- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Dear Panama:

I hear the ocean. The roar is constant. The roar is constant when the wind is from the east and I am standing out on my front porch smoking a cigar. The ocean is 60 miles west of me. The Olympic mountain range is between the ocean and me. The night is still except for the roar of the ocean. The roar I hear is not the ocean, it is the din of traffic heading north and south along Highway 99 and Interstate 5. I don't hear the ocean when I am smoking a cigar on my front porch at night when the wind comes from where the ocean really is, from the west. I live in the city. There are parks and lakes nearby, but nonetheless, I live in the city. The trees alongside my house are one hundred and twenty feet tall. There are not many trees as old or as tall as the trees next to my house in the city. Every year a wind comes along from the north or the south that is clocked at over 50 miles per hour. Every year new people who moved from less forested cities cut down the trees in their yards. Every year the winds knock down some of the few remaining trees. A smart guy would get those old tall beautiful Douglas Firs and Cedars cut down so he and his family could sleep soundly at night instead of in terror during the power outage windstorms. I am not a smart guy. I am from here. I consider myself a romantic. During the last windstorm, two days ago, the television news featured many families with crushed homes and miraculous accounts of infant babies that just barley escaped tree deaths in their cribs. I suppose the heads of those households featured themselves as romantics. The city we live in is not old, but the trees that occupied the spaces where new homes sit were ancient. The few trees remaining present a hazard because the neighboring trees that protected them from unimpeded wind are now gone and replaced by homes. The traffic/ocean roar transports my mind to the ocean beach where the waves come in past where you think it is safe to stand. If you don't move the salt water and spray will engulf you. If the wave is powerful enough it will go beyond your Birkenstocks and drag your legs out from under you when the wave recedes back into the sea. Next stop Japan. There are silver dollars and kelp and clam holes on the sand. When the waves come in far, the sand looks as though some Master Floor tradesman waxed it thirty times to make it shine like glass on top of sand. The smell is salty and human, like my first love. The company I work for sends me to seminars where I am told that I can escape the pressures of the city office worker life thru meditation. I like the idea. I inquire. I can spend two weeks wages to meet with 15 women and a leader in a rental home to learn all about the process of meditation. My first question is: how attractive are these women? Not that I am attractive myself and not that I am looking to complicate my life with additional women, but I am thinking why do I need a "leader" to show me and a bunch of dissatisfied females how to train our minds to take us to places overseas and out of world without the hassles of airplanes or trains or automobiles or horses or boats or by way of our own two feet, and see these places as placid retreats of solitude where we can easily work out all the confusing conflicts that disrupt and torment our sleep. I mean I don't think I, or any of the soap-opera women enrolled need help escaping reality, because we are journeyman day-dreamers. I go to places I never dreamed of when I hear a six-string guitar. When the aroma of coffee assaults my nose. When my dog greets me. When my wife wraps her arms and legs around me like I am the center of her being. When my friends wink and let me know that I am in on whatever secret they are in on. When Panama Red sends me an e-mail greeting; I get to visit the plane I want to be on. When I stand out on my front porch smoking a cigar because I like cigars and they repulse my family; I sometimes hear the roar of the ocean. I think about my father who was a real man. He supported our family by working five or six days a week and on his time off, he remodeled the house, trimmed the bushes around our house, cleaned the gutters mowed the lawn and built shelves and tuned up motorcycles in the basement. My dad smoked cigars. When I stand on the porch and smoke a cigar, I think about following my dad around this very same yard when I was 5 years old and he was mowing the lawn with his Stetson hat on and a white owl cigar hanging from his lips. The smell of his cigar smoke was a marshmallows roasting on a fresh cut willow switch over a campfire, a campfire burning next to the ocean; next to the roaring ocean. I don't meditate my mind out of country and out of world; I lack the hack training. I daydream my way to my marshmallow scented, Stetson hat-wearing father, and fresh cut grass past.


(Editor's Note: "Wolfman" is the nom de plume of Mr. Brian Curry of Seattle.)


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