|Jun 16 2012|
" Are We There, Yet, Daddy? Daddy?? Daddy???!!! "
To my special friends, and loyal, constant readers, this is the time of year thatmany-who can still afford it-plan their vacations.
Maps and travel brochures are gotten out, and many pencils are chewed nearly in half, as prospective lodgings are examined, meaning, trying to get the most accommodations for the money; discussions begin on ‘where' to go, and how, keeping in mine how very much gasoline costs, and into all this practical preparation goes what can only be referred to as day dreams, and moon beams. If you happen to have a family to have to drag along, surely there will be those who cannot be interested, and who would rather stay home. Don't worry, for if this negative assemblage happens to be your children, their opinions (although you may regret it), can simply be bull-dozed in the planning of the moment; besides, in every group that consists of more than two, there's bound to be dissention regarding whatever vacation plan is finally arrived at.
If the children you must drag along (as they are too young to be left alone, or ones that NO one will harbor while you're gone, trust me, the accommodations while be fine if there is a swimming pool there; besides, a day thrashing out in the pool will gratefully tire them out so that they will sleep with hardly a peep.
And, how often has one returned from an over-scheduled vacation, and upon returning home, could actually use a vacation from the vacation?
In 1963-1965, three years in all, my late father was assigned to a tour of duty at Ft. Hood, Texas; and since he had been in supply in WWII and Korea, was placed in charge of outfitting 5,000 troops there.
In addition, Ft. Hood was the location of the 3rd Armored Division, and there were tanks, and planes, and giant (I mean giant, howitzers there, enough to wage a medium-sized war). And, all the accoutrements of ordinance that any well-stocked Military Base might ever desire.
A small ways away, was an inky dinky town called ‘Killeen', whose only income was derived from the soldiers and their families on the Base.
In my classroom, our little town was represented (somewhat in errant pride) by a large, red star placed smack-dab upon the geographic ‘heart' of Texas.
Now, my dearest friends, and patient readers who may have some apparent, proprietary affinity for the State of Texas, I ask most humbly for your pardon. But...I was there.
With the exception of, I think, Alaska, Texas is the largest State in the Union; I found it to be almost as large as the moon, and, equally as desolate. There's a rather catchy tune, which is-in reality-truth in advertising.
"The sage in bloom is like perfume, clap, clap, clap, clap... DEEP in the heart, of Texas..."
All I can remember (and, don't forget, friends, that this was almost half a century ago), is that not once, in three years did I espy even one millimeter of sage, much less in bloom. What I did see, was endless rocks and sand, and desert stretching to the blue horizon. I remember ‘horned toads', which I thought were cute, and gigantic, furry tarantulas, which I did not.
Also, as rare as the sight of an alien spacecraft, was a strange animal called a ‘Jackalope', a rabbit the size of a Buick.
There was cacti of course, and-I suppose-as a general warning to never stray too far from the highways--were the occasional cattle skulls, long-horns and all ( but, never any other part of its body).
And so, my late father's vacation time was precious to him. He would have rather taken us to some decrepit fish camp (which, one time, he actually did...a story in itself), or he would have been as happy to just putter around the garden, or, simply relax, and take it easy.
My dearest mother (who could be a Titan, too, when she wanted her way), had other, more dire thoughts in mind. For every summer, for those three, long years, nothing would do, but that we make the trek to Florida, so she could see her mother, and her relatives.
My poor father, who was in charge of so many, could not withstand the organized assault by one woman, particularly when she must have threatened him with a lifetime of having to sleep on the couch.
Another snake existed in our ‘Eden', as my father (who was actually certified by the Army as a genius), could not ever buy a car that was worth a shit. And, every time he came proudly home to show us his latest, used acquisition, my mom and I would look at it with a kind of tired, bored, suspicious terror, that-once again-we were saddled with a junker.
The first car we made our ‘death march' to Florida in, was a 1958, Ford station wagon; it was painted an odd, dark blue, and had plastic, red-checked plaid as upholstery. And-in consequence, while running-burned as much oil as it did gasoline.
So...in the summer of 1963, it was into this plug of a car, that we packed all our belongings, to use up my dad's vacation time, to visit Florida.
Never were these so -called ‘jaunts' pleasant in any form, for while my dad and my grandfather became fast friends, my grandmother and my dad truly hated each other; she (since dad had been born in Pennsylvania) hated my dad for being a ‘Yankee'. He, in turn, hated her because she was a bitch. Both statements were incontestably true.
My mother and father and I would begin our summer pilgrimage always in the exact same way: he was resentful, and short-tempered, she was sullen, and given to hours of silence. And there I was-at nine-trapped like a rat in a drain, with nowhere to go, and...with no air conditioning to at least make the rattle-trap ride endurable.
