Tomorrow morning I’m getting on a jet and flying back to Kansas City.
Of course, this being air travel in the 21st Century, I have to fly in the wrong direction first – got a layover in San Diego – before I can get on a jet pointed in the general vicinity of the Midwest.
On the other hand, I’ll be back in Kansas City by dinnertime and when my mom left Nebraska to come to California as a child it took her family 21 days to make the trip in a Model T, so I guess I don’t have that much to bitch about – but probably will anyway.
For the past month I’ve been talking to my family – especially my now 94-year-old mother – and writing down her stories while she still remembers them.
So what has this trip taught me?
I can’t pack a suitcase for shit.
I brought way too many dress shirts – no idea what upscale function I thought I might be attending – and far too few T-shirts. Sacramento was hotter than hell in a heat wave and I went through two or three T-shirts a day which had me hanging out in a laundromat way more often than I planned.
I can tell you one thing for sure: you don’t meet a lot of marriage material in a laundromat. If you’re interested in starting a meth lab, different story.
Also, I bought too much stuff while I was in California – mainly books and Vans shoes – and had to go to a second-hand store and buy a piece of used luggage to carry all my purchases home.
For $3.79 I bought a duffel bag that had the label “Robinson’s Taekwondo” on it, which I figured would make me look like a badass walking through the airport.
As a bonus, after I got it back to where I was staying and opened it up, the bag contained Taekwondo belts in different colors, so if you ever wanted to be a “green belt” in Taekwondo without doing any of the work, I can now hook you up.
There are way too many white Toyota four-doors in the world because I tried to get into the wrong car three times – should’ve rented something bright purple with flames on it.
Despite my fantasy of coming back to KC with six-pack abs, you don’t lose weight on vacation.
Everybody wants to go to their favorite restaurant and show you a good time, so I’ll be returning home with 12-pack abs which oddly enough aren’t twice as good as six-pack abs, so I’m thinking I got a pretty good case for false advertising if I could only figure out who to sue.
But wasn’t there a larger lesson to be learned besides bring more T-shirts, all white Toyotas look alike and maybe I should order a salad once in a while?
Yes, and I’m glad you asked.
The truth comes in different versions
At my mom’s birthday dinner, three people told the same story: the time our MG sports car rolled out our driveway, across the street and down an embankment into some cattails.
1. In my mom’s version my brothers Paul T and Danny were playing in the car when one of them knocked the emergency brake off, she ran outside, jumped in the car, tried to get the MG stopped, couldn’t and rode the car backward into the weeds.
2. In Paul T’s version he was in the car along with mom and Danny, mom went back into the house to get something, Danny knocked the emergency brake off and the two of them rode the car down the embankment.
3. In Danny’s version, he and Paul T were playing in the car, Paul T knocked the emergency brake off, bailed when the car started rolling and Danny took the ride into the weeds alone.
So I settled the dispute with a King Solomon-like question: “Who’s buying my next margarita?”
If you want a family history, make sure you’re the one who writes it or next thing you know you’re the one who knocked the MG’s emergency brake off.
I don’t think anyone was making stuff up; I think they all told the story the way they remember it, which is why police can take eyewitness reports and hear the bank robber was the spitting image of Billy Barty or maybe Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Some stuff doesn’t make the cut
Do a little background reading on the Bible and you learn some material didn’t make the cut, which was written about in The Lost Books of the Bible.
Google that title and you’ll get a list of stuff that was left out of the final version.
When I first asked my mom about this – decades ago – I wanted to know how the guys who put the Bible together knew what to include and what to shitcan. My mom said they were divinely inspired, which frankly speaking sounds like a load of flaming horseshit, assuming horseshit burns.
I can tell you this much for sure: I heard a lot of stories on my trip that I didn’t use for one reason or another and the only inspirational help I got was from Jim Beam and the people who brew Bud Light.
What you leave out has just as much to do with history as what you include and here are a couple of quotes worth remembering:
“History belongs to those who dare write it.” – Steve Wang
“Skepticism is a virtue in history as well as in philosophy.” – Napoleon Bonaparte, who was also known as a bit of a dick.
With a shit ton of stories to choose from, I went for the ones that were funny and entertaining and wouldn’t wind up with someone from the FBI knocking on a relative’s door.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may
This afternoon I will hug my mom, tell her I love her and say goodbye.
I will promise to return for her 95th birthday a year from now, assuming we both make it and Vegas has currently put her odds at slightly better than mine. (She’s the one who doesn’t drink alcohol and eats sparingly; I’m the one with the 12-pack abs.)
But the truth is, every time I walk out the door, we never know if we’ll see each other again.
And unfortunately, the same goes for you and everyone you love.
People go to the store for a gallon of milk and never make it home again or get on an airplane headed for KC that makes an unscheduled stop on the side of a Colorado mountain.
You just don’t know.
So if you’ve got someone you love, go tell them; if you’ve got something you want to do, go do it.
And I did both on this trip to California.
Future plans: keep on writing
After my return to Kansas City, I’ll be back drawing cartoons for King Features next week and will continue to write, but at a much more sane pace: two or three times a week, so please stick around for that.
I’ve got more family stories to tell.
But before I head back to my current home in the middle of the map, I want to thank each and every one of you who got involved, read the stories, left comments and went along for the ride. You helped make the last month special.
Thanks again and I’ll talk to you soon.