I met T.J. in 2000, while I was living in New Orleans. I met him before I started working my job as a dental receptionist. That meant I had plenty of time to wander the Quarter, The Riverwalk,and a decent part of Mid-City around Canal Street, orienting myself to the city. I had, in order to help myself learn my way around, purchased a city map; not one of those touristy ones, but a street level map. In addition to having a fondness for maps, I was lucky enough to wander the streets of The Big Easy before the intrusion of Garmin or Google maps.
T.J. was camped out along the Riverwalk. I say camped, but to be fair he probably slept at one of the local shelters or snuck into the park at Jackson Square hoping to avoid the frequent rousting by the NOPD. He was, nonetheless, parked in a high foot traffic area, where he insured the safety of his bindle by puking in a near perfect circle around it. He bragged to me that he could almost always do this, and even when he couldn't, he could muster enough to take a piss around it... though never in daylight.
He made his living pan-handling. I never found out exactly what made him choose that particular line, or why. I think I understand now, maybe. T.J. lived on the road; he explained to me that he traveled between Knoxville, TN, and New Orleans... wintering in New Orleans and summering in Tennessee. It had never occured to me before that such a pattern made sense; but, as T.J. pointed out, and as I have ruminated on in the years since, it's good enough for the birds.
I've been sitting out the winter in the Ohio Valley, keeping a not too strenuous schedule as a part-time departmental work horse in the Literature and Language and an online writing tutor through Union Institute and University. And it's been nice. I spend most weekends in Louisville with the most amazing Traveler's Angel, Amanda. Then I come back to Cincinnati to teach and plan my next jaunt.
Oh yes my next jaunt is on the horizon. The issue for me is not so much whether I will go out or whether I will not go out; the issue is when.
I'm obligated to the end of the semester, and I have The Kid's high school graduation in early June, out in Norfolk (still the most unpleasant and unfriendly place I have ever been... and I have been to Coalinga Junction, California.) At the end of May, I'm planning a trip, accompanied by Amanda,back to Paint City... otherwise known as Mount Carroll,in the state of ILL(INOIS) to participate in the annual DAVEFEST which coincides with Mount Carroll's Memorial Day Celebration, MAYFEST. The latter is quaint, though improving with the addition of a beer tent that necessarily overcharges and the not-unexpected over enforcement of the local Police and County Sheriff's Departments. The former is a campfire, a group of sundry musicians and other nar'dowell types, and a chance to visit friends whose company I miss probably more than they miss mine.
After DAVEFEST and after The Kid's graduation -- for which I will endure the company of her mother (the feeling is mutual, I'm sure), Step-Daddy Tailhook McShorty, and Plus-1... the two-legged gastropod my daughter is entangled with -- I plan on another jaunt. Initially, I was planning a North to South trip down the East Coast, revisiting some places and hopefully some people I saw last winter and continuing on down the coast, around Florida, to the Keys and back up, possibly hitting New Orleans before heading back via some as of yet undetermined route and mode of transportation.
But then there was that other thought. That's right.
Before deciding to settle in for the winter and earn some money for the Travel Fund, I was pondering a jaunt up to North Dakota, to around Williston where the oils sands are. Why? Well, while I am no fan of cold weather -- anyone who knows me knows this -- I am intrigued by the notion of boom towns. I'ave already seen what happens when the boom goes bust. But I am curious as to what a wild northern boom town looks like in this year of our Lawd, 2013.
The boom town is still there, and will be. And Gawd willing, the temperatures in July will be a bit more palatable.
But you can be assured I am not packing for the beach.
I will save my southern trip for a more logical season, following the seemingly specious wisdom of T.J. and the natural sense of most flying fowl.
Being as I have been... albeit temporarily... stationary, I also decided to update and fine tune my traveling gear. For one thing, my blue rucksack, which served me many a mile and lasted longer than it's Chinese sweatshop handiwork and $26.00 price tag could have possibly allowed for, needed replacing. And it didn't escape my notice that on my last trip out, I ended up carrying a few things I didn't need, didn't have a few things that could have been useful, and encountered a few situations... like having to sleep on the side of the road in Southern Ill(inois)... in which having a few simple, lightweight items would have come in handy.
Keeping an eye on pack weight, I have managed to reduce what I carry and add a few things that would have been useful.... which, will still keep my pack weight manageable. although my new blue rucksack is stronger, a bit bigger, and American made. I wanted to make sure that if I have to walk 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 miles that it won't be cumbersome. I also wanted to make sure that both my new pack and I could stay dry.
Never fear, Dear Readers. I will still be in touch while out exploring just what new and wondrous world can come from finding an even more efficient way of squeezing a non-renewable resource out the Earth to the betterment of our Capitalistic Republic as well as to the profit margins of those poor poor oil companies that have done so so badly in this economy. (Ahem.)