"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

Thursday, April 3, 2008

4/3/08: Reaping the Carnie Harvest

** If read after the previous post, you'll notice an element of redundancy here. However, this is a monumental entry. I took the previous entry and expanded on many of the most significant ideas: constructive writing at its best. Many of these conclusions will sound VERY familiar to regular followers! **- tzx 1/26/10

Time to process. Back from Texas and Louisiana early yesterday morning. I was gone exactly 2 weeks and an eventful packed two weeks it was. I was pretty good about writing while I was gone and wrote 12-pages in the travel journal yesterday alone, wrapping up the last weekend and the events that sent me back so soon. I won't rehash everything here, but I do need to get some ideas straight.

There are some great things that happened. I met some terrific people and more than my other trips, stuck things out and learned so much about who I have become. Perspective? Frame of reference? Call it what you want, but seeing how I am around these folks as a way of comparison to how I was -- is significant. I was a leader. Able to offer guidance and, most surprisingly, I seemed to attract people. At least certain types. Those who, like me, seem to be searching for something intangible. And the fiercely independent.

Obvious examples are Jimmy and Steve. They were two people who like me refused to just "accept" what was going on with the drug-culture in camp. Steve more so than Jimmy, although he too abhorred drugs. Steve was a guy who I really identified with; Jimmy too, but he initially seemed to come along for the ride -- an afterthought while in Odessa. I admired Steve's independence, and he reflected mine. I still regret what happened with him, although it may have been best. With all the drama in Louisiana -- he may have combusted. I've still not talked to him since we separated at the Dallas bus station, and have a nagging feeling I won't.

Jimmy turned out to be a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde. He had three distinct personalities. Wise, disconnected, drunk. The trip from Odessa to New Orleans was enjoyable, and the Easter Sunday we three spent next to the Mississippi was -- magical. Such peace, serenity -- authenticity. At that moment, I literally thought I was already on my trip! If I had chosen, I could have been. I was ready to leave that day, and I wanted the three of us to make our way out, hoping to repeat the feelings we had that day-- everyday. I'll never forget that. It's something that set a tone for me, and I'm afraid that I've let that fade a bit.

Yet, as special as that day was, it was its negativity that set the lasting metaphor for what was to come. Something beautiful and pure destroyed by its environment; the negativity. Tricia and I both noticed it when we left the levee, crossed the road, and reentered camp: the magic vanished. More than vanished. It was replaced in kind by something black. As good as it was by the river, it was equally as bad in camp. That, for the most part, never ended and I saw it to the extreme that last day with the kitten.

Tricia could never break free from it. She's used to it, and doesn't know how to exist outside of it.

James? It led him to just drink to try to figure it out. He was like me, though -- experiencing everything and trying to solve it.

Jimmy? I'm not sure. He wasn't the same after that Sunday -- although there were glimpses. He seemed to disengage. Maybe he felt what I did, and that was his way of protecting himself from it? But, from what I saw that last Monday, then heard on the phone from James last night, he's not dealing -- but drinking. I couldn't communicate with him before I left on Monday due to the whiskey, although I could tell he was upset I was leaving. It came on so quickly -- no advance warning -- even to myself. I hope he's okay and things go well for him, but I'm unconvinced that they will. He has demons I can't comprehend. Jimmy's a vast resource of wisdom, but also an obvious alcoholic. I could go no further with him, and hypocritical or not, couldn't deal with him drunk. That friendship could've gone a great deal further, but as it turned out, we were "like minds running parallel for a while." I gave him my number and hope I hear from him again. I'm pretty sure I won't. I wish him well.

Tricia was frustrating. But, I was naive. I found something beautiful in her on Easter, but never saw it on full display again. I'd see glimpses, as with Jimmy, but she'd always revert back to her comfortable perch. We would have long conversations and I would try to offer insights from my own experience, sincerely trying to help but eventually I came to a significant conclusion; one that's elementary and one that's plagued me:

