Archive for September, 2007

Freedom Talk Is Cheap, Especially When People Don’t Want To Be Free (and Flashback #2 Touched)

September 29, 2007

Picture 008Faust’s Redemption

Exam Final ’77 Concluded

Faust was ambitious, and as such, he set himself an ambitious task—to create a free country for free people. “The deed is all, the glory not,” became his battle cry. He was faced with a very difficult problem: How do you free people who don’t want to be free? Faust knew that “freedom talk” was cheap. People always wanted security more than freedom. Even our own Thomas Jefferson knew that securing life went before securing freedom in the pursuit of liberty.

Faust’s plan showed genius. His solution would not only make people appreciate freedom, it would also provide them with the conditions necessary to preserve that freedom. If you can’t take the people to the Mothers, you bring the Mothers to the people. Faust proposed a project, and the people responded. He set them the task to carve land from the sea. Hard work was required, but land was the reward. Eventually, with enough reclaimed land, the people could establish their own independence. They would create their own country.

For Faust, further benefits, unbeknownst to the people, would transpire. By securing land from the sea, by orchestrating a system of dykes and dyke maintenance, the conditions would be put in place that would not only permit freedom— it would demand it. Ultimately, the hard work and vigilance necessary to see such a major project through to completion would teach people that life and freedom were to be equally valued. Faust knew that freedom was never free. Teaching that lesson to others was his great success, and a free land for free people was his great vision realized. But, even with all that success, there was still unfinished business to attend to.

His accomplishments spanning horizon to horizon, Faust, now an old man, was all but ready to say to the moment, “Abide! You are so fare, stay, remain for eternity,” and with those words he would have sealed his fate and sold his soul to the devil, but he hesitated. He hesitated because his vision was not yet fully realized. Two of his subjects, a husband and wife of many years, lived within the sound of the bell of the Church. Faust knew that all who remained within that sound also remained subject to the dictates and rules of the Church. Acting on Faust’s orders, Mephistopheles and his lieutenants went to remove the old couple from their land. The relocation of the old man and woman was necessary to avoid conflict with the Church. With the couple out of the way, Faust would secure the undisputed deed to the territory he claimed for his kingdom. Of course, the old couple could not be persuaded to leave their home and they fought the eviction. In the scuffle, Faust’s lieutenants murdered them. Their unjust deaths were not the first to stain the hands of Faust, but they were the last.

Even though Faust had not intended to murder the couple, he held himself responsible, and this guilt eventually culminated in his denial of care and his rejection of Mephistopheles. For this disobedience, “the powers that reigned,” blinded Faust. “Deep night now seems to fall more deeply still. Yet inside me there shines a brilliant light. What I have thought, I hasten to fulfill.” Faust could no longer see his kingdom, but his inner vision remained intact. Faust, now at death’s door, accepted his fate. In anticipation of his death, Mephistopheles waited with outstretched hands for the release of his soul. The soul should have been on its way to Hell, or at least so thought the devil. But, slipping through Mephistopheles’ fingertips, Faust’s soul was lifted up to Heaven instead, and a dark shadow fell over Goethe’s reputation. [Faust’s salvation (Faust Part Two) was posthumously published. It caused a stir at the time, but Goethe’s reputation totally recovered.]

In the end, the right use of power, the deed, and knowledge brought Faust salvation and Goethe’s lifelong project to a close. Where love, beauty and form meet, enlightenment cannot be far behind, but it might be a stretch to attribute that to Faust. I don’t know. I’ll have to give it more thought!

I experienced a beautiful sunrise, which inspired me to write this poem on the morning after writing my Faust exam:

Sunrise

A heavy frost,

crisp refreshing air,

the end of a night’s work.

Standing aloof,

glancing toward the sky,

another sunrise.

Another sunrise indeed,

a crimson miracle,

uncovering sublime emotion.

What to do,

run, find yourself a high perch,

the top of Brooks Hall.

Mesmerized,

A timeless moment,

splendor unsurpassed.

Watching the sky unfold,

transfixed in a living aura,

transposed into one sensation.

Life energy becomes fluid,

synonymous with beauty,

everything becomes beautiful.

Listless, yet attending,

attention turns inside out,

object and subject cease to be.

Flashback #2 — Touched (From my 1972 bicycle trip— Michigan to West Coast)

Wyoming

May 29

Every morning brought with it wind and rain. In order to continue, I had to enter into an agreement with myself, “If I could peddle faster than I could walk I would continue to bike.” After making that pact, I experienced times when I couldn’t make up my mind. I never quit, though.

Yesterday, I was wet and blown dry four different times. In the afternoon, right after I reached Gillette, I said, “Fuck it.” I decided to hitchhike with my bike. First though, I got some food at a restaurant and, after that, I found that the wind had let up a bit. I decided to try and make Buffalo, another 69 miles west. Around 4 p.m. the rain stopped, but the wind picked up. When I reached Powder River around 5 p.m. and went into the one stop gas station (one stop because it only had one gas pump), the lady who owned the place invited me into her trailer for coffee (the trailer was both the gas station and her home). While I was there, one of her friends offered to give me a lift to Buffalo.

