It occured to me, when I heaved open the heavy metal door to the storage unit that has held most of my possessions for the past eight months — unveiling disarray, peppered with mouse poop – that what was revealed wasn’t just a metaphor for my life.
It was my life — up to now — in a box.
Virtually all my worldly possessions, except my dog — and, though he’s worldly, I don’t really possess him — are in there.
Cash value? Not much. Emotional value? Depends on which box you open. Overall importance? Given the fact that I didn’t miss any of it in eight months, next to nothing.
But when I moved out of my house in Baltimore to hit the road with my dog last May, I packed it all, and hauled it all, and stacked it all and secured it all with big strong lock.
Because, for me to be truly liberated, all my stuff had to be incarcerated.
We in the free world are slaves to our stuff. We are slaves to our jobs, which allow us to get more stuff. We are slaves to our mortgages, and utility bills, and the Internet and other technology we grow to depend on. Most of all, we are slaves to health insurance.
That, maybe more than anything — especially for those 40 and above — is why we stay in jobs we hate. Sometimes we hate them so much it makes us physically sick — especially when our workload quadruples so that stockholders can get a second yacht. But that’s OK because we have health insurance.
Unable to afford both health insurance and housing, I’ve opted to go with an alternative health plan whose protocol will be followed in the event of serious illness. It’s known as CIACAD (Crawl Into A Corner And Die.)
For my dental plan, I’ve chosen LTARAFO (Let Them All Rot And Fall Out).
For vision — it being more important than to me than life or chewing — I’ll likely pay my own way, as opposed to going with SAGAMG (Shutup And Get A Magnifying Glass).
I need to check into all these health insurance reforms, but my guess is whatever Obama-care benefits might apply to me probably, with my luck, are scheduled to kick in the day after I die.
But this post isn’t about death. It’s about life, and how we choose to live it — and how that, for most of us, is in a really big box, divided up into smaller boxes, some with plumbing and appliances, and all, of course, filled with stuff.
I started off loading it in a very organized manner, but running out of time, sped up to the point that much of it isn’t organized at all. Some boxes are labeled; others are mysteries. There are many boxes that say books, but there are only four or five books I need right now, and going through 20 boxes to find them – all of course trapped back at the very rear of the unit — would be a real time absorber.
So how is my storage unit a metaphor for my life?
First, it’s in disarray. I’m guessing an x-ray of my brain would look a lot like the inside of my storage unit. My stuff is not organized, not immediately locatable. My stuff is in limbo. My stuff, like me, has no idea where it will be a year from now.
There are some treasures in there. A baseball with Willie Mays’ autograph; photos of my son arriving from Korea; the goofy white cap I had to wear at my first job, selling burgers; my Pulitzer Prize (it’s just a sheet of paper); yellowed newspaper stories written nearly 35-plus years ago.
There are four or five boxes of strictly sentimental value. They contain memories. But I don’t remember where they are.
The stuff I need — certain books, forks, long underwear — are all buried somewhere at the back of the unit. The stuff I have no use for right now – my bicycle, golf clubs, tennis rackets — are all right at the front.
Part of me thinks it would be nice to have a place of my own, where I could unpack my stuff and organize it and live amongst it. Part of me thinks that would again make me a slave to my stuff, and all those previously mentioned other things that tie us down.
Here is what I am wondering — after the eight months Ace and I lived in a boat, trailer, tent, my car, cheap motel rooms, and the homes of friends and strangers as we traversed the U.S.:
Is what’s stuffed in that big metal box my life? Or, is my life over there, down that road winding into the horizon?
Do we treasure our past and present to the point that we shortchange our future? Is it possible, for those eking out an existence — as opposed to rolling in money — to have both security and adventure? Is it possible to properly nourish relationships with friends and family — in more than a superficial Facebook kind of way — without living right where they live?
In a way, it should be less complicated for me, having no “partner,” except for my big fuzzy one; having not just an empty nest, but no nest at all.
I should be able to figure this out.
If you’re wondering who that woman is in the back of the storage unit, that’s my beer sign lady — a cardboard cut-out, who, like much of my furniture, I rescued from a Dumpster. I picked her up last winter, but, in the months that followed, found her a bit one-dimensional and not at all good at conversation.
When I moved my stuff into storage, I assigned her the task of watching over it all.
She did a lousy job.
Somehow, all my (mostly) neatly stacked boxes started leaning, and teetering, and falling. She did nothing, and apparently wasn’t much help in scaring visiting mice away.
I think, when I finally do locate myself, I will get rid of her.
The bigger decision, though, is where I belong — warmly ensconced in a home of my own, or among the realm of vagabonds, like those RV nomads who kept their wanderlust in check until retirement kicked in and have been happily rolling along ever since?
When the road calls again, and I’m sure it will, will I answer?
