The Stranger's journey has now come full circle.
Join me in the bright sunshine at When Words Go Free...

There are still stories to be told.
Read them at The Stranger Looks Back.

The Companion

The stranger looked at the lifeless body of his faithful companion of the past four years, and he remembered.

He remembered the day the companion had arrived, looking young and smooth, even though it had already lived over half its life, and he remembered how, when he had first taken a closer look at the companion, he discovered the sordid past that had lain beneath the surface, and how he had painstakingly cleansed the companion of its former sins and given it a fresh start.

He remembered how the companion had been a fellow traveller in some ways, but in so many more ways a guide - a gateway to magical worlds of mystery and wonderment, and, in so many ways, to the world that was his life today.

He remembered the journeys they had taken together to the refugee camps of Africa, the Commonwealth Summit in Trinidad, the wastelands of Russia, Windsor Castle, and other journeys whose stories they had told together. He also remembered the other journeys the companion had joined him on, those whose stories had not yet been told, and which he was now left to tell alone.

He remembered the eve he had planned to leave the companion behind for a night to take a road trip to the-point-of-no-turning-back, and how the companion bade him instead to take a journey to a world of a whole different sort.

And oh, how he remembered that world, where they sojourned together through the pyramids and the enchanted forests and the battlefields and the fashion shows, and even the second circle of hell, those many months, and he remembered the stories they told of their journey as they went along. He remembered the friends the companion had introduced him to, some of whom had travelled with them for but a short distance, and some of whom he still exchanges postcards with to this day.

He remembered the night he knew it was time for that road trip, and how this time, the companion did not bid him to stay, but rather wished him well and sent him on his way, but that's another story...

He remembered the day he set off with the companion to close down an experiment he had been engaged in that had seemingly failed, and how the companion suggested that perhaps he had been so intent on a particular result that he hadn't seen any other possibilities of success, and how, on a whim suggested by the companion, he tried a different approach.

He remembered when the initial result that came forth from that approach, as conveyed by the companion, had knocked him clear off his chair, and how the companion had been with him every step of the way over the weeks and months that followed, as the experiment faded and the wonders of the real world filled his life.

He remembered how the companion, then growing weak with age, had welcomed the more robust arrival that allowed the companion to enjoy a semi-retirement of sorts, still travelling back and forth with him (as the new arrival was rather stationary), but relieved of most of its active duties.

He remembered how he had recently intended to bring the companion out of semi-retirement and back into service, taking back the bulk of the work from the more recent arrival, how he had prepared the companion for the tasks ahead, and how the companion had shown itself capable with one last burst of energy before giving up the ghost.

He remembered how he had told himself that technically, the companion was not dead, but rather in a coma. And he remembered how he realized it would be wrong to attempt the surgery that might awaken the companion, not because it might fail, but because it might succeed. The companion had more than earned its eternal hibernation..

The stranger looked at the lifeless body of his faithful companion of the past four years, and he remembered.  and he knew it was time to let go.

In memory of Wilbury (2004 - 2013)

Ticket To Ride: Reloaded

It had been my second time in Vegas, and definitely the more memorable of the two. The first time was a day as part of a teen tour when I was 15; we went to Circus Circus, played video games and pinball, had a great buffet lunch, and that's all I remember.

The second time, I was 26, and it was for a sales conference when I was in the water filter business. Vegas is a great city to go to for a sales conference, but probably not the best place for a sales conference. I think I might have gone to one or two of the meetings; the rest of my time was mostly spent trying to win money and hoping to get laid.

On the first, I wasn't successful in that I didn't, but I was in that I didn't go over budget trying. On the second, I came close (pun inevitable) a couple of times, the third time being the charm. First off, I went to one of those places that pretended to be a bar, met a lovely young lady who chatted me up quite eloquently, and was informed by the barmaid that I could share a bottle of bubbly with the young lady in a private room  for a mere $400, gratuities not included. I politely declined, and went on my way.

After that, I went to an actual bar, met a not-quite-as-lovely-but-good-enough young lady who chatted me up much more abruptly and informed me that she would like to spend some time with me in a motel room which she would pay for with a credit card she happened to come by (pun irresistible), but she just needed $30 first to procure some powdered refreshments. Since it was a mere $30, I obliged, and waited patiently after she said she'd be right back, until I finally gave up and called it a night - my last in Vegas to this day.

The next morning, the sales conference I had  not attended most of having ended, and disappointed that I had neither won money nor gotten laid during my stay in Sin City, I packed my suitcase, checked out, and headed on my way to drop off the rental car and catch the shuttle to the airport. Along that way, while slowing down for a red light, a lovely young lady who had been walking along the sidewalk turned to look at me, then chatted me up in the form of a gesture that means "I want to get into a car with a stranger."

Since her thumb was out and I was now stopped at the red light, I obliged in the form of a gesture that means, "Come on baby take a chance with me." Once in the car, she informed me that she would like to go to a motel with me. To my surprise, she did not want money or refreshments of any sort, but really just wanted to go to a room and have some fun. My skepticism vanished at the next red light, when she asked, very politely, if it would be okay if she kissed me. Of course I obliged, and it was better than okay. Eventually, the nice motorist behind us informed me that the light had turned green, and we were off to the first motel that we could find.

Ever-conscious of the importance of personal hygiene, I suggested that we take a bath, which we did, during which we talked. She told me her name was Lisa (which is rare for me to remember after so many years), and she seemed really very nice, really very down on her luck, and really very hornier than both combined. By which I mean not just physically horny, but emotionally horny as well, if that is a thing. It must be, because I felt the same way.

Thus, for the next couple of hours, we were lovers. Not just sex partners, but lovers - two lonely people who, for that little slice of Now, erased each others' loneliness. During that brief time, the world outside that room - the world in which we were strangers who had just met - did not exist. In that room, we had always been lovers, and always would be.

Eventually, it was time for me to drop off the rental car and catch my flight (which I did just in time). I left her in the room, which I had paid for the day. We did not entertain the notion of me missing my flight, we did not exchange phone numbers (I don't even know if she had one), we did not pretend that we would ever see each other again. We just said "I love you" and kissed good-bye, as it always had been and always would be in the eternity that was the inside of that room.

It had not been my first one-night-stand (or one-morning-stand, as it were), nor would it be my last. But it was the only one during which I had been in love, and it was an experience of being in the Now unlike any that I would have for another 21 years or so.

But that's another story...