Archive for July, 2007

After Ten Hours Of Sickness And Forty Miles Of Hellish Biking I Closed My Eyes

July 28, 2007

P1010225Back in 1981, my painting of the above picture helped me get over my father’s recent death. In my transferring of a black and white photograph to painted canvas it became clear to me that mortality was/is awash in old age and death. Life/death equals sisters, brothers, moms, dads, and mourners. From that mix of sadness, love, beauty, and creativity, (love creates art) my painted Indian was born. I never met him, (it was a very old photograph), but I am deeply beholden to him. Because of him I have a deeper appreciation for what it means to live. I may even have glimpsed, if only for a moment, “love eternal.” Even though what I have just described took place in 1981, I know that my Indian brother (invisible thought he must have been) was there, on my first day in Québec, helping me get past my pain and suffering on the 2nd of July, 1977.

Take care,

dave

I’m Glad I’m Done With Being Young And Restless—Right Buddha Right

New Brunswick Quebec Boarder

June 29, ‘77

Hi there journal, another day—another dollar, or something like that. Well, last night, after sunset, some friendly people came over and offered me an apple, an orange, and we shared the cheese they brought with them. The boys from the swimming hole also stopped by. They brought beer with them. They were a little young to be drinking (early teens), but boys will be boys. After the beer was gone (I helped in that department), they wanted me to go with them to get more. Instead, I told them I had a long ride ahead of me tomorrow. I wished them well, and turned in for the night. In the morning, even before the sun, two of the boys returned. They were staggering drunk, but still very friendly. I noticed that their car door was smashed in, but when I mentioned it to them they just shrugged it off. After a few moments of shared comradery, the boys passed out on their respective picnic tables. I went back to sleep, too.

When I woke up, the boys were gone. “The young and restless,” I was sure glad I didn’t have to go through that one again (right Buddha, right?). They were probably encouraged to leave by the mist that was falling in their faces. When I got on my bicycle to leave, the real rain hadn’t yet begun, but it looked as if I was in for a wet, dreary day.

Back on the highway, biking wasn’t bad. I had a strong wind at my back, and the traffic was sparse. I need to thank Lady Luck for looking after me. Actually, she, the Lady, seemed to enter my life just after Richard and I split up. I think during the time Richard and I were together, his “easy come, easy go attitude” rubbed off a little on me. (I must remember to thank him for that when I get home.) Until I met Richard I had always worried about not being able to find a campsite, but not anymore. And this evening, in that regard, I found myself blessed!

Around 4 p.m. I knew I was in for a wet night. The sky said so, and the weatherman told me so. I decided to check into a youth hostel that the gas station attendant told me about. “Up in Edmondson, it’s in the oldest house in town. You can’t miss it,” he said. He was right. I didn’t miss it, but when I got there nobody was home. I decided to keep biking. On the outskirts of town I came to a subdivision where new houses were going up. A couple of unfinished houses looked like possible shelters, but they also looked like possible hassles, so I just kept pedaling toward the very dark horizon.

It was getting close to “bombs away” when I arrived at a park. However, I found Mr. Ranger standing there with his hand out. He said,“$4.50 please,” and I said back, “I just can’t afford that. Maybe I’ll find something further on down the road.” “Okay, suit yourself,” he responded, “but it sure looks like rain!” And I said, “I know, Mr. Ranger, I know.”

Back on the highway, it started to rain. At the same time, along side the road, the forest had thickened. Putting up a tent became impossible. There was just no room. I began to mentally prepare for the worst when suddenly I saw a break in the trees. It was an abandoned picnic area. Picker bushes had grown up alongside the rotting picnic tables, but behind the tables was a dilapidated building with a partial roof. Just as I reached the building, it started to pour. I found myself a dry corner and prepared for a long night.

I can’t begin to express how lucky I feel right now! Apparently, a long time ago, this park was used as the “Welcome to New Brunswick Park” for people coming in from Quebec. Whoever’s responsible, thank-you!

My First Day In Quebec

July 2, ‘77

My stomach sounds like a cement mixer. Why do I feel like puking? Roll over; forget about
it. It’s still raining, and it’s in the middle of the night. Jesus, do I stink.
4:30 a.m. and I can’t wait any longer, I’ve got to take a shit. Whewww do I feel nauseous. My book for toilet paper, and out into the rain I go. I hope I make it to the outhouse in time. I hope it’s an outhouse! God do I feel rotten.

Two hours later: I’ve lost everything, including my strength. Diarrhea, weak, sick…bicycling seems an eternity away. The sun is on the rise, but do I, or don’t I? Boy do I feel shitty, but I’ll try to ride anyway. Great, just what I needed, an uphill grind—what luck! If I think pine trees, grass, flowers—my nausea goes away, but as soon as a semi thunders by, the smell makes me want to puke. This damn hill is coming to an end. My strength is gone. I can’t continue, got to rest. I pull my bike over into the power line clearing, lean over my seat and throw up. If I don’t lie down I will pass out. Clumsily I throw my sleeping bag on the ground, and fall face down on top of it. God that feels good, but I’m very sick.

