Saturday, June 25, 2011

California, there I went...

As the jazz pianist and composer Bobby Troupe wrote, “…won’t you get hip to this timely tip; when you make that California trip, get your kicks on Route 66.”

It wasn’t exactly the way Troupe told it, but the Amtrak train that took me home from Los Angeles through the Southwest to Chicago and then to New York, followed a great deal of the old Route 66, even made stops at some of the places mentioned in the song. The return trip was delightful.

On the way to the West Coast, however, the story is not so pretty. In fact, it was a nightmare, thanks to the floods and fires that caused Amtrak to cancel all trains.

In any case, I got to where I was headed in one piece and then Wednesday, June 15 came and it was time to meet some new friends.

That evening, I reconnected with Tom Wark and Jack Everitt, two guys that I first met online and then came to meet in person on a couple of past trips to the West Coast. That was a blast. But the real treat for the evening was to meet other Internet friends that I had yet to meet face-to-face: Samantha Dugan, John Kelly, Ron Washam, Charlie Olken, and Marcia (whose last name I didn’t get) plus Wark’s new wife, Charlie’s long-standing wife, John’s winemaking assistant, all of whom I was introduced to by name, but in my oncoming dotage have not held in memory. I apologize for that gap, and should have taken notes.

What I do remember of that evening wholeheartedly was conviviality. We ate good food served at Harvest Moon in Sonoma (oh, those sardines), drank fabulous wines brought by each of us, and talked trash as well as serious. (Have you ever sat at a table of nearly a dozen self-confident people with opinions? If not, don’t try it without some practice.)

I was especially pleased with the overall good reception of the Finger Lakes wines that I brought to the dinner.

The memorable evening fell in the middle of my trip, and that made it all the more wonderful, as it was a fine break from the combination work and scouting that I was doing while on the West Coast (in seven days, I racked up 1800 miles on a rented car). The work was to interview a few people for research pertaining to my next book, which is under contract. The scouting was to satisfy a sense that I had that it is time for me to move on, to relocate.

Unfortunately or not, the places I had planned to visit in southern Oregon as candidates for that relocation did not live up to expectations. Or maybe it is simply that I am not ready. Whatever, I have decided to stay put for the time being. It didn’t help that, despite a proliferation of coffee kiosks throughout the region, or maybe because of them, I could not find a decent cup of unadulterated espresso in southern Oregon.

People who deal with and survive cancer are also faced with our mortality, and that often makes us believe either that what we have may not be enough or it may not be the right thing for us. In the past few months, while facing mortality, and although I’d like to claim exceptionality, I proved to myself that I am as ordinary as any man. But after searching on this trip, and doing a lot of thinking as well, I have come to the conclusion that what I have is enough and it is right for me.

The only thing that I need to do to make comfortable the time that I have left on this earth is for me to escape the deep winters that often afflict this part of the country. For that, I don’t need to go to a warmer place; I need to be in a place that provides me with access to things that I cannot have while hibernating in my rural community, and that includes a good unadulterated double espresso—daily.

My latest thought, then, is to find a temporary apartment each winter in Manhattan. There, I can indulge in what truly makes me happy—cultural events. To do that in the Finger Lakes in winter it takes clearing the driveway of snow and ice, warming the car, driving in snow and ice for a minimum of 35 miles one way, and then trying to enjoy the evening while thinking of the energy-draining drive home in the dead of night and winter.

In Manhattan, all it takes to enjoy cultural events is to get dressed, go downstairs and either walk or take a taxi, whatever the weather is.

I am so glad to have reached a stage in my life where I get to enjoy conviviality more often and to also make decisions mostly on my terms. So, fuck cancer. It has nothing on freedom, friends, and conviviality.

I think I'll need another conviviality trip to the West Coast soon—better still, maybe some of my new friends would like to see how green is our valley during a Finger Lakes summer here in the East.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
June 2011. All rights reserved

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