Showing posts with label traveling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label traveling. Show all posts

30 April, 2019

On Being Present In Spite of the Kentucky Derby

Hawthorns. Yep, they hurt.
I travel for the same reasons I eventually come home. This is often difficult to explain to people who either aren't pushed in seemingly opposite directions by the currents or who have denied their impulse for wanderlust and diaspora. For those who are similarly afflicted as I am, no explanation is needed, but please, brothers and sister, bear along while I wander this thought to some stopping point or another. 

It's a short leg, I promise.

There are currents at work in both cases, but in neither case am I afflicted by a sense that something is missing or lack of satisfaction. The only real difference is this: when I'm out, I attune to the rhythm of the road almost immediately, like stepping through a door. But when I come home, there's always a reentry process, like having to wait in a decompression chamber so that my lungs can breathe the air of home again.  It's not even about the tangible things in my home life -- my sobriety, my relationship with Amanda, my needy dog or apathetic cat, the house and the familiar and comforting things housed there. Where I have the most trouble is in the intangibles: things that I am compelled by socialization or cultural imprinting to care about: the condition of my yard; seemingly petty and oddly mean-spirited technological issues; the status of our battle to keep the bank from taking our home, in spite of us doing everything right in order for that NOT to happen; business clients who don't pay their invoices on time; obligations created out of cultural necessity -- like most bills, showering, and wearing pants; and locally, the hubbub over the very decadent and very depraved Kentucky Derby -- that fastest two minutes of sport that create that have contributed to a pendulum like boom and bust economy, not to mention labor exploitation, sex trafficking, and the continued exploitation of the city's homeless population in an attempt not to offend the tourists who come here, piss in the street, and call it bourbon.

There are battles here that are worthwhile, and ensuring that rich touristas have positive few of the town I have chosen to call home is not one of them.  But am glad that of the things I hang onto from being out, the things I continue to foster with my personal daily Practice, the idea of being focused on the here and now remains central to my decision-making process about how to (and if) to interact with any of it.

When I'm out on the road, I work to maintain a relaxed but present state of mind, and I try to stay open to whatever experiences and people I can. Through my daily Practice, I'm working to maintain that same relaxed but present state of mind off the road. It's more difficult than it sounds because, in spite of the hassles of traveling (including a lost suitcase), the distractions of a stationary life can fill the ol' brain chamber up with all kinds of things that can distract me from remaining present and being open to the world as it unfurls itself on a daily basis. Things that cause me to miss the beauty and the savagery that are just as present here in Louisville as they are on the road.

Whippoorwills sing
as the coffee cools.
The dog naps, defying
her need to hunt the song
down. Here I sit, listening

waiting for something
maybe the sound
of a gong: a guide,
a rhyme, a tune
encoded in each ring.

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26 April, 2017

Love is the best disease

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. -- Winston Churchill

When I rolled into River City on a Greyhound bus 5 years ago this week, I had no idea what I was in for.

My plan was to stop through on my way west. I'd been living on the road since January and had been bouncing around the East Coast, Appalachia, and the Ohio Valley for months. I stayed with family, visited friends, and slept on buses, trains, and in stations between Chicago and Newport News.

The way I understand it, she had to pay someone $20 to pick me up because no one wanted to drive downtown to the bus station. Traveling by the big grey dog is frowned upon by a certain segment of the population, and perhaps (though unlikely) by some of you, Dear Friends and Readers. So it was that after beating the bushes and offering cold hard cash, Amanda managed to find someone to pick me up and deposit me at the house that would, eventually, become my home.

And I say again: that wasn't my plan. My plan was to roll west, cross the wild Mississippi River, explore the big square states and head to the Left Coast, where all freaks and all geeks of every stripe are welcome.  I didn't intend on settling down so much as wandering around and back again. I had some unfinished business up in Illinois -- an anti-climactic and passionless divorce -- and was planning on looping back east to visit family and friends.

When I came to Louisville five years ago this month, I didn't expect to meet the love of my life. I expected to reconnect with an old friend from college that wouldn't mind a visit now and again as I passed through The Bluegrass.

But that's exactly what happened. I didn't expect my entire life to change, but it did. That's the way love works, though. It's not calm. It's not reasonable. It doesn't take your plans into account. And it doesn't always mix in with the life you're setting up for yourself.

If you're lucky, love makes you a little crazy. Cynics say that falling in love is like a drug and just as temporary. Being in love takes work. And that work requires that come back to that person, over and over again. If the definition of insanity is the desire to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, love means looking at the love of your life everyday and embracing inevitable change.

In a way, real love is a disease. It invades you and changes the way you breathe, the way your blood flows. Love demands that you make changes, even when the changes might be uncomfortable at first.

I'm not always particularly good at living the domestic life. I've written about that before. But I love that today, I get to celebrate my marriage to a woman that knew that when she decided to take a chance on a guy like me.

And that's the thing about love. It's not a warm fuzzy kind of thing.

But if you're lucky, it sure does feel that way most of the time.

If you like what you're reading here, I have work for sale on my amazon author page:

06 August, 2012

Southern Jaunt: More of the Name Game / Of Anachronistic Cartography

We make trials of ourselves and invite men and women to hear - Walt Whitman

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to. - W.C. Fields

hic sunt dracones. - Old Cartographer Shorthand for "We Have No Fucking Clue What's Here."

A redemptive rain fell over the weekend, potentially wiping out several weddings -- but to anyone paying attention, the Earth moaned like a woman in the throes of an long delayed orgasm. A friend here in town, whose garden was struggling so much she and her husband were debating whether to quit watering it or not has reported that the garden has exploded since the rain. I was sitting out on the Front porch at Dave and Julie's yesterday, smoking my pipe, and heard one of the neighbors actually mowing his lawn. I was pretty sure there still wasn't anything to mow, but gawd love him, he felt the urge anyway.

Growing up, I had a neighbor like that, Mr. Foster. He would mow his lawn every few days, manicuring down to the dust during the driest years. I understand from my brother that one of  the Foster daughters -- WHO I DID NOT, I repeat, DID NOT peep on while she was sunbathing in a bikini --  has bought the ranch style house we grew up in. And though Mr. Foster has been dead for a while, his widow continues on in the house, probably not mowing nearly as much or messing up neighbor kid's attempts to sing along with Molly Hatchet or Waylon Jennings by getting on the H.A.M. Radio. 

Today marks a full week since I arrived here from Chicago, thanks to the kind assistance of my old friend Paul H., the Medinah Train, and my new friend John Briscoe, no longer of Stone House Fudge, but still playing the blues guitar like a fiend. And while I was hoping my long lost birth certificate would be waiting for me in the 40 pounds of mail waiting for me at the Post Office, I am (not all that) sorry to report it was not.

I did wander back into something resembling a jobby job, though, in the form (once again) as an itinerant local newsraker for The Prairie Advocate News. And while the news of my return as undoubtedly rippled through the ranks of those who were more than happy with my departure in January, I am sure that none of the town or county officials -- I will refrain from naming names herein, but find me at the bar later, if you really want to know them; I'll talk for shots of bourbon -- who had, in the past, tried to get me fired because they didn't like my "editorializing" (replace with the appropriate term "style") -- would stoop to anything so coarse and vulgar as trying to beat me to the punch and get me fired before I even get started gain.

