I’ve been carrying around a small piece of note paper since November, 2009, when my welding teacher, Solar Bob, drew a map for me with his ever present Sharpie.
Solar Bob kept pretty much to himself in his metal works studio and repair shop. With his trailer parked just behind; over and upon which, large piles of metal sheets, rods, pipes, and poles had been stacked. His domain rested in the far corner of an intentional community set on a ragged and worn out piece of desert west of Tucson, Arizona.
I was at the community three days before I learned of Solar Bob’s existence. I needed some tools and he needed some help with the cattle grate. We traded tools for time and, soon after, were trading stories. I learned how to make a strong yet ugly weld and had immense fun slicing I-beams with a bitchin’ plasma cutter. I took every excuse to hang out at his workshop, a sanctuary in an otherwise crazy and barely functional situation.
We shared a love of the upper northwest. For him it was a place in many fond memories of young adulthood in the late sixties. For me it was a place I’d visited as a child and longed to go back to; of fractured and floating memories wanting for the cohesion of a more mature experience. He expressed sadness with the belief that he wasn’t going to get back there again before he died. I poked him to get into his truck and head back up the coast. I said I saw nothing stopping him from doing it this very minute. He respond with a smile and, shaking his head, handed me another welding rod.
On my last day at the compound, Solar Bob handed me that little map and encouraged me to stop on the coast, at that little x, to see the beauty and wonder for myself. He said I wouldn’t regret it. I took the paper and promised that I would stop on my way. Unfortunately for me, I’d made it only as far up as Stockton before circumstances had me turning around for another destination.
But the desire has lingered. I’ve hung on to this piece of paper, because that desire to go is still strong lo these six years later. I have forgotten the stories but I can still recall his smiling face as he told them. I want to drive the Redwood Highway and stand on that shoreline looking out upon the Pacific, and think of him as he would have been had he gotten in his truck that day. Who knows, maybe I’ll chance by that little shred of desert near Tucson and, if Solar Bob is still there, I’ll give him a ride up the coast.