Today the New York Times reported on seniors trawling America’s highways in oversize motor homes, and condo-izing Florida RV lots with outdoor bathrooms and tiki bars. As in many things (pants and eyeglass fashion…) I take my cues from the newly retired. I too would like to minimize my possessions, leave all cares and responsibilities behind, and hit the road. However my vision is more on the scale of a sleeping bag, intrepid dog, reliable truck from the 90s, and the dusty red rocks of the West.
Of course, some older folks don’t feel the need to roam, and have instead bower-birded their own nests in a truly impressive fashion. A friend’s father has built out a river home in Mississippi to include two stories of deck cabana, rigged misting, multiple hammocks and a whole outdoor canopy bedroom over the water, complete with huge live talking parrots and lots of signs of the “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” variety. Jimmy Buffet, eat your heart out.
The UCM Museum, also known as the Abita Springs Mystery House, proudly displays hundreds of paint-by-numbers, old postcards, bottlecaps, bottles of hot sauce and the like, (maybe retrieved from the garage sales of those traveling retirees), among sideshow gaffes and robotized dioramas depicting local celebrations and folkways. Whenever I wander its lonely halls I feel terrible about all the “crap” I’ve set out on the street, realizing what a fetching diorama it could have made, and how comparatively naked the walls of my home and truck are. I really feel like I’m tragically behind on my game and vow to see the possibilities and whip out the glue gun as soon as I get home, until I plop down and open up the latest episode of Wallander (basically, a Swedish Law & Order, with all the Nordic darkness and dry humor that implies, totally great show).
Perhaps the key is to combine both impulses and decorate the truck with pom-pom fringe and catchy sayings. I recently met a trash/show car made by graffiti artist Read, which incorporated some cast-iron fence for a side door and gorgeous faux-corporate logos all over. I could travel in the style of a snake oil salesman or an Indian lorry with the exhortation “Please Honk” painted across the front. Except, as with tattoos, I hate giving strangers an opening to comment (though perversely, I love talking to strangers). Maybe after miles of lonely highway, I will be grateful for all the new friends I can get.