Road To Perdition


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The Road To Perdition
By A.D. Odom

994Squirrel_Shoots_BackThe other night, while sitting in my driveway, I made a spontaneous change in plans. Instead of driving to one of the pick up locations to board a bus for the Michael Jackson “Keep the Faith Caravan,” I chose to drive the 150 plus miles up to Santa Maria alone. Yeah, this little squirrel may just well be a nut, but not only did I not trust going up with a bus load of people I didn't know, which would not have been a bad thing, I just had some reservations that I might end up being used to make signs or cover the event from a very one-sided perspective -- I hate not having the freedom to go and do what I want to go and do. Since I had troubling reservations about this, I had to trust my gut on this one. Next time I probably will catch a bus -- if they have one -- which will allow me to gather perspectives from others or make some connections. For now, I wanted my first solo outing covering a news event to be a personal one.

A big part of me really did not want to make the trip. I had a very strenuous evening at work with a equally strenuous Excel spreadsheet and my brain waves had all but straight lined by the time I left work at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning. All I really wanted to do was go home and go to bed and call the whole thing off. When I pulled into my driveway, I noticed Christine’s little blue car was neither parked in its familiar place between my two orange trees, nor was it parked in my driveway behind the gate. In the past few years, whenever I had a wild hair plan, Christine’s was the only voice I would hear that said “I wanna go.”

Though most thought my spontaneous decision to join the “Keep The Faith Caravan” was “way cool,” exciting, and many were jazzed about my decision to do this, no one was interested in going with me. Many of my friends thought I was insane, too old, or this was too big a risk for me to take. One friend even asked “what if something happens to you, how will we reach you?” I thought about her question and responded from a place of the person I used to be and said “when I stop taking risks, when I begin to fear death, when I stop living, then I am already dead.”

In the past, I would typically set out on spur-of-the moment trips, sometimes with a daring friend but mostly alone, and would capture, photographically, everything I saw along the way. I would return home, develop my film, and print a few images before getting some rest because typically, these were 24-plus hour days for me. The joy of doing kept me going and I never experienced fatigue until everything was done and only then would I crash. This is exactly what I did yesterday, a 30-plus hour day, and I’m glad I did it.

My road to perdition was taking the 150 plus mile drive to Santa Maria while accepting I am now on my own. Once the risk taker, I found myself unwilling to do many things alone because it meant accepting Christine is no longer with me. My road to loss, or acceptance of loss, also served as the road back to self, relying on my gut feelings and instincts. Without realizing it, I unknowingly left my home at 4:00 a.m. without taking a single map with me. I did look at them and studied the route before leaving, but ended up leaving them on my desk and didn’t realize it until I was 35 miles away. Thankfully, gut and instinct took over and got me there.

One of the maps stated the complete drive should take approximately three hours and should total 125 miles. I hate these maps because they do not tell you how they arrived at these estimates. I personally figured Santa Maria had to be something more like 150-160 miles, not 126 and my driving time – I am also known as “Ms. Lead Foot” – should take me about two hours or less. If I hadn’t turned around a couple of times it would have taken me 1-1/2 hours.

HillsSmallThe first part of the trip was boring, mostly flat land and knobby hills. Finally, I saw the marine layer from the ocean and became excited because driving along the ocean is the best nighttime experience one can have, that is, if you like driving in fog. Driving in fog or mist takes you out of your skin. It tests your wit, ability, and you have to trust yourself to know when to pick up speed or slow down. If you hone your instincts and gut on what you’re doing, you can pick up speed in a clearing, slow down whenever a little fear rises, pick up again when you feel you’re clear to go and slow down again when you feel you cannot.

I went from darkness to dawn while driving through Santa Barbara and what a beautiful sight to see, fog hovering above the road or off to my left cloaking the trees and vegetation on the hillsides. Since I did not know how far I had to go, I did not stop to take pictures on the way. I let my eyes enjoy the view while looking out for Route 166 – all I could vaguely remember from the maps I saw – and drive on toward my destination.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks with you causing you to second guess yourself. There were many times I thought I should have gotten off somewhere in Santa Barbara, thought I was going the wrong way or too far, believed I would not make it and should turn around and go back home. Thankfully, my gut feeling beckoned for me to continue on and it was such a solid feeling I trusted that feeling.

When I got to Solvang I knew I was going in the right direction because Neverland Ranch is on the other side of Solvang. This was definitely his community; I just needed to continue until I got to Santa Maria which was then about 30 miles away.

It wasn’t long before I saw a sign that validated what gut was telling me all along, Route 166 was 2 miles ahead. I got off there and instead of trusting that little voice that said turn left in the direction of the sign that said “Town Center,” I turned right instead. It didn’t take long for that little voice to go from what was once a whisper to a very loud scream – “turn around!” Yes, as soon as I realized I was headed along a two-lane road with fields on either side of the road, migrant workers, and heavy farm machinery – I turned around and headed back toward “Town Center.”

The little voice was quite happy with me heading into downtown Santa Maria but became quite disturbed when I came to the intersection of Miller and Main Streets. I crossed over and continued going down Main. I had to ask myself why Miller was so important. I thought I should be looking for Cook, or at least I thought the map said 166 would run into Cook. Then, I tried to remember what it was I remembered about Town Center – “oh yeah,” I thought, there was public parking at Town Center. The little voice again screamed “turn around” because I had driven too far and was again in the middle of farmland, heavy farm equipment and rows and rows of crop for as far as the eye could see. I turned around.

policeWhen I returned to Miller, I realized to my right was a Sears and it rang a bell – Town Center Mall was where I saw public parking on the MJJSource map. I turned right at the mall, onto Miller and ran right into cyclone fencing and row upon row of police officers, a crowd of people and a bus similar to one of the busses I passed on the road back in Santa Barbara. This was it. I quickly found a park and walked back toward the festivities.

I’m glad I went and by going it alone, I learned to trust myself again while simultaneously opening a door within to a dusty room I have not visited in quite some time – the more adventurous me is back in business. Life and the experience of death closed me down and made me very old, very fast. I often wondered what made me feel so old and so jaded in such a short period of time. What I learned yesterday is one must always continue to take risks, whether you want to do it or not, and push yourself to your own boundaries in order to make something old new again. I’m glad I did it.

Christine would have enjoyed this day. She would have been excited to go, excited when we got there, and probably would have talked to everyone there. She probably would have packed or bought a lunch for us for the trip there and we probably would have found the pizza party so she could hang out with a bunch of folks she didn’t know and would never see again. She might have made connections with a few folks from the Crenshaw bus or probably would have known someone on the Crenshaw bus. In fact, I’m sure Christine would have known someone there and that would have been most entertaining. She would not have cared about seeing Michael Jackson, but she would not have excused me for not getting a picture of him.

Incidentally, and thanks to my mother for pointing this out, this now marks the third and final portion of a prophetic dream I had many years ago.  In Part I of the dream, I was living in an integrated neighborhood.  Part II showed I no longer lived with snow and saw cars with sun screens with photos depicting snow-capped mountains -- never saw anything like this in Chicago.  In Part III of the dream, I was editing a Michael Jackson video.  When I went back to re-read the dream from my journal, I saw I had been filming or shooting Michael and went around to a monitor to edit the images.  Well, with digital cameras, I can shoot and move around to my computer to edit the images.  One chapter closes, another opens. 

Well now, as for Christine who is with me only in spirit now, here's another Virgo for you. “I got him.”


All photographs taken by A.D. Odom, copyright 2004 ADO PhotoGraphix

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