30 October, 2012

O Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me: Asynchronous/ 2 Poems From the Road

I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path. - The Dalai Lama

I woke up this morning to snow -- a light dusting on rooftops and car windshields that's lingering even though the snow turned into a cold rain. I woke up mindful of loved ones up and down the east coast, and mindful of the people I don't know who, even when the weather is fine, have trouble finding shelter. I'm mindful of people like Roger, who I met in the Chicago Greyhound Station and who I will write about in an upcoming post.

While my time in Cincinnati hasn't been bad, and it's taking me longer to scratch up money for the travel fund than I would like, I have been busy trying to find the good work of the world to do while I am here. I'm making some progress in that regard, and I'll write about that as it presents itself.

 Central to the ideas laid out from the onset of this blog, nearly 10 months ago, is the belief that philosophy without application is a mental puzzle, a brain teaser, and nothing more.  It's easy to say among similarly thinking friends that you need to put up or shut up. But it becomes a different discussion when you start preaching to someone besides the choir.

What this means for me is that I have to dig in, while I'm here, and find a way to positively impact the world around me, even if that means contradicting some expectation or another. Yes, I'm looking for teaching work -- and writing gigs. Teaching is part of the good work of the world, but there are other things. I'm still looking for other things to do. And from what I can see, I don't have far to look.

Not by a long shot.

Whitman By Moonlight, The Crossing St. Frank, Plus 2

On Monday, November 5th, I will be adding a new chapbook, Whitman By Moonlight. This one will be for sale or for trade or in exchange for donations to the travel fund. I still have copies of The Crossing of St. Frank.

If you're more of an ebook reader, you can now purchase St. Frank on amazon.com for Kindle:

2 Poems From The Road (Not in the chapbook!)

Shadow of Our Fathers

Downhill side street
leading to the cemetery on Boot Hill.
This place is watched over by it's dead
and the dead do not care care
that the living are waiting to roll them over
and move in.

Do not let the city fathers know, and
do not tell the church matrons either.
The sewing circles and kaffeeklatsches already
have a notion; and they are dangerous enough.
They whisper among themselves with eyes cast towards the ground.

Old men rooted on coffee shop stools know, too.
They grumble back and forth between news reports
that blame the President for the drought
and gastric rumblings they dare not blame on the cook.
There is talk of jack-booted thugs trying to nationalize the granaries,
but only from the agribusiness barons.
The dead do not care – so we necromance ours upon them.
Just one more layer of make-up on the corpse
so we can tell one another “He looks asleep.”

It is true then: the dead do not watch us
though we try and see through their dried eye husks
and tell ourselves the vision is crystal clear
as the fog wraps around Boot Hill
temporarily saving the dead from our intentions.

Three Days in Litchfield

Feet bleeding through my socks
the smell of fir and field grass
and new morning dew
pressed into my skin
with lavender scented Epsom salts.
Bone sore, from the top of my neck
to the tips of my toes,
bobbling like and old man
locked in a cheap motel –
waiting for some signal from the weather
hoping money doesn't run dry
like this past summer's rain.
The television for a companion
Gideon's book for recrimination
and Whitman for salvation.
The plumbing is good.
The bed is bug free.
There is rain coming
and the Carlinville train
is 10 miles away.

25 October, 2012

O Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me- Intermezzo: By Way Of An Introduction

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears. - Mumford and Sons, The Cave

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. -Lucretius

Even in my moments of deep solitude, I am keenly aware of the fact that I am not alone. Maybe the only way to understand the difference between alone and lonely is to have experienced both and until you have the discussion is purely theoretical. Being Out there have been times when I felt absolutely lonely; but I have never really felt alone. I'm lucky in this regard, because I am fortunate enough to have friends who tolerate me and loved ones who tolerate me even more.

I rarely write about the angels who have taken it upon themselves to look in on me from time to time, who worry for my well-being but who understand that I will do what I will regardless of how little common sense it seems to have. As a matter of fact, I've been accused, more than once, of not having a lick of common sense at all.  If anything, I am occasionally plagued by a certain blindness which looks an awful lot like naivete or an over-abundant faith in my own ability. Mostly though, I recognize that even the most assiduously laid plans are flawed.

