"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

Monday, September 21, 2009

9/19-9/21/09: Greyhound-Portland, San Diego, Santa Fe

The ferry ride to Seattle was surreal. When I called Shalain and gave the all-clear to purchase the ticket, it finally hit me that this intense phase had ended, and it a couple days I'd be back in familiar surroundings, being mauled by my cats. Nagging regrets lingered, but I was OK with it. I was mentally spent, needed a break, and would see some interesting (and new) parts of the country on the way.

Wendie's predictions were in fact accurate. I got to see some of the city, albeit from the backseat of a cab, and was surprised at how much I actually liked it, reminding me a little of both San Francisco and Denver. The $8 cab got me to Seattle's shithole Greyhound terminal with 45-minutes to spare, and before I knew it I was nestling into a window seat on a nearly abandoned 1:15 bus and riding right back down I-5 toward Portland. I had honestly hoped that I would meet some interesting people, but all that was offered was another backpacker... with a demeanor that made me want to beat him. Rather than petty violence, I settled for my Mp3 player. Following stops in Tacoma and Olympia, I found myself back in Portland for a 90-minute service layover.

Portland felt much different from this vantage point! As I crossed the Willamette into the western section of downtown, I gazed at the river and laughed out loud at the realization that only a week ago, I was boating beneath this same bridge with Andre. Now, I was re-entering the city less a conquering vagabond- via the least glamorous mode of travel I could think of other than the back of a patrol car! It was quite odd! Despite my time there, this was the first I'd seen of the bus station, and was rather impressed: it was the Taj Mahal compared to Seattle! Clean. Modern. Didn't smell like pee. I considered calling some of my new friends while I was there, but it felt like overkill. What was we going to do with an hour? I settled for a short walk, a pack of cigarettes, and putting a charge on my phone. Leaving Portland on I-5 south took me within sight of the Oregon Yacht Club, and Andre's house. I hopped across the aisle to take one last look at the floating home, the Master Craft, and the spot that had held so much intensity the previous week. Believe it or not, it was more nostalgic than August when I retraced the route I had traveled in Idaho more than a year ago.

The sun sinks early out west, and soon enough I was sleeping the rest of the birthday away. Aside from a quick stop in Eugene, the rest of the night... and most of the trip to LA... was the standard Greyhound experience. We passed into California and I remember hearing an announcement for Redding but didn't bother to open my eyes, let alone get off the bus. Sacramento was my first transfer, early Sunday morning, and being spoiled by the empty vessel ended abruptly with this over packed Los Angeles express!

Central California is nothing to fawn over, however once you get near LA and begin crossing the mountains, it becomes quite gorgeous. The western side of the California mountains (the areas that will be swallowed by the Pacific) have always exceeded my curiously low expectations... with the exception of the Los Angeles cesspool. As we passed through Hollywood, I began to see familiar, iconic sights and signs... like the Capitol Records building and Melrose Place. Now, that's some culture!

The 3-hour Los Angeles layover was the part of this bus trip I was dreading! The last time I bused through LA, I was 14, and we had our luggage stolen from the downtown terminal. I naturally assumed (since it was Greyhound) that little had changed and we were headed back to the same spot. I was pleased when we bypassed downtown altogether and pulled into what can only be described as a "compound" on the south side of the city. The terminal is the most secure I have EVER seen, complete with cameras, fencing, razor wire, automated bus gates, and a security checkpoint that is closer to airports than Greyhound... which generally has NO security whatsoever. The LA station was quite nice after all!

The highlight of the ride same in San Diego and was a nice elixir for the mental upset I had experienced about ending this early. I finally got to meet my friend Amber. I had called after leaving LA, told her my bus was stopping for a short time, and that if she was free it would be great if she stopped in to the bus station so we could finally meet face-to-face. Amber happened to be downtown having dinner, and walked in shortly after the bus arrived. It was nice to see an actual face, and we quickly discussed possible, theoretical travel ideas down the road. I was curious to see if the vibe was the same in person as it had been via Couchsurfing and email. Indeed it was, and the possibilities of someday traveling with her seemed encouraging. San Diego and I seemed to agree with each other. It was one of the last cities that I hadn't seen, and wanted to. Although I didn't get a chance to explore, I liked what I saw and want to return. Soon!

Sunday ended on an interesting note in Calexico, California which, as you can no doubt guess by the name, is ON the Mexican border. I assumed we would get within a mile or two, but the stop was literally within sight and a stone's throw of the checkpoint. Looking for ways to entertain myself, I took a small amount of joy in that I had essentially gone ocean-to-ocean and border-to-border since April. This little side trip was also practical & useful because it was quite close to the Salton Sea, Niland, CA: Slab City. Chris and I have discussed The Slabs numerous times as a possible joint-destination over the winter and this gave me a chance to see the landscape first hand for the first time. I was also privy to numerous Border Patrol ID checks. Along I-8 and I-10 close to the border, Border Patrol would stop the bus, come aboard, and demand immigration papers/ID. They also pull random luggage from beneath the bus and let their dogs go to work. In addition, the highway was blanketed with Border Patrol SUVs shining spotlights into the desert hunting illegals. It was a bizarre experience, but in retrospect should have been expected.

Soon after Tucson finally came New Mexico, and Las Cruces for my final transfer and the last 200-miles up I-25 to Albuquerque. I slept the entire way, but only after learning my father was nearby in Alamagordo on vacation with his RV. I found it putridly ironic that someone I had never met before would meet up with me (Amber), but my own father wasn't approachable. It was a quick, bitter realization, but an important one. I believe that book finally closed for good when I came up with a new moniker for him: Ward. As in Cleaver. Daddy of the Year!

From Albuquerque, I caught the New Mexico Rail Runner commuter train for the last 60+ miles to Santa Fe. This was the first time I had ridden it and highly recommend it to anyone traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Greyhound had appeared to eliminate their stop in Santa Fe, but I was happy to wait the extra hour to take the train! We later discovered that the bus still stops here, but there are no schedules listed on their website. That's fine, maybe having to take the train to Albuquerque will keep me off Greyhound and out of Denver?

I finally arrived home at around 6:30pm on Monday, 52-hours and a world away from Seattle. What happens next was anyone's guess but along with quiet, yet frantic decompression, the preparation began almost immediately.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

9/19/09: Turning 29 Again

When Chris and I finally fell asleep late Friday night, the weather was clear with a beautiful star-filled sky. I had grown used to the aridity of Idaho and eastern Oregon, and apparently forgotten how quickly weather changes on the coast, particularly Oregon and Washington. When I awoke on my birthday, Mother Nature immediately reminded me, with a soggy, frustrating "gift." I had fallen asleep with the waterproof, external zipper wide open. Because I had only closed the bivy's bug netting to enjoy the night air, when it began raining the inside commenced collecting water. In a fog of sleep and haze of laziness, I semi-consciously pulled the goretex forward without sealing it, and went back to sleep. The old college try did not quite cut it, however, and when I awoke around 6:30 I found my phone, sleeping bag, and camera lying in a puddle! My camera's waterproof, thank God, but the sleeping bag was about to be stashed in the backpack for 2-solid days on the bus. Yay, mildew! And, the phone...yes, the damn phone again...was not working. This had a familiar feel to it! Happy 29th birthday again, Todd! We're off to a fantabulous start!

