"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Friday, March 19, 2010

3/19/10: Cambria, CA-Moonstones & Battlelines

I finally exhaled Thursday night and slept like a corpse. The Sierra Designs tarp shelter performed admirably on its first night of active duty, keeping the dew and Pacific moisture off me and the backpack while providing the privacy and space not offered in a bivy alone.

For the gearheads, the Origami is a lightweight, floor-less tarp shelter utilizing five equilateral triangles and a telescoping pole/walking stick/guy line as a center support. It looks like a little teepee. The Origami can be set up in countless configurations depending on terrain and doesn’t weigh much, so I envision it as both a compliment to the bivy and as a replacement for a full tent.

Weeks on the west coast (not to mention out east) meant that I would inevitably run into the kind of weather better ridden out in something other than just a sleeping bag cover, especially over two or three days! Further down the road, I believe that parts of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge are actually designated a rain forest. Even if it’s not, the fact that it COULD be justifies the extra weight! Plus, in normal weather I can still partake of the bivy’s stealthiness. Even with the Origami AND the bivy I’m still 3-pounds lighter than with my original ‘08 tent! My first night beneath it convinced me it was a good call. Ask me again in July.
Inside the Origami
The first sounds heard on this contrasting, entertaining, and eventful Friday were, again, the early morning cackles of Karen. Stumbling out into the sun needing coffee, I was happy to see Melody hang around most of the morning before making her way north up Hwy. 1 toward San Francisco. I again marveled at how this random Craigslist Rideshare had gone so well and what an excellent kickoff to this new little adventure she was, not to mention the chemistry she found with Ray & Karen. After Melody left, it was to be seen just how this odd collection of diverging agendas, not to mention strong personalities, would mesh!

One of the high points of my first visit to Cambria in 2008 was meeting Nick. He is a local who was on an overnight bike tour of sorts and happened to peddle in to the Hike & Bike while I was mending blisters. We’d had excellent conversations and one of my top priorities was to make every effort to reconnect with him while I was in the area. To that end, we exchanged emails beginning when I arrived in California eventually arranging to meet at the campground Friday night. Nick would bring beer and camp with us for the night. These arrangements were made before I knew anything about Karen and were understandably NOT open to debate.
As you'll remember, somewhere along the way it was decided that Karen was taking Ray (and by extension—me) toward Monterey, and after Thursday’s fog, Friday’s sunshine lit a fire beneath her. She wanted to hit Highway 1 ASAP and since she had the vehicle, logically felt as though she were in charge.

After Melody’s departure, Captain Karen began setting schedules, or at least tried. She was not pleased, offended even, to hear that I, and therefore Ray, weren't going anywhere Friday. I was adamant about seeing my friend. Ray was in the middle and, since he had failed to mention Karen before I arrived, had little choice other than to meekly support me, although I strongly suspect he would have much preferred to vacate this spot where he had spent the last five days. If so, he never said it.
A quiet, unwelcome voice began slowly creeping in asking where all of this odd, seemingly out-of-place static from Karen came from. Ray described her role as a simple ride north, and was far from ambiguous about the fact that he was eager to move on, away from her! From what he'd said, I assumed Karen knew that we had made arrangements to travel together until Easter.

So…what the fuck? Based on this, my attitude was simply, "If you don’t like how things are playing out, hit the fucking road. You were never part of the equation!" Aren't I a gem?
Combined with her commentary the day before about what I could say and about whom, a possibly ominous tone was set. The savvy, observant, and seasoned TZX.com reader may be noticing glaring disconnects (Sit down!) and subtle hypocrisies (Shut Up!) about now.

Me? Completely disconnected with an acute case of tunnel vision, and Karen was perceived as impeding the light at the end of that tunnel. However, while I WAS a great deal disconnected, the tension wasn't borne only from a basic impatience. It had a great deal of help.
Ray, Karen, and I then decided to set off to Cambria for library/Internet time followed by lunch at Moonstone Beach. If you’re new, you'll need to understand that I am quite slow in the morning and don’t move quickly for anyone other than mother nature. This quietly infuriated Chris and I warned Ray about it well in advance. Being on Slab City time, this (or her newfound inconvenience?) bothered Karen and by now she was probing boundaries and trying to discover the best way to achieve her desired results from me.

