"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

Friday, March 28, 2008

3/28/08: Ethel, LA-Carnie Life

Been gone 10 days already. It's been a week since we all left Odessa. Time has compressed; a lot happens in a short space of time. I feel like I've known Jimmy for six months or a year, and it's only been barely a week. Tricia -- same thing. I feel as though we've run a full two-month cycle in six days. When you're in each others face all day I guess that happens.

I can see how a person could lose track of days, weeks, even months out here. I haven't watched TV or listened to a radio since I left; have no idea what's going on anywhere. This is the world to these folks and it's not a bad way to live once you adapt. I think the trick is finding balance in the sense that you remember: this isn't the world! It is easy to get caught up in the camp drama, which is worse when everyone's idle. Once we start working people get focused on other things and forget, for the moment, all the bullshit.

The mix of people is interesting. Convicts, punks, philosophers, thinkers, feelers, recluses. It's a challenge for many of them to mesh and get along, but although the "dogs bark," they seem to work it out. There really are no leaders, work or otherwise, among this crew; Willie is the foundation and a rock solid one. He's the lighthouse that provides guidance for many of these fragile types who easily stray off course. I learned that he provided dental work for one of them; could never see Charles doing that.

Tuesday's set-up wiped me out! I wasn't feeling great to begin with, and hauling the heavy pieces for the Merry-Go-Round pushed me. My back held up and was nothing more than stiff on Wednesday. We finished setting up Wednesday, tweaked a couple things yesterday, then a much anticipated laundry/Wal-Mart run. I needed socks, Motrin, and some aloe for this vicious sunburn on my neck. After resting up for a bit, we opened at five o'clock yesterday. I was on a kiddie ride: The Berry-Go-Round. It was easy -- even boring. Lotsa single moms to chat with; some even with teeth!

What struck me was the people. Louisiana is a very friendly and polite state. The poverty here is striking, yet the people have an air of both frustration and happiness. Resignation, yet acceptance. That was only one day, of course, and may change. But it's something I repeatedly noticed. The poverty, especially. Kids offering to work, in exchange for free rides! (They got quite a few) Calling me "sir!" It's pretty obvious that this is a huge event out here, as small as our outfit really is. We are situated on the grounds of a church camp that I learned is for the kids "no other churches want." Drugs...whatever. The pastor is a Vietnam vet who seems to view the government the same way I do, and intensely feels social injustice. I immensely enjoyed hearing him talk -- almost rant.

My time here will depend on me. The work is easy most of the time, and I'm adapting more each day. I'm afraid I won't save much money, though, so if the chance at [the supposed job in] Michigan comes, I'll probably take it. I'm in cruise control about the hike since Sunday. It still is the long-term vision. Need to refocus on that...

Monday, March 24, 2008

3/24/08: Ethel, LA-Reflection in a New Mirror

We packed and "jumped" up here this morning/afternoon. We're through Baton Rouge, and in the middle of nowhere. Reminds me a little of Michigan in how green and rural it is, and the actual location reminds me of some of the New Mexico holes-in-the-wall. I guess we'll set up shop here through the weekend, then go back to Baton Rouge for a time.

Nothing much is happening today at all. Willie is most definitely organized and, so far, outside of the pseudo-drama. I can handle this. I'm obviously seeing some places I'd never go otherwise, and there are some good people here. I'm slowly adjusting and getting used to everything and everyone. I've yet to read one page in a week, and plotting what to mail home.

Tricia and I were on the verge; one push away-- from stepping off of here. The Synchronicity aspect of things was a hot topic yesterday, and still is in a way. It occurred to me that the trip I foresaw had already begun. Maybe I won't be going "back." I seem to have found a travel partner or two if things were to start today, but then again we've had a lot of idle time. When things get busy people -- including me -- may revert back to their individual ideas.

