If you've been wondering where I've been - it's been more than three weeks! - wonder no more. I have been working, seemingly endlessly, since I returned from vacation. And when not slaving away over a hot keyboard, I've been traveling, and not entirely for fun.
I mentioned last month that the mothers of two of my best friends were not doing well. Both have now passed on, and live in their daughters' memories. So the Friday afternoon before last, I drove to a tiny, slightly crooked house in a decaying, once-proud steel town near Pittsburgh to pay my respects to a velvet bag holding the ashes of my friend C.'s mother S., and to provide hugs. It was the house S. grew up in, with many siblings, and it helped me understand why she always seemed permanently dissatisfied, reflected in her addiction to purchases from QVC and, apparently, from Macy's, whence the jewelry salesperson sent a condolence note. (And, if you smoke cigarettes, consider this: S., once a nurse, smoked for years. By the time she learned she had Stage 4 lung cancer, it was too late.)
Then I drove up to a music festival in northeastern Vermont, which was a little bit work and a ton of fun. On the way back to NYC, I visited with my own mother for a while, and felt lucky to still have her. By the time I got the decidedly unglamorous Chevy Cobalt (hey, at least it was red) back to Hertz that Sunday night, I had driven nearly 1500 miles in 2.5 days.
I was exhausted, but it was an affirmation of my ability to make decisions, even foolish ones, on my own and my desire to be there when the important people in my life need me. It was also a reminder of how much I love solo road trips. Especially cruising the offerings of FM radio, which on this trip included Leon Russell's always-moving "A Song For You," lots of bouncy Nashville-style country radio, selections from H.M.S. Pinafore, a whole lotta Led Zeppelin, and the Sheryl Crow song that gave this post its title and was the perfect tune for the narrow Vermont back road I heard it on. I refuse to call any of this music a "guilty pleasure," as 1) Pleasure should never induce guilt, unless it harms someone else; and 2) People generally use that term to indicate that they're deigning to enjoy something popular despite their impeccable and rarefied taste, which I find both annoying and offensive.
Speaking of impeccable taste, I spent last weekend in San Francisco, in the home of the same gracious friends who were my hosts in Granada. I was there to help another friend, R., pull together the memorial for her mother M., a feisty, funny woman who was a tireless worker for the causes she believed in, including getting Harvey Milk elected and making abortion legal in California. I grew close to M. when I lived in San Francisco, and am glad I had the chance to do so. The memorial at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House was lovely, on a rare sunny summer day in SF, with many from a long life rising to share their memories.
I suppose this means that I am now at the age when more friends' parents will be dying, meaning more memorials and funerals and trips. I hope that my own parents are not among them anytime soon. And, as I woke up this morning unable to breathe - perhaps a terrifying side effect of the antibiotics I've been taking to combat the hacking cough I developed after my driving adventure - I hope I am not either. (I appear to be fine now, but I am headed to an urgent-care center now just to be sure.) I like the winding road I'm on right now, even though I'm not sure where it's going.
(UPDATE: Turns out I'm allergic to Zithromax, so now I'm taking prednisone to counteract its effects. Since it's a steroid, that means I may have more in common with some Red Sox than I might have thought.)