When I set out in January and took to carrying my home on my back like any good turtle does, I did it in part with the realization that while I maintained the same obligation of CHOICE that I also was letting go of a lot of a priori notions, ideas people take for granted, in order to follow what I can only describe as THE WHIM OF THE UNIVERSE -- because I have long rejected the metaphor of the white bearded Almighty sitting on a cloud and because I realize that no matter how much good a person tries to do in the world, shit falls on the just and the unjust alike. Which is to say: while I believe that some of the good we do in the world may come back to us, and I do think any negative energy we put out into the world attracts negative people and negative events,

I reject the notion of "visualization" a la The Secret which has somehow managed to be labeled as self-help. 

Yes, we are responsible for our actions and their impacts.

Yes, it's important to be active and to be aware of our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. (Half of this begins with language... not only the words we use to communicate, but those words we use when we are thinking to ourselves.)

But if you decide to "visualize" yourself driving a Mercedes Benz, you will not necessarily end up driving said high end automobile. If you haven't figured that out yet, go listen to Janis Joplin. Even she knew better.


And since we're on the subject of metaphors -- and with the understanding that all lines that are drawn in the sand are arbitrary -- let offer the one that, for now, offers some explanation of how I go about things.

Probably of no surprise to anyone who knows me, I tend to think in musical terms.

For more time than I cared to admit, life felt out of rhythm. I felt it. I think my now ex-wife felt it, too. When I set out in January, in as much as I was leaving a life that had ceased to work towards the growth of either me or my then wife, I was also searching for an appropriate rhythm.

Not someone else's that sounded good. Not one that was unnatural for me or ran contrary to my soul. I went in search of rhythm that was mine, my own, and no one else's. You can insert here the metaphor of "the path" as well. And as Joseph Campbell pointed out, if you can see the path in front of you it isn't of your making. The same goes with finding an appropriate rhythm. If you take on someone else's just because you like it or even because it makes sense, that doesn't mean it's the one you ought to be humming.

Ah... but back to the angels. And no. I don't mean the winged messengers of Gawd Almighty. I mean those folks who do the good work of the world, who care about others, and who find ways to show it. In my case, I have been visited/helped by more angels than I can possibly justify deserving. \

People I meet along the way, who have made a permanent impression on my mind, and on my heart.

People who have helped me without having a good reason, other than being simply good folk.

People who love me in spite of maybe not understanding me.

One of those angels, for example -- one I have not written about much -- gave me a heads up about the taxi service that saved me a long rainy walk from Litchfield to Carlinville.

View Larger Map

Sometimes, in spite of my (albeit humble) confidence in my ability when I'm out, the universe gives me a hand. In this case, is was in the form of someone who ... not wanting me to sleep out in the rain because it would have taken me much longer than the estimated 5.5 hours to walk 15 miles and I would have had to seek shelter somewhere in between... pointed me in the direction of a questionable but effective cab company that, for the cost of $24 and a lingering sensation that I was about to be become the victim of a team of sadistic rural serial killers, would drive me there.

Along the same route I would have probably walked.

You know who you are, angel. Thank you. You are proof that the universe can, indeed, be kind.

23 October, 2012

O Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me (2nd Chorus)

Cincinnati presents an odd spectacle. A town which seems to want to get built too quickly to have things done in order.  -- Alexis de Tocqueville (1831)

I'm digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt. -- Peter Gabriel (1992)

Once upon a time... maybe.
With my southbound trip delayed until I can rebuild the travel fund, I find myself back in Cincinnati, the land of flying pigs, tragic professional sports, a lagging and parasitic corporate mindset, arguably the worst alternative weekly paper in the country next to The River Cities Reader (yes, I mean YOU, CityBeat)and a shrinking population. Ah, yes, Losantiville... the city along the Ohio River that has alternately fed and starved my creative soul for as long as I can remember. Long a city full of unkept promises, of high ideals muddied by the low character of its leadership, and certainly the most prototypcially American of all cities in it's sense of exceptionalism, it's classism, it's blatant attempts at historical revision at the expense of the truth, and it's adherence to the tenets of organized capital that have sucked the marrow of the body politic near dry, Cincinnati has been writing it's death warrant for years.  