Naturally not.

I expect much more from current and former elected officials like Doris Bork and Nina Cooper.


Ah, well. I need to keep a lid on my bar tab anyway. Moving on...

More Of The Name Game

If you're a regular reader, you may recall this post wherein I question, again, what it is a person has tied up in a name. Not long after it posted, I received a text from a friend of mine here who informed me that her name directly impacted who she became and that she couldn't imagine being named anything else. She also pointed out the difference between how she felt when she was married and took his name (which was Smith) versus how she felt about retaking the last name she was born with. Now, I will admit -- as someone who grew up with essentially two names -- one of them being associated with a nauseating little cartoon mouse that had his own club for years, and which has given us such cultural icons as Annette Funicello, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake (one of which was known for her swim suit, the other known for free-twatting*, and the other for being smart enough to ditch the free-twatter before she went crazy and for being completely overlooked in the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction debacle that turned the Super Bowl Half Time Show into a geriatric sock hop), not to mention the most evil pop song ever written, I have to agree. To a point.

My friend was, of course, named after a race horse, and her middle name is Twilight. I have ample sympathy, given that she now feels chained at the ankles to that annoying series of badly written books that have spawned terrible movies. Growing up with a name outside of the norm, and putting up with the usual verbal (and sometimes physical) jabs from other kids with names as unique as John (Sorry JB! I don't mean you!), Terry, Mark or [insert name of average named bully here] does impact the sort of person you become.

And that, actually, was sort of the point.

Part of the that culturally constructed applique personality I was talking about comes, in part, from how we're socialized as kids. Some people get past all the juvenile shit. Some people, well into adulthood, allow themselves to be defined by whether they were picked last ... or not picked at all ... in high school gym class.  Some kids grew up enduring far worse, and somehow managed to grow beyond it... and somehow, I think it had less to do with their names than with one of those undefinable qualities that most people have and few people access. As humans, most of us have the ability to change who we are and how we are -- if we're willing to do it. That many who are able to simply don't says more about the culture that seeks to blind us all.

I mentioned that I grew up with two names. That's true. My given name is Michael. But no one calls me that. There's nothing wrong with it, the name. It translates roughly as "One Who is Like God." I've been called Mickey, or Mick most of my life. That's also the first name of the guy who saved my Dad's life in the Navy. It translates roughly as "You're so fine, you blow my mind."

As you might be able to tell, I'm still not all that convinced my name means much except that The State can identify me, track me, share my information with the Grand Marketeers of the New Millennium. I'm still me... and the me I am in the process of becoming. Whatever the hell that means.

Anachronistic Cartography

To stave off the itch while I'm waiting for my State Identity to catch up with me, I look through my travel atlas and ponder my next jaunt. My plan... still... is to go south, like the birds, and spend some winter days in southern Florida, maybe celebrate my birthday in New Orleans. But I've also been thinking, lately, of going north... to North Dakota, specifically, to check out what an oil boom looks like. I've seen boom towns in decline. I'm thinking it might be worth noting what one looks like as it's building up

But then there's that whole winter thing. And I don't want to count on another preternaturally warm winter. So I'm thinking. And looking over maps. And pondering my own ridiculousness.

The Crossing of St. Frank

The 8 page chapbook is ready and for sale. For a $2 minimum donation (that includes postage), I'll send you a signed one. It will be signed with one of the names I go by. You can try requesting which name, but chances are good I'll pick a different one. If you run into me on the street, chances are good I have some with me. Ask nice, buy me a beer, or donate to the travel fund, and I'll give you one.

If' you're reading this from Where I Am, find me, I probably have some on me. I"ll give you one for a $1 donation, or something in kind (a cup of coffee, a beer, a bowl of soup.)

If you're reading this from Not Where I Am, go to the Beggar Bowl Page. When you donate to the Travel Fund, there's a box for a comment. Make sure you tell me where to send it and who to send it to.  Gawd Bless.


*free-twatting -, noun. Female version of free-balling.

01 August, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Ye, Tho I Walk

Truckin', I'm a goin home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on. 
                                                                                                - The Grateful Dead
There is something to turn us mad. -Kenneth Patchen

These are the days that must happen to you: -Walt Whitman

My legs are a little sore even today. Still. That's what I get for not paying attention.

The trip up from Cincinnati to Bloomingdale was pretty easy. I rode up with my friend Paul, and his wife Cathy. She doesn't normally accompany on his Sunday run to Illinois, but she was going to catch a ride on a California bound truck. She's heading out to visit her family and attend to some sick relatives. Riding long distances in a big rig is actually sort fun. I will admit that it's one of those things my soon-to-be ex refers to as a "boy-man" sort of thing. I still remember wanting to be a truck driver when I was a kid, the appeal of all that romance and the sense of freedom... fueled, no doubt,  by Smokey and The Bandit and copious reruns of BJ and The Bear.  At one point, before I left Cincinnati this time, My Dear Sweet Ma asked if being a truck driver was something I might be interested in doing; after all, it could mean being out on the road for an extended period of time, and there's travel, of a sorts, involved.

Sometimes, though, when you talk to people about what they do, you learn a bit too much. I suspect that if many soon-to-be educators had an honest heart to heart with working and soon to be retired teachers, they would, en masse, drop out of whatever teacher education program they're in and apply to law school. Having talked to Paul about his job a lot, I can honestly tell you, Dear Readers, that while I enjoy riding in big rigs and don't mind helping load and unload cargo, I have no interest in entering the industry as an actual trucker. I should also mention that my innate ability to get lost -- in spite of have spot on directions -- would probably keep me from being effective at moving a trailer full of Stuff That Costs Entirely Too Much from Point A to Point B.

And yes, it may be true that pretty much all truckers use GPS.

I would like to point out though that GPS, as a mapping or directional system is flawed to the point that it's almost useless.  There was a time when I thought maybe my problems with Global Positioning Satellite doo-hickey-thing-a-ma-bobs was that I simply prefer to wander willy-nilly... or, as my ex often complained whenever I was driving anywhere I wasn't familiar with or had never been, that I have the uncanny ability to find the longest possible route to any place. The tried and true bumper sticker wisdom


is very much true in my case. My (increasingly well documented) tendency to wander has always found one outlet or another. And I do have a lousy sense of direction. Always have. Some people can stand in the middle of the prairie on a cloudy day and tell you what direction they're facing. Some of us need a little help. A compass, maybe. But I don't have one. My friend John, who met me in Chicago and brought me back to Mount Carroll yesterday evening, seemed surprised that I could travel from one end of the country to the other in the manner that I have without a compass. I admit there were times that it would have come in handy.

Like two mornings ago.

I woke up early and decided that since the Medinah Metra Station was ONLY about 6 miles from where Paul's rig was parked overnight... and since the morning was relatively cool and the sky looked rain free for the time being... that I would go ahead and walk I felt pretty well rested, and felt like I could get an early start, take advantage of the coolest part of the day. With any luck, I could get there before the boil really set in. Maybe catch the train into the city, rent a locker for my gear, and wander the city a bit before meeting John. I've never been to the Haymarket monument, or to any of the art galleries or museums. My trips through the most metropolitan of Midwestern cities are generally passing through... either on a train or, most often, the Greyhound Station. The ex and I visited Chicago once, not long after moving to Mount Carroll. We stayed with friends of hers in Oak Park and road the El into the city.