Two hours later: It’s cold; no more sun. Rubbery legs and knotted stomach, I’d better get going. Who am I kidding? I can’t ride a bicycle. I still feel like puking. Every muscle in my body aches. What to do? Hitchhike, I’ll hitchhike out of here, I will. Cringing at the side of the road, head snapping wind, and eating dirt from the train of semis’ backwash, anything would be better. I mount up and ride–down the hill. I hoped for a town, a store, a stream, anything that would make me feel less rotten, but at the bottom all I found was another hill.

Two more hills and I was a zombie. I did pass a restaurant, though, and I went inside. I asked for bromo, or anything else for my stomach. I didn’t dare stay for coffee. I didn’t want to throw up on the counter. I left empty handed. Push the foot down, strain the stomach, feel the head rush of blood. Repeat, repeat, repeat, soon even the monotony of the climb was gone. My mind would not react. I lost my senses in a thick fog of numbness. I don’t know how, but I kept going. All I knew was that I had to fight off the poison, probably from last night’s sardines– food poisoning, a first for me. Finally, I reached a small town. My stomach said no food, but I had to get some of my strength back. I got a banana split, and ate it slowly. That was another first for me; forcing myself to eat ice cream.

There was a youth hostel in Riviere de loop, so I looked forward to a warm bed. Riviere de loop was in front of me. When I broke morning camp, it was still 59 miles away. The sun had yet to peak above me, so there was time to reach the hostel, but that was before the afternoon wind picked up, and I found myself pushing as hard on the pedales to go down a hill as it was to go up the hill. The rain hadn’t started, but when it did my already miserable condition became pure hell.

The fucking rain stopped me. But even if it didn’t, the wind would have. I just didn’t have the strength to continue. I slept for an hour under a carport roof. That was the second time that I had had to stop and dry out. I was hot, probably from fever. I wanted a coke. I needed a coke. I was burning up. I would have settled for anything to drink, but I was in the middle of nowhere. I tried to make myself get on my bike. When that didn’t work, I tried hitchhiking again. No luck there, either. Eventually, I did get back on my bike and when I passed a motel I stopped to get a room. When the guy said $ 18.00 for a dumpy, mildewed room, I changed my mind.

Back on the highway, I sank into a machine like trance. No sense, no feeling, just work, work, work. At the height of my trance, the pain in my aching muscles subsided, and I stopped suffering the cold, wet, wind, but I also stopped being conscious. I snapped out of it just before I passed out. There was nothing else to do except, push, push, and push some more. It was only when I thought to myself, “You son-of-bitch, this is a crime against humanity, a self-inflicted one at that,” that I realized, yes, I really was sick! Under rain, rain, and more rain, I finally came to a sign, but I was too scared to look, much too scared. The sign read, 21 miles to Riviere de loop.

That was it. I was drained, wasted, defeated, and crushed. There was a café, so I went inside, and got my coke. The lady behind the counter told me about a motel down the road. She said, “Last I checked, rooms were $16.00 a night. “I don’t care,” I responded, “I need a roof over my head, any roof.” After I ate my soup and chicken sandwich, she looked down at me while she was writing out my bill and said, “If it’s just a roof you want, you can check out the shed around back.” Somewhat surprised, but grateful, I thanked her and went out back to see what she was talking about.

Nothing was normal. I was seeing things as if I were looking down the wrong end of telescope. The shed was dirty and cluttered, but I recognized it as home. After making a space on the dirt floor, I crawled into my sleeping bag, and after ten hours of sickness and forty miles of the most hellish biking of my life, I closed my eyes and went dead to the world. In the morning I awoke soaked in sweat. At 7 a.m., after the sun was already up, I got some dry clothes out of my pack and hung my sleeping bag out on the fence to dry. After putting on warm clothes, I went back to the cafe for coffee. I felt a little better. It was a brand new day.

My first day in Quebec was not a happy one, but I feel better now. I’m practically back to normal—meaning, I’m negotiating morning rain once again. I’m in my cutoffs, and it’s a warm rain, so I guess I’m okay, let it rain. I’m presently traveling along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and am enjoying the hell out of it. However, after traveling four or five days in Quebec, I feel compelled to write down how unfriendly I have found the French Canadians. The only thing I expect upon making eye contact with somebody is some form of recognition, a smile, a hand wave, anything, but here I encounter silence and a cold stare. I do not think I am overstating my impression of these people.

There I have said it, and I will leave it at that until I get more information. That kind of behavior, accompanied wit
h an unwillingness to speak English (French is the preferred language), effectively alienates the outsider. I still have a long way to go in French Canada, but I can say right now that I will be happy to say good-bye to these people. Well, I’m off once again, back into the rain, which, I might add, is a whole lot more hospitable than the French Canadians.