Cursing the memory of Bobby's pool, I deduced that the battery had either gone dead or the phone was... phucked. To compound matters, I was the first one awake and, unsure if Wendie & Daniel were up, was afraid to open the noisy garage door behind which, the rest of my belongings, including the charger and spare battery, were stashed. There were things I could do to try to salvage it, but needed to have power. I paced around the front of the house in frustration until 7:30, when it was time to wake Chris.

The two of us were under the assumption the four of us were leaving at 8 or 8:30, so when I got the all-clear to enter the garage, I began something resembling hasty emergency surgery. I got signs of life and a signal with the other battery, but when I called Laina, she couldn't hear me! Also, there was a short somewhere, making sending texts impossible. Contrary to popular belief, wet electronics are remarkable resilient, as long as you don't plug them in to a socket when they're wet; let them dry completely. When I had returned home in July, to my horror, I actually washed AND dried my little mp3 player! Having gotten damp in Iowa, it was giving me fits before I washed it but, to my shocked delight, it has worked perfectly AFTER a cycle thru the washer & dryer! Remembering this, I borrowed Wendie's hair dryer and hoped for the best. I had limited success, and after a bit, I was able to at least make normal phone calls, but half of the phone's navigation buttons still were not functioning. This, I was fine with. I dried the bivy and sleeping bag as best I could before packing them away for our supposed 8:30 departure. Then, it quickly became clear that I wasn't the only one having a shitty Saturday.

As Chris and I waited expectantly outside, there appeared the final, most dramatic manifestation of the now-famous tension within. Daniel and Wendy had disappeared, and it soon became apparent that we were not going to make the earlier Bainbridge Ferry as planned, and as I'd feared the day before. I was quite glad I had not yet bought the ticket! Daniel then appeared, surprisingly wished us well, and went to leave-separately. Next, came the flying backpack. Wendie was clearly not pleased, and stepped outside hurling her daypack half-way down the steps, which run the length of their two-story house. Again hearing past comments about "The Buddha" in my head, rather than feeling the uncomfortable, I myself was silently amused. "How very, Zen!" With visions of Don Quixote's windmills combining with Phone Debacle II, I was ready for Port Townsend and the rest of Washington to be behind me, if I had to crawl all the way to Portland from where I stood.

Racing a Silent Clock to Seattle

Shortly after the daypack had skidded to a stop, Daniel was on his way and so were we. I sat silently in the back of the car, watching the clock as we drove toward the free ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. At this point, all I wanted to do was get on my bus, watch my scenery, and wait for my birthday to mercifully end! And, it wasn't even 10am! This definitely had begun as the least enjoyable of all my 29th birthdays. I called Laina from the car, and again asked her to hold off on making the Internet purchase until Chris and I were on the ferry because, despite Wendie's proclamations, I was still far from certain I would make the Greyhound terminal in time. It was obvious that, even in a best-case scenario, I would need to hail a cab once I got across Puget Sound into downtown Seattle. Missing this bus would have far-reaching implications, and may have put my little house-sitting gig in jeopardy.

At the terminal, Wendie surprisingly gave me a hug, A strange embrace that reminded me of the Cody Hug! I was asking myself, "Really, Wendie?" and quickly thought how life would have been much simpler for everyone if had I just continued on to Astoria from Portland! At this point, the entire escapade into Washington seemed like my own foolish, ego-driven, "Attack on the Windmill" undertaken simply to eliminate a solitary state from some perverse, imaginary list. This was not too far from the truth, but would prove to be a bit simpleminded. Eventually.

My mood lightened a little at the ferry terminal once I knew my fate was once again in my hands. The ferry's schedule seemed to give me ample time to get from the Seattle terminal to Greyhound, even if it would have to be by taxi. Our "plan" (ha!) was for Chris and I to take the Bainbridge Ferry into Seattle, where we would split off: me taxiing to Greyhound, and Chris meeting friends. But, shortly after we settled in for the short wait he learned that some of the bus/ferry routes he intended to use the next day didn't run on Sundays. He quickly reconsidered everything and decided to forget Seattle and return to Port Townsend from here. He hung out long enough for the ferry to begin boarding, and knowing how I guzzle the stuff, Chris even offered to pick up some Birthday Mate' from the pier and send it to me. What a pal! I gave him $10 to get some extra and after a goofy man-hug, he was off and I was aboard the huge auto-ferry into the heart of Seattle. I sat there watching the rain and repeatedly shaking my head as I thought back over this odd few days in Port Townsend...

Friday, September 18, 2009

9/18/09: Port Townsend- "And... Scene"

Chris started his new temp-job at the coffee shop Friday, while Daniel and Wendy were both gone for the day. So, I was left alone with the computer and spent most of the day editing pictures, then scouring Craigslist's Rideshare, Amtrak, and Greyhound for destination ideas/prices. Laina let me know that the house-sitting job was a go, and with that I officially decided to return home since the heel still smarted, and there was no place beckoning anyhow.

This didn't sit well with me. I felt like I was quitting too soon after so much had happened in just the previous month. What was waiting for me along the Pacific Coast? What was I sacrificing? I thought back to similar times, such as San Francisco in June of '08 and Pocatello the following month where I had been tempted to cut things short. In both instances, I had reflected back and been VERY glad that I didn't. This was a bit different. Both of these examples had to do with money. This time, I was mentally tired and more significantly, preoccupied with something else. It reminded me a great deal of Omaha in July where I was overwhelmed and needed time to decompress. The house-sitting gig had come along at the perfect time to nudge me over decision's edge, and I began to wonder, aloud, if the heel pain was a sign of some kind, or even possibly psychosomatic! Every indicator pointed to a return to New Mexico, despite my ego's protests!

All that was left was, "When am I leaving?" An 11pm bus left Seattle that night and I had ample time to make it, but this would essentially return me to Billings and thru Denver...again! I couldn't stomach another bus ride from Denver to Santa Fe. If I was spending two days on a bus, I wanted to see something fresh. I found a different, albeit longer route that would take me back to Portland for a bit, then thru Sacramento, LA, all the way to San Diego before finally turning east via the extreme southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico. This appealed much more since I had never been to San Diego, yet this schedule departed at 1pm Saturday, meaning I would need to stay another night. However, this seemed to work. Wendie, Daniel, and Chris planned to cross the sound into Seattle the next morning, too. I could camp out another night, ride to the ferry with them early in the morning, then Chris and I could spend an hour or two futzing around Seattle until I checked in.

I detested the idea of spending my birthday on the bus, but I don't usually celebrate my birthday. Setting a goal to spend it on the coast would have been more of the exception than NOT celebrating it! I relayed my intentions to Laina, but decided to wait until I was aboard the ferry to Seattle to purchase the ticket. The plan seemed fail-safe, but depended on pretty precise timing as far as catching ferries and such. There was a bit of urgency however. I needed to meet with the home owners Monday night after my bus arrived on Monday afternoon. Missing this 1pm bus would cause a world of complications.

When Chris returned home, he had a fine idea. Since I was staying one last night then heading home, and since we had begun the western swing of this trip by stopping at a random drive-in in upstate New York, he thought it would be fitting to go see a Friday night double feature at the drive-in near Port Townsend. "Inglorious Basterds" and "District 9" were featured and it would also give Wendie and Daniel a night without Chris & Todd, which they would no-doubt appreciate. Late in the afternoon, we were off to Subway for my dinner, and on the way to the drive-in for some entertainment. But not without some Chris-induced comedy first.

