"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, 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.