My Virtual Road Trip

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Okay it’s January and too cold to play outside.  So what did I do today?  I went on a Virtual Road Trip.  Out of total curiosity, I typed in the address of where I lived when I was four years old into Google Maps.  To my surprise, I was given a “street view” of a home I scantily remember, but had significant “neighborhood memories.”  It was in Phoenix, Arizona and all I remember about that time was how hot it was and how I just couldn’t wait to go to the pool with my older siblings every day.  Except for the fact that there was no longer any grass in the front yard, this home looked pretty much the same, right down to the Chinaberry tree in the back yard.  I remember being 4 yrs old and a kid from down the street had pushed me on my tricycle too hard and I crashed into the asphalt, breaking my collar bone.  My dad chased that kid down the street.  There was a confrontation with his parents… My dad was “not so nice” and rightly so.  It was surreal to find that the small two room dwelling that this kid and his family had lived in was still standing and down the street on Google Maps.  I never understood the “politics of poverty” when I was young.  As far as I was concerned, having enough to eat and drink and a warm bed at night was all I needed.  My siblings and I were our own entertainment and teachers….I think I only began to think of “social standing” maybe in second grade….As in, whoever got the job of “feeding the fish” in our classroom.  That was the most important job and you were considered very responsible and liked by the teacher to get that job.

When I realized I could actually take a “VIRTUAL DRIVE” down the streets of any neighborhood in the United States as long as I typed in a specific address as an anchor point, I was “Off and Runnin.”  From there I felt the intense need to go and explore every neighborhood I’d ever lived in my whole life.  Not like I’d lived in a million places on different continents.  Just three states and a handful of homes….Whew!  What a trip!

By and large, with the exception of only one, most neighborhoods hadn’t changed much, even 40+ years later—only the trees were larger.  It was only in Lodi, California, where my family lived from 1966 to 68 that things had changed dramatically.  Our house on the corner of Central and Kettleman was no longer there, replaced by Commercial Real Estate. Gone was our homestead, one of the greatest places we ever lived.  Gone were the five Almond trees, two Walnut trees and a large fig tree on the  east side of the house.  In the front, a grapefruit and orange tree; on the North side of the house, extensive honeysuckle and 2 plum trees.  Across the highway was the most expansive grape vineyard I had ever known, stretching out into infinity (as least in my small childhood brain).  We spent many hours across that “major fair” playing “hide & seek” and all the while eating as many grapes and we could stuff in our mouths….(yes, we did learn the hard way that this would have consequences).  Cherry trees were also in abundance in many yards,  but not for us.  This of course, did not keep us from sneaking into back yards every now and then to grab a few.   It was sad to see that all the grape vineyards were gone, taken over by commercial property.   “Virtualizing” in the neighborhood, I was so happy to find  “BLAKELY PARK” and to see with its infamous Summer Community Pool looked almost untouched from 1968.

Our home on Marina Street in Prescott has become a bed and breakfast andthey expanded the Police Dept. down the street, but most of the homes still look the same.  I still have memories of meeting Steve McQueen on that street when he was shooting scenes for the movie “Junior Bonner.”

The old homestead we rented from our neighbor, Mr Burgess in Eagar, AZ at Burke and 8th St. looks as if it has been neglected for many years.  The apple trees, the well groomed yard, the garden, all gone.  And they erected a hideous looking fence!  I have so many memories of that house were asparagus grew wild along the irrigation ditch out front and I learned to make anything and everything out of apples who which we always had an abundance in the fall.  This is where I lived during all my years in high school, where I lived with my father and four of my siblings after he and my mother separated and we didn’t see him for seven years.  In this house I learned some of the most important of life’s lessons.

What a walk down memory lane!  The homes I lived in, the schools I went to, the route in which I walked home from school….such rich memories came flooding came back to me of a childhood full of adventure and discovery; heartbreak and happenstance.

So I guess what I’m wondering now is “What else is Google or Microsoft or some other behemoth of the Internet going to be able to do for us?”   And shouldn’t we start being a little concerned?  If they can show you where you lived when you were four, is everything we do now being monitored, videotaped, recorded, etc.  Has BIG BROTHER really been “watching us all along?”…..

My Virtual Road Trip was definitely surreal…..you could almost call it sublime (it a cyber sort of way).  I truly did enjoy seeing what things look like now, after all these years.  But I think my memories are much safer in my head where they belong, available when I choose to bring them out……in storytelling with family and friends, in sharing photographs I’ve been taking since I got my first camera at age 12; and definitely with me at the wheel driving the car……                         ~  Mick E  ~

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The Older I Get, The Less I Know…

floating feather

Oh, I believe the older I get, the less I know…

When I was 14, I thought I knew everything. There was nothing my parents or any elder could teach me about life.  I was invincible and never thought about death.

When I was 24, I’d learned some valuable lessons about “life and the pursuit of happiness” and being more for the wise, I was always pushing forward.  Still, the thought of death did not enter my mind.

When I was 34, I was too busy juggling parenthood, career, wifely duties and even sleep to care if I knew anything.  By then, death had come to my family and I made my way through it as best as I was able.

When I was 44, although more confident at work, I felt less confident in my looks and less connected to my children as I had been in the previous decade.  Once they leave home, you hope you taught them well about flying on their own.   By then, I was an orphan, so grief had forced me to contemplate my own mortality.

I had learned through my vocation and life experiences, that although living life to the fullest was admirable, accepting and honoring death was not only natural, but one of the most important of life’s lessons….

And now, a few stones throw into my 50’s, navigating through an ocean of what is superficial and what has true substance, I feel as if I’m in a house of mirrors.  Nothing is ever as it appears.  What you thought was good and safe all of a sudden becomes tainted (what’s the stellar opinion of eating eggs this year?); what you feared most turns out to be all illusion (that proverbial boogie man under the bed).  People you have trusted for years will betray you; people you never trusted before will rise to your honor.

