Saturday, June 8, 2013

Essays From the Road...1991

The World's Greatest Write-Off
[Note: This editorial was published in 1991, at the 5-year mark of a road trip that did have a wildly idealistic beginning, and as a tumbleweed roams the landscape -- no real destination in mind.  For it  is, and always has been about the journey.]   
Anvil Archives --
Rob Edwards, Publisher Extrardinaire
Relax.  This isn't going to be a fifteen-hundred word essay on formatting a disc.  In fact, not only do I not know how to format a disc, I'm not sure what I would do with it once I had if formatted.  Smoke a cigarette I guess.
I'm also not going to discuss accountants, bookkeepers, the IRS or Uncle Benny's polyester farm in Georgia.  The same applies to profits, losses, deductions or appreciations; the latter a little meaningless anyway.  They are words that were invented by the federal government to make us think that we have a prayer of making a living.  I mean really, how can something appreciate when you have to push it three blocks just to get the engine to turn over?
My write-off is accomplished the old-fashioned way -- with a pen, a bright yellow legal pad and, of course, a computer.  A modern adaptation of the stenographer only harder to date.  As computers go, mine is probably not much different than most and after a year of heavy petting, we are still not committed to marriage.  It still randomly erases my best work (why the Pulitzer isn't sitting on the fireplace mantel), and every so often it flashes something about "invalid command" or "you have performed an illegal operation."  Which I respond to by either screaming, "BLOODY HELL!!" or phoning the local police to confess to whatever outstanding crimes they have on the docket.  (Writers are temperamental that way -- especially when modern technology is involved.)
Writing about farriery, and the rest of the horse world, seems to involve a lot of traveling.  (Not much money, but lots of asphalt under your feet.)  In five years I have covered about a half-million miles in an assortment of planes, (two or three of which were recalled by the factory part way through dinner); 50,000 or so miles in the motorhome (The Whale), another few thousand in rental cars, trains, horse vans and the occasional  bicycle, horse or shoes that needed a proper reset.  I have also slept in Rest Areas, on people's porches, in bars, and I have a good idea of where every sleazy motel is located on the entire West Coast.  Surprise!  No, we don't always stay at the Hilton, though sometimes I have slept in their parking lots.  (They have the best security.)
Airplanes have always scared the hell out of me.  They still do.  I usually sit in the terror section where I can watch the wings bounce up and down.  I know all the 'good' noises, and am beginning to know the bad ones.  You know the ones -- where the pilot forgets to turn off the intercom and says something like, "What do ya supposes that red light means Bob?"
My main mode of transport is the motorhome.  Affectionately called The Whale, it goes down the road like a...well, I was going to say a whale, but actually it handles more like a goldfish trying to breathe air for the first time.  It is 30-feet long, twelve feet, four-inches high (this was confirmed by a gas station in Nevada that was twelve feet, three-inches high), and consumes more gasoline than Patton's Third Army.  It sleeps at least eight (never try that though), has all the modern amenities (including a shower personally designed by some friends of Snow White.)
My main traveling companion is Emily the terrier.  Purchased  at the Santa Barbara National Horseshow, "M" as she is known, navigates for me.  (Which means that I drive and she eats the maps.)  We share everything -- left-over pizza, the last bottle of gin and the flea shampoo.  Emily has been traveling with me for about 3 years and no longer trusts anything that doesn't have wheels.
The motorhome has hung out in some of the more glamorous parts of the world: San Francisco's Cow Palace (right next to the sheep barn), the mule pens in Bishop, the back parking lot at Janie's whorehouse in Nevada (strictly a research project) and quite often in front of the Pioneer Saloon in Woodside, California.  The inside is piled high in computers, typewriters, large manila envelopes from countless projects, dirty laundry, somebody's tennis ball collection and all those things that make life on the road bearable:  a good set of tapes, two six-packs of Corona and the latest issue of the Anvil. 
Much of my writing has concentrated on the wonderful and changing world of farriery.  I have interviewed Russians, Poles, Mexicans, Australians, Scots, Kiwis, and of course a huge selection of Americans.  Sometimes I can't understand the answers, occasionally I'm not sure about the questions.  The more I travel, the more I am convinced that the differences are little more than geographic trivia -- a few numbers on an envelope.  Most people are concerned with living -- raising children, raising themselves, trying to do a little better than they thought was possible.  Basic issues at a point in history that seems far more complicated than it really is.
After five years of being on the road, I have drawn a number of conclusions.  Paramount in my mind is the quality of people that I have met.  Next, if you concentrate too heavily on the content of the evening news you will either want to own a very large pistol, four-hundred pounds of barbed-wire, or move next door to Oliver North. (None of which are practical if you happen to live in a motorhome.)
I am pretty sure that the road will continue to be my address.  I have yet to achieve any burning desires to mow lawns, watch television, or get a real job.  There are still at least 680-million people I have not met, and I still haven't figured out how to shoe a horse right -- or format a disc.  So, for now, it's The Whale, Emily the terrier, a few battered credit cards, and whatever comes next.
And the road did continue for some time...and just might need a second look soon!

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