He had originally suggested that we actually walk to the drive-in, saying it was just a few miles away but not remembering exactly where. In character, I didn't see the point of walking when we could use Wendie's car, but that's just Chris being Chris. However, his ambiguity about the drive-in's location set off warning bells in my head. I have been here before; Magellan Chris is NOT! I've learned to pay special attention when Chris is navigating anywhere, and he hates that I often point this out. Thankfully, it took longer at Subway than expected causing us to run late and making the car our only viable option. I say thankfully because, not only did Chris fail to remember exactly how to get there, it was 10-15 miles down the road! Of course, being the great friend that I am, I took great joy in this and even more at the sign once we arrived that read, "No Walk- Ins!" I'm really glad I craved that 12" Subway tuna sub, and may I suggest a battery powered GPS as Christopher Magellan's Christmas gift?

The movies were great, particularly "Inglorious Basterds," and the setting created very nice bookends for our westward odyssey that began just after Memorial Day in Springfield, Mass. This naturally put the two of us in a reflective mood. During intermission and on the ride home, I began to appreciate a bit more the grand scope of all that has happened since then. We got to reminiscing on how we had expected our "plans" (ha!) to look in February and particularly March. And, how little our expectations resembled the actual events! However, from a general overview we had done exactly what we said we would do. The East Coast, then Michigan to Seattle. My Adventure Ego didn't like the fact that I had taken 5-weeks off, and bused from Omaha to Santa Fe, but later on I realized that Leslie had dropped me off pretty much ON the Missouri River, in Sioux Falls, SD: nearly due north and on the same river as Omaha. I'm OK with that.

Through reminiscing over this 2009 Adventure, Chris and I began to look forward. We had both had a distinct "blind spot" after Seattle, and now after Seattle, it was as uncertain than ever! Portland's draw had proved accurate, but now there was... nothing. Nothing drawing me anywhere. I had done everything I had concretely set out to do. Even if I were to continue now, what would I be chasing? Accomplishment. If I continued on, I could tell myself and those reading the blog, "I slept on both oceans this year!" That's pure ego. On a subconscious level, I knew this and only later did I accept it fully. As we lie in the bivies chatting, I was still haunted by that persistent, nagging voice saying, "You can do more!" when in reality it was again time to sit down & shut the hell up. Just as it had been in July.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

9/17/09: Port Townsend-Limitations

Part of what separates the wise man from the fool is recognizing ones own limitations. Mine were now fast approaching, and it took some work to acknowledge the gorilla in the... bivy?

Chris was up with the sun on Thursday to meet with the owner of the coffee shop, so once I woke up I went in to say hello to Daniel, got a shower, then waited for him to return. Chris was quite pleased to announce that he had indeed been hired, and would in fact start to train the next morning. We had a neat, continuing discussion on how money seems to appear just when each of us need it and the biblical concept of Mammon: Rather than hoarding your money USE IT, let it flow through you, and trust it will make its way back when it's needed. This anti-capitalist philosophy retook its position front & center, and would be put into practice sooner than expected. I also found it curious and amusing that the Bible repeatedly came up!

From Wendie's it was back to town where Chris would continue canvassing. The heel was no better (as soon as I put the boot on it yelped), and since I was way behind on the updates I planted myself on a picnic table downtown next to the water and began a massive update on the blog. The weather and people watching was great, and before I knew it I had spent 5-hours regurgitating Portland into Pocketmail. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

When Chris was finished, we stopped at one of the sporting goods stores where he replaced the hat he had lost in Denver, we played dress-up with display wigs (almost buying one!), then stopped off at the library for Internet before slowly making our way back to Wendie's. Chatting with Chris, the ideas from Portland were coming to life and this pesky topic of Mammon resonated loudly in my mind. I relied on Chris to explain the concept, having never wanted anything to do with the Bible, and it fit perfectly with what both he and I had personally experienced separately. Every time we each have needed an influx of cash, it's showed up- one way or another. Sometimes through our own efforts, and sometimes out of a clear blue sky.

Mammon dovetailed perfectly with other concepts I had come up with: Tuning in to and listening to the that Voice, taking care to sit down & shut up now and then remembering that you're not the center of the Universe, and trusting that things will work out, yet not simply the way you WANT them to, but the way they're supposed to. A fine philosophy indeed, and one that has yet to disappoint in any way. My frustration and impatience always springs from craving control, thus the foundation, to me, is to be aware of and try to reign in my ego in an effort (EFFORT I say!) to take care that I'm seeking truth rather than simple self-serving glory.
"Clever children in school base their egos on being clever and on being right all the time. They dislike group work because they cannot then show the rest of the class where the good idea originated. When the ego and thinking are treated as the same thing, there is a reluctance to be wrong and a need to defend a point if view rather than explore the situation." -Edgar de Bono

I think I can speak for Chris (I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong) when I say that all the signs to date point in the same direction: there's something guiding us and when we make seemingly ignorant decisions, it's as though we are gently chastised by being cut off from the Flow and left sitting for a time alone to ponder what we did wrong! It's like a Spirituality for Dummies class. And, we're the Dummies.

This concept is not without its reward system. I myself attribute meeting people like Dennis, Andre, Leslie, Ciel, Pat and others to tuning into and listening to this. Chris and I experienced this in tandem in Cape May, NJ in April, and to attribute everything to mindless coincidence, from where I sit after a year and a half, is infantile. As recently as that morning in The Dalles, I had plugged in and was immediately "rewarded" by that seemingly orchestrated chain-of-events that dropped me directly into Andre's Master Craft. Had I not listened to my instincts in any of the handful of mini-scenarios through the course of that day, I don't meet Andre. Of course, I would never know that and you can drive yourself batshit contemplating such things, but thankfully I've seen enough to quit the logic-driven contemplation. It's fun to retrospectively reflect and pointless to stew over obvious mistakes, even though I do. This Universe of ours has shown a way of compensating my frequent ignorance!

Chris and I also discussed something I found rather daunting. My lessons and insights borne from this odyssey have progressively intensified. 2009 has made 2008 seem like child's play. As Chris and I looked back over the past 5-months, I was dumbfounded in realizing that this winter and 2010 likely will make '09 seem rudimentary as well! How in the hell is that even possible?!? But, after thinking about it the Classroom Analogy fits. I could have never dealt with meeting and dealing with my estranged family in 2008. I couldn't have dealt properly with Dennis' demise, and the toolbox surely would have been a screwdriver short if I had dealt with Andre last year! '08 prepared me for '09. If 2009 is preparing me for 2010, I'm excited, a bit intimidated...and addicted! It's a good thing for one to be excited about ones future.

Back at the house, it was decision time. Wendie was making her final trip for the week to Port Angeles on Friday morning, and I needed to decide rather to leave with her, and if not, what? Typically, indecision roared. My birthday was now two days away, and it seemed like it would be great to spend it camped on the Pacific Ocean. Yet, I also knew it was likely foolish to put myself in an uncertain situation being already partially hobbled! "If a man can't recognize his own limitations...he deserves what he gets!" Remember, Todd? I've preached it 100 times; it was my own voice ringing in my head.