Not deliberately, of course, and not with any of the effort befitting a full blown conspiracy. The problem has never been that people don't WANT the city to succeed. The problem has always been that there are conflicting visions of what success means, and a certain, maybe cultural intransigence on the part of people when it comes to working together. One of the major problems is that there's a seemingly collective mindset so outdated that it's beyond quaint. It's beyond sentimental. It's beyond nostalgia. As a matter of fact, it's nostalgia -- coupled with a Holocaust deniers ability to rewrite the past -- that plagues the place.

But, I'm here. This is where the universe sees fit to deposit me, rather than someplace warmer with a beach, a warm sun, comfortable tidal waters, and large doses of tropical booze. And since I'm here, I might as well do something useful.  Because in spite of the fact that I have always been and continue to be critical of the Ohio Valley in general, of Cincinnati in particular, and of the corporate mindset that has always, it seems, held sway*, I still feel a connection to this place.

Not one that I would label as "home," exactly. Not the same sense of connection I have with Mount Carroll or for Eastern Kentucky. And it's nothing like  the complete ambivalence bordering on contempt that I have for Bethel, the town where I grew up. Cincinnati is the name of the shadow I grew under, the name of my first urban experience, the name of the place I ran to when I first needed to run.

But I have never been a city person. 

Growing up in a small town, even one as helplessly myopic and hopelessly shortsighted as Bethel, does make a person a bit more... stoic. The only place that it seems necessary to hurry is in a city, where life happens entirely too fast sometimes and everyone acts as if they are going to miss something if they stop long enough to enjoy the moment they are in.

Being back here, though, I feel a sense of obligation to the place that I am still trying sate. That means digging in, finding a way to contribute to something. Something meaningful. Something useful. Freelance journalism. Teaching, maybe. Yes, that's right. I'm looking into teaching and tutoring as a way to rebuild the travel fund. And I'm looking into other ways I can dig in.

Stay tuned.

I'm also taking the time begin work on a book expanding on the things I've been writing about in this blog, and to put together another chapbook, tentatively named Whitman By Moonlight.

*There were only two reasons why people chose to settle and found communities on this continent: religious/spiritual/philosophical compulsion (attempts at Utopian or theocratic societies) or commercial ones. Towns and cities tend to grow and die along the lines of commerce. If you don't believe me, take a drive along Route 66. Then drive the same distance on an interstate. The shift from Main Street to the interstate exit/entrance ramp is profound. It was the same when commerce was done primarily along the railroads and river transport. 

10 October, 2012

Oh Losantiville, Don't You Cry For Me / A Kid With No Ace In The Hole

And the Senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity. - quote from opening credits to WKRP IN CINCINNATI

Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have -- Cincinnati sounds worse. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

My curve through the corn belt blew through the money I had managed to save up working in Mount Carroll. Southern Illinois is a stretched and beautiful landscape, much of which is lost when you stick to the I-55 corridor. If I had been a stray dog instead of a wandering human, I would have had no problem finding shelter; there are as many animal shelters/rescues as there is corn... but no motels or hotels in Mount Olive, Benld, or Gillespie. There's one in Staunton, 4 miles to the south of Mount Olive, and several in Litchfield off the I-55 exit ramp. No shelters for poor weary travelers that far south. Some friendly folks, like Stacey, who gave me a ride from Crawdaddy's Bar in downtown Mount Olive to the Union Miner's Cemetery, and the nice Indian woman -- whose name may or may not have been Patel -- at the America's Best Value Inn in Litchfield who let me check in early.

Beyond that, human kindness in Southern Illinois was as abundant as the free soup.

To be fair, though, I wasn't too terribly surprised when no one picked me up along Route 66. If I didn't know me, I'd probably not pick me up, either, and I didn't mind sleeping out. Getting the cab ride to Carlinville was worth the $24, since it would have taken me  a lot longer than the 20 minute drive to walk there.  I went to Carlinville because that was the nearest public transportation that could carry me into Chicago, and from there I would be able to make my way anywhere.