Tricia is a bit of a split personality depending on who she's with. Yesterday was incredibly cool, but last night she ran to her gin and there was the carnie redneck again. She doesn't seem to know exactly who she is. Who does at 22? Jimmy's a bit different, and I'm not sure how our story is going to to end. He's 46, smart in a lot of ways, and seemingly a good friend. Yet, yesterday annoyed me. A lot. All day drunks just bug me now. I'm sick of his "taking care of each other" line, which equates to me buying his shit, giving him cigarettes, and then having his sloppy, drunken ass spill beer on me!

Karma's paying me back. The bitch.

I'm not sure what to make of this part of my personality. It's quite surprising, and I don't like the hypocritical and judgmental tendencies. I've found new things about myself; some very good. I have discipline all of the sudden. And, I seem to be pretty focused and anxious to start my trip. I've been more open and honest with people than I remember...with the exception of Skippy. That honesty is at times a blunt hammer. I've gotten quite terse with Jimmy over the last two days and my impatience and temper with the Killer Queens needs checking. I'm sick of Timmy's posturing displays, and it's obvious that despite the bark, he'll cower at a challenging growl. We're about to find out. Yet, I seem to have settled in here for the near future. I need money. I've found a few good people, even heard from Steve today. This may be home for little while.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3/23/08: A New Orleans Easter-Jimmy & Trisha

**It's poorly articulated here, but this would turn out to be one of those monumental days that resound and echo indefinitely.**

Well...things here are different! Jimmy and I got what we were looking for: a change from Odessa, and we got it for sure!

This outfit is much smaller and much less...intense...then Texas. We got into New Orleans on-time, called Willie from the bus station, he then sent two guys to pick us up. The vibe was instantly better. Much more positive. We both had a great feeling about this decision and were quite happy to get here. We chatted with Willie in person on Saturday, and since today is Easter and his family is here, haven't really seen him since.

We all seemed to get along well last night and met some pretty good people, one in particular--Tricia. She would seem to be in the same mold as Carrie and Sarah, yet a great deal different. She is exactly the opposite of those two in almost every way! She's from Little Rock, Arkansas and just a good ol' girl. Yet, she's also tuned in. She "gets it"--doesn't realize it--yet she does. She's aware and trying to process and define what she's aware of. Been there. She wants to travel; suffers from that same affliction I do. She's frustrated and seems ready to do something about it. It was odd when I first got here; we were immediately drawn (not physically...pervert) to each other. It's like there is an internal guide pointing out the right people and the situations in which to find them. My mystical senses are returning to a degree; paying attention to these "coincidences." Steve, Jim, Tricia. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip so far, for the most part.

There are some twisted, ironic, some would say comical shades McComb [MS, 2005, following Katrina] here in relation to my friendship with Trish. The gay guys here are pissed off! And, so are the straight ones! The gay guys are gnarled up because they viewed me as their "fresh fish!" Of course, the breeders are pissed off because they've been trying to get on Tricia since she first got here and now she's begun to use me as sort of a shield! I find it hilarious! There are rumors etc. already; it's pretty pathetic and drives me up the wall.

I'm getting in tune with myself too, I'm aware of my reactions to all of this. My mindset is slowly adapting to my surroundings and my tolerance level is sinking. I have become more aware of who I am and how that differs from past experiences. My personality also seems to be changing more & more as I adapt. I've become more honest, much more open with some people, and seem to have developed some bizarre leadership qualities from my experiences over the past few years. I don't bother with the idiots, charlatans, posers and punks. I blatantly disengage from them and gravitate back to the ones that posses some kind of character and honesty; and I don't care about hurting feelings in the process. I'm looking for "my people" and not really bothering with the rest.

