"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, May 22, 2009

5/20-5/22/09: New Mexico to New England

Time management is not my strength. I had spent Monday and Tuesday obsessed with editing pictures, so by the time Wednesday morning came around I had much left to do before my 2pm Southwest Chief from Santa Fe to either Boston or Springfield.

Laina dropped me off in Lamy at about 1:30 and after the goodbyes I found myself plopped down on the platform next to the tracks just as I had the year before on my way to Santa Barbara. It was a beautiful afternoon, as May afternoons in New Mexico tend to be, and as the train pulled in the realization that I was about to ride from the Southwest to New England provided an always welcome rush of adrenaline. Also adding to the intensity: this was the first anniversary of Chris dropping me off at Jackson Lake State Park near Ft. Morgan, CO beginning what was a very cool 2008. A good day to be hopping a cross country Amtrak!

Lamy, NM
Beginning of an epic trip.
Once settled into my window seat, I noticed a film crew on board. Soon, they were in my car shooting some sort of a movie. "39 Miles" was the working title and I recall a distinct twinge of disgust as they proceeded to create a supposed electronic reality out of the limited view of their camera lens with re-take after re-take! I kept picturing Bill O'Reilly as I watched all this! Keith Olbermann too...

The ride to Chicago was gorgeous through New Mexico and Colorado before the sun set and the rest of the ride was mundane. After 24-hours we arrived in Chicago the Thursday afternoon at around 3pm and I had six hours to kill at Union Station. I took advantage of the lockers to lighten the load and managed to embrace my adventurous explorer side and...walked around the block. That was enough Chicago sight seeing. Growing up only a couple hours away, I've never been impressed with Chicago and don't get all the fuss. The Red Wings were up 2-0 in the NHL's Western Conference Finals against the Blackhawks so I thought I'd wear my Wings cap to annoy the multitudes. Did it work? No one let on.

Amtrak's Lakeshore Limited departed at 9pm for both New York and Boston. I learned that Albany, NY was where they would first separate the cars then add an engine to the back half of the train taking that group of cars to NYC while we continued on toward Boston unimpeded. Clever, these train-folk.

The ride through northern Indiana and extreme northern Ohio was nostalgic. Being raised just over the state line in Michigan, this landscape is embedded in my DNA. Sometimes painfully. Although it was the middle of the night, I clearly recognized the roads and towns as the train sped along. South Bend. Elkhart. Goshen. Bryan. Defiance. Toledo. Defiance was particularly odd because that was where we had taken the "older kids" to buy us beer when Ohio's drinking age was 19. Ahhhh. The wholesome, drunken good ol' days.  

We then passed within spitting distance of Shelly's house in Delta, a little town between Bryan and Toledo. I caught myself thinking that THIS was where we, only a few days ago, were discussing getting off the train. This was also my destination. There it was! I could see it! Yet I was training another 600 or 700 miles to get there! I loved that.

Once thru Toledo, I slept. All the way to Rochester, then to Syracuse, then again almost to Albany. Dammit! I missed Sandusky, Cleveland and...Erie! Missing Erie pretty much devastated me, as you can no doubt imagine, but I'm also quite sure Sandusky appreciated my low-key arrival and quick departure this time.

You've heard that story, right?

Past Albany, the Adirondack-filled landscape gets intensely beautiful and I realized that I had made a wise choice. This was the type of country we'd missed down south and I wanted to swim in it. Western Massachusetts was just as beautiful with more lakes and rivers as far as I could tell.

I hadn't met anyone of note on the entire train ride. This was my fault as I was introspective most of the time, however a couple of prime specimens quickly presented themselves past Albany.

The first was a uniformed soldier. I never spoke with him but he was apparently on his way to or from Iraq. "How do you know this?" the perceptive reader may ask. It was easy. He kept reminding a pretty young lady of it... at every single opportunity. For instance, while outside smoking (hush!) in Albany she mentioned "snowboarding boots." He then proclaimed in a pathetic, over-amplified, "far away" voice, "These boots have been to IRAQ... and they're gonna go...again." What was worse? Sgt. Major Erection using that line, loudly, or that it seemed to be working! Whatever. Maybe I was just jealous. And maybe a nice case of syphilis would do him good.

But on the pathetic scale, the other character put him to shame. I only spent the short time between Pittsfield and Springfield chatting with this pasty, red haired, obese 20-something and have long since forgotten her name, but she was the poster child for why we should require licenses to reproduce.

