"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

12/31/08: Goodbye 2008

Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy New Year, and an open letter of thanks to everyone who helped make this year extraordinary. I've decided to spend the evening with Friar Chris in Denver. That seems fitting, since tonight will be the 9th or 10th visit I've made this year, and The Friary was in essence the epicenter of the year's excursions, starting in March when Chris and I reconnected after about 3-years. It also seems fitting, considering how 2009 is shaping up, to welcome it among those who have played the biggest role in envisioning, planning, and finally executing these visions and ideas. Chris and Laina. It wont be much of a party, either bowling or a couple games of Risk, but honestly it will mean more than the generic champagne toast at a Granola Bar in Santa Fe.

Thanks not only to Chris, but also to the diverse cast of characters that played a role in the sometimes drama, sometimes comedy of 2008. I haven't talked to Eric since I left Denver for Tennessee in August. Not that that's too surprising! I know he still gets the email updates though, so Eric...thanks for everything. I miss mowing the lawns and all the long conversations while driving across all parts of the Denver metro with Jim Rome in the background! I can only imagine the conversations we would have had after the "financial crisis" & "bailouts!" I hope you're doing well; happy '09.

Kim:. It was terrific to reconnect with you after all these years. Glad we've kept in touch, at least a little!

Ken! I just realized that I've had a voice mail from you for, oh, three weeks is it? Fucking Sprint. I'll be in touch soon, probably tonight. Thanks for picking up the goofy backpacker in Idaho. You became one of the main players in 2008's story, and a good friend. I'm glad we've stayed in contact, at least intermittently. I'll bet our paths cross again soon! Kayaks fit in the back of a semi, right? Ha!

Nick: My buddy from the San Simeon Hike n' Bike! Glad we've stayed in touch too, and keep checking the new website. That'll get active soon I hope! Keep peddlin' and good luck with everything.

Cesar: My other truck driving pal from Laredo, TX. He and I still chat now and then too. Great guy. Hope life's treating him well.

Florian & Veronika and Eric & Marine: My rides from near San Simeon to Portland, minus a few days! I've lost track of Florian, but have a nagging feeling that I'll run into him again in Munich. I'll make a point of it. Eric & Marine are back in France and, while we don't really chat much, I have the same feeling about these two. Brittany, eh?

Rich (of freight train fame) and I have chatted a couple of times online. He found his way to Colorado the day after we parted ways in La Grande, OR. Someone bought him a bus ticket to Steamboat Springs, CO or wherever it was he was going! He's planning on going to Costa Rica to bartend in the spring, if you can believe that!

I still hear from Leah in Glenwood Springs occasionally, and Dave and I only exchanged an email or two. Chris & Chloe, my other Couchsurfing hosts, I've not spoken with at all unfortunately. That's how these things go sometimes. I often wonder how they're doing and how life on Bree's 100-year old houseboat is!

I've lost touch completely with Ciel, Pat, Will, Pastor Snake, Jack, Richard the Racist Trucker, Dennis the Drunk Ride Thru the Rockies, Doug the Drunk Ride to Wyoming, Jeanette (Rawlins, WY), and the Homeless Shelter crew in Ft. Morgan. I think alot about Ciel, Pat, Jeanette, and Jesus's Bikers in NC., wondering how they are.

It's funny to sit down and try to reflect on all the people I've encountered just by stepping out the door. And there are more. I have hardly mentioned the people that I met during that two weeks as a carnie! Three of the most interesting people ever. Jimmy, Steve, & Trish. And then of course the Gay Carnival Crew in New Orleans. Did I ever tell you about that?? HA! Suffice it to say I now know what it must feel like to be "fresh fish" in prison.. And no, it didn't end like the scene in Shawshank or Deliverance! They were such drama "queens"! Remind me to recount that sometime.

Finally, I should thank my girlfriend. Really. Who puts up with this shit? While she doesn't completely understand, she's been remarkably supportive of all of this. She's pretty much the only real link left to my radio days, and has had a front row seat on this roller coaster of a life I lead. We've been together for the better part of 8-years now and she's seen it all...the good, bad, ugly...and she's stuck around. That surprises me at times, and she's getting behind these big plans for the next few years. That's loyalty! Hopefully I can pay it back sometime.

That being said, this may just about do it for Running With the Wind. I'm not taking the blog down, and may still post on it occasionally, but Friar and I have fired up a new one to cover the next phase of...whatever this is. January 1st seems like an appropriate time to start using it. It will be a cooperative effort, with posts and past writings and ruminations from both of us. It already has what I consider "highlights" from this blog, and Chris will soon be adding some from his cross country walk. It's not fully active yet, but if you'd like to see it it's here: http://tenosce09.blogspot.com/ There's also a link under my blog list. Snoop around and let me know what you think.

Again, Happy New year! Here's to an exciting 2009!

12/31/08: Winter Quarters--2009 and Beyond

As I posted yesterday, Friar Chris and I had in August tentatively planned an extended trip to Mexico and South America to begin this month. Nothing ever goes as planned. That plan slowly morphed into something else, something much larger, something resembling a general plan with an ultimate outcome, rather than nomadic adventure. We’ve refrained from timetables, or even setting an “order” of things and as of yet have only tentatively decided on what will happen in 2009.

I never realized how much I enjoyed writing. The revelation came while I was in Portland staying with Dave over July 4th weekend, and I spent most of the time on his laptop updating the blog! I also spent dozens of hours on Chris’ laptop during my extended stays in Denver this summer. This ambitious idea’s seed sprouted while I was in Nashville, North Carolina, and recapping everything on my return to New Mexico after this summer’s exploits. What has become slowly apparent is that I seem to have found the voice that I could never quite seem to grasp while I was on the radio. I always found it difficult to try to do something with any depth one break, then be backselling shitty bands and hocking shitty used cars the next.


*OUR BIGGEST SALE OF THE YYYYEARRRR!!!*
Just like last weeks!

We’re going to combine common passions: Travel, adventure, exploration, photography, philosophy and… society. And, we are going to write a book about it.

What is that voice? What are we going to write about? The idea of another ‘Into the Wild’ personally makes me sick, and the world needs another generic “travel journal” like I need another cavity. For me to embrace the idea, it needs a soul. As is usually the case, I need only to look at where my writing has naturally gone: the people I meet, their lives, and how they see and fit into the world, and the system. And, ultimately a disconnected observation of the system itself. The Matrix.

Each of our experiences are different, and when we meet each other, separate of the Matrix, each of our lives are altered just a bit. Ciel. Pat. Kim. Ken. Cesar. Richard. Bree. Rich!

To go a bit further, and to borrow from Howard Beale:

“Because the only truth [we] know is what [we] get over this tube. Right now, there is … an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break Presidents, Popes, Prime Ministers. This tube is the most awesome, god-damned force in the whole godless world. And woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people… [Controlling] the most awesome, god-damned propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth. So, you listen to me! Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television is a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, story tellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business. So if you want the truth, go to your God, go to your gurus, go to yourselves because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell! We'll tell you that Kojack always gets the killer, and nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry. Just look at your watch - at the end of the hour, he's gonna win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true! But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds - we're all [that] you know. You… believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube. This is mass madness. You maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion. So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I am speaking to you now. Turn them off!"



That’s ultimately what I intend to do, and what I achieved in limited amounts this summer: discover the truth about who you are, who I am, who WE are, separate from this filter and these definitions we seem to depend upon to tell us what the world is. The producers of these images and ideas coming through your television sets are simply using them to sell you something: conformity, agenda, and an idea of success and purpose through different kinds of fear. Fear of people, ideology, and imposed definitions of success… and failure. Ones that you have accepted. In the end, they demand that you to submit to a system that is NOT in your best interest; that’s meant to have you willingly enter into a state of indentured servitude; a compliant financial slavery. I intend to look beneath the image presented to us, and see for myself exactly what kind of world we live in. And…talk about it. I’ll never lack of material.

That is a very broad outline of the deeper reasons, but it’s also sad that anyone can go nearly anywhere on the globe today-all you need is money! What makes something unique is how you get there, whom you meet along the way, and how the experience changes you while deepening and broadening your perspective. You don’t get that from a window seat on a 747. There’s no adventure left in the world. Nothing left to explore. There will never be another Marco Polo, Magellan, or even Lewis & Clark. You are always following someone else’s trail. In the 21st century, you need to create your own, and it would seem that the only way to do that is to reject unnecessary convenience, which ironically always seems to be the things that cost money! So, in that sense, and Chris and I are in agreement on this, it would be pointless to stash thousands of dollars away simply to follow the paths of others. I’ve never been much of a follower.

