The bartender was the same guy we’d seen here a year earlier. Friendly and talkative, he was the quintessential bartender. I remembered him because he was so thin — his waist size was 28 at most, even though he had a vague hint of gray in his longish hair, trimmed neatly in a mullet.
The bar was in a town there’s no reason to visit unless you have a reason to: Your second cousin was getting married or your car broke down on the interstate nearby. Maybe, like us, you were doing business with a business in town.
My first thought: I’ve been living my life for a year while this guy has been working in this bar.
He attentively served us our beer and chips while telling a couple regulars about his 1982 El Camino, which I had noticed in the parking lot when we arrived. It guzzled too much gas to get him to California, so he was leaving it behind, he said. His mom would end up doing something with it, he didn’t care.
Lived with his mom. Couldn’t afford gas. But he was going to California? Wait a minute, this was the same guy who had been languishing here in small town America for a year. He’s going to California? What’s in California?
I assembled an entire backstory in my head, but the suspense was killing me. I had to know more. So when I ordered another beer, I asked.
Turns out he hadn’t been stuck with Mom in Nowheresville forever. Mom — and this bartending gig — were just the latest adventure in a life of adventure. He loved the beach, which he discovered in South Carolina. He once rode his motorcycle as far south as he could and found himself in Key West, Florida, where he found a bartending job the day he arrived and a crash pad the first week. He stayed in Key West four years. Then Mom in Illinois needed help closing her store. He answered the summons and ended up sticking with Mom, now in another state, for eight years.
Mom was great, don’t get him wrong, but Mom fussed too much when he got in late or when he had more than one beer.
So this unmoored soul was answering the call of the wild again. He was going to California.
Where? I asked.
Not entirely sure. Maybe Napa Valley.
You don’t have a job?
Nope. Gave his two-week notice a week ago. He was sure he’d find one wherever he landed. Maybe a winery.
Wow, I thought. This guy has courage. He trusts the universe.
I worry about what I’m going to eat for my next meal. I worry about how long my gel manicure’s gonna last. I worry about finishing my manuscript. I worry about how I’m going to decorate for Christmas. I worry about who’s going to take care of me when I’m 98.
I worry about such trivial things.
This guy, he doesn’t worry so much. He simply is. So calm. So implacable. So willing to roll with the punches and trust he’ll be just fine.
Did I mention the name of the bar where I met him a year ago and again today? The bar he’s leaving for a life of adventure in California, maybe in the Napa Valley?
Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.
~ Sons of the Pioneers