Immediately after plopping down, and without using the changing station provided, she thought it appropriate to wipe a good dose of collected #2 from her infant daughter. The poor teenager she'd pinned between her and the window had no choice but to watch. And smell. All the while, Mommy Dearest repeatedly declared that she was ready to "end all the pain" and go get "all fuckered up"

Really. She really said "fuckered up."

After her formidable poo-cleaning skills were exhibited for all aboard to see, she then looked at this poor kid and asked, "Do you mind?" while pushing her child out toward him! This teenager was a good sport and took the little girl and successfully occupied her while Mother of the Year got her shit together. (Intended and loved.) If this was that poor boy's first train ride I hope he gives it another shot! 

My mistake? Letting her bait me into conversation. I knew better. But alas, I was suckered (not fuckered) into hearing all about the "asshole boyfriend" who only "wicked fucks with her head", and how everyone is conspiring to take her child away "only" because she has "no job, real home, or no money", but only "for right now". Oh, and, "Yeah, I used to be a crack head, but gave dat shit up."

She couldn't comprehend why everyone was just "out to get" her. "They just don't understand the shit I been through and how hard it is!"
Lest you think I make shit (intended) up!

Then came the cliché "suicide" innuendo.

Then came the abrupt end to our little chat.

The train eased into Springfield about 6pm Friday. I had gotten a ticket all the way to Boston, but exiting in Springfield quickly proved to be far more practical. Chris was waiting for me in full backpack at the tracks when I stepped off and after 11-days we were back at it.

I spent nearly 45-minutes arranging my pack and enjoying being off the train (and freed from Trailer Park Barbie) then out of the blue, as we made our way toward The Magic Gus, we unexpectedly found just how "back at it" we really were!

Friday's story wasn't finished...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

5/9/09: Manhattan III- Angela

Saturday was filled with another trip to Soho to see Wendie’s friend, Angela. Mary drove to the ferry terminal where we took the quick trip across the Hudson to a bus that would drop us within walking distance of Angela’s place.

Angela lives with her parents in a neat, industrial-feeling flat on the top floor of a building near Broadway. After a quick reacquaintance and tour of the apartment, she took a break from studying as we all walked to a nearby coffee shop (always a good choice!) to enjoy some java, chocolate chip cookies and some surprising conversation.

Wendie, Mary, Chris, and Angela spent most of the first few minutes getting back in touch with each other while I resumed my familiar and enjoyable role as “people watcher.” Soon enough, however, the conversation suddenly turned to the topics on which I thrive: the state of society, life, and how people view their roles in it. The highlights (which will prevent a full- blown rantI AM MERCIFUL!) included an examination of how we define seemingly simple terms and ideas; ones that are taken for granted, yet thinly understood. Terms like “happiness,”, “freedom”, “success.” We discussed whether people were, in reality, living their own lives or those imposed upon them.

Ultimately, the simple sounding yet complicated idea of “knowing yourself” was discussed as was the idea of waiting for what I call “Leonard Cohen’s Miracle”. In a nutshell, this has to do with waiting for “someone or something to show you the way” (Pink Floyd); a divine, life-changing person, vision, or influence to alter your existence and “bring you” happiness. Something that magically enables you to lead a life of self-realizing authenticity. This, of course is a big barrel of bullshit. That’s the currency of cults and religion: The manufacture of convenient delusion. They remove the notion of responsibility and accountability for our own happiness and relieves us of the age old realization that no one can “bring you” happiness. This creates the perpetual victim who has "waited half their life away" while failing to understand a very simple truth: You have to get off your metaphorical ass and go get it yourself.

These “miracles” exist, but they do not come as lightning bolts from the sky. They come from within; your own internal voice. Religions of all kinds have vaguely alluded to it in various ways, sometimes with cartoon characters (Casper the Holy Ghost?). Sometimes with ideas such as that your “soul” is a little piece of “God” itself residing inside of you…meaning that We Are God! With this concept, the battle, the struggle that defines how we experience life, surrounds the elimination of the static that prevents us from seeing it: ego. It’s our handlers in the media’s job to try to be sure you’re never quite able to actually internalize; you may just realize how corrupt and self-destructive equating material success to happiness REALLY can be.

Heavy stuff. I was right at home! I don't make a very good cocktail party guest...

This was one of the better conversations I remember having. It just flowed! We could pick up, then run with ideas and themes taking them in new, yet applicable directions. This is rare and says a lot, since there were five of us actively taking part!

