29 July, 2012

Playing the Name Game, Leaving Porkopolis (Again)

I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how long... -- Walt Whitman

Here, have another cup and forget about the dime
Keep it as a souvenir, from Big Joe and Phantom 309. - Red Sovine

After a nice visit with My Dear Sweet Ma, I'm on my way to Chicago, having caught a ride with my friend Paul H. He makes a weekly run up to Bloomingdale, which is about 27 miles from the Ogilvie Transportation Center

View Larger Map

-- where I'm meeting someone else who will help get me to Mount Carroll late Monday night.

Once I'm back in Mount Carroll, I plan on visiting some friends, finding some way to build up the Travel Fund*, and get my Southbound excursion planned. By the time I get there, or soon thereafter, a copy of birth certificate will arrive at my as of yet un-relinquished P.O. Box address there, and I will be able to trade in my recently arrived OFFICIAL TEMPORARY DRIVER'S LICENSE (that, according to the large type double bold capitalized notification at the top of the page... just below the Official State of Illinois page header... IS NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES) for an actual photo identification.

I can drive right now... but I don't have a car, having signed (somewhat happily, somewhat sadly) the blue station wagon... the appearance of which, I believe, foretold my soon to be divorce. So I will have an ID with the moniker My Dear Sweet Ma bestowed upon me during that blizzard in the Year of Our Lord 1973.

Several people -- friends, family -- have asked me about my name changes on various social networking sites. I have tried explaining. I have had to explain the reference to Ozymandias. And here... for you all, Dear Readers, to see... it is:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.' 
Percy Bysshe Shelley (published 1818)
There. Now you know. It's one of my favorite poems. It's always made me smile, just a little.
My reasons for getting another state sanctioned official (for the purposes of Identification) ID are two fold: I want to be able drink when some child working in a bar or restaurant would otherwise deny me booze without some proof that I'm nearly twice his or her age; and I want to be able get a passport for next year's anticipated European Jaunt. 
I'm still not sure what's in a name. Echoes of the father, the grandfather. The obligations of a son. The identity attached to that name by The State, by marketeers, by the various institutions that have been digging into us from the moment we're even let out of the house to get on a school bus. Once you start unraveling and tearing off the cultural appliques, you begin to realize that most of the reductive nouns people use to self-identify ... cultural, ethnic, political, religious, spiritual, philosophical... and all the ontological delusions begin to crumble and you begin a journey through the world without the apparatus that binds you to those self same rotting institutions that nothing more than the crumbling visage of some megalomaniac with a bank roll and a need for psychotherapy.

28 July, 2012

Notes On Reading Lorca While Riding The Metro (a poem

This is no city for gypsies.

The man sitting three rows ahead of me offered assurances
that the downtown food pantry was helping more people
than ever in economic hard times.

The bus driver is silent and unaware
of the stories he ignores.

People who have known down and out tend to be nicer
because they understand the true currency of kindness.

Late middle age white woman talking about her
knee replacement, about the diet she's on (pre-surgery),
and how she really wants a milkshake and still writes letters.

Menopausal black woman, no tiny bird herself
talks about her recent vacation to Atlantic City
with her sister, and the varying and different degrees of orange lipstick.

Down Salem, transitioning from a fading center of commerce
to an old working class neighborhood – single family houses converted
into multi-unit apartments. (Good for college students.
Right on the bus line.)

Down Martin Luther King and Prospect Hill,
Liberty Hill, past the 5 and Diner on Sycamore
and into Government Square.

Sidewalks littered with workaday folks
shirt and tie crowd, bottle shaped blonde
in a short tight skirt crowd painted on
sculpted hips.

Street Vibes vendor, someone's grandmother maybe,
smoking s cigarette in the shadow of the courthouse
corporate tagged Fountain Square, bank skyscrapers,
and the Mercantile Center, with a beautiful library
hidden carefully from plebeian view.

I behave as I always do
and wait for my connection.

23 July, 2012

Impending Departure: Westward

(transcribed from travel journal)

Cool morning in Minnesota,
hot cup of coffee, cigar lit
the hum of the central air
like white noise, simultaneously
erasing and highlighting
the suburban buzz –
workday traffic in freshly washed
newish model cars,
lawn mowers brushing
manicured lawns, housewives
and daughters home from college
walking the dog
in ass-sculpting power shoes.
From the other side of the door
my traveling boots are calling;
whispering in a language
only we know: there are roads
to stretch out and miles to make,
mountains to see and people
to meet, telling me
what I already know:
whether among friends or even alone,
the road is it's own companion
stretches out endless
beyond the land of 10,000 lakes,
beyond techno-hipsters
in former middle class neighborhoods,
beyond Poor Richard's Common House
and the exhortations of old friends
whose kind words
cannot keep me away
from dreaming of the Black Hills.

