I’m delighted to introduce Paul Ariss to my blog. Paul is a songwriter, screenwriter and new to blogging.
Paul shares a true story about travel which gave me goosebumps when I read it because I knew exactly what he was experiencing.
Over to you, Paul.
In the early evening of Wednesday, 28th October 1987 I walked into a bar in rain-sodden Flagstaff, Arizona with Randy Jones, a two-tour Vietnam vet.
I’d met Randy hours earlier that day, just minutes after midnight in Albuquerque bus station.
Randy was a mad-eyed but good-hearted individual who happened to be stopping off in Flagstaff himself on the way west to an altogether different destination. Randy and I were polar opposites.
Probably fifteen years older but with a lifetime more living, Randy had fought the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta and had spent the last two months in a cave in the Rocky Mountains killing animals for his supper.
I was a pasty-faced young English office-worker whose closest shave with conflict was with a drunk in an airport who’d subsequently fallen over his own suitcase.
Yet somehow, me and Randy hit it off immediately.
After getting off our Greyhound bus and booking into our motels we decided to find a local bar, and there we laughed about the cultural differences between the US and the UK, and I let him tell as little as he felt able to share about his time as marine.
Mostly however he was fascinated about my overwhelming desire to see the country that had demanded of him as a young man to go and fight but had largely abandoned him since he returned home.
We were joined after a short time by a huge bear of a Native American man who largely just smiled and kept his own council.
But it’s true to say this night I was restless and struggled to stay convivial. After a couple of beers, I made my excuses and headed back to my motel. I had an inexplicable need to be alone.
By now the late afternoon had given way to early evening and the darkness through my motel window matched my state of mind.
Keeping Hold Of The Promise To Myself
Just ten years earlier I had made a vow to myself that I was now just hours away from fulfilling. At the time of the promise I was unemployed, and giving £5 of the £7 per week Social Security to my recently widowed father for board and keep.
Contrary to the punk counter-culture so many youths of my age were immersed in at the time, I was spending my days listening to the Eagles and dreaming of the open highways of America.
But I was a dreamer without substance. On the day I signed on for social security benefits, I was two-thirds of the way through an 18-months stint of unemployment.
Drenched by a steady drizzling rain, I needed something to aim for, something so far removed from my current situation to be almost too ludicrous to consider.
And then it came to me. I made the decision that one day I would get to The Grand Canyon.
Geographically it was over five thousand miles away from my small town in north-west England, though metaphorically it felt closer to a million. But right at that moment the thought of eventually getting there made the day feel that little bit more bearable.
And so it was, with a decade of steady employment behind me and a modest but committed savings plan I had enough for the journey and sufficient fire in my belly to make the trip.
My anticipation had remained unquenchable and here I was finally about to satisfy that first.
So why was I so downbeat on the eve of seeing one of the most stunning areas of natural beauty on earth?
When The Final Step Is The Hardest
I was lonely. Not for company, but for home.
I had been travelling on buses for nearly three weeks criss-crossing from one exciting destination to another on a plan of my own volition taking in New York City, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Nashville, Gracelands, Dallas, Denver; almost every day a new adventure, a new place I’d always heard about but never thought I’d visit.
Yet now, the day before reaching the destination I had planned and saved for over a decade, was the time I most wanted to be home.
The irony was crushing. I sat on the floor of my motel room and wept. Just a little. This feeling wasn’t what I had planned for.
I turned on the TV, a recording of Billy Joel live in Russia from two months earlier, the first rock star to play there post-Glasnost. Though not a massive Billy Joel fan, his energised demeanour helped fire me up.
“Don’t take shit off no-one”, Joel told an ecstatic crowd, each one no doubt loving the feeling of finally being able to let loose after a lifetime of social repression.
Oddly, a spark re-lit within me, enough to pick my emotions up off the floor and settle them enough to sleep after my long day of travelling.
I awoke the next day and pulled back the curtains to a welcoming early sunrise.
A slightly worse-for-wear Randy joined me for breakfast, telling me how the Native American had carried him back to his motel room at 2am. It seems I was right to have left early!
Randy saw me get on the shuttle bus that left for the Canyon.
Less than two hours later with a barely controllable anticipation I walked through a huge double door to finally see the most incredible, majestic wonder I’ve ever witnessed.
I smiled broadly and said hello to the Grand Canyon. We had finally met. I had travelled the millionth mile.
It had been a long, long journey but worth every step.
Later I thought about Billy Joel, performing so far from home yet feeling a kindred bond with strangers who had lived a life so culturally at odds with everything he knew. And I thought of my new friend Randy who had met someone in me who had expressed a feeling for his own country he had maybe lost something of over the years.
I thought of the Native American whose forefathers had their land ripped from them by Randy’s ancestors, yet felt the simple human instinct to carry him back to where was safe.