I began exploring other possibilities such as busing or training back to Portland, or on to Redding CA, but neither sat well after; not two-days earlier rejecting similar ideas. I was grasping for straws, but during an extended conversation with Laina, I learned that there was a possibility I could earn money house-sitting for a week back in Santa Fe, but she couldn't confirm that until the next day. In theory, this would more than cover the cost of the bus ticket, and provide me the needed decompression time to process everything.

Yes, returning to New Mexico appealed to me, even though I didn't WANT it to. I was mentally exhausted and knew that I had as of yet barely scratched the surface of a Rainier-sized Mental Mt. Andre. The more I thought about and discussed these new Andre-influenced ideas, rather than coming to conclusions, I would just find new valleys to descend into and explore. I had a mouthful, and it seemed obvious that I needed to chew, swallow, and digest it!

In the end, I concluded that it was best to let Laina find out what she could, and base Friday's decision on that. There would be no Port Angeles, and if I got to the Pacific it would be elsewhere...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9/16/09: Port Townsend- Insights & Cliches

Wednesday's plan was to vacate Wendie's place so Daniel could work without being distracted by us. Chris was working with Wendie's non-profit, and part of his appointed/assumed duties were to post fliers off at various businesses around Port Townsend. This was perfect. He and I could spend the day touring the town, and in the process do what we do best: jabber.

We were up, out of the bivies, and walking in typical Pacific Northwest weather pretty early. Almost immediately I noticed that the pinching in my left Achilles still hadn't gone away, and was quickly getting worse. I had felt something similar while walking through the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco last summer, but that had involved carrying 55-pounds up-and-down steep trails. This was different. I was carrying nothing, and it had been lingering since my walk into La Grande the week before. I had felt nothing the entire weekend at Andre's, but had not been wearing the new boots either. Soon after I put them on and started up a hill, pow! I had naturally assumed that it was due to the boots being new, and with time, it would go away. Either that, or I had a peculiar case of temperamental tendinitis. Regardless, I figured I would man-up and deal with it.

Chris and I meandered rather lazily around Port Townsend most of the day. There was no hurry of course, and our conversations were quite productive. Chris is great for unique insights and while sitting on the Sound, he pointed out that the Andre experience reminded him of a test. Being tempted with sacrificing my chosen course for some sort of material reward. I hadn't even considered it, but it made a degree of sense. The conflict of how I was going to present Portland 2009 was already agitating my mind; was I going to sugar coat everything in some hope that I would benefit later on? The instinctual answer seemed obvious, but was far from it in practice...as you've already read.

I both needed and appreciated the feedback, and was reminded of how we got to where we were. Then, through the day and periodically throughout the course of my stay in Port Townsend, Chris and I reflected back over the past 5-months and gushed at how things had both gone according to our rough "plan" and looked nothing like it at the same time! We marveled at how the actual experience had by far exceeded even our highest expectations. Everything from the Veggie Bus, to Massachusetts, Michigan, Devils Tower, to Leslie. Everything from Carthage through North Dakota all the way through Montana to Lynette's in Boise had exceeded my wildest visions and, after all this, I was coming off what I knew was something on par with Dennis and likely the most powerful experience to date. As the reality set in, I was literally humbled and becoming a bit overwhelmed at the same time. All of this, from walking out the front door? Wow.

The Achilles became progressively worse as the day wore on, and it quickly became clear that I had a potential problem. I had intended my stay in Port Townsend to be a quick one, and had discussed with Wendie riding down 101 with her to Port Angeles either Thursday or Friday. From there I could use public transit to get as far as Forks. This would put me close to the Pacific Ocean, where I would camp for a day or three, spending my birthday there. However, the heel posed a problem. Remember, it's illegal to hitch in Washington. That would mean there was a possibility I would have to walk the short, but now-painful distance to either Cape Alava or Cape Flattery (the northwestern most point of the lower 48). Then, what if the heel refused to improve? Limp the entire Washington coast to Oregon? Yes, this tendon was causing me ill-timed grief. I checked Port Townsend's local outdoor stores to see if they may have some clue as to what would cause such an odd problem, but they knew nothing other than that they'd earn a commission if I bought their boots. What was obvious was that the heel needed rest and the boots needed more break-in time to isolate the problem. When Chris and I returned to Wendie's, the pinch immediately vanished as soon as I removed the boot. This was going to be tricky.

The day was eventful for Chris as well. When on a whim he decided to ask about a temporary job at a coffee shop, I suggested the tactic that to date had NEVER worked for me, but made sense: explain what you're doing and offer to fill the position until they found permanent help. The girl behind the counter suggested he take an application home, and return it early the next morning when the owner was in. Those seemingly "random" events again.

Once back at Wendie's, we had dinner and just hung out before retiring to the bivies and chatting some more rather early. Chris had to get back to the coffee shop early, and besides, he had fallen into a nice routine. I told Wendie that I may indeed take the ride to Port Angeles on Friday if it was OK, but wanted to have another day to test the Achilles and think through other options, just in case.

Overall, despite its beautiful setting I wasn't impressed with Port Townsend at all and was over it after a half-hour. It had its charms, but to me had the telltale smells of a white-bread Santa Fe or Taos with white-bread architecture, and the same foul breed of Progressive, Stealth Capitalists that pollute Taos's Plaza and litter Santa Fe's Canyon Rd. All condemning Capitalism while hocking their special brand of overpriced, "Alternative Spiritual Artistry" to doe-eyed, naive tourists with too much money to spend. And, everywhere in Port Townsend were generic Hippie status symbols, like VW buses and other worn out, cliche' proclamations that "Here's yet another Hippie Expressing their Individuality!" Just like the rest of the herd:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

9/15/09: Port Townsend, WA-Utopia on the Hill

Leaving Andre & Cody at the supermarket, it was nice to feel as though I were traveling again. Northwest Washington was definitely new territory for me, having only gone as far as Tillamook and Portland, the weather was sunny and in the 70's, and so far the people of Washington seemed quite friendly. The last fact for some reason surprised me. Even the bus driver smiled and said, "Welcome to Mukilteo!" as I climbed aboard. The bus took the scenic route all around the little town, and seeing my backpack, one particular gentleman took a personal interest in making sure I arrived where I was going. He offered ferry schedules and pointed out that once I got to Clinton there would be a free bus that would carry me all the way across Whidbey Is., confirming the information I had gotten from Laina a couple hours earlier. He said that the bus was coordinated to meet my ferry, so as long as I immediately got off the boat when it arrived and went straight there, I would be sure to catch it. Since it was already 3pm, I was slightly concerned about having to camp for the night, but all indications were pointing to arriving in Port Townsend that night.

Andre knew what he was talking about. The bus did in fact literally drop me at the Clinton Ferry ticket window, and after a short wait I found myself on the auto ferry, sailing to Whidbey Island. I knew beforehand that this part of the country would be impressive to see, but once actually on Puget Sound it was breathtaking, reminding me of what I imagined the Alaska coast to look like. With the combination of mountains and sea, I was surprisingly mesmerized and thinking that this would be an incredible place to explore.