***Taking your opportunities and doing something with them. Having a willingness to act; do a bit more than complaining. I equate it to a combination of following The Voice and freewill. The Voice only guides; it's up to you to do something with it. Waiting for passive enlightenment? You'll wait forever. Enlightenment is like wisdom v. knowledge (Thamus). You achieve enlightenment ONLY through action and experience; masturbation-- mental or otherwise-- conceives nothing. Enlightenment doesn't come via writing, talking, reading...these things offer tools to guide you to action, but without action they're nothing but nice ideas. Pretty, clever, contrived words. Words without action are like an owner's manual without a car. What are you supposed to do? Pretend you're driving? Action and experience are infinitely more important than idle words. My ideas served me well on this trip. Very well. Yet, without the action aspect of learning ? I'd still be sitting here...wondering.***

I saw this unwillingness to act in Tricia, and got to the point were I concluded it was hopeless. She didn't want to do what it took to live in that "energy" we found by the levee that day; she didn't believe she could. Maybe a seed was planted, and maybe someday she will. She's one of the few, yet still significant percentage who are...I'll no longer call it enlightened..."touched?" They just feel it, and can access it when the environment is right. I believe Steve is touched. Jimmy. James. I was gone for 14 days, and found four in the first four days! Any of which could have shared my experience; in fact they were.

These are the people I seek and keep finding, and what's more: they respond. To be honest, I wasn't exactly prepared for that! I thought that this may likely be a lonely journey. Finding as many as I did, coupled with some heightened sense of confidence, boldness, even courage...I felt like a pillar of strength for once, as arrogant as that sounds. Teflon. I was content to, even enjoyed, sitting alone rather than subjugating myself to those who either expected subjugation or I didn't respect.

And the honesty! Timmy was a great example. I told him, bluntly, that I neither liked nor wanted to hang out with him. I did so on his prompting and in front of his people. I walked it. He had no clue what to say, do, or how to handle me because I wasn't to be "handled." I haven't quite put it all together, but I've found something. Tapped into it. I need to build on it; be unafraid to blaze that trail, alone if necessary.That's what I really gained from this. Knowing my ideas or solid, they apply to masses; the experience as a whole gave me this. Not philosophizing. Experience: McCandless's "essence of life." I wonder what this experience would've been in a positive environment? One in which the beauty in life wasn't squashed by overwhelming negativity.The insights would have been skewed. Likely, it all happened as it should.

I became overwhelmed when the trailer dropped on the kitten. That devastated me. I had known for a few days that my time there was ending, but had resolved to try to last through Baton Rouge. I was thrilled to find that kitten scampering around, and got lost playing with her. She was a very sweet cat that loved people and brought in the first real, pure joy and beauty since the river. I was happy, tuned in and reminded of home and my own cats.

Then out of nowhere, the Kraken strikes. Suddenly I saw her pinned beneath the trailer, crying horrifically, then running as though her back was broken. I still can't describe what I felt. Horror. I couldn't cope with that. In some odd way, it was like seeing Gage hit by the truck in Pet Semetery. When I heard the others running-fugitive rather than helping, and worrying more about how Dave would react rather than trying to help his pet survive, I became sickened, disgusted, and had to get away from there. When Chris said, "It's time to snap its neck" I wanted to snap his. I was literally frightened of myself. Are these fucking people human? My conclusion: no.

Once I announced I was leaving, Jimmy said, if I left. I'd be "in danger." Of course, he was lit up. Tricia also said she had a "bad feeling" too, but couldn't explain it. I think they were feeling their own premonitions. James called last night and told me that Jimmy has been drunk since I left and was "pissing people off." I felt a bit uneasy about the decision until we are on the way to Greyhound and it occurred that the cat was a powerful metaphor. It may not have been just that, but it brought home the vision of everything pure, and beautiful being crushed. Tricia, The River, Jimmy, James... I tried to convey the thought but failed miserably.

With this, I knew I was making the right choice. I was touched by the fact that Tricia, James, Toby, Chris, and Gabby all rode with me to Greyhound. The ride was a bit odd, and departure anti-climatic. Tricia was upset that I didn't give her my number, but something told me not to. I really do not want her drama following me, especially when she refuses to handle it herself.

The bus home was a mixed bag. Of course, the vision and feelings about the cat were there, but also some good feelings about my personal revelations. The strongest feelings, and they still linger today, were about the cat. I see her happy eyes, hear her purr, see her playing...jumping at that damn stick. Then I see that trailer crushing her. I see her running cockeyed. I see her lying beneath that trailer. I cursed any "God" who would let something like that happen. I still can't reconcile it. I know it was an accident; a terrible one, but I hate it to my core. I don't even remember anything affecting me like that on 9/11! What does that say?!? It's because of the cat's innocence; its joy. It's since become obvious that perhaps I should consider getting involved rescuing... cats? Duh! I love the things for whatever reason, and always have.

