Editorial: Jamie Beckett on Running Away

Apropos of Nothing: You’re Never Too Old To Run Away
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Maybe the straw that broke your personal camel’s back happened when you were 6 and your mom balked at the idea of an all-candy lunchtime extravaganza. Or perhaps it came when you were 10 and your dad suggested it might not be your best move to relocate to New York City in a vain attempt to attract the eye of the Yankee’s manager in time to play in the World Series. It makes no difference. Most of us answer the call of independence many years before we’re truly ready to handle the load. It’s the American way.

Then again, there’s no shame in running away from home when you’re deep into middle age, working hard, and would love to have a plausible reason for not mowing the lawn for a few weeks. In my case the stars aligned around a business trip to Texas, followed a week later by a business trip to California. Sure, I could fly out and back then stay home for a few days before flying out and back again. That’s what a normal person would do. That would have been the responsible option, surely.

That’s not what I did.

Nope. I changed the oil in the car, rotated the tires, and headed the tiny toaster I drive in a westward direction. Incidentally, I rotated the tires myself after stopping in to the garage on three separate occasions and found them unwilling or unable to do the work. Being an irascible jerk with a tendency to go off half-cocked, I learned an important lesson about rotating the tires on your car in the driveway when time is tight and the proper tools aren’t available. Here is what I learned – don’t do it. We old dudes don’t have the lower back muscles we had when we were young irascible jerks. Ouch. Seriously.

In case you’re interested, or should you ever decide to model your life after mine and run away from home, it takes the better part of a day to drive from the 863 all the way to the Sunshine State’s western boundary. From there it’s just a short jaunt through the panhandle of Alabama, followed by a similarly short trek through the panhandle of Mississippi, followed by several days of wondering why nearly every state in the south has a panhandle attached to it.

I still have no idea.

Running away from home is not all chocolate cake and ice cream sundaes, by the way. Lovebugs attacked my grill with a vengeance as I motored through Louisiana. A flock of cute little birds took revenge on my hood in Fort Worth, Texas. The surprisingly modern and oh-so attractive city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, made up for those assaults when the hotel I was staying at left a waffle iron unattended even though a large vat of batter was close by. Consequently, I left New Mexico happily stuffed and oozing syrup, which is exactly what you need to survive in the wilds of the high desert. I believe Kit Carson was the trail guide who first discovered that fact. I’d have to look it up to be sure, though.

Tempe, Arizona, is my original home, although in the years since I left I forgot how stunningly dry it is. It’s difficult to put into words exactly how quickly you can become dehydrated in the desert, but if you’re enough of a puddin’ head to really want to know, you can simulate the experience by stitching together a quilt made of silica gel packets. Now sleep under your new quilt while making sure you have established good silica gel-to-skin contact. If you survive the experience you will have gained some valuable insight into the reason people in the desert always have water close at hand. Usually, lots of water.

Joshua Tree, California, is every bit as dry as Tempe, Arizona. But in the autumn it also has a tendency to become wintery cold as soon as the sun goes down. Not frost-on-the-windshield cold, but pretty darned close. And for a Floridian that hit the road in a hurry (as all good runaways do), shorts and a t-shirt are woefully inadequate for the occasion.

Incidentally, if you’re going to head west and keep going like I did, prepare yourself for windmills. I mean thousands of windmills. From Sweetwater, Texas, to the Pacific Ocean, they’re out there in massive numbers. Holland ain’t got nothin’ on us, baby.

As I jot down these lines I find myself in a luxury hotel room directly across Ocean Avenue from the Santa Monica Pier. This is Los Angeles. A California paradise by the sea. And I realize suddenly that if I give up on my quest for independence and slink back home with my tail between my legs, I’ll have to brave dehydration, cold, angry birds (the real kind), and teeming swarms of insects to do it. Plus, I’ll have a lawn to mow that hasn’t seen sharpened steel in weeks.

Go home again? Let me get back to you on that. It might just be simpler to stay here and develop a full-blown case of mid-life crisis. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a government program that pays benefits for that sort of thing. Hmmm…