab, grabbed his smokes, walked over to the log in the shade, sat down, and smoked a cigarette. I bummed one, sat down next to him, and we smoked in silence.

After five minutes or so, Twitch stood, tossed the butt into the dirt, twisted it under the sole of his boot, and walked away without a word, leaving the truck behind.

I never saw him again.

But I thought of him as I stood on a ladder two stories in the air cutting in on the trim of the landing window, seeing him in the driver’s seat of the garbage truck driving though downtown Buena Vista, Colorado, his load on fire behind him, taking out the power of half the town and  tossing a cigarette behind him as he walked away in silence.

Was he walking back to a woman who would welcome him home or fear the sound of his step on the threshold? Children who would rush to greet him or retreat to a safe corner? What were the ingredients required to put together this incarnation? What was handed down to him and what did he bring to it?

If he put his mind to it, could Twitch become the kind of man who backed to the edge with precision, dump a perfect load every time, calmly notice the the fire in his truck and grab an extinguisher to deal with it instead of plunging half the town into darkness?

Could he become the kind of man who could swing off the edge of the dormer thirty feet in the air to paint the trim one-handed with nary a thought of the thirty feet of empty air between him and death or remain the kind of man who clutched a rung of the ladder with one hand while holding out a trembling brush to paint the circular window trim in a carefully chosen accent color?

But then I realized I had quit preaching and gone to meddling. I finished off the window, slowly returned to earth and rinsed off my brush like a sensible person.

I did hear one more story of Twitch, delivered by Saunders, who had snagged the cush job while I had been ordered back to stacking bricks. One day Saunders guided Twitch to the edge, but Twitch was over eager and backed too far. His rear wheels sank into the soft sand left by previous drivers, and the truck transitioned into a slow-motion tumble down the soft 40-foot cliff as Twitched bounced around inside like a BB in a box car. Saunders said Twitch survived and walked away. I never knew if he was an owner-operator of the truck or just an employee, but I have my suspicions.

Meanwhile, back in Colorado, the other news story of the day was the opening of a new business on I-25 called Debbie Does Donuts, a topless truck stop. To make sure we’re all on the same page, the topless part applied to the waitresses, not the trucks.

All decent-minded residents of Fort Collins had risen up in arms to protest it. The news story led H and me to multitudinous speculations of possible marketing slogans. As they say in the math textbooks, the solution is left as an exercise to the reader.

-o-

All good things must come to an end. More to the point, all things eventually come to an end, both good and bad. And indifferent things. All the things. They end. It’s the nature of a temporal world.

Things happen and then they stop happening and something else happens. That’s the whole truth of it, but nobody will put that on a poster. Doesn’t scan, really, and who can blame them? I mean, who would buy that poster?

[inspirational poster that says: Things happen and then they stop happening and something else happens.]

The point is that eventually we painted the dang house and cleaned out the spray rig and took it back to Buena Vista and got our deposit back. Didn’t see Twitch driving a garbage truck, but I have no doubt he was lurking in the offing.

Thus began week two. The fun week. We did many things in that week, but once again two things stand out.

You know how it is. You decide to visit some exotic place, a locale nothing like your basic Central Texas black-dirt flatland, and you are reduced to depending on travel magazines and brochures in the visitor center to tell you what to do.

These days, no matter where I am, I know what to do. Hang out on the deck with scotch and cigars and good company. Good things come of such moments.

It’s funny what happens when a body finds a thing to do that diverts the mind from the relentless demand for interaction and releases the fretful self to wander free.

 

I wish I had learned to fish
To embrace the hours and not the outcome
To marinate in the moment
To learn what would come

Some find it in fishing. Some find it in gardening. I’m told some find it in meditation, but like prayer, I found it led me to sleep, not enlightenment.  But this is a topic for another time.

Like any good American tourists, we sought out the quintessential experience for the locale, and we found it in a trail ride on a fourteener, one of the 96 mountains in the US that rise more than fourteen thousand feet into the sky, 53 of which are in Colorado. More specifically, the most proximate fourteener, Mt. Princeton, a half-hour drive away. 

