Embracing the Vagabond Lifestyle, Part 1
Embracing the Vagabond Lifestyle, Part 1

Hi, I’m back. I’ve been in Los Angeles since July 2020, exploring the City of the Gasping Angels in the middle of a pandemic. I spent 2021 working on my website and writing my blog; I rolled chapters out every Monday from August 1 through November 15 (plus a couple of extra chapters in December). That had a theme: the music I was into and the music I played and especially for August to December I’m sure I looked like a pretty prolific writer, but now I’m starting from scratch. 

Update from the front in the War on Conventional Living. 

Our Vagabond Thing has been going on since we sold our Silver Spring house of 32 years in April of 2020. Accordingly, in keeping with that thought, you could say that today’s missive may be all over the map, figuratively and literally. In April of 2020, the Covid pandemic was going full swing (wistfully referred to as the Wiping Down Your Groceries phase) and no one knew what the fuck to do. We had been preparing to sell our house for a while - because our kids were out West, I was going to retire soon, and we wanted to help out my Mom in LA - and charged ahead, pandemic notwithstanding. We moved out of the house on April 25. In preparation for leaving, we put all our stuff into a nearby Public Storage area, a 10 x 10 cell that contained everything we deemed of value. It is worth noting what we considered to be worth keeping and move across country in a big moving van: books, Patty's art supplies, clothes, framed artwork, our kids’ schoolwork, a bin of Legos, a bin of Brio train tracks, two dressers, a mirror for one of the dressers, gardening tools, one rocking chair suitable for a porch, a single Clore (Madison, VA) dining room chair made of cherry (?) wood with a fiber rush seat, a world globe, guitars and amp and speaker cabinet, a record player, two milk crates of records (the records I had recorded with bands I was in, a few blues records, miscellaneous others, and The Beatles), an expensive mattress plus frame, and many, many photos and photo albums. Oh, and a vacuum cleaner. 

These were items of value to carry with us. For as long as I can remember, I never liked to accumulate things. I am a terrible consumer and collector. Freedom has always meant driving off in a car with a guitar and amp. OK, with some clothes too. And I don’t know where I am headed. That was before I had a wife, so now I add Patty in the passenger seat. Images of Woody Guthrie (go to sleep you weary hobo/let the towns drift slowly by/listen to the steel rails hummin’/that's the hobo's lullaby), Bob Dylan (on your own, no direction home, like a rolling stone), and Jimmie Rodgers (All around the water tank, waiting for a train, a thousand miles away from home, sleeping in the rain) run through my head, classic Americana romance about the down-on-his-luck itinerant. I’ve got a roof over my head, of course, and don’t pretend I’m in such a predicament, but I do firmly identify with wanderlust. I think my unwillingness to be tied down with possessions may have roots in being Jewish - the whole escaping Eastern Europe with nothing but some diamonds sewn into your coat thing - or maybe I’m just scared of commitment. I was generally rootless and moving a lot during college (1971-1979), but I can point to my years as a DJ on college radio stations in particular as the early stirrings of an aversion to collecting things. All those record albums were lining the walls of the studio. How would I ever have enough? In fact, I do have friends today with walls and walls of record albums in their houses, but I don’t. I never wanted to be tied down; I simply preferred to be….outside. 

So, besides what we had in storage, we kept aside things we needed to have handy, to wit: two suitcases of clothes, part of Patty’s art supplies, one of my guitars with a bookshelf-size amp, our Mac computer (aka, “the TV”), and two bikes. That’s what we carried around town for the next 2 1/2 months before we left for good, as we moved from place to place (Air BnB’s) in DC/MD: Petworth, Silver Spring and 16th St., NW. Our first stop was the Petworth area of NW DC, through the end of May. Although I had been in DC for over 40 years, I really didn’t know that area and it was real fun to bike around and explore Sherman and Grant Circles and Rock Creek Cemetery. I was still working at EPA battling the Trump Administration, tied to my government laptop, while everybody’s life was turned upside down. Right in the middle of our stay, May 16, my younger brother Howard died, adding to the surrealism of this period. Although extremely resilient and positive, my brother had a tough life starting as an early teen, when he had the first mini-strokes from “cavernous malformations” in his brainstem. This would temporarily incapacitate him until the blood that had seeped out was reabsorbed by the body. He always lived with the shadow that it could return, as it did when he had a more serious stroke at age 51 that put him in a wheelchair, and then the final ones at age 62. I still remember where I stood – around Shepherd and 7th St., NW – saying “I love you” to him over the phone while his wife held the phone to his ear. He died soon thereafter. Rest in Peace, Howard. 