I can also say that after Texas & Louisiana, I appreciate the tranquility here much more. "He wants his home and security... he wants to live like a sailor and sea." Since returning, I've been questioning the hiking trip--that's not good. It's going to rear its head again sooner or later. I feel as though I'm a short step from being able to settle down a bit and I hate what leaving does to Laina, even though I can't help it: the alternative is no option. I'm not in a place to parse-then-expand that thought just yet, but rest assured the next few pages should be good readin'. I feel at ease here, and know things are about to change for the better -- one way or another.

I'm supposed to know something from Michigan [job] in the next week or so, and the weather is warming up nicely. I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but this year's adventures have probably only just begun. [there's an understatement!] The bus trip, other than the image-induced mental torture, was pretty uneventful. I met an interesting guy from Texas named Dan. He's 57 and spent 20 years as a cop. He reminded me of Clint Hurdle. Dan seems to be a typical Texas conservative; voted Bush twice! Yet -- amazingly our views were similar. We spent the two or three hours from Dallas to Wichita Falls chatting about life, politics, and the coming economic disaster. My "impending doom." I really enjoyed the conversation; it solidified to me that truth owes no ideology. Is bound by no doctrine. I was glad to have had that talk, and again felt better about my experience and my ideas.

Yet again -- an example of testing ideas through experience. Maybe I have indeed finally turned that page? Idea v. Experience. Is it knowledge to wisdom? Or, simply data to knowledge?

This was far different from my other little expeditions. I'm now not exactly sure how to approach the next phase, but considering I've written almost 7-pages on this, and have come out of this feeling much better, it would seem silly to stop now. The job in Michigan won't last long. Long enough to take care of things: gear up, and depart.

I must do this. If I don't, I'll never find peace. It may indeed kill me, but if it does rest assured it's better than living with the turmoil and sense of dissatisfaction. If I come out the other side, and do it right, I may indeed be able to focus on a family. If I don't do this? I don't believe, even despite this current state of calm, that anyone will ever be able to rely on me. I can't help that, therefore I refuse to beat myself up for it. It simply must happen.

I'm seeking that "peace of the river." Calm. The inner tranquility that comes from acceptance of myself and my life. The beauty and purity of the cat. I have all of these elements in this house, and I know it. Yet -- I need inner peace to be able to be that kind of entity myself. I'm getting closer, and may have just taken a nice jump in the right direction.

We'll see...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

4/2/08: Baton Rouge-The Cat

Saturday was a rather long, boring day. We started at noon and ran rides all day, until 10 pm. We were up late Friday drinking beer and chatting with Tricia, Toby, Andy, and James. We all seemed to relish the idea that there was no drama to deal with. It was a nice night. I finally got to bed around 3:30 or so.

The 10:00 close was a bit of a surprise, but really no big deal. The crowd was sketchy, but picked up toward the evening because of some on/off rain earlier. I got to bed early both because I was tired and Sunday was tear-down day, after we had already worked all day. The worst day of every week. The Carnie life is indeed for me...

Sunday was interesting. I was ready to leave then. I woke up ornery and fed-up. I called Laina, Brian, and Joey and tried to get as much info as I could. I found that I am still supposedly "on track" for the job in Michigan. Laina and I decided, in a roundabout way, that I would try to stick out another week, since Monday through Wednesday would be easy -- with the exception of set up in Baton Rouge. I also discussed possibly getting my little group together -- Toby, Gabby, Jimmy, James, and Tricia -- to join a group out in California. That sounded good, but the idea in the end went nowhere.

Tear down was long, hard, frustrating...and encouraging. Reminded me of my boot camp days: working through exhaustion. Jimmy, Andy, and I tore down the Merry-Go-Round in five hours or so...then had to help other slackers...despite the fact that ours was by far the hardest and most complicated of any of them. We finally finished around 3 am. I went straight to bed, but as tired as I was, had trouble getting to sleep. My body seemed to hold up well, although I was definitely sore.