13 July, 2012

Daugerrotype: Old Nazareth Road (Rock Wall and House)

The house down Old Nazareth Road is at the end of a hair pin curve, near the bottom of a hill, next to what was, once upon a time,  not a dry creek bed. The remains of a crumbling stone wall made from rocks from the creek bed and surrounding ground – dug up in an attempt to make the ground more agriculture friendly, even just enough to plant a simple garden – starts at the western corner of the small plot of land, reaching almost to the front porch before it begins to fall apart, rocks sitting on the ground with the grass and weeds growing wild around and over them. It had been a grander project once, one that had been scaled back over the years out of a growing apathy on the part of the original planner or because someone did not pick up for the planner left off.

Turn of the last century farm houses are rare in these parts, where progress and the suburban influence has a strong, albeit tenuous, foothold. They are even rarer still because even the heartiest of hands sometimes has to build out of expediency rather than a sense of permanence. The house near the dry creek bed was originally a one room house with a half story upstairs for sleeping in the winter. The porch was an enclosed summer porch, probably used as an extra room in warmer spring and summer months, back when you could sleep with the shutters open and the windows up, when people were not worried about death carried by mosquitoes the size of DC-7s or about whether one of their neighbors was going to break in for some unspoken and nefarious purpose.

From a distance, it looks sturdy. The roof shingles look almost new. Upon a little closer inspection, the outhouse – which still manages to smell like it's been recently used – is the sturdier of the two structures. The right front end of the summer porch sags like a load bearing part of the structure simply evaporated; the wooden siding – that's showing through the concourse of vines, growing up, around, and over the house in all directions – is more of a dirty gray than the shiny white it had probably once been when it was loved and cared for. Upon even closer inspection, the back end of the house – a much later addition, from the looks of it – is collapsed. The back wall is partially burned out from a long forgotten fire. The interior of the house has been overrun by the nature it was supposed to keep out. Except for two broken stools, the remains of an old rocking chair, a rusted coal bucket and dead leaves, twigs, and animal droppings cover everything. The whole other side of the house is leaning towards the creek bed, and looks like it will someday simply fall into the line of trees between the house and the parched artery of dirt and rock, erode and rot quickly like the diseased crab apple trees in front of the house.

It appears that the only thing keeping the house upright is the tangled interstate of vines. At any moment, it looks as if a strong breeze could knock over the remaining structure, and the vines would remain intact in the shape of a house, the way fossils form in old stone.

12 July, 2012

The Three R's (Rest, Relaxation, Reflection)

Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more -- restful. - Mark Twain

There's something about being back in the Ohio Valley makes me comfortable and jittery all at the same time. I'm relatively comfortable here, know my way around. Although I don't quite remember all the back roads -- I haven't actually lived in the area since 2006 -- I can get around pretty well in Cincinnati, and if I wander back out towards Bethel, Mt. Orab, and Georgetown, I find that I know more roads intuitively than I can recall and describe very well.

Not that I do wander out there that much. Although I do have an affinity for small town life and for being as far off the map as possible, visiting my old hometown has never been something I've felt an overwhelming urge to do. And while I can no more deny my small town roots anymore than I can deny that my eyes are blue or that I'm left-handed, there's never been much of an urge in my to return. It's not that it's small. Or that there's nothing to do. It could be that Tate Township, where Bethel is located, was -- and still is, as far as I know -- dry.  

To be honest, I haven't checked. And to be further honest, even if I could walk down Plain Street (The street that runs through the center of town) wearing nothing but my oilcloth hat carrying an open jug of cheap blackberry wine -- from which I would take liberal chugs and offer to anyone I met on the street... being sure to tip my hat and smile, of course -- I probably would not be induced to visit unless I had a really good reason. Hiding from the law comes to mind; but then again, half the people I went to high school with would turn me in (They never liked me much anyway.) and the other half is in some stage of past, current, or future incarceration. (They were never all that fond of me, either.)