All that being said, we’ve come up with a few rough ideas of adventures we may embark upon. I also love the idea of taking suggestions, even challenges. I believe we’re going to incorporate that idea into the overall scheme to make it a bit more interactive. We’re going to add a PayPal link so people can donate money if they’d like. Chris and I both met people who offered money, but we never felt comfortable taking it. We’ve come to the conclusion that that’s really absurd. I myself had countless people tell me that they “always wanted to do something like that”, but for whatever reason never felt they could. This was simply their way of participating in the one way they felt they could. Coupled with the suggestions/challenges I hope that we can utilize the internet to make it more of an interactive experience. Chris’ walk across the country struck a chord with people, as did my wander this summer. Why not let people take part?

Current Schemes:

The Clark- Lewis: A reverse Lewis & Clark (Map Below)

Starting in either Great Falls or Billings, Montana and kayaking the length of the Missouri River to St. Louis, then taking the Mississippi to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Quite a costly beginning to this; neither of us own a kayak, and I’ve never even been in one! This trip would be self-sustained of course camping along the river, and resupplying in river towns along the way. The route takes us through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, along the border of Nebraska and Iowa, then across Missouri to the Mississippi. We’ve tentatively decided on this for the departure trip, to begin in May or June of 2009 because of the early spring climate in Montana. The route is in the neighborhood of 4,000 miles, is with the current, and would take several months…and cost a lot of money! We would use separate single paddler, open water kayaks and would decide where we go once in the Gulf along the way. Possibilities include paddling the Florida coast, the Texas coast, or stopping down for a month or two to raise money. And, of course selling the kayaks is a very real possibility, especially after 4,000 miles in them!


The Danube: Germany to the Black Sea (Map Below)

This sounds fascinating to me. We would more than likely fly into London, then cross the channel into France. There are a series of rivers that takes you thru Paris, to the Rhine in Germany. We would then somehow portage the (relatively) short distance from the Rhine to the Danube. The Danube begins in the Black Forrest, and passes thru Vienna, Austria then into Eastern Europe including Budapest, Belgrade, along the Serbian/Romanian then Bulgarian/Romanian borders, finally emptying into the Black Sea a bit south of Odessa (Ukraine). This route is in the 2-3,000-mile range, with the current and IS old Europe. From the Black Sea, we have plethora of options. We could take the Ob north into the Ukraine and the old Soviet Union, however that limits us due to the weather. The other, and more likely option, is south along the Bulgarian coast to the ancient Constantinople, now Istanbul. Muslim country. Istanbul connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, which separates Greece and Turkey, and takes one into the Mediterranean. We would then kayak the entire northern Mediterranean coast. Greece, including Athens, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, and then symbolically through the Straits of Gibraltar. This trip is a monster, and I love this idea!


Africa: Volunteering/Observing

This is the one that is perhaps the “most” everything. Adventurous, dangerous, rewarding, educational, enlightening, and utterly infuriating. Somehow, I believe this one will happen. Chris and I both have connections with relief agencies, and a desire to get on the ground, help out, AND see for ourselves not only the state of humanity in Africa, but how these “relief” agencies actually operate…and the levels of corruption on all sides. This has been of personal interest to me since I volunteered in New Orleans & Mississippi after Katrina. I was astounded that even through all that destruction and suffering, agenda, corruption, and self-interest reigned supreme. I’ll never give a red cent to the Red Cross, and know of many other who are disgusted at their for-profit practices under the guise of charity. How quickly we forget the scandal after 9/11. As was the case after Katrina, when you attempt to go thru the “proper channels”, you’re ultimately told that it would be best to send cash. Horseshit. If you do a little research, you’ll find how most of these organizations are in the business of direct marketing. Marketing to naïve, idealistic college students. Selling “relief” as an “experience” and a chance to immerse yourselves in a quaint culture! Of course, you pay a hefty price for this “experience” $3,000 to upwards of $10,000 not including airfare. There’s cover charge to volunteer. After chatting online with a young lady who has actually LIVED there her entire life, my suspicions were reinforced. She advised that one could indeed ignore the “for-profit non-profits”, and once you were on the continent, and if you had an idea of where to go, they would most definitely put you to work. Creating safe water supplies requires labor, not a trust fund or ideology.


Latin America 2k9

This has been the constant. Mexico, along with Central and South America has always lured me. This is the most obvious example of economic colonialism that I can think of; it’s in our own back yard. The Sandinistas, Iran-Contra is still fresh, while United Fruit is still nestled in my mind. I was raised to fear Latin America as some sort of uncivilized zoo, where “freedom fighters” are fighting “guerrillas”, and where “leftist” death squads are roving the back roads killing priests and anything loving “freedom”! The realization that most of the death squads were actually right wing and sanctioned by the US government, and that we were also killing priests while toppling governments and propping up dictators like Pinochet has raised questions that neither agenda-fed faction has been able to answer. I’d like to sit down with a Nicaraguan family, and listen to the effects of economic imperialism. Ask why they believe that, with all the resources available, Latin America has remained in a retarded state of development. I suspect I know the answer already. In addition to that, I’d like to get to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Lima, and see the Nazca Lines, as well as all the Mayan ruins I can take in. Venezuela also, just to see how oppressive that “evil Commie” Hugo Chavez is. Rio, and Buenos Aires also. Rest assured however, I don’t foresee any kayaking of the Amazon! There is a road in Bolivia that’s known as the deadliest in the world. Wouldn’t that be a fun hike? There’s an untold story down there, and something beyond that I sense. What? I have no idea. Finally, this is the expedition that has garnered the most interest in participation from others. I know of no fewer than 7 others who have expressed sincere interest in this, including a guy who flew to Paris to join the Foreign Legion! No Shit!! He came home only after his knee gave way. He’s trying to rehab to give it another try. Ah, the people you meet…


India

Not a lot to add other than Chris and I both would love to do a walkabout here. We both have friends in Mumbai (Bombay), and I personally think that observing the separation of wealth in this emerging economic powerhouse would be interesting, plus maybe I can meet a few of the folks who snatched our jobs away!


Kayaking the Nile: Lake Victoria to Cairo to Alexandria

A long shot. Depends on the political situations, and how well we adapt. Would take us thru places like Kenya, and the Sudan. If we pulled this off, I could officially tell Bear Grylls to kiss my ass.


Hit up the poll; which of these do you think would be the most interesting to read about?

Monday, December 22, 2008

12/22/08-Winter Quarters


I must have “intended” to update this thing a hundred times over the past couple of months, but for various reasons (read: rationalization) I have not. I have been both busy and quite hermetic at the same time. I’ve come to terms with being back in Santa Fe by completely isolating myself from it! It’s amusing that I have yet to build ANY kind of a social circle, preferring instead to sit at home and work, raising money for 2009. It has become obvious that whatever attraction I once had to this pretentious little town is dead. At first, I thought that perhaps it was just me wanting to separate myself completely from everything, but when we went back to Michigan, and then on my trip to Denver last week, I realized that I am just as social as ever-I just have no interest in socializing with anyone HERE. Or even meeting anyone! Not sure what to make of that, but I have inclinations!

Last I updated was shortly before the election of what appears from the media to be Abraham Delano Obama. I sat down at the computer the next day and, caught up in the hype, began to write how “proud” I was that we had elected a black man as President. However, something didn’t feel right about it, so I scrapped it. I then watched the news coverage over the next few days and realized how they’ve proclaimed this man Savior of the American Race. Pure demagoguery. I then realized that the liberals are now just as bad as the conservatives were; scurrying about with their proverbial chests thrown out acting as though they were solely responsible for an evolutionary shift in humanity! Yes, I’m experiencing a further Liberal Backlash, and am finding myself taking a ‘right turn’ in my thinking. The Socialists disguised as simple “Progressives” have sprung forth from the woodwork and I’m afraid that my liberal friends are going to have a rude awakening when the electoral center grows weary of what’s been unleashed: moral elitism with a dash of white liberal guilt and wielding an imaginary "mandate." 

I haven’t bothered with TV in over a month. It's disgusting that you as a nation are patting yourselves on the back and claiming “accomplishment” for simply electing a black man. It seems a bit like congratulating a redneck for not beating the wife or your teenager because he is no longer stealing car stereos! Congratulations America, you’ve almost achieved something resembling equality; forget that it should be EXPECTED! The best man obviously won, and I wish him well. But let’s consider the alternative for a moment, shall we? McCain/Palin? And, if we were such a diverse Nirvana, the fact that Obama is black would mean nothing, right? Get over your self-righteousness and let’s see how the man governs before we anoint him anything but President. He IS a politician after all. “Change?” PROVE IT. Then I’ll hop on this already full bandwagon.

On a lighter note, I have had sort of a “Peter Gibbons” experience for fans of “Office Space.” My little work-from-home data entry gig has turned into what appears to be a decent paying full-time job. I was brutally honest with them when they hired me, telling them that I wasn’t looking for anything long term because I was setting out again sooner than later. Apparently, they appreciated the honesty and the fact that I told them directly that I was not interested in anything that involved “ladder climbing”, because last week they essentially doubled my salary while still letting me work from home…as much or as little as I choose. It was perfectly timed because it appears that the next phase is taking shape, and I’ll be able to easily prepare for it.