Options? Well, the travel fund was getting near to sucked dry... a situation I could do very little about at the moment. Yes, I have some folks I can call on, but I don't like to do that until there's no option. At that point I was still thinking I'd make it down to Albuquerque to read, but I wasn't seeing how I could do a whole lot of anything given the fact that three days in Litchfield, trying to get my feet back to their version of normal -- which was a slight derivation of my original plan, which had been to walk from Mount Olive up Route 4 through Benld and Gillespie into Carlinville (which I changed at the last minute finding nothing resembling cheap accommodations anywhere northbound EXCEPT Litchfield) -- had left me with limited options.

I decided, then to head to Cincinnati, and try figure out what to do next from there.

No matter what issues I have with the city, it's one whose skyline always stirs as much feelings of home as feelings of disconnectedness.  Cincinnati is a town fraught with nostalgia -- that same odd malignant strain infecting Southern Illinois along Route 66 -- that sense that nostalgia and blind longing have replaced memory, have replaced history. Monuments to our honored dead -- those whose lives and whose deaths we, as a society, are singularly uncomfortable with, like Mother Jones and the Union martyrs, like the Blackhawk Monument in Kent, Illinois  -- offer little but a series of spiritual Meccas along trails we have long since forgotten, trails where we have left pieces of ourselves and haven't begun to go back and pick them back up. There are bread crumbs out there: little pieces of who we are, who we should be, who we are capable of being, and we have not as a culture decided it's time to go and find those parts of ourselves we've lost in the process of insisting ourselves into a mock-historical narrative defined by Manifest Destiny. Cincinnati is a city at odds with itself, and for very specific reasons.

Like Mount Carroll and probably everywhere else in America, the various visions of the future and dueling identities are at odds with one another. A corporate stronghold, a staunch and conservative political perspective that exists along with a shrinking population (People are leaving because there are no jobs.) and a self-defeating attitude of isolation and self-enforced segregation (along class, race, political, ideological, and dogmatic lines).  People who don't know where to look could mistake Cincinnati as a city without real culture.

They'd be wrong.

The problem with Cincinnati isn't that there isn't culture. And I don't mean the stuff that attracts the black tie crowd, though some people think that's all there is to culture. There's always been a vibrant arts community here. But it's one that tends to either be excluded or exclude itself from any real conversations about the character and personality of the city. There's some damn fine writers, musicians, and artists here. But when the city's only alternative press barely gives a nod to anything and acts insulted and offended when their apathy and unwarranted snobbery is pointed out to them, and they still don't bother to write about what goes on here unless it's playing at the playhouse downtown or at US Bank arena -- it's very little surprise that the musicians, writers, and artists respond in kind to a city that only loves them when they can fit into the corporate culture that's choking the soul out of this place.

Yes, City Beat. I'm talking about you.

So I rode the train back to Cincinnati. There are only one train route that comes through the Queen City. The Cardinal, which runs south through Saint Louis, down into Texas, and north up to New York. The southbound train stops at 1:27 in the morning. The northbound stops at 3:14 in the morning.

I'm here for the time being, visiting family and hoping to see friends and pondering how to best get back out on the road. I'm even pondering trying to pick up work for  few months... gawd forbid.

07 October, 2012

Crossing the Madison Street Bridge in Chicago at Midnight

I'm not so used to cities at night anymore.
The vast silence of steel and false night lights
gleaming in the darkness –

some apocalyptic dystopia
some photographic negative
of minutes spent scurrying
in the name of family, of god, of country
and credit rating.

Not so used to tall shadows created by dead things
that themselves are shadows – monolithic memento moris
leftover from forgotten dreams of some
Victorian Age notion of progress built
out of 20th Century materials
to become the icons of the new millennium.

Not so used to feeling crowded in on a deserted street,
These shadows, they have eyes

and they are always watching
and they are always waiting.

I don't know what it is they are waiting for
or why they insist on watching –

maybe they are waiting for my death,
watching for that opportune moment to pick my bones clean
like road kill on Old Route 66.

There are no questions here.
No one asks where it is I am going or
where it is I have come from.
My presence goes unnoticed.
There are no familiar faces in this city
upon which I might call on this chilly night
beg a couch and a few swallows of wine,
some warmth and conversation, trading tales
and the sweet lies that make of a man's daily life.

