birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Geo (re) Locating

It's neither the farthest away from home I've traveled (that would be France, including Paris, Cannes and Nice) nor the most remote culturally (that would be the many parts of Texas that aren't Austin owing to the utter, well, bigness of the points of view in that state), but traveling solo cross-country between Chicago and L.A. offered some of the most emotional distance I've experienced in life.

I used to do drive-always in college, pairing with a friend or by myself to haul someone's car, and their stuff, from point A to point B. I think I did it 10 or so times, and maybe 3 or 4 times by myself, usually traversing the band of middle America that takes you along two-lane blacktop between and around cities like St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Lincoln, Dallas-Fort Worth, Albuquerque, and Phoenix or Tucson.

Spiritually, psychologically, the solo drive in August 1990 was the most challenging. I had taken a year off from college to make some money to pay for said college, take stock and regroup, and to return with renewed energy. The year before had been an ass-kick financially, with both parents unemployed and my savings for school depleted. I socked some new funds away during the year off, but they were far from adequate, so I'd be returning on the premise that the university would somehow, after a leap of faith on my part, come through with financial aid enough to get through one more year. (They did, ultimately adding more loans to a tab that would run some $40K.)

Previous drive-aways had usually been bookended by clean breaks and anticipation of cool transitions and challenges. This trip was all uncertainty.

I'd do anywhere from 400-600 miles a day, sun-burning the hell out of the arm that rested on the car's driver-side window sill. You get a lot of time to think in a car by yourself, especially in the pre-Internet days, even with an abundance of CDs, and for me this trip was full of what-ifs, doubts, evolving purposes, longing for things left behind and just plain missing people.

I'd call my folks at the end of each day, and I think my weary, muddled motel-phone conversations gave them more of a download of emotion than they were prepared for. But I kept moving forward, and somewhere between Oklahoma and New Mexico, my bearings seem to be fully oriented to Southern California again, come financial hell or academic high water.

California has been home ever since. I think my compass was right on, even if it wobbled a bit along the way.