Cincinnati is a city I have a love-hate /hate-love relationship with. Downtown was the first place I ran to when I was able to indulge my itchy foot. I love the Cincinnati Bengals (in spite of and probably because they are steeped in an inferiority complex so deep that it rivals Greek Tragedy in it's epic scale) and I love The Cincinnati Reds. (INDUCT PETE ROSE INTO THE HALL OF FAME,  YOU GRUBBY BASTARDS. You let in that roid taking balloon head, Barry Bonds.) I have an affinity for Skyline Chili. I love walking around downtown and around Over-the Rhine -- in spite of the gentrified ruination being wrought upon it. I'm annoyed by the casino being built downtown, but only because I know it's Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis's retirement plan. I hate the corporate nature of the city, and that between the multitude of corporate headquarters and the pull of the ruling class in Indian Hills, the cold and hard corporate heart of the city will never change. This city's only saving grace is that it's soul is far more beautiful (Ah, Losantaville, here my song!) and it probably has something to do with the inherent kinetic nature of things here. The cold h heart bristles up against the beaming beautiful soul of the place and creates a space in which Art might happen. I love talking about this place. I love complaining about this place. Once upon a time I tried to lend to hand... in as much as I could, given my limited skill set... to improve the place.

But what all of that really means is this: I can (probably) never live here again.

My plan, in as much as I had one, was to come back here, get off the road for a bit (no more than a month), and plan my next leg -- which will take me back up into Northwest Illinois for a visit and to file for divorce; then back out to Colorado for another visit with Cousin Mary and to hopefully interview and record my 95 year old Uncle Dan; then back through Kentucky for a visit, and then down south, to Port Charlotte, where it will be warm, and the sun will shine, and there will be NO SNOW. After that, maybe bump over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and to celebrate my 40th turn around the sun, and maybe even to Austin to visit friends there. 

Part of the the plan (such as it is) was to go back over my notes, transcribe poems, and start putting together the ideas for what turn out to be a much longer writing project... an outgrowth of traveling and this blog. Another part of the plan is to finish the EFL  (teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification as part of the preparation for THE EUROPEAN JAUNT.

But, after a few days in -- even though I am planning on staying in the area for at least a month -- I was itchy to get on the move again. It's a terrible thing sometimes, realizing that for all the comfort to be found in a comfortable place among people who care about you, that you'd rather be out, enduring whatever the road has to offer; and considering the fact that what is offered isn't always kind, or comfortable, or friendly, that's saying something. It's the sort of realization that stands on the border between profundity and absurdity.

 Thanks for reading! And remember, if you like what you just read:

  1. PLEASE share the link
  2. Consider a donation to the Travel Fund (Gawd Bless!)

10 July, 2012

Eastward-ish -- Leaving Minneapolis... Again (The Who-Dey Hoedown)

A man's work is doing hat he's supposed to do, and that's why he needs a catastrophe now and again to show him a bad turn isn't the end...." - William Least-Heat Moon, The Blue Highway

You're mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are. -- Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass

Harrison Street Station, Chicago
By the time I got to Chicago, I'd been on a bus more than 12 hours. And though I was a little tired, it was more out of anxiousness than exhaustion. Though I was able to get out of Minneapolis on my own steam, and was on my way back to the Ohio Valley more or less on the schedule established by the deadline on my long gone Discovery Pass, I was traveling with a greater sense of urgency than I had felt in a long while. Urgency mixed with no small amount of nervousness.

When Dave and Jamie dropped me off at bus station, it was about an hour and a half before my scheduled departure time. 11:30 at night and the temperature in downtown Minneapolis was a slightly less sweltering 93 degrees. The air didn't exactly feel like hot ash when it hit my lungs; but with the fire and brimstone summer I'd experienced so far, my standards for such qualifying remarks were, you might say, fairly high. 

Let's be honest. I escaped the monsoon season in Arizona, only to make it to Colorado, where the whole fucking world was on fire. It takes more than steam rising off the cement near midnight for me to start thinking that Earth's core opened up somewhere near Coalinga Junction (where, if there's a door to the fiery underworld, it surely exists) California and was burning  through the thin skin of the world bit by dusty bit. 

As per the information I gleaned from my post ragtime conversation with Shaniqua (or was it Shauntell?)  at the Customer Assistance line for Greyhound Bus Lines, I set up a password so the ticket agent would know that I am, in fact, myself. When I walked up to the counter and gave the very bored and not over-worked ticket agent purchase reference number, I expected him to ask for the password that I had chosen carefully to establish my right to ride the bus. But he didn't ask for it. All he did was print out the ticket, and have me sign a receipt.