And as I turned away from the Grand Canyon at the end of that day my mind went back to where this had all begun and where for me the greatest riches still lay.
Paul started off as a lyricist in a song-writing partnership, before branching out into writing scripts. He’s now back to music, writing and recording solo material.
As a songwriter Paul has had songs published as part of a partnership, and as a solo writer has reached the semi-final of the UK Songwriting Contest and had a track chosen as Pick of The Week on a New York based online radio station.
As a script writer Paul has had material used on BBC radio shows on Radio 2, 4 and 5, and has been short-listed in two major script-writing contests as well as working as a Shadow Writer on Channel 4 comedy-drama Shameless, where he also contributed to its online platform.
Paul is new to blogging after getting the blogging bug in May 2020. He plans to increase his output very soon! His blog is called Songs and Scripts and Dunking Biscuits and can be followed by clicking here.
Songs from Paul are now on Spotify and all major streaming platforms have music videos to accompany them on YouTube, all of which can be accessed via his song-writing Facebook page.
Click here to follow Paul on Facebook
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Have you ever encountered the feelings Paul shared in his guest post?
My thanks to Paul for writing this guest post. If you have any questions or comments for Paul, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.
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52 thoughts on “How A Journey Of A Million Miles Showed Me The Value Of Home – A Guest Post by Paul Ariss @PaulAriss1”
Hi Paul, thanks for sharing a brilliant post, I liked your insights and yearning for home – I guess through these experiences we learn whether truly want to escape to far and exotic lands or go back to familiar spaces.
Your account of buddying up with a Vietnam vet and a Native American made laugh because it made remember of all the random people I struck up short friendships with people I wouldn’t normal connect with from the french-canadian anarchist pot head, to the most awkward christian-Liberal from Ohio, who must have been autistic because he had the most unintentionally funny conversations with everyone he met.
Thanks for sharing and well done for pursuing your dream.
Cheers James. It’s meeting up, however briefly, with people outside our normal daily experiences that help make adventures like these worthwhile.They are there for a short time and then they are gone but memories of them remain, as we both know. I recall being in a greyhound bus station in Albany, New York on a cold night for around four hours with a bunch of totally different people all there to catch connecting buss’s to different places. Everyone of us was there for wildly differing reasons and by around midnight all of us were going and I looked round to an empty station before getting on my bus. But for those four hours we all crossed over each other’s lives, before carrying on. Nothing dramatic, but very touching even now.
I would definitely like to make this journey, and others like it again.
That’s really interesting perspective – I know from my own experience of ‘ships passing in the night’ I once said to someone ‘see you later’ but realised with the probability of that happening that it was just an awkward platitude!
That’s very true James.
Have read your blog with heartfelt interest – you know why.
I still have the postcards and letters you sent to me during that trip and I could feel your loneliness coming through your words, yet I was envious.
But we got to see the east coast together a few years later, thanks to your experience. It was a trip of a lifetime that I shall never,ever forget. Too many wonderful memories to recall now.
Take me to the Canyon one day??!!
So proud of all that you have done and look forward to more.
Love you Brother.xx
Guess who? Yes, it’s The Critic
I read this and it brought tears to my eyes. I remember vividly, the whole family waving you off at the airport as you set off on your long-awaited adventure, but not before you handed me Bryan Adams concert tickets as a surprise and telling me to ‘enjoy’. I also remember as you disappeared from view, the feeling of absolute dread that I may never see you again. I just couldn’t imagine my gentle, kind brother surviving the mean streets of New York City. But of course, you did, although until I read your blog, I had forgotten what an epic adventure it turned out to be and it is obviously still inspiring you today.
As always, a beautifully written story. It also brought back memories of me sitting in a hotel room in Dubai on a long and lonely work trip and just wishing I was home. You gave me a good talking to on the phone and, once again, told me to just ‘enjoy’.
You are truly an inspiration to me every single day and I am immensely proud of you. Just keep those creative juices flowing Bro.
Love from Little Sister San
Well I’ve thanked you in person but I didn’t want your comment to be the only one I didn’t reply to so thanks again, though I’ve no idea why I would inspire someone who has continually come back from knock backs that would floor me and somehow find a way to force yourself forward. Again, and again, and again.
And no, I’m not talking about those dodgy tiles in your bathroom. Get over them! (but yeah, what were they thinking?).
Everything I do and try to do creatively has a foundation built around my family, without whom I would stop trying. And it was family ultimately that I was missing on the day before I visited the Grand Canyon.
So if you ever wonder how I keep trying to succeed as a writer in it’s different forms it’s so I can tell my family first that something good has happened, because I know that when I fall short is you all who will pick me up again.
This is a beautifully written personal narrative. The song is equally moving. *sharing*
First of all many apologies for not replying to your post sooner, somehow it slipped by me originally. And secondly many thanks for reading the blog and letting me know you enjoyed it, it’s generous of you to take the time to do so.
