Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Great American Road Trip

I quit my job.

Oh, yeah, I did. And it was either the silliest or most brilliant decision I've ever made. Fortunately, I'm inclined to believe the latter.

I was able to resign only because I have a safety net, and am grateful for it. But believe me, I worked for it. When my mother was diagnosed with a particularly cruel and quick form of ALS (one in which things happen fast, and the first to go is the ability to swallow and speak) I resigned from the job I had at the time and became her full-time caregiver for just under two years. It was fucking brutal, for both of us and for my then-new husband. ALS is a disease for which more than one doctor has advocated Kevorkian-style measures. It is horrible. Watching a loved one die of it is heartbreaking.

Since her death in 2002, I've received annuity payments, and have been able to live rather nicely with their added income. I've saved some of it, thinking I'd put it towards a house or whatnot. But I've also been very restless. At the same time I longed to use most of the cash for future security, there was another plan for it brewing in the back of my head.

How old were you when you first thought about ditching parents/school/relationship/job and hitting the road? I dwelt on this fantasy at several times in my life.

At sixteen, I imagined myself peeling off in my little beater Oldsmobile with only a general driving direction as a plan. I'd head West. Or north. I'd live off my wits. I'd sit, looking intense and brimming with literary vision, smoking in some coffee shop while everyone wondered: who was this totally hot, totally deep chick who'd just hit town? I'd meet like-minded tune-in-and-drop-outers, and we'd drop LSD together and talk about Sartre. Then someday, someone would find me in the gutter, gripping a tattered manuscript that was destined to become the Greatest Memoir Ever Written. That'd be sooo cool. And wouldn't my parents feel like assholes for mistreating me?

At seventeen, I hated Catholic school, and planned to form a roving Commedia dell' Arte revivalist troupe. Gawd, those were the days---young, innocent, and unaware that 'Renaissance Festival' was a euphemism for Ye Olde Commune of Reeking Hippies.

By early twenties, Herman Hesse's Demian had convinced me that my quest for orderly bourgeoise existence was antithetical to the possibility of true happiness. All that stuff about the sensual world, and how "each man's life represents a road to himself". How can you resist that, drinking a beer at a coffee shop, chain smoking, and desperately avoiding your term paper? It so moved me to pack up, get in the car, and go forth in search of Humanity that I had anxiety attacks for a week that were only ameliorated by heavy dosages of Lone Star Beer.

A couple of main things kept me from realizing this dream. The first, of course, was cash. I couldn't save money for diddlysquat, but then again, I never made more than diddlysquat. The second was fear from deviating from what was expected. I was chickenshit to abandon the path that allowed me to appear legitimate despite my utter lack of self-esteem. I was a college student. I had held down a full-time job. These things kept me from being a complete waste of space. Or so I believed.

I also feared the voices in my head that condemned such a trip as frivolous. I had only a vague idea of a plan: to observe American life and write about it, blah, blah, blah, and my inner critic said: Hell, sister, you don't have to leave town to do that. Besides: borrrr-ring! Already been done.

The truth was, the whole idea lacked structure, and seemed more like an excuse to get away from whatever crappy situation I'd gotten myself into: bad relationship, soul-sucking job, meaningless theater degree.

My original intention in quitting was to spend time with family and friends during what is a difficult holiday season. My husband and I are separated, and although we're the best of friends, we may not be able to pull off the married thing anymore. I planned on looking for another wine job, one that payed more, and was putting out feelers for a wholesale gig.

And then it occurred to me: I could do that, but what if I did something else instead?

Everything, I realized, was in perfect place for my Great American Road Trip.

Money: Got it.

Time: Got it.

Purpose: To blog as I drive west, stopping at as many of the lesser known wineries as I can. Drive all the way up the coast, through California, Oregon, Washington, and into Vancouver. Meet winemakers. Meet owners. Meet everyone. Interview them. Stay away from the Big Darlings, and give small production vintners a spot. In the big hub cities, I'll do the podcasts on a weekly basis, as much as possible. I'll hit local wine shops, wine bars, and restaurants.
I'll learn to write better. I'll learn to organize better. I'll learn all about the American Appellations. I might even find myself a job.

Am I nuts? Most people I've laid this on think not. They know I can do this. And for the first time in my life, so do I.

Holy shit. I'm really going to do this. Wish me luck.


Blogger Mascorrolandia said...

One door closes, another one swings right open - and the view is much more vivid, not to mention simply kick-ass.

You don't need luck because you've already got the talent, T.

Get on with your own bad self!

4:18 PM  
Blogger Water into Wino said...

Sounds fooking great! You need a driver to take turns while you nap? Looking forward to living vicariously through your badass lust for life.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Water into Wino said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Bradley Cooper, Winemaker said...

Door is open when you finally get here. Watch the winter driving.

6:12 PM  
Blogger jens at cincinnati wine said...

Good luck! I know you will never make it to Cincinnati and the Midwest, but if ever, it would be a hoot to meet you offline.

I like your career plans. Keep blogging!


7:49 PM  
Blogger Mary Baker said...

I'll be following your road trip with voyeuristic delight. You go, girl!

9:56 AM  
Blogger Japan-O-Matic! said...

I can't wait to see what you come up with!!


4:36 PM  
Blogger johng said...

hey, sounds like an excellent adventure. I posted some suggestions for napa - sonoma for you here.

10:30 AM  

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