There are no doors open to me here.
Only a 24 hour chain donut shop –
and even then,
I must be careful not to offend
the impatient Middle Eastern man
who works the counter
blaring gangster rap.
Crossing the Madison Street bridge at midnight,
light reflecting in ripples on the waves
passing bus rumbles and shakes the bridge
creating ripples in the Earth
that cannot be erased
unto the last generation.

Street construction does not slow the steady rot underneath everything
man's hands have made.

I am not used to it. I find myself begging
for stars and for the breathing shadows
of more natural landscapes.

Nearing my 40th year I have begun to see
what it is I need. And it's not
any of the things I have been told.
Punch drunk clarity comes at almost two in the morning
sitting in a donut shop
as the city sinks into it's own arms
like a last call drunk.

Walk the streets, pedestrians disappearing into other shadows,
into older shadows. My own shadow, fractured as if
through a dark kaleidescope, four or five times –
A Schrödinger's puzzle.
I consider the possibility that they're following mw
intending to do me harm.

But I choose to dismiss this as paranoid delusion:
my shadows could never harm me
since it would hurt them in the long run.

I stop short of reminding myself that people do that very thing
all the time.

When I was young, I ran away to the city.
I craved the vibration, the cement, the anonymity.

Now I want to breathe big
and fill my eyes wide with green spaces,
acres of sky ascending and dissipating into nothing
into energy, into the cosmos, into stars, and into the ripple of planets
in Einstein's giant gravity blanket.

Now I want to walk in large strides
and I want to talk in large strides
and I want to traverse it all,
even the most inaccessible places.
Now I crave a western expanse.
Now I crave the Appalachian hills.
Now I crave rolling prairie
and nights re-splendid with a thousand million stars.

Now I crave a world in which
a man might breathe and live and love
and find solace in things that grow,
peace in warm fire,
among the songs and company of friends.

My soul speaks, sings out to this place.
It is waiting for the song to return.

I want to believe in all that is grand.
I want to believe in all that is beauty.
There is energy and beauty, where there are people scratching,
bumping into one another on the street, rubbing against the sidewalk,
opening and closing doors – in the same way atoms bounce,
and in the same way that neutrons bounce and bump.

There is a pulse where people are singing.
There is a pulse where a woman takes down her hair.

My soul speaks, sings out to the this place
because there is a rhythm under the cacophony
and some folks call it human.

My soul speaks, sings out to this place.
It is still waiting for an answer.

I want to believe in beauty
in spite of what my culture tells me –
and I am finally beginning to understand
that all that's beautiful
and all that's ugly
begins in me
like it begins in you.

02 October, 2012

Cornbelt Intermezzo - Union Miner's Cemetery/ 15 Miles to Litchfield

That's the problem with politics. Everybody's cock-blocking everybody else! Cock-blocking! - Overheard at Crawdaddy's Bar in Mount Olive, IL

This is what happens when a lack of planning works out exactly as planned. - Me, aloud to no one, around mile 10

Going to Mount Olive is one of the few excursions I've taken this year where I actually wanted to go somewhere to see some specific thing. In this case, the Union Miner's Cemetery, and the Mother Jones/ Union Martyrs Monument. That I'd want to go see it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows my love of history -- of stories in general, especially the forgotten or overlooked ones -- or my politics. A few of those same people would also point out that I haven't, as a habit, liked to visit cemeteries; but, since it IS October, and since I probably won't get to celebrate All Hallow's Eve with all the ghosts and ghoulies, I need to get my cemetery time in.

It's not that I don't think we need to respect our hallowed dead. Quite the contrary. I think they deserve something more than a monument or a headstone.

Standing in front of the Union Miner's Memorial, I was struck by two things:

  1. Our pitifully short collective memory, and
  2. my own need to be useful.

Before I left Mount Carroll this time, when I would talk to people about going to Mount Olive to see Mother Jones' grave, I was saddened by how hardly anyone knew who I was talking about.  A master agitator, and a one woman army who spent most of her adult life working to ensure that workers got a fair shake. She once helped settle a strike in favor of a local miner's union in Pennsylvania by getting all the wives together and rattling pans and pots. The sound scared the mules, which frightened the scabs brought in to help break the strike by taking their jobs.

