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Know your routes...


You should have an escape route, a path to freedom for when your house catches on fire.

It's common sense. I think the first time I heard it was in first or second grade, and I panicked because I knew for a fact we didn't have one in my house. Nothing was posted on the inside of a door the way it might be at a hotel with convoluted floor plans. We'd never talked about it. I supposed I would just go through a window. It did, after all, face the front yard. And it was at ground level.

When you move a lot, when your life is picked up and put somewhere else, along with your things and your family, you learn the routes pretty easily because much of the time you spend at holidays and when anything important happens is finding your way home. You always have the path home near you, like a transparent overlay always covering the map of your heart. Whether home was a continent and a long drive away or just a few hours down the road from San Antonio, we always knew which way to go. There was always a home in some direction..

When I became an adult, the word "home" became a singular plural. There was home in The Valley, the place we'd go for Christmas, where most of my relatives still live, where we buried my great grandfather, where I was born. There's my parents' home in San Antonio, a relatively new house, one that I never moved into or lived. But it's the home where they've settled, a post-retirement place where after years and years of movement and change, my folks can rest for a while.

Don't be a crispy critter.

And then there's the home I've tried to make for myself. It has consisted of apartments, roommates, handed-down couches, futons, mattresses, a succession of TVs and kitchen appliances, pots and pans, halogen floor lamps, lovers, computers, music, dead plants, cats. Lately it's become a real home, a house, a yard, neighbors. I am home. And that may change sometime, but right now I finally feel that my mark on the Earth is a real dot on the map.

But the idea of escape, of movement, hammered into me by the many schools, the many new friends, the many times new geography was introduced to my eyes and feet, is still there.

I wonder, often it seems, what would happen if I lost my job. I wonder what would happen if I lost my house. How things would be if my personal attachments were gone, if my family wasn't tied to San Antonio, if I had no reason to be here.

Where would I escape to? Freed from obligation, from commitment and happiness, bruised by some imagined trauma, to what corner of the globe would I flee?

It's not a lament. It's not a wish. Because if I really and truly was unhappy here, if the life I've chosen in Austin didn't satisfy me, I'd have found a way out long ago. There are things I'd love to change, and believe me, I'm working on them, but there are few places I'd rather be.

What I'm talking about is the pulling of rugs from under, the wild swoop-down of fate forcing your hand. If the things that I value were taken, if it was just me and my clothes, where would I take myself?

Would I go to Mexico and finally immerse myself in the language that still trips me up more often than I like? Would I leave computers and games behind and stand in the sun for hours every day, deepening my skin, hardening the wrinkles I'd soon develop on my face, dreaming in Spanish and breathing in a place that is always simultaneously familiar and foreign to me?

California? A place where people I care very much for live risky lives of creativity as work, a place that blinds me with its beauty even as it tries to steal the steady pace of my life with its enticement. Would I go to be near the ocean, to balance myself precariously between water and rocks (a roar), and plastic restaurant people (a hum)?

Europe? See the places I missed last time, escape "our" war and lie when people asked where I was from, just to avoid the judgmental sneers if I said I was from Texas? Would I buy in Euros, jaunt from hostel to hostel, take the train and try to blend anonymously?

The Northwest? Tracy and I used to dream about living in a log cabin together, typewriters back to back, typing our novels, walking in the woods, spacing out and letting the world rotate slowly, slowly, slowly. Could I do that alone? Could I be wild, wilderness novelist guy?

I don't want an escape route. I don't think I need one.

But this life is uncertain. And I don't know that I'd want to go anywhere alone. I already miss so many people, so many souls scattered too far for me to reach.

But the trade-off for being happy in one place is that you kill some of the wanderlust in your heart. You tame your adventurous nature and let it loose of its cage in timed excursions: Four days/three nights by package deal. A ski instructor. A guided canyon ride. It's adventure by microwave.

So for now, just for peace of mind, I think about escape routes. If it were all to go to shit, where would I be?

Happiness, equilibrium, I think, is figuring out that my escape route would lead me right back here, to the people I love, to the ground that, for the foreseeable future at least, carries my weight the best.



Big pimpin'

I saw About Schmidt Saturday night, which is funny because I already had this entry rolling in my head and it only reinforced it. In that movie, an older man has two seismic events in his life completely strip the compass of his life. He has no direction, no place to go. He doesn't know what to do. Tell me you haven't felt that way yourself sometime. I was lucky enough to have a compass built in that pointed me in a direction when I was 13. But nobody told me that direction would have its own blind alleys, confusing one-way streets and infinite degrees of Due North.

I won't spoil the movie, but I will say that if you're patient with it (it does move slow, and people sitting behind me, judging from their stupid fucking cell phone conversations during the movie, didn't get it), it delivers maybe the best denouement I've seen in any film about feeling connected to the whole of humanity. It's like, "What's the point, what's the use, why are we here, what good am I, what the fuck?" And then, "Oh. Okay. I see now."

Maybe it's not the answer everyone's looking for, but it sure made sense to me.

New recap of Smallville is up for "Resurgence" which I'm sure a lot of people missed because of American Idol and The Super Bowl. So check out the recap if you missed it. It was an actual good episode, which has been rare this season.

Still playing The Sims Online. Have got roommates, a house, a pizza machine and lots of other goodies. To say I'm addicted would be a vast, bottomless, staring up-from-the-abyss understatement.


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