Saturday, July 20, 2013

From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 1

It’s a bummer deal, and all I have to work with right now. It takes two days to drive out to upstate South Carolina from the lower middle of Colorado. Two days of twelve-hour driving each day. Upon arriving at my destination I’ll need one more day to recover. Okay. Fine. Done.

Then I scramble about trying to see the Most Important People and try not to feel too resentful for having to go-go-go when I was hoping to get a little more rest on what I was hoping would be a nice vacation. I spend the Fourth of July with my irascible, working-poor brother in the crumbling, roach-infested double-wide trailer he rents in Pontiac, SC, and wince for his poverty, knowing I’m not very far behind him if I can’t make things happen with my Hail Mary pass of a book. In a few short years he’ll be too old to work. I’m already unemployable.

My brother and I stay up talking until five in the morning. I sleep three hours on a cramped, filthy couch before getting my children up and pulling out before anyone else wakes up. I know he’s pissed. But I could feel myself getting dumber, feel the gross tonnage of hopelessness pressing down with every minute spent in that environment. I can’t afford being dumb and feeling hopeless. I don’t want to get the least little bit used to it. 

After one week in South Carolina—one week!—I have to leave, feeling guilty for all the people I missed, realizing this is all so stupid. My people, everyone who matters to me, are only a few hours away from base camp in Marietta, South Carolina. Why am I living in Colorado? What on earth drove my wife and I to chain ourselves to a home mortgage 1,500 miles and a two-day drive away?

Woods so thick, Bigfoot couldn’t squeeze through.
Ah, base camp. I could easily spend the entire vacation where we were staying and tell no one I was there. My friend-who-is-like-a-brother to me bought eight acres of land on a tall ridge in the thick woods ten miles northwest of Traveler’s Rest, SC, a.k.a., “the Dark Corner,” where the old-time moonshiners used to operate. I’m talking thick woods—with the heat and humidity and machete-ready foliage. Think Vietnam with oaks and pines, minus the little people in black pajamas trying to kill you.

He bought those acres and built a house to his specs, complete with a bedroom and full bath set aside for visitors such as myself. He even had a deck built atop a two-story “tower” that encompasses a view of Caesar’s Head and various other summits in South and North Carolina. He’s so close to the border he named his estate the Keep on the Borderlands, with a nod to the second Dungeons and Dragons module from 1978. Which I suppose might get him labeled an “eldergeek,” except geeks don’t buy land and have houses built to spec.

Looking west from atop the Tower. James Robert Smith would
know what that peak is on the left. All I know is that it’s green
and quiet up here, and that I don’t want to leave.
The Internet out here is limited to minutes on his phone service, so no time is wasted on Facebook and Gmail and whatever else I spend too much time on in my basement office in Colorado. I make quick status posts and bail, the way it should be. I spend an entire Saturday enjoying old movies on TCM with my friend-who-is-like-a-brother, and resolve to watch at least one classic or semi-classic movie on Saturdays to come—it turns out I’ve spent more time reading about movies on the Internet than actually watching them.

Still looking west, but a little more north this time.
The following Sunday I enjoy a few hours at the tail-end of a pig-pickin’ and pool party in West Columbia, South Carolina, with a side of my family I haven’t seen since my step-father’s funeral in 2008. Still, I miss seeing James Robert Smith in Charlotte. My sister in the Outer Banks is disappointed we don’t stop by for a few days at the beach. I can do no more, though. The van is nearly ten years old, with a cracked engine mount, and everything is going on the credit card. I’ve still got the wife back home in Colorado, and one week to me is two weeks to her, especially as we spend a total of four days on the road, just driving.

I piss away the following Monday doing nothing more than noodling on my manuscript for Grace Among the Dead and mentally preparing myself for the voyage back to the Centennial State. Tuesday I take my friend’s wife to a doctor’s appointment in downtown Greenville, then drive the van to the Walmart in Traveler’s Rest for an oil change and check-up.

It is with heavy heart that my children and I depart early Wednesday morning. Last year when we did this I was fired up, full of ideas of what I wanted to do when I got back to Colorado. Now—despite having published a book, despite having sold the German-language rights—I’m boiling over with worry. What if I never make enough money to pay down my debt? What if we never get out of Colorado? Will I even be able to afford to do this next year?  

Take me home, Pumpkintown Road!

I keep telling myself this is all up to me. I’m going to have to make my own luck. Keep writing, keep promoting the book that is already out there. My son still has two years of high school left; that’s just enough time to get our metaphysical ducks in a row and get back to where we once belonged. 

It will help tremendously if I can bust out of this post-travel funk. It’s been over a week since we got back and I still feel like I’m in recovery. “And so we beat on, boats against the current....” That’s pretty much the way it feels right now. Goddamn, I’m tired.

Related: Cross-Continental Burn-Out Blues,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 2,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 3,
From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 4.