September 10, 2012

San Diego to Seattle - Day 11 - Return

Lone Pine, CA is an old western town where western movies from the 30's, 40's and 50's were filmed. Some of the best western stars spent time there, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Randolph Scott, shooting scenes against the dramatic backdrop of the Alabama Hills. Just north of Lone Pine is a lost, little government installation known as the Japanese Relocation Center, Manzanar. I had first heard of Manzanar at 13 and was so filled with disillusionment and disgust I was sent home from school sobbing. At the beginning of this trip I had mentioned to Highway I'd like to go there someday. As usual, he managed to make that happen, even quicker than I'd expected.

Rolling into the facility I was already fighting my anger and tears. When Highway pulled up to the sign at the entrance to photograph his ST, I asked him to turn towards me first, and took my own shot. As we mounted up, he mentioned he had family who were here during the interment from 1942 through 1944, and his cousin was born here. My weeping rolled back to angry sobs as I pulled my helmet off in the parking lot, wiping my face with my bandana.

Touring the facility with my Japanese American husband was gut wrenching. Highway is a Nisei, a second generation Japanese American, which is confusing, because he was the first in his Japanese family born in the U.S. The idea he would be imprisoned here made me furious. It all seemed so familiar a feeling as I thought of my family's history as American Indians, and their interment as well. My Great Great Grandmother was 7 when the Army swept through their village and marched them to camp, imprisoning her family, with many others, in horse corrals for the winter. Then the tribes were marched 4 states along The Trail of Tears. She was 9 years old when she arrived. Less than half of the original tribe remained.

Leaving along the desolate Hwy 395 the anger ate away at me for miles. Had any of the prisoners escaped from Manzanar, where would they go? Out here, in this barren fucking desert, to wander, and for how long? The only town for miles was Lone Pine, and here, while American Citizens were imprisoned right up the road, western stars were being regaled as heroes. I began to seethe at the irony.

Before Highway, my life was desert stark, empty, barren and lonely. I could break away from the pitiful existence, but to where would I escape? Lonely and married seemed better than lonely and alone. Pretending to be loved seemed better than the reality of being unloved. My marriage, my family, my life, with the exception of my daughter, was my Manzanar. Buildings stood, and if you didn't look really close, you couldn't see how painful it all was. Once my daughter found something for herself, the tumbleweeds rolled in and I was standing alone, imprisoned, empty handed and empty hearted.

I had to run.

Out into the desert I went, rolling along Hwy 395 angrily. I hated the other drivers in cars with passengers and air conditioning, because I wanted those comforts, but was met with only sand and sun. Tears exploded from my eyes until I found the machine between my legs, delivering me from my past. Expertly maneuvered by Highway, my deliverer, we swiftly weaved between the cars and semis, taking danger at every curve, to escape the prison that had been our homes.

San Diego was beautiful when we arrived that evening, a stark contrast from the desert roads. Bustling streets lined with high rises, horns beeping, folks yelling, music blaring, I wrapped my arms tightly around Highway and was so grateful to be home.

Wherever I roam, if I'm with Highway, I'm always home.

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