Her initial tactic of choice: smartass comments accompanied (and supposedly diffused) by a smile. My response: smartass comments obnoxiously reminding her, with a smile, that she’s free to leave for Cambria, or anywhere else, at any time, but I WAS having coffee, I WAS brushing my teeth and was NOT keen on having my leash pulled in the meantime. I do sure hope my smile softened her metaphorical stool….

Once we left, the afternoon in Cambria was nice. We paid a visit to the familiar library where I suggested to Ray that we tried video blogging. California is visually stunning and simple pictures usually fail to do it justice. Filming and posting short blurbs from various familiar/ scenic places like Big Sur, Monterey, and the Golden Gate Bridge would make more frequent (albeit fluffy) updates possible, while personalizing & making the process much easier! I could use my phone to both record AND upload these videos initially to the blog and Facebook. From there? Who knows, but the ideas came in a flood; a flurry would last most of the afternoon and cause a quick piece of priceless, out-of-place mini-drama.
Once at Moonstone Beach, Karen made sandwiches and repeatedly packed their ever-present bowls (I had by now remembered why I quit smoking pot, so passed while they “medicated”) for lunch while Ray and I continued brainstorming video ideas. He told of a friend who runs a popular hiking website and had once offered him state-of-the-art, lightweight video equipment in exchange for trail and park footage. Supposedly, he already had offered Ray walking sticks with mini video cameras mounted in them! He had turned it down because he wasn’t sure he liked dealing with the technology. With me on hand however that would be NO problem.
As we explored the technical possibilities, Karen became surprisingly annoyed with all this talk of “he and I.” Out of the blue, she contorted her face and like a child blurted out, “Include me, dammit!”

Based on the conversations Ray & I 'd had, this seemed outright batshit. Was Karen coming to Yosemite? Sequoia? Why in the hell would I think to include her in anything beyond this unwanted ride north? Seriously. What the fuck? Much later, I learned that she was just referring to the conversations we were having, but my interpretation speaks well to the bizarre, unexpected environment I found myself in!
The sponsorship chats themselves were enlightening. Ray was already “sponsored” by major, companies like Big Agnes, Under Armor, and possibly others. His journey's premise was marketed & sold as a quest for Guinness Book Glory which would, coincidentally, raise buckets of cash for the an environmental organization. A worthy cause to be sure, but in 24-hours I had heard NOTHING about what I thought was the real foundation; what I had come to investigate: biblical camels and the corrupting influence of wealth!

I had tried a few times to engage Ray in these chats, but he reminded me of a poker player: reading me while holding his cards close to his chest. I found the need to “read me” laughable! It's not hard to find out—just ask! The conversations to this point were quick and shallow but I didn't think too much about it. It was odd to be part of Karen's Traveling Circus, but I assumed that once out on the road somewhere we’d have plenty of time for these things.
Moonstone Beach

I didn’t learn much about Ray, but I learned much about corporate sponsorship, how to get their goodies and what they expected in return. From environmentalists to Under Armor, all the way to Karen, I saw that many had lashed themselves to Ray’s backpack. All I wanted was insight and conversation, but many others seemed to have a vested interest in him and even restricted what he could do.
These constraints are fascinating, and I should clarify a few things before moving on—like why Ray was hitching and riding with Karen if he was setting a walking record! The record is already his, and based on a continuous line irrespective of time: the trail can be left as long as he returns to that exact point.

Not quite as impressive, eh? It’s even occurred to me that Gary Coleman could probably break Ray’s record with this loophole and 30-years of free time!

Perhaps to compensate for that, some of the restrictions are rather medieval. He’s not allowed to use a phone, although he obviously can utilize the Internet. That means that he’s not heard any of his family’s voice in a year. Also, he can accept but is not allowed to solicit assistance of any kind. He must rely on the kindness of perfect strangers…without engineering it! And, “they” supposedly send people out to tempt him; to actually try to entrap him!
As a result, one thing Ray has become passionate about, and something that runs common through him, Chris, and I is that the simple act of immersing yourself in the world—not someone else’s interpretation of it—shows that there are undeniably and infinitely more good people than bad.