 

“John Spencer, where is the sky?”
“It’s up there.”
“And where does it it start?”

Pause. “At the ground.”

We are all of us walking in the sky.

We gathered at the corral, were assigned horses and dutifully allowed our horses to follow the trail guide, a youth barely old enough to vote, as we wended our way through the aspens and across creek beds. The Good Daughter rode in front of me, The Number One Son behind. 

The day was pleasant, the temperature in the seventies, a stark contrast to the nineties we had left behind in Texas. The sky was a startling robin-egg blue, flecked with friendly clouds.

But we know about things, don’t we? Good or bad, they come to an end, and the next thing comes.

We eased up onto a plateau at about ten thousand feet. The vista opened up, dotted with cactus and scrubby mesquites, and we saw other fourteeners in the distance.

Then the wind kicked up, and the temperature dropped ten degrees or more. Dark, swollen clouds rolled in as if guided into place by malevolent stage hands. But we were prepared, clad in flannel for the cooler climes of the mountain. No worries.

Until the rain set in. A soft, gentle rain. A female rain as the Navajo name it. A rain that slowly and relentlessly soaked us, clinging our shirts to the skin. And then the temperature dropped another ten degrees and the sleet lurched onstage, intermittent at first, but then as merciless as a barrage from BB guns. 

We were on the mesa. There was no escape, but it was no use telling the horses. My particular mount sought refuge under the mesquite trees, whose branches started within an inch or two of horseback height.

The horse could duck its head down and edge underneath, but I was not given the option. I had the choice of being dragged off the horse by a branch or jerking the reins toward open mesa. I did the needful.

Ahead of me, The Good Daughter’s horse plodded along, enduring the inevitable.  Behind me, The Number One Son had a different issue. His horse decided the best course of action was to buck and canter, coming up alongside my horse.  He called out.

“Daddy, help!”

“What?”

“My horse.” He left unspoken what needed no explanation.

That damn horse! What could I do? I was no cowboy.  I lacked the experience to  control my own horse, much less ride up next to him and make his horse behave. 

I had only seconds to respond. As I pulled on the reins to avoid being swept off my horse by a proximate mesquite branch, I uttered these timeless words of wisdom to my ten-year-old son.

“Son, there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to deal with the situation at hand. This is that time.”

It was all I had to offer, however paltry, but it seemed do do the trick. He soldiered on.

Somehow we escaped the mesquites, and the sleet abated. The guide radioed to home base, and a few minutes later we approached a road where a truck with a horse trailer waited to take the kids and their horses back to the corral. The adults had to take the final thirty minutes of the trail ride on horseback, soaked to the skin, looking like drowned rats.

Whatever my failings as a father in that moment, I console myself with the knowledge that The Number One Son took that message to heart.  He has weathered much worse storms than he encountered on that mountain, has descended into deeper valleys than I could have ever imagined, but has done what a man must do.

When it all comes down to what it comes down to, I think the best we can hope for is to leave the world a better place than we found it.  Will those who come after us be better for us having been here? Only time will tell.

The next day we set out on the next must-do item, whitewater rafting down the Brown River Canyon. The women volunteered to mind the younger two kids and meet us downstream at the pickup point. Wimps.

The guy took our money and paired us up with a captain who was a dead ringer for the trail guide from the day before.  He regarded us a doubtful gaze and said, “Do you want paddles?”

“What for?” I had endured a week of hard labor and terror for the chance to enjoy my vacation. I had paid money for a ride, not a job.

He nodded, his judgments confirmed, and led us to the raft.

I’m not allergic to water. In fact, back in the day I was a bit of a water rat. Always up for a swim, even after that one time I almost drowned. But that’s a story for another day.

What? I keep putting off stories for another day? Well, okay, then. Put a pin in the Brown River Canyon. I’ll tell it now.

It was the spring of 1975, freshman year in college, and the April showers had been doing their best to guarantee May flowers. Figuring the creek would be up and running, Fred, Donece and I set out for our favorite swimming hole outside of Marshall, Texas. 

