Tuesday, June 21, 2011
AFTER WORK I went on another long bike ride and came come just in time to watch my new favorite show, “Made in Spain” with chef Jose Andres (or Made in Espain, as he says it). Then I took a shower and had dinner. Leftovers: calavacita con puerco. I was getting ready to settle into my usual routine of sitting in front of my computer to fool around with my photographs or catch up on the news or Facebook when I remembered that today is the longest day of the year. I simply could not stay indoors, so I got in my car and drove to Java House, where I’m having iced coffee and a Weight Watchers candy bar as I watch the daylight slowly and grudgingly give way to darkness. It might have put up a better fight except that a thunderstorm is approaching from the west, blocking the sun’s remaining rays.
The storm appears to be getting closer, and it has lightning with it. I can see its flashing and hear its grumbling. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to stay here. I’m under a canopy but if the storm is accompanied by wind, I may have to decamp and head home. Luckily, I was smart enough to drive here so I won’t have to worry about riding home in a thunderstorm.
As July approaches, I’ve been thinking about anniversaries. Our country’s. Mine. My condo. Next month I will have lived there seven years, and that will make it the place where I have lived the longest since leaving home. My parents’ home, that is – in September 1967 when I got in my blue 63 Ford Fairlane and drove to San Marcos to begin my final two years of college (I went to a junior college near my home the first two years). The Fairlane had belonged to my sister Mariana. She bought it after she got her teaching degree and began teaching. It was the first brand-new car our family had ever had. A beauty. When she got married, she left it for the family, and since by that time I was the only driver left, it became my car.
(My sister Maria Luisa, who turned 82 today, just called me from California to tell me she had made stuffed zucchini blossoms. She had forgotten to tell me when I called her this morning to wish her a happy birthday.)
So, anyway, back to anniversaries and length of residencies. Obviously, I’m not a nester. I move around. Since I moved to Washington almost 13 years ago, I’ve lived in three different places. From the time the Houston Post closed and I moved here, I lived in five places: two in Houston, two in San Marcos and one in Austin.
At Texas State University (then known as Southwest Texas State College) I lived in four different dorms and one apartment. In San Marcos, after graduating, I lived in five places, including a mobile home. Since leaving San Marcos in 1978, I lived in Washington, Arlington, Alexandria, near Southwest Houston and far Southwest Houston, Washington, near Southwest Houston, far-far Southwest Houston, far Southwest Houston, Barbados, Washington’s Woodley Park section and Capitol Hill, Southwest Houston, Montrose, Austin, Houston’s Heights, an apartment in San Marcos and at the home of friends in San Marcos. And then I moved here.
Even the years before I went off to college weren’t spent in one place. I lived in two different homes in Crystal City, the one my grandfather built for us and the one Urban Renewal forced us to build after it tore down the one my grandfather built. And every summer but one our family traveled to homes in North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah or California for the summer to work in the fields. Most summers we’d go to at least two states as we followed the crops. In California alone, we lived in five different homes during one summer.
When I was a kid, I had a game I played every night after I went to bed. I’d close my eyes and try to imagine that I was in one of the many beds I’d slept in. In my mind, I’d spin my bed around so that it was lying north to south and I’d be in North Dakota. East to west and I’d be in Wisconsin, at Ernie Kwiatkowski’s farm. Clothes would be hanging from a rod above me and through the screen door I could hear the roar of the traffic on U.S. 73, which brought vacationers from Milwaukee and Chicago to nearby Green Lake. I’d move from place to place until I fell asleep.
Back in 1979, when I got out of graduate school, I was desperate for a Washington job so I replied to a CIA recruitment ad. They sent me an application but when I realized they wanted to know the addresses of every place I’d called home for the previous 10 or 15 years, I gave up on becoming a spook. I don’t think I’d have been a very good one anyway.
In a few years (or less), I’ll retire and because I won’t be able to pay my mortgage on my retirement income, I’ll sell my condo and move, either to Houston, San Marcos, my hometown, Mexico or New Mexico. Or somewhere else. I hear houses are very cheap in Detroit and Cleveland. Maybe I’ll buy a camper and spend the rest of my life on the road, sleeping in campgrounds or Wal-Mart parking lots, constantly in search of pleasant weather.
I DON’T KNOW how all this moving around has affected me. I don’t know if it’s made me a different person. One good thing is that it has allowed me to acquire new friends wherever I go, and allowed me to get to know and observe a lot of people. From them I’ve learned a lot: how to live life, how not to live life; how to treat people, how not to treat people; how to value things that matter. This is not to say that I knew none of this before I met all these people: my values come first and foremost from my family, my mother in particular. But we do learn a lot by watching how other people live their lives, and the more exposure we get to more people in more settings, the better off we are. So, in that sense, my life has truly been a moveable feast.