I thought of my friend Dave, heading back with his wife Jamie to their apartment in Bloomington (a burb of Minneapolis). When I told him they would let me ride without a picture ID he shook his head, muttered something about Homeland Security and something that sounded like

"Well, what's one more terrorist..."

I didn't think he was talking about me. While it is true that I was mistaken for a Black man once and a Mexican twice, I didn't think my beard was sufficiently long enough to be racially profiled for a terror suspect. Maybe. Actually, with the way things are going in the Grand American Republic, that might be outside the realm of possibility. 

But let's put it off as long as we can, shall we?

18 hours from Minneapolis to Cincinnati... my long burn on a Greyhound, at least for a while. The urgency that was propelling me forward, and the fear that I would not be able to stay there and find the relaxation and respite I needed. 

The trip westward and back had been a good one, and I was looking forward to more. I wanted to spend some time on home ground, try and recollect the notes that had been lost when my journal and ID went missing. I wanted to wallow in some warmth and sweet solace; I wanted to plan my southern jaunt. I knew I would have to go back to Mount Carroll at some point, check the mail piling up in the post office, file for divorce, see friends there.  I wanted to be able to relax, too. And reflect on my experiences, enjoy those moments among family, friends, and loved ones. 

I had pretty good luck, as buses go... only getting an old bus from Indianapolis to Dayton Trotwood. Leaving Minneapolis, and from Chicago to Indy, I managed to get newer buses with electric outlets, WiFi, and air conditioning that mostly worked. From Minneapolis to Chicago, I was able to stretch out and sleep a little... though not much.  I was low on money, having to spend more than I would have liked on my bus ticket. It occurred to me that I would have to find other, even cheaper modes of transportation to fill the gaps... maybe even provide a longer term solution for traveling on the cheap. 

Thanks for reading. I'll be off the road... sort of... for a bit... but doing some visiting, and planning for my southern jaunt. Keep reading for details. And remember, if you like it, feel free to share the link. And if you're feeling REALLY partial, consider a donation to the travel fund. (Gawd Bless!)

09 July, 2012

Clock Watching In The Time Zone Continuum - A Poem

Seven minutes until the hour and the 12:01 to Kansas City
hasn't boarded yet. The driver announced a delay – some
“beer problem” he called it. Jefferson Lines – the great
Western Carrier from Minneapolis to Sioux City, Rapid City,
through Bozeman and Billings and west, until Seattle –
can't keep to a schedule for shit, and a drunk with a weak stomach
is one more reason to shave 10 minutes off a 15 minute smoke break
in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace.

Strangers chit chat to pass the time.
It was 106 in St. Louis yesterday. Be 110 tomorrow.
Full moon madness brought to full fruition by the heat.
The western lands are burning.
(The Kentucky Hills are, too –
but no one notices when poor folks
go up in smoke.)

No storms predicted southbound.
But north of here, tornadoes fomenting,
and the rain is never enough anywhere
in spite of the prayers offered
by lips too parched to articulate
highfalutin' words
from a centuries dead faith.

Ten minutes to after the hour.
The bus to Kansas City rolls out
nine minutes late –
in spite of passengers bum rushing the door.

I want to smoke; but the night air is a wall of heat
93 degrees in the city –
and it's after midnight
and I am tired.

Eighteen hours to Cincinnati
via Chicago … where I have no friends...
then Indianapolis, which is kind to no one
with the smell of the Ohio River in his veins
then Dayton, where the alien bodies are kept.

Tomah, Wisconsin. It's 3:40 in the morning.
I am smoking in the middle of a McDonald's parking lot,
debating about buying coffee I know
will not satisfy and hoping against hope
I might get some more sleep –
that, not surprisingly, does not come.
The bus smell of salty grease,
burnt and watered down coffee,
and heat lamp cooked ketchup for miles
deep into the Eastbound darkness.

Chicago terminal 9 AM. Enough time to find my line
and pick a good place. There is no solace among the familiar faces,
the red shirted station attendant will not answer my questions.
I am surrounded by mothers traveling with children,
beat cops and private security pushing off the ne'erdowells,
(I have a ticket. They can do nothing to me.)
Passengers and travelers jockeying for a better position in line
hoping for whatever their definition
of a good seat is, praying
they will not have to sit next to anyone
and risk the conversation
or the potential body odor of someone
who has not had time to brush his teeth
or put on stink covering deodorant,
or to even change his clothes.