Not long after I arrived on campus, I met Fred and discovered we were as near as could be to soulmates. Birthdays two days apart,  read the same books, listened to the same radio stations, played guitar. Heck, we even had scars in the same places. We eventually became roommates. If you want to get a feel for Fred, check out the character of Bubba Culpepper in the Fred books, especially the later books in the series.

Donece was a different species. In fact, many thought he was actually an alien. Like from another planet, not just from across the border. Have you ever met someone who saw the world from an angle so oblique to your own that you figured they would naturally be cognizant of  how far outside the mainstream they were? Like out where the buses don’t run. But instead, they were constantly amazed when you didn’t see the world they did. If you want to get a feel for Donece, check out the character of Phyllis in Escape from Fred.

Donece operated on another wavelength, the frequency of his high-pitched, nasal giggle, the noise he made just before he gave rein to  his otherworldly impulses. Think Muttley, the cartoon dog, only with less of a smoker’s wheeze and more of a whining machine-gun burst at around E-flat in the fourth octave.

The noise he made when he dyed his sleeping roommate blue. The noise he made as he stole the freshly-baked pie from the dorm mother’s kitchen. The noise he made when he sawed an 10-inch gash in my door with a saw-toothed bayonet in retaliation for a failed water balloon attack. And when he did the same for Hensarling in payment for taking his girl on a date.

Different wavelength, man. Different wavelength. But Donece had one thing we didn’t have. Wheels.

Thus the three of us donned our cut-offs and set out to the swimming hole at the foot of the falls. In normal conditions, two or three inches  of water dropped five or six feet down to a pool about about six or seven feet deep, but which quickly leveled out downstream to a couple of feet. It was sufficient to jump in, do some cannonballs, thrash about and generally cool off on a hot day.

Given the recent rainfall, we figured we’d see some decent action, and we weren’t disappointed. There was a good foot of water rolling over the edge, dropping three feet into a boiling, churning cauldron of brown, silt-laden water that filled the bowl of the pool from bank to bank.

We shucked off our shoes and shirts, tossed our towels on the bank, and inched our way across the rock ledge, seeking firm footing for each step to keep from being swept over. We eventually reached the middle of the creek and stood for a minute, taking it all in. The awesome power of the current, the wide expanse deep enough to dive into for once.

I stepped forward and jumped in, cannonball style, sinking down as the water buffeted me. When my momentum slowed, I stretched out and stroked my way to the surface.

Only to be sucked back down just as I cleared water. At the point directly under the falls, the water falling from above forced the water in the pool into a combined current that went only one direction. Down.

Within seconds, I found myself back at the bottom. I fought the current, pushing back up to the surface, gasped for air, and was immediately taken back under.

As I descended into the depths, I waited until I felt my feet hit the rock at the bottom, coiled myself like a spring, and thrust with all my strength. I broke water up to my waist, leaned forward, and swam with all my strength downstream, only to be sucked down once again.

A thought crackled through my brain like electricity. This was it. this was the day I would die. But it was only a spark. I would deal with that thought later at my leisure. I more important business at hand. 

All that water that was pulling me down, it had to be going somewhere, and there was only one place it could go. Across the bottom and downstream.

I curled myself into a ball, relaxed, and let the current pull me down as far as it would take me. Then I opened up, searching for the rock bottom that I had used many times to shoot toward the surface when this deadly pool was sane. I found it, pushed against the wall of water until I was against the wall of the falls, put my feet on it, and pushed off with all my strength, clawing my way downstream.

In a few seconds I ran into the gravel of the rising bottom, pushed forward until the current abated, crawled to my knees, and stood, taking deep gulps of air as the  water swirled around my knees.

As the living world flooded my senses, confirming that I was still alive, the first thing I heard over the roar of the falls was a shrill, mad-scientist giggle.

“Oh, man. I thought you were dead.”

I turned to face him. If I could have swum upstream, up the falls, laced my shaking fingers around his scrawny neck, and tossed him into the depths, I would have. Instead, I slogged to the bank, climbed back up to the top of the falls, and walked out to them.