I have forgotten great dishes I used to make, songs I used to sing and even great accomplishments I made a decade ago and gosh, where the heck did I leave my car keys and sunglasses????

I seem to not be able to grasp that I am a walking miracle…..that I have knocked on deaths’ door on more than one occasion recently and I am still here (I guess God’s not finished with me yet).

This next year I certainly hope to gain new strength and insight and continue to embrace this transition into the last 50 years of my life.  I think Forest Gump said it best when he said, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny or we’re all just floatin accidental-like on a breeze.  But I think, maybe its both…..maybe both are happening at the same time.”

Yes, the older I get, the less I know.  So, my goal for 2015 is to be a feather floating in the breeze…  Sometimes surrendering to the currents of the Universe is the wisest of decisions.              ~  Mick E.  ~

Small Towns Get No Props

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These days, living and growing up in a small town gets no props..  So many times, you see in movies or read in books about the proverbial yearning to leave that small town you grew up in to go out and discover the world.  “I gotta get out of this place before I lose my mind,” you say.  This is of course your right of passage but hey, let us give a little credit to the small towns.  Yes, everybody does know your name and probably more about your personal business than you’d want them to.  And if you’re a star athlete for the local high school, you might be made a hero and have your 15 minutes of fame and then 20 years of talking about your glory days.  In a small town, not only does everyone really attend the sporting events, they will also travel far and wide in inclement weather to attend the away games.  Many of those same people are the ones who’ve baked what is being sold in the concession stands for whatever fundraiser is prominent that week.  In a small town be it football, basketball, baseball or wrestling, sports is BIG, especially when the team is WINNING.

But let’s take a deeper look:  I believe that by and large, the life blood of small towns begins with and is “maintained and sustained” by loving mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and a variety of other women who often go unnamed, unrecognized, unappreciated and unseen.  Much of this is on purpose, as women don’t usually promote, advertise, or need validation for those fundamental things they do that seem automatic to their roles and their hearts.  That being said, there are just as many male roles in a small town that should get some credit.  A group of execs from a major local business who organize and foot the bill for the annual community BBQ in the park to bring everyone together; the firefighter who speaks about safety to his son’s 3rd grade classroom the day after he saved a toddler from a house fire; the teacher who instills a seed of worthiness in someone with a learning disability; the judge who lets you off the hook for the $125 ticket when you’re 16 but lets you do community service (oh, that was me); the football coach who is revered regardless of his teams’ record because he believes his most important job is as a mentor to fatherless young boys.

In a small town, there will be those who show up for the funeral of  “one of the least” who has no family because it’s the right thing to do.  In a small town, there will be someone to rake leaves or shovel snow for the elderly neighbor.  In a small town everyone knows the politics and current events, the controversies and conspiracies, where the local cops park to watch the speeders and what the teenagers are doing after midnight on weekends (did you kids think we didn’t know?)  The school bus driver will make a loop and come back to get you when it’s snowing and the postman will deliver a letter when your sister put the wrong address, because he truly does know where you live.  In a small town, they know who has the elk tags, where the fish are being caught, who needs their truck pulled out of a ditch, who is being born and who is leaving this world…

Over the years, you will come home—for the holidays, weddings, reunions and various other events and each time you appreciate it more.  Because no matter how long you’ve been gone, how far away you’ve traveled or how much you think you have “changed”…..   a small town will always welcome you back home with open arms….

~ Mick E. ~

Life is a River…

Fork of the Little Colorado ~ White Mountains, AZ

Fork of the Little Colorado ~ White Mountains, AZ

All life is but a river…..sometimes trickling ever so softly, sometimes finding the fierce energy of whitewater, sometimes standing by the wayside in hidden eddies…….but always moving…….always moving towards home….

~ Mick E. ~

Farwell to Sally

tulips

I’m sure Sally will be remembered for the love and laughter she brought daily to her family and friends. She brought harmony to the melody of our lives, always thinking of others before her self.  Her generosity knew no bounds and she was a true example of piety and unconditional love. I have to smile when I am reminded of the day Lorraine and I went to get our drivers license. We were both so nervous. We went to Western Auto were Sally was working and she said “you girls use my car for your driving test.” When the driving instructor got there Lorraine was so nervous, she honked the horn while he was walking in front of the car and he jumped out of his skin. Sally just laughed and said “well, I guess you can write down that the horn works.” Today my heart is heavy, but I celebrate her return home and into the welcome and loving arms of our Lord….

~ Mick E. ~

Life Long Friendships

lor and me reunion

In high school 1977 ~ at 30 year high school reunion 2009

Watched a show on PBS yesterday about “Life Long Friends”….It said that today, true friendships are becoming “fewer and far between.”   It made me think:  It’s so easy to cast away friendships like we cast away our “recyclables.”  True life long friendships are almost like a marriage….we live, love, laugh and play together when we’re young…..get in trouble together in our teenage years…..we grow a little older (and hopefully wiser) and call each other on our bullshit when we screw up….. we negotiate and compromise when needed.  If we lose touch for a year or two, we can always pick up right where we left off.  We know each others’ deepest secrets and would carry them to the grave if need be.  Over the years, when a crisis occurs, a car breaks down, a baby is born, a family member dies, WE ARE ALWAYS THERE………..A hundred Thanksgivings and Christmases that we scarcely remember, but when in need, we still have them on our cell phone speed dial (after all the kids).  We keep thinking that maybe someday we’ll get hip enough for Skype and Face Time, but we still prefer to “let our fingers do the walking.”  Today I send my love and blessings to all those who still have what my daughter would call “a solid BFF” and you should give them a call and say “What’s up?”

~ Mick E. ~