Friday, July 31, 2015

I Am Mercury

Some times you test yourself. It is exhausting, harrowing yet full of elation when you meet the challenges you face. I love travel. I look forward to the chance to experience different places. I love savoring unique foods, events, sights, and learning history. I work various gigs that challenge me as a storyteller. They are rewarding in different ways, demanding different styles, approaches and material. In my life work and play are one and the same.
These require two factors: money and time. Last Wednesday I was handed six contracts in five states to complete between Monday and Thursday this week. Travel expenses were covered. I scrambled madly online to research reasonable estimates, then after approval to go back and complete reservations.
It would have been a lot on its own. I had to plan a trip crossing through five states in four days, to prepare materials and appointments for each of the six jobs. At the same time I was finishing my packing and leaving Thursday morning to drive from Colorado to the Chicago area so I could be ready to entertain in the lanes of a major festival on the weekend.
I felt like I was staring at a cliff face. I did the same thing I've done when faced with sheer rock walls. I put on my ropes, prepped and raced into the climb, putting stress out of mind. Focus on the handholds. Focus on the ledges where I could sit and look out above clouds, above the dark brown feathers of hawks. Look down with caution. Shout for help and try all advice when the rock crumbles in your hand, leaving you dangling despite careful planning.
The trip from Colorado was long, I went past Council Bluffs wishing I had time to stop and visit. Many enticing sites went by as I rolled like a mercury marble through Nebraska and Iowa. The rows of corn were golden in the sunset. I could have driven the same mile a hundred times and not realized it. The corn seemed endless. Wisconsin's variety of trees and scenery were a reprieve from the continous corn.
The festival was wonderful, complex and full of sights, sounds, and enticing scents.  I met hundreds of people, told hundreds of stories, painting bloomed on my painted dress as children painted with laughter and smiles. My focus was the moment. One moment leads to another. You cannot truly live if your mind in constantly running on yesterday's treadmill or obsessing on tomorrow's trepidations. This moment, right now is where you are. When you choose to be here, the rest follows naturally.
Sunday night, weekend over, packing for my epic week began. It was simple. I do not need much. Sadhu went to a friend's for the week. It was hard to leave my traveling companions: Danny and Gracie goose went to Minnesota when I came to Chicago. Here I was saying goodbye to my constant companion, already missing his squeaky purr and gentle wrestling as I went back to my room to sleep for two hours before leaving for the airport.
Two hours sleep and I headed into Chicago. Chicago still slept as I went through security. My flights went without any issues. The clouds looked beautiful as we flew above them.
I lost a major handhold when I reached the rental car area. I do not believe in credit cards. I use PayPal. I use a PayPal debit card. I called Budget rental last Wednesday after seeing on their website they accept debit cards. The person I spoke with told me my PayPal debit card would be accepted without issues as long as I had a round trip flight. I made my reservation and received confirmation. Monday midday I stood at their desktop in the Charleston airport facing an older woman who had a look of contrived apathy as she declined my PayPal card. She smiled and told me she and the others accept Google Wallet cards and debit cards attached to bank accounts- just not PayPal. When I asked to speak to a manager I was given a pamphlet with an 800 number then ignored. When I called the number it was quickly apparent the person at the other end was paid to regurgitate a specific speech. She did so with detachment. I've heard electronic voices with more empathy. She didn't even acknowledge I was human. I was the automated part of the system. I could have said there was an orgy in the parking lot. She still would have said "we waived the cancellation fee and cancelled your reservation. Have a nice day." As if this was great news that somehow getting that ten dollars back would make up for my plans dangling in space.
I tried some of the others. They were polite but no help. Credit only. Sorry.
I typed a plea for aid and friends across the country threw a flurry of suggestions. As I tried them I gave feedback. All excellent suggestions. I let my employer know my status. He started thinking options too, Enterprise came up repeatedly.
Enterprise said they had no problem with my PayPal card but they were out of cars until sometime hours later in the day. They were real, they had empathy. They apologized. I was shocked, I said "you have nothing to apologize for. I will wait as long as I need to I am just grateful that you are here, willing to help." We said goodbye, I focused on work.
There is only so much in a day.
I had my first gig at two pm on the other side of Charleston. I put my travel issues on hold, grabbed my duffle with one hour to get to the location I stepped into a bus.