It was cold. It was windy. And the Macys frightened me a little.

But we did eat at a nifty little restaurant where I paid too much for a really amazing burger. (It was.)

After I said my so long/see you laters, I headed off, following what I thought were the proper directions. I had, after all, looked them up on Google Maps. The walking directions were slightly different than the driving directions.  More of a zig zag than a matter of 2 or 3 simple turns. But I thought maybe there was a specific reason for that. Maybe there weren't any sidewalks. Maybe it was a busy highway. Maybe there was no crosswalk.

I set off walking, looking for W. Army Trail, then Cardinal Drive. A few of the streets had bird names: Cardinal, Eagle, Raven. 5 or 6 miles isn't a lot, but it isn't a little either, so I didn't worry that none of the street names I had been looking for didn't appear. It was still (relatively) cool, my feet didn't hurt (more than normal) and the pack didn't weigh me down (yet.)

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all until something like an hour passed and I started seeing signs for Glendale Heights.

There was nothing in my Google Maps directions that mentioned cutting through Glendale Heights.

Not one to panic in these situations... they are far too typical to be worth the energy required to panic... I stopped and pondered my situation, looked at the directions I'd written down in my travel journal. Looking up, I saw an Indian (You know, the kind from India, not that kind that Columbus named Indians because he didn't want to admit that he got lost). He was walking toward me, in a semi-hurry, dressed in all white like an extra from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Being generally polite and only slightly smelly from one night in the rig, I smiled as he approached and signaled to him. As he approached, I asked him if I was going the right direction to cross W. Army Trail.

"I don't know anything," he mumbled quickly.

I didn't believe him, really. But I wasn't going to press it. Sometimes, in spite of my generally friendly, jovial nature, people are put off by me. It could be the hat. Or maybe the beard.

Oh well. As the Great Sage said, A Hater Gonna Hate.

It was then... AND ONLY THEN... that I took note of my surroundings. No street indicators that I was at all heading the wrong direction. Or the right direction either, for that matter.  Then I looked at the sun, climbing in the Eastern sky.

In the Eastern sky.


It finally occurred to me that I had been walking south, rather than north, for the better part of an hour.

No compass, remember? But If I had simply paid attention to where I was, I would have known.

Truthfully, though, I knew that I knew better. I still know how to  read maps and atlases. Honestly, I prefer a good road atlas to some cold digital (and always British female... coincidence? ) voice telling me how to drive.

Sometimes it helps to focus on where you are and what you're doing.

After backtracking an hour, I found W. Army Trail without difficulty. It was less than a quarter of a mile from where the rig was parked. I was across the parking lot from it when I walked over to Wal-mart at 6 in the morning to take a shit and splash cold water on my face.

It wasn't long before I found Cardinal Drive, which led me straight into a residential neighborhood. Nice homes. Not McMansions or anything like that, but still very nice. It was the sort of neighborhood that had it been closer to sunset than sunrise, someone would have noticed me and maybe called a cop. (Yes. It's happened to me before.) Mostly empty driveways, so either no one had a car (unlikely) or they were at work. Maybe in Chicago, having taken the Medinah Train that I, as of yet, hadn't made it to. As I made my way through the neighborhood of Stratford Trail, I looked again at the directions scribbled in my travel journal. The zig zag was really more of a zig, a zag, another zag, and another zag, followed by an amble, another zig, two more zigs, a zag, and a short bounce across the railroad tracks. It seemed to me like I was going around the block once, then going around another block, when there was clearly a street that connected all of the outer points.


And I thought I was directionally challenged.

I finally got to the train station with plenty of time between trains. I was able set my rucksack down, sit down on a bench inside the abandoned station house. With an hour ride on the train into Chicago to look forward to, I drank water, waited, rested my feet, and read more from Philip Dray's weighty tome on Labor History in America, There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America.

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.

21 June, 2012

Eastward-ish - Whim of the Great Magnet (Rocky Top, You'll Always Be)

Live in the nowhere that you came from
even though you have an address here. - Rumi

Ask the dust on the road!. -John Fante

After buying a $1 cup of coffee from the Mcdonalds in the Plaza Hotel -- which cost me $1.08 with tax -- I had exactly 19 cents to my name. Sitting in the Las Vegas bus depot... which is shamefully void of slot machines -- I had to consider my options carefully. In addition to that 19 cents I had a 12 ounce bottle of water, and a partial bag of trail mix that I knew would see me though.

I hoped.

Of course, the reason for my presence in Sin City's bus terminal... which, contrary to what people might think, has none of the glamorous odor of piss and astroglide (I FINALLY figured it out!) parfume of the L.A. bus terminal... instead of being on a bus headed for the Mormon's version of Eden on Earth, Salt Lake City -- was because Phoeinx simply did not want to let me leave.

No. Really.

The 10:15 pm bus leaving Phoenix was full. The bus driver, Carlos, informed us that if we closed the air vents located above the seats near the reading lights that the bus would catch fire. To be fair, it was an older bus. Since heading west from St. Louis, I have given up expecting a ride on one of the newer, glimmering buses they advertise with more leg room, electric outlets and free WiFi. (And while the outlets are great, the WiFi is spotty, the seats are actually a little less comfortable, and the overhead storage compartments are smaller.) Other than the possibility of fire, the air didn't work and the bus creaked like it was held together by duck tape.

All I wanted to do was sleep. For all I cared, the bus could've been made of duct tape and plastic wrap.

My planned destination: Salt Lake City. Why? Why wonder why? I wanted to visit the state that killed Joe Hill. I wanted to see if I could see any trace of the myth that Utah Phillips spoke of in his stories and songs. I wanted to scare some Mormons. I wanted see if I could snag some of that magic underwear, since I thought it might come in handy.

Why the hell not?

The bus made it as far as Glendale before Carlos pulled the bus over. Not a good sign. He puts the bus in park, hops out, and walks around the back of the bus. A few minutes later, he comes back.

"I've just spoken to Dallas," he said. The tone was ominous. Official sounding. Or, attempting to sound official sounding. "The back lights on the bus aren't working," he went on. "So we're turning around and going back to Phoenix Station to resolve it."

People were muttering, annoyed, guffawing. People are on their cell phones. I hear various versions of the same one-sided conversation. "This is SOME KINDA BULLSHIT!"

Then, as if we all didn't know it, he said "You can consider this schedule [pause for what? Dramatic effect?] delayed."

Walking back into the station was anti-climactic, but I wasn't too worried. I'm in no particular hurry, really. Whether I sleep on a bus in the dark then, or an hour from then, didn't matter to me. I was sure there,d be a bus to Salt Lake City in Las Vegas. I mean, Mormons gamble too, right?

Two hours later, the bus was apparently repaired, and we reboarded and headed out into the darkness. It still creaked like it was held together by tape and I was mindful of the vent, to avoid any fires.

By the time we reached Vegas, the sun was up and I was only slightly rested. The bus had managed to fill up, my phone battery was dead, and the air... which is supposed to be cooler when the engine is hot... wasn't. It was already hot, and I had missed the 7:55 to Salt Lake by nearly 2 hours. The next one would not leave until 9:30 that night. Not quite 12 hours. But close enough to be annoying.