They do not know that traveling is as dirty as it is glorious:
that the world rubs off on you – whether you like or not –
and that humanity is glorious and smelly and crude
and honest and ugly and beautiful
and does not care whether you care or not.

We crossed into the Eastern Time zone around 10AM.
Taking note of the time on my cell phone
(which insists on counting for me)
and changed the time on my wristwatch.
I prefer old clock faces to digital time,
the sweeping of the hands lends the passage of seconds
a more poetic feel. Digital clocks tick fast
and no one notices until it reads the hour
they are waiting for:

Go to work.
Start work.
Finish work.
Go home.

is a sweaty hour at the gym.
Salvation is Friday cocktails with the women from the office,
when the office shrew will let her freckled tits hang out
and maybe not object to a casual grope,
but living to tell the revised tale to her husband:
though the other women will not forget
and will find some way to mention it
in some secret interdepartmental report.

The clock face lends the passage of time,
which sometimes passes too too fast, just a smidgen of grace.
(Which a vagabond needs in these interesting times,
in the parlance of the ancient Chinese proverb.)

Indianapolis is a quick change, not even time to get fresh water.
Just past the halfway mark, another 8 hours to go,
though it is, I know, only 90 minutes straight to Cincinnati down I-74.
The cafeteria window is closed for lunch
and none of the vending machines accept loose change,
and the drink machines all have signs warning me
they are not keep anything cold enough
and that I buy at my own risk.
Even the water from the fountain is warm
and tastes like old minerals.

We got off schedule somewhere between Indy and Gary,
there was no time to stop. And no one wanted to, anyway.
Smokers only get bitchy on night buses, when they can't sleep
and the drivers are sourly and unsympathetic.

Down I-70 into Ohio. Outside of Clayton and Englewood,
the landscape started to roll more
the way it does in the southwest corner of the state,
formed by receding glacier that formed the riverbed
and the seven hills. An hour and twenty minute layover
and an hour bus ride down 75, into the city
via the Norwood Lateral, Gilbert Avenue,
and into one of the main arteries downtown,
next to the casino being built
(that has already collapsed once).
Construction is ongoing, the Hamilton County Sheriff
needs a solid retirement plan, when graft and petty racism
run out.

The bus rolls in at 8:30 – a full 10 minutes early
(slower holiday weekend traffic). I step off the bus,
into the humid Ohio Valley summer air,
and hold my breath for moment
giving my soul a chance to adjust
to the stark change in scenery.

THANKS FOR READING. Look for a post about the trip from Minneapolis to Cincinnati in the next day or so.

And if you LIKE what you read, please (purty pleez?)


04 July, 2012

Eastward-ish: (Another) Whim of the Great Magnet

If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. -- Lewis Carroll

Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly. -- Edward Albee

As you might recall, I walked into the Little Six Casino Mick Parsons and walked out divested of him. Nice enough guy, I suppose; but on the upside, I figure his identity is being used by some undocumented worker to stay in the country. On about the same level of an upside, part of my psyche hopes that some poor stupid bastard is, at this very moment, trying to acquire a hefty bank loan for an extravagant house, car, boat, or some other overpriced tinker toy, based on my credit history.

The peels of laughter from the loan department will be audible in a five state area. Really.

Beyond losing my ID, I lost my journal and my mode of travel. The loss of my notes and the bits of poetry hurt. The loss of my mode of travel -- the Discovery Pass that allowed me to travel from Ashland, Kentucky all the way to San Francisco, California, and had enough time on it to get to Cincinnati, Ohio before it expires on July 5th -- was more that problematic. Not only was I worried that I might be stuck, indefinitely, in Minneapolis, but I was pondering what that meant for the end of this particular jaunt. If it meant anything at all.

I was trying to figure out a way to get moving again, worried that I would overstay my welcome with my dear friends here, worried that future traveling might be complicated by my new minted non-person status, and worried that I would have to depend on my friends in a way I did not want to. I depend on them enough for a soft landing shelter, and food, and a ride to and from the bus station; they seem willing enough to help in these regards, seem to enjoy my company, and most of them even want me to visit again. In no way did I want to mess any of that up.

But it turns out, I stressed out all last week for nothing. I finally called Greyhound's Customer Assistance line to see if there was anything I could do short of waiting for a new picture ID to come in the mail or hitchhike.