For June, we moved to a friend’s BnB very close to our old house in Silver Spring, and then for the first week of July we were at a place near Malcom X (Meridian Hill) Park. We had a nearly 360 degree view of July 4 fireworks from the rooftop of that building. Amazing end to my years in the Washington DC area. Throughout these last few months, grabbing whatever space she could find where we happened to be staying, Patty managed to do some great paintings of Emergency Room nurses, and of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The latter pictures we posted outside the White House to join the many others that people had put up. 

We left DC on the morning of July 7, 2020, and I had first arrived in DC on July 5, 1979. 41 years. The trip to LA was dotted with friends that represented various markers in our DC lives. The first night we stayed in Cleveland with friends who used to be Silver Spring neighbors. The next day we met up in Joliet, IL with cousins from Chicago, and then continued on to Davenport, IA. After checking into a creepy Days Inn, we decided to grab some carryout food and eat down by the banks of the Mississippi, where I looked up at a building behind us and recognized the name Figge Art Museum. I recalled that an old friend - Andrew Wallace, with whom I was in a band in DC (Shocko Bottom) back in the 1980s - worked there as a curator of something or other. I Instagram messaged him and it turned out he and his wife lived an hour west in Iowa City, so the next morning on our way west we stopped at their house for coffee on their front lawn. We then continued on to Omaha for the night - a pleasant enough town, slow paced, with a beautiful old train station. The next day we drove all the way to Boulder, CO to stay with friends we’ve known since we lived there in the mid-2000s while the kids went to a preforming arts high school. After a few days, we were heading on to North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This being the pandemic, the already less populated North Rim was even less so, like we had the whole place to ourselves. 

Then it was on to LA, where we arrived on July 15, 2020.  We’ve been there since, living with my 93-year-old Mom and hunkering down, writing, doing art and music, and exploring the city the best we could while waiting out the pandemic. I really hadn’t ever lived in LA as an adult, because I left for college in 1971 slightly before I turned 18, and only returned for short visits before heading off to whatever other new adventure. 

Most recently, the period October 2021 - February 2022 was eventful and worth talking about. We were staying at an Air BnB in Venice Beach when Patty got word that her 97-year-old mother - at a continuing care facility in Rockville, MD - had to go into Rehab because she had fallen and broken a leg (or hip or something; when it comes right down to it, at that age, it really doesn’t matter what she broke). Patty flew out to Washington, DC on November 12. I followed on December 16, for two reasons: to help her and give moral support with logistics regarding her mom and to reunite with my 7 Door Sedan bandmates for a David Bowie tribute show. I arrived in DC just as the Covid omicron variant took off.  But that's for next week.


Goodbye House


Petworth, NW DC


Black Lives Matter


Coffee with Andrew and Elizabeth in Iowa City


Somewhere in Utah (Grand Staircase Escalante), far away from people


Picking up stuff for the last time from my office at EPA. I really liked this security guard but now I can't remember his name.

8 thoughts on “Embracing the Vagabond Lifestyle, Part 1

  1. Kenneth, you are a great writer. You squeeze a lot living into so few paragraphs and make it accessible. Of course, it helps I know you, and there’s a lot of waiting around, too. Thanks for writing.

  2. Your view educates me in many directions. So interesting.
    I didn’t know that you had that ‘final fairwell’ with Howard; it grabbed my heart. That was sooooo cruel – the inhospitable hospital in those last weeks because of covid.
    Your words are always directed towards…’the next step’…which is wonderful…the future!
    Keep those memories coming!

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