Night on Earth, When I Lost My Way

Last weekend, I had the privilege of staying aboard  the RMS Queen Mary, so that I could speak about my novel, Cooking for Ghosts, at  StokerCon. I had a wonderful time. I met some truly extraordinary authors, filmmakers, and screenwriters, watched incredible films in the stunning Queen’s Salon of the ship, and had drinks with friends in the beautiful Art Deco Observation Bar. And, as I usually do on trips where I don’t know where I’m going, I got lost in my car, down by the Long Beach Port, in fact.  But, I’m used to this. It seems to be my right of passage whenever I travel somewhere alone, just me and my dismal sense of direction.  This is not metaphorical, but the rest of this post is.

The photo you see here, from Jim Jarmusch’s film, “Night on Earth,” is one I keep on my desktop, because it reminds that the drivers of the cars I get into too often look as though they know the way, but they don’t. They’re just driving faster than the other drivers.

Many times, I’ve realized this too late — when I’m already in the car, and we’re already speeding along. Sometimes, it’s me doing the driving, and I don’t have any directions, but just a general idea of where I want to go. Or, as I did last weekend in Long Beach, I’m relying on unreliable things to get me there, such as my cheap GPS that’s only helpful every other time I use it.

I’ve gotten into the wrong car with my first two husbands, some so-called friends, a few career choices, politicians I voted for, one agent, one publicist and one realtor, all three of whom cost me a great deal. It takes time and effort to get back from these car rides, and sometimes I don’t make it back without getting into a crash first. 

And so now I keep this photo nearby as a reminder, but also as a way to forgive myself for my choices. After all, if you got into a taxi and Roberto Benigni were driving it, wouldn’t you want to go along for the ride? Even if, on some level, you already know before you strap in that there’s a good chance you won’t end up where you’re supposed to be?

There’s that other part of you —is there, as there is for me? — that wants the adventure of discovery. I can’t help but wonder sometimes, what I’ll see along the way that I might not have seen had I hired the right driver the first time, and never strayed off my course. Then again, this is probably why, at my age, I’m still only two thirds of the way, if that, to my destination. I’m going to be very late, if I get there at all.

But, man — the rides. They’ve been life-changing.

[and on another note, if you haven’t seen Night on Earth, you’re really missing a good one.]

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