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Shame On Me-I Treated This Trip As Something To Be Done Away With

July 21, 2007
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On A Boat Somewhere In The Bay Of Fundy

June 27, ‘77

Last night, bicycling against the wind, fighting off the evening chill, I wondered if the crazy day was going to turn into a crazy night. The clouds were low in the sky; rain was about to fall. I was alone on the highway, and for good reason. Nobody wanted to be out in this weather. When I came to a roadside picnic area I stopped to check for a shelter. The picnic tables were on a rocky cliff overlooking a river gorge that opened into the Bay of Fundy. From the top of the cliff, I could see an old fishing shanty at the bottom of the gorge. It was built along side a small river/creek flowing into the bay. The shanty had a partial roof. Getting down there was the problem.

I locked my bike to a tree just out of sight from the highway, and started down the steep ravine. I got a few extra scratches and a little dirty, but it was worth it. The shanty had a clean, dry, wooden floor. The partial roof was enough to keep the rain off, and the partial wall permitted me a beautiful view of the incoming surf. I was the only resident on the small beach, and the steep, rocky cliffs above the shanty pretty much guaranteed that I would remain the only resident. The sound and nearness of the surf transformed the day’s chaos into a heeling, peaceful, time-out. I almost expected to see Gnomes running about, the place inspired such a feeling of magic. I had suffered, true, but this was my reward. Sitting there, looking out at the beautiful receding tide, I realized that I was not leaving Nova Scotia for external reasons. Sure rain, lack of money, and dirt, all influenced my decision to leave, but I knew that none of that could make me say, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting, giving up, going home!” But, I was going home and there was a reason—a good reason….

Right now I’m somewhere in the Bay of Fundy sitting on a warm ferry heading to New Brunswick. It’s raining out, but it’s nice in here. I hope my wet jeans dry some before I have to get back on my bike. There’s no chance of that happening for my soaked feet. The coffee I’m drinking is good, just the way I like it, hot, very hot. If it weren’t for the rain, the scenery would be good, too. But even without the rain, all the aesthetics I need right now are pencil and paper, hot coffee, and a dry place to write.

The squish-squash of my feet, as I just went up to get my second cup of coffee, reminded me that I started peddling at 7 a.m. this morning. The harder I peddled the harder it rained. In order to catch the Digby ferry I had to peddle in the rain for three hours. I made one stop along the way. It was for coffee at a restaurant. A couple of other cyclists were already inside and they motioned for me to come over to their table. They were up from Maine for a two-week bicycle tour in Nova Scotia. They had just arrived, so they hadn’t experienced much rain. The boy, across the table from me, had just started university and was thinking about studying Philosophy. His parents didn’t like the idea, though. When I told him I was majoring in Philosophy, he asked me, “What can you do with it?” I didn’t want to get into that conversation, so I said, “Nothing. Listen to your parents.”

We got into talking about the book I had just read, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. We didn’t get into the particulars, but apparently the boy had enjoyed reading the book over a year ago. His girlfriend showed an interest, so I asked her if she wanted to read it. She said, “Sure.” I excused myself, went outside and grabbed the book from my bike bag and then, as I said goodbye to her, I handed over the book. As I was riding away, I saw her paging eagerly through the dog-eared copy. Maybe it would open doors for her. It didn’t for me.

Now, getting back to why I’m leaving Nova Scotia. Feeling bad about not being able to see the attractions had not been the worst of it. Sure I could stick around and tour Cape Briton and Prince Edward Island. Their beautiful I’m sure, but why? I have never been into collecting experiences. Even in Hawaii, I didn’t go to all of the islands because it got to a point where I felt like I was collecting experiences. That’s not what its all about, that’s not the important stuff. What’s important was the learning. If I couldn’t learn from my adventures then I had no business “being there”. This trip was not born out of that kind of thinking. Rather, it was born out of the opposite kind of thinking. It was conceived and finalized as a mere exclamation point to the whole Castalian process. No higher justification was needed. It was like going into same classroom over and over again, sitting in the same seat over and over again, and not knowing or caring why. Shame on me! I treated this trip, right from the start, as something to be done away with. My Castalian dream wouldn’t be complete unless I turned my free time into an adventure–study in the winter, travel in the summer. Instead of greeting each occasion as something to be achieved, I have turned all occasions into something to be done away with. Except for the East Coast, I have pretty much seen all the United States, but now the East Coast is just another notch in my bicycle tire. If that’s not collecting experiences, I don’t know what is
! Everything about this trip has been pure hypocrisy! Please, make it all go away.

Hot Weather Biking Along St. John River—Beautiful

New Brunswick

June 27

St. John was a larger city than Digby. I managed to find an open store, so I did my usual. I sat down on the curb and ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. By the time I had finished eating, a group of kids had crowded round, asking me questions. On this trip I have been getting along really well with kids–or maybe I’m just noticing it more.

I spent the night at a little picnic-park area twenty miles west of St. John. When I arrived, eight of the ten picnic tables were being used, even in this weather—surprising. When it started to rain, I went over and started talking with the people picnicking under the only roof in the park. We ended up building a fire. They left after sharing a couple of beers with me. Under that roof, I stayed dry, but didn’t sleep well. The traffic kept me awake—cars and trucks coming and going all night long; don’t ask me why. At one point, a busload of cub-scouts pulled in. It was the longest bathroom break ever.

