On the Road Again

I have spent most of the past few months down in Florida. I have mostly done nothing but watch stuff on Netflix (e.g., all 120 episodes of Lost in 10 days). Part of why I have not been posting is that it has not seemed to me that there would be anything I could say about watching TV eight hours a day that could possibly be interesting. The other reason, of course, is that after watching TV for eight hours, going to happy hour to eat oysters and then sitting on the beach for a couple hours to watch the sunset, there was no time left to write.

Last weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion (actually, it was only the third reunion, the first that I attended). One thing that I realized after talking to a few people who claim to have read and enjoyed my writing, the life that to me feels like that of a “worthless slug” has more interest to “working stiffs” than I might have expected. Not working for a living and being able to do wherever and do whatever I want is a fairly fantastic luxury that several people told me brings considerable vicarious pleasure.

I have just loaded up Walden for a trip to Utah, where I will work with a friend from grad school on some grants that she has and also work on writing a couple of grants that will explicitly include me. More about that later, but for now, I am very excited to back on the road with just me and Walden.

The reunion gave me an opportunity to describe to people who I am and what I do. When you meet someone you can generally ask a few questions that are “safe” in the sense that their answers will not be too intimate or require lengthy explication. These questions are “Where do you live?” and “what do you do?” Most people do not need to practice an answer to these questions. For me, neither of those questions has an answer that is quick and credible.

Saying that I do not really have a place where I live because my house burned down and that I have not had a job for over a year because I was denied tenure is not really fair to people. Most people think that not having a house or a job is a bad thing and that remorse is the proper response. My life is fantastic. I am happier than I have ever been. What I needed was a quick answer that at least mostly described what it is that I do that would allow the other person to move on without a lengthy explanation that they would rather not hear. After over fifty attempts, I got pretty close.

So, go ahead, ask me “Where do you live?”

“Wherever I am. I have been nomadic since I moved out of a house a year ago last May.” If the inquisitor appeared to need more explanation, I would add “This year, I have mostly stayed in my aunt’s vacation house near Seaside, though I spent six weeks in Ecuador and a couple weeks in San Francisco.”

That worked pretty well. Some people would ask more about what that was like, but the people who were accidentally trapped by someone that they did not really know or like thirty years earlier and were just being polite could say “Nice talking to you” and make their escape.

Ask me “What do you do?”

“For most of last year I traveled in my VW camper and blogged about it. This year I have focused more on learning what it is that makes people happy. I am working on a book about downsizing, travel, and happiness, though I am considering returning to a life as an academic.”

And with that, gentle reader, I am off to load up Walden and head West.

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12 Responses to On the Road Again

  1. andrew bell says:

    so…now what do you do? LOL!!!
    be safe Jay and have a fantastic voyage!!!

  2. Kathryn shook says:

    Apparently I didn’t ask these questions last weekend… Thx for answering now- Safe travels to Utah!!

  3. John James says:

    Hey Jay — Good post. I can affirm that, reading about your exploits and contemplating your situation, I felt a mixture of sorry for you and/or envious of you. Now I have clarity: I feel envious of you!

    I also relate to the challenge of giving a quick “status report” to people in a way that doesn’t burden them and portrays me in a good light.

    Good luck in Utah, may the road rise up to meet you and may all Walden’s belts and hoses hold together!

  4. DWC says:

    To say that I am jealous is an understatement. A stone’s throw from home, and Logan and Sardine canyons were at one point my second home.
    Some culinary oddities worth at least one visit:
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/312/1300345/restaurant/Utah/Bluebird-Restaurant-Logan (great "old" decor and desserts/chocolate…meh on the food)
    http://maddoxfinefood.com (Open since WWII…did a fine amount of dating dinners here)
    http://www.giasrestaurant.com (Good little italian place, but actually, the basement pizza joint is much more interesting)
    And of course, since I know your penchant for loci amoeni…:
    http://bearlake.com (good things to do in Logan canyon on the way…if you can find a hole-in-the-wall with raspberry anything, try it…fresh and local, those berries are!)
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mantua-UT/82723182527 (If Brigadoon were a city in Utah, this would be it. Of course, I came to Mantua a-courtin’, so I may be slightly biased. If I win the lottery, this is where you’ll find me.)
    I could go on and on…but I will spare you.

  5. Love this post! I was out of work for eight months (til late last month) and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I began writing, produced a podcast, did freelance editing. Started drinking bourbon. Things I never would’ve done if I’d been regularly employed.

    I’ll be in Knoxville end of the month–sorry you won’t too, but have a great trip out west and stay safe and happy!

  6. Howell says:

    Be safe and have many adventures that you write about. Your adventures are a pleasure to read.

  7. Very jealous, for many reasons. If and when you make it up to the New Jersey area, look me up. 😉

  8. Amy Pfaffman says:

    Good thing I read this post. I got some important news: You attended your high school reunion (would love to hear more about that), you’re happier than you’ve ever been, you’re writing a book, and you are, in fact, heading out to Utah (oh, and I forgot to mention that you watched all of Lost, which I’d love to ask you about). I hope you’ll make it back out to CA since you’ll be so relatively close.

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