People reinvent themselves every day. They leave their corporate jobs, sell their McMansions, kick out the nanny and take the kids homeschooling in France. Maybe they climb Everest or sail the world in a 65-foot yacht. Oprah praises them for their decision to live simply. After their adventures they retire to a condo in Belize. Some people go on a “search for everything” in countries that begin with the letter “I”. Well, what about the rest of us? What about secretaries, window washers, nurses? What about people who are afraid of heights, water, and large automobiles but are desperate to change their lives? My memoir, Home for the Bewildered, is for the little people (and I don’t mean stature-wise although I am under 5 feet tall). It’s the story of how I shucked it all and found nirvana at a trailer park in the Sonoran Desert.
The day I left Portland, Oregon, I didn’t know where I was going; only that I was going to the desert. I was driving a one-ton van and pulling a twenty-five foot Airstream travel trailer which I couldn’t back up. Seventeen years earlier I’d seen the movie Bagdad Café and that became my dream: to follow the signs that would lead to my own Bagdad Café, a place in the desert filled with dramatic sunsets, quirky and eccentric characters, magic. A place where I could become someone new. Thirty miles from the Arizona/Mexico border I found my Bagdad Café at a ramshackle trailer park called Home for the Bewildered.
Initially I was a fish out of water. RVers (people who spend a lot of time in recreational vehicles) tend to be well-off coupled-up conservative retirees. I was none of those. In my yearning for a desert life I had failed to take into account that most U.S. deserts are in red states. I hadn’t been prepared for the border war against illegal immigration and its attendant racism. However, it didn’t take long for me to fit in with this desert community of snowbirds, cowboys, barflies, regular working stiffs and general ne’er-do-wells. At the Home for the Bewildered I found all I’d been searching for and more. Having suffered a ten-year sexual drought, suddenly at the age of fifty-five I began attracting men as though sprinkled with fairy dust. At one point I had four lovers in six weeks. It was truly mind-boggling. After two years at the Home for the Bewildered I skedaddled out of there when I got involved with a gun-toting, homophobic, bible-thumping, meth-addicted racist. He had pretty eyes and even prettier arms but, seriously, it was a crazy thing to do.
I towed my Airstream to a Mexican fishing village on the Sea of Cortez which is where the memoir was written.