At least in the northeast the Trans Canada was a good highway to bike. I even had to hitch hike on it. I broke a spoke, the same spoke that broke back when I was biking with Richard. I had to hitch to a gas station in order to put things right again.

Back on the highway, I spent a marvelous two hours biking along the river. New Brunswick was pretty– very green, especially a long the highway that followed the river. I appreciated the sunshine even more than the scenery. When I passed a huge log pile, I decided to stop and enjoy the day. I camped behind the logs, where I had a good view the huge lake (reservoir). That evening, over the water, there was a gorgeous sunset. Earlier in the day, I had found a pay shower, so that night the sun set not only on appreciative eyes, but also on a clean body. It was great!

Things are looking good. I feel good. Good-bye Mr. Sun!

June 28

My calculations told me that if I limited myself to $3. a day, and biked at least 60 miles per day, I would arrive back in Houghton Lake 22 days from now. I usually biked more than 60 miles a day, but that was a good distance to target since I also needed some layover time. I wanted to do my “easy time” in Michigan, though. I planned to bicycle along the shore of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan before heading for home. I figured I still had around 1316 miles to go, and I knew from past experience that anything could happen. But, at least with these calculations, I also knew that my goal was doable.

Biking was absolutely beautiful today. In 80 and 90-degree temperatures, I biked on a good highway, through rolling forests, while farms occasionally dotted the countryside. At no time along the St. John River did the biking become difficult. Tomorrow I’ll probably see the last of New Brunswick. Too bad, it was so pretty. I did around 100 miles today, and there were sixty or so miles to go before I arrived in Quebec.

I cooled off with a couple of swim breaks during those 100 miles. When I came to one of the many steams that I passed, a ten-minute break was all that I needed to keep me happy. Around 6:30 p.m., I saw some kids diving off an abutment into one of the bays on the St. John River. I immediately started to look for a way off the Trans-Canada. Once I found my way back to them, it took only a couple of seconds for me to jump into the water. While swimming, the kids told me about a camping park. When I arrived there, I found lots of picnic tables, with most of the people camped over in the pines. I was in the aspens, enjoying the soft yellow sunrays filtering through the softwoods.

I am now enjoying the end of a beautiful day. My trip home, so far, has been the nicest biking I could have wished for.

We Crawl Before We Walk–Buddhist Mindfulness Lesson

July 14, 2007
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While Searching For Lost Traveler’s Checks, I Met Herb, A Drunk Indian

Drinking Beer, Sitting On Wet Lawn Chairs

June 26, 1977

What a mismatch of events in the last twenty-four hours. After writing in my journal last night, I walked down to the canteen to buy an ice-cream cone and when I got there I bought a pack of cigarettes instead. In front of the place, a guy was setting up an old Sears & Roebuck’s electric guitar. I decided to stick around and listen to the music. It wasn’t really music that I heard. He played as if he had just finished lesson three on the “lessons for free plan.” Another old guy was standing across from me, and when the wretched music began, he left. I was getting ready to leave myself when the guy came back holding a squeezebox. Between the two of them they produced an incredible sound, and it wasn’t the kind that sticks in your head, either.

Listening to those “not so young guys” play music was hard on the ears, but at the same time it was inspiring. They were beginners, or just plan bad. But that didn’t matter. I needed to see that; I needed to see beginners. It gave me something to feel good about. It was their music and they didn’t give a damn whether I liked it or not! Those guys were probably as musical as they would ever get, but that didn’t matter. They were having fun. When I walked back to camp, I could feel a warm spot in my chest push away the depression that had been inside me for so long.

It was late when I got back to camp. I wasn’t ready to turn in. I wanted to walk the beach and smoke a cigarette. I wanted to milk that feeling of not being depressed, and, at the same time, say good- bye to the beach. Going to my pocket for a match to light my cigarette, I realized that I had lost my travelers checks. It was too dark to look for them. I went to bed without smoking a cigarette, and I went to bed with an ach in my stomach that made sleep almost impossible.

Up with the sun, errrr, I mean fog, I went to look for my traveler’s checks and on my way back to the canteen, I met Herb, a drunken Indian. He wanted to help me search, so the two of us retraced my steps back to the canteen. Just as I reached the canteen, on the shoulder of the road, I found my black checkbook lying in the weeds. Herb got all excited and wanted me to celebrate with him by having a beer back at his campsite. I agreed, and followed him down a logging trail, where we came to a camper. His family was still asleep. We sat down in wet lawn chairs with our beers in hand. If it weren’t for the fact that I had found my lost money, that morning would have gone down as the gloomiest in history. The mist was so thick, you got wet through osmosis, not rain.

Herb and his family– wife, three boys, and a daughter, were on their way to a Pow Wow in Yarmouth. After our second beer, I found myself searching my head for reasons not to take Herb up on his offer. He wanted me to throw my bike in the back of his truck, hop on the back of his motorcycle, and go with him and his family down to the Pow Wow. By then he was already drinking the coffee that his wife had handed him and his 17 year-old son was working on both of Herb’s motorcycles. After the Pow Wow he promised to take me all the way to Turo, which was another hundred miles up the coast. He lived on the Mic Mack Indian Reservation, which was not far from Turo.

