While driving to and from the camping event this weekend, I was not far from a place called Sweet Home, although I did not stop by that part of rural Oregon, as I’m not sure how sweet of a home it would have been. Nevertheless, I was reminded of my own background and the ironies of my life while dealing with conditions camping out in the woods with a lot of other people, and those memories and experiences, whether humorous or not, have shaped me and helped influence the man I have become, in all of its complications. For I suppose it is fitting that I should often be reminded of home while traveling, whether it is because I seek to feel less alien and out of place wherever I may roam over the course of my life, or whether because my ability to handle certain aspects of life is largely due to experiences that in many ways I deeply dislike having to have lived through.
Of my father, while he was alive, it may be said that he took a bath once a week whether he needed it or not. Given the fact that the showering facilities that he had to deal with were about as advanced as the showering facilities in Ghana when the electricity was off (which was often), I suppose that he may be forgiven for not having given close attention to the matter, though it would have been good to work on the plumbing to make it acceptable to modern standards of living, given that it gave him a reputation for not being a very clean sort of fellow. The reason why I think of this is that in a lovely yard full of chickens and a few portolets that gave the place the distinct feel of a Renaissance fair from one of my completed plays (where the portable outhouses served as a portal to another planet), it is not an easy matter to keep clean. In fact, many people resorted to what I learned to call a “French whore’s bath” as a college student (which, I was told, was inappropriate on several levels, which is probably par for the course for most of my humor), where one simply uses deodorant to cover one’s stench in order to stay tolerable as far as being around other people in close contact is concerned. Quite honestly, I don’t know how my father managed to go weeks without a shower; I wonder if he ever felt clean.
Most people would probably not assume me to be a camping sort of fellow when they first met me, or even long after they knew me. I have never owned much in the way of camping supplies, and I did not grow up in a family with a strong tradition of camping. Nevertheless, those few times in my life so far that I have gone camping I have found largely enjoyable because of the company as well as the fact that for short periods of time of a few days to a couple of weeks (as long as there are good showering facilities, as I do like to feel clean) I can put up with a great deal of spartan living as long as the food and conversation are excellent. Considering I lived for more than a year in a very spartan and non-air conditioned apartment in a tropical country with a squat toilet, I suppose I have a good ability to put up with a lot that most people would find very difficult to deal with. I strongly suspect that my ability to cope has come from a lifetime spent coping with a great deal of trouble, some of which has been my own fault and some of which has not been, although much of what I have had to cope with has left its own trail of scars and bruises and damage to go along with the coping mechanisms and the flexibility.
Unsurprisingly, I suppose, my life has made it hard to feel at home. For me feeling at home tends to be an in-the-moment sort of matter based on feeling comfortable and enjoying the company of others, rather than a consistent sort of feeling. I suppose that feeling at home is related to those matters that reduce the considerable amount of anxiety that is my normal background feeling. I suppose it is rather telling about the state of my life that the sorts of things that tend to calm anxiety are gentle affection (hugging, holding hands, cuddling), lullabies, good food, and friendly company along with the absence of intense pressure. The fact that anxiety should be so common suggests that the rather modest requirements I have for feeling relaxed are not as common as they ought to be in my life. How to make many of those more common is a subject of considerable interest and importance to me, and something that has generally been elusive. It seems rather sad to me that it should not be difficult for me to feel comfortable or at ease, but that it should be comparatively rare for me to feel that way. Hopefully it does not remain so.