Driving away from Phoenix, on the road to Austin, and it’s my turn to rest in the back seat. Except it’s time for business, never enough time for business.
I thought writing the book would be the hard part. Stage One.
No way. Then I had to self-publish my manuscript. Production, with its myriad and intricate processes, collaborations, trusts, and curses. Stage Two.
Now I have to sell the damn thing, I have to sell myself, and that’s something else entirely. Stage Three.
So I find myself driving across country in a passenger van, a rock solid E-150, an American vehicle. I’ve taken out all but four seats, loaded her down with enough gear to live out of for two months, and piled the back cargo space high with boxes of books (1,300, to be precise).
I’m with my hometown friend Nick and my war buddy (and character in the book Zarqawi’s Ice Cream: Tales of Mediocre Infantrymen) Bob.
Phoenix is done and past. It was a little rough, but I think we’ve all learned a lot.
Bob learned that learning to ride a skateboard can be rough. Skating down some smooth city streets, he quickly gained speed, attempted to bail and run out his speed, and ended up crashing to the concrete and rolling to his feet.
Doctor Nick and Medic Goldsmith quickly diagnosed a dislocated or separated shoulder. Back at home base, we Googled how to fix a dislocated collarbone and quickly set to work. Check out the footage in the videos section of the website.
We would later learn that our methods to manually relocate Bob’s shoulder were not in vain. At the VA hospital the doctors said the shoulder had indeed been dislocated and put back into place, and that it remained separated.
Bob will be fine in a week or two, he’s a soldier and he’s tough, but until then he’ll be sporting a sling.
I’ve been reminded that there must be limits. We are not invincible, and there will be casualties. There will be highs and there will be lows. Like any good mission, there will be sacrifices. Veteran Van is a pretty audacious caper. Normal people don’t write, self-publish a book, and drive ten thousand miles across country in a van to promote it. . .
But maybe they should.
I went to grade school safe and confident in Empire America, the country who fought the good fight, who fought it valiantly, and rested confidently assured in perpetual and gentlemanly victory.
Now it seems as if all is lost. We’re sunk in recession and mired in global conflict. China is set to surpass us soon as the global economic and political powerhouse of the century. My friends from high school with college degrees (and college debt) are bussing tables and living with Mom.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes we have to let go of doubt and fear and luxury and embrace the struggle. Sometimes we have to be weird and spontaneous and irrational and just a little bit monster.
Sometimes you just have to hop in the van and ride.
It feels good.