Airstream, Willie Nelson, and Cowboys: American Dreamers
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys -- Willie Nelson Classic
"This is the story of America. Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do." -Jack Kerouac, 1922-1969, American Writer
I lived in an Airstream trailer until I was five years old. No. My parents were not hippies. In the late 60s and early 70s, my father was a Line-man. He was in the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and traveled around the United States following the large projects. There was a large group of traveling men and their families following suit. At the time, electricity was still not available in remote areas of Mississippi, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, to name a few. My father climbed the ominous steel towers with ease. He was tall, lanky, strong, and fearless of heights. He managed crews that built power-lines over the Hudson River. He worked on-site at the Nevada test-site. My mother, brother and myself lived in the Airstream in temporary trailer-parks for Line-man's families throughout the United States.
My mother loved the traveling life. As an immigrant from Ireland, she wanted to travel the United States and meet the people. Always a socialite, she managed to dress herself and her children in style during our many travels. Our photo albums and home-movies document the American dream. Handsome and stylish parents. Adorable children. Images from old Las Vegas, deserts, crystal-clear motel pools, stainless-steel traveling home, and the aura of freedom. They loved the light-weight and stream-lined Airstream as much as they loved their red Volkswagon and white Ford Pick-Up. Quality, individuality, style...the uniquely American mythical icons of a generation. Gertrude Stein said that "[There] is something strictly American to conceive a space that is filled with moving. That is filled, always filled, with moving." My American story is not unique. Every American has a family story of mythical proportions.
The myth of the United States of America evokes images throughout the globe. Coca-Cola, John Wayne, Rt. 66, big cars, Willie Nelson, good teeth, blue-jeans, Elvis, pioneer wagon-trains, white crosses on the beaches of Normandy. Our list is endless. To our enemies, we are a spoiled child that needs to learn respect and obedience for our elders. Do they wonder why such great power is in the hands of a childish nation? Do they wish to crush the spirit of freedom that is inbred in our nature? We are in the midst of a Clash of Cultures globally. Once again, a gas crisis is upon us. Working Americans are being hit hard in the wallets at the grocery-stores. In the 70's, the work dried up for the Line-men. My father worked overseas in Zaire, Africa for three years as they electrified the country. He worked for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia as they electrified the desert. He worked in Indonesia in the early 80s. At some point along the way, he was in contact with deadly asbestos. In 1991, he died from the asbestos-related lung cancer called Mesothelioma. He was 52.
Is there a legacy made from our parent's choices? Of course. Yogi Berra, the great 20th Century American Athlete said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." The mythic power of the choices that Americans make is unmistakable. Ask any child of an immigrant if they hold the key to America. Instinctively and unwittingly, they carry our country. Fearlessness is our shared legacy. Americans have been blessed and cursed with a naivety that borders on immaturity. We walk a fine-line throughout the globe. We are ridiculed for our childish natures, yet honored for our courage. Our independent natures often break down in childish tantrums. Why can't everyone play in the sand-box with us? We want to share our toys. We want to play together. Why doesn't anyone understand us? What do we do? We flash them a wide, welcoming grin. "Do you want to play with me? I'll share my toys. I'll even give you some." At some point, they may agree to play along. They may want to join in the courageous experiment that is the United States of America. Until then, we smile with hopeful and welcoming expectation. Let's not forget who we are today, and every day.
"Most people have that fantasy of catching the train that whistles in the night." Willie Nelson, American Singer