Episode 053 – Someone Had To Do It
“Sometimes, ideas drift across your vision like a small feather from a cactus wren, disguised as a serendipitous encounter with a table full of people you never actually meet.”
I don’t know why I ended up in that little surf village. It just looked like a cool place on my paper map, stashed way out there on a desolate point of land like the last berry on a branch drooping close to the ground.
Oh, the things we discover when we load up the car and drive to a place we’ve never been.
A place, that weeks before had been nearly wiped off the map by a hurricane.
A place where, if you pause long enough, the idea you were searching for might just drift across your vision like a small feather from a cactus wren.
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Until next time… Be nice. Do good stuff.
Last week, I went for a drive and landed in a surfing village on point that jutted out out into the Pacific. The little town was decimated by hurricane Hilary last month. I didn’t do it on purpose. You see, I didn’t think about it when I decided to head out on a spur of the moment road trip. I also didn’t realize it was the day before Mexican Independence Day.
I found a tiny motor lodge that had one room for one night only. The road trip I had hoped for to get away for a week or so wasn’t of to the best start.
There was one restaurant open despite part of the ceiling being gone. Five tables covered in traditional Mexican Serape tablecloths, skull-shaped water glasses and framed Virgin of Guadelupe adorned with flashing christmas lights let me know I was in the right place.
The service was on point and the woman who owned the place was kind. Grey dreads, pulled back off her face. A long flowing hippie dress.
Everything she had to cook was meat. I don’t eat meat but I wasn’t about to mention that.
I ordered a hamburger. She sensed my apprehension and asked if there was anything else she could do. I asked her if she had avocado and she said yes. How about a fried egg, she asked.
Her eyes got big, happy that I made a request she could actually satisfy. As if she’d had so many others that she couldn’t. A fried egg…If everything was that simple.
Over easy? That’d be great.
Sure. What the hell.
When my burger arrived, the yolk was broken. She asked me if I wanted her to make me another.
Absolutely not. This is perfect.
It was the most authentic conversation I’ve had in quite some time. I realized authentic conversation has become a problem for me.
It feels like everything that comes out of my mouth these days is manufactured or mechanical. Like a machine spewing out answers to questions that haven’t been asked.
When she headed for the kitchen, I sat quietly, taking in the room. The stickers on the wall. The signatures in different colored markers from previous guests who signed their names and compliments to the chef. From towns like Bishop, California. Tucson, Boise…
All these folks transited through this little intersection known as Juanita’s.
There were four other tables in the restaurant. At the one behind me, a group of people, a mixture of older and younger some with tattoos, dreads, surfer types talking loudly to get above the din of the floor fans. I couldn’t help but hear the conversation.
It veered all over the place. I sat up a little straighter when I heard Louis Armstrong’s name float out into the room. Not a place one expects to hear Louis Armstrong’s name. Don’t ask me why it’s not a place… it just felt like more like a Tom Wait’s Blue Valentine kinda place.
But If you don’t know, I’m kinda obsessed with old jazz trumpet players and when it come down to it, Miles said, you can’t play anything on a horn that didn’t come through Louis.
The conversation flowed like water. The path of least resistence led to a light argument about what is and isn’t jazz.
Besides this conversation that I wasn’t directly involved with, there wasn’t much to distract me – which is why I was so surprised when I realized I’d missed the turnoff that led to the discussion about Bigfoot.
Louis Armstrong? Bigfoot.
Was there a six-degrees of separation type connection that I was unaware of? I didn’t know. When I got back to my room, I tried to find one and couldn’t so I decided to create one…a connection that ties Louis Armstrong to Bigfoot.
If I planned on getting any sleep, it needed to be done in order to organize the day’s events in my head.
1st Degree: Louis was known for his collaborations with the great Ella Fitzgerald.
2nd Degree: Ella Fitzgerald worked closely with the renowned composer/arranger, Nelson Riddle.
3rd Degree: Nelson Riddle collaborated on numerous occasions with voice actor and theatre director, Ed Ragozzino.
4th Degree: In 1976, Ed Ragozzino directed a film called, Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot.
Someone had to do it. Could be the start of a whole new career.
I planned on staying gone for a week or so, working on the show while I was on the road. I brought my gear. Microphones, headphones, note pads. Books. Battery banks and chargers. I even brought my good coffee beans, hand grinder and Aero Press.
Not sure of where I was going to end up, I brought my kit as I do every time I take a road trip. I carry a small alcohol camp stove, water filter system, sleep system and a few other things.
When I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning, nothing in town was open for a cup of coffee so I sat on the sand in front of my hotel room and fired up the stove. The soft sizzling sound it makes when the alcohol ignites made me happy.
I spun the handle on my small stainless grinder.
It was restorative, almost as if spinning the handle was adding juice to my internal battery bank.
There’s nothing like sandy feet and the sound of distant surf on a rocky beach.
I sipped my hot coffee and felt bad for being there. Like I was impacting further a space and time that needed reprieve.
But that feeling faded almost immediately when I realized every time someone passed by me they waved and smiled.
If I hadn’t seen the buildings torn from their foundations, downed palm trees or ate in the restaurant with no roof, I would have thought it was just another day.
I don’t know why I ended up in that little surf village. It just looked like a cool place on my paper map, stashed way out there on a desolate point of land like the last berry on a branch drooping too close to the ground.
Sometimes it starts to feel like the walls are closing in around here. The faint tick of the chain dangling from the ceiling fan might was well be a howitzer. No amount of focus draws me back to the page when things get like that.
Usually, an escape is the only fix but trying to escape when a deadline looms is not really possible. That starts to look a lot like transporting a gorilla in the back of an armored truck.
But… if I pack my notepads, my microphone, and computer… the escape then becomes a mission. A mission to connect with what I’m trying to say. Sometimes, you gotta run it down.
It feels a bit clunky and unenlighted… Most times, when you try to unearth something, dig up or chase down an idea, it ends up being a bad idea.
The best ideas come as universal downloads. They wake me in the middle of the night. They pop me on the side of my head when I’m walking along the beach or riding my bike, focused on something else entirely, or focused on nothing at all.
But sometimes, ideas drift across your vision like a small feather from a cactus wren, disguised as a serendipitous encounter with a table full of people you never actually meet.
It’s just a point where our destinies intersect for a moment that in any other situation would be almost imperceptible.
For me interactions such as these function as an immediate reset. Friends will say, wow you drove 8 hours for one night away?
I’ll smile and nod.
Inside, I’m thinking; I drove 8 hours for the 8 hours I spent away from a screen. My phone.
I drove 8 hours so that I could feel the sun blasting the side of my face.
I drove 8 hours for the roadside burritos and the opportunity to speak spanish to a leathery woman with hands that read like fiction.
I drove 8 hours to eat a burger with fried egg because apparently, that’s what was necessary to find the thread connecting American Jazz to the mystery of Bigfoot.
Someone had to do it.
Alright, thanks for being here. Hard to believe we’ve blown through another season…Next week is the last episode in Season 4. We’ll take a short break and be back before you know it.
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I’ll be here next week. I hope you will too.
You know what I’m gonna say, Be Nice. Do good stuff.
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