Facebook's arrival has provided some rather creepy reunions. I’ve touched base with many people from my radio days in Kalamazoo, and even people from high school that I NEVER thought I’d chat with again. One has been quite interesting and intellectually rewarding. Steve was a guy I never really associated with, but we’ve had some similar experiences and have developed parallel views on things.

Another nice surprise was seeing my friend Himanshu, who’s from Mumbai, in BATTLE CREEK, of all fucking places. He was there on business while we were home, and I had a chance to have dinner with him. I hadn’t seen him since we met thru Couchsurfing in 2006 when he stayed the weekend with us in Denver. I picked his brain on India a bit…we’ll see! His blog is in my bloglist under ‘My Wanderings’. Check it out. Excellent writer and photographer.

Other than work, and the trip back to Michigan, the rest of the winter has been quiet. I’ve discovered the wonders of eBay (ha!) and have been slowly re-gearing when I can. I made a quick trip to Denver last week to bask in $1.50 gas, and to try to get things a bit more solidified with Chris. The original idea was to head toward Mexico this month, but we have decided to go bigger…MUCH bigger…and as a result are taking the rest of the winter to prepare. I’m being ambiguous on purpose. Our current construct deserves its own space.

Christmas is now just a few days away and 2009 will be here in just over a week. Of course, this is the time of year when you naturally reflect on the year that was. When I think of how the year began, and as it progressed the things I’ve done and seen; the people I’ve met, 2008 was very good to me. I’ve reconnected with old friends, met new ones, and had some experiences that to me are priceless. I managed to live a little, and set a foundation for 2009 and beyond. What's fun is thinking where I was a year ago!

Finally, I believe that this particular blog may be ending, although not 100% sure. Rather than the complete book, this is merely a chapter. I suppose that one or two more post would be appropriate, including what Chris and I are plotting. From there, I’ll let you know...

Friday, October 31, 2008

10/31 A Political Evolution & Decision

Four years ago I could be considered a Democrat, and I still have a few of the same core beliefs, although I consider them more "populist" than "liberal", as vague as that term is. Health care, the "Justice" System; defining a person's worth as "Human Kapital" for example.

"Need a lawyer? NO MONEY???? f--- YOU! Off to jail!"

My views have gone 180 on guns. I was thrilled when I heard Ron Paul (I think) actually express why the 2nd Amendment's there, then watching the rest of the "conservatives" shout him down sealed the deal for me.

I believe the "tribute" system of income tax should be abolished if that "tax" money is going to be used to simply further enrich the economic elites and to invade nations who never attacked us... first in the name of "national security", then when no weapons threat is found, "spreading democracy." I'm not so sure it's Democracy they've been spreading... perhaps it's economic and social syphilis.


I'm one of the few Southwest Gringos of the opinion that the illegal immigrant "problem" we have is of our own doing. After 100 years of
economic colonization in Latin America, and suppressing entire economies, why should we be surprised that these people are making their way here? I love hearing Rednecks bitch about Mexicans working on some fruit farm, then "sending their money home"... when we've been doing the same thing, on a corporate scale, for decades. What, Billy Bob, would YOU do if you were them?

Illegal Immigration IS a problem, and I'm surprised to not hear more about THEIR effect on this "mortgage meltdown". I spent parts of two years ('06- '08) helping a friend maintain repossessed houses in Denver, and business was booming! It seemed that 1 in 2 or 3 was immigrant- related. The mortgage companies would give loans to illegals that NEVER had any intention of paying beyond a month or two! Tell me, oh! free- market capitalists, whose fault is that? Do you expect those being handed the loans to police YOUR lending practices? HA!

Wait...
we just handed them $700b... I guess so! Remember that term "Corporate Socialism" I lobbed your way back in July? I expect the pundits to begin paying royalties any day now!

Now, how does one reconcile social liberalism (populism) with the TRUE conservative ideals surrounding civil liberty? Don't think too long on that... there is no real answer. The "either/ or" dialectic; black and white choices take over.

No, thanks.

I simply don't believe in the presented,
apparently accepted dialectic. That being the case, I think it's my duty to abstain.

MLK, Gandhi, and thus by extension Thoreau, are the three people I respect most and the three I use as examples most often, and it's not coincidence that King and Gandhi are the two individuals that accomplished, what I consider, the most significant "change" of the 20th century. Neither did it by quietly 'requesting' policy change because all three knew something very important: that quietly requesting "change" in the status quo wasn't enough-
it took a significant portion of the populace to loudly, yet peacefully, demand it; making it known that they were NOT going to trust and wait for the system to "change itself". They would have been the Libertarians of their time: waiting for the gold- plated invitation to the ball... while those already there laughed at the notion!

Don't get me wrong, by no means are voting and protesting, in whatever way you choose, mutually exclusive. I take Thoreau's approach, and encourage others to do the same. Rather than trying to convince the world of my "righteousness" and drag them along, I do what I think is right and seek out those who feel the same. That mindset, and the willingness to walk alone, has helped me to realize that I am
FAR from "walking alone." The vast majority of people that I met on my little "walkabout" obviously felt the same way, but were afraid to express it out of fear of being seen as "UN- American" or "nuts." Nuts because they see through the charade? Wow.

One of Thoreau's themes that Gandhi, and thus King, utilized was "withdrawing support"; Civil Disobedience. In other words, not just accepting what piecemeal they're handing you and saying "
Thanks! More please?" By that rationale, King would have never marched, Rosa Parks would have moved to the back, and Gandhi would have never begun in South Africa. They would have just let Whitey "vote" and and "hoped" for the best. There are many ways to withdraw support, but the basic idea is that if you disagree with something, you don't perpetuate it by participating.
"Any fool can make a law, and any fool will follow it."

I believe we've "hoped for the best" and quietly accepted their offerings long enough. After the Republican's blatant disdain for American Constitutional Values, after watching Reid, Pelosi, and the rest of the "opposition party" operate for two years, THEN watching both parties "come together" to offer a massive bailout to Wall Street, I have no use for any of them if THIS was their example of bipartisanship, and believe that as long as this two- party farce remains, that
Lenin was right: "Democracy only provides the illusion of choice. The real decisions are made in the smoke- filled back rooms." In that sense, seeing NO political party that represents my interests, and seeing the two primary parties as factions of the same, I choose to offer my support for: neither.

I no longer believe that 50-60% stay home due simply to apathy. They remain uninspired, and know that which faction they choose will make little, if any, difference at all. Considering this, it's abhorrent that we have third, fourth, and fifth parties out there that refuse to DEMAND that they are part of the discussion. But, that's a bit difficult with Corporate Media, isn't it?

As for that supposed "civic duty of voting", I reserve the right to vote if I choose to. I welcome criticism of this decision because it wasn't come to lightly, and it's something that SHOULD be publicly discussed. I'm obviously NOT the only one considering this, but when I hear that "duty" argument, which I have from innumerable directions, I think of
American Idol and Dancing With the Stars. People caught up in meaningless, mindless entertainment and convincing themselves that the results matter. How many 13 year old girls treat the latest "Idol Heartthrob" in the same fashion some voters treat their demagogues? (And that's EXACTLY what they are.)

Obviously, I don't see any of the candidates as anything more than meat- puppets propped up to pacify the public with the illusion of choice. The campaigns have
become "Extreme Reality TV." "Discourse" has degenerated to the laughable, where a VP candidate is chosen because she's "hot" and is presented as ignorant enough to "relate" to the ignorant masses. Degenerated to the point where neither candidate is willing to actually express ANYTHING beyond broad, pollyanic generalities, and Happy Talk for the future... because they DON'T HAVE TO. No one holds them accountable. How many times at ANY of the debates did an answer SCREAM for a follow- up???? Like American Idol however, "TV Time" is king. King because the politicos and TV execs assume that the masses don't have the attention span to pay attention to detail. All they need to do is drop the next Bill Ayers or Troopergate distraction bomb... and they're relieved of the need to answer ANY topical questions. Want the punditry to ask them? HA! They offer simple agenda- fed "commentary", then parade the campaign's "spin doctors" onto the screen to disseminate their particular brand of propaganda. It's all designed to engage the public in prefabricated, fallacious, meaningless dialectic. They just call it "narrative", with next to no resistance from that little aspect of a "democracy" that the founders thought was essential to its survival: the "free", vigilant press.