Some of the other people memorialized on the monument died in the Battle of Virden -- another one of those ... eh... undiscussed bits of history... probably because the larger narrative of Manifest Destiny is muddied by those stories that can't be poured into a rose-colored Little House on the Prairie mold.

Speaking of colored -- another thing that's rarely discussed when race relations are the topic is how coal and mineral mine owners intentionally used black labor from the south as scabs -- this encouraged sometimes prevalent bigotry among union members and gave them a new target... when they should have been going after the bosses instead.

Soaking in these stories so I can learn more about them and pass them on is central to why I do what I do. The itchy foot leads the way, to a certain extent; it certainly isn't all some deep and burning mission that drives me out of comfortable surroundings and the company of friends and loved ones.

And while some would -- and have -- told me it all sounds so idyllic, the truth is that sometimes it's not. As a matter of fact, I might even go as far as to say that more than occasionally  tramping around on bus, on train, on foot, and on the good grace of friends who happen to be going in that particular direction has it's share of difficulty.

While I am safely ensconced in a still-too-highly-priced-but cheaper-than-Super 8 motel, last night I slept outside. Lucky for me, I had my Mexican blanket (hmmm... I'm detecting a theme) and my sleeping pad... which is awesome, by the way. It's not sturdy enough not to end up with holes from sticks and twigs, but it does a great job of keeping the cold ground not so cold. Luckily the weather was working in my favor, too. It got a little cold after 1 in the morning, but no frost and no rain.

I was on foot from Mount Olive to Litchfield up Route 66. I'd walked from Staunton, the nearest motel Northwest of Mount Olive, in order to visit the monument. That was a nice stretch of the legs -- just over 4 miles. From Mount Olive to Litchfield -- the next nearest place with a motel other than backtracking to Staunton -- was, according to available digital intelligence and map coordination,  just over 9 miles.

While I do like to walk, and I'm not afraid to hoof it over a fair distance, even I knew that was more than I had walked in a single stretch. EVER. I'm probably not in the shape I ought to be in. And on top of that, my feet have been in rebellion against for as long as I can remember. I adjust to the sometimes perpetual pain by walking a little slower than the average gait. So right there, I knew the estimated 3.5 hours allotted to make the walk was going to be longer.

Much, much longer.

Another complication was Route 66 itself. Large segments of it aren't marked, and there a difference between Route 66 and "Old Route 66" (which was used until the "new" one was finished in 1940.)  As a matter of fact, all of southern Illinois -- the rural part, at any rate -- lacks signage. I understand that there probably weren't signs telling drivers how far away the next town was back when people drove state highways. But why now?

Oh, right. Nostalgia. Well, I can tell you that along Route 66 there's more nostalgia than anything else. And that includes a cheap bowl of soup.

My pace slows considerably as my lousy feet and out of shape leg muscles sent waves of pain up through my body. As the sun was going down, it became clear that I wasn't going to make it to Litchfield to sleep... which had been my plan. So I found a place off the side of the road, across the ditch and over a small embankment, behind a medium sized fir tree. Brush and small trees on the other side, down the slope, to a creek and, on the other side of that train tracks.

The sun sank quickly and the sky was over cast. Breezy, but not cold. Luckily, the embankment protected me from the wind as well as from view; I didn't want to start a fire because I didn't want to draw attention to myself.

Other than the crickets serenading me to sleep, the only other neighbor of note was a deer. I think it was a deer, anyway. Something was sitting in the brush a stones throw down the embankment from me. It sounded like deer, and I was perfectly willing to believe it was.

The world has a rhythm. Wind through the dying leaves. Crickets and the rustling of deer in the brush. At one point I thought I heard it start to rain, but quickly realized it wasn't rain. It was dew. Intermittently, trains rolled by and added to the song. traffic eventually trickled down and then stopped altogether. The wind died down. Silence. Solace.

Around 9:30 the clouds broke a little and the moon shone through, like a lazy, watchful eye. By midnight they had all but dissipated. The moon was so bright I could read by it. some stars were visible, too. I was tired, lonely, but I didn't feel alone. And I knew I was going to be okay.