After struggling through conversations with Musty this week, it cemented my conclusion that these are conversations you can’t have with just anyone. These are concepts that the English language is just, sometimes, NOT equipped to articulate. If you’re having conversations with people who “get it”, you wont need to articulate them. There are ideas that need an "unspoken understanding" to be discussed. And, if the person you are engaging with lacks conceptualization, you may as well be talking to a stuffed penguin.

I thoroughly enjoyed Angela’s company and I am glad I got the chance to meet her. She’s one of the people who can always add something to your life and help you grow. Pretty high praise for someone I only spent a couple hours with! 

During the conversation, Mary mentioned something that reminded me of an email I had received a while ago. She had read some of my commentary regarding suburbs and the homogenization of culture. She vehemently disagrees, which I thought was great because she wasn’t disagreeing out of a defensive posture, she just thought I was wrong! It reminded me of a quotation that says “Agreement is not required. Thinking for oneself is.

I’ve decided to post the email, with his permission, because it means a lot coming from him and perfectly articulates all that a person should hope to gain when seeking out truth, offering opinion & observation, and exploring ideas.

No man can tell another man how to live…” Name THAT movie!

Hey Todd,

Just wanted to drop you a quick line. I finally finished reading your journal from '08 and have caught up with the new Te Nosce blog. First off, I just really enjoyed reading all about your adventures, struggles, triumphs. So often people don't follow through the way you have with full descriptions of everything they're experiencing. I'm talking partly about actually updating every day (I don't have that kind of discipline), but also I'm talking about your (sometimes brutal) honesty about how you feel about the given moment. It's just...cool. Growing up in California, I especially appreciated viewing through your eyes things that I had seen myself. Your slow journey gave me new perspective on the beauty of the state.

While I am wrapped up in this world of mortgage and work and taxes and such, you've made me think about it a bit more than I normally would have. Not what I expected when I started reading your blog, but I'm better for opening my mind to some of what you've had to say. We'll not see eye to eye on everything, but I think that you'll agree that that's okay.

For what it's worth, I am okay with my entrapment in this system. It works for me. That being said, you can also count me among the others you've mentioned who say they wish they could do what you're doing. And if it's okay, I'll be following along as if I'm out there too...not as simple escapism (though I suppose I have to admit that's part of it), but also...well, I'm just excited for you and to see where this all will take you. Hope that makes sense.

I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try attaching a favorite song of mine by a group called Poi Dog Pondering (perhaps you ran across some of them back in your radio days, though never at a mainstream station I'm sure). Anyway, the lyrics speak to me when I think about your travels. If it doesn't work, maybe you can google the lyrics so you can see what I mean. The song's called "The Ancient Egyptians". I think you'll like it.

I'll catch you later. Safe travels my friend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

5/8/09: Sisters

This is the day I officially checked out of New York, and began looking west. Also, this is the day that Chris and I swapped positions from where we were in New Mexico! I now knew what it was like for him to be sedentary at our place while being anxious to get on the road east. The energy in the house was a bit odd. Not negative or unwelcoming as much as it was as though there were "opposing polarities" between Chris, Mary, & I and Musty. He was cordial, but it also was apparent he would like to have his house back, free of these misguided, spiritual vagabond kooks! Who could blame him?

As Monday’s marathon Greyhound ride drew nearer, this was probably a contributor to the familiar feelings of agitation; the same as Cape May. This time the friction was subtly growing, rather than suddenly appearing, and it was becoming blatantly apparent that I was, potentially, significantly off-kilter. Yet, I was still at a loss to identify it. I hoped that Wendie’s arrival that night would interject some much-needed, new, positive energy to the situation. She most certainly did that, but in an unexpected ways for me.

After picking her up at the airport, the three of us stayed awake until the wee hours chatting about all sorts of life things. Telling stories. Sharing experiences. It’s clear that she is someone who has a lot going and is willing to ask questions, and seek answers. I could physically feel the connection that exists between she and Chris, and it was nice to watch siblings that are that close. It drove home again, however, the admittedly juvenile feelings that I'd had six siblings withheld out of either selfishness, or cowardice; with two or three of which there seems to be developing a bond, even at this point in our lives, as we finally get to know each other. Yet, I wasn’t so much jealous as simply happy to see it on display between Chris & Wendie.