If you want to remain enthralled in this season of "Political Idol",
hoping that your dreamy contestant wins, that's fine. I wont criticize you, and it IS the noble, some say even even responsible thing to do. My question is this: Where does TRUE responsibility lie? To party? System? Country? Or, your own personal beliefs as a sovereign human being: Principles? What if you were expected to choose urine- soup or feces- stew for dinner, and expected to be thankful for the privilege of choosing? Would you leave the table? Or would you try to decide what you're "hungry" for before eagerly digging in?

I personally don't see this election as changing anything, or even more significant, in the grand scope of things, than if Ruben or Carrie won, or if Emmit Smith can boogie. The country will continue on it's predetermined course...

If you think that independent- abstention is the "easy" route, you're mistaken. It was much easier to rely on the Liberal talking points to decide what I thought when I was an anti- Republican Democrat. It gets a bit more complicated when you're forced to evaluate what YOU think rather than what your adopted ideology tells you that you SHOULD, and when there are no symbolic "weather vanes" to look to for guidance. Not to mention the fact that the
herd mentality is gone, and you cannot gain refuge in the fact that there are millions of others following the same ideological- messiah you are. No my friend, this is NOT the easy road for a person who actually CARES about what's happening... but, and take it for what it's worth... I think it's the ONLY road for that person. Even if it leads him back "home", it should be traveled.

It is important to be able to differentiate between "country" and "government", and avoid mistaking dissent and 'withdrawal of support' for something akin to "civic treason." I love my country, apparently more than most people. Enough to try to stay "involved" while not accepting that this "is as good as it gets", or that
this is the acceptable moral peak of a just society. I believe in the idea of this country enough to step out onto the fringes... alone... to seek out SOMEONE who is capable of leading us there, rather than settling for the political Extra Value Meal.

The years since 9/11 have disturbed me enough to seek real solutions, rather than
taking what I consider the easy way out: compromising for the sake of an easy, politically correct action and decision. It disturbs me to no end to see what's happening to America, and what's being done to it by this factional monopoly.

But, you know? It may surprise you to hear that I'm
NOT a cynic!! I believe there is "hope". If I didn't, I wouldn't bother with things like this; conversations, discussion, and reassuring others that they are NOT diluted for feeling that they deserve better IS an important part of the process. The Internet hearkens back to the Salon Days... when people would get together, exposing themselves to different perspectives.

Being a responsible, involved, citizen/ patriot is more than punching the prearranged ballot, then hoisting your chin into the air because "you decided!" Sometimes being a true patriot (as opposed to Nationalist) is having the courage to stand the fuck up, sometimes even metaphorically, and shouting that there is something desperately WRONG. Then, being willing to do something about it... whatever it is that you are capable of.

A friend wrote:
But, the only thing [you] CAN shout from the sidelines is that the whole thing is a fraud. Because the minute he deals with specifics, he has engaged in the charade himself, making it relevant and important.
There are few things I'm absolutely sure of, but one of them is that I take my marching orders, or speaking cues from no one. I'll speak my mind, shout my opinions, and I will feel justified to do so, even if you believe otherwise. I haven't renounced my citizenship, and my First Amendment RIGHT is STILL just as legitimate as yours. Like it or not, I won't buy into that "love it or leave it" bullshit.

I understand that seemingly institutional mentality that wants to keep us confined within that little box, but I'll step outside of it when, where, and how I choose. Like it or not, I am voicing the frustrations of the majority, rather it's acceptable, tactically, to you or not. I suppose I could take the same stance, and tell you that your commentary should be confined to L/R dialectics and political tactics because you reject the theory that there's ANYTHING better possible... except through the hope that the establishment will deliver it... in time. Let me know how that works out for you.

That being said, the vast majority of us are ultimately on the same team, regardless of affiliations. Most liberals, conservatives... we all want what's best for the country. It's usually the party "loyalists" who descend into the gutter... lobbing "terrorist", and "Socialist" around, or dredging up the latest dirty quotes from their disinformation sites. I have no disrespect in my heart for those that disagree with me... as long as they are thinking for themselves.

I read a comment as to how, much like the aftermath of 9/11 and in the face of the financial meltdown, we were beginning to see each other as Americans rather than political opponents. I applaud that sentiment, and halfheartedly agree. People are beginning to see the "enemy" as the government and politicians themselves. No, not the those we see plastered on TV, or canvassing for the Chosen One... but "Genuine" Americans. (There, now fuck off Sarah.)

My challenge goes a bit further: Demand the leadership you deserve... rather than homogenized, rhetoric- filled, anesthetic that simply allows us to continue down the same path when it wears off. If you feel that voting "against" someone is the way to go... DO IT! If you believe that continuing to vote for the lesser of two evils is the solution... DO IT! Call me "elitist" if you like, I happen to believe that standing on principle MEANS something, if for no other reason than to offer yourself as an example to others.

10/31/08: 2008 Election-Voting Principle

Unless noted, the following posts have been copied from my posts on another site...

As most of you know, I spent the summer in an effort to see for myself what the America v. 2008 is, without ideological/ media filters.


Maybe some of my conservative/NeoCon friends can enlighten me: Why are those beneath the blanket of religion and Nationalism those that are the most frightened? Does fear lead them to that camp, OR are these fears stoked by "God N Government?" Why is it that the rednecks down south, reeking of the Michigan Rednecks I was raised with, are the ones who most commonly, and almost without exception, spew racial hatred, xenophobia, and Nationalist Rhetoric...while showing off their guns and quoting scripture? Why is it that those who constantly quote Limbaugh and Hannity are, without question, the most frightened? THEY are the ones who repeatedly warned me how "dangerous" my undertaking was, despite the fact that I NEVER was in any danger!


As for the NeoLiberal Hippies, perhaps you can tell me what exactly makes you think that resurrecting a long dead, failed ideology... complete with the same granola smelling costumes from the 1960's...is going to get you any closer to Collectivism than it did 40-years ago? Don't you realize that your "heroes" sold out long ago, when they discovered that they couldn't eat idealism? Sure, they're still espousing these ideals, but the joke's on you: They're SELLING them to you and making obscene profits! Whole Foods... "Organic" toothpaste... Hookah Bars... "Progressive" Politics. They're the same "capitalists" you claim to despise; and they're exploiting your starry- eyed ignorance by selling you their recycled shit!


As a true "Independent", there was a stunning realization while traveling from SoCal to Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and out to North Carolina: WE ARE the majority. Almost to a man, the people I talked with were utterly disgusted with both "parties". People are most definitely seeking "change", but Barack...don't
kid yourself: Our idea of "real" change does NOT include you; you're simply the lesser of two evils...not saying much considering the competition! "Throw all their asses out" was the mantra I heard most, and this was well before the financial meltdown. People are hungry for something different; something genuine. If there were alternative parties that weren't so timid (Libertarians) or theocratic (Constitution), AND if there was a media that wasn't bought and paid for by the establishment, there would be a real opportunity.


I would support ANY candidate whose primary focus promised abolition of the Patriot Act. In my opinion, and take it for what it's worth, the Patriot Act and the expansion of government spying on American citizens is the primary issue of our times. Not terrorism...not gay marriage...not abortion... not Bill Ayers....not Troopergate...not even Iraq: it's Civil Liberties. The tactics used to erode OUR civil liberties are the same ones used throughout history: Convince them that they are under attack and co-opt that fear to stoke Nationalism by reinforcing the notion that their country's being "hijacked by evil." The "Islamification" of America. Obama's cajoling with "domestic terrorists."
The details are never the same, but the tactics never change. Note the Nationalistic tone: "He doesn't view 'merica like you and I do". "... he thinks 'merica is imperfect unuff....". "He's a SOCIALIST!!!" Now, substitute "Jew" for "Terrorist" or "Socialist", and Palin sounds a bit like Hitler in her attacks of Obama.


Power, unchecked, leads to tyranny. "Tyranny" leads to the elimination of personal liberties; this was the main theme of the Founders. The Patriot Act, Signing Statements, Executive Orders, all in the name of National Security: Tyranny. It boggles my mind how easily people lose sight of this through fear, propaganda, jingoism, greed, and apathy. It's predictable however. The "Zoo Analogy" rings true: "People will choose the safety and security of the zoo over the freedom and responsibility of the jungle." Especially a fat, lazy, complacent...CONTENT...populace.


As for the possibility of another terrorist attack? I said this before and was shouted down, but I'll say it again. BRING IT ON. Some things are too important to be compromised. Nothing supersedes freedom. If the population is so apathetic (or simply pathetic) to abdicate their liberties to Big Brother's protection, then they deserve EXACTLY what they get. If people are too scared or too lazy or too scared to protect themselves ("responsibility" of freedom), then they deserve tyranny.


I believe that many among us have lost sight of a very simple distinction. The difference between "Country" and "Government." The political elite would like you to believe there is no difference; thus they can equate dissent with treason. However, many people MUCH smarter than you and I, and with fresh memories of tyrannical struggle have left us little notes stashed in the knotholes of history.