And I’m glad you liked the song, you always hope someone can find an emotional connection in them.
Thank you for following up with me, Paul. It was very thoughtful of you.
I started to read Paul’s story a few days ago on Hugh’s blog and got called away to deal with an issue. I forgot about it until just now, and Sally’s blog reminded me. I am a sucker for any story (especially true ones) where someone fulfills a long-held dream. The Grand Canyon is one of those places worth waiting for, so his story resonated with me.
I am a lifelong music lover, though I am just taking up the guitar now in retirement. His music video is fabulous. This genre is right in my sweet spot. One of the big tests for me is when I love a song the first time I hear it as opposed to those that we either never like or take forever to grow on us. Well done, Paul! I keep telling myself not to sign up for any more blogs, but I’m going to make an exception in this case.
Thank-you so much for your lovely comments which give me a great deal of satisfaction.
I haven’t been blogging long, this was only my fourth and I’m trying to vary the tone but it’s always lovely when someone is able to identify with what’s been written.
Thanks for watching my video, a great deal of the credit must go to my music producer but I am proud of the song and I loved putting the video together. And well done for learning to play the guitar, be patient with yourself and keep going, it can provide tremendous pleasure. If it’s of any inspiration, I only started to learn myself just over 4 years ago. I play well enough to write songs, though I don’t play on the recording you heard.
Once again thank-you for taking the time to read the blog, watch the video and make the comments, It is very much appreciated.
It’s very satisfying to know that such a hugely inspirational day in my life has resonated (I seem to have been using that word a lot this week!) with so many people more than 30 years after the event. Many thanks for the re-blog and the encouraging words that I hope I can live up to!
My pleasure Paul.. a wonderful experience thanks for sharing.
Hugh is a good soul and like attracts like, Paul. It is lovely to read your guest post here. I feel travelling helps us to find parts of ourselves, as does creativity. Faced with nature’s beauty on such a grand scale, it’s not surprising you felt as you did. I love your song ‘When you wake up tomorrow’. x
I’ve been very lucky to find Hugh’s blog site and the help he has given me has been terrific. As of course are his posts, I particularly liked one he did a couple of months ago on gay night-life in the ’80’s which was a fascinating read.
I agree completely with your sentiments about travelling, which is a little ironic as I haven’t done nearly enough of it in the last few years. Also of course on creativity, without meaning to sound pompous it does feed the soul, I would be very much incomplete without it as I guess you would.
Thank-you so much for reading it and your comments on it and on my song! Absolutely delighted you liked it!
Hello Paul, I hope you love being a part of this blogging community, as it holds so many gifts.
Like you, ironically, I haven’t travelled much in the past few years. I am making wonderful discoveries on my doorstep though.
I missed that post of Hugh’s, so I will goback and find it. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything.
I wish you all sparkly best.
I really enjoyed your post, Paul… and welcome to the crazy but sincere world of blogging!
I’m very pleased you enjoyed it Jenanita, and thank-you for taking the time to let me know! I’m very grateful,
A wonderful journey both physically and emotionally. Those two companions along the way were clearly nudged into your path and the memories of your trip will stay with you the rest of your life.. thanks Hugh for sharing.
I enjoyed the journey Paul shared with us today. And I too am in awe of the Grand Canyon as you know Hugh. Welcome to the land of writers and blogging Paul. 🙂
Many thanks, I hope I can find enough subjects to blog about, but I’m sure that will evolve. I hope so anyway!
I appreciate you taking the time to read it and for your comments,
All the best,
My pleasure Paul. And lol, just read the news for 10 minutes and you won’t run out of things to talk about. 🙂
Lovely post Paul. Its the journey, not the destination they say isn’t it? But nice choice of destination! And do you attract the Randys of this world? Those characters who initially seem terrifying or at least having the potential to carry risk but who are actually engaging and expanding of our own characters . I can think of a few from my own experience.
And Hugh is splendid. Well done oh Welsh wizard!
Thanks Geoff, I very much appreciate your comments and it’s lovely that you liked the blog. i don’t always attract the Randy’s of the world but I suppose we all gather a few – for a different example the reference I make in the blog about a guy falling over his own suitcase was someone I befriended on the first day of the trip, over in New York, but a few drinks made him a far more difficult character to be around and I’m glad I was able to slip away from him.
But thanks again, and yes Hugh is great, he helps people so much without asking for anything back. It’s good to have people like that in the world.
Hi Paul I really enjoyed reading this post, I could feel your emotions through your writing. It’s brave to travel such a huge journey and alone. I have traveled with my husband and still felt what you felt but as it happened, with you it passes and the new day dawn’s.