The bus was indeed waiting in Clinton, and was indeed free. I settled in and enjoyed the hour ride nearly all the way across the large island to Coupeville. Whidbey Island is beautiful. It's sparsely populated and forested, with quaint little towns that reminded me of an episode of Father Knows Best. "Wholesome" was the word continually in my mind; something from a slower, calmer time. I thought about the Twilight Zone episode Willoughby in which a stressed out New York ad executive is transported by a magical train back to the late 1800's and the slow paced, wholesome town of Willoughby. He initially fails to get off the train to investigate, but becomes obsessed with it. At the end of the show, he musters the courage to exit at the Willoughby stop, and in the next scene it's good ol' 1955 again, where rail workers find his body assuming it was a suicide. Willoughby. Whidbey. You Devil, Rod Serling!

My Coupeville connection was painless, and the next stop was Keystone Harbor where the Keystone Ferry would sail me to Port Townsend on the northeast shore of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Just missing one, I spent about 90-minutes waiting for the next ferry as the afternoon began to fade to early evening. As we sailed toward Port Townsend and yet another meet up with Chris, I snapped dozens of pictures. It was incredibly beautiful. I had long since nearly lost my bearings and had no idea what I was looking at, but I loved it! I called Chris via Wendie's phone as we approached Port Townsend let him know I was there, set up a place to meet, and marveled at the scene before me. Port Townsend in an incredible setting. There were sailboats glistening in the sunset, and I felt like I had been transported to another country. That wouldn't last, but it was nice while it did!

Soon enough, Chris and I were jabbering as usual, catching up on the events of the last couple of weeks. We had parted ways in Idaho something like 10-days earlier, but it felt like a year due to the events crammed into those 10-days! He had met me near the ferry terminal, and we walked to a co-op to meet his sister, Wendie, and before I knew it we were dropping my pack into her garage and having dinner. Since meeting Wendie in New York City back in May, I had wanted to meet her boyfriend, Daniel. By all accounts, he sounded like an interesting cat. He was a unique person, having along the way combined survivalism with environmentalism while working with the government and other organizations in somehow maintaining hiking trails.

Through the course of the night, the conversation took an amusing turn as the three of them began discussing a "feeling" they had that there may possibly be a "devastating, apocalyptic earthquake" in the next few days-particularly on that Friday, the 18th. Since my birthday is the 19th, I made it quite clear that I would not tolerate Armageddon striking on this particular weekend. It would have to wait. As fun as the conversation was, there was one particular point of quiet contention; one that will have a familiar ring to you the seasoned reader.

Wendie has always struck me as a strange yet familiar breed: the most intense "Buddhist" I know. She also seems to me to possess a similar type of anger boiling just beneath the surface that I sensed in Lynette, and that I am sensitive too. I have always wanted to ask her how Buddhism, the religion of peace, enlightenment, contentment, and acceptance of where one "is," was working out for her, but after a week with Andre, I was in no mood to challenge anyone. Especially not in their home- where I was not particularly welcome in the first place! However, During our Apocolypto discussion I did ask if the earthquake and ensuing devastation did actually happen, would be a good idea to have guns to go along with a garden, oatmeal, and goodwill toward man? She replied in her familiar, forceful tone that she believed "the Port Townsend community" would rally together supporting each other, and there would be no need for firearms to protect anything. "Apparently a drum circle followed by a chorus of Kumbaya conquers all evil." I thought. "Again, let me know how that works out."

I, of course, found this laughable and not wanting a confrontation, worked very hard to contain myself in the tenuous setting! Perhaps this would be the case if, like on Little House on the Prairie, an orphanage caught fire or there was a barn razing. But this was not the context of the conversation. We were discussing a Katrina-like, cataclysmic disaster, where the unprepared become desperate for survival and either anarchy or martial law reigns. In such a situation, when those who don't have inevitably become desperate they will just "take" without any concern for morality or harming the supposedly "evolved" of our precious species. This is fundamental human nature, survival instinct, and you need look no further than the inner-cities or other poverty stricken parts of the world. Would you carry prime rib thru streets in Ethiopia, counting on the conveyance of your philosophy and the moral deference of desperate men? If so, you deserve to lose it. Again, with all due respect, and much is due, this seems to be the case of a separation from "An Inconvenient Truth." Unless Port Townsend, Washington is the one place on earth where human nature is subjugated to Progressive Ideology, I suspect that once word of their Haven of Bounty spread... well, I'm reminded of a line from V for Vendetta: "What usually happens when people without guns confront people with guns?"

I've heard this worldview also manifested by those hippies who call for "bloodless 'social' revolution." Che Guevara understood this perfectly well: First and foremost, people will NOT revolt to change when they're fat, comfortable, and content; there needs to be a real sense of anger and desperation for people to even adjust their asses on the metaphorical couch. And, that desperation had better be accompanied by something more than a willingness to blog, mindlessly chant angry slogans with a mob, and espouse philosophy because, when sufficiently annoyed, The Establishment will gleefully "Kent State" them. Google the rhetoric of Ohio's governor in the days leading up to the Kent State shootings; and these protests were mild by many standards. I would love to be wrong in this case, but the 60's proved that simple "hope" and a noble "want" for human evolution and togetherness doesn't quite equate to Utopia on the Hill. Worse, in a real post-apocalyptic world it would be suicide.

I surprisingly quoted our beloved Musty to Chris later on: "Evil has the advantage over good because evil doesn't care if it kills you." Sobering. Annoying. An Inconvenient Truth. What's worse, is that once the Ideological Idiocracy has worn off, they will likely realize that they are just as much at the mercy of nature as those who have lost the ability to organically provide food for themselves. The Primary Natural Law is Survival of the Fittest, not Survival of the Wittiest. If the world ever returns to that point, please surround me with them gun-totin' rednecks in Michigan, North Dakota, and Montana. We've walked Hippie Road before, and it's a dead end. Literally.

As for the expected "tension," it was indeed present, despite well-intentioned efforts to contain it. Chris had thankfully prepared me for this, and in the meantime heightened my senses to where I was now curious to see where it manifested itself! I was initially expecting to camp in a local public park, where Chris would presumably join me and we'd relive old times. However, this plan was inexplicably altered and I joined Chris, who had been for a week sleeping in the yard next to his sister's house.

As Tuesday came to a close, I had a laugh at the day; waking up in Portland, falling asleep inside the bivy in Port Townsend. Chris and I spent a good deal of time chatting about Andre and Chris' own trek through Oregon. I was quite eager to get a fresh perspective on my week in Portland and begin the process of mentally sifting, a process that what was sure to take some time.

9/15/09: Portand to Mukilteo, WA

Andre had Cody and I up and running early on Tuesday morning, determined to get out of Portland at a decent time. The tone of the day was again set immediately by an impatient Andre. It had long become quite evident that two Andres inhabited his body, and the thoughtful, patient Andre from the night before was again replaced by the agitated, terse, driven Andre. The two of us loaded the Range Rover while Andre tied up loose ends, and by 9:30 or 10:00 we were saying so long to the floating home and on the way downtown to the Mac store so Andre could purchase an apparent necessity for Cody's new I-Touch.