Reading September-March over the last two years, I am myself proof that it’s easy to lose sight of this while sequestered away in the cave living this thing we’ve been sold as “life” plugged into and solely relying on electronic eyes to filter and present someone's pre=approved, skewed vision of the world to us. Electronic eyes presenting a vision powered by agenda…

After lunch we walked down to the rocks along Moonstone Beach, taking pictures and shooting video. By mid-afternoon they decided to return to San Simeon State Park. I was unsure of when Nick was arriving and liked the idea of relaxing and writing in my journal before he did.

Karen, however, didn't know this and wanted her afternoon RayTime to be private! She parked the van at a vista point adjacent to the park, and then commenced to perpetrate one of the elite displays of behavioral-retardation ever witnessed throughout the whole of human existence.
We were discussing how to meet up with Nick and also catch a view of the regular dolphin display that would occur in a few hours, at sunset,when Karen began blatantly hinting that Ray should stay and let me go back to the campground alone. I would have been happy to leave them alone frolicing in peace and privacy, but she proceeded to perform a clumsy verbal tap-dance; the kind you’d do in front of a two-year old! I was waiting for her to start to spell out the big words!

At first, I thought there was no way I was actually witnessing this level of extreme douchebaggery, and I believe it caught Ray off guard, too, because he didn’t seem to respond either. When he did, there was again seen the sheepish look of a chameleon lost somewhere in the middle; trapped trying to be all things to everyone.
With the calming benefit of hindsight, it's just laughable that a 60-something year-old woman would bother with charades. In the moment, it contributed greatly in defining our remaining time together. I rolled my eyes, muttered something obnoxious, and walked back to the campground wondering when it would end!

From this moment forward, all of my interactions with Karen would be seen through the prism of, “when do you go away?”. I implied that I would return to the vista to see the dolphins and watch the sunset, but I had no intention of doing so.
I started to become more acutely aware... and curious... about the peculiar fact that Ray made no effort to mediating these intensifying rifts between two of his friends that he was responsible for bringing together. A quiet little voice got a bit louder. I spent the next few hours writing, napping, and seething.
The sun was already sinking when I woke from my nap and noticed that a ranger had left a notice asking Ray to vacate his campsite! It was Friday night, and he had already spent six days—four longer than the Hike & Bike limit, although it wasn't like the hiking & biking hordes were lining up at the gate! The ranger even repossessed the wood I’d foraged the night before! The bastard!
Immediately after reading the notice, Nick arrived with a whole lot of beer! We quickly reacquainted then drove to the vista where Karen and Rael still lingered. I introduced everyone, showed them the eviction notice, and what proceeded to follow was some sort of absurd bartering session! The campground cost a ridiculous $35 per night. None of us were eager to pay it, and after being “forced” to stay an extra day Karen flatly refused to pay anything.
Immediately sensing this, I elevated Karen's status to Enemy Combatant. I was on the verge of suggesting that she take herself to a parking lot for the night, or better yet: to Monterey! It was a conversation that, until Nick sensed the tension and offered to pay $20 just to keep the peace, nearly became ugly.

Again-- Ray did nothing to arbitrate, instead silently standing idly by like a child watching the grownups fight! Karen and I continued to go at each other with progressively increasing venom, and when she mentioned the use of “her food," as though Ray and I were a charity case, I reminded her that I had plenty of my own food--having planned on an oatmeal diet ahead of time--and my own money to boot! I took pains to clarify that she was neither necessary nor a necessary crutch to lean on--just in case there was any confusion!

By the time Karen offered her AARP (?) card to get 50% off the campsite, I just wanted her to go away, even if it meant I'd have to pay extra for the blessing!

In the end, Nick's cooler head prevailed and we decided to utilize Karen’s senior-card and pay the extra vehicle fee. Nick gladly paid $20 (of the $22.50) and I felt terrible about that, especially because he also brought tamales and a truckload of beer!
Once calmed, Karen and I surprisingly both saw the humor in the Vista Drama. She commented that she thought she and I would eventually be friends; that we’re just too much alike. Two people who speak their minds and don’t concern themselves too much with frail egos or fragile feelings. I had to acknowledge the obvious, but was in no way convinced we’d ever be friends-- although was slowly realizing where the problem really lie.
At times, describing me as "slow" is a gross understatement!