I found out that all I needed to do was set up a password when I purchase my ticket online. When I pick it up at the ticket counter, that password will work as an ID.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Add to that a kind donation or two to the travel fund, and I was able to purchase a ticket. I'm headed out of Minneapolis at 1 AM July 5th and arriving in Cincinnati at 8:40 PM that same day. All in all, just shy of a 19 hour burn to get from here to there.

And I have enough money for a bottle of water and even (gasp!) a cup of coffee.

Gawd Bless America. And Gawd bless those of you who contributed. May your children grow up smart and good-looking and not at all resembling the mail carrier.

The universe smiles on me yet again. A little crack of a smile, to be sure. But a smile nonetheless. And I'm grateful for it. As last minute changes in plans, go, it could have gone a lot worse. For example, I could've had the experience of the Roving Northern Englander and been mugged In Omaha, Nebraska.

I'm still unclear as to how that happened. I'm not blaming the victim, but I do suspect, based on talking to him for several hours, that he said something to someone and got unwelcome attention. Maybe he was talking loudly about how thieves should have their hands cut off, and how Americans don't know how to spell color. (He prefers "colour" even though I pointed out it was a French influence after the Norman Invasion. I thought he was going to spit at me. Talk about a grudge.)

There have been more than a few last minute changes. For example, the shift in Louisville that led me to St. Louis, then to Hannibal, Missouri and inevitably to Minneapolis on my way west... and though South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking landscapes I have ever seen.

Truthfully, I could have done without the bedridden wildlife in Billings. But otherwise

I was planning a quick stop through San Fran and onto Oroville; but lingered in on the wharf a day longer and saw a wonderful city that I very much want to spend more time in.

Then there was the ill-fated trip to Salt Lake City, which led me to Colorado, meeting Cousin Mary and my Uncle Dan for the first time, and getting a glimpse into a side of the family that know next to nothing about. And I am planning on going back in October, Dear Readers, to learn more. I also got to see Cripple Creek, drive through Victor, and see the beginning of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

At every turn where I turned control over to the universe, I was not led astray. The trip became more interesting, took on additional dimensions.

A significant part of traveling -- of truly traveling -- is being prepared to adjust, being open to new roads, new possibilities. To be prepared for the unexpected. This most recent bit of the unexpected has not only freed me in some very important ways, but it reminded me that instead of moping and going into panic mode, that I need to follow my own advice. It showed me that instead of trying to re-establish control over event I may not have any control over to begin with, I need to breathe.

Simply breathe. And let the universe do the work. It may not always turn out so neatly. But a wise man -- which is what I hope to be one of these days many, many, many years from now -- will be steady,  live in the present, keep on walking, and be consistent whether his fortunes are good or bad.

I have so much to learn.

But I'm working on it.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you like what you just read, please feel free to

Share the link, and / or
Donate to the travel fund. (Gawd Bless!)

03 July, 2012

Eastward-ish: Farsickness

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - J.R.R Tolkien

I used to have a friend. Well, I believe he's still my friend, so there's no reason, I suppose, speak in the past tense. It's just that I haven't seen him in going on 8 years or so, and even then it was accidental. I don't remember the context of the conversation, only him laughing, the way he did at everything, and saying

"You're exactly like Bilbo Baggins!"

"In what way?" (I hadn't read The Hobbit  yet.)

He just laughed and shook his head. "You just are. Trust me."

This was long before I even aware of the itch that has since taken hold. My Dear Sweet Ma, and others, often refer to my itchy-footedness as wanderlust, which is loosely defined as "a predilection or desire to travel." The word itself is from the German, a turn of the (20th) century term that means "to enjoy hiking." There's another word... another German word, Fernweh -- which means "farsickness" or, more directly translated, "an ache for distant places" -- that might seem more appropriate. Maybe. 

Though to be honest, it's not so much far off places I am sick for as much as I am sick for traveling for it's own sake.

This is often a difficult concept to explain to people, and one that, even when they grasp it, few people really understand. And to be fair, I'm not sure I completely understand it myself. There's a certain amount of fluidity in the way I live, that's true. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly fluid and separated from general expectations of culture. And though my Dear Sweet Ma, and a few select of my closest friends who worry about my future, my safety, and (maybe) my sanity, keep telling me that I have to stop sometime... if even to make more money in order to keep traveling...

I keep thinking about how much more expensive it is to settle down than it is to keep on the move. To stay someplace, for more than a few days (a week at the most) requires:

  1. A Domicile. That usually means paying rent, unless you're effective at squatting.
  2. A Job. To pay for said domicile, and all that may entail.