Then I noticed there was a 3:15 to Denver.

My cousin Mary lives around there, somewhere. She's the daughter of my dad's older brother, Daniel, who is still alive, and who, up to that point, I had never met face to face. The Parsons' are an independent, quixotic lot. At least, my branch of the family is. And from what I can tell, from those I have met, and from the research -- genealogical and otherwise -- we tend to chose our own way through the world, regardless of whether it's the easiest, or seemingly the wisest.

I had thought I might make my way through Colorado on my Westward Jaunt, meet my cousin and my uncle. What had kept me away up to that point was a series of direction changes and ... to be honest ... the fact that every time I  saw a television report about Colorado, it involved apocalyptic fires and floods.

Considering my options, I plugged in my phone at the barely adequate charging station and sent a message to my cousin. A change in course didn't bother me. But I didn't want to make it a last minute one that would annoy or inconvenience  family I barely knew and had never met.  The possibility of meeting my Uncle Dan -- who, like my father and my Grandpa Parsons, had reached near mythic heights in my imagination -- stuck in my mind. To shake the hand of a man who was as close to my own father as I could meet as an adult, to get a glimpse into his life... his real life... was worth risking the apocalypse that seemed to be hitting The Centennial State.

I heard back from Mary in short order. She told me I was more than welcome to stop through for a couple of days.

I checked the schedule to Denver, and made sure of the exit gate and time. It would leave Vegas at 3:05 and arrive around 7 the following morning.

It was at that point that I wandered out into the street, and found my way to a cup of cheap, but welcome, cup of coffee.

13 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Isn't That Just Spacial? - Tempe, AZ

I refuse to quote the First Amendment because no document can grant me what is mine already. - Quote from Mick's Travel Journal, Tempe, AZ

I've never heard of a revolution starting because people protested where the cops told them to. -Noah S. Kaplowitz

Traveling as I do means that sometimes, health and wellness complications arise. As you may recall in The Rash, Part 1 and The Rash, Part 2 , a run-in with some of the local wildlife residing at the Lewis and Clark Inn (Rapid City, SD), resulted a rash I (briefly) took for a burgeoning peanut allergy. I find that being back in the valley of the sun, my feet -- which have been out to get me ever since I learned to walk -- are once again deciding to give me 10 kinds of hell for

  1. Being where it's too fucking hot, and
  2. For wearing sandals because... well... it's too fucking hot, and  (Don't remind me it's not August yet. I'm not going to be hear for that hell. And save me commentary about dry heat. Stick your head in a heated convection oven and tell me how much better dry heat is.)
  3. For not getting enough salt.
It should be noted, for the record  and for any potential future posterity, that my feet have continued a slow and steady campaign against my person AT LEAST since the age of 8. The evidence is more than circumstantial. It's an air tight case demonstrating that my feet are trying to kill me. Or at least, trying to get out  of working... which, on a philosophical level, I can at least respect. 

Now, because I've twisted and NEARLY broken both my ankles, mostly without insurance -- and, as a result, mostly without post-tumble medical aid -- some occasional swelling is not all that unusual. Sometimes I twist one of my ankles without realizing it.... though wearing a good pair of boots when I travel helps enormously.But I noticed last night, while I was settling down for the night, that my right foot and ankle was swelled. No pain. Just swelling. Then I looked at my left foot. Not as much swelling. But it, too was getting that shiny, slightly reddish appearance of microwaved hot dog.

Upon doing some research on the ever reliable Google, I found that this condition is tied to the weather, my diet, and a change in the amount of salt in my system. I actually avoid too much salt, even preferring unsalted peanuts. My dietary habits as I travel tend to depend on cash flow and whether I'm in between or visiting someplace.  I've mentioned my preference for trail mix and fruit when traveling. I avoid the gastrointestinal nightmare of fast food whenever possible. When I cook, I do use salt, but I never add more than the minimum required. I don't touch the salt shaker either, except to maybe unscrew the top for some unsuspecting salt-aholic. I do like sea salt. But it's healthier... right?

But what I had forgotten, since I haven't lived in a frying pan for a few years, is that the sun, in addition to cooking you in your own juices, will actually take the salt right out of you. 

Really. No joke. Not even a folksy metaphor.

And when that happens -- when there's any drastic change in sodium in your body... sometimes there's swelling around feet and ankles. 

Today it was a little better. Then, when I arrived at the Tempe Public Library to blog and drink coffee in the Friends of the Library Cafe, Tempe Connections, I ate a bag of Doritos. There's still some swelling. But not as much. 

So, I guess it's true. 

Salt really does heal all wounds.

As long as it's not cardiac arrest. or Cirrhosis. Or Diabetes.


This Machine Supports Fascists 
Outside the doors to the Tempe Public Library, there's several shaded benches, nicely paved sidewalks leading to from the door to the parking lot and back. Tucked off in one corner, almost to the through road that cuts behind the City of Tempe Museum and in front of the library leading from Southern to Rural Road, there's a tiny tree. The tree isn't tall or wide enough to stand under, but a person can, theoretically, sit under it... either on the ground or by using a folding chair. In front of the tree, next to a spigot for the Tempe Fire Department, is the sign that inspired today's blog.

Now, I know what you're going to say, Dear Readers.

"This IS the United States of America."

Yes, it is. Gawd save the Republic.


Yes. We also have toilet paper. What a 1st World Country we are!

"And the First Amendment says --"

Did you know the Constitution also refers to blacks as 3/5th of a person?


"Yep. That could be why, whenever the Friends of  the Tempe Public Library run people out of the cafe for not spending money, they're usually black. Sometimes Mexican."


But I digress...

Sometimes there's someone out here with a petition or two, looking for signatures from registered voters. Don't let the tree fool you. It's fucking hot. And usually, it's not the people who actually CARE about whatever the petitions are about; it's usually people earning next to no money... often they use the homeless, and college students and the under employed... who really know nothing about what they're pandering. 

Come to think of it... except for the homeless, the under-employed and the college students, that sounds like most politicians, used car salesmen, and reflexologists. 

But especially -- naturally --  used car salesmen.

I've been coming to the library for the past few days to blog -- free WiFi, the smell of a library, and the potential for maybe sneaking a few pages from some book or another that I haven't read in a while. (Today I'm hoping to read a little from a collection of Henry David Thoreau's journals from 1837-1861.) The past two days, there wasn't anyone standing in the Free Speech Zone. 

On Monday, though, there was a guy. He was camped out, had one of those comfy camping chairs with a beer holder in the arm rest, a small cooler, and a plastic bag of munchies. His teeth hadn't seen a brush in quite a while. The front ones he had left were a green color. Red t-shirt, cargo shorts, gym shoes with the soles nearly worn through, an old ball cap, and really really new looking sunglasses. 

I'm guessing they were considered an advance on his paycheck; though I did wonder if he was getting paid hourly or by "commission." (I met a hot college co-ed once at ASU who tried to get me to sign up for the Republican Party by flashing her very smooth very tightly bound tan cleavage and insisting ... with a pout that would make any 4 year old jealous... that she would only get paid by commission based on the number of names she came back with. I didn't. My affection for tits will only go so far.)