I had decided to take Andre up on his offer of the previous night and ask him to drop me off in Port Townsend, WA. Port Townsend is a bit of a difficult destination from Seattle and I-5 being, as Chris describes it, across Puget Sound from Seattle and on a sub-peninsula of the Olympic Peninsula. Somewhere along the way to the downtown Mac Store, Andre curtly asked me what I "had decided," and when I responded with Port Townsend, he was visibly irritated that I would have the nerve to take him up on a seemingly easy offer the night before. Oh, the humanity! He made it clear that, today, the three extra hours were of vast importance, and that if I wasn't going to Vancouver he'd be dropping me in Mukilteo. The loaded question on the tip of my tongue: "So, Astoria's out of the question, then? Why even bother to fucking ask?!?"

I had had just about enough of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Sitting in the back seat, I began to reminisce on the weekend and particularly at the Gale Force of Talk that had produced little wind in the sails. I was still in Portland, however, and free to disembark the U.S.S. Andre whenever I chose. At least I now knew where I would be resuming my travels: either downtown Portland, which would mean that my boat hitch with Andre and Cody the previous Thursday would have in fact netted a NEGATIVE 15-miles. Or, it would be the mythical Mukilteo north of Seattle, and presumably within range of Chris and his sister that night. As we approached downtown, I was weighing the pros and cons of each. The choice was far from obvious, and there was a significant problem: hitching in Washington state is expressly verboten, and Port Townsend is not exactly in a geographic location flush with truck stops.

At the Mac Store, I learned that we were in the same building as the Portland Transit headquarters, meaning from here I could easily navigate the prolific public transit system and at least return to the bus stop where my return east from Portland had resumed from Dave's in 2008. This would put me back on US-30, and on course to Astoria once again. Yet, this would mean missing Washington State, unless I crossed at Astoria. To be honest, I'd never had much of a draw to Washington and had mentally crossed the state off as I progressed through the Dakotas, Montana, and Idaho the weeks before. I had connected with Chris in Boise, and there were no indications as to why I should go now. In fact, he had indicated that things there were "tense." So, why bother? Good question, and I have a pathetic answers.

Believe it or not, I heard my nephew Brad's voice in my head urging to to go to Washington, since I would be "right there." I had to confess, he was in a sense right. Excluding Washington, I had now visited every state not in New England, and having this single stray state out west would bother me! The mental ping-pong continued as Cody collected his dire essentials. I exited the store to examine the bus routes posted outside, then to pace the parking lot knowing I had to decide NOW. Had his shopping taken just two more minutes, I likely would have acted differently, but in Andre's push to get moving I resigned to go with the established flow and try my luck in Washington. The deciding factor was that it would be terra incognita, and if I went toward Astoria I was sure to be retracing 2008's steps...again...this time down highway 101. Washington it would be. A fateful, rushed decision to be sure.

When Cody emerged with another item or two beyond the advertised life saving accessory, I found it amusing that Andre was no longer concealing his irritation with the Mac Store charade. When we stopped for cigarettes and coffee before departing Portland, Cody's credit card came to light and Andre tellingly (and snidely) asked, "I thought you didn't have any money?" My impression was that he was growing weary of being milked. At least THIS Andre was!

Once on I-5 and heading north, I completely disconnected. I was watching Oregon fade into the rear view mirror, not paying particular attention to anything going on in the front seat. I was quite happy to be moving on...somewhere...and fondly remembering, again, 2008's Two Day Rule! Crossing the Columbia River into Washington was not as much a sense of accomplishment as a checking something off the to-do list. I wished I were more excited about finally getting here.

Andre had not had time for breakfast, so we stopped at a Denny's about an hour past the border for lunch. I called Laina asking her to play the role of research navigator because Andre had specifically said that he was going to dump me at the Mukilteo exit ramp. I needed to know how far Mukilteo was from I-5, among other things, and she outdid herself. She called back telling me that once I took the ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, there was a free bus all the way, 40-miles or so, from Clinton to Coupeville. In Coupeville there was another connection that would literally drop me at Keystone Harbor and the Port Townsend ferry. I was becoming quite impressed with Washington's transit/ferry system, and I had yet to even see it!

After lunch, Andre began to feel the lack of sleep, and since Cody had no license and was Canadian, he chose the lesser of two evils and asked me to drive. Before I knew it, we were through Olympia and Tacoma, and I was zipping along in Seattle. Not only have I not had a particular interest in visiting Seattle, it could be said that I've had a peculiar and acute aversion to it. I've listened to innumerable hippies proclaim its "progressiveness," and after Santa Fe, took that as a sign that, despite the legendary WTO riots, I would hate it. Finally driving through it did nothing to change my mind, even though The Sage lived in Seattle for a long time and loved it. Was I being a bit unfair? See what hippies do to me?!?

Chris had mentioned Mukilteo in an email the night before detailing specifics of how I could get from I-5 to Port Townsend. "Mukilteo?" I wondered. What the hell is a Mukilteo?" Andre explained that it was a little town north of Seattle, and he too assured me that I'd be able to utilize the ferry system to get to Port Townsend. This quaint little tourist trap is less than a half-hour from Seattle, and in fact could be considered part of the outer fringes of the Seattle sprawl. Andre was in better spirits after his nap, and thankfully decided to look for a place to Internet here, meaning I wouldn't have to walk the busy, 5-mile divided highway into town. We stopped at a grocery store where I used an ATM and learned that there was in fact a bus stop across the road. The bus ran into town and would drop me, literally, at my first destination: the Clinton Ferry. Life was good, and this was it for Andre and Cody.

It was an odd goodbye. Much had happened over the past 4+ days, but now each of us were focused on our immediate futures. Not exactly present! Cody was going home to Canada, Andre had treatments to concentrate on, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing in Mukilteo, Washington. We shook hands, hugged, and made the obligatory promises to stay in touch. I finally offered Cody a card to the website, knowing full well that it would likely throw him into an eventual tizzy! He and I also pledged to meet on Facebook, etc. I remember having a distinct feeling that this particular Bullshit Exchange was palpable, but we would have to wait and see.

With that, I was off to catch my series of buses and ferries to cross Puget Sound, and feeling good to be moving again despite a recurring, nagging pinch in my left Achilles...

Post-Portland: Navigating the Rubicon

On the Banks

We all experience moments where we labor over decisions, first weighing, then contemplating and ultimately (hopefully) accepting their consequences: "Crossing the Rubicon" is one of my favorite cliches. Wikipedia defines it as a point of no return and continues, "It refers to Caesar's 49 BC crossing of the river, which was considered an act of war."

As the weekend of September 11th concluded, I was stumbling blindly forward; rushing toward the torrent of my own rampaging Rubicon. From the beginning, events such as the Saturday night's conversation, the preceding conflict with Cody, and particularly Sunday afternoon-and what to write about them-have weighed heavily on me. I ping-ponged on the decision to post in-depth details, having conversations with Chris, The Sage, Laina, and others exploring how I should proceed, with varying opinions. The Sage suggested that I treat Andre as I had Dennis: let things play out before committing & attempting to dissect what I had seen and the conclusions. Always the voice of reason, that Sage! He also was there with the concept of reductionism, which would indeed factor later on and while it's new to me, had a great effect; though not the one I believe he intended! Chris was characteristically non-committal in his commentary, but also characteristically able to add some powerful, unbiased insights of his own; some that I would have completely missed.

