Thursday, May 18, 2017

#60 - Thursday, 18 May 2017 - Rodeo, New Mexico

Life is short. Fragile and fleeting. Tomorrow is not promised. Nor is next hour.

I learned this hard lesson in late January 2013. My bonus dad Joel and my mother had made a special trip to the Seattle area in November 2012 to visit me so that my pooch Taylor and I could do the return road trip with them. They would watch her while I spent three-plus weeks in Suriname. I would fly out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. My mom had bought a new car and Hound Dog Taylor and I would eventually return to Washington in her old Toyota. You never know when you are saying your goodbyes and thanks that it will be the last time you see someone. You never know when you’ll give your final hug to the woman who brought you into the world. Not two months later tragedy struck. My mom was gone.

My Suriname 2012 field trip was followed by Sri Lanka 2014. After my mother’s death I moved back to Chicagoland, and this time I’d be leaving Taylor and my parrot Jesse in my sister’s care. It was really tough to leave. My precious dog was elderly and she didn’t seem quite right. I had accepted an offer to travel with Andrew Smith again for Brazil 2015, but while in Sri Lanka I sent him an email declining the invitation. There were a number of reasons but first and foremost was the struggle I was having leaving Taylor. That dog was my rock. She got me through the end of my marriage and she got me through a couple of unhealthy relationships that followed. I told Andrew I wouldn’t travel again while Taylor was still alive.

When I got back to O’Hare Airport from Sri Lanka I had a taxi take me to to a funeral home. Death happens every second and is nothing special. It only is important to the comparative few that care. My brother-in-law Randy’s aunt had passed while I was in Sri Lanka and my family was at her wake. I arrived and found my dying dog in my sister’s car. Cancer had overcome her during my absence and my sister had been taking her to a vet for care and medication. A few days later, after Taylor had ceased eating anything, I was forced to say my goodbyes. My partner was gone.

Why is my blog filled with tales of loss today? I guess a huge part of this road trip is just doing what the fuck I want while I am able to do it. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I remember Andrew, who has now reached 60, telling me how many field trips he had left in him and his plans to go where he still wanted or needed to go. He was thinking about his health, and maybe his desire, but I doubt he was thinking that he could get hit by a bus today. I had nothing else going and my depression over the losses of what honestly have been the two most important relationships of my life sparked the fire of this road trip, but the fact that who knows how many days I have fanned the flames. I have enjoyed my field trips and international travel over the past ten years or so, but the United States has so much more beauty and diversity to offer. I don’t need to cramp my large frame in an airplane or get special shots or deal with other cultures. It is all right here in my backyard.

But I should answer the question of “why today”… I woke to the news that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell (also of Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and solo career) died last night. He was born 16 days before me. Like me, he was 52 years old and a couple months away from 53. He was on tour with Soundgarden and performed last night in Detroit. The cause of death has not been determined. I still remember when someone walked into the store I was working at in Wauconda in 1989 and handed me Soundgarden’s “Louder than Love”. It was more punk/alternative than the metal I favored, but it was so heavy and the powerful voice of Chris Cornell was mind-blowing. In more recent years, I have been into the jamband scene and recently one of its pioneers and innovators, Colonel Bruce Hampton, died right after performing his set at his own 70th birthday concert. I guess popping your clogs right after doing what you love, on your birthday, surrounded by most of your friends, family and peers is a good way to go, but F U C K.

I was a bit off my game yesterday, suffering from my battles with depression, and this morning I definitely am just in a “what the fuck” haze. For the most part this road trip has helped me with my demons, and has been what I have needed to stay sane. I guess when someone who was two weeks old when you were born dies it is a bit of a tailspin. Of course, yesterday and the day before that, loads of 52-year-olds died all over the world. So did children. An insignificant number of humans noticed and today the world is unchanged. We mean nothing. I'm not special and neither are you. Chris will be mourned by thousands and thousands and thousands. I might be mourned by dozens. Nobody is mourned by 7.5 billion, and I would argue that hominids are the least important organisms. 

The world goes on. Don’t wait until tomorrow.      

Love someone, M


  1. Chins up, big lad! Could be worse - you could be standing in the BTS car park for 8 hours! Good work on the Journal BTW ;-)

    1. Thanks ... Ray? Mark? ... Been meaning to ask if new issue has landed