He was trying to get people's attention, but no one was buying. I remember watching this when I lived here before. It's easy to walk by, and because of the limited and appropriated nature of the The Free Speech Zone, those trying to get petitions filled, or trying to sell one idea or another, are more or less limited to the green space... that which isn't burnt to dust... between the tree and the sidewalk. They're not even allowed to walk on either side of or behind the tree. They can't step on the sidewalk, or find a shadier place close to the entrance. 

If I didn't know better, I'd think they were treating people exercising their Constitutionally Promised Right like pan handlers.

As an occasional freelance journalist/muckraker/hack, I know quite a bit about the First Amendment. It's supposed to protect the press, particularly when it's being critical of the government. By practice and precedence, this right has been extended to groups, and to individuals.

As long as you stand in a space that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

As long as you purchase a permit to protest -- in a place that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

The very notion of a Free Speech Zone implies that everything outside of it is NOT a place where free speech is allowed.  Think about all the places you have seen where free speech is "allowed." And now think about the immense real estate dedicated to... say... real estate development. The usury-style theft and resale of our natural resources back to us, usually including the destruction of other natural resources they don't  about because they haven't figured out how to make a buck on them yet. Think about the amount of real estate with TRUMP on it. 

And then think about how many free speech zones you've actually seen.

Then tell me again about the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Since I had some time to kill on Monday, waiting for the Orbit bus (free), I asked the guy in the Free Speech Zone what he was trying to get people to sign. He asked if I was a registered voter in the state of Arizona. When I told him I wasn't, he seemed disappointed, but told me, very quickly, that one petition was in support of adding a $0.01 sales tax in Arizona for education. (I knew that one would die. People would rather pay for fences than for better schools; that's true in Illinois, it's true in Arizona.) The other was a petition for open primaries... and other sundry stuff having, I'm sure, nothing to do with transparency in government. 

Which is, of course, an oxymoron.

Then again, the ballot box is one of those marked, appropriated, and apportioned spaces.

Isn't it?

[Thanks for reading! If you like what you read, remember:
  2. PLEASE DONATE TO THE TRAVEL FUND. (Thanks and Gawd Bless Ye)]

12 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Intermezzo: Answer To The Most Asked Question

"I'm a spoiled bitch" resonates in any language. - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)

Why do one-eyed Nazis always have the coolest eye patches? - Note from Mick's Travel Journal (San Francisco)

It's early June, and except for a few extended visits with friends and family, I've been Out and About for almost half a year. When I started re:visionary, it was meant to be part travel blog, part poetry journal, part political and culture commentary. There are elements, early on, that describe the disintegration of my marriage, and I am loathe to go back and read over them even though I know at some point I'll have to. I'm not loathe to read them because the memories cause me pain or discomfort or embarrassment. But I think at some point I'll have to combine what I've put in the blog with what I haven't had room for. And there's more. Much, much more, to be done.

Besides, while I can have bouts of what are best described as rampant sentimentality, I am not generally struck with nostalgia.  I do not long for the past -- not mine, not someone else's, and not any sort of revised and misrepresented point in history. I want to learn from the past, and carry those lessons with me into the present and future in the same way I carry my rucksack.

When I started out at the beginning of the year, it was with the intention of writing it all down, of staying out and living on the cheap as much as possible, and depending on the little bit of money I had when I left, plus any donations to the Travel Fund. (Graciously accepted, thank ye gawd bless ye).

Living this way is a feast or famine proposition; but, if I'm being honest ... and I'm ALWAYS honest, Dear Readers... so it goes for most people, indigent or no.  If you're one paycheck away from living out of your car or out of a backpack, then it's feast or famine for you, too. 

One of the nice things about being back in Tempe is that my friends here -- bar friends all -- remember me as a writer. More than one of them have asked if I'm working on another book, since they liked the other one so much. I've tried explaining to them, and in spite of myself, it always comes off slightly more like an adventure story than an attempt to understand the country I call home, the American Dream that never was, and my life which in constant flux. This trip is is as much about the poetry I'm writing as it is the poetry I'm finding.

Maybe it comes off like an adventure because I still look at it that way... because I choose to live my life as the way it suits me rather than the way it suits the governmental and social  institutions that have let us all down. 

A few people -- some of them friends, some familial -- have asked What I Intend To Do Next. It's a question I often dodge, mostly because I don't feel like having the whole long discussion. But it has also occurred to me that in order for the blog to really be honest... and I strive to be honest, I do, Dear Readers... that I need to go ahead and say it as directly and as clearly as possible.

I don't intend to stop. I will take a break from time to time. But I like being Out and About too much. I need it too much. And I don't have any interest in having another job that will require me to sacrifice or compromise those elements of myself that are good and noble.  I'd rather live a real life than watch a reality TV show. I'd rather hear the stories of people I meet on the road than read about them on the internet. I'd rather be myself than other people's idea of me.

And I have found that the people who love me... who truly love me... know this about me even before I say it. One or two hold out hope... like My Dear Sweet Ma, I think... that I'll settle down again. She told me once,though, that it's possible she simply has her own ideas on what it means to be happy... and that mine don't have to be same.

I'm heading east for some rest, some respite, and some much needed warmth. But then I'm going to be off again... to the South, I think. Port Charlotte, Florida in the winter sounds wonderful.

07 June, 2012

Homo Viator (At The World's Edge): Ferlinghetti's Gambit, Part 2

Part 1 HERE

[I'm in transit, on a 15 hour burn to Phoenix. The bus, as far as L.A. anyway, is the first bus outfitted with electric outlets and WiFi since St. Louis.  Thank GAWD. Sometimes, Dear Reader, the universe is kind. Take care to keep that in mind, even when it's not.]

The poetry section didn't disappoint. A lot of familiar names, like Montale, Vaca, Auden.  The  names you'd expect: Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso.

Corso. I taught Corso in writing workshops at the drug and alcohol rehab at the Cincinnati VA. Those crusty old bastards ate him up. Couldn't get enough.

The rocking chair looked entirely too comfortable not to sit in. Those old rocking chairs are like that; they get some wear and tear. Some love, some care. They take on a character and a personality all of their own; they can become a defining factor in any space they inhabit or any space they are removed from. That it was labeled -- perhaps sardonically -- "Poet's Chair" added to the look, but didn't scare me off. My feet were starting to scream from inside my boots and a few minutes repose with a little bit of poetry seemed in order to me.

And besides, I thought. If there's some stupid rule about not sitting in the chair unless your Ferlinghetti -- perish the un-egalitarian thought, but hell, it's his shop he can piss in the non-fiction section if he wants to -- then it was a good start to achieving my goal.

I chose a collection by Auden -- As I Walked Out One Evening: Songs, Ballads, Lullabies, Limericks, and Other Light Verse -- and flipped through to "Letter to Lord Byron, Part 1." Auden is one of those poets I came to only maybe in the last 10 years or so. Formal, disarmingly and deceptively light, he gets passed over often. It probably helps that he's not only a Brit, but something of a Socialist... and since we don't even like to read our OWN Reds, Ballad, let alone those from across the pond, Auden is continually ignored in a culture that prefers to ignore homegrown poets regardless of their politics. 

Such a funny poem. The speaker is a young poet, writing contemporarily, to Byron. And since Byron is, of course, long dead, the speaker is able to imbue the Romantic Bard with all sorts of characteristics... including making him a bosom buddy: someone with whom  the speaker can relate, pontificate, and try out his ideas on. 

