10,000 Miles starts with one Step

10000 Miles with my Dad Father’s Ashes, Or Mi Padre es Muerto en la Bolsa

In bookstores everywhere September 18, 2018.

IMG_20140630_0003I stood in the living room in bare feet with the cold, hardwood floor beneath me, and the phone’s springy chord wrapped around my knuckle. I waited for, and expected, this call for years. Her unfamiliar voice told me my father was dead.

The sobs came in spite of everything he taught me. She continued, “Your dad wants to ‘return home’ to Spain. To be scattered off the coast of Cadiz, while Ave Maria is sung. It was his last wish.” Without any sense of irony in her voice, I heard the subtle ring of Dad’s colossal bullshit.

Even through my tears, even though we had not spoken in years, I knew my father’s line of nonsense.

Dad wasn’t from Spain. He had never left America. My father was a con man who sold oil wells that didn’t belong to him, and who left my mother and me on welfare. Ave Maria was just the cherry on top. He was a con man right to the very end. And while I cried, I wondered what his angle was.

Beyond the absurdity of his final request, there were a few truths I understood as I hung up the phone. He was my unreliable, often crappy father and still my hero.

IMG_20140630_0001I didn’t care that the voice on the other end of the receiver was his seventh wife or what Spanish sunset he needed to see through her eyes. Scattering him was my birthright and I knew that he, quite literally, would fall into my lap one day.

It was my job to take my father and pour him into the waters of Cadiz, Spain, in spite of his best efforts to make me hate him. Because, like it or not, our personal history danced in my mind between the painfully laughable and cartoonishly unfinished, the thought of him still made me want to tell bullshit stories and swill beer just like him. And for many years I nailed it.

He did fall in my lap and I carried him across Spain by car, train, and backpack. This was our swan song “buddy picture” come to life, except that one of the buddies was dead… and then I lost Dad’s ashes a half a mile from our appointment with the Mediterranean Sea. I stood in the middle of a windy cobblestone street in Old Town Cadiz feeling like I had just been kicked in the stomach, wondering what the fuck just happened. Not just in that moment but the forty years prior.

This is a wild-eyed history of secret family stories that includes 50 stolen cars, sacred African fertility dolls, a Darth Vader mask-wearing junkie, a mysterious secret family, a Playboy magazine found in a sewer hidden next to toilet paper wrapped downers, a Vegas hooker with one impressive breast, a hero’s journey, and traveling across the world with a black jug that contained my father in my rolling suitcase. 10,000 Miles with My Dead Father’s Ashes is a cross between Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle and J. R. Moehringer, the writer of The Tender Bar.

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