I feel most relaxed when I’m moving. My earliest memories involve travelling back and forth from West Virginia to California, stretched out in the back of my dad’s Toyota Corolla wagon. It’s in my blood—my dad is a truck driver and my grandparents have been living as nomads for over sixty years, selling their wares at trade shows and state fairs all over. I joined them one summer during my college years. We sold curly shoelaces: “Never tie your shoes again!” I would bellow into a tiny microphone. Little hands and big would play with our laces before the adults would tell us that our product would keep their children from learning how to tie their shoes. “Then don’t buy them,” I would cheerfully reply.
After two or three weeks we would pack up our vendibles and move on to the next show, meeting up again with all of the people that my grandparents had worked alongside throughout the years. It was a happy time, but when I returned to my studies I found myself wondering about some of the characters I’d met on my journey: the nudist from Florida who sold the salsa makers; the 14-year old who sold astrological predictions along with her parents and tiny sister; the devout Catholic/hippy caricaturist whose friendship was mysteriously forbidden by my grandmother.
I am currently engrossed in the book American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders by Richard Grant. Grant’s exposition of the history, sociology and possibilities of nomadism in the American West makes me almost yearn to feel 135 degree sunshine burning onto my arms as I drive my imaginary big rig across an endless desert highway. Grant, a Briton who wrote another one of my favorites—God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre—compares fascinating accounts of early conquistadors and Native American tribes to his own adventures and difficulties of living as a nomad in a culture that is typified by a sedentary lifestyle.
If you don’t have the cash or vacation time to jump in the car and take off in a southwesterly direction, read American Nomads instead.