In short, Byron is in artist's hell. 

While I was sitting there, reading, resting my feet, enjoying a cozy corner next to a small window with west coast light pouring,  another person perusing the shelves asked in what I thought was a British accent "Do you charge tax for books in America?"

"Yes," I reported grimly. "They do. Why do you think I'm sitting here reading it?"

"That's a good plan." he said, taking his prospective purchases downstairs.

There was another person up there, an older, balding man in a blue shirt and tie. He stuck to the poetry criticism section. I wanted to smack him with Leaves of Grass, but the copies weren't handy, being on the other side of the room.

After a while, though, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard anything. There was some office kid sliding in and out of a nondescript door between the stairwell and the bookcase of Beat Poetry anthologies. But no grumbly old poets. The closest I could get was thumbing through one of his books -- a newer collection published by City Lights as part of a series on San Francisco poets.

As I went back downstairs, I quickly pondered my options. I could cause a ruckus and run the risk of the sourly bald register jockey calling the cops... who would, I'm sure, arrive promptly and not trample my civil liberties. Or, I could leave defeated.

I looked around one more time to see if I could catch some glimpse of the man. I noticed a closet under an alcove, it was open, full of books yet to be stocked. There had been a hand written sign in large black letters:


Couldn't have said it better myself.

In the end, I didn't get to be told to fuck off by one of my few living* literary heroes. 

But I got to read Auden, and sit in a comfy rocking chair, and breathe in the same space as Corso, McClure, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and  Bukowski. And, of course, Ferlinghetti... who remains as much a mystery to me as, well... most mysteries.

* Update: Lawrence Ferlinghetti died February 2021 at the age of 101 years. In 2012 he wasn't one of my few living literary heroes. He was the only one. 

Homo Viator (At the World's Edge): Ferlinghetti's Gambit, Part 1


It was a simple yet elegant plan.

My intention was to find the City Lights Bookstore, bask in the literary mecca of any and everyone who has read The Beats, and in the process, get Ferlinghetti to tell me to fuck off. The chances of that aren't nearly as far off as you might think; after all, City Lights Bookstore has been in the same location at the edge of Chinatown since it opened in 1953. In addition to being a fully functional bookstore -- where one can still go in order to buy books -- it's also a place where literary things continue to happen. It's also the home base for City Lights Books, which continues to publish interesting stuff even though it's been suggested that people don't really read anymore.

And in addition to that, City Lights Co-Founder and literary juggernaut Lawrence Ferlinghetti is almost as famous for being a crank as he is for being a poet/publisher/ independent book store proprietor.


Before striking out from the hostel late in the morning this morning, I asked the girl at the front desk about the best bus route to City Lights. I had a pretty good idea, having done a little research before I hit town, but I wanted to make sure my thinking on the matter correct, that there wasn't some change in the bus schedule that hadn't made it to the internet, and that I could find it without getting too lost.

She recommended that I walk there. She assured me she did it all the time and that it usually took her a half hour. Her directions took me straight through the heart of Chinatown. Naturally, I assumed it would take me longer to walk up Larkin to Geary, and then up Geary to Stockton... which would lead me through Chinatown and eventually to the mecca.

Let me point out that today was a beautiful day. I didn't mind the walk, and it would save me money not having to pay for bus fare.

China town was an amazing experience, a cacophony of smells, and people. The produce markets had people sometimes 3 or 4 deep, and all kinds of chatter. Crowds of people moving, or not moving. At one point, even before I walked through the Stockton Street tunnel that was the official boundary for Chinatown, I wasn't sure I had even the slightest clue where I was going. And I had a map, kindly provided by the very polite desk person at the hostel. Between that and the fact that San Fran is an easy city to walk around in, and an interesting one, too. All of the rail stations I ran across had easy to read maps with YOU ARE HERE red dots on them.  In addition, because the city is, in it's heart, an old port city -- the grand version of the river towns I grew up around -- it's not as economically or racially segregated. (Note: NOT AS.) In Little Saigon and the surrounding neighborhood, where the hostel is, there are countless residential motels, slums, dives, and shops, all buttressed up against high class hotels meant to attract tourists. Workaday people, artists (usually identified either by mod black attire or some version of Goodwill Hippie throw back), tourists, street folk, hookers, druggies, pimps, and various Others all share the same space... mostly by ignoring and occasionally sneering. Particularly at the street folk. The warm weather and the hope of secretly class conscious tourists make the city a natural haven. Some people blame the 60's. I blame the wind off the bay.  Walking through anyplace is the best way to get to know a place, and San Francisco is a romantic city to wander in...romantic in the way that only something old, something new, something ugly, and something beautiful can smash together and create.

After I found City Lights, it took me a minute or two to catch my breath before I walked in.  The neatly put together San Franny behind the register didn't acknowledge me. I walked in started perusing books. I found the Bukowski right away... in several languages.  That was all fiction, though.

What I wanted, what I needed... was poetry.

I had long wearied of trying to find a respectable poetry section in any book store anywhere.  I knew that if anyone would have a poetry section worth slowing down and looking into, it would be Ferlinghetti -- the man, the myth, the poet, the publisher, the rank asshole among living poetry legends.

I'm going to have to finish this on on the road, Dear Readers. My time in the city that inspired Dashiell Hammett is done. I'm heading east again, towards The Valley of the Sun.

Part 2 HERE

22 May, 2012

Homo Viator (Westward Expanse) : The Adventures of Cletus the Dog Man

Manage Your Wildlife: Wear Fur -- (billboard 25 miles from Wall, South Dakota)

"The only reason Gary Snyder ate that shit was because Kerouac wrote about it in a book." - Outlaw Brother ABD Dave Jones on eating trail mix.

There was a fog settled over metro Minneapolis on the morning I dragged Dave and Jamie tired out of their bed to haul my ass to the Greyhound station on Hawthorne Ave -- strategically located near the baseball stadium and the fairly upscale digs belong to the Starvation Army.

I always end up thinking about the old Joe Hill song, The Preacher and The Slave. It's also been called Pie in the Sky. Here's a recording of me singing some of it. No, I think I'm a singer. No, I don't pretend to be. I know plenty of musicians. 
But a song is only a revolutionary song if you sing it yourself.

They were, however, out, with tables set up, giving coffee and donuts to the city's homeless. I understand that that even try and use more money for outreach than for administrative costs these days.

I didn't sleep much the night before departure, thinking about what was next to come. I was hoping to be able to see the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Rapid City is 20 miles from both of these touristy juggernauts, and neither is really all that accessible unless I A) want to walk, B)I want to pay for some touristy bus tour that will annoy me 3) try and hitch; and since I scared the crap out of a coffee barista this morning -- when I walked in JUST to buy a cup of coffee -- chances are that my hair mug will not inspire some kind driver to take a chance on a hairy Irish mug in a silly hat.

The trip here on the bus, however, had it's own interesting merits. I slept most of the way to Sioux Falls, where we stopped to change drivers and pick up new more passengers heading west, heading toward the route's final destination, Billings, Montana. (Billings is the transfer depot for all points west on this particular route.)

