Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Go East, Old Man

In 1851, Indiana newspaperman John Soule admonished the young bucks of his day to "Go West, young man." This appealed to Horace Greeley, liberal editor of the New York Tribune, and he is widely credited with making that advice the catch phrase of Manifest Destiny. Horace was one of the most influential journalists of the American 19th Century and is remembered for more things than his championing of the Soule phrase (not to mention the sole phrase, or the soul phrase) associated with US western migration.

As readers of this blog know, I had recently migrated out West myself to participate in the FIC's Art of Community weekend Sept 23-25, followed by the Fellowship's fall organizational meetings. After completing my work out West, I had started the return journey at dawn Sunday morning in Berkeley, in a van packed to the gills with four people (Ma'ikwe, Ryan, Mandy, and me) commingled with innumerable boxes and luggage (for observations about my outbound trip see my Sept 23 entry, Strong Winds Possible). It's a three-day schlep, covering a hair more than 2000 miles.

Fortunately, we had safe havens for overnight stays in both Utah and Colorado, affording us the much-needed opportunity to unkink each night at low expense. Yesterday, after a hearty breakfast at the Becker residence in Loveland (Bill is the FIC's long-time Treasurer) we motored into the rising sun for the last leg of our trek home. Our loins were girded for a 750-mile trial-by-plains endurance test, across eastern Colorado (the flat part), all of Kansas (the long way), and the rolling hills of Missouri (in the dark). The journey didn't end until I collapsed into my own bed after midnight, bone tired.

Our spirits were high as we departed Loveland and the spectacular panoramas of the Rockies gradually receded from our rear-view mirror—the van had been performing flawlessly and this was to be out last day. We were equally eager to get home and to get out of the car.

About an hour into the drive, Ma'ikwe's cell phone rang. Uh oh. It was a 970 number and the four of us collectively groaned. We were driving in that area code and we figured a call that early in the morning could only mean one thing: we'd left something at Bill's. Ugh. We were already facing an ETA in the vicinity of midnight, and there was absolutely no enthusiasm for the prospect of tacking two hours onto what was already sure to be a looong day to collect whatever it was we'd left behind.

It turned out though that our guess was only partly right. While there had indeed been a packing error, instead of leaving something at Bill's that belonged to us, we'd taken something that belonged to Bill! In fact, we'd accidentally packed his briefcase. Yikes! In our haste for an expeditious departure, Ryan grabbed everything piled in Bill's living room and packed the van while I did dishes. Ryan thought Bill's briefcase belonged to me, and we had no idea what we'd done until the phone rang.

As our doom settled upon us, the mood in the van was not particularly upbeat. Then a miracle happened. Sometimes the Fates smile upon us, and yesterday was just such a day. As it happens, Bill works for Security Service Federal Credit Union and he was scheduled to visit one of their branch offices first thing that day—a stop for which his briefcase would be needed.

Unbelievably, Bill's first appointment was in a building that was less than one mile from where we were when the phone rang. After getting directions relayed from Bill, we merely detoured for five minutes, dropped off his briefcase ahead of his corporeal corporate arrival, and returned to our regularly scheduled drive. Wow!

Somehow, it seemed fitting that this 10-minute tragicomedy was staged in its entirety in Greeley CO, named after you know who. Yesterday, at least, it was exactly right for this old man to be going East, and I know in my heart that Horace is smiling on me from his grave as I journal about it.

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