(or: A Long Dumb Journey In My Head. Apologies)

An integral part of a long drive is – well – it really does take a while. The mind is free to roam, to stray far from the beaten path, as long as you stay on the road. Today we are bloated with miles of mind-time to kill. So let’s just go all the way there. Think about, say, Bloody Mary ingredients for 2 hours while the desert slides by. Credit to Hotel Congress for THAT final cool-ass kick in the pants: my first Bloody Mary. It’s true. I held out for 40 years – a funky hotel in Arizona made it worth the wait. Cilantro and roasted garlic with that? Sure! Marinated artichoke hearts and avocado? YES! Gobs of blue cheese? Tempting, but no – just that side of gross. Fabulous job, barkeep! Next time, easy on the olive juice.

The first couple hundred miles of the drive I spend slightly buzzed, brine and vodka sloshing around my brain, thinking of different rad ingredients to put in my new favorite drink.

Inevitably my thoughts wander back to My Life and What The Fuck I’m Supposed To Be Doing. Because that’s one of the reasons I’m out here, right? Driving far away from people I adore to make sense of it all. Sacrificing attachments to search out some real meaning. It’s a lonely, cliché thing to do. The Magnetic Fields kick in on the stereo, betraying my completely unoriginal broodings:

I don’t want to get over you. I guess I could take a sleeping pill and sleep at will and not have to go through what I go through. I guess I should take Prozac, right, and just smile all night at somebody new, somebody not too bright but sweet and kind who would try to get you off my mind. I could leave this agony behind which is just what I’d do if I wanted to, but I don’t want to get over you cause I don’t want to get over love.

Come on now, brain. Listen up, heart. We’re long past the teenage years. How can songs still affect you both so much? Think of the bigger picture.

My friend and I, we’re both looking. Driving to find answers in these treeless hills and valleys, because there’s nowhere to hide out here, not like at home. I’m going somewhere to check in with myself, to figure out what to do, how to keep occupied and balanced and relatively happy, how to manage the second half of my life. So what am I doing? I feel like I’m waiting, but waiting for what? Of Montreal sings:

I spent the winter with my nose buried in a book while trying to restructure my character, because it had become vile to it’s creator. And through many dreadful nights I lay praying to a saint that nobody has heard of, and waiting for some high times to come again. Dirty old shadow stay away. Don’t play your games with me, I am older now I see the way you operate.

Stupid ipod.

What am I doing? I’ve got to figure this shit out but I can’t focus. I can’t think about anything other than the road, because I start to panic when I do, a frothy ball of alarm boiling in my chest. It’s all too big. The bigger picture crushes me.

We stop in Hatch, a tiny town bursting with roasted chiles. It feels good to get out of the car, to move, to be released from my thoughts, a jarring change from being so very far up in my own head. I’m suddenly reconnected to what’s around me, and I catch myself – I pause. I’m taking this moment in. The sharp shadows, the long sunlight against the low buildings and muddy streets, the cold clear air, our small noises amplified in the quiet afternoon. There is ACTUALLY a guy in a big hat leaning against that building, there, having a snooze! Perfect. Perfect moment. Look where I am! I’m HERE. I’m happy, right at this very moment. Breathe wow that’s better. Such sweet relief, to temporarily escape the threads tying me to what has been and what’s to be. Just exist! Now I hold my breath to try and make the feeling stay a little longer. The awareness is exhilarating. It’s so rare to live right in the moment. It’s so rare for me to truly appreciate life as it actually happens. But when I do – that moment of clarity is crystallized, pure, beautiful, and forever dear to me. The moment passes as it always does, but the awareness remains and keeps me calm.

I put this moment… here.  Remember this!

I have few of these moments in my memory. I have very few of these perfect moments.

We load up with roasted chiles, worth their weight in gold, gold like the afternoon sun, gold like the stubbled fields and adobe buildings, gold like the hot firey smokey deliciousness that these chiles ARE! Yum. Nowhere else can you get such good chiles. Maybe THAT’S the reason I’m in New Mexico. Tasty happy chile. All this mind-time has gotten too much. For now, let’s keep it simple for self-preservation. The bigger picture will reveal itself to me when it’s goddamned ready to, and not a minute before. Then maybe I will be able to finally say, “New shit has come to light, man!”

That and “Nice marmot.”

What am I doing? Fuck it, I’m driving to Santa Fe. That’s all. I just need to breathe and live and see what shakes out.

Again, photos by Rochelle Celeste