It all sounded too good to be true. I really wanted to go to an authentic Pow Wow, but my past experience with Indians, especially the Montana debacle, where my drinking buddy deliberately ran over me with his truck, made me think twice about spending time with Indians and alcohol again. But, I told myself this had to be different. After all, this was a whole family of Indians, a family that sported two new 750 cc Hondas, and an almost new camper. That had to say something about responsible behavior. I mean accumulating possessions took money and that usually meant you had to be able to handle responsibilities. Anyway, I said to myself, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as I told Herb, “sure, I’ll go with you back to Yarmouth!”

I Asked For My Money-Instead I Was Offered Two Bologna Sandwiches

The Pow Wow

We put my bike in the truck, and I climbed on the back of Lenny’s motorcycle while Butch, Herb’s 7 year-old, climbed on the back of his dad’s motorcycle. Oh, and before I forget, there was one other thing that helped me decide to go to the Pow Wow. When Herb was trying to get me to go with the family, I told him, “I can’t afford to spend much money since I was running short on cash.” Without hesitation, good old Herb shot back, “Don’t worry about money, just get on board. It’ll be fun; you’ll see.” Anyway, things began to look a little tilted when Herb took off on his motorcycle at 80 and 90 mph. Lenny and I were right behind.

At our first stop, Mrs. Herb was not happy. She made Butch get off the motorcycle and back into the truck. She told her husband to slow down. Herb, now upset, took off at 110 mph. Lenny stayed with him up to 100 mph and then backed off. Thank-you Lenny. We left the truck in the dust, as we careened around the winding curves on the two-lane road at 45-degree angles. I was
now having second thoughts about wanting to go to the Pow Wow. Apparently, I had put to much faith in that coffee Herb was drinking when he convinced me to ride along; after all, when I met him, he was stumbling around on the side of the rode. When Lenny and I caught up to him, he was coming out of a roadside party-store. In his hand was a brown paper bag, which turned out to be cheap whisky. The bottle got passed around before Lenny and I could even dismount. I had two drinks before the empty pint had to be broken against some rocks (Indian superstition I guess). Once we took off again, I became very irritated as I watched the same scenery that had taken me three wet, depression filled days to bicycle, move past me in the wrong direction. At least we had slowed to a reasonable speed, 60 mph.

Our next stop was when Herb had to get gas. Both Lenny and I watched in horror, as he was too drunk to keep his bike balanced. It fell to the pavement, almost hitting the gas pump. All three of us struggled to upright the bike. The shiny, new bike quite literally lost some of its color after that. Herb told us he was too high to ride. High was not the right word. Stone drunk would have been more appropriate. Lenny looked at me and said, “Lets get him something to eat.” There was a restaurant across the street, so after Lenny parked his cycle in the parking lot, and then came back for Herb’s cycle, we all went inside the restaurant.

Up at the counter, after we finished eating our meal, Herb realized he didn’t have any money. I ended up paying for his fish and chip dinner. Outside the restaurant, Lenny assured me Mrs. Herb would pay me. He said she was carrying $350 cash. After lunch Herb still couldn’t ride. He wanted to lie down and sleep. As Lenny and I scouted out a place for Herb to lie down, Herb got on his cycle and took off. Careening down the highway after him, I longed for the feel of my own bike underneath me rather than the vibrating monster that went 90 mph.

Herb never did get gas, so we caught him at another gas station as he was, once again, filling his tank. This time the bike stayed upright, and because Lenny was in the bathroom, I ended up paying the $2.50 for his gas. When we finally reached Yarmouth, nobody knew the directions to the Pow Wow. I began to wonder if the Pow Wow even existed. We never did find the place, but in our wonderings, Herb’s wife finally found us. We followed her to our final destination.

The Pow Wow was located at the dead end of a gravel road on the Indian Reserve. There were five houses scattered along the road, one of which belonged to a very unfriendly Indian. There were no trespassing signs everywhere, and he was sitting on his porch with a rifle in his lap. The Indians at the Pow Wow itself, which was supposed to be filled with Indians from all across Canada, looked to be of the local variety and numbered about forty. Herb showed no interest. At first I thought he was disappointed in the turnout, but after we found a place to set up camp, I got the real story. Alcohol was not allowed on the Reserve, and we were camped on the Reserve.

After I pulled my bike from the back of the truck, I was ready to leave. But I had come so far and at such a cost that I couldn’t make myself leave without at least checking out the Indians. I walked right into the middle of the Pow Wow. There were some young Indians off to the side playing Lacrosse, but a large black kettle with a woman standing over it marked the center space, so that’s where I headed. As I walked up to the lady stirring the kettle, all eyes were on me and they weren’t of the welcoming variety. It didn’t take long to find out I was not at a Pow Wow, I was at an Indian Unity Meeting. The lady stirring the pot came all the way from Cape Cod, and in as nice a way as possible she told me that I was not supposed to be there. That was not what I wanted to hear. Actually I felt more Indian than the Indians that I came with, but I really couldn’t tell the lady that. I was about to say goodbye when a not so nice Indian, the Chief maybe, came up to me and in non-flowery speech informed me that I was not an Indian. I could have argued the point, but I was well aware that this day had run its course and what was left of my energy had to be directed over the horizon.