"Those who would sacrifice freedom for security..."

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country from its government..."

"All men recognize the right of revolution..."


This distinction is important. Once made, free-thinking individuals, those who cannot be defined as "party loyalists", will conclude that the "traitors to their country" are NOT those who dissent, but are those who promulgate the Police State.


Using this as a fundamental foundation, to me the battle lines are clear; and in this case 'black and white' apply: If you're "with" the Patriot Act, you're "against" us.


That being said, I've decided not to vote.


Spare me the "then don't complain" crap. I'll continue to complain, loudly, no matter who you "choose". I've seen where lack of principle leads, and I can't simply vote "against McCain." A vote for EITHER of them is essentially support for the status quo. Had either of these clowns stood up against the bailout, on principle, I may have supported them. If either of them would have the courage to put their beliefs before politics, I would have considered it. 


And, Sarah fucking Palin???? SERIOUSLY??????


Unlike most people I'm NOT frightened by the impeding depression; I welcome it: I can adapt. Besides, it is inevitable. It's the restoration of balance. It seems that those that fear it the most are those who have profited from its cause. Right Skippy? I feel for those who have families, but a majority of Americans (WORKING class) have been struggling for a while now, and I believe are prepared. I hear of all these people who are losing money on their "investments", but call me weird: I don't know ANY of these people!!! Neither do most of those living in what I call 'real' America! (Hear that Sarah?? I used it FIRST!) What percentage of Americans have actually invested in the stock market??? That would explain the 100:1 calls AGAINST the bailout before it was passed. Real, working class Americans, IMO, are prepared for this. I'm frightened for those living in the gated houses on the hills, who are unable to adapt. The perceived predators could become the prey.


I only hope that the rest of the population gets pissed off enough to tell this binary two party system to go to Hell and demand real representation in their government. Despite the high- minded rhetoric, this isn't it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10/29/08: Michael Corbin: Loss of a Friend, and an Inspiration

Michael Corbin
1955-2008
Late last week, I learned that a friend, Michael Corbin, died earlier this year in Denver. Michael was the host of Paranet, a syndicated radio show in the same genre as Coast to Coast, which was very successful nationwide in the 90’s, and had hosted A Closer Look for the last severalyears.

I met him at that “infamous” Colorado Libertarian Party meeting in January ‘06. We hit it off, and when he learned of my radio background he invited me to stop by the studio to hang out while he did his show, and we quickly became good friends.

Michael was one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Corbin was also, easily, the BEST radio personality I EVER personally worked with. His ability to personalize information, his recall of facts, his reservoir of knowledge, was phenomenal. I would sit in his guest chair during his show, and this "jaded little prick" (me) was in awe watching, and listening to him. Smooth. Concise. Informative. Smart.


More importantly, he is to this day my ultimate example of living one’s own ideals. He had an insatiable, authentic desire to find, then speak TRUTH, no matter its target; so much so, that it bordered on self- destructive. He did HIS show, HIS way. HE chose HIS topics, guests, and was always willing to do investigative work himself.

Michael was one of the few people whose personal example inspired me. He almost re-sold me on the relevance of radio!
We were lightly discussing the possibility of grooming me as a fill-in host by putting me on the air weekends, to cut my teeth in talk radio. But, I went back to work for the Rockies, and the bike tour I was planning for that fall then quickly consumed me, and I forgot all about radio again.

We abruptly lost track of each other until late in 2006 or early 2007 when I called to say hello. He called back a couple of days later, said he would get with me soon, but I never heard from him again.


Michael was always suspicious of power, and because he was outspoken, made many enemies-some quite powerful. Someone firebombed his studio; that "someone" was never found. He also spoke regularly about people ransacking his house, tapping his phone, disappearing communications, strangers threatening and following him. I was skeptical at first, but it was not the sort of brazen claim of a person who was ‘touting’ it…he was concerned. The last few times I saw him, he had just gotten his CCW permit and was always carrying a gun.

There are many people who believe that his stroke is a cover story, and I’ll be honest: after what I saw, I can understand why. However, Michael chain-smoked, was well overweight, and had extremely high blood pressure. He missed several shows due to health reasons in the short 2+ months we hung out. He was NEVER going to quit smoking, but expressed concerns, to me, about his health; and this was 2 ½ years ago.


My friendship with Michael was short. However, it was one of my most influential. He was one of the few people I have ever admired. He was not rich, and by “radio’s” definition, struggled to repeat the “success” he had achieved early in his career. Nevertheless, this was the special aspect Michael Corbin; what drew people to him and his show: He put his ideals and truth far ahead of commercial reward. He believed in something. That’s what drove him. When I learned of his death online last week, a wave of disgust and shame came over me. It forced me to reflect on his example and, of course, made me reflect upon my own; look in the mirror. That “wave” is lingering.


One of the last things Michael said to me was that if you have a message, it should be spoken “out of love.” I had no idea what he meant at the time, and it honestly rather annoyed me. I have come to realize that what he meant was that real truth and a genuine sense of purpose does not have its nexus in ego and self-interest. It springs out of an authentic concern, love, for others. The world is full of people who are solely concerned with presenting their "product" marketed as truth; a “worldview” contrived to make a buck, or in an effort to impose their will on others by putting on a dramatic, thunderous display of intellectual wit. Intellectually and verbally bullwhipping people into a compliant state. I finally understand what he was getting at.

I had not talked to him in almost two years, and he has been gone since March. I am sick that it took me seven months to learn of his death. It seems odd but I feel the loss. A loss not just for me, but there is a void “out there” now. The world is a less authentic place. I have thought over and over again that now, Michael, you have your answers. You know the ultimate truth! 


Rest well my friend.

10/29 Santa Fe: September- October

It's ALIIIIIVE!!!!

Over the rest of September and most of October, I’ve grown a full head of
hair, and gained about 10 pounds. I feel fat and un-sexy. Maybe I’ll go on a shoe- shopping spree and watch the Sex & the City marathon on Lifetime…

The financial sector’s “meltdown” hit, and, like the rest of you, I was watching the developments expecting the “Great Depression 2k8”. Amidst the talk of the “bailout”, stock market crashes, and the social/ political drama, I had a birthday on 9/19. Birthdays are not fun for Todd. They have not been for a long time, but this one was particularly shitty. The domestic idleness had already begun to drive me nuts. The thoughts of simply hibernating, accomplishing nothing, weighed heavily on my mind. A cycle repeatedly perpetuating itself. Thank God, I only turned 29 again!

The following week things improved however, when I finally found some temporary work helping a Craigslister, Jack, move.
It was good to get out of the house and Jack made things quite interesting. He is about 60, and an Original Hippie. He was beyond “involved” in the 60’s, and never lost his ideals. However, he HAD come to the realization that his idealism was not going to feed him. Sometime, he has gotten to the point where he’s now the guy who is “running and running to catch up with the sun”; trying to make up for what he perceives as lost time… making money. He has gotten involved in antique dealing, and is some sort of a writer. What he writes? I have no idea. He is also involved in a few lawsuits. Oh, and he hung out with Jimi Hendrix back in the day...

Jack is one of the most secretive, borderline paranoid people you will ever met. He is pure Santa Fe. I literally spent 5- hours straight emptying his hoarded water. Hoarded because he was afraid “they” were going to “shut off the water”, or that the southwest’s concern about water was going to lead to “Water Wars”. Over the next couple of weeks, we got along quite well, but there were moments where there was palpable tension. Jack is very particular about how he wants things done, and my patience is not what it used to be. Actually, it is the same. I have simply lost my filter somewhere!

While eccentric, Jack is a genius. It was uncanny the way he would predict the next day’s events in the early days of the meltdown. His advice was, and continues to be: buy gold, hoard cash, and prepare. I came to enjoy the job, and made enough to replace the shoes I returned to REI upon my return in August, AND put a substantial amount back for the next phase.

The regular work with Jack ended in the first week of October, and the next few weeks have become progressively more and more frustrating. I continued to become more disillusioned with the government’s response to this manufactured financial “crisis”, but it helped me to solidify my sociopolitical stance. I will not burden you now, but I probably will sometime this week. Suffice it to say for now that it was repugnant to see both of these “leaders” supporting a taxpayer-funded bailout of these “institutions”. It went to further cement my belief that the two major “parties” are indeed factions of the same.

I had hoped to find something to quickly replace Jack’s income, but Santa Fe is not exactly a thriving, diverse, economy! I finally found a data entry gig this week that I can do from home…as often and as much as I choose to. My kinda job!

That’s the cliff notes version of the last five-weeks or so. Most of the drama was in my own little mind; I am quite a nuisance to myself when I have too much time to kill!


Chris and I have had a few conversations, although they have tapered off a bit over the last three weeks. When the meltdown hit, we concluded that traveling to Latin America might be anticlimactic; that the excitement may indeed lie right here in the US! The more I thought about it however, the less appealing that became. 


