Sunday, April 07, 2019

"In your face", a photo by Carl Bidleman's cameraman, Stefan
Just returned from Missoula, Montana, and my third appearance as a part of the cast of The Moth ..

Our audience was at capacity in the historic Wilma Theater in downtown Missoula, a town with more cowboy hats than I've ever seen in one place--and I'm a lifelong resident of the furthest reach of the West Coast!

I tend to forget that the San Francisco Bay Area's cosmopolitan character has lost its western flavor entirely.  One has to travel inland to find John Wayne's America; I'd forgotten that.  It's easy enough to do since we're now characterized by skyscrapers that boast the most phallic skyline on the West Coast, shouting "My building's bigger than your building" in aluminum, steel, glass, and towering structures that defy logic or most people's budgets!  Looking at the landscape as we approached the landing strip makes one conscious of how densely we're now populated in the urban areas, and how much open space there is just beyond our borders.  It made a mockery of our leader's insistence that the southern borders be shut down immediately since, "we have no more room to share with immigrants."

But I digress.

One of the films in which my personal life is being depicted, is almost ready for release.  Carl Bidleman's long awaited work is nearly ready to be submitted for approval to the Committee on Ethics at the Department of Interior.  Since it is based on my life as a park ranger with the National Park Service, this is a necessary step before approval for public release.

Can't help but wonder how it will be once that happens ... when even during the last two trips, due to the recent bursts of public exposure caused by the Glamour Magazine award, I was recognized in two airports -- once by a security agent!  That's to be expected when in uniform, but when not ... I'm always taken by surprise, and a mixture of pleasure and dismay.

I'm so conflicted upon arrival at airports when ordering my wheelchair (yes!) as my physician has directed me to do with the words, "you've earned it, Betty.  At 97 you should not expect yourself to navigate through the long lines at security or the endless trek to the Gates."  In response I've developed a convenient slight limp to justify the request, then pray fervently that there's no one in that crowd who will recognize me as, "the oldest park ranger in the National Park Service!"  Anyone who really knows me will surely know that I'm capable of one hell of a lot of activity in any one day without even breathing hard!

On my 90th birthday
But the fact that my "handicap" was not evident (I'm assuming), and as my chair was wheeled to the place in the security line where one must be checked for metal, this time I was taken aside for a "pat down".  A strange thing occurred there that surprised me.  A young woman, apologetically and gently, passed her  gloved hands over my body and--rather than outrage--I found myself smiling and pleased, reminded of how long it has been since I'd been touched in quite this way by another human being ... and when living alone in these final years ... how little reason there is for that to happen.  I'd almost forgotten ... .

What is not known is that continuing to travel comes at a cost.  I really am experiencing a level of fear and confusion in those long lines of travelers in their bare feet and rushing past to heaven knows where ... .  It's hard to admit that I may not be any longer in control of whatever it takes to find my way through international airports, and that doing it alone may no longer be either practical or safe.  Were it not for my daughter, Diara, following my wheelchair ready to re-direct in the case of problems, my gallivanting days might well be over.  But, for the moment, we're still ready to go wherever life takes us.

Thank heaven for wheelchair service!  It takes much of the fear away, and makes it possible to continue to travel to adventures and experiences that would otherwise be beyond reach.

Not ready to give up quite yet ... .