Fred said nothing, but his eyes spoke for him. For every second since I had made that foolish leap, he had been down there with me, fighting against death, grasping for life. I nodded and turned to Donece.

“There’s a bit of an undertow. I suggest you jump farther out.”

But that was a decade and two kids before this story. Back in a time when I had trained myself to hold my breath for two minutes. Now I was careening toward middle age like a rogue locomotive.

The captain installed H and me in the front, The Good Daughter and The Number One Son in the back, and took his elevated position in the middle, grasped two ridiculously long paddles, and pushed us out into the current.

It was a pleasant afternoon, much like the day before it. And like the day before, we had a pleasant drift through the calmer waters before the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. Before long we were churning through rapids, being soaked by water that was snow a few hours ago.

But by now we all were old hands at imitating drowned rats. Even the kids. We dug in like troopers.

Meanwhile, the captain earned his money, but I wept no tears for him. He was saving money on a gym membership, staying buff for the ladies while getting paid. Living the dream, really.

That was thirty years ago. I’d gladly pay the cost of a whitewater ride to see a photo of him now. The ten years or so that separate us now are nothing compared to the difference back then.

On second thought, I’ll rescind that offer. He might still be buff, while I’m the same, only ever so much so. Gloating is never attractive, whatever your age.

After an hour or so of water torture, the captain advised us that a few minutes downstream we would have the opportunity to go ashore, clamber up a granite precipice, and jump into the icy depths. 

I looked at H. He looked at me. I shrugged. Might as well get our money’s worth. Plus, this was no time to wimp out. It was ten years since I had jumped into unplumbed depths. You have to do that at least once a decade or you might end up in a rut.

Ten years later I jumped into a larger pool, a depth I had never attempted, and had to learn to sink or swim. After lassoing The Woman, it was the best blind risk I ever took, an adventure in wandering farther than I had ever dared. But once again, a story for another time.

The captain guided the raft to the shore. We climbed up the rock, a good twenty foot drop in front of us, and jumped. I won’t lie, it was cold enough to knock the breath out of you. But there was no deadly current, no malevolent Mother Nature trying to kill me. Just a jump into water, and a swim to the boat.

For our next adventure, we decided to visit a ghost town, something that all of us could do, or were willing to do. You do the math.

The rented van couldn’t make it up one particularly aggressive slope, so we had to abandon ship and hoof it the rest of the way. H, always a better man than I, carried the youngest on his shoulders. At the destination, we quickly got our eyes full of the handful of ramshackle buildings that had not yet been reclaimed by that mercurial Mother. As we rested, each contemplating in their hearts the long trek back, a four-wheeler arrived with a few tourists. After a serious bit of bargaining, all eight of us gained passage back to the van.

The next day we packed the van and quit that down.

As I mentioned before, ten years later I wandered farther, ranging from South Carolina to Arizona, Colorado and Hawaii. In 2000, I paid state income tax in three states. After ten years of wandering, I returned to Texas.

In modern America, our first friendships are formed in school, from elementary school up to high school. We are thrown into a cauldron of kids from all kinds of life situations. Kids from families foreign to our experience. By the time we reach graduation, we have a tight group of friends we think will remain in our inner circle.

For some, college replaces that circle of friends, people we can’t imagine we will grow distant from. 

Either way, life proceeds and the onboarding opportunities for new friends narrow and the attrition opportunities expand. For me, one high school friend went the distance. Until distance and marriage made it inconvenient. From college, three stayed in the running. Post college, H was the only solid friendship I formed. And Spyrison. But that is a story for another time.

Distance, sustained distance, is a hard row to hoe for most folks. I have only three friends from those days. I took it hard at first. I don’t make friends easily, but I have a strong loyalty gene. Got it from my father.

I had to learn that some people just aren’t built that way. You can’t blame them for being who they are. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to yourself.

When you choose to wander far, you not only choose for yourself, you choose for them. So choose wisely.