I climbed in the back of his pickup truck and began my 31mile coast all the way into Buffalo. During my short, but very much appreciated ride, I wanted to scream blasphemies at Aeolos (god of the winds), but I thought better of it. I had the driver drop me off at the city park. Once I found out that I could crash in the park, and after I got my bike ready for the next day’s climb up the Big Horn Mountains, I went looking for a bar that served food. I needed to break a twenty-dollar traveler’s check, so I figured if I ordered big, I could accomplish two things at once. On the street, I met this dude, and we went into the only bar open on Sunday. Once inside, we sat with his friend who was already there.

These guys took an instant liking to me. They told me my money was no good as long as I stayed with them, and they kept their promise. When I went to the bathroom, in between one of the many Coors’ beers that I drank, the bartender took me aside and said, “Did you know that your drinking buddy is a faggot and the other one is a mental case?” They both seemed like nice fellows to me. When they wanted me to leave the bar with them, I politely declined. Instead, I went back to the park and crashed (I was ready to crash anyway). Actually, I thought the bartender was the one that was a little nuts, but why take chances? By then it was raining, so back at the park, I put the baseball dugout to use. The wooden bench was hard but dry. In the morning I found a café where I ate an omelet and watched the Memorial Day Parade through the storefront window. It was a short parade.

I’m going to cash my check now, and then start my climb up the Big Horns. They tell me that after another 49 miles I will reach a 10,066-foot mountain pass. Yesterday, if you include my 31-mile truck ride, I covered 100 miles.

May 30, ‘72

My first 6,600 feet up wa
sn’t too bad. It took me most of yesterday to climb that high. The first eight miles was almost straight up, but after that it evened out a bit. The traffic was light, so it felt like I was up in the mountains alone, and I really liked that. I passed a couple of nice looking trout streams, but I didn’t stop until I got higher up. Around
3 p.m. I found a stream and started to fish. I fished the rest of the day and into the night. I only caught one little Brook trout.

At first I thought I wasn’t catching fish because I wasn’t using a commercial fishing pole (I had sent my collapsing pole home with everything else), then I happened upon a couple of fisherman and showed them the “stick” that I caught my trout on. They just smiled. They hadn’t caught any fish either. I ate my fish for dinner along with some dried cereal sprinkled with raisins. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get to a place where I can eat trout all the time. It sure is an emotional trip up here in the mountains.

To be continued…

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Where Love, Beauty, And Form Merge The Journey Ends

September 22, 2007

Picture 009Without Context Words Are Empty And Impotent

Dec. ‘77

Final Exam On Goethe’s Faust

For me, after my bicycle trip, it was back to washing pots and pans. However, my accumulated work seniority enabled me, after a time, to move into a midnight custodian job. With my days freed up, I wanted to take a class, but it was already too late to do that. Instead I asked my old professor, Dr. Gill, if I could sit in on his class. I had already taken that class, but he was teaching it to an honor’s section of students, and I wanted to see what that was all about. The class, his philosophy through literature class, was a favorite of mine. Dr. Gill knew I loved the Faust story, so he let me sit in. I was surprised to find that the class was taught exactly the same to the honor’s students, and, even though I wasn’t there to be graded, I still took the final exam. Dr. Gill liked what I wrote so much that he suggested I try to publish it. That was a confidence booster. Here’s the exam—a post Heidegger take on Faust.

Power and the word:

After a time, Faust lost all faith in the power of words. Words are a form of “disclosure,” that’s all. Without context, meaning, and understanding words are empty and impotent. Goethe’s play was important because it depicted the kinship that exists between discourse and understanding. When the growth of Faust was looked at from start to finish, it was no longer just about words; it was a representational model of a powerful sense of life lived meaningfully.

When Faust used Mephistopheles to acquire power, havoc and misery followed. In the grip of care, the care of pure desire, Faust wielded great power and caused great harm. Many innocents suffered and even died because of Faust’s reckless behavior and ignorance. He intended good, but he produced the opposite. After many disappointments, he discovered that, like the word without understanding, power without scruples caused untold disasters. A great deal of tragedy came to pass before Faust learned that very important lesson.

Unrestricted power always caused harm, and even power directed toward the success of “high ideals” was poignantly wedded to discourse and understanding. Faust made many mistakes, but he never stopped learning from those mistakes. “The man who desires the impossible,” Manto said, “that man I love. Man errs as long as he strives…” To succeed, Faust, like so many before and after him, had to fail. Until he began to understand the most powerful of discourses, he remained a victim of his own ignorance.

Exam Final Continued

Faust’s Quest:

Faust learned that a kinship existed between power and the word. Likewise, he had to learn that there existed a kinship between love, beauty, and form. For Faust, sensuality was never an end in itself, and because of that, Gretchen’s love was his reward. Seeking a higher ideal, and lifted by sensuality into a real and penetrating love, Faust found temporary happiness. Unfortunately, he made mistakes along the way; mistakes that contributed to the deaths of his beloved Gretchen and the child that he conceived with her. Out of that tragedy, Faust learned the difference between love and sensuality, and—if one were to ask Mephistopheles—his participation in that tragedy earned him a place in Hell.