We stopped in Jackson Minnesota for a food break. It was a Burger King. I didn't want to eat fast food, but I wasn't sure when I'd get another shot at a meal, and I for sure wanted a cup of coffee. I ended up getting a medium coffee and a breakfast burrito. It was still chilly. Standing outside of the BK eating my burrito, a girl walked out holding a frappe'. She got on the bus with me in Minneapolis... only there, she was wrapped in a large pink blanket. Cute girl. Short, shapely, tired looking. Shoulder length dark hair, tied back. Pale skin.

"I was gonna smoke," she said hugging herself... she was wearing an over sized black t-shirt and black stretchy pants... "but forget that." And she headed back for the bus. I overheard later that she was trying to get to Billings because her boyfriend dropped her off in St. Louis and kidnapped her son.

When we stopped at Sioux Falls,  we picked up about a dozen or so people. A lot of them looked like they were headed for L.A. Among them were

Cletus the Dog Man and His Crazy Wife.

When it was time to reboard the bus, Cletus called out that he and his seeing eye dog should've been first in line. I looked, of course, to see if there was something to his complaint. Cletus wore a beat up black leather jacket, jeans, a thermal with a Sturgis design on it, and had a ball cap jammed down around his eyes. Shaggy hair. grayish blonde. He honestly could've been my age or a few years older. His wife was bony, sallow-faced, and nervous. faded blonde hair, almost colorless blue eyes. She had the look of someone who had been beaten down in this and in probably other past lives... the compound interest of abuse was etched into her, gave her a jumpy junkie demeanor.

The dog was a beautiful tan and white mix boxer mix. He was collared and leashed, clearly loved, and clearly trained.

But he was not a seeing eye dog. And Cletus wasn't blind. Without my glasses, I'm more blind than he was.

That didn't stop them from insisting themselves onto the far back bench by claiming to be disabled.

When we pulled out of Sioux City, the driver informed us that we were 15 minutes behind "on a tight schedule." There would be one food stop in Oacoma, just over the Missouri River. Ostensibly, that meant only one place to smoke.

I take my smoke breaks carefully. I smoke a pipe, and when I can afford them, cigarillos, and I want to enjoy the creature comfort. I was content to wait until the food break to smoke. Cletus and his wife would have none of it; and they found an ally in the shapely dark haired girl who's boyfriend left her in St, Louis and took her son to Billings.

"When we gonna stop for a smoke?" Cletus started quietly, trying to build up crowd support. 10 years ago, that sort of thing would have worked but there weren't a lot of smokers on the bus and the ones that were had no desire to make a fuss over it.  He'd crescendo to a point... but seeing that no one else was taking up the banner, he's settle back into making smart ass remarks about bus drivers and power trips. The Crazy Wife would cackle at his remarks.

When they couldn't smoke, they would bicker and sometimes Cletus' wife would say things like "You get out  of my head! Get out! Out!" Or stomp her feet. I could see her out of the corner of my eye, shaking like she was going through withdrawal.

By the time broke the boundary of the Missouri and pulled into Oacoma, Cletus's nicotine fit reached a near fever pitch. I let them get off the bus first to avoid being accused of keeping them from their smoke break.

There was an Arby's in the small travel plaza we stopped at, and everyone who had money -- including the cute blonde Brit in front of me who was suffering from post-break up trauma... reading He's Just Not That Into You (with the movie cover), and repeatedly looking at pictures of her with some muscled guy on her smart phone. She wore the engagement ring on the middle finger of her left hand, and would look at it and play with it. I'd see her in side relief sometimes... she laid the seat back just a little and she was sitting diagonal and in front of me... and she looked so sad. Sometimes sad. Sometimes angry. Sometimes she would fire off long texts. I told myself she was writing another break up book. The thought made me a little sad. I wanted to tell her it didn't matter, that hearts heal and life moves on. But I would've wanted to smack the shit out of someone if they had told me that in January when I set out. 

I didn't want to eat Arby's ... didn't want to spend the money. So I bought a bottle of water and bag of fruit and nut trail mix from the gas station convenience store. That left me time to smoke, so I stood out near the bus, facing the westward sun on the horizon, and lit a cigar. No one spoke to me. I tried to empty my thoughts, focus on breathing. I'm not one to sit and meditate in the sense that monks meditate. I do like to find moments during my day, though, to focus on my breathing and try and center my thoughts. This is not the easiest thing to do; we've made  life  into something complex, full of noise. Full of other people's noise. Full of other people's obligations, full of society's obligations.

Fuck all that.

Standing in the setting sun, I enjoyed the cigar smoke in my mouth blowing out into the South Dakota air. My thoughts turned to people I love and who love me. Then it was time to board the bus and keep going.

Somewhere around Wall, it became clear that the bus wasn't going to stop until Rapid City. Cletus started commenting about need a smoke break. He wasn't even trying to get the rest of the passengers involved. He was trying to cajole the driver into stopping... which never works. I thought about telling him about the time I watched a bus driver throw an obnoxious vodka drunk off in the middle of New Mexico... left him in the middle of the damn desert with his near empty bottle and his luggage.

Somehow, I didn't think Cletus would take it as a parable.

By the time we got to Rapid City, Cletus was threatening to let his dog... that he said needed to take a walk... piss on the bus. His wife was telling him to get out of her head, that she didn't need him. They were trying to figure out a place to stay in Rapid City, and they called her mom to look up cheap motels on the internet. But she didn't want to call her mom, didn't want to talk to her mom, didn't want any kind of god damned thing from her mom, and she threatened to leave Cletus just for calling her.

When we pulled into the station, I let them get off the bus first. The dog, rather than acting like he had to piss, was the best behaved of all three.

The first thing I saw when I got off the bus was a sign advertising $1 pints, all day every day. Deciding instantly that was where I was going to go, I wanted to check the station to see if there was some information about the city, something to help me get my bearings.

I remembered passing an old house just outside of Rapid City proper with a sign on it reading Friendship House; but I couldn't find it in a phone book. No listing for a homeless shelter, either.

Maybe the beer would clear my head and give me an epiphany.

As I walked over, I heard someone call out to me. "Hey Brother!"

I turned. It was Cletus. He was sitting on a ledge, surrounded by some bags, with the dog. His wife was nowhere to be found.  went over and talked to him, smoked a cigar. He didn't have a lighter that worked, so I gave him a box of matches. He told me that he and his wife were traveling, looking for work.He was from L.A. She was from North Carolina. They happened to get off the bus in Rapid City and got a line on a job working Sturgis for Bike Week. He asked what I was doing; I told him I was traveling around.

"If you're looking for work, man," he said. "Pop a squat. We're waiting on a ride now."

His wife walked back from a Mexican restaurant across the street; she'd managed to score a free meal from the kitchen. She eyed me suspiciously, was very careful about her food. She made mention of being pregnant. The thought of it turned my stomach a little. She was too skinny to be as far along as she claimed. If she was pregnant, I felt awful for the child. Not so much because of her condition. She looked strung out; but hunger can do that to.

Sometimes the face of hunger is worse than the face of withdrawal.

I left them there, waiting for their ride to Sturgis. I hope they made it. 

21 May, 2012

Homo Viator (Westward Expanse): Minneapolis Proper Part 2

(For Liz Frazier, since she asked)

From the sundry cast of supporting characters that will tell you all you need to know about Minneapolis...

