Making Lemonade On The West Coast


I have taken hiatus from my journey to work a little. My journey has been paused, but the adventure has not. Little Wing has been parked in the San Francisco Bay area, and I have been put to work by two lovely individuals who saw fit to help me in my journey.

As I said, the adventure continues. One reason I say that is because I am working, that in itself is an adventure when one is on a long trip. Another reason is my location. I am in San Francisco and surrounded by good people, this is adventure at its finest.

My work is actually quite fascinating. I am currently building lamps. Well, rebuilding. I’m taking old lamps apart and rewiring them to be higher efficiency. It is fascinating work, and feeds my love of technical projects. Little Wing doesn’t need rewiring, so these lamps do just fine.

I also have been hired to work in a garden. A garden with lemon trees.

Lemon trees.

My friend Julia in Seattle told me — when discussing the difference between the West Coast and the Midwest — that the thing she found the most fascinating about the Coast were the lemon trees. Because, lemons grow on trees, what a concept.

It is a concept. A fascinatingly delicious concept. The garden I work in has a lemon tree, and so does the yard down the street. The sweet lady that lives at the yard down the street told me to pick as many of the ripe ones as I wanted because otherwise they just go to waste. My hosts told me that their lemons are sweet lemons, and that their tree is currently producing too many lemons. They regard all the lemons on the ground as a bit of a nuisance, what a concept.

One of my Dads favorite sayings was about lemons. “When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade,” he would say. I would dream of lemonade every time he said that. I have never really been a soda drinker. It wasn’t my favorite, and then at a certain point the carbonation and sugar made me feel sick. My drink of choice when I went places was lemonade. Movie theaters have always meant buttery popcorn and lemonade to me. My dad would tell me to make lemonade and I just hoped the world would toss lemons my way so I could.

Today is vetrans day. Actually, in the Midwest it is pretty much over, but here on the West Coast we still have a few more hours left in the day. My hosts took me to a pizza place called Lanesplitter (a term for motorcycles around these parts because in California it is legal on a motorcycle to ride down the dotted line in between rows of traffic) this evening for dinner. After a lovely day of rewiring and hanging lights pizza was quite welcome. The food was fabulous, as was the service, and on the TV there was an old black and white war movie playing. We couldn’t hear it because it was on mute with closed captions, but we could see it. It reminded me of childhood and watching war movies with Dad.

“That’s how it was over there,” he would say. “These movies are based off facts, and this is tamer than the things most people actually dealt with when they were fighting.”

I would watch the war movies with wide eyes, wondering how real soldiers could have possibly seen worse than the fake blood I saw being spilt, and the fake limbs being lost. The actors who held their comrades in their arms as we watched them act out dying, how could that be real? How was it true that my friend Rich or my Grandpa could have lived that? How did my Grandma nurse those people? How did those men and women survive these war movies in real life?

9/11 happened when I was in third grade. I remember watching the ball of fire, that was the trade towers, on TV after the principle came in and whispered in our teacher’s ear. She interrupted the reading of a book (a book I knew I could have finished in an hour, that she had managed to stretch into a week and a half of boring discussion) to turn on the live footage. Ruby and I went home to our Dad that day, arguing about who would get the chance to tell Dad the big news. Dad was standing on a ladder, working on building more of our house, and got down when we disembarked the bus. I can’t remember who told Dad, but as we got closer to him I could see the tears in his eyes. “I know,” he said.

Not long after that the Global War on Terrorism was intiated. If I remember right it was October, 2001, a month later, that our troops were sent overseas to invade Afghanistan. I don’t remember if there were tears in Dad’s eyes at that time, but I do remember the frustration it caused our household. My upbringing, from third grade up until graduation occured with the knowledge of the occupation of the Middle East. I remember listening for the death tolls of both American troops and Civilians every day. Towards high school I paid greater attention, and I remember tears welling up in my eyes. Black Hawk Down and the TV show West Wing were two of the items I liked to watch the most because they brought on tears, from sixth grade on up. Platoon and Jarhead provided the same service senior year. Crying about the deaths of ‘war’ (the War on Terrorism wasn’t officially declared if I want to get technical) wasn’t something I did for the sake of crying. I cried because I knew I should care for all those people who died. I cried because I wasn’t sure anyone else did. I cried because on September 11th, 2001, I saw tears in my Dad’s eyes. The toughest man I knew, the man who built a house around my ears and carried full trees he had chopped down on his shoulder, had tears in his eyes and I couldn’t understand why.

Some people go through a hell of a lot of pain, and some of us don’t. Some of the pain looks so painless from the outside, but to the people feeling it, internally, it feels as strong as anything they have ever felt. Other people deal with pain that is easy to see. Some are like a paraplegic, with scars openly on the outside. A scars a scar. War leaves scars. It is important to feel pain from others scars, regardless if it is a scar that we carry or not. Sharing the burden of the pain and scars is important in my opinion. I’m angry at the politics that dominated my childhood, causing tears, human sacrifice, and a crappy economy that has left my generations future bleak in my eyes. The politics that left scars. I have friends who fought overseas while I was tearing up at death counts and war movies in high school. Friends who were attaining scars while I listened to the scars of Vietnam vets fleshed out as they told of thier service years before. The friends who fought were just statistics to me back in the day. Numbers I heard in political battles and 9/11 specials. Graduation taught me that these men and women exist in the world, just at Vietnam vets do, and tears were warranted. Tears still sting today.

When the world hands you lemons, they say. Well, the world hands a lot of lemons. Some lemons are more acidic than others it seems, and some are sweet. Some lemons go to waste and others are shared among new friends.

I have lemons. I have frustrations with the way violence is used as the answer to many problems in our country. I have frustrations with the many amount of scars our country seems to feel free to hand out to just any young individual who signs a dotted line. I have frustrations with the services those scarred people come back to. I am frustrated that I can’t honestly say I remember a time when the words peace and time were used together to describe the political climate duriing my childhood. These frustrations are all lemons. I have a lemon tree full of sour lemons, but I also have a blog. I don’t know what good it does, but I am going to use this here blog to make my own form of lemonade. I am going to thank all those who have been scarred in serving our country. Those people who have served, and given me the opportunity to freely type on this blog, or travel around our United States via Little Wing. Thank you.

I also have many sweet lemons. I have a tree full of sweet lemons. I have a network of beautiful people, from all backgrounds, religious affiliations, and political beliefs, who have given Little Wing and I a hand throughout my adventure. I have freedom that is only dreamed of in some places. I have work fixing things, and lemons in the gardens. My cup runneth over with lemonade on this Vetrans Day.

I have teared up a few times at the generosity of humans who barely know me. Generosity is something that should not be taken for granted. Both sweet and sour lemons that are given to us are something to be cherished. Tears and smiles, emotions that both should be valued. Use those emotions, thank a human today. Take those lemons and make some lemonade. And when you have too much, share it with the new friends you make along the way so it doesn’t go to waste.