Why I’m Taking Off for Europe Once Again

Why I’m Taking Off for Europe Once Again

Yes, even at the ripe old age of 55, I’m going for it yet again. Some may consider me an old fool or a Don Quixote, so to speak. And even though I’m not in the best of health, I believe this is the right thing to do. It’s not easy believing in yourself when almost everyone you know thinks you’re a fool. I’ve tried this several times and though things have usually not gone how I’d hoped they would, I don’t regret having tried. As the saying goes, the only true failure is not trying. I have learned from each trip abroad that I’ve made and I’ve had some damn good times as well. I’ve met some fantastic people & I’ve had experiences & memories that I’ll treasure until the day I die. Of course, nothing worth having is simple or easy & these trips weren’t a walk in the park. I’ve gone hungry, slept in the cold, been scared, had to do some hard, physical labor type work, & had to swallow my pride and call family or friends for financial assistance.

Nonetheless, the good definitely outweighed the bad each time, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m giving it another shot. A major reason why I’m so in love with Europe was put much more eloquently by one of America’s top writers, James Baldwin, in the preface to his book Nobody Knows My Name. I stumbled upon this many years ago & was immediately struck by Baldwin’s brilliant insight. He said that he never realized how much energy he expended here in America just trying to prove he was a regular guy, until he went to Europe for the first time. He continued, in Europe they’ve been persecuting artists for centuries and have finally accepted the fact that they’re going to keep on coming like the wind, the rain, etc. So, artists are generally more accepted in Europe and this has a very liberating effect on the artist. Here in America, we are looked upon with suspicion & distrust because we don’t, can’t, or won’t buy into the American value system of conspicuous consumption (my phrase). In other words, if you’re not concerned with material possessions & wealth, you’re considered a loser, lazy, incapable, etc. True artists, by their very nature, are on a perpetual search for meaning & ways to express that meaning that are new or fresh. By the way, these aren’t the words of Baldwin, these are my own. I should’ve been more explicit, his thoughts ended with the suspicion & distrust of artists in America.

Furthermore, when my own son, whom I’ve tried to stick around & be in his life for, disrespects me & thinks me a loser as well, I feel there is no longer any compelling reason to stay here. People either can’t connect the dots or don’t care that I’ve spent the last 30 years at least, reading like a maniac & collecting thousands of books. Almost every waking hour that I’m not out earning money has been devoted to reading, writing, listening to, watching, taping, talking about world events & how they impact us & the role “our” government & corporations have played in them. Americans, as a general rule, believe they are free but this is a delusion. The illusion is perpetuated largely because there are such a myriad of choices of things to buy in America but we aren’t suppose to pay attention to the inconvenient truths like our ability to buy the products that we are bombarded with advertising to buy, is shrinking steadily. What’s more, the basic necessities of life such as shelter, food, health care, transportation, etc., are forcing more and more Americans onto the poverty roles. And Georgie Porgie & his “compassionate conservative” cronies are slashing every “social welfare” program they can get their talons on & spitting in the faces of their “fellow Americans.” No, we’re suppose to bury our heads in the sand & pretend we don’t see all the ugly truths around us. True artists can’t close their eyes nor their hearts & sadly, often become the pariahs of their societies.

Because I have been the object of scorn & ridicule for most of my life, it’s easier for me to stand up and tell the ignorant, the mean-spirited, & the greedy ones to go to hell. I have fought bullies all my life & the only difference now is that I’m taking on the global bullies in my writing.