I went back to the Herb family to bid adieux, get my bike, and ride off into the sunset. So as not to be seen drinking, they were camped on the other side of the swamp from the Pow Wow, errr, Unity Meeting. Ma Herb had stopped at the liquor store and packed Herb’s cooler. I was handed one last beer. Conversation never got around to the Pow Wow, but I did find out where Herb got his money. The new motorcycles and truck were bought with the $25,000 that he had just won in the lottery. Herb was one rich, drunk, Indian. Before leaving I asked for the money I had spent on the family during the trip down to Yarmouth. Herb replied, “On Monday, when I get to the bank, I’ll give you the money.” I was offered two bologna sandwiches, instead. I accepted them without a second thought.

I just ate them. They were good. I’m presently thirty miles from Digby, and the ferry over to New Brunswick, heading for home. I am not depressed from this day’s events. Actually, when I think about it, I have to smile. It had been insane, but at least now, I’m headed for home. I can’t continue this trip. I’m tired of biking, tired of being dirty, tired of eating shity food, tired of everything, but most of all, I’m tired of looking for a campsite when its going to rain at any minute.

I Had Fulfilled All My Desires, So Why So Empty (plus 1st flashback-Castalia)

July 7, 2007


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Nova Scotia Beach

June 23, ‘77

Campfire coffee and toast put some life into a morning of mist and dampness. After breakfast, and back on the highway, the rain started coming down so hard that I couldn’t continue biking. I stopped and looked at my map for a possible campsite. There wasn’t any. I was about to enter a town, though. In the gas station where I bought a candy bar, I saw a sign that read: “Scallop shockers wanted,” with an attached phone number. When I called the number, there was no answer. I needed that job, not to mention a place to get out of the weather, too.

I spent the rest of the day walking around Barrington, N.S.—coffee, cookies, anything to keep me out of the rain. At each stop, I would read a few pages of my book. I finally found a laundromat. I must have called that scallop guy seven times before I gave up. I was in a rotten mood and my common sense told me to get a hotel room, but, instead, I got on my bike and started peddling in the rain. I pulled off on the first gravel road that I came to, and started walking my bike. There were houses all around me. I hadn’t really gotten away from town. It didn’t look good, and then I walked by an abandoned house. Behind that house, in a garage, I found shelter. It kept raining, but the garage was comfortable enough. I watched the rain fall until the end of the light.

June 24

When I’m lonely, I tend to write more in my journal. I guess that’s natural. I don’t generally feel lonely, or at least I don’t admit to it, but my frequent journal entries have made me aware of it.

The morning started out fine, no rain, and around 11 a.m., lots of sunshine. Biking was excellent, but for some reason I couldn’t get into it. The road was mine. The sun was warm, and the forests were extremely friendly. Everything was saying to me, “Come on, get into this day!” But I couldn’t do it. At first I thought I might be bored, but then I realized it was my loneliness that was disturbing me. It was not just my separation from friends and family that made me miserable; it was a loss of “value” also. I felt like I had lost sight of my goals. That wasn’t altogether true. I was doing really well on the material side of things. I had my job. I had money. I had time to bicycle. Actually, I had fulfilled all my desires, so why so empty? Maybe that was the problem. I was too successful. There was nothing to look forward to anymore, and quite frankly, maybe I was beginning to have second thoughts concerning my own success. Was it really what I wanted, what I expected? I was confused and lonely, really lonely.

I knew depression, serious depression, was just around the corner. That happened when I let myself get too serious. I didn’t need that, so I decided to pull over and set up camp. It was hard to get depressed while sitting around a campfire. When I came to a spot, I pulled a soda from my bike pack. Nova Scotia wasn’t that commercialized. Sometimes, you had to think ahead. Unfortunately, at the spot where I had planned to camp, I was greeted by some of Canada’s finest. I found myself in the middle of a black fly hatch. There was no stopping the little critters.

They were in my eyes, under my clothes, and, every time I got bit, it was like a needle poking me. I wrapped rubber bands around my ankles and wrists to keep them from getting under my clothes. I set up my tent and crawled inside. I felt safe until the flies came through the tent screen. They were that small. I held my own against mosquitoes, wind, and rain, but there was no defense against black flies. I packed my gear and hit the highway.

The woods had become out of bounds for camping. What was I to do? Maybe the flies would settle down after sunset? The ocean beach was always a refuge from bugs. The constant wind was a savior. But I hadn’t seen a beach since I arrived in Nova Scotia. The beach wasn’t good in the rain, however. I was running out of alternatives. If it came down to it, there was always a train heading for home somewhere, but not here. Bike till I dropped, that was my only available option. It was after 8 p.m. when I finally came to a sign that read, “picnic area.” I had reached the ocean, and there was even a beautiful two-foot high surf breaking off shore.

