This is a series of posts I started in late May and plan to continue for 40 days, with a goal of hitting 50,000 words by July 5 (#31 post). It’s inspired by a three-day solo trek on the Washington coast, with side-story memoir scenes wrapped by a few themes. I’m writing each post live, pulling in stories I’ve drafted before or I’m writing for the first time, for this project. You can come and go (it’s non-linear) or start at the beginning here, which is really the end.
In the morning the only sound was the surf clapping the shore, going out. I survived a restless night with a mouse trying to get into my bivy sack, was reminded of the Belgian girl in her tent next to mine, never got her name. I climbed the trail above Mosquito Creek camp, just a few primitive sites and a pit toilet, asked two guys which way to the loo and they said it’s hard to miss, there’s a fallen tree on it. Coming out I paused by a camp site where some other people pitched their tent, imagined Dawn and I used the same site 15 years ago, tried to picture us in it, but couldn’t.
And the morning light came through the tall trees at cool angles, I often made myself stop to look around, trying to slow down, but was worried about the rock scramble at the end, wanted to get there by low tide to see if I could make it easier by going below, along the sand.
And back at my car about a half an hour later than planned, another half an hour on the unpaved road, then the 101—a half an hour further still to the Kalaloch Lodge, where it was all socked in with fog, kind of cold. I debated stopping at the lodge or pressing on to Aberdeen to the Starbucks to book-end my time, to see if the same people were working there as before. I was already back home in my mind on a foldout lawn chair in the driveway, drying out my gear: the kids and Dawn would be extra glad to see me, having been gone for a few days now. A long holiday weekend with no plans.
They’d played a song by The Cure on the radio before I left, the thirtieth anniversary of the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me release—one of two cassettes I had for the drive out west with my dad that summer, 1987—the first time I’d really come out west—and I’d fallen in love with the scenery, decided I had to move here one day.
Then we returned the following summer (my dad was a school teacher), just the two of us. And by late August, dad was driving me to college in Erie, PA: about as far away in the state as you can go, from Philadelphia. My dad was not emotional about things but was, saying goodbye, that time: and knowing what I know now, it’s likely the fact my mom was going to leave, he must have known—that she’d stayed with him as long as she did until I left for school because she didn’t want to disrupt the home-life. He lingered longer than normal saying goodbye, and I’m sure I didn’t thank him as much as I could for driving me so far. I was already moving on in my mind, excited at the thought of living alone for the first time, starting school. That idea the life you really want is somewhere else, you have to disavow anything/everything you had before. There must be some classic story of father-son betrayal that supports the son’s desire to self-realize—you identify by destroying what you most identify with, to assert your presence over it. And then the long, sloppy reconciliation that comes again, from identifying. From seeing your sorry-ass self in the mirror the same as your sorry-ass dad, realizing you’re no different. The backbone to the Star Wars franchise. Or a lesson for how we see others, acknowledging we’re all the same.
Even famous people were like that, consistently disappointing in their normalcy, their flaws. Carrie Fisher, Prince. Superstars with super problems. The rare times I met famous people they would slouch or shrink away from the imagined awe I put upon them. And I would have to reflect on my own self, as the camera turned around: tell me about you, what do you do? And then, I’d feel so small in comparison, when really I wasn’t. I was just a fan, believing I could be more than myself, like them.
I felt that way with Seth Godin, the writer and marketing guru who’s posted a blog every day for like 15 years now. I started following him and instantly wanted to connect with Seth, to say how much his posts resonated with me. But I imagined the interaction, if ever it came, and how I’d frame up who I was by what I did, and wasn’t proud of it. It was smaller than what it could be, I knew that. So I took Seth’s lesson to dedicate myself to writing and posting as often as I could, and his advice the work is really work, it takes time and practice, but it will come. Lower your expectations for monetizing it, and you’ll be happier. Go for a super small audience and please them. More is not better, it’s just more (can actually dilute you).
The famous thing is funny because I think a lot of people who are famous maybe imagine that for themselves. They have the nerve and audacity to believe they could be that person on stage. So few of us do, though many of us could, it’s just that we limit ourselves.
It was that strange crossroads of thinking that came to a head in the Kalaloch Lodge my last day out, when two couples got seated next to me and with my journal out, one asked are you a writer—and asked with such belief and hope, and interest—and I said without hesitation yes, but there was the follow-up, have you published, and then I had to back down some. There was still that need for outside authentication you couldn’t pretend away.