Latin America has been bubbling quietly beneath my surface for a long time, and the original perspective would be invaluable. Using this summer’s experience as a template, the opportunity to talk with people who have actually lived with the effects of US foreign and economic policy would be priceless. I would like to see the “real” (Ha! Hear that Frau Palin?) Latin America rather than just hearing agenda-fed bullshit. I began learning Spanish in early September, and the progress has been good, although I have not put as much into it as I would like. 

Chris and I have had a couple of discussions about how we would do this, and it is shaping up to possibly be quite the dramatic western hemispherical jaunt! On the list of possibilities: New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Seattle, Portland, Utah, Arizona, California--then Mexico. Also, this end of the trip could include more characters. My old roommate, Joe, has expressed an interest in joining, as has Ambar from San Diego. 

Ambar’s a trip! She spent the summer WWOOFING in Italy, and holds dual- residency in the US & Mexico. I have heard from an Italian, living in NYC right now, who defines himself as a “gypsy” and would perhaps like to tag along.

Yet, with all these ideas, there is still nothing concrete. I need to get some equipment in case things fall through with Chris. I cannot see carrying the full tent again, so that means that I will need to get either a bivy, or even a Hennesy Hammock. I returned Chris’ water filter, so I need to get one and, of course, there is always the backpack. Mr. Coleman External Frame is right there… but he is looking small! I should have NEVER returned the one I had.

Despite the lack of activity on this blog, I’ve done quite a bit of “political writing.” The election is now less than a week away, and it has been interesting to see how the summer’s events have influenced my outlook. The reinforced idea being that there is nothing that replaces real
experience and that getting your information on Sarah’s “real America” from pundits is absurd. 

I am quite convinced that the majority of Americans are disgusted with politics and politicians in general; that if “throw all their asses out” was on the ballot we would have a 95% turnout, and a landslide of a different variety than the one currently forecast! I have only had that instinct reinforced over the weeks, and I am coming to realize two distinctions that are more significant:

On the individual scale: Patriot v. Partisan.

On the collective scale: Country v. Its Government.

While you chew on that, be prepared for a flurry of election-induced posts. To spare most of you, I am going to clear the email list of most of the names.  

Think of it as Todd “purging the rolls” to get you in the mood for the election!  

If you want me to leave you on the list, let me know. You can also subscribe through Feedburner on the actual page, and I’ve added an election poll… go vote!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

8/28 - 9/14 Santa Fe

What an odd few weeks it has been. I spent the first two doing absolutely nothing, other than reacquainting myself with the internet again, writing, reading, and playing the part of the recluse.

Initially, it was actually nice to be back here. I had grandiose ideas of getting back to work and preparing to pack money away for the Latin American Adventure that is on the way... soon. I had some nagging points of friction in my mind however about trying to save thousands of dollars to do this. Money as it turned out was my major source of irritation this summer, and my primary failure was in the fact that I never really got to the point where I was learning to do with significantly less and how to generate fresh cash while out there; and there WERE opportunities to do that! I just... didn’t.

Chris and I had several lengthy conversations, and after initially thinking that he may decide against it, he has now committed to whatever this turns out to be. It turns out that, not surprisingly, we have come to the same money- page, how it relates to Mexico, then Central & South America. Less is more. Rather than talking in terms with three zeroes, it is now in the hundreds, as a means to force ourselves to be more creative, thrifty, and concentrate on eliminating excess... bullshit. Most people are probably horrified by the thought, but we both have seen the possibilities first- hand, and for me it is a matter of discipline and focus... like everything else. This trip is shaping up to begin, at least when the two of us meet up anyhow, in December or January. Much more on that at another time.

9/11 came and went again and as always, it is a point of scorn for me as we all watch the melodrama presented to us through the media, and wallow in self- pity. No one bothers to stop and reflect on how that event itself is a weapon; an instrument of terror itself. Just remember Rudi Giuliani and his every other word. What has happened since 9/11, in this country AND Iraq, is worse than the event itself. Only American self- absorbed arrogance, a spoiled self- pity, and complacency prevents us from seeing the obvious. If you have not yet, check out the audio on the right- hand side of the page. 9/11, and the economic events of the past few weeks remind me of one of the best books I have read: Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. Find a copy; read it. You're living it.

The best radio show I ever did was on 9/11 in 2007. That show was the beginning of the end for me. The cheap bastards didn't even have a simple tape recorder for me to archive it, so like Hitler's in "Contact", my voice is simply left floating off toward Vega. I even took my own tape recorder in to let them hook it up. It sat in the same spot for 2 ½ months until I was fired! Ahhh... radio....

Chris rented a car and drove down here on 9/11. We sat up into the wee hours of the morning chatting, and we traded stuff; him bringing the things I had left there, and me returning the bivy, water filter, boca bag, etc. That stuff was a huge help! I also learned that, inspired by my return- spree, he had returned his old shoes to REI and had a brand new- spiffy pair. I was immediately jealous!

We spent Friday running around, highlighted by a trip to the grand opening of the Santa Fe REI. Of course the radio station was there trying to be all ‘live n’ local’, so for shits and giggles, I led Chris into a den of awkwardness… for one of them anyhow. I had not seen this particular sales- pig since they fired me, and though she would never admit it to my face, she despises me. I annoyed her by telling her to take her live endorsements for Qwest, McDonald’s, whoever, and shove them… even though they were paid. She is the type who reassures herself with “you gotta serve somebody.” Whenever I heard her say that, I thought, “That would be a good mantra in prison.” I don’t see much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. I would rather be shanked. I guess I was.

I bounded right over to the table and there she was, strapping on the plastic smiling face with a full serving of the generic platitudes I had heard 100- times with her clients. My old PD was there too. I had not seen him since shortly after the owner fired me either. He gave me a big ol’ hug, and while he was, I was asking myself “If we’re such good friends, why were you so quiet when they were axing me… buddy?”

I do not trust people who claim to have hundreds of friends because, well… they don’t. We all have acquaintances, co- workers, and people we use for networking and furthering our interests. That is inescapable. Yet, friends are loyal, and do not sit idly by out of convenience or self- preservation, while you are thrown under a bus. The rest of them will, and that’s fine. However, don’t embarrass yourself by professing your love for me later on! They say that if you want to find out who your friends are, ask them to help you move. I like the redneck method better: go to battle and see who lines up behind you. THESE are your friends. The rest are just memories waiting to happen. Keep your relativism, hippie. I've heard it all before.

God, I love anything authentic!

Friday night, we watched a few movies and he returned to Denver Saturday morning. A quick trip to be sure. We managed to keep busy enough that we did not dwell on the upcoming trip too much, but it was never far beneath the surface.

The longer I was here, the more I began to realize that I miss traveling. I am no longer domesticated. I never have been, but it is worse. I have next to no interest in participating in anything in Santa Fe, and it took me two- weeks to call anyone I knew.

My personal writing has always been a refuge for me, but now that is no haven. I tried, with some success, to gain some clarity and perspective after I returned, but it was a disappointment. I had most of the conclusions before I came back! The writing has since turned into a simple annoyance because I seem to be writing the same things repeatedly; shit I have written a thousand times before. In the end? It's feeling like a bunch of self- absorbed bullshit, because now I have some experience to add perspective. One of my favorite quotes from Thoreau says something to the effect that it is quite vain to sit down and write when you have yet to stand up and live. Alot of writing going on this month. Living? Not so much.

I know this is temporary; everyone knows that. I only wish I were making better use of the time. The answer is not to ‘get a job’. I am quite certain that I would be fired, or walk out within a couple of days, and that does not bother me at all. The answer is to find cash- work with someone that doesn’t annoy me with all the “ladder- climbing” career- bullshit.

After 9/15, I would be more certain of that than ever.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

8/24/08: Greensboro, NC-Stalked!

It was a long process finding a place to camp. After walking back to the main road I was trying to decide between three different spots when from the woods, I spied a car driving by-- very slowly. This woods was between the two ramps leading to 220, and the car proceeded to stop just before the entrance to the southbound lane. I was on the phone with Laina, and slowly crept out of the woods to see what he was doing, thinking at first that he had somehow seen me. The car just sat there, lights on, for about 10 minutes. No activity that I could see or hear, so I figured he was lost or waiting for someone.

I hung up and continued to go about my business when
another car drove slowly by; slow enough for me to see in the limited light that it was the Sheriff. I dove for cover then, when I realized that he was pulling in behind the mystery car, I crept closer to play the role of spectator thinking that I may see some high- drama from the woods. This was weird, not your typical stealth- camping experience!

I watched as the cop cautiously approached the driver’s side of the car, and spoke with the driver for what seemed like eternity. Odd. Cops are generally to- the- point and it went on so long that I re-entered the woods and decided where I was going to sleep for the night while periodically peering out to check in. Cars would drive past regularly, yet still no flashing lights.

