Sunday 30th November. Tallahassee, Florida, USA
'When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse...
out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look, but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
This is not how I am.' - Pink Floyd
I don't think I've been this excited since my first trip, eleven- almost twelve- years ago! I remember the feeling I had when the Continental Airlines jet prepared for takeoff at Brisbane airport. I can feel it as though it was yesterday, the propulsion forcing me back into my seat as we accelerated down the runway, signalling my arrival at the point of no return. Everything familiar was disappearing behind me faster and faster by the second. Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn't imagine what lay ahead of me. New Zealand was the first stop for me and my old schoolmate Cosmo. It was a suitably gentle 'stepping stone' to prepare for the next stage; America. There's a photo of Cosmo and me when we arrived at LAX airport in Los Angeles. When I see that photo, I relive that exact moment. The butterflies flutter again in my stomach, and I can feel the stiff fabric of that grey cotton shirt that Mum had ironed too much. She didn't want me going off around the world in a wrinkly shirt. The warmth of the mid afternoon California sun seemed to be different to anything I'd felt before. I can even see the old black guy in his faded uniform, chewing on a fat cigar as he swept the grounds of the airport carpark. I'd never have dreamed as a child growing up in a small farming community in Australia, I'd one day be standing in Los Angeles, with a life-changing experience just around the corner in Hollywood, and the whole world in front of me.
Now, I'm twelve years older, a little wiser and a little balder, and my latest adventures in North America are all but over. I'm heading south still, but by this time next week, I'll have turned around and will be facing north... backtracking to New York to catch my trans-Atlantic flight. The trip north will hopefully be a new adventure in itself. I've already started advertising for passengers on Craigslist.com and have been keeping a close eye on the driveaway vehicles that become available. The plan is to find two or three cool people to share the four day ride with me, adding a new dimension to my US roadtrip experience, and 'testing the water' for a couple of future business ideas. At last check, vehicles in Miami that need to be delivered to the New York area include a 2001 Jeep, a 1997 Camaro, and a 2003 BMW two seater sports car. Hopefully there'll be something of similar calibre available when I get to Miami.
There's now only fourteen days left before I fly to England, the opposite side of the planet to everything that I call home. Yet I'll be greeted by friendly faces from the past; friends who almost exist in another dimension, separate from everything that I've come to accept as my reality. Christmas lights reflected in the wet London streets will transport me back almost a decade to another life. The dusty smell of the hot draft in the subway system will bring back a flood of memories. Strange buildings will seem familiar, like something from a fairytale I once read. Have I been here before? In this street? In this suburb? Did I dream this once? Am I dreaming it now? How do I know that the pub around from the tube station gets really smokey on a busy night? Or that the tiny sandwich shop, itself sandwiched between a newsagent and a fashion store, makes great bagels but has lousy coffee? You're better off walking to the coffee shop on the corner and grabbing a cup to go. Two blocks further along the road, there's a second hand clothing store next to a laundromat. The laundromat doesn't give change. How do I know that?
I'm in Tallahassee, Florida. I've just watched Pink Floyd's 'Delicate Sound Of Thunder' concert on video. Lately I've been thinking a lot about my childhood, and my Mum - I talked to her on the phone yesterday. Climbing the tree in the park yesterday brought back a rush of memories. As a skinny little barefoot kid, I was forever climbing trees. If it could be climbed, I climbed it. As high as I could go. One day I climbed so high up a big old pine tree, that I felt like I was an eagle. I sat out on a branch for what seemed like hours, watching the world. I pretended I could see forever from there, trying to imagine what could be beyond the horizon that I could really see. My Dad had died and the last of my four older brothers had left school and consequently left home. Mum and I took care of each other, I guess. If you'd asked me then where I thought I'd be by the age of thirty-five, I would've had myself married with two kids; a boy and a girl of course, and of course both adorable. I'd have a normal forty-hour-a-week job that was just enough to pay the bills, and when I drove in the driveway every evening after work, my kids would run out and meet me halfway between the garage and the house, and throw their arms around me. Of course, I'd have chocolates or some sort of treat for them. My wife would be in the kitchen wearing an apron. *ah c'mon all you feminists, gimme a break! I was only nine years old*( I'd walk up behind her, and wrap my arms around her. She'd pretend to be surprised and I'd kiss her on the cheek. I didn't know there could be more to life than that picture.
How could I have ever conceived all those years ago that two weeks after my thirty-fifth birthday, I'd be in Florida, USA sitting in the home of a couple who just days ago were complete strangers, tapping away on a laptop computer that was donated to me by a reader of my website? Even though this is my fourth round-the-world trip, I feel like I'm sitting up in that big ol' pine tree again. I'm a skinny little kid. A cool late afternoon breeze is blowing against my face and through my (full head of) hair. If I stare to the north-east, I can't even see the tree behind me any more. I can see a smiling face waiting for me in England. I can see myself walking the streets in a big heavy overcoat; the sort of overcoat I've always wanted. I'm passing rows of brown brick terrace houses with white pillars by the door. A red double decker bus hits a puddle as it passes, and splashes me. It's sunrise on a beach in Turkey, and I'm shedding a tear with thousands of other Australians as a bugle wails 'The Last Post'. I see narrow lanes and old buildings and people in strange clothes, villages straight from the pages of a history book. People are speaking a weird language; it's like nothing I've ever heard before. Now I'm watching the world unfold from the window of a train. Mountains that disappear into the clouds, lakes so vast they melt into the sky, rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls. I see fields that go forever as the train rolls along and day turns to night over and over again. Then there's rice paddies, then palm trees, neon skyscrapers and golden beaches and jungles and ancient temples. People are wearing funny hats and there's chickens and cows in the dusty streets. Strange music is playing somewhere in the distance, its melody intoxicating. A cool puff of wind blows dust in my eyes. Mum will have dinner ready. I scamper down the tree and run home.