Seeing and hearing all this over the weekend slowly snapped into focus the fundamental purpose for my upcoming trek to Michigan: Getting to know the available members of that side of my “family”, and actually meeting the mythical “St. Shelly” for the first time. My mother always spoke glowingly about her, even though she was only a little girl when I was born. As a result, meeting her is something I have wanted to do for 30-years.

It is mind boggling to think that all of this “family stuff” has manifested just since February. It is particularly odd since I now have nothing to do with the two sisters with whom I was actually raised! Adding to the oddity, I had lost touch 8-years ago with the two sisters I HAD met from my father’s side, until a chance run-in on Facebook in January. The sole reason I was now in touch with Shelly was, once again, chance. She “happened” to be visiting, and in the same room with Pam while I was chatting with her one night, and “pounced” on the computer. You are forgiven for asking, “Why would she have to pounce on the computer?” In fact, I have asked similar questions often during the 15-years I have known Pam! (and Kim)

Yes…15- years. Things that make you go…hmmmm! There are many of these “hmms” directed squarely at me. Over the last few months, I have finally begun to get answers thanks to Shelly. Lynn has helped a great deal, too, although probably without knowing it as we have only traded a pair of emails. Yet, a scant five months ago, I had only a few pictures a name, and 20-minutes with my father in a mall's food court. Now, thanks to Shelly’s patience and hard work, I have names, pictures, and nearly 400-years of history and a sense of where I have come from; a heritage beyond coded, biased anecdotes and watered down hearsay. I still have two brothers with whom there's no contact, but oddly they don’t seem to play a role in anything.

Yes, the Michigan Pilgrimage will be quite significant beyond the traditional reunions with old friends and familiar places. I doubt much about it will be “familiar!” Not a lot happened on this Friday night that most would find interesting and “travel journal” material, but it would slowly play a significant role over the next few days and go a long ways toward a solution to a much-needed Mother’s Day Revelation-of-the-Obvious.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

5/7/09: Manhattan Day 2

Considering how late of a night it was, I felt good as we moved out of Ingrid's place on a search for coffee and a train to midtown. Just after we said our goodbyes, the skies opened up and let loose a deluge the likes of which I had not seen in ages! This made the walk around Columbia's campus interesting, and we finally found a suitable coffee shop just as the heaviest rains began to fall.

Coffee is a wonderful thing! We had originally decided to make our way to Penn Station and head back to New Jersey, but after caffeine and walking in the rain, it seemed like wandering the streets of New York for a few hours more was the thing to do. We found our subway and eventually Times Square and the United Nations. I cannot explain why the UN was such a draw, it wasn't like we were going to take the tour or anything, but it's a place I've just wanted to visit for a number of years now. I can now cross that off the list.

We were on the bus back to Jersey by late afternoon, and as we approached his Mom's driveway, we noticed a few deer wandering through a yard adjacent to the road. The deer closest to us had no interest in running off as we walked by. There were a couple others on that side nibbling on grass and across the road and I noticed another, younger deer navigating down the steep, wooded hill onto the asphalt trying to join his friends. He was maybe 25 yards ahead of us, and as I looked up, I saw a car speeding down the hill toward us.

The next few seconds were in stereotypical slo mo. The deer began to run across the road, as the car came around a slight curve in the road. The driver was gabbing on his cell phone and never saw the deer, slamming it directly with the center of his grill... NEVER hitting his brakes until his front end was smashed. With a loud "thud" and the sounds of shattered fiberglass, the car sent the deer flying through the air, then along the asphalt directly toward us, before coming to rest in the brush only a matter of a few feet to our left...thanks to the curve in the road. We initially thought the carcass may actually hit us. I could see the whole thing develop, and could only say, "I didn't need to see that" while fighting the urge to implant the old man's cell phone firmly, and sideways, up his ass. There was no reason for him not to see the deer in time. His phone call was obviously more important than looking down the road.

Being sensitive to such sudden events, seeing that deer annihilated created distinct reactions specific to our different personalities. For Chris, it seemed to be a possibly ominous foreshadowing of events as they related to him or us. For me, it was an instant, disturbing reminder of something that had happened in Baton Rouge at the end of my Carnie Adventure in 2008.