I feel myself becoming more a more direct. For example, Jimmy drank pretty much all day [after the levee experience-below], and it bothered me. Not that he drank, but that he drank and was trying to communicate. I can't hold any of that against him, but it's a mirror of myself from not so long ago. I can't stand being sober and dealing with drunks anymore. In fact, it's been a long time since I could, but now I have next to no tolerance. I'm doing to some people what Danny, Dyson, Jason, Greg, and others did to me: judging. I don't really like that, but it's happening. Tricia got lit up tonight and was passed out by 7:30. After the day we had, it was a study in extremes and bothered me a bit, although I was more forgiving of her because in the short time I've been here, our friendship has caused her much grief for no reason, and she needed the escape.

I have hardly eaten anything since leaving NM last week; I'd love to get on a scale. I must be in that 165-pound range by now. I've had 2 cups of Ramen Noodles today, and a few M&Ms. I've also discovered how much shit I really do have... and shouldn't. My backpack is 45 pounds, and I need to ship some stuff home. It's rather hard to keep all that shit organized, let alone keep track of it.

Today was an interesting, enlightening, and frustrating day all wrapped into one. Jimmy took Tricia and I across the adjacent road to the levee the banks of the Mississippi River, letting us sit in on one of his Indian rituals where he says he "asks the spirits for guidance." We sat inside of a natural circle depressed into the grass, and just talked and bonded -- just the three of us. Afterwards he said our Indian names were Little Feather and Runs with the Wind. While I sat there playing with a twig, they both looked at me with an odd, astonished look and said I was doing some kind of Indian weave -- something I had never heard of. I really had no idea what I was doing, but just thought it looked cool. We went out there about 9:30 and didn't come back -- didn't leave the circle -- until 3:30. Just talking, lying on the grass in the sun. Had the day ended then, it was one of the best of days. I felt so at peace and comfortable...with both myself and them. It was a tiny taste of that experience I've been craving. No distractions or bullshit obligations. Just me, my people, and out in my place being -- me. It was the closest thing to Nirvana I can probably get, and it occurred to me that I may have already started my adventure. I felt free and unmolested!

Then, as soon as we rejoined the herd, a relative black energy/vibe returned. As soon as we crossed the road! I won't elaborate on more of the drama inside Winter Quarters this Easter Night, but it provided something that, using the first part of the day, could have been a case study in extremes. It got to the point where Trish and I discussed, and even tentatively decided, to leave here tomorrow and "just go." She says she wants to today. She says she wants to go with me when I/we begin my/our trip. But, of course she'd like to work it out so we stay on for a few months to get cash together.

We'd both like Jimmy to be with us if he chooses to, and if today was an anomaly (the drinking). If not, I don't think we will be doing anything together after New Orleans is done. He's a wonderful guy, yet one who's battling something within. He has much to offer, yet also has that self-destructive air about him when he drinks. If both he and Tricia could keep handles on that, I'd be fine and would love for us to keep it together.

The view from here regarding the "backpack trip" is a bit different. I could see the three of us doing it, but believe Jimmy will carry on his way. And Tricia may remain here, or just go home to be near her son in Arkansas. I don't really know. I just feel that I've met some wonderful people in the five short days I've been gone. I feel like I'm on the right course and can see some possibilities. It'll be interesting to see what else develops. So far, this trip's been exactly what I need, and I still find it remarkable that I'm in New Orleans. New Mexico feels remote and far away today. We'll see how it all goes; off to Baton Rouge in the morning.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3/22/08: Escape from Odessa-Jimmy & Steve

Greyhound between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana

Long story short: I met two other guys. Jimmy and Steve are both from Oklahoma, and after Steve was pushed for the 5th time to buy cocaine, we called Mike [recruiter] told him what was going on, and requested that he get us out of there. We all decided to ride together to New Orleans and hook up with another outfit with a friend of Mike's named Willie.

I asked direct questions and let those two listen so they could decide for themselves. Mike bought the tickets, we packed up, and while we were waiting Steve's mother called to tell him that his father had died!

