Into the valley of the sun
Disclaimer: This is not a representation of my normal jovial writing style. This is an introspective piece, so proceed at your own risk.
With a benevolent disposition, my Grandfather exclaimed, "There will be a time in your life that you will go in search of." I remember this statement like it was yesterday; I was 18 and hardly in the mood for my Grandfather's ramblings or shall I say, insights on life. As this seemingly God- like presence spoke to me, I couldn't help but notice his grayish hair and the understated wisdom in his eyes (the kind of eyes that were not a stranger to the term destitution). As I walked away on that hot and steamy day, I glanced back over my shoulder as I hit my stride. I didn't know it then, but my journey had just begun. Long before responsibility, a mortgage, SUV payments and the dreaded and shall I say feared, "Thank you, Sir" as a 20- something hottie hands you your change on the way out of your local convenience store. At 18, I had an unbridled sense of adventure and a wide- eyed curiosity of the world that was not yet tainted with cynicism. I was not burdened with what someone else thought, nor the latest fashion trend. It was plain and simple, not "PC". That terminology wasn't even invented then. It was just you and your dream, whatever it was. Either you liked something or you didn't. Simple really, you weren't concerned on how you got there, you just cranked the radio up to 10 and enjoyed the ride. Like my elders before me, I too was "in search of" and this trip to the desert signified just that for me. I had no idea what I was supposed to find when I arrived, but it was there and only there that the answer to the riddle would reveal itself.
A poet once wrote:
"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."
Strong insight indeed.
I hadn't a clue of what I hoped to see: Maybe I would be granted insight,perhaps engage in a purification ritual with a shaman
or just maybe enter an altered state of consciousness with the great spirit 'Elk coming down off the mountain to offer me supreme guidance and protection. Like I said, I didn't know. But, the Lee I was at 18, is not the Lee I am today and I hoped to find myself, find my stride, to get back to where I once belonged. Yes people, I'm talking about the Crossroads. That innate place between confidence and doubt, youth and wisdom. We all end up there at one time or another. That lost highway. You'll know when you arrive. The gatekeeper knows you all too well and when he asks what you're there for with a smile, just smile right back at him and say, "Never mind, I found what I was looking for- I found myself".
Photo 1. This is a view from the hotel terrace. As you can see, the mountain view is indeed enchanting.
Photo 2. This is a picture of the mountains known as "Tempe Butte". There are 169,712 people, 63,602 households, and 33,645 families residing in the city of Tempe, Arizona and this is the view they wake up to every day. You know, I, too love the view but, damn it's hot.
Photo 3. Of course, my preferred choice in air travel, "Confederate Airways" was already booked to capacity when I began planning my trip. You've heard of them, right? They're the airline whose planes are adorned with the Stars and Bars, painted appropriately in Hemi orange and of course, with stewardesses that all wear "Daisey Dukes". As I got the message back that they where booked, I was a little more than disappointed. How could I get my George Jones fix on? Where was I going to catch the latest Dukes of Hazard in-flight movie, not to mention the world class cornbread and butter-beans I've grown accustomed too? Yes friends, I was disappointed, but this is how fate intervened. These two ladies were, believe it or not my companions on the flight to Phoenix. Carla (that's the lady on the left and Allie is the lady on the right) had no idea what they were in store for, but come to think of it, neither did I.
As I sat there in my little cramped seat between the two of them, I told Carla of the little incident that had just happened to me in the concourse: about how my phone had been stolen while I was at the piano bar enjoying a Bloody Mary. That's when it happened: As the stewardess prepared us for our in-flight safety evacuation plan (you know, the whole "In the unlikely event the airplane makes a water landing spiel"), Carla said, "I guess you could call someone, but oh, you don't have a phone" and I replied, "Oh, it's gonna be like that, huh?" From that moment, it was game on. As the plane ascended toward the Western sky, Carla read her book, "Silver Bullets and Werewolves: 10 things You Should Know." Intrigued by the title, I asked Carla why, of all things was she reading a book like that? Her answer shocked me, as I realized I was sitting next to a real life, in the flesh, full- grown Lycanthrope. A She- Wolf, if you will. I was trembling as I asked, "Since you are a werewolf, did you pass that gene on to your daughter Allie?" (and she was sitting to my left, appropriately listening to Warren Devon's "Werewolves of London" on her Ipod, while watching the movie Invictus) Talented, right? "No", Carla replied. "It skips every other generation". "Good", I thought. In the unlikely event that I would have to fend off a she-wolf, at least it wasn't gonna be a two- on- one situation. I later found out that Allie was a recent graduate of ASU and smart too, I thought. Carla, on the other hand is employed in the medical profession: A great fit for when the Sheriff's department rolls in with a mutilated corpse, she can dissuade the authorities on their wild theories about a werewolf attack. I imagine she says things like, "That looks like a bear attack" or "That's preposterous". We all know she does this to keep the scent off of her trail. As reality was setting in on me, I thought. "I'd better play nice with her- what else can I do?" Then it hit me: I can get her liquor drunk and just maybe she'll have mercy on my soul. As the stewardess rolled by, I spoke up and said, "Excuse me." "Yes", she replied with a smile. "May I have four Vodka and Tonics please"? I didn't want the she-wolf to become agitated while waiting for her second drink, so I planned ahead (I saw this technique employed in a Lon Chaney film once, and I knew that it was an affective countermeasure). As she drank the Devil's elixir, it soothed her troubles and I could sense that killing me right there had left her mind. As the plane touched down on a desolate desert tarmac, Carla seemed at ease and I too was happy. For one, we didn't have an "unlikely event" and two, I made it with out having my jugular vein separated from my body. All in all, a safe, memorable and enjoyable flight. Seriously, I would like to extend a sincere "Thank you" to you both. You guys were perfect in every way, but if any of you ever see Carla out by the light of the moon, beware....
Photo 4. What a view, while you eat your breakfast.
Photo 5. More mountainous Terrain. It's beautiful actually.
I never see this in Georgia, but we also have a huge rock. Ours is special though, because it has General Lee etched in the face of it. Can you say, Hell Yeah....?
Photo 6. In the immortal words of Robert Plant:
Many have I loved, Many times been bitten. Many times I've gazed along the open road.
Photo 7,8,9. This is the town of Jerome, Arizona.