I had been with the carnivals for about 2-weeks by then and this particular Sunday evening, I had been playing with a kitten that someone had brought along. A few minutes later someone sat on the front end of a trailer. The added weight caused it to tip on its wheels. Unbeknown to him, this kitten was sitting beneath the trailer. The frame landed directly on top of her back- snapping her spine. The last straw was one of the degenerates spewing the machismo filled "Well, time to snap its neck!" With my affinity for cats, at that moment I wanted to hurt him more than I ever wanted to hurt a person. I instead put my efforts into trying to convince anyone with a vehicle to take her to a vet. That failed. I was on a bus 3-hours later.

Perhaps I am a bit overly sensitive to energy as some have suggested, but it was only later that I realized that the cat was a serving as a brutal metaphor for other things that I had sensed there. It seems that whenever something positive was introduced, it was "crushed". I had seen it with a few people who were obviously there because they were searching for something. Trying to get that "something unexplainable" to take root only to have the negativity of the place suffocate it. That happened with my Chickasha friend, Jimmy. He had led the Easter Sunday Indian ritual outlined on my other blog. I learned when I returned home that someone had beaten him up shortly after I left.

My sense of the deer experience was that it was time for me to exit New York, and I was now grateful that I had my bus ticket for Monday. What solidified this notion was Musty. His witty reaction to our anecdotes: "Is it dead? Good, one less deer in the world." His primary concern: his lawn. Regardless of the fact that he owns property in their habitat, he believes that his deed trumps any sort of natural law or obligation to balance. They should all be dead because they create what he perceives as an "inconvenience!" Not that he is in the minority, of course. But, is it any wonder that we are where we are as a species if the prevailing attitude is that wealth, property, or even simple convenience dictates supreme law, and another's right to exist? Sorry, but that's unsustainable.

After Musty's commentary, I was reminded of his theory about how "evil" will never have any problem "killing good." I laughed at the obvious irony! Since he was happy to arbitrarily kill these creatures simply because he had judged them as "pests", I wondered (at great length) as to how he'd define "good & evil" and where he'd fall on an authentic scale. Ahh, these annoying "abstract" concepts like good and evil! I see no "empirical proof" that, in the grand scheme of things, YOU yourself are "good?" In fairness, that's an inventory many of us could stand taking, especially when expanding the idea beyond an isolated incident in New Jersey. I keep hearing the conversations with Eric back in Denver about coyotes and prairie dogs...

Regardless, this was pretty much the end of my interactions with Musty other than the polite, obligatory, superficial small talk.

All considered, I was happy to make it an early night. Chris' sister, Wendie, was flying in from Seattle the next day to spend Mother's Day weekend with Chris and Mary. I had been looking forward to meeting her, curious to see if she'd be likely to play a significant role later on.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

5/6/09: Manhattan

We caught the late morning train back to Penn Station and had lunch with Chris's friend, Stephanie. They had gone to SVA together, and been roommates for awhile. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a video editor for a midtown advertising agency, which means she edits TV commercials for a living...and hates it...claiming it's "killing her soul". I liked her immediately! We seemed to have a lot in common, although I chose not to explore this common hatred in any depth. They were having fun reminiscing over "award winning" grilled cheese, and I was content to mostly listen and watch people. I would come to find that People Watching is one of the great joys of New York City. I had heard that before, but for the love of Christ! You just can't help it.

SVA was nearby, so from this swank restaurant the three of us were off on a brief, nostalgic tour of Ye Olde Stomping Grounds. They showed me a couple of their favorite spots and old apartment before Stephanie had to, grudgingly, get back to work.

From there Chris and I began making our way toward Soho, where he had more friends to seek out. Along the way we took a casual stroll thru NYU's campus where Chris imparted unto me the crucial knowledge that "NYU girls are easy." Thanks Chris, good to know... now. From there it was a slow stroll toward the subway, and eventually Soho.

I really liked Soho. We stopped into one of his old coffee shops from years ago where he was warmly, if not psychotically, greeted by an old customer who recognized him. She also had named, and was chatting with Mike: a bird perched in a tree.

Craig's coffee shop was next, a few blocks away but still in Soho. What struck me about both of these shops were how old and tiny they were. They couldn't have been more than 10 or 15 ft. across. Not the kind of place you'll write a phantom screenplay while drinking coffee to be seen.

Craig's place was staffed by an extremely attractive young lady, so we got coffee and sat outside on a bench to take advantage of the view while waiting for a call from his friend, Margo. Chris had mentioned that Craig's "thing" is acting, and that he's been on CSI a number of times. I would rather be gang raped by rabid rhinos than watch CSI, so I didn't recognize him at all when he eventually came by. Another interesting tidbit on Craig: on 9/11 he was standing in front of his shop when the first plane flew directly over his head just before hitting the WTC.