I’m writing at a picnic table, just on the other side of the dunes, which separate me from the beach—a perfect place to camp. The sun has set somewhere behind the trees. I’m safe from the flies for now, but still itching all over. It’s getting a bit chilly, so I think I’ll put on my jacket. I want to read a couple more paragraphs in my book before I go to bed.

June 25

Sunshine in the morning, what a great experience! Last night the sky was full of stars. It was the kind of sky that begged me to sleep outside my tent. It was cold, though, and my bones ached. I reluctantly climbed into my tent. In the morning, the sun heated things back up again. I had found the perfect place to camp. I was eating my raisin toast and drinking hot coffee away from the Parkman’s eyes behind a concave sand dune. I decided to stay. I needed the rest anyway.

It was a great day to be on the ocean, but I couldn’t shake my negative mood. I wasn’t sure where that mood was taking me, either. It became mo
re intense when I finished Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was such a good book; why then was I left hanging? I expected the author to tie up the loose ends, but that didn’t happen. Instead, in the end, there was some kind of reconnect between the boy and his father– Phaedrus. After that, father and son rode off into the sunset. I can’t explain it, but that ending devastated me. It was awful. I guess I expected the bells and whistles to ring, but that didn’t happen. In fact, I’m not sure what happened. Maybe nothing happened, and that nothing sent me straight into depression. Maybe I read too much into the book. Maybe I wanted more than the book could give, more than any book could give. Maybe that’s the way it had to end. I’m beginning to think I hate endings.

There was an open-air canteen down the road. For lunch I had chips and clams. That was my second hot meal since I began this trip. The clams were delicious. After lunch I washed my clothes down at the stream and then jumped into the ocean to wash my body. Up here, off shore, it’s the Labrador Current—that means cold, cold, water. There were two girls on the beach watching me as I took my very short swim. They told me about a river not far from the picnic area, where the water would be warmer, and offered to take me there. I agreed, and the three of us enjoyed a nice swim in “regular cold water.”

I ate four hot dogs for dinner. I liked them fire-blackened and I wasn’t disappointed. An old man strolled by as I was eating. After we exchanged greetings, I gave the old man a hot dog and the two of us sat on the picnic table enjoying the ocean view. We sat there for about an hour without speaking. It was not uncomfortable. When I picked up my journal and started writing, he said, “Time to be moseying on,” and walked away. I felt good vibes from that old man. Tomorrow I will be pushing myself down the highway. I would like to use a different word to describe leaving this place, but I can’t. I’m too close to Cape Briton and Prince Edward Island to think about heading for home. If push is the word that will get me moving again then so be it. If I have to push to get to see the rest of this beautiful island peninsula, then so be it, I will push.

This blog, for the most part, is a rehash of my old road journals, but I started this blog six years into those journals. In order to clarify some of what I’m describing here, I’ve decided to introduce the flashback. Although the events I am describing represent snapshots of my past life, when these events are viewed a whole, they are meant to describe a journey, the end goal of which is/was to better understand who “I” am and why “I/we” are here. Throughout this narrative a good deal of philosophy will be discussed and I will end this blog with an imaginary (and/or metaphorical) reading of what I take to be “judgment day”. For me, judgment day is simply a measured reading of the judgments made over the duration of one’s life span. With this goal in mind, the end of life perspective “judgment day,” becomes the last opportunity to better understand who “I/we” are and why “I/we” are here. When deemed appropriate and/or necessary, other flashbacks will follow.

Take care,

dave

Flashback 1:

What A Simple Solution-A Simple Job For A Simple Person

Castalia

Jan. 1971

Back at school, I took The Politics of Eastern Europe, Peace Seminar, Political Philosophy, and Political Thought and Theory. I needed to build confidence; so I figured twelve hours of classes wouldn’t be that tough. I ended up, as was usual with me, putting my time in just one class, Political Philosophy, at the expense of the others. It used to be that my favorite class would be in Biology, then it was in Political Science, and now I guess its in Philosophy. I had no idea how philosophy was going to help me get a job though. After university, what would happen to me job-wise was beginning to bother me. It bothered my parents too. They didn’t care what I studied, as long as I was able to get a good job and be happy.

I had nothing against happiness, but I knew my parent’s world just didn’t work for me. It probably never would work either. I never liked competition. The flip side of winning was that somebody loses. I’ve never been comfortable with that either. Growing up, I got used to loosing, my brother (five years my senior) made sure of that. Even in sports, if I played hard and well that was enough. Winning was just the icing on the cake. The business world didn’t work for me. Achieving wealth was not an option. Money was good for providing immediate sense gratification, but after that its accumulation was not worth the hassle. Achieving wealth was more of a class thing anyway, sustained and promoted at the top, usually to the exclusion of the poor underclass. When it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, I was at a loss.

While taking classes at CMU I tried to join the Peace Corps, but failed; likewise with Vista (the domestic Peace Corps). In both cases I got the same reply, “Sorry, you do not qualify”—meaning that these volunteer organizations did not accept people with mental problems. One look at my 4-F draft status and one could conclude I was either insane or a communist.