Even though we left at dawn, it took us the entire first day, into night, to cross that broad expanse of Texas, to cross the border of Louisiana at night, to search for a really cheap motel.
We made sandwiches in the car, and the only ‘bathroom time' that I can remember, was when dad had to stop for gasoline and oil. All along the road were attractions that any nine year old would salivate over, such as that attraction that featured old steam engines, and old cars, and cabooses.
But did we ever stop to look at them? My dad was on a mission, and as he ‘white-knuckled' the steering wheel, it was his goal to put as many miles a day as we could.
I was but a hopeless pawn in the largely silent, deadly interaction between mom and dad. Sometimes, at 10:00 0r 11:30 PM, when we finally came to a stop for lodgings, which friends and I would later coin ‘roach motels', sometimes there would be a motel pool, with its various-colored lights, and swaying palms, and I wanted so to go into the pool. Unfortunately, we always arrived too late, and the pools were closed, and locked for the night.
Miles upon miles, upon miles, upon miles passed, as dad tried to set a land-speed-endurance test between man, and 1958 Ford station wagon.
In-car ‘games' such as counting the number of ‘out of state license plates', failed within the first two hours.
Meanwhile, having nothing better to do, I made up the backseat of the wagon to resemble a little hotel room; I put a suitcase down on the floor, and upon it, a travel alarm clock.
And since-each summer-we would take the same route into hell, there was NO novelty at all to anticipate, or discover. Grimly, we plowed our way through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, past all those attractions I had so wanted to see, and for our last night's stop, would stay in some dive, just outside Florida; even some of the motels were revisited, and ALL had-by then-their pools closed.
All I knew, was that my childhood asthma-almost non-existent in the dry heat of Texas-would slowly start to bother me somewhere in Mississippi, and, by the time we actually arrived at my grandparent's home in Tarpon Springs, my eyes watered, my sinuses gave me hell, and I began to have trouble breathing for the congestion.
The only bright spot that told me we would soon arrive, was the sight of an abandoned ‘Sinclair' gas station, that had as its roof, a HUGE, green dinosaur. For a nine year old, it was like beholding the Holy Grail.
The rest of the ‘vacation' was unremarkable; I found myself amid cousins I could not abide, and on more than one so-called infraction, had the backs of my legs lashed to point of laceration with a green, peach tree switch, as wielded with an Old Testament will by my grandmother.
We made this ‘wanderjahr' for three years, until my dad got transfer orders to France, which-of course-made the drive impossible.
Its funny how, some events of so long ago, affect me to this day. For one, unless I am taken up by the wings of a handful of Kardashians, my travel days are done, finished, and over. For some time, especially now, I can no longer tolerate infinitely-long car drives, and-in fact-begin to pale if I have to be in a car more than an hour, at most, at a time.
At fifty-eight, I still miss not having seen those tawdry, roadside attractions, and I will never dine ‘alfresco' in a moving car. My tastes in cheap hotels has changed, too, and now I want comfort, comfort, comfort, which argues over price, anytime.
And, what's the point of ‘visiting' relatives, when now, most of them are safely dead, and the rest I am healthily estranged from.
I have-in my youth-seen almost quite enough; I have seen Holland during tulip time, and loved Amsterdam, and well-recall the morning that we awoke to find that someone had placed an enormous lei of tulip petals entirely around our car.
I have been to Paris twice (arriving, and leaving), which was, perhaps 1 and 3.8th's times too many. I have been to Switzerland, to tour ancient monasteries, and to Germany, and Luxembourg.
And, frankly, my dearest, dearest friends, I think that is about enough; plus, with all my now, so-called, ‘special needs', all of that translates into boucoup bucks.
And, regrettably, times have changed. There are so many places, now, you really shouldn't go to, as they routinely use Americans for target practice. Not to mention, all the many ‘natural' wonders within our shores that involve rock-climbing, hiking-for-days, hours and hours of wilderness (‘gas...last chance for next 100 miles'), caves, with or without infestations of bats, far, and/or obscure outposts of feral humanity, anything that risks drowning, or of plummeting to one's death. Those kinds of things.
Frankly, should I ever get ‘bitten' by the bug to rough it, I think a couple of blankets over the dining room table to make of it a tent, and many pillows, and coverlets for comfort, and dear Daisy and I laboring to crawl underneath would be more than sufficient. Just getting to the floor would be all the traveling I'd need.
Anyway, my always dear, dear friends, and loyal readers, please know that you are always in my thoughts, and prayers, for wellness, ‘no pain', and for harmony, and financial blessings.
And, please always know I love you dearly,
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