From Craig's we decided to stop in to a little bar called Milady's. It was only a couple blocks away, and we figured we could have a beer while we continued to wait for Margo's call. Chris had arranged to have dinner and/or drinks with Ingrid later on in the evening, and we had now begun contemplating just calling it a city and heading back to Jersey after we'd finished. Chris called Ingrid and set an earlier time and a place on the Upper West Side to have drinks. In the interim, we decided to just stop in to see Margo for a quick hello, figuring he could come back the next week if he missed the sit down. We grabbed another train, and headed to Wall St., and then the WTC site as it was approaching 5:00.

This was the first time I had been to Ground Zero in the daylight. It never ceases to silence me as I quietly look up to the now- empty skyline and replay the images long since burned into our psyche. The planes. People jumping. The towers falling. Policemen. Firefighters. The tidal wave of dust & debris flooding the streets. 

Thoughts race, but none have to do with patriotism. It's the definition of "heroism"; how it has nothing to do with an athletic field or a television production. It boggles my mind to see the hole in the earth, nearly 8- years later, and think that 3,000 people died here, yet commerce and real estate values mandate our collective values: something simply MUST be built. I see the pile of rubble, still smoldering, in my mind. I hear George Bush making love to his megaphone. Then Dick Cheney giving his WMD proclamation followed by the images from Abu Grahib. This place is a magnet for me, yet obviously not for the reasons our handlers would like. Ground Zero both saddens and enrages me. This is the place that the world, yes, but my country in particular-changed. It's the place that America, at least the idea of it...died. The very spot where America became Amerika.

As we tried to walk the perimeter, I found a crack in the fencing that exposed the entire substructure, and the thing that they'd like to sell you as "The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes": The "Phreedom" Tower. On the spot where so many freedoms were obliterated. And not by the planes. As I saw the sight of this "Phreedom" Tower taking its embryonic shape, I think I may have vomited a bit in my mouth.

From the WTC site, it was a nice subway ride north to the Upper West Side, Columbia University, and Ingrid. Ingrid is Chris's ex-girlfriend, and his travel partner on the first part of his cross country walk. He freely admits that he ran her off, so I was eager to meet her! For whatever reason, I had very low expectations. Yet, the same had been true of Bill & Laura and the theme would continue; I greatly enjoyed her!

Their travels and relationship had ended, as best as I can decipher (and remember thru the drunken haze) from Chris's refusal to slow down and just enjoy the walk. He has been openly conscious of this while we've been out here, so no big revelations. I laughed when she told me she was amazed, and happy that I "had gotten him to slow down" because she couldn't. It's nothing I've done, but I got a kick out of it.

Beyond their past, Ingrid was interesting in other ways. She is another of the philosophy/psychology double minor types with which I love to have coffee driven conversations. She is obviously brilliant, and if we had had more time, and not been drinking, the chats would have been priceless! I mean, hell...she mentions Sartre on Facebook!

There were other people in this little bar near 115th and Amsterdam. Her boisterous, and annoying (to me) 20- year old friend, Perri and the poor guy she was stalking. She probably annoyed me because she's 20 more than anything! There was also Kwami, a guy who was quite interested in our travels, loved my hat, and was happy to tell us all about ourselves.

I had forgotten that NYC bars close at 4am. We started drinking at 9. Do the math. Ingrid, however, had a hookup at the bar so, although we were drinking the whole time, we spent next to nothing. Thank fucking God...that could have been horrific.

We had long since decided, again, to stay at Ingrid's, and I slept nicely on the most comfortable of yoga mats.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

5/1- 5/5/09: NYC

The train dropped us a mile from Chris's mother's house in West Paterson, NJ. Chris was looking forward to seeing her, and were both eager to get out of the packs, out of the nasty clothes, and into showers!

Friday night was spent chatting and gorging ourselves. Mary and her husband, Musty, made sure I felt at home as we settled in for this seemingly unknown length of time. All we knew was that Chris's sister, Wendie, would be in from Seattle the following Friday for Mother's Day, and that we wanted to stay thru her visit, which would end 5/13. At least 12-days. This was Chris's prime destination out east, and it was time for me to relax, exhale, and process the past three weeks. That's exactly what I did. In fact, I finally left the house on Monday, only for cigs. I literally walked 2-miles for a cigarette. Most of the rest of the time was spent tinkering with the blog, editing & uploading pictures, and trying to clarify foggy ideas of how to proceed from here.

