Run away

Everyone dreams of running away. Don’t they? I’m not sure I’d understand someone who didn’t have stray thoughts of just chucking it all and high-tailing it out of here – wherever here may be: this town, this job, this humdrum, boring, gray, grindstone-filled world with wheels that require shoulders and finishing lines that need eying.

I’m sure people exist who are always happy where they are. There may even be many of them. And more power to them! But for me there’s always a little voice in the back of my head wondering if there isn’t someplace better to be.

Don’t worry; I’ve got a job, I like my neighborhood, I’ve got my family and several good close trusted friends. I’m not going anywhere. For now.

I do have dreams, though, of places that might be nice to run off to. Many of them warm, most of them known for their attractive people and delicious foods. Some of them poor, in need of someone with a strong back and a bit of cash, someone who could do some good by the simple act of building a home or working in a field.

Back in 2004, as the presidential election drew near, while most progressives were joking about running off to Canada if #43 won, I dreamed instead of running away to Brazil. It’s an elected democracy, the fifth most populous in the world. It values citizenship; voting is compulsory. It’s a country that is based on the social value of labor – about the most progressive idea ever. And it has the benefit of not having any extradition treaty with the United States. I actually looked up how to become a citizen there: basically, have money or capital totaling US$10,000 or more and be willing to set up a business, and you’re in like Flynn. And, of course, it’s a warm, tropical country, filled with beautiful people.

Of course, I don’t have to give up my citizenship to run away. I have written before about my love of New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I considered moving there to help rebuild; a dream, an idealistic one, but one I did not carry out. But Crescent City, the Big Easy, has to this day a pull on me. It’s a fair distance from Portland, and could not be more different; full of music, friendly people, amazing food everywhere, and a deep history and striking architecture. On my very first visit to the city, as I sat in a bar with my friends near the end of Rue Bourbon, I looked across the street and saw a sign saying a room was for rent. I wondered aloud at what it would take to ditch the job and move in above this amazing street. My friends assured me I would soon get tired of the nightly drunken revelries. Perhaps, I thought, or perhaps it would inspire me to write that great American novel that to this day resides in my heart.

I am sure that my dad infected me with the dream of running away. When I was a kid, the road trip was our family’s preferred weekend adventure. Pile in the car, maybe mom would make some sandwiches and maybe we would find food in some cafe or diner out there, and we were off. Down to the Pacific, up into the mountains, along some upper branch of the Clackamas or Sandy rivers… away we would go.

In my heart and mind, a little piece of me will always be out there looking for the next best thing.