Both of those things require an inevitable perpetual maintenance, a tithing, if you will, which means that the travelsickness becomes something altogether more malignant, cancerous. It becomes a TRUE sickness, a dissatisfaction that plays out in any number of ways. For me, I get mopey, I get surly, I become a lousy drunk. I quit jobs. I get fired from jobs.

In short, I begin to work against myself -- in spite my own intentions, which, believe it or not, are sometimes noble.

These are things on my mind as this particular jaunt, the Westward Expanse, comes to a close. In short order I'll be returning to the Ohio Valley for a bit, and then up to Northwest Illinois. It will be good to see familiar places and friends whose warmth and company I've missed. 

I'm not sure though, whether the road hasn't spoiled me, to some degree. And recent events, which include losing my ID, and the weighty thinking about identity, and what a name truly means -- not only to me, but to my friends, my family, and in the larger context of a culture in which people's lives are expected to be transparent so that The State doesn't have to be -- make me think that the only place for me is everywhere.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you like it


01 July, 2012

Eastward-ish - The Denver Bug Out, Part 2 (Little Man)

This is the culture you're raising your kids in. Don't be surprised if it blows up in your face. -Marilyn Manson

Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children.  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Front of the line at Door 16.
The bus leaving Denver was going to be full, there was no avoiding that. Summer is, naturally, the most common time of year for people to travel; and while I managed to get a good place in the line because I took my spot at the font nearly an hour before anyone would normally line up -- a full two hours before the bus was scheduled to leave at 7:05 that evening -- I fully expected to have to sit next to another person. My scruffy looks tend to frighten people off until the bus fills up and some poor soul is left no choice but to take the aisle seat next to me. This usually means I get to sit next to someone similarly scruffy, sometimes, smelly, who, unlike me, was not quick-witted enough to get a place in the front of the line. I have learned not to take it TOO personally that the seat next to me is almost always the last one on the bus to fill up, even when I've just had a bath and my laundry is clean. And in many cases, being thoroughly avoided does make for more comfortable traveling...

... though I will always give up the empty seat next to me if someone asks. 

I choose to behave as if there is a certain etiquette when traveling, even if I end up sitting behind someone who has to put their seat all the way back even when I can't /don't/ would rather not. I do this for the same reason I don't shop at Wal-Mart. All lines being arbitrary -- because a lot of them are -- I'd try to live from what I consider an ethical standpoint. And for me, this means a certain amount of politeness on the road.

For a minute, though, as the bus was loading, I thought I might escape having to sit next to someone. Everyone seemed loaded,and there was no one next to me. I managed to get what I thought was a good seat, even though there were at least 10 people who got in ahead of me because they could afford the $5 for Priority Seating. (I was still operating off the same 19 cents.) 

Then Little Man plopped down holding a backpack that clearly weighed almost as much as him.

He was 5, maybe 6 years old. I didn't remember him in the line, or getting on the bus. There were some kids int he line, of course. You ought to expect that when traveling in general, not to mention traveling by bus.  It's one of those rules, especially on an overnight bus ride. There are always kids. And you might as well except the probability that at least one of them will cry. Luckily, Colorado Cousin Mary gave me some ear plugs... the kind most often used by gun enthusiasts and factory workers to keep from damaging their hearing. I fully expected to use them, since the ride from Las Vegas had been sleepless due to one motion sick little girl would would puke into a bag ... loudly, cry (understandably) and scream things like

"Mommy, let's get off this tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, TINY bus! PLEASE!!"

The repetition of the word "tiny" was a nice touch.

Little Man didn't look like a cryer, though. And while I was not happy about having to sit next to someone... after I was hoping that maybe I didn't have to (That's what I get for hoping!) I figured that someone who didn't take up a lot of space.. he could, in fact, curl up into a near ball in the seat he had a mind to... wouldn't be all that bad. I just hoped his mother was somewhere near in case the crying and puking  began.

I was settling in, getting ready to read Rumi until daylight quit.

"What is that?" He was clearly talking to me, pointing up at the reading light.

"It's a light, I said, friendly, informative, but still..."

"Turn it on!"

I reached up and turned it on. He looked up at the light briefly.

"Ok," he said. "Turn it off."

I reached up and turned it off, wondering whether this would be what the entire ride would be like.

Little Man pointed up at the circular air vent next to the reading light. "What's that?"

I told him.

"I want some air!"