We all slept in Monday, bummed around for a few hours, then finally got the bunkhouses prepped and jumped from Ethel to south Baton Rouge -- about an hour down the road. I was still envisioning at least getting through the week, but the first seed to leave was planted when I got "paid" before we left Ethel. I got a whopping $126. I had taken $75 in "draws," was charged $25 for my shirt, and taxed $60. It could have been worse I guess, and had no real logical complaints about the pay, until I thought about the hours put in to get it!

There was a touch of drama Sunday with Willie after hearing a rumor that we were "renting" our bunkhouses; twinges of Odessa. He and I resolved it quickly, it was just typical camp bullshit. I also addressed my problems with Timmy and discovered he was, in Willie's words, an "errand boy" despite his claims to be a "supervisor". More shrapnel to throw at him. I never liked Timmy because of his mouth and underhanded nature and, despite his posturing as someone important, I never had a problem telling him so. No one else dared to force his hand, and he just couldn't figure that out; he never knew how to approach me. More on that in a bit.

I discovered a lot about myself by way of perspective. How far I've really come, and how I can influence people and have impact when I'm focused. I'm not so diluted to say that influence was significant, but I noticed that people here gravitated to me -- despite my perceived "rudeness!" Much more needs to be processed in my other journal. Not the time yet.

I really enjoyed my conversations with Jimmy when he was sober, although after we got to Ethel, he seemed to disconnect. James and I seemed to connect well also, and had some deep, philosophical conversations. Amazing to find a guy with a biology degree in that setting. He was the most like me, admitted to alcohol problems and is, or least was, guarded. I'd be interested to see what happens with him.

Monday was a day that was disturbing for lack of a better term today. It rattled me, and exposed a raw nerve.

We got to Baton Rouge, and of course things were typically dragging along. Trouble getting the electricity and water going so people were going to the stores, sitting around, killing time. Typical. I didn't like the vibe from the start. Not something I can explain, but we were adjacent to the projects, set up the dirt, and other crews were showing up periodically.

A guy named Dave, who was at Winter Quarters in New Orleans was here and had brought his two young cats with him. I was very happy to see them running around! It was something nice, pure, and real in what was a toxic environment thriving on negativity. I started playing with one of them, a very energetic and friendly calico who loved playing with a stick I had found. The other one was a dark gray with tinges of orange and, like the calico, had his tail clipped. This gray was skittish, but was warming up to me when one of the most horrible and disturbing things I have ever seen happened. It pains me to think, let alone write, about it and -- I hate repeating myself -- still disturbs me whenever I even think about it.

The kittens had taken a break, and I was sitting against a chain-link fence chatting. When James sat down on the lemonade trailer in front of me. The trailer wasn't on blocks, and when someone sat on the back edge it would tip on its wheels -- and hit the ground. The calico kitten was underneath and the trailer's rear edge -- loaded with the lemonade stand -- landed flush across her back/mid-section.I heard her howl, people yell, then lifted the trailer. The kitten took off running, but not... running. She could not coordinate her front and back legs and ran with her rear legs cockeyed; nearly 45-degrees to one side. She seemed at first as though her back was broken.

I'd never felt what I felt at that moment. I couldn't deal with it. I remember yelling, "God fucking dammit!" and, "No! No! No!" I felt it in my lungs, stomach; all through my body. I don't even know what "it" was. It was just something I...couldn't handle. I was just playing with her, getting attached, and enjoying something...pure. Then, that place almost literally killed it. It was the same blackness as Easter Sunday by the river: it seemed to have a way of brutally destroying anything positive.

I pulled myself together and found the cat lying beneath the lemonade stand's trailer having difficulty breathing... and crying. Then came what finally drove me out of this place. People running away like children! They acted as if they were kids who busted the neighbor's window! "Let's get to the store! Let's get out of here! We didn't see anything! He's gonna flip!" When I heard Chris say, "it's time to snap its neck" I about snapped myself. I said nothing because by then it occurred to me that, after seeing her run, she may not have broken her back, but perhaps ribs and needed a vet. When Chris reached to grab her, I told him to "get the fuck away from her" then tried to rally people to get her to a veterinarian. Then, the final straw: Andy bitching about who's going to pay the bill! I forget who, but someone took control, got a milk crate, and got into the van to supposedly find a vet, but it was 6 pm and no one knew anything about Baton Rouge. How were they going to find a vet? They weren't.