In addition, in Europe I am welcomed as a traveler, an adventurer, a brave spirit. My spirit is so tired & worn out from my constant feeling of unworthiness. I always feel on the defensive like I have to justify my very existence & because tragically, the overwhelming majority of Americans are non-readers i.e. they prefer to watch “sports,” American Idol, “reality” shows, etc. and if they do read, it’s usually crap like The National Enquirer, Readers Digest, People magazine, etc. And when I point out our pathetic level of intellectual interests or abilities due to our not exercising our higher faculties, I am labeled an elitist snob. Isn’t that rich? I’m an elitist snob & at the same time, loser or bum. The way I figure it, about the only thing I have left is my writing and it’s now or never i.e. I’m running out of time and have to get deadly serious about my writing because I have no pension or anything else & if I don’t get to a point where I can support myself by my writing, I will wind up living on the streets in a few years. It’s getting damn near impossible for me to find even menial, minimum wage jobs here in the U.S. because of my age, my “unstable” work history, & my being “over-qualified” academically. So, I reason why not live in Europe which I find so intellectually stimulating, even if lonely, because I’m lonely here in my own country where I speak the language but am rarely understood or respected.

Speaking of which, another reason why I’m looking forward to going to Europe again is because I am desperately in need of regaining some semblance of self-respect or dignity again. I don’t know how much longer I can go on feeling as low as I do? Staying on my ex-wife’s couch, asking “friends” for help, suffering the insults of young co-workers, etc. is taking a heavy toll on my spirit & I feel like I’m dying inside. I need to pursue my dreams for my physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual health or well-being. My ex-wife has been there for me time & time again but loses more respect for me with each time she feels obligated to “save me.” My goal is simple, I want to be able to work and support myself so I’m not obligated to anyone and can hold my head up high. And I want to be able to devote the majority of my time to my writing to see if I am any good and can make a go of it? In Europe I have the options of working on peoples’ farms, wineries, in youth hostels, etc. in exchange for room and board. I also have the option of staying in “Intentional Communities” or what we used to call communes in the 60s, in exchange for a roof over my head & food in my belly. The race is becoming more & more serious the older I get. It’s becoming a race between “success” and personal disaster because I don’t know how much longer my body will hang in there. Who said growing old graciously is the way to go? I wish! I’m just trying to survive!
However, I remain somewhat optimistic or perhaps it’s just that stubborn old Irish blood in my veins? One of my greatest hopes is that as many parents have told me, my son will come to realize how much I love him & how deeply he has hurt me & misunderstood me. It takes a Herculean will or belief in oneself to stand up against your society’s values, customs, etc. In the meantime, I will persevere! I refused to allow the U.S. Army destroy me. I fought my mom’s boyfriends & husbands who abused her & my brother & sisters. I told employers who exposed me to life-threatening work conditions, to go fuck themselves. I proved all those who said I was a loser wrong by earning my B.A. in English Literature—not an easy major to succeed in. I have lived & fought & loved & persevered against overwhelming odds. And this has all only been possible because I have learned to trust in myself even when those who claim to care for me, have tried their best to dissuade me from my course of action. Time will tell who was right and whether I was just oblivious to “reality” or held true to my vision. It’s a lonely road and the only thing that enables me to go on is the occasional word of encouragement I get from strangers along my path.

And one of the most encouraging “words” I ever received was when several girls in an ESL class I taught for 6 weeks in L.A. who were from Nicaragua & El Salvador started crying when I had to move on. I know I have the “human touch” because people know I truly care. So, all the suffering, humiliation, etc. that I’ve gone through and have yet to go through, is the price I have to pay for following my dreams, my heart, my nature. No matter whether I ever return to America or spend the remainder of my life in some foreign land, I will always be an American & I criticize America so forcefully because I feel such a deep-seated sense of betrayal at what they taught us in public school and the ugly reality I have discovered over the years I have been searching for the truth.

To sum up, I am disgusted, ashamed, afraid, embarrassed, disappointed, depressed, and mad as hell at this “government of ours,” who are bullying & terrifying the rest of the world behind the façade of “democracy” & “freedom.” And I will continue to do everything in my power to open people’s eyes as to what these cockroaches are really up to. Finally, in the end what really matters in our lives is not being right but to have seriously tried to “follow our bliss” as that master scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell, advised us. In brief, my traveling isn’t merely a “running away” as some characterize it but is also a “running towards” i.e. a running towards adventure, dreams, romance, sensory overload, discovery, enlightenment, destiny, & intellectual fulfillment!
Rob DeLoss, April 13, 2008

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

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