The trip was arguably over-prepped. The car had enough nut bars and organic
granola bars for a scout troop. It had a tablet, a smart phone and a satellite
nav system. Water, dried apples, two blankets (even though this was late July
and the car and I were headed to Santa Fe via the southern route. A couple of
pillows. A case of cds, all the AAA guides for all the states I’d cross. There
were reservations at grown-up hotels at carefully-selected intervals (courtesy
of a student who works for a big chain and was a little fretty about my
traveling so far ALONE).
I turned 60 in the spring. It seemed momentous. It also precipitated a
large-scale existential crisis, and, since I am not constitutionally capable of
having a subtle crisis, nearly drove my long-suffering family and friends a
There was whimpering about all my large-scale life failures. Lots of it. I never
lost weight. I never made any money or got a tenure-track job. I am not only not
famous, my 2nd full-length manuscript has been through so many revisions I
hardly recognize it and no one wants it. 60. 40 years out of my MA program, and
I have one book and one chapbook. I also have a nemesis I sort of made up for
myself in order to have someone to blame and have thoroughly enjoyed loathing
that person for decades. Then I found out that, her eminence notwithstanding,
her life has been rather rougher than mine in marital terms—I’ve been happily
married for 37 years to one of my first-year professors. She’d been very
unhappily married and eventually divorced. I mention this only because finding
it out might have been the crowbar that began to lever me out of the morass of
self-denigration in which I was wallowing.
Several realizations ensued:
1. I needed to stop worrying about fame and work harder on being a good poet.
Not that I haven’t worked hard, just that I needed to work harder.
2. I needed to push myself into new places poetically.
3. I needed to stop whining before one of my daughters put the whole family out
of my misery.
4. I needed to do something mildly (we are talking about a bourgeois,
comfort-loving, safety-seeking broad here) badass—hence the 4-day solo roadtrip
between Newark, DE and Santa Fe, NM (where I was going to the Glen Workshops for
the third time). Also, I didn’t feel like dealing with TSA. I don’t fly
frequently enough to shrug the invasions and discourtesies off, and I get a
little crazed by strangers putting their hands in my hair and lifting my clothes
in public and getting all aggressive because my titanium knees make the machine
go beep. It is possible that deciding to drive 30+ hours, 2/3 of the way across
this rather large country was a bit of an overreaction to my loathing of TSA
encounters, but the decision felt good when I made it and kept feeling good as
the time to leave approached. It felt badass, even if driving a recent model
Subaru and staying in nice hotels wouldn’t count for most people. I think it was
badass mostly because it meant spending over 100 hours pretty much alone,
(except for a surprise stop in Nashville to see a dear friend from college I
hadn’t seen in decades).