Routes to the West: At top is the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers south of Omaha, Nebraska. The Platte, on the left, enters the Missouri from the west, and the Missouri flows south. The second photo is looking southwest at a stretch of water that looks like it was a former Missouri River course, cut off by the main river. That loop is immediately south of the confluence shown above.
I left my phone case in Dale’s glove compartment. Rats. And I’m still waiting for him to return it. The problem is, no post office is convenient for Dale during the work week, and I suspect he’s quite protective of his lunch breaks, following the German tradition of relaxing, not running errands.
I left the case in the glove compartment when I visited Dale in Nebraska in May. I flew Southwest Airlines from Cleveland Hopkins to Chicago Midway, the smaller airport southwest of downtown that suited me, a neophyte flier, better than O’Hare, and from Midway to Omaha, where Dale picked me up. I checked two stuffed-to-the-gills soft zipper bags, and over my shoulder I lugged an ink-stained tan canvas carry-on containing book, paper, pens and valuables I wouldn’t want sent to Singapore or Siam. As it was, my checked bags came through fine, but I took no chances with the valuables.
I stayed in Dale’s guest room and kept my clothing in my bags as much as possible because the guest room’s dresser drawers were already occupied by Dale’s lares and penates, of all the nerve, and I placed my wallet, pens, glasses and atop a dresser. That was my base camp. On our daily excursions I filled my paratrooper bag with writing materials, wallet and phone. That was my mobile base.
So there I was, having established a base camp at my temporary home away from home, and from that base camp I established a traveling kit that encapsulated my life in miniature. It reminded me of discussions Dale and I had long ago when he lived in Florida. After his discharge from the Army, he went to Florida to complete his master’s degree, but because he had never completely moved out of his parents’ house in Canton, much of his stuff was still crammed into his old bedroom closet and the attic, and his Florida duplex remained, in theory, somewhat a temporary base. Dale said it amazed him how belongings accumulated so readily at what was meant to be only a temporary home, “temporary” of course being relative, his stay eventually extending to five years.
This gathering and moving about of possessions reminds me of sets and subsets in math class. Preparing for my trip, from the main set, which comprises the total of all my possessions, I gathered subsets of clothing, bath items, my writing kit and valuables and packed them into three bags. Those bags at my destination disgorged some of their goods that I rearranged into slightly different subsets depending on the needs of the day. At the end of the week, the subsets returned to the bags and at trip’s end to the main set at home.
Returning to work on Monday after vacation, these groups took on slightly different arrangements. Some items went into my daily traveling bag and some into my car, which itself serves as a traveling base, containing maps, music, a blanket and emergency supplies. Even for short trips running errands I take a small bag containing my memo book, pens, wallet and a book, the latter because many times I’ve had to wait in line and wished I had a book. For daylong excursions, especially when I’m playing music, I outfit myself with the aforementioned and with water, food, toothbrush and paste, and sometimes a change of clothes.
These varied and sundry possessions go out and about with me, their movements reflecting the events of my life. They closely ally themselves with the activities of work and music and family gatherings, and to me they seem to acquire the energy of those episodes in the individual days that all too quickly compose themselves into passing years. A glance at a Florida map from 1988, for example, elicits sharp images of crossing a high bridge over Santa Rosa Sound, and a mandolin pick sitting on my desk reminds me of a hot summer day playing outdoors in front of a historical brick building. And maybe soon my phone case will come home, and it will remind me of enjoyable outings learning about Nebraska pioneer history. If only Dale would get to the post office.