The four of us had some interesting chats over the weekend, although I'm quite sure Musty finds us to be quite ridiculous! He is literally a retired rocket scientist, and a lot like Bill in that he's scientific-minded, but much less open to abstract ideas. In fact, he may have nightmares about the very notion of things abstract, perhaps sometimes awakening in a cold, tangible sweat screaming "empirical proof!" I kid the Musty...

Now, to his credit, one nugget he left with me was his philosophy that, in the end, evil will always triumph over good for the simple reason that evil has no moral war to wage about just eliminating good. Good on the other hand will first pontificate, then try to legislate or rehabilitate, before deferring to the metaphorical study group to "seek further 'data' before more action can be taken."

This all leads down the very dark alley toward establishing a standard of Moral Superiority; one I assume Musty himself has no issue walking in the dead of night. Yet, it's an interesting point, and screams to several different groups, and ultimately depends on how you define "good & evil". Hopefully you're not leaving that not-so-simple definition to George Bush or Sky Daddy. We never got to that point, thank God, and for once I'll attempt to leave something alone before I get steamrolling. I'd also like you to know that, if not for some serious editing, the preceding paragraph would have reached the first full "Rant Alert" status of 2009! "Am I not merciful?!?!" Name the movie, win a prize...

The four of us (Chris, Mary, Musty, and I) also seem to share a special disdain for the Federal Reserve. We spent 4- hours, straight, watching and discussing a program from the mid- 90's that outlines the history of the Reserve, central banks, and the income tax. More importantly, and creepy, is that it predicted this "crisis" you're being sold...and did it in 1995.

As the new week arrived, my next step presented itself, in a big way, from a traditionally unlikely source: Laina. Out of the blue she began talking about flying to Michigan to meet up when I finally get there. Unfortunately, we have no idea when that will be, so the conversation turned to ME doing the traveling, NOW, since we were hunkered down on the east coast. Besides, my calendar oddly seems a bit empty for the foreseeable future. With Chris going to see family & friends in Mass. after New York, a trip back to New Mexico now would fit nicely. Plus, when else will I be able to do it this conveniently? It seemed odd to retrace my steps so quickly after leaving, but it "felt right", and I laughed realizing that I had done nearly the same thing, on a much smaller scale, last year after 10-days!

After weighing planes, trains, and automobusses, we decided to get the 7-day advance Greyhound ticket from Newark to Santa Fe. I severely dreaded 2-days of Dirty Dog, but this suffering would allow me to Amtrak back to Boston. Worth it indeed. To prevent intense nausea, and perhaps even a bludgeoning of one of the various breeds of punk that curse They Who Would Have You Leave the Driving to Them, I chose a route other than Nashville- St. Louis- Amarillo. If I never again see that Fascist Shithole in St. Louis, I'll be happy! (see last August's post for the backstory) Instead, I would travel through Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indy, Peoria, Des Moines, Omaha, and finally Denver before getting home. Some territory I hadn't seen in awhile.

Another major development on a personal level that may play a role later this year is that my last "mythical sister" and I finally started a dialogue via email. We seem to click nicely. She is quite blunt and to the point about things. We all know by now how He Who Blogs loves that! Her name is Lynn, she lives in Boise, and you'll be hearing much more about the rest of the story as Michigan gets closer. Suffice it to say for now that this was a big, big deal.

Chris had been making arrangements with people to meet up with in the city, so we decided to make one long trip to Manhattan, rather than spending money on the bus everyday. We were on the bus Wednesday morning, planning to stay with various friends until Friday evening...

Friday, May 1, 2009

5/1/09: Escape to New York

I'm always amused as to how a bed feels after sleeping on the ground for a stretch. One of mankind's best innovations. Without a doubt.

We slept in until around 1 then slowly put our things together while Wendy cooked up a huge, unexpected breakfast. "Ham, eggs, bacon, toast, juice- in the Age of Swine Flu!", I laughed. I guess swine product acquisition would be a bit more difficult, not to mention travel to/from Mexico, if it were an actual threat and wondered to myself how soon it would be until it was yesterday's news.