But in the end, it was my decision, and it was difficult. This created a dramatic, intense test of what until now was usually a relatively calm, straightforward commitment to honesty, as well as surprisingly forcing me to reevaluate and redefine such basic ideas, such as what it means to be a "friend." This lengthy process and then starting over, second guessing my decision to post an honest perspective, has forced a reliving of this weekend and brought to the surface an idea that once had been primary, but had faded to the dormant recesses of my mind: Singularity. Singularity is a powerful idea that applied to both Andre and I at the same time, and exposed a duality of my own. One that rang the doorbell in the middle of the night, and in stormed the metaphorical unemployed uncle! He was going to sleep on the couch and raid my mind's fridge for a week!

In the end, I obviously decided to be as honest as I could. In the interest of fairness however, it also created another rather daunting task: What you're about to read. Rather than simply lie out The Sunday Judgment, I also sense a responsibility to explain where these conclusions had come from. We generally react to things through the prism of experience, and I am no different. These conclusions, while I believe accurate, were ultimately borne from my own frustration and, as it usually the case, reflect my own experience. An experience that was exceedingly difficult to fight through. I desperately hoped to spare Andre at least some of the difficulties, although I know better. Funny, it never occurred to me to express that!

The Headwaters

As mentioned, I've not yet written on much of the lead up to this Odyssey. While attempting to avoid redundancy, I must point out that I have a history of being hard on myself; even unfair. Prior to my departure in 2008, I had made several attempts to set off, with little success. A few years ago, I read a biography on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which introduced me to an unfettered commitment to truth, and the phrase Vitam Impendere Vero, which loosely translated means "Truth before everything, even at the cost of death." About the same time, I began reading Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Inside was a particular, simple anecdote that shook me to my core. Gandhi openly discussed and verbally bull whipped himself for having lustful thoughts towards his own WIFE! (I have no interest in mentally masturbating over the ethics of marital sex, and if you do, don't expect me to hand you the Kleenex.) Obviously, I'm no Gandhi, but that set an astounding example for me on being honest with one's self. None would have challenged him for hounding after his own wife, seeing nothing wrong with it. However, he did and he would allow himself NO rationalization. He himself believed he was not living up to the ideals he believed, the standards he set for himself, and went to work on it. Truth under all circumstances and at all costs. This lightning bolt added to the burgeoning realization that, in order to live in accordance with one's ideals and beliefs, well... One must know what they are! AND, by extension, must know WHO they themselves are. Nosce Te Ipsum: Know Thyself. Te Nosce. So simple in concept. Complex in fact.

Nosce Te Ipsum is inscribed upon the Oracle at Delphi, and is the foundation of the many ancient of philosophy, from Socrates forward: "An unexamined life is not worth living." As described on Philosophy Pages, "[Socrates] sought genuine knowledge rather than mere victory over an opponent, Socrates employed the same logical tricks developed by the Sophists to ... the pursuit of truth. Thus, his willingness to call everything into question and his determination to accept nothing less than an adequate account of the nature of things make him the first clear exponent of critical philosophy."

I strongly identified with this, and thus began the process of Andre's elusive Inner Dialogue: not merely accepting an internal "victory" through accepting any and all rationalization, but a willingness to identify and annihilate rationalization when possible and accept (then welcome) the personal defeats of falsehood through a bloody, relentless pursuit of truth... internally first. It didn't take long to see that I was regularly employed in the Business of Bullshit, having spent decades bullshitting myself. And, because no one likes being called on their bullshit, the dismantling of this rotted structure was a difficult task! This personal excavation continues; it will never be finished.

I've heard the analogy that first you must "first tear down to rebuild." However, you still need to live somewhere! I equate it as simultaneously building on another piece a ground adjacent to the old. While building the new house on a solid foundation, you must periodically return to the old to find what's salvageable. Despite its difficulty, it is the most rewarding thing I've done... and likely will ever do. I began to see who I had been, who I was, and who I felt I should be. It's was A.A.'s "personal inventory" on steroids, yet with an unforgiving commitment to truth standing as overseer.

What I discovered included a troubling realization that I was always the "victim." This was naturally thinking that stemmed from my childhood rejection by my absentee father. I told myself that everything was the "fault of the fates." Instead of being an idiot for driving drunk, it was, "Why did there have to be a cop there!" I could go on for hours, but I'll spare you. Besides, there's more effective places to shred myself! I was battling a constant, crippling fear and cowardice. There is a distinction. Fear is of the unknown, while I believe cowardice is an cowering to the known. There was a clear disconnect between knowing the path, and a willingness to walk it. I was also subject to an insipid laziness, unwilling to put forth the effort to prepare for and investigate the path's terrain: preferring to mentally masturbate. In short, I seemingly refused to act in accordance with these seemingly high minded ideals that were manifesting themselves on paper.

Allow me to be perfectly clear because it's important in understanding my reactions: I brutalized myself over these shortcomings, yet I would NEVER let someone treat anyone I cared about the way I treated myself. But, I rightfully allowed myself to set definitions to the tunes of these barbaric introspective questions, and savage-yet-accurate answers. I had to FEEL the truth, and I HATED what I was discovering once these self imposed, definitions began to set in. It was only then, through a disgust for the raw reality, that I was able to move forward; to take baby steps to act in accordance with who I was. Only then was I able to move away from the comfort of my concocted, rationalized, yet comfortable Castle of Bullshit, and begin to live in accordance with who I was. Take steps toward singularity.

Make no mistake, this sort of commitment is not always comfortable to share space with. People can sometimes misconstrue my questions as a combative attitude, and sometimes they are. Having periodic blinders in place, I have a tendency to put the acquisition of facts before politely asking for them! I take great care in presenting facts, but not such care in protecting feelings. Perhaps this is a shortcoming that, if altered would afford me more friends, but I quite honestly don't need the types of "friendships" it would preserve. In addition, if you're going to invite me into this realm, I will come fully prepared. This, I believe, is what happened with Andre and his "question." When he applied it to me, I proceeded to dismantle and "reverse engineer" it, finding what I believe are glaring inconsistencies. I guess I could have just... said that!


Singularity and duality are inseparable. Most of us live a split existence, bouncing between one facet of ourselves and another. Many probably having more than two! Duality is a concept at the center of most religions. Christians love to get all dramatic with it, and term it "Good v. Evil," or externalize it by saying "The Devil made me do it!" Ahh, the victim! Horseshit. "The Devil" has no external control; like God, he's you. You are at the helm of your own life, and thus responsible. I prefer the eastern notions on the battle waged within; between the ego/ materialism and the true inner nature of ourselves, as laid out in The Bhagavad Gita. Singularity is the ability to reside within that true, pure nature of ourselves; to both know the path and walk it. The melding of the mental, spiritual, and physical. Beliefs and intentions as one with thought and action. Let's again be clear, no one not named Jesus, Buddha, or Muhammad achieves this as a permanent state. We're constantly experiencing duality; bouncing back and forth in varying degrees. Unfortunately some never leave the lair of ego and materialism... yet wonder why they feel empty, even with that toy chest full! This state of singularity, when you're in tune with who you are and your place in the world, is what I believe Andre interprets as Presence. I also believe it is the state where synchronized events are most frequent because your mind is tuned into the proper frequency.