Just as I was getting ready to set up, I heard voices. Even from the woods, it was obvious that the cop was giving him a sobriety test. It was Saturday night; “typical” I thought. Just as I went back into the woods, the lights came on- scaring the hell out of me. The cop was back standing at the driver’s side door indicating the operator was back inside. This, again, went on for what seemed like forever. I just wanted them to leave so I could stealth in peace!

By now, I had gotten used to the scenario, so I went a bit deeper into the woods to be certain of avoiding detection. Just as I removed the bivy from the backpack, I heard a car start and take off—
fast. I assumed it was the cop, but as I hunched back toward the road, I saw the other car FLY past me, heading east toward Randleman. Then, I heard the cop-approaching, siren blaring. Hot Pursuit! The driver had gone loco, and was trying to escape! I had visions that I would see the drunk (I presumed) crash and burn, but no such luck. The chase went directly past the intersection and through the red light that led to Walmart, and into downtown Randleman. I sat by the road and listened to the siren for quite awhile. First to the north of town; then south. This chase was obviously dramatic. I could still hear the siren fading off to the south as I climbed into the bivy at about 2am, laughing at this day! I never learned anything else about the chase, and thankfully saw no more of law enforcement.

I slept quite nicely after that, in what I thought was a very secluded area beneath some pines. When I awoke Sunday morning at about 10:00, I was shocked to see that I was actually in plain sight. Under the cover of darkness I was fine, but only 75 feet off the road, and the pines had less coverage than I thought. It was too late to stress it and I figured that everyone was either sleeping one off or in church.

I thought I had been prepared the night before, bringing extra water so I would not have to walk back toward Walmart and restock first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, I had lost the Gatorade bottle searching for the spot, and since it was already hot…back to civilization I went, loading up on water and on- special Gatorade figuring that it was going to be a long day just sitting.

I began to contemplate the wisdom of continuing to hitchhike after the experiences of the past two- days, and the results I had seen from walking. I knew Old 220 went all the way to Greensboro or, with some creative navigating, could take me around it to I-40 skirting the city all together. Again, I could not bare the idea of walking back to where I had just come from, so I settled for another day of hitching hoping that with some luck I could get into Greensboro early, swing another ride OUT of the city, and get through Raleigh.

This ramp was much better than the others in North Carolina. It was long, wide, and had a natural pull- out for people to use if they took pity on me sweating in the sun. Just as the last two days, I laid out on the pack, strapped on the headphones, and prepared to wait all day. I knew that I had NEVER gone a day without at least ONE ride, so I was relatively certain I would see Greensboro again by day’s end.

I sat on the ramp for 3-4 hours, only moving to heed Nature’s Call, or stand to awaken my sleeping--posterior. As I was returning from a nature break, a rickety old van pulled over and a woman who looked to be in her mid 50’s jumped out and asked if I needed a ride. “
Hell yeah!” I said, trying to seem “confederate”. It is rare for a single woman to stop, and I was glad that I did not look threatening enough to scare her away! As I recall, this was only the fourth woman to pick me up, and the first since the bus stop in Portland.

Jo opened up the rear doors, and warned me to be careful as I loaded the backpack because she was charging a car battery back there. Something I had never seen before. Jo seemed outgoing, and a bit odd. She resembled a few aging hippies I have met; the
original ones that I respect. I immediately liked her, and we began a vigorous, mostly one- sided conversation immediately after I settled in the van. Stop me if this story- line seems familiar…

Jo was nearly 60, and a few years back had a stroke. And guess what. She had been fighting health insurance companies, the state, former employers… you
have heard this before, right? I laughed aloud, shook my head, and told her that she would be amazed at the number of people I had run into with similar story lines. The insurance companies and the State had essentially thrown her away after the stroke, despite the fact that she had lost use of the left side of her body, the ability to speak, and much of her short- term memory. However, Jo was different. Jo was old school. Jo had lived through the 60’s, and on the right side of them. Jo had never sold out. Jo was a fighter.

She told me about rehab, regaining use of her left- side, and re-learning how to talk. She told of how during all of this, the insurance companies were doing everything they could to avoid pay outs, and that North Carolina wanted no part of her disability claim, nor could she get assistance.
Human Kapital.

Apparently, Jo had been quite the little radical in her day, and still was. Sufficiently recovered, she began berating the health- care officials, local media outlets, and anyone else who would listen to her story—thereby creating quite a stir, and negative publicity for the state and her insurance providers. So much so, that the local officials had told her that if she did not ‘
shut up or move’ they were going to ‘destroy’ her. She told them exactly where they could take their threats and publicized them. Eventually, and I believe it was with a change in administrations, the state issues were resolved. She got limited assistance.

I was now in love with Jo.

She apparently has spoken out against more than just the corrupt healthcare system. She has radical viewpoints that make me look like Reagan. She told of how before the stroke, she was involved in ‘Economics’, and that in 1997 she had seen indications that the country was on thin economic- ice, only to be rescued by the dot coms. Then in 2000 the same thing was happening and that without a major influx of something, the country would go bankrupt. She pointed out that in 2000, PNAC had long since begun planning the Iraq invasion, and of course the next year: 9/11 and the ratcheting up of the famous Military Industrial Complex, conveniently generating untold billions in corporate revenues. She is convinced that the World Trade Center was the 21st Century Reichstag Fire, and has been outspoken enough for the CIA to add her to their “Dissenter List”. Quite an honor! She even told how she found out about that; losing her mail or having it delivered weeks late, then a friend working for the Postal Service informing her that it was due to the government snooping through her stuff. That’s our Patriot Act; protecting us from 60-year old stroke victims!

Amerika!!

Interestingly, she was also one of the few liberals I have met who have a strong religious
conviction…as the theme of religion continues. She spoke about thatSplinter”, the “Calling” (all unprovoked), and said she stopped because she sensed that I was on a "Mission from God." I left it there; I had had enough God for 24- hours. Nevertheless, the prevalence of southern religion, even amongst the heathens, struck me. This ride lasted only thirty minutes, and I did not do a lot of talking. In Greensboro, she gave me her phone number and invited me, not just to call, but stay with her whenever I was in the area. What an interesting person, and seemingly as emphasis to her memory loss, she almost left before I could get my backpack out of her van!

Jo dropped me off on the south side of Greensboro, at what they call the “spider web”, or “black hole”; I forget now, but something denoting that this is where all major highways converge. And, it was Randleman Rd./Old 220— the same road I had considered walking.

I was not exactly pleased with this spot.

It was perhaps the most urbanized setting to date, and it was nearing 4:00. It reminded me of Boise, and I tried to encourage myself with a reminder that I had been out of Boise in 20-minutes. I sat down beneath a tree at the Shell station where Jo had left me, and looked at the Atlas. In the two days, since Francesco had picked me up, I had progressed two miles. Sobering.

I was directly across from the ramp leading to I-40 east, so I crossed the street and assumed the position: lying against the pack with headphones blaring. I was encouraged because the traffic volume was extremely high and consistent. I was however in the ghetto; there were a portion of Greensboro’s projects directly next to me along the frontage road, and I was a point of curiosity. This made me a bit uneasy, not so much that I was there, but that I was attracting silent attention. Shortly after I arrived, a ragged woman joined me on the ramp, thumb in the air, shouting something to no one in particular. She kept rambling as she continued right past me, down the ramp, and on to the I-40 shoulder, her thumb still waving.

I was optimistic I would get out of there if I exercised some patience, so there I sat…and sat…and sat. I must have been quite the spectacle. A middle-age man in a Geo Tracker gave me short- lived hope at about 7:30 by stopping, but rather than offering a ride, said that he “wanted to take my picture, because I was the most relaxed looking hitchhiker he had ever seen! Bwaaaahahahaha!” I let him; he left.

Dick.

At different times, I thought about following my crackhead contemporary in walking the grass next to the highway, if only to get a change of locales. The projects next door were beginning to be abuzz with life as dusk approached, and although they never said anything, it was apparent I was attracting more attention still. On the verge of moving, I remembered the ill-advised attempt Friday, and decided against it. That was a mistake.

Soon, the vibe turned VERY negative. As the sun fell, the looks from the almost exclusively black motorists went from curiosity and indifference, to something else. Then rather than ignoring me or just gawking, they began to get interactive. Cars actually began swerving toward me in an effort to spook me and force me to jump out of the way. I sat there like a stone, never flinching. I had seen this once or twice before and had come to half-expect it occasionally, but this was just different; ominous. It was not a time to sing Kumbaya, and mentally extol the merits of well-intentioned man. It was high time to get the hell out of there. There is a line between adventure, courage, faith, and naive, foolish, idiocy, and everything in my being told me I had crossed it. So, it was back to the Shell station for water and directions to the next exit.