Take a deep breath. He's only a kid. And, in comparison to the people around me, he wasn't bad. Actually, he stood out as the night went on as the one of the better passengers around me.

In front of me there was the ghetto diva in front of me who leaned her seat all the way back even when she wasn't asleep and her seatmate the Black Nationalist who eventually mistook me for black. Yes. Really. I guess Pasty white blue eyed dude with wool like beard = equals pale black. Good to know. Guess I can try for that Black Panther membership.  Then there were the two guys behind me... one a long haul trucker riding back to his rig and the down on his luck kid who was riding the bus to go to a job with no clothes, no gear, not even a jacket and who stumbled on the loquacious truck driver and became his travel companion / insult target. They traded jabs and near fights all the way to Kansas City.

But since none of that happened yet... I was determined to start the trip off establishing a basic understanding of traveler's etiquette... understanding that since he was a kid, he didn't know any better.

"Can you say please?"

Little Man paused. "Please."

Not phrased as a question, but you have to start somewhere. I reached up and opened the air vent, making sure to show him how it worked. He was too short to reach it while seated, but I thought the bit of information might stave off some bit of his curiosity.

As the bus pulled out he asked me where I was going.

"Minneapolis," I said.

"I'm going to Florida."


"Who you going with?"

"No one," I said. "I'm traveling alone." I pointed behind us with my right thumb. "Your mom back there somewhere ( I hope)?"

"Yeah," he pointed behind his shoulder. Mom was starting to pass out with another kid in the window seat next to her, who was already asleep. She looked exhausted, even with the excessive make-up and drawn in eyebrows. Not long after we were on the road, Little Man woke his mom up and asked to talk to Dad. She gave him the phone. Dad was the destination, Florida the geography. Little Man lied about getting a window seat, and said he was comfortable and that he was on his way.

I kept reading Rumi, sometimes looked out the window to catch a glimpse of downtown Denver. As we rolled out of the city, I thought about how I was reading the conclusion of this jaunt, about my life since January. Nearly half a year, more or less, on the road. I was looking forward to seeing my friends Dave and Jamie again. I was looking forward to a short respite, putting together my trip back out to Colorado to interview my uncle, and then south to winter on a beach in Port Charlotte. I was a little road weary, but worried that I would not be able to stay off the road long. I still had my bus pass and my driver's license.

"How long are you going to read that..." Little Man was looking at the back cover my my edition of The Essential Rumi ".. that bible?"


He must've taken hid cue from some of meant to look ornate and middle-eastern font on the back cover. He revised his question on the repeat though, probably figuring out that it wasn't a bible. Still, I was amused.

"How long are you going to read?"

"Until it's too dark."

"Are you tired?"


"Me neither."

He let me read a few more minutes.

"Where are we going?"

I pointed forward. "That way."

"I know that," he said. "What's... the street address?"

I told him I didn't know for sure, but that my transfer point was in Kansas City. I was really hoping his next question was not going to be Are we there yet?

Eventually it got dark and Little Man fell asleep.He had trouble getting comfortable, and wasn't big enough to be able to recline his seat. At one point, he was leaning on me, asleep. At first, I tried to wake him, shake him off.

"Hey, Kid," I said. "I'm not a pillow. Hey."

He shifted temporarily, but it didn't last long. I let him be. Mom didn't seem to give a shit as long as Little Man left her alone. He wasn't really bothering me. And... he was quiet.

The obnoxious driver behind me... who had just narrowly avoided being punched by his kid companion for making a comment about not letting his masquera run... told me I was a nice man for letting the kid sleep on me.

He didn't wake up until we got to Kansas City, and then only because I shook him a bit to wake him up. I knew from past experience that he Kansas City Station would be unbelievably crowded, since it was built for a much small capacity than actually runs through it. I also knew I'd pretty much only have time to find my line and wait to board the bus to Des Moines, Iowa, the next transfer point. I was beginning to double back on myself.

There wasn't a chance to tell Little Man goodbye or even ask his name. Once Mom was awake grumpily dragged him and his slightly older brother along to the next line, the next bus that would take them to Florida, to their Dad. I thought of the various times my daughter's mother and I had to engage in the exchange... The Kid visiting, having to meet often in the middle when state lines were involved...though the distance tended to favor my ex's dislike for long distance driving. From her perspective, I suppose it was better that The Kid be grumpy with me... no doubt, in her mind, part of my penance for leaving when I got tired of dodging frying pans.

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