I distinctly noticed this duality in Andre during my stay, because it was more pronounced in extremes than nearly ANYONE I had ever seen! Compare the differences between Saturday, and Sunday & Monday. I would playfully offer in jest that he seemed to be borderline schizophrenic; from one extremist to the other! Singularity is something that I have spent a lot of time privately exploring, yet it has curiously been dormant for quite a long time. When it rocketed back into my mind, while sleeping, it seemed that what I had interpreted as an obsession may indeed be indications of steps in the right direction.

I've noticed that it is increasingly difficult for me to separate myself from these thoughts; much to the chagrin of many whose company I keep! If I'm asked to separate, I become disconnected and distant. I've also noticed that it has begun to greatly influence whose company I choose to keep. If it's difficult to keep Present, (infer what you like out of this) I choose to sacrifice the person, while Chris, for example will often intentionally disconnect himself from the moment, then try to bring them along. I believe he does that out of egoistic need to save the world:A Christ Complex! He'll argue that...for minutes at least! I believe it's arrogance to think one is capable of influencing all; they have to be open to it first. We've agreed to disagree on this point! That dovetails nicely to...


One of the most confounding topics, and rest assured I wont be quoting Freud! My counselor friend Brian believes I have given Freud a bad rap, and I confess I refuse to read him. I have gotten enough useful mileage out of The Gita's definition and description, and after watching The Century of the Self and learning how Freudian techniques were used to employ public relations (propaganda) as social engineering, I have no use for him. The ego is, again, something we never escape. It can invisibly influence every action we take and decision we make. The ego is visible in every act of self-interest: Whenever we make something "about us." I mention this because wile slapping a harsh indictment on Andre, in fact the very indecision of whether or not to post it was initially based in my own ego! Self-interest. A significant concern in the days leading to the write up were not whether I was fair, but in the end if I was "burning a bridge." "If I tell the truth, will I still be able to work with him? Will I see the story play out? What about the future of my teeth!"

Based on the emails I've received, many of you were asking the same questions so backhandedly understand ego quite well! To my credit, I recognized the self-interest aspect and, in the end, realized that this clearly was NOT about me at all. It was in fact about Andre and his path; about the battle he was fighting with duality. The simple mental fidgeting was proof that the relationship had been reciprocal in the sense that the observations and further realizations, and what I would learn about myself, were as valuable to me as his "$100,000 Lesson." I came to understand that it was my obligation to be honest with and about him, in an effort to show how the ego, duality, and most importantly self-honesty, were more important than noble words and at the core of intention. This duality is something I know a lot about, and let me AGAIN be VERY clear: Andre HAS noble intentions, however, I believe they are hampered by habitual thinking, and a failure to recognize the ego and its influence.

With that said, I saw this situation as a clear choice: Withhold what I've learned out of a simple "what if?" self-interest, or sacrifice that fear at the Alter of the Ego, and offer an honest, blunt perspective as a gift, albeit a bitter one, for him to do with what he chooses. My hope is that it helps carry Andre down his path; his goal is infinitely more important than my teeth! I have long wished someone had risked that kind of honesty with me years ago, thus the decision should have been easy. It wasn't.

The Friendship Paradox

"...the nice thing about Todd is that all he wants is honesty and he's happy regardless of the situation when he gets the straight answer." -Friar Chris
Congratulations, Chris. You've been quoted. I chose to snatch it because it's one of the best, fairest observations of me that I've seen. I also try to operate from the above framework when dealing with my friends, and I consider Andre a friend. I've made it clear that I believe that his intentions are themselves noble, yet they may have been slightly corrupted by something he may not be able to recognize: Ego. In addition I should add that even if so, he is leaps and bounds ahead of where the vast majority of people reside. With that pretext, I have been called an ingrate for "accepting his hospitality, letting him spend all that money, then "turning on him" 3-weeks later." Some readers, (neither Andre nor his friends) believe that I'm trying to crush his "vision and dreams" all together because he "turned my counter-proposal down." I may, perhaps, recommend a reading comprehension course when I finish. But, for the moment I will offer the benefit of the doubt and suggest that these folks are lost in what was previously an unknown conventionality, at least to me. One creating an interesting question!

I have asked a number of times, "Are you more of a friend when you offer hard honesty, or soft encouragement?" To my astonishment, I've discovered that most people believe it's either a "morally relative" question, or feel it's their role to be of unquestioning support, EVEN IF THEY REALIZE SOMETHINGS WRONG! Considering my commitment to "blunt truth," I vehemently reject this cowardly relativism out of hand. It would seem that most people, when they choose support over honesty, are choosing to avoid a risk to themselves: a risk of losing their own friendship, rather than having a primary concern for that friend. I understand perfectly well that there are instances when perhaps silence is preferential, and I exercised that choice myself at Andre's home. However, when silence is not an option, and one must choose between honesty and ambiguity, the choice seems clear unless you're operating out of self-interest; when you're more concerned what that "friend" will think, and how they will react-that's ego driven self-interest

To compound things Andre is, as are most wealthy people, literally surrounded by self-interested people. I was not going to add myself to that list. I believe, in this case, my self-interest needed to be eliminated in favor of his interest, and my integrity. With no expectations or deceit, Andre could then operate from a position of control (whence he thrives!) by knowing the facts as they pertain to me and again, could then apply my experience and insights however he sees fit. I know full well that this likely severed our relationship, but that was known before I hit the "Publish" buttons. At least, with this expansion, I will have done everything I could do, and who knows? Maybe the seeds planted will bear fruit.

Karma As Your Bitch?

I've always held a particular disdain for the book/ movie The Secret. It seems to imply that you can manipulate the Law of Attraction to accumulate wealth, fame, and booty; as though by thinking "happy thoughts" you can have an unfettered ego And spiritual enrichment at the same time. "YOU TOO can make Karma and fate your own personal wench!" If you practice this, I suspect that Karma, or whatever you choose to call it, is on to you.

The shallow hypocrisy of "Charity as a Tool" is the same mentality as that behind The Secret, and is at the heart of my disgust for "missionary" work, and loaded charity of any kind. It's egoistic in nature, and it's my belief that you would be further ahead with "God" by admitting that you either care little for helping people, are primarily concerned with making yourself feel necessary, or kissing His Holy Ass; essentially saying: "Look what I did God, now lemme to the front of the line!" Is your "God" a short-bus kind of Special, or are you perhaps kidding yourself? If that's the case, what about a "vengeful God," and Hell? Well, I would recommend thinking long and hard about who or what you're trying to manipulate.

I've mentioned this several times, but at the heart of my beliefs are that, above words, coerced, loaded action, or any simplistic doctrine and dogma, true intent: what's in a man's heart is the core of his existence. From there, it's an easy step to then hitch the wagon of the aforementioned absolute introspection to this ox of an idea. If accepted, it must therefore be a "mandatory quest" to eliminate external static and know exactly who you are, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs. If you submit to any sort of higher power, yet practice the art of trying to fool "God" or Karma with "tradeoffs"... well, let me know how that works out for you! If I were God, (despite possible impressions, I don't believe) I would stamp your coach ticket to Hell with the words: "Who the fuck did you you think you're dealing with, gnat?" Blasphemous words? Hardly. Thinking you can outwit God, Karma, or the Universe may be the ultimate ego trip, and is itself the silent height of blasphemous arrogance...