That was it.

I called Laina and talk it over with her. What I just seen, the realization of how little money I was able to save -- and the disgust I felt for "these people" after this -- I was leaving. She agreed, checked the schedules, and we decided I would leave on a 12:30 am bus from Baton Rouge that night. I went over to the football field adjacent to camp to talk to Jimmy, who was drinking Jim Beam and already annihilated. I wish he hadn't been. I couldn't talk to him when he was drunk. He tried to talk me out of leaving for his own reasons; had he been sober he would've understood. I talked to Willie right after, and he was very cool about it, giving me $25 for my shirt, but no money for Monday. Not that I did anything anyhow!

I went back to the bunkhouse and started sorting, packing, and since we had just been paid... selling shit. I sold my Merrill hiking shoes to Andy for $20, by old, comfy Nike running shoes for $10, and left some work jeans and other odds and ends for Jimmy. The pack was seven or 8 pounds lighter than what I arrived, and I was glad. As the word spread that I was leaving, people are asking why, but I was unable to really explain it. I just kept saying, "I have to." I would hit on it later, on the way to the Greyhound station. But, at the time, I just wanted out. It was actually a nice two or three hours waiting to leave. It felt good, despite the immediate reasons behind it. I asked Gabby to drive me into Baton Rouge, instead of Timmy, and she agreed. I was beyond grateful, and I'm sure Timmy was, too! Then, James asked if he could go, and of course Tricia came. Toby and Chris too. We left Jimmy behind because he was too obliterated.

The atmosphere in the van was a quieter than I expected, but no one had a lot, or knew what, to say. It occurred to me, as I mentioned, what had happened, or at least how it hit me. The cat was not only a personally perceived tragedy, but a metaphor for the whole place and the energy it attracts. It seemed to kill anything good, gentle, and/or real; allowed nothing positive to thrive. I'm reminded of the day by the river with Tricia and Jimmy. We were all at peace until we crossed that road, and all of that positive energy was instantaneously replaced by something sinister. We even noticed it in the moment and commented on it. We were never able to get around or through it. When I saw the kitten hurt, after bringing some joy into that camp, and my world, for a while -- I couldn't be immersed in it any longer.

When we finally got to the bus station, I was struck that these people had wanted to ride into Baton Rouge, not for the road trip, but to see me off! I was touched by that, particularly because of my history with people over the last few years, but I politely refused to give Tricia my phone number. That upset her great deal. As cruel as it may be, I don't think I want to deal with her. She's a great person who is lost in her mind; lost in her world, and wants to stay there. She's afraid to step out of it. I really don't want the drunken phone calls in the middle of the night, or any of that. I may call her in a week or two to see how she's doing. We'll see. I did however give my number to James, to keep one line of communication open.

The ride out of Baton Rouge was weird. That vision of the cat, and that I later saw her with Patches -- wheezing -- because they couldn't, or wouldn't, try to find a veterinarian, hit me hard.

Then, I started thinking about the friendships I had developed in the two weeks I was gone, and more importantly -- why. Some names to remember: Andy -- the insane, wanted felon. Bob -- the basketball-game guy. Jason -- Timmy's boyfriend, and really a decent guy. Brandi -- the obese, slutty, 18-year-old idiot, who talks like a retarded racist. I never did get ahold of Steve in Oklahoma. May not, but I'd love to know how he's doing.

From Baton Rouge, we went to Houston then Dallas. I met a very interesting guy at the Dallas Greyhound who reminded me a bit of Clint Hurdle, of all people. He was 57, from north-central Texas, and heading to Roswell on business. We talked about many of things, mostly the failing economy, on our ride from Dallas to Wichita Falls. I found it interesting that I could relate to a Texas conservative who spent 20 years as a cop just as well, if not better, than the hippies I have run into! He even shared many of my views on life, technology, sociology, etc.. These ideas are not ideology. I wish I could have spent more time chatting with him. He reminded me of what Jimmy kept saying: "listen to the older folks, heed your elders." I'm glad I met him. His name was Dan.

Not much on the hike again today, but that's not done. In fact, I'm now much more confident about it, and need to see what happens with Michigan.

An interesting experience comes to a close. Glad I did it.