The steps thru Tuckahoe were retraced and after a mile we were back to terra incognita, still on route 50, trying for Mays Landing by Saturday. Not exactly an example of elaborate goal setting, since it was maybe all of 10-miles. The weather was cool and cloudy for the most part, with hints all afternoon that we'd be dumped on eventually. The walk was quite nice, stopping at a little greenhouse for apples and grapes, then a nice conversation with Liddy the Horse. We had ultimately given up hitching New Jersey. Occasionally, Chris would throw out his thumb, but more out of habit than anything. At this point, we were ready for Saturday's pick up, and were just sauntering down the road until it arrived.

At about 4:30 and half way to Mays Landing, we had stopped for a break when Chris's Mom called to say that plans had changed. She wouldn't be able to come. This sent us into a flurry of improvisation. As Chris put it, we had grown smitten with the notion of being in New York by Saturday, so I quickly called NJ Transit to get bus info on Mays Landing to Atlantic City and learned that we had just under two hours to catch the last one that night. It was nearly 5-miles yet, so we'd need to get off our asses and walk a steady clip, but had about enough time. Then the skies finally decided to open up.

As I was prepping Elmo for the Mays Landing Sprint, I looked over and saw a minivan pulling off. We had not even come close to getting a ride in the entire state, and NOW, when we really needed it (and had decided to 'just get to NYC'), we had one? My immediate, and brilliantly insightful reaction: "Are you fucking kidding me?" Thankfully, the driver missed that display of wordsmithiness.

Next to college co-eds, this was the most unlikely of rides. The driver was a single woman in her 50's or 60's, and they rarely stop, out of fear. Especially for TWO passengers. I thought this was quite remarkable on her part, as did she, and I finally understood why when she said, "Something told me to turn around and pick you up!" The line I had heard repeatedly last summer. She then credited Jesus directly, as though Chris and I provided the Saviour hours of entertainment. Hi, Jeebus!

In the excitement of the moment, and the drastically changing scene, I never thought to ask her name. In fact, I said very little at all. I had wisely deferred the front seat to Friar Chris, letting him handle this little theological exchange, which of course he was happy to do.

Our new friend was a lovable, happy, joyful mother of three grown sons, one of whom is a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. She reminded me of one of my oldest friend's mother and was obviously a very devout Christian and happy to hear about new thoughts and ideas; as long as she was allowed to reframe then proudly redisplay them within her religious context! I have learned not to actively engage religious dogmatists, and was taking great joy in watching Chris try! He would share some of his spiritual ideas, and I would then see her twist and manipulate these thoughts into her brand of fundamentalism! It was great fun. I was giggling to myself quietly as we sped up route 50 in a downpour.

Along the way, I had managed to get her to offer to take us another few miles, to Egg Harbor City and the NJ Transit train station. Here we'd have a few more options to get to Atlantic City. I really enjoyed the ride, and the conversation I was privy to. It reminded me a great deal of last year and what I had so far, for the most part, been unable to replicate in 2009.

Arriving in Egg Harbor City, there was a train just pulling in, so we quickly said goodbye and a thousand thank yous, then hurried up the platform. The train said "Philadelphia", and before I could look for Atlantic City schedules, Chris was making his way toward it... and Philadelphia. It wasn't like I had anything better to offer, and I liked the idea of smelling Philadelphia's distinct stink again, so we were quickly headed west by train, rather than east by bus. My kinda trip!

When finally seated on the train, we had a few moments to at least partially process what the hell had just happened. This had the same feel as the day we had been sprung from Maryland thru Delaware. The 45-minute ride to Philly was spent reflecting a great deal on this, and writing.

Our apparently related chain-of-events continued to play out after we arrived at 30th St. Station. We had a 20-minute wait for the Amtrak to Manhattan's Penn Station, then once in the city, another quick 20-minutes for our last train back under the river to his mother's house in New Jersey.

The few minutes in Manhattan were remarkable in a few subtle ways for me. I had another of those kickass "look where your day started" moments as I thought back to waking in Wendy's RV just few hours earlier. I also had fun tinkering with the metaphysics of how things had changed so dramatically once we had seemingly decided to "just get to New York." There was obviously a connection between Denton and Mays Landing, although I had no idea what it was. Finally, we had now been on the road nearly 3-weeks, and were coming into this, planned, extended interlude. Things had felt weird, and often a bit forced at times. This downtime came at a good time. I needed to reset my mind, reflect, and evaluate; the old "personal inventory". In the months leading up to leaving, I hadn't been able to do that since I was forced to halt the personal writing I'd been doing a few years.

In the end, I'd have plenty of time to figure it out...