Dream the night away and forget about everything, Yes, forget about everything. Did you ever what to change your life, leave the rat race and go somewhere, anywhere. Find some town where your soul meant something. For me it was Mendicino, the town, the county, the ideal of living free. I wanted out of he rat race, out of that crowded suburbia so many people call living. I had a dream about buying some land, somewhere I could settle down in that simple way. Chop wood, haul water, if I remember the book. Sometimes I still dream about it, sometimes I listen in the night and create that sense of change I always wanted and never quite managed. You know what I mean? Sure you do. We all had that dream, those of us who mattered in the late sixties. But dreams take money and I had none. What else is new? The young never have the money for their dreams. So we settle for what we can get.
I settled for working for the phone company as a lineman and cable splicer. Craft work, union work, physical work. I hired on at just above minimum wage, I could reach the exalted top wage of seven dollars in five years. Think of it, seven dollars an hour. My god, I remember when three dollars an hour was a decent wage. But that was before I paid my dues to Uncle Sam, back when three dollars was a good wage and got you a decent apartment and a nice girlfriend and a good car, better than the 55 Buick Century I had at the time. Hey, the thing was fast enough, could do Columbus to Cincinnati in an hour and ten minutes, about a hundred miles an hour. Two years later I acquired a wife and nine months later we had a daughter. We struggled financially before I got the job with the phone company. Some part time work, then a real nasty minimum wage job. difficult to make ends meet when you’re young and have so many wants. We bought a house, really more than I could afford and the bills were starting to pile up. Trying to be middle class is like a solid gold trap. Your foot gets caught and you become afraid to chew it off to free yourself. I picked up what overtime was given me, that helped out financially but she complained when I worked a few hours late or a Saturday. Said I didn’t love her enough. After four years of marriage we called it quits. Broke even on the sale of the house and moved her into an apartment in another city.
So that solid gold trap got a little tarnish and bent up but the teeth bit into my ankle harder. Child support, Montessori summer school for my daughter to help out on child care, some clothes shopping here and there. Playing weekend father, man, that was the worst. It gets to you after awhile. Then she finds another man and he’s playing real daddy. Bastard! Later I find out he was a real bastard, would sometime become physically abusive. Bastard! No, man, got to keep my head down, got to work what overtime I can get. She got the car, so I walk to work, just a couple of blocks from my apartment, a dive, bad neighborhood. It’s a lonely time, a very lonely time. Take the bus to community college at night, got to advance in the company, need to make foreman if a position ever opens up. At least it occupies my time, gets me out of the apartment. A couple more raises where the Union COLA kicks in, inflation just eats that up. You know, you’re making more and consuming less. I feel like I’m running as fast as I can but I don’t get anywhere. The VA college payments help, keeps me even for now.
Mother Earth News is like an escapist Disneyland. Yeah, go back to living off the land but I still need a day job and I work in the city. Besides, it takes money to buy raw land. Oh, I know all about this new way of living. got to pay cash for the land because the bank won’t lend money against raw land. and if you want to build that log cabin you need some timberland with trees, big trees. You know how many trees it takes to build a simple 500 square foot cabin? so I put in for a transfer to the country areas. ain’t no openings and the company has frozen everyone in place for the next two to five years. So I’m still stuck in my trap, the rent keeps getting higher every year, and the ex has moved to Utah. Lucky if I can see my daughter a couple times a year, fly her out at my expense. Just as long as it’s not on holidays. Big deal that, family comes first. I’m just a single dad pretending he has a child and paying for the pretense.
My dream won’t go away. I took a couple of trips to where I want to be, but every time I’m there and see the happy people living my dream I feel that knife plunge deeper in my heart. I’ve got a little money saved, maybe a couple thousand but land prices keep rising. My dream keeps slipping into the future. Gone through a couple of girl friends but that’s about all. None seem to stick and only one ever thought much about my dream. They all talked about careers and family and I talk about dreams. Yeah, I’m a rolling stone in a sea of romance. Every year I get a little older and every year Mendicino gets a little further, must be close to a million miles by now. These old dreams never die a natural death. And Mother Earth News changed, I stopped reading it years ago as it became quite the commercial success, becoming the very thing it was against. We’ve all changed, even the land has gotten yuppified. Think of it, wineries, bed and breakfast places, commercial retreats for the novice artists and writers. And me? I’ve been priced out of my dream. Oh, it’s still there, like all our old dreams, it lingers alike a long and slow death, haunting our memories. At least I’m out of the city, sort of. Found a small community that is rural like enough for my childhood memories and distant enough from city life. Even got me a wife that likes much of what I like. Anyway, this reality is nice, I like it. We’re happy enough. I might even settle down and forget about everything.
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