I’m around halfway through The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, and last night I slid into an hour and a half of insomnia because I started thinking about traveling. I’d started feeling a minor pang of wanderlust, itself complicated by two things.
First, my traveling days are long behind me. Even once the time comes that my current cat passes, I certainly wouldn’t have it in me to going roughing it around the country, let alone the world, which would be the only option as I’m unemployed and unemployable, so it’s not like I could just hop a bus or a train or a plane in order to go somewhere.
Second, because of whatever is my degree of severely deficient autobiographical memory I don’t actually remember large potions of what traveling I’ve actually done in my life. I can remember selected bits and pieces, but even if I sit down and concentrate I usually can’t even properly account for when this or that bit of travel happened.
Sure, I can tell you that at some point I went to Toronto but all I remember is being dragged into the CN Tower observation deck during what turned out to be the edge of some hurricane from the Atlantic. I can tell you that at some point I went to France, where I remember only a conversation about digital watches, a restaurant, and a storefront Lego display in Lyons, an ancient Roman ruin, and being sick out of both ends in Paris.
I can tell you that at some point I traveled from New York to Chicago, although the trip hadn’t a destination, using a program where you had ten tickets to use within a set amount of time, but all I remember is a detour to Port Sanilac, Michigan, where we invented a movie about Maid Marion instead of Robin Hood, and that I stayed for four months at the Lawson YMCA, where for awhile I played a weekly game of chess with another resident and where the hallways took on new menace after seeing Barton Fink, and that I ate at the SNL-infamous Billy Goat Tavern, and that this all was about when Achtung Baby came out. I think I owned a manual typewriter at the time, but whatever I typed on it is long gone.
I can tell you that in the mid-90s I moved from New York to San Francisco, but much like the trip related above I can’t for the life of me remember whether this was by bus or by train, although I know I’ve traveled long distances on both.
I can tell you that when I moved from San Francisco to Portland in early 1997, it was in a U-Haul that friends and I slept in, and it was the first time I’d ever touched the Pacific Ocean, and we stopped at a strip mall called Geri-Town which we sang to the tune of Funkytown.
When I was younger, before I realized that I’m incapable of operating a motor vehicle, I’d wanted to follow in the footsteps of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Just me, and a dog, and a camper.
What happened last night as the Kij Johnson book made me restless was that I also was experimenting with returning once again to reading on Kobo instead of Kindle, in part because the much larger Paperwhite feels so much more unwieldy than the smaller Clara HD, which somehow felt more bookishly intimate as I was sitting in bed. I could imagine (well, not literally, because aphantasia) being curled up in a seat in my own little reading world as a bus or a train took me somewhere new, or somewhere old that I couldn’t sufficiently recall because of the SDAM.
It’s impossible to divorce all of this, of course, from the factual realities of my life and my future, which are that the last half (or, really, third) of my life is bound only to be worse than it is now, my options fewer and agency lesser than even what they are today.
My traveling days are behind me. It’s been years since I’ve even really been outside of Portland. I’d be lucky to ever even get to go further afield than Clackamas County. Last night’s insomnia wasn’t just about new pangs of wanderlust but about the fact that I don’t even fully possess my rightful memories of the travel I’ve done in the past. I’m just stuck here, in the present, in one place, with the roads before me slowly but surely reducing themselves to less than one.