I broke camp at first light and kept on towards Litchfield, finally making it, and managing to get checked in a motel for the night.

Of course, I have a 17 mile hike up Route 66 to Carlinville, where the nearest Amtrak station is. And I hear it's supposed to frost soon -- if not tonight, then tomorrow night. I probably should have planned this better, but it's been worthwhile, too.

If you happen to know someone who's driving between Litchfield and Carlinville, send them my direction. I could use a lift. To be honest, I'm probably stuck at least tonight, and probably tomorrow night. And in spite of my frugality -- I only spend money on liquids and housing -- I'm burning through my travel funds faster than I had hoped.

01 October, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Budget 10 Ghost Town

Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless, and don't be sorry. -- Jack Kerouac 

Live to tell the story; but make it interesting. - Me

I miss the days when Super 8 didn't think they were a respectable motel chain; somewhere just above Motel 6 -- who left the light on to scare the cockroaches back into the walls -- and a notch or two below the HoJo attached to  the mildly sleazy bar with the giant pickled egg jar no one dare open.

My intent was to stay in Mount Olive at the only motel listed on any website anywhere... a Budget 10 motel. My standards, you understand, are on the low side. Even after the onslaught of bed bugs at the Lewis and Clark Inn (Billings, Montana) I try and stay away from nationally recognized chains or anyplace that might think highly enough of itself to include more than one functioning light source, a shower curtain, and a television with a busted volume button that conveniently only shows programming on one, regionally based religious programming station.

Alas, upon finding Mt. Olive -- my almost arbitrarily picked starting point for this jaunt -- I found a small town that Google Maps was, not surprisingly, trying to overlook. Historic Route 66... in these parts, IL 138 ... goes straight through town. My ride -- Carroll County artist and all around cool chick Heather Houzenga was kind enough to give me ride on her way to St. Louis.  She drove through the center of town ... which I plan on writing more about in another entry, since I'm going to be spending a large chunk of my day there tomorrow... and, finding no other motel except for what could have only been the Budget 10, which was located right off the exit from IL-55 south to IL 138 (Route 66)... she drove me back and waited to make sure I had a room.

Good thing she waited. The motel was deserted. The cobwebs had cobwebs on them, and those cobwebs were deserted.

You know there's something wrong with a place when even the spiders vacate.

I walked up to the restaurant  which was open, to inquire as to whether the place was, in fact, open and merely disgustingly dirty (Again... not a deal breaker) or the scene of some grizzly serial murders resulting in the most popular chili in any restaurant in down state Illinois. I walked in to see an old man on the right, seated alone at a table for four, sniffing at something at the end of his fork I hoped was steak. There was a girl behind the counter who eyed me with a small amount of suspicion. To my left, there was a couple at a another table, drinking coffee and talking to the other waitress, who paid me no attention at all.

After disrupting the nothing at all that was going on, I was told the nearest hotel was in Staunton, one exit up on IL-55. It was a Super 8.

The problem with Super 8 is that they've decided to be... well... hoity toity.

I appreciated an in room coffee pot like the next caffeinated guy. I suppose it's useful to have a microwave... for the processed food I avoid buying out on the road... and a refrigerator ... for the left overs I never have. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't MIND these things. I merely object that I have to pay more than I'd like just because there isn't one no-tell motel, or available shelter.

Add to that the fact that, upon checking in, my identity was questioned because apparently the zip code listed on my replacement driver's license is for some town in Mexico.

Yes. Really. A short motel manager of Indian descent named Patel -- insisted that the zip code he punched in was for a town in Mexico.

Never mind that when I transpose "61053" to "60153" I still get another town in Illinois. Never mind that when I looked up Mexican zip codes, there aren't any that resemble "61053" at all.  And never mind that this is the THIRD time that my pale, German/Irish mug has somehow been confused with one of Mexican descent.

I'm not particularly offended. But Mexicans might be.

Ah, hell. Viva la revolucion! Viva Mexico!

[Thanks for reading. Being back out on the road, the travel fund could use some shekels. If you like the blog, like me, or would rather me not come crash at your house, please donate.  Take care.]