By Robin Wheeler
“California’s mortally loaded down with stuff to ride along an’ look at, ain’t it?”
“Long on climate out here! But still, it costs ya like th’ devil ta soak up any of it! the boy who was driving said.
“All you folks one family?” I asked them. - “Extry Selects” from “Bound for Glory”
Woody made friends when he went to California. Lots of kind people who made brief but loving appearances in his time of need, never to be seen again.
I hope the latter’s not the case with the friends I made in California. Some will be, of course. Many won’t. Reading “Bound for Glory” and Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” drives home just how amazingly connected we are today. Meet someone half a country away? Swap email addresses, phone numbers, friend each other, follow each others’ digital footsteps. It doesn’t guarantee a life-long connection, but it’s certainly potential for more than Woody had with his lumberjack, fellow train-jumpers, family in the orchard.
We grow up learning that friendship is supposed to last forever. This must be a new concept. Or a very old one that predates the wonders of human mobility of the past two centuries. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned – am still learning – is the finite nature of friendship. I’m trying to accept it as it comes to me, nurture it as I can, and accept its fleeting tendencies.
While I was in California for the John Steinbeck Festival, I gobbled up the connections that came to me with no expectations beyond those days.
In order of appearance, here are the friends I had during my California trip.