Posted by jwoestendiek January 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adventure, america, animals, baltimore, beer, belongings, box, boxes, cardboard, decisions, dogs, health insurance, home, lady, liberated, life, lifestyles, memories, organize, pets, possessions, road trip, rv, security, sentimental, sign, slaves, storage, storage unit, stuff, things, travel, travels with ace, vagabond, value, values, wanderlust
“Putting My Trust in You”
Sexy voice … street smart
Kind, patient … You complete me,
(Highway Haiku is a collection of poetry, composed on the road, that appears semi-regularly in ”Travels with Ace. To see all of them, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, direction, directions, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, faith, global, gps, haiku, highway, highway haiku, lady, maps, ohmidog!, pets, poetry, positioning, road, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trust, voice
Lady, who had been on medication for the past three years for a bad hip, was recently diagnosed with cancer, at 13.
The governor took the dog to a vet last month, after she became unable to climb the stairs to the bedroom, where she commonly slept on the floor on the governor’s side of the bed.
He shared the diagnosis with his wife, District Court Judge Katie O’Malley, who was at a conference in Russia.
They discussed waiting until the first lady’s return five days later but decided against that. Lady was put down the following day, May 14.
“It would have been unfair to Lady,” Katie O’Malley told the Baltimore Sun. “Martin had to go all by himself and hold her in his arms while she went to sleep. It was very, very sad for the kids.”
Lady, whose image graced state highway maps and the governor’s Christmas cards, was taken in by the O’Malley family ten years ago when her owner, a friend of a friend, had to giver her up due to health problems.
But the governor’s mansion is still home to Rex, a cocker spaniel; Winston, a Yorkshire terrier-poodle mix; and two cats.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cancer, dead, death, dies, dog, dogs, first dog, golden retriever, governor, katie o'malley, lady, martin, martin o'malley, maryland, news, o'malley, ohmidog!, pets
When Parley Nichols, 81, went missing from his home in Hartville, Ohio, his family wasn’t surprised to learn that the dog who never left his side was missing, too.
Six-year-old Lady, a golden retriever he bought as a puppy, was his constant companion.
Nichols, who suffered from dementia, had been missing for more than a week when a neighbor called his family to report that a dog had been heard barking in a field outside of town. After searching the area twice, the family found Nichols dead, and Lady at his side.
“Lady was standing by his side protecting him,” Parley’s son Terry Nichols told PEOPLEpets.com. “We are sure that she never left my dad for seven days, staying alive by drinking water from the creek.”
Terry Nichols said the family had to pull Lady away from her master and place her in the back of their pickup truck. “I don’t know how dogs perceive things but she knew she had to stay with dad no matter what,” he said. “And she did.”
A preliminary autopsy conducted by the Stark County coroner found that Parley Nichols died of heart failure, and could have been dead for the full week.
Lady has moved in with other members of Nichols’ family.
“Lady seems fine now… she is a friendly, happy dog,” Nichols said. “I don’t know if she misses my dad, but she is responding well to the rest of us. She did the right thing for dad, and we will always be comforted by that.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, body, companion, dead, deceased, dementia, dog, dogs, golden retriever, hartville, lady, loyalty, master, missing, ohio, parley nichols, pets, side, stays, vigil
Friends, family and fellow dog walkers in Salem, Oregon, raised funds to have a new bench installed at a dog park in memory of Darrel Valentine.
Valentine, 74, who used to walk his dogs, Lady, Velvet and Nicky, in the park every morning, was attacked in another park while walking his dogs, and died in September of last year.
The bench was completed and unveiled Friday at Minto-Brown Island Park’s dog park, according to the Statesman Journal in Oregon. A plaque on the bench reads: “In memory of Darrel Valentine. Beloved dog park friend.”
“He was kind of an icon down here,” dog walker Deede James said. “He was down here about two hours every morning.”
Friends and family raised more than $1,000 for the bench. They gathered for its unveiling Friday afternoon, along with Carole Miller, Valentine’s sister, who brought Valentine’s two labs to the park as well. Two of the dogs, Lady and Velvet now live with her. A third, Nicky, was adopted after his death.
Valentine was walking his dogs early Sept. 12 near Santana Park in southeast Salem when he was attacked. A suspect was riding by on a bike and demanded cash from Valentine, who said he didn’t have any. The man attacked and beat Valentine, who died days later. No arrest has been made in the case.
Valentine, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, devoted most of his time to his dogs after retirement.
“I think it is wonderful that everyone came together to do this,” said Mark Valentine, Darrel’s son. “It’s really nice.”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, beaten, bench, darrel valentine, died, dog park, dog parks, dog walker, dogs, dogwalker, donated, donation, family, friends, honor, labradors, labs, lady, memorial, memory, minto-brown island park, new, nicky, oregon, parks, pets, plaque, salem, santana park, slain, velvet