Of course, that sent him back to Oklahoma. Steve's a lot like me with the indecisiveness, only worse! And much more tentative. He's just a country boy who's never been away for long, so he was apprehensive. It may have been good for him to come down here and live a little, and he still may. I sensed something familiar in him, and deeply respected his independence. The three of us had a nice synergy, and could have been good friends--all of us. I'm rather surprised at how good of friends we became anyhow. I hope things in New Orleans are as Willie and Mike say they are, and if so, I also hope that Steve comes down here in a couple of weeks.

Jimmy and I are very similar in many ways, although our backgrounds are very different. He's Chickasha Indian and abhors drugs because his son committed suicide while on them. That was the common thread between we three that got us hanging out in the first place. We were the minority who weren't looking to work then simply get fucked up up afterwards--calling that life. Wash-rinse-repeat. One of my goals/hopes was to find some like-minded people I could relate to, and after 2 1/2 days in a traveling drug-den, I found some. That's encouraging.

Jimmy's 46, and has been living a nomadic life for some time now. He's been all over and has tons of experience that he's willing to share. He's respectful, and deserves respect. We talked a lot last night between Odessa and Dallas having much to chat about; our ideas parallel each other in many ways. Like me, he relishes freedom above most everything. We are both cautiously excited about New Orleans and since we have the night off, and a little money, are planning on Bourbon Street later tonight.

To put a bow on the Odessa experience, they did pay us what they owed us, minus $15 for "rent" in the bunkhouse: another monetary surprise. In retrospect it was fitting! Outside of the drug culture, the main theme of that outfit was the fact that they found new and exciting ways, everyday, to surprise you with new ways to shrink your paycheck! "Paying the bus ticket", "security deposit", "key deposit, shirt, etc.... none of which was explained beforehand. Then condescending and indignant when you asked questions. No leadership. People screaming and knife fighting and 5 a.m. outside the bunkhouses. (I was more concerned with the screaming--if someone was cut, eventually they'd at least be quiet) To be fair, it is the stereotype and not completely unexpected; just not for me.

Despite all that, I told Jimmy last night I wouldn't trade it. I did meet some good people, and most importantly I didn't run home, although the thought did occur to me Thursday! I got through it and found that I enjoyed the actual work--when the public's there. I made a little money, and am now having another experience in New Orleans. My spirit through all of this has been remarkably high -- even through the bullshit. I feel in control of my life, and at ease with myself, my surroundings and others. Looking forward. Let's see what happens in New Orleans...

Friday, March 21, 2008

3/21/08: Odessa, TX- Meet the Carnie

Odessa, Texas
Greyhound station

I haven't written in this [travel journal] in 16 months for pretty good reason. It's become something of a relic of this journey, one I don't want to fill with trivial bullshit. I left Santa Fe for the carnie job Tuesday (3/18) and came to Odessa with one idea how things were supposed to be: then the quick reality!

Laina took me to the Albuquerque Greyhound, and I found myself nervous; getting worse the closer to Albuquerque we got. Just as the bus began pulling away, Bob Seger's Roll Me Away came on my MP3 player. That seemed to tell me: "relax; now write your story." Look forward and live it. There was a huge moon, so I could see New Mexico all the way to El Paso and felt legitimately optimistic. Excitement about what was coming, and a shot at freedom. The landscape, moon... all tuning me in--in some ways.

We arrived in Odessa at 10:30 or so, and immediately after I got here with my bunkmate, Dan, it became obvious that either Mike or Charles was simply full of shit; likely both. After being on the bus for 13-hours, Charles put us right to work (doing next to nothing) for three hours. We then got an hour off before the carnival opened--then worked another nine. 13-hours every day--Monday through Friday--then 14 to 15 on Saturday and Sunday. For a base salary of $300 per week. Do the math. Plus there is no time to yourself except with the alcoholics, and druggies etc., who just live to get lit up then wonder why they are broke. Reality meets stereotype! It would have been great living here 15 or 20 years ago, but I'm not living in that spot anymore. Just annoyed the fuck out of me and made me uncomfortable as hell...

**Bus arrived**