I just got off the phone with my friend Dave. I’ve mentioned Dave before; he’s a screenwriter, a warrior, a world traveler, and a gigantic intellect. Dave explained to me that a few years ago his son, Stryker, was gifted a 22 minute video of Dora the Explorer. In this program Dora was teaching children how to stack together clues to pinpoint some location on earth. She kept repeating the mantra: Pyramid, Jungle, Lost City. And now Dave has come full circle, no longer a father pressing play on an educational DVD, he is in fact obsessed with Pyramids, Jungles, and Lost Cities himself, and has spent a great deal of time traveling to them, pressing pushpins into the map, making notes in the margins of his journal, abandoning cabs in various deserts, riding elephants into cocktail receptions, and warmly brushing the wanderlust that fills his heart and mind. Next month he is off to Thailand, again: jungles and lost cities. “I send my wife text messages,” he tells me, “just a picture of an old Buddha wrapped in vines. And she totally gets it.”
I get it too. That same wanderlust has driven me for as long as I can remember, resulting in the strange Zelig-esque, Soda Pop Kid nature of my existence. Turns in academia and the teaching arts, the outback, the military, the outback again, and various stops as a night-auditor for Motel 6, a concrete grinder, a heavy-equipment operator, a librarian’s assistant, the outback yet again, a lawman, and finally a writer, have done little to diminish my enthusiasm for fresh forays into the ephemeral promise of Pyramids, Jungles, and Lost Cities. What a great country we live in, where I can even indulge the notion of life as an epic adventure.
Then again, it’s probably just a kind of arrogance.
This wanderlust, as much intellectual as it is physical, is precisely the spirit that fills the pages of Frontier Partisans, a living document I consider brilliant on many levels, and whose pages I now read religiously. I recommend you do the same, as what is happening in those pages speaks to our desire to explore the unknown, to examine what we have found, and to press further into the tangled vines of both our history, and our present.
Still, I can admit to some levels of embarrassment. The truth is, I have done everything backwards. I went to college and chose to enlist in the Marines. That’s a strange development by any measure, but I was obsessed with the precisely romantic notion of serving as a squad leader of Marines–and that’s really all that I wanted to do. Lucky me.
I have largely ignored most of the advice I’ve ever received. Except when it comes to reading books, and those suggestions I take extremely seriously. Paulina Springs Bookstore, our local nook, knows me by name and will accommodate any method of payment. Wampum or Greenbacks, they know I’m good for it.
I’ve enjoyed any number of magnificent, occasionally spectacular, failures on my expeditions–which is what I have chosen to label my false starts and misadventures–and I am drawn to believe that each one of them has been critical to filling out the empty sketch of exactly who it is that I think I am. Of course, that’s true of all of us. Still, I’m leery, to an extreme degree, of eating the entire elephant no matter what the pursuit might be. It just isn’t me. For better or for worse, I’ve spent a lifetime nibbling around the edges, stealing an occasional big bite, but always keeping a watchful eye on the hyenas who bury themselves in the carcass. Perhaps that makes me some kind of revolting carrion bird, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like the notion that I can come to the ball wearing any costume I want, and lend some credibility to the disguise. That’s T.S. Eliot, and Prufrock: to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.
It’s far too easy for a daydreamer–and that’s decidedly me–to get lost in romanticism, and I frequently do, particularly as a writer. I suppose the trick is to seek a balance between what we want, what we need, what we can do, and how we are prepared to meet the challenges along the way. In the end, I want to think of my life as a daily tromp toward the discovery of some lost city in the jungle, full of wrong turns, but still a deliberate and exhausting hack with machetes through the triple canopy, and against the odds, always driving toward discovery. And if that’s the case, then maybe someday this work will matter, to someone, if I’m able to send even a single picture back, to those who care, of some priceless relic wrapped in vines.