One day, while sitting in CMU’s Student Union, I was feeling a bit more depressed than usual. I was taking a break from writing a philosophy paper when I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation that was going on between three CMU janitors. They were sitting at the table in front of me. I was not drawn to the content of what was being said. It was just that I found the overall humor of their conversation interesting. They were laughing and carrying on as if they did not have a care in the world. Just when I was beginning to feel guilty about eavesdropping, I asked myself, “What’s wrong with this picture, and the answer came at me like a blazing meteor. “What a simple solution,” I thought, “a simple job for a simple person; no more problems, no more debts.” As I chewed on that thought, it felt like the ground gave way under my feet. I felt like I had fallen straight through the floor into an indescribably beautiful place—the self-sustaining, lifetime environment of a college student.

Marvin Gaye’s song, What’s Going On was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. In fact, a couple weeks earlier, the quote propelled me to the bookstore where I bought Hesse’s last and most important novel, Magister Ludi. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read, so I went out and bought his most famous book hoping to find it there. I haven’t found it yet, but it didn’t matter because the book was excellent. It was the novel that won Hesse the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In the book a place was described—Castalia—that was devoted entirely to the pursuits of the mind. The possibility of creating a Castalia out of CMU energized me. As I sat drinking coffee, I knew that the first step toward creating my own Castalia was to get hired as a CMU custodian. The more I thought about the plan, the more I felt I was onto something big. Written in 1943, Magister Ludi was set in an unspecified future, after the chaos and horror of the 20th -century wars. In the book, Castalia was a place devoted to the more spiritual dimensions of life. Castalia remained separate from society except when both Castalia and outside world came together to celebrate the skills of the game players, the champions of the Glass Bead Game. Hesse gave no instruction on how to play the Game, but the goal was to bring together the spiritual values of all ages in an act of mental synthesis. All Castalians, on some level, participated in the Glass Bead Game, but only a few became Masters.

The thought of creating Castalia out of CMU excited me. The reality of getting paid to enjoy music, theater, literature, lectures, and participate in academic discussions excited me even more. Actually, university culture and the Castalian lifestyle had a lot in common. Maybe the game aspect of both cultures was what they had most in common? After all, a large part of what we called “education,” the “life of the mind,” the “pursuit of the truth,” was only the machine tooling of the young to meet the needs of various bureaucracies, bureaucracies whose purpose was to insure that wealth was concentrated at the top of society, with vanishingly small shares at the bottom. In Hesse’s Castalia, even if it was only a game, at least the goals of the game were a bit more humanizing. I guess you can’t get away from hierarchy thing though. Even in Hesse’s mythical society, the good game players got rewarded, while the losers dropped out.

As I was thinking about what to do next, I remembered reading a book back in New Orleans that I wanted to reread now. Roszak’s book, The Making Of The Counter Culture, was about thinking differently and acting differently. I needed to get back to my philosophy paper, but I told myself, “This is Friday. If I pull this off I will have many more Fridays to work on any number of papers, for the rest of my life.” Comforted by that thought, I left my coffee on the table, and went over to CMU’s library where I checked out Roszak’s book. I needed to know if he, Roszak, held out hope for a better future, one not compromised by material values and greed. I needed to know whether Roszak thought that a “Castalia” represented hope or desperation. In a slightly different context, this is what he said:

“But you are twenty-five…and there are forty or fifty years ahead (if the bomb doesn’t fall) and they must be shared with home and family, and be buoyed up by dependable subsistence, or that future will be a gray waste and the consciousness of life you want to expand will shrink and become bleak. So how do you grow up? Where is the life-sustaining receptacle that can nourish and protect good citizenship?

The answer is: you make up a community of those you love and respect, where there can be enduring friendships, children, and by mutual aid, three meals a day scraped together by honorable and enjoyable labor. Nobody knows quite how it is to be done. There are not many reliable models. The old radicals are no help: they talked about socializing whole economies, or launching third parties, or strengthening the unions, but not about building communities.

It will take a deal of improvisation, using whatever examples one can find at hand…Maybe none of them will work. But where else is there to turn? And where else can one any longer look for the beginnings of an honest revolution except in such “pre-revolutionary structure-making.”

Among all the urgent tasks that need to be done in the next month and the one after that, this especially needs doing for the next decade and the one after that: that the young who have greater expectations of life than their elders and who are more intolerably sensitive to corruptions should find an enduring mode of life that will safeguard those expectations and sensitivities…And who besides Goodman is offering much help in that direction?

From Making Do, the man considering the unhappy boy he loves: ”…for him—and not only for him—there was in our society No Exit. When he had asked his germane question, and fifteen experts on the dais did not know an answer for him. But with ingenuity he had hit on a painfully American answer, Do It Yourself. If there is no community for you, young man, young man, make it yourself.” (p. 204)

It appears to me at least that Roszak and I agree that Castalia affords hope, not desperation. It will take more than hope, however, to make Castalia real.