Twenty minutes to the appointment, six blocks to walk, phone dying I raced across downtown Charleston too fast to appreciate the sights. I arrived several minutes late, looking like I'd walked through the desert. I felt like I had. Sitting in air conditioning became the biggest challenge. I struggled to stay awake. Sleep was seductive. I barely won my struggle, and in part because we took time to get up and take a tour of the building.
Everything went well. I stepped back into the street. I took a moment to admire the architecture of the U.S. Customs House. I started my walk back to the visitor center. Market street was full of restaurants that sounded delectable. I passed a smiling young man weaving palm fronds into flowers for tips. His smile bolstered my flagging stamina.
I paused near carriages waiting for tourists. I called Enterprise, did a formal reservation then had help from a gregarious fellow outside a gas station. He nabbed a taxi for me as the driver stopped to buy cigarettes. I was back to the airport and effortlessly, without a hitch settled into a tiny little blue Fiat.
This strong handhold held, and I raced up the rocks again. Seven hours later I stepped into the front door of Econo Lodge in Virginia Beach. My room was ready. At two am, I soaked sore muscles and nervous energy into a hot bath. By two thirty my alarm was set and I was oblivious to the world.
Tuesday started with work schedule confirmations and a trip to the beach. I didn't have long to play, an afternoon appointment near Charlotte, North Carolina meant I had to lunge forward again. Each gig had to be allowed to progress naturally without any hint of rushing.
I chased and was chased by a crab in the waves. I watched tourists and large boats. I left for work. It wasn't long before I was in North Carolina surrounded by the sound of cicadas. Another days work done, three gigs down and I was headed to see friends I've dearly missed.
We got to visit in person, another night passed too quickly. Atlanta came up in my sights. Another snag had me readjust: instead of doing two gigs in Atlanta in one day I had to do one, then wait and do the other Thursday afternoon- putting my estimated return to the airport off. Shrinking the time I'd get to visit with my friend Mick in Columbia, South Carolina. I watched Wednesday's sunset as I crossed into Alabama.
I slept comfortably at La Quinta and did my gig there, leaving the state before noon. Atlanta with its congested traffic and obnoxious tailgating bogged me down an extra hour and a half.
My last gig was finally finished. Still paperwork to do, but it was time to make my return.
Time was my opponent, slipping away from me as I pushed forward, as if it were a stick I was trying to fish from a fast moving river without falling in.
Back at the airport, forewarned enterprise might charge for an extra day. I accepted that with gratitude earlier in the day when I called. I returned ten minutes before they closed at midnight. I returned the keys with more real appreciation and gratitude. I was not charged am extra day or fuel. I've got a favorite car rental company due to both experiences. They gave me the support I needed and thought I had put in place with Budget  before traveling.
At five am I leave here. I'm getting to know the Charleston airport construction crew. Miguel and his partner told me a good place for a safe siesta, the men and women work night shift have each chatted with me and made me feel safe and welcomed here. I've got angels in neon yellow vests and hard hats around me, I couldn't be safer.
This trip has enticed me. I want to come back to visit Roanoke Island, Myrtle Beach, wander Market street in Charleston, get a tattoo in Charleston from my friend at the award winning Animated Custom Tattoo shop on Augusta Road. I want to go to some of the area events to sample the renowned cuisine of the food trucks there, including Too Stuffed To Fly.
I loved the salad from the Deli food truck that my friend Mick's girlfriend made. It was the best food I've eaten all week! The best salad I've had in a long time!
I want to visit the site in Alabama where they honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the Laurel and Hardy Museum. I want more time to catch in person visits with family and friends. I want to go back to Ruby Falls, Fairyland Caverns, and Stone Mountain. I want to get over to Asheville.
It's always good to have gleaming thoughts of places to someday visit. It's priceless to get to hug and visit in person with people you love, especially when you thought it would be years before you got to step into their lives again.
Maybe you'll meet Newsstand Dan as well as he travels doing headstands at famous places all over the world. He has visited forty states and well over 200 countries. I persused the pictures with him as we waited for today's flight out of Charleston.
Headstand Dan is out there pursuing his World Record, living and having the spark of adventure charging him with vitality and contentment. I think of his last statement: find something you can do to set a record, something unique and fun that you can capture in a picture. Wonderful and powerful wisdom in one eloquent sentence. Everyone should set such chase such interesting dreams and dream such adventurous goals.