So you are new to blogging, welcome you obviously are bringing a whole bag of talent with you. Your lucky meeting Hugh a great person. I look forward to reading more of your blog . Be safe and well.💜
Thanks again! I’m glad it resonated with you. I can’t promise all of my blogs will but any of them manage to entertain or resonate with just one person it’s worked. And keep on travelling if and when you can, it’s a wonderful thing though you don’t always realise it until you get home.
By the way, on reading your comments and the one’s from the blog about Tempted you may like my first blog (I’ve only done 4!). If you don’t mind I’ve included the link below:
Many thanks again for taking the time out to comment,
What a wonderful piece of writing, Paul – in words and sentiments! I’m so glad your dream and goal came through. When we have our minds set on something… Also, meeting new people is one of the greatest gifts of travel.
While people told me the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is more unique than the South Rim, that first impression standing at the edge of the South Rim over a decade ago was more mind blowing than swinging by the North Rim last year.
I have never been homesick, luckily. Otherwise I’d be in trouble, since I left my homeland of Belgium seventeen years ago. 🙂 By now, as a long-term nomad, I have zero roots anywhere, so the feeling would be void. Happy blogging, performing, and writing!
Thanks for your lovely comments and I’m glad your decision to reach out from Belgium into the wider world has been a positive experience for you. If more people did that maybe we would understand the world around us better.
I’ll be honest, I’m not aware whether I was at the north or south rim, although I may have known on the day. I remember just walking along the rim for hours soaking it all in. Writing the blog and reading all the lovely comments has given me an appetite for returning.
Many thanks again, and may you continue to get satisfaction and fulfillment from your own journeys.
It is amazing what an impact the Grand Canyon can have. It was one of those places I really wanted to be one day. When I was standing there for the first time, I could not control the tears. I was overwhelmed by the power of the country and I too felt the ancient Native Americans and their heritage. I still get goosebumps only thinking of it!
I’m so glad my blog reminded you of your visit to the Grand Canyon which sounds like it felt for you, as it did for me, like a spiritual experience. It looks like it goes on forever doesn’t it? As you’ll know, it’s everything you hope it will be but far more, the experience goes deeper than you imagine.
Thanks so much for sharing your own experience, I appreciate it and also for you reading the blog.
Your story was a wonderful reminder of that truly unforgettable experience. A spiritual experience, indeed! You are right, you stand there and gaze over that canyon. You can do it for hours and don’t get it done. A magical place! Thanks again for sharing and take care, Paul!
And you too Erika, thank-you!
Thank you 😊
Thanks for a very interesting post, Paul and Hugh for sharing. Best of luck with your blog, Paul.
Traveling around the US by bus is not for the faint of heart. At least not these days. The national parks are however, quite inspiring!
What can I say, I was younger then, I had less fear! But I would do it again, though maybe a smaller area for a couple of weeks. Yosemite is high on my list.
Many thanks for reading the post and taking the time to reply.
It’s funny how the further away we are, the more home means to us. This is a beautiful post, thanks for sharing it, Paul.
That’s very true, and that certainly came home to me that day and of course even more so the evening before.
Thank-you so much for your sentiments, I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
A moving and fascinating post. I’ve lived in two countries much of my life (California, USA, and Switzerland and every once in a while I’m asked (or ask myself) which one is home? Perhaps, I’ll find out one day. Have a wonderful day Paul and Hugh and thanks for sharing.
Well you are lucky to get to choose between two beautiful places in the world. I really would like to go to Switzerland someday, particularly Lucerne but I did stay in San Luis Obispo and Monterey in California on that journey across America.
Your comments on my blog are much appreciated, as is the time you took to reply.
Thank you, Paul, for sharing a piece of your heart. BTW, I left a comment on your blog site.
Thank you, Hugh, for sharing Paul and his writing with us.
Yes I’ve seen the comment Chuck and replied, glad you’ve enjoyed the posts.
Great post Paul and Hugh I did my traveling and I came home as well This post made me tear up with memories
Stay well and Laugh when you can
Hi Mr Ohh’s Sideways View,
I hope that’s the right way to address you! I’m so glad my blog resonated with you, and it’s nice to think it stirred up some what I hope are good memories.
Thank-you for your comments,
Oh yes it did
A meaningful and well-written post. We are all looking for something, aren´t we? It is usually home or close to home.
Thanks for your observation and yes, sometimes when something is so close we can’t always see it as clearly as we should. That said, I’ve always seen the trip as one rich with memories and the day at the Canyon one of the best days of my life so far.
Welcome to blogging, Paul! And, if this is anything to go by, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of followers very soon! A very interesting blog post.
I appreciate your comments, I’m enjoying blogging so far and of course Hugh has been such a big help to me as he is to many.
Thank-you again, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
All the best,
Hugh really is an inspiration. I feel so lucky to know him. Enjoy your blogging journey, Paul.