The condemnation of Faust was—and remains—arguable. Knowledge is not free, and the death of Gretchen and her baby was an extreme example of just how unjust the price of knowledge can sometimes be. After their tragic demise, Faust was transported (we are not told by what magic) to the Greek Classical Period where he met and fell in love with Helen of Troy. The first time he set eyes on Helen, she was a captive enemy being lead away by the victorious Greeks after the sack of Troy. Helen’s beauty went to the core of her very being. She was proud, but not too proud. She was nobody’s prisoner; restricted by circumstances, but never bowed. She represented human dignity at its highest level. Faust was totally smitten by her comely presence and beauty. He fell in love with her on the spot, but when he reached out for her she vanished into thin air. Thus began Faust’s quest for a love that would deliver him unto that place where love, beauty, and form merge. In order to find Helen, and get to that place, Faust had to pay a visit to the mythical Mothers.

The Mothers were mysterious and terrifying. They practiced magic and, best I could tell from the reading, they were like witches, but not of this world. Many had encountered the Mothers before, but only those who could endure total resignation survived to tell the story. A pure heart and absolute sincerity were required to survive. For Faust, going to the Mothers, was his only chance to find and win Helen, and walking away from the Mothers, after encountering infinite resignation, if indeed one did walk away, meant walking away fully renewed. Faust was not deterred by the threat to his life.

Mephistopheles could not accompany Faust to the Mothers. In his bag of tricks, resignation was eternally absent. Upon Faust�
��s return, Mephistopheles influence over him greatly diminished. Before the Mothers, the two were comrades, although reluctant ones, and after the Mothers, a gaping distance separated them. “In your nothingness I hope to find everything,” said Faust to Mephistopheles, and so it was, after the Mothers, Faust became free to follow his own instincts.

Faust was stronger and more determined now. He also acquired the information he needed to find Helen. Faust’s Mothers encounter, and Goethe’s lack of description of it, I suppose was meant to allow the imagination of the reader to fill in the blanks. The Mothers’ experience permanently changed Faust—why? Heidegger says that when one confronts his non-relational, not to be outstripped possibility of Dasein (his anticipation of death), he becomes free (for resoluteness). After the Mothers’ experience, Faust became free from Mephistopheles, and in that freedom, it seems to me, he discovered his authenticity. Acting authentically, acting as if each breath was a final breath, Faust was able to look deep into the conditional nature of care and free himself from Mephistopheles. However, before Faust could deny care’s relational nature (his attachment to desire), before he could totally abandon Mephistopheles, he had to learn an additional lesson. Each of us must find his work and do it. That lesson was a hard one for Faust to learn, but it was even harder for him to learn that it was not enough to do the work; how he did it was just as important. In other words–when does the means justify the ends?

To be continued…

Entry for September 14, 2007

September 14, 2007
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Picture–me in my apartment 1979.

The Result Of Love Preserving What Is Best In All Things-Rejuvenation

Humpty Dumpty Revisited Or Whatever Happened To That South Dakota Guy

July 22, ‘77

Everybody knows about Humpty Dumpty, but they probably don’t know the whole story. Of course he fell from the wall, everybody knows that, but why? Did the love bug smote Humpty? Is that what caused him to lose his balance and fall? Humpty admired the world from atop his perch, and he was happy, even jubilant. But then a not so beautiful daisy captured his attention, a daisy struggling to free its face from the matted grass holding it down. The struggle had a hypnotic affect on Humpty. As he watched the flower struggle to free itself from the grass that pinned its face to the ground, he got so emotional that he stopped eating. Finally, after his vigil that was already into its third day, the flower began to die, or at least that’s what Humpty thought. Fearing the end, he turned away from the daisy. After giving the daisy up for dead, he was extremely surprised to see (when he finally brought himself look again) the flower’s yellow petals and soft brown center reaching out to him from just above the tangled grass. The unexpected sight so startled him that he almost fell off his wall. For Humpty, that could have been the end, but it wasn’t.

Everything changed for Humpty after that. Where as before he was always carefree and happy, now he was totally overcome by his desire for the daisy. Alas, it was not to come to pass. Humpty was fated to look upon his beloved and likewise, the daisy’s fate was to reach out for (but never touch) her beloved admirer. Day after day, Humpty gazed down upon the daisy with a longing that only two lovers kept apart could know. The morning dew was envied as the tiny droplets graced the petals of his daisy. Under the rising sun, watching the dewdrops shrink and slip away into nothingness became, for Humpty, a morning ritual. Needless to say, Humpty’s love grew stronger (and more tragic), as the sun journeyed north along the summer’s horizon. It was a sad day indeed when the daisy started to wilt and die.

Humpty was not dumb. He knew he could not stop the inevitable, but that didn’t make it any easier. In the beginning