Somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me

Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help myself. A few days ago I sat and listened to two women on the playground, about my age, talking about another woman that they both know. I gathered that the other woman, not present, had an opportunity to move somewhere far away, somewhere exotic by everyday standards. And I gathered that she wasn’t going to go.

“I’d go,” said one of the women I was listening to. “We’d pack up and be gone,” she said.

“Oh,we would to,” said the other woman, as she glanced off in the distance to check on her kids.

Then their conversation drifted back to what someone else had said or posted on Facebook. Their children played.

I thought about our life, my marriage to mommy, and how many times I’ve said “Oh, I’d go. I’d be gone.” in that same situation. It’s easy to make that decision with a life that’s not your own. That’s not tied to comfort and routine. Or nearby family. Or reality.

We’ve done some stuff over the years. Seen some places. Climbed real mountains. Swam in different oceans. Had thousands of people cheering for me as I stood alone at the center of a gym. I drove across the country once with no money, slept in a makeshift tent near Memphis during Elvis week, spent the next two blurry nights in New Orleans in a cheap hotel listening to blues, watched a storm in the distance as we drove through Texas enroute to Austin and then Dallas, kayaked through whitewater, spent days in a hospital bed, showered under a waterfall, held your mommy’s hand as she nearly died, swam with an eel, swam with sharks, won a habenero eating contest, ate the hottest jerk chicken in the world at a road side shack in Jamaica, surfed in hurricane swell, stumbled through Charleston, Key West, and Savannah.

And lately I feel cooped up as my life draws near to the half way point and there’s so much still to do.

The women I overheard talking lost their focus too quickly, passed judgement. Moved on to Facebook. And eventually back to the sameness of the day before and the hope that the next day might be like that one – only a little better somehow.

I think I’ve always felt like there was something out there. Certainly since I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac in 1993. I fell in love with the idea that life didn’t have to be what it appears to be on the surface. I settled on an English degree, mostly because I thought it would help me figure things out. It’s been 20 years.

I lingered on sentences and sometimes on single words. This sentence was written in letters to my old friends and in sharpie on my dorm room wall:

“Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” – Sal Paradise (Kerouac)

I guess this whole confusing trek through daily life is the pursuit of that pearl. But I always think of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty and I wonder if Dean ever found what he was looking for and why Jack Kerouac himself crumbled beneath the weight of the search. How Neal Cassidy felt.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Sal Paradise

Lately I’m wondering what I’m looking for. How in the world I’ll ever describe what it’s about to you three and how I’ll sweeten the truth that it’s a long and confusing trip about God, salvation, and redemption. And how it’s all worth it, when the truth is I don’t even know myself yet.

I want to tell you that I’m finished talkin’ the talk. Selling it all. Packing up what’s left and running off to see trees the size of houses in the west, the grand canyon, racing in an Ironman, feeling the spray from Niagra Falls, climbing in the Alps, Leadville 100, British Columbia, maybe Fiji, and Alaska – before it’s all too late and I’m old and tired and you’re too busy with sameness and Facebook. I want to tell you that we’re leaving tomorrow and that I’m not one of those people who talks on playgrounds about living an authentic life – only to be distracted a moment later. I want to tell you that. And I want to mean it and do it. Walking the walk is harder though.

This morning you came down stairs as I was leaving, Kate. You wore one of Izzy’s old night gowns, your curly hair framing your precious face. It occurred to me as you smiled down at me from the top step that maybe the pearl’s in my life are abundant. I scooped you up in my arms, kissed your forehead, took you back up stairs where Mommy, Max, and Izzy were still sleeping, and then I left for work.

I love you,

– Daddy


Sat: ran 8 miles (end of recovery week)

Sun: biked 28 miles (end of recovery week)


Tues: Swam 1600 at 5am.