February 20, 2018

I’m talking about a place in between one’s imagination and one’s longing; a place that exists, but maybe not in the exact way as it does in one’s mind. In The Shawshank Redemption (one of my top ten flicks of all time, BTW), Tim Robbins’ character Andy Dufresne saw Zihuatanejo as the furthest extent of freedom possible beyond the gray walls of Shawshank State Penitentiary – a place along the Pacific Ocean which has no memory. It’s an escape of the mind, for sure, but, unlike, say, Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” (which exists solely in the imagination and can find itself anywhere from your backyard Tiki bar in Gilbert, Arizona to Key West or even in the icy-cold shimmering light of a margarita sitting on the bar in front of you in Anywhere, USA).

I only mention this because the other night while watching Shawshank I was thinking about my own Zihuatanejo and how my horizons have contracted over the years. There was a time when as a kid I dreamed of faraway places – the Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass records brought home by my folks took my imagination to exotic places like Mexico, my parents’ vacations took them to places across the oceans they never could have even imagined seeing while growing up in the Depression and World War II years. As I grew older, I dreamed of expanding my own horizons and was determined not to be born and die in the “Lowell-Dracut Metroplex” of Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley and was incredibly blessed to spend the first decade or so of my wedded years with Tracey cruising all over the Caribbean and Mexico. But even then there was always a restlessness that wouldn’t go away; all these beautiful and exotic places and there I am, wondering if that was all there is. Which was OK – in my life I’d never expected to feel completely whole and at peace no matter where I ended up.

So here I am at 62, and there I was the other night, laying in bed wondering where was my Zihuatanejo now? It wasn’t a question of location: the wind was high in the royal palms rustling next door, the wind chimes hanging in the pistachio tree outside the window clattering in the blowing southwest wind. You certainly wouldn’t experience that on a New England mid-February night! And it wasn’t a case of wanting to be somewhere else and in some other time and place; I’d long reconciled myself to the fact my mom and my Auntie Marge are both gone and the family left as nothing close to what it resembled just a couple of years ago, and will never be the same again. As Dad told me a couple of weeks ago, everything’s gone and that’s just the way things are. As Andy Dufresne said in Shawshack, “either you get busy living or get busy dying.”

And it was then that I gradually came to the realization that my own personal Zihuatanejo had been reduced to nothing more than a date in the past – December 2nd of last year to be exact, when I last felt truly healthy both mentally and physically, with only the cares and the vista of a Las Vegas weekend with my Goodboys pal Doggy Duval ahead of me. Because that was the last time everything seemed good enough, before everything at work went to shit and all the stress and the professional and personal crap I experienced down in Pensacola, Florida changed my life forever. And then on top of that, getting sick last month to the point where I wonder if I’ll ever be able to walk around without my ears ringing, my hands shaking, my chest worn out, and me hacking my brains out from the moment of my waking to my sleeping.

I don’t mean to over-dramatize this in any way – as New England Patriots coach Bill Belechick is wont to say, “it is what it is.” But the fact is, I’m worn out, tired, sick, and emptied out both mentally and physically. The chest X-ray I had last week will come back negative, I’m sure, and my doctor will tell me the effects of the flu I had last month have simply been exacerbated by all the stress I’ve been under and will all go away in time. But the steroids and the antibiotics I’m on are doing nothing, and I can’t help but think that this will never go away. I can’t even take more than a couple of swings with my golf clubs without wheezing and getting shaky. Last year, I was totally revved at the idea of carving six strokes off my handicap; now I could care less if I swing a golf club ever again.

A couple of weeks ago on my way back to Massachusetts I slipped into a deep dream. I was on a balcony in Santa Fe, New Mexico looking at the mountains all around me covered in snow and shrouded in a deep fog. The clouds hung low and gray like a welcoming blanket against my life as it existed – sunny, warm, open, and free. It felt close and intimate, like a big comfortable blanket you could lose yourself in. There wasn’t anything more to the dream – it was just me, looking out at the mountains, into ever and forever. I’m not a mountain guy by any means, and I’m certainly not a winter guy either, but the dream was one of the deepest I’d ever known.

I awoke on the plane with an intense longing to crawl back inside that place and woke up thinking that perhaps there was my Zihuatanejo.

Two weeks later I still haven’t shaken that dream. Perhaps that means something.

So here I am at the airport in Phoenix, hacking my brains out amongst people praying I’m not on their flight.

Actually, the idea of a margarita doesn’t sound too shabby right now. Beam me up, Jimmy.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:37 | Comments (0)
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