Nurse Dropsy is on the high end of middle age. Post-menopausal in the way that she probably doesn't need to shave her chin and upper lip every day yet, but soon will be -- or, if she isn't, working daily with aged has made her so.short cropped hair, more salt than pepper, and large, thick glasses lend to her friendly disposition. There is something matronly about her disposition, and something bizzare about the fact that in spite of the supposedly germ free necessity of her work, I can't help but imagine her as the kind of person who, when making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, puts way too much jelly on it and ends up licking her fingers and staining her clothes.

The oddest thing about her, however, was not that she dropped a needle and pillow case... since the other nurse, on one occasion, dropped the entire IV basket, essentially contaminating empty blood vials, letting unused needles, swabs, etc, fly, only to let the mess sit for at least 45 minutes.... no, Nurse Dropsy was NOT the the clumsiest nurse I've seen.

She did, however, seem to have difficulty trying to find the right vein in Jamie's arm.

Now, I realize that phlebotomy is not, interestingly enough, an exact science. As easy as it sounds to take a needle and stick it in a vein, it's not. Veins roll. They close. some people (like your humble narrator) have veins in one arm that simply don't want to get stuck.

That little sucker doesn't want to get stuck, does it?
To be honest, I think my body reacts with a fight or flight response when it comes to needles. I'm convinced the blood tubes in my right arm bury themselves deeper whenever a potential needle is detected. Really. And I'm not all that scared of needles. I had to take allergy shots once a week between the ages of 5 and 17. I was a pin cushion.

But it's also true that giving a shot and inserting an IV are not exactly the same. Had Jamie been there to simply get a shot, I suspect that Nurse Dropsy would've stuck her hit the plunger and would have been done with it. 

Inserting the IV became more of a gopher hunt though... think Bill Murray in Caddyshack. Now, to be fair, she didn't so much stick Jamie over and over again as much as she inserted the needle and moved it around under the skin. And she did it with the same sort of chipper demeanor with which June Cleaver would vacuum under a rug. 

It did work out though. And while I have more damning medical stories to tell... that will have to be saved for another time. Maybe the book... if there ever is one. 

This blog post is dedicated to Poor Richard's Common House in Bloomington, MN... which is clearly a magnet for the LGBT community. God bless Lesbians in short denim shorts and cowboy boots, and the women who like that as much as I do. It's also dedicated to Dr. Eyebrows, who took good care of my friend Jamie while she was under the knife.

This post is also heartily dedicated to the unnamed, unknown, Creepy Culvert Masturbator of Richardson Nature Reserve. Now, chances are good,  that toupee cheap sunglasses wearing guy pulling his acid washed jeans up behind a tree near a culvert within view of a small beach where children and women in bikinis were was simply getting a blow job. With available restrooms so close, it's unlikely he was taking piss. But Creepy Culvert Masturbator sounds better than Creepy Culvert Blow Job Recipient. (And, depending on your preferences and who was catching, it could also sound like an award.)


I made it to Rapid City, SD where my next post or two will be from. From there, a bus to Billings, Montana. 

A HEARTY thanks to Dave and Jamie Jones, along with their cats Tyger, Double Stuff, and Squeakie, for putting up with me. Love you guys... in that Outlaw sort of way.

And remember, if you like what you read:

  2. CONSIDER A DONATION TO THE TRAVEL FUND. (Although I have my mode of travel for the next few months hammered out with my DISCOVERY PASS, I sometimes end up in places that have no 24 hour bus stations, shelters, Dorthy Day Houses, or Friendship Houses.... Rapid City USED to have one, but they shut it down. Too disturbing for the tourists... which means that I have to find cheap motel accommodation for a night or two. All donations are appreciated, as are offers of a couch for the night. I promise I'm a good house guest, I pick up after myself, and, unless I've been in a bus station for a few days, am reasonably clean. Pets usually like me, and I'm good with kids. )

Homo Viator (Westward Expanse) -Minneapolis Proper, Part 1

It's all one long story, and we're all in it. And the best we can hope for is that it's well told. - Utah Phillips

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. - 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It had been more than a few years and seeming lifetimes since I'd spent any time around Dave and Jamie. Melissa and I went to visit them at their house in Owensboro maybe a year after their marriage. Dave stood as Best Man at mine and Melissa's wedding in Pigeon Forge, TN in 2002; I was happy to be able to attend his wedding in Gatlinburg, TN in 2004. Dave and I lived together my last semester of graduate school at Morehead State University... a formerly grand old institution that's limping it's way into 21st Century mediocrity that neither appreciates literary talent, nor, as far as I can tell, fosters it unless it can find a way to make a fast buck or unless it can find a way to take credit for the sweat of heretofore under-appreciated scribblers. Jamie was finishing her teaching degree. I actually met her first. We got along so well I thought it was a good idea to meet her boyfriend, this Eastern Kentucky mixture between T.S. Eliot and Robert Johnson.

I call him Hermano. He has yet to correct me.

They were happy to see me and kindly allowed me to make use of their shower and didn't scrub the passenger seat of their SUV while I was awake to notice.

One of the nice things about visiting old friends is that there's no pressure to entertain, which is nice. I don't want any of my friends to feel like they have to go out of their way. Allowing me a few days solace, a comfortable bed, and good and quiet company.

My timing, to begin with, was, as usual, SPOT ON.

Turns out that Jamie was scheduled to go into the hospital for a Hysteroscopy. In order to undergo THAT surgery, however, she had to go to a different hospital three different times for a drip infusion of iron.

You know. Iron. Mineral. Rust colored. Well, more like espresso. The IV bag looked like it was full of really strong espresso. Apparently, the infusion of iron is one of the newer treatments for anemia. Used to be, they'd just do a whole body blood transfusion... which also takes a couple of hours. 

Now, of course I tagged along.. because there's nothing so exciting as visiting a hospital, with that wonderful odoriferous cocktail of bleach, old urine, and death permeating everything and the promise of coffee flavored like burnt water mixed with brown food coloring.

One of the things about Minneapolis, apparently, is that there are so many medical specialties available here -- in a city that has clearly been subjected to arduous post east-coast city sprawl urban planning -- that they can spread them out to various hospitals.

The upside is, of course, that you can -- if you are able to afford it, of course -- have access to doctors and medical staff that specialize in your particular dreaded illness. 

The downside -- you might also run into Nurse Dropsy*

The primary RN at the blood infusion unit was incredibly kind, with a wonderful bedside manner. She was clearly used to dealing with older patients and with those undergoing chemotherapy. Now, I appreciate a good bedside manner... mostly because I HATE the medical profession, and every little bit helps in soothing my general discomfort with doctors, nurses, hospitals, doctor's offices, urgent cares, emergency rooms, and  those blood pressure machines in larger drug store chains and Wal-Mart.  

But when you're going with an old friend -- who is none too excited about the prospect of having to sit and watch a mineral drip through an IV into her arm -- the thing you don't want to here is


That's right. First it was a needle, which she (luckily) didn't use. Later she dropped a pillow case. (Again, she didn't use it; but the cackle that accompanied both accidents was as disconcerting as the weird stretch pants  and tucked in men's polo shirt she was wearing instead of scrubs.

But to be fair... she dealt primarily with geriatric patients who were more concerned about pissing themselves than they were about pissing themselves in general company.