It was now about 8:45, and almost completely dark. When I got to Shell, I was surprised to discover the doors already locked, and the cashier closing out his register. The store had closed before 9:00, even though the sign on the door said they were open until 10. I wondered why a Shell, right off I-40 in Greensboro, would close AT ALL, let alone 10…or NOT EVEN 10. Not all was lost though, as I looked around, I did see what seemed to be promising places to camp close to the interstate. I sat down leaning against the wall facing Randleman Rd., plugged in the phone, dug out the Atlas, and prepared for the employee to shoo me away when he left. Then the plan was to explore the ramp for places to sleep.

After sitting there for about ten minutes, I looked up to see five people crossing Randleman Rd., coming from the projects toward the Shell. As they crossed the median, they went in slightly different directions, spreading out a bit going toward different parts of the parking lot. One of them kept shifting their eyes from me, to the side of the store, to his left, right, then back—directly—to me. The others actively searching, but looking everywhere but at me--AVOIDING looking at me. They all looked to be relatively young, skinny, and hip- hopped out with the full, latest ensembles delivered directly from Stereotypical Ghetto Garb, LLC.

There was no conscious decision needed. I calmly, but quickly, unplugged the phone, shoved it in my pocket, and in the same motion, put the pack on and began walking toward the north end of the parking lot, directly in front of two of them, (neither of which were very large), and generally away from the others. That was the moment I knew I was not “just being paranoid.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the other three abruptly change course, toward me, while these two were sizing me up. They never said a word, and didn’t need to. I had no idea what they were after, but I was relatively sure I had just strapped it to my back. My knife was right there on my shoulder-strap, but what would that do against five? Other than perhaps find its way into my own gut? In a split- second, I realized that this was the FIRST time I had been in any real danger.

Then a stroke of luck. Two cars pulled in, both loaded with guys from Virginia. I needed friends at that moment, so I politely told them they might not be able to get gas because the station had closed early, hoping to start a conversation and open a window of escape. This temporarily stalled and apparently confused the Welcoming Committee. Apparently unable to improvise, they all began to congregate together on the far (south) side of the parking lot, leaving the north side open for me to get out of there. That is exactly what I did. I crossed over Randleman Rd. to the raised median and walked a short distance down the middle of this temporary divide. I then crossed the rest of the way over, to the east side of Randleman Rd. I looked back, and saw all five Committee Members following a measured, yet uncomfortably close distance behind me; maybe 75ft. I picked up the pace, thanking God that I had lightened the pack, and crossed over I-40. When I got to the other side and looked back, they were gone. I had no idea where, nor did I care. Just gone. Now what? I went in to a well-placed (for me!) BP station to catch my breath, grab a Coke, and process what had just happened.

Oddly enough, I would not define any of what I felt as “fear”. The decision to leave the Shell was instantaneous; instinct. The rest was adrenaline, a sharpening of senses & quickening of thought, and almost literally involuntary action.

The reality did not really set in until I got to the BP. I quickly began to realize the gravity of the situation, and realized that if I was not VERY smart about the next few moments I could have real problems. I needed to either find a place to get out of sight, or get the hell out of this area.

A quick survey showed that, on this side of I-40, there was nothing. There was nowhere suitable to hide for the night, and I had cut off my known escape route by crossing I-40. I looked up Randleman Rd. and saw nothing appealing, but by now, my survival instincts were in overdrive. Not the paranoid  ‘instincts’ I'd had in Rawlins, Wyoming mind you; real ones! I was estimating everything—buildings, cars, semi- trailers, houses, yards, trees—anything I could use as shelter. However, those survival instincts also told me that my young stalker friends knew the area, and since I had no idea where they had gone, they could be watching me even then, waiting for me to make a move. Paranoia? Maybe. Justified in this case? You bet.

It was becoming painfully obvious as I was at this ghetto BP that I was in a bind. If I left this sanctuary, I had no idea what I would find; knowing nothing of the area other than what street the bus station was on. Like quicksand I realized, desperate, unmeasured, and irrational action could make things much worse. It was now shortly after 9, and this BP closed at 10. Fortunately, I had a 45- 50 minute haven where I could think.

Conclusion?

I’d had enough of Greensboro. Enough of North Carolina. To hell with the Atlantic Ocean. It was reminding me of Ft. Morgan, where just getting to Nebraska was bordering on impossible. The difference being that, in Colorado, it was Mother Nature (tornadoes) seemingly blocking my path, rather than roving bands of Ghetto Kings. I already had the bus information, thanks to Friday’s drama, and knew I was relatively close to the terminal. I called Laina again to tell her about this little adventure and to try to get some perspective.

Her assessment: “You need to get the fuck out of there!”

I agreed. We discussed the ticket, and since I still had the $20 Will had given me the night before (forgot to mention that, didn’t I?), I had cash for a Taxi if I needed one.

The attendant inside was very helpful. I asked him how far it was downtown, and when he told me it would take a couple hours to walk, I asked how much the taxis would charge to get me down there. He said he could not imagine it being more than $10, so I borrowed the phone book, wrote down the number, and thanked him. We then chatted for a few minutes about the trip, as he was intrigued by where I had been, and how far to this point. I left what had just happened off my list of anecdotes. I am not sure why, other than it was the ONLY example of its kind, and it seemed like a shame to bring it up. When he asked me why I was taking the bus, I again ignored the obvious, in favor of “I’m just tired.” Not entirely a lie.

The clerk had to get busy closing, so I went outside and on a whim decided to give calls to Ken & Cesar, on the off chances that they may be in the region. A slim chance, but it was a slim chance when I called Ken from Denver the last time. I had really hoped that I could get a hold of Ken. He had made an offhanded comment on the way to Nashville that if I ever got a ticket to Tampa, I could hang out, and perhaps ride out with him. Not only would I get to see Tampa, but also the trip would continue, and the ticket would cost less than Albuquerque would! I got voice mails for both of them, so called the taxi and after 20 minutes, it came and took me downtown to Greyhound, costing me $10 even.

As I got to the desk, and began pricing different locations (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Denver, etc.), Ken called back. Good timing! I quickly gave him the rundown, and said that if the offer was legit, I could come to Tampa and see what happened. Ken said that he was actually planning to leave the next (Monday) morning so would be long gone by the time the bus got there. He suggested instead that I go to Atlanta, where he was almost certain he would be picking up his usual load, and then heading somewhere that he would learn early Monday morning. 


Perfect! I could get the same bus out of Greensboro tonight, get to Atlanta at 7am, meet up with Ken, and then ride off to Parts Unknown and perhaps continue this little adventure, with another fun, spontaneous little wrinkle in it! At the very least, I figured I could ride back toward Denver, and if that was were where I wound up, the ticket home would be a fraction of the cost. The only slight reservation I had was, what if something happened the next day, and he DID NOT pick up in Atlanta? Atlanta is not a good place to be stuck, although if I were stuck it would be at the terminal, or a truck stop. I was taking a slight risk, but the odds were heavily in my favor.

After getting some vague directions from Ken on where to meet him, I bought the $71 ticket from Greensboro to Atlanta and left at 11:40pm. I was happy that I had gotten a hold of Ken and was not just heading to New Mexico, although a significant part of me just wanted to relax, and begin to process everything that has happened over the last three months, which was daunting! 


Nevertheless, with September fast approaching, and with it yet another 29th birthday, I concluded I had better keep going; make use of the time I have this summer. Again, I was astounded at the progression of the day: I had woken up in woods near Randleman, North Carolina hoping to get, finally, back to Greensboro then to Raleigh and toward the Outer Banks. 12 hours later? I was was aimed toward Atlanta.

Whudathunkit?

The ride to Atlanta? Other than stopping in Charlotte, the driver being half-crazed, the bus being over packed, riding through Hurricane Fay’s remnants, and the door flying open in the middle of the night? Uneventful. Typical “Dirty Dog”. I dozed off half-hoping Ken would not show up, so I could follow Sherman’s March to Savannah, and stick my smelly feet in that damn ocean just to spite it.

In the end, these events in Greensboro did not faze me much. Ultimately, they were my own fault. I have purposely avoided urban centers for exactly this reason. I never conferred with Jo when it could have mattered, and that is no one’s fault but mine. In Colorado, Wyoming, California, Oregon, and most of Idaho, I was VERY good about this, but after pulling off my “urban stealthing stunt” in Pocatello, then getting lucky with the location in Winston-Salem, I lost sight of common sense.

Secondly, I lingered there long after I realized the setting could get dicey; long enough to where it was too late. I relied, again, too much on getting a ride, and should have simply walked out. There is a reason that this was the only significant danger I have ever found myself in on this journey, with the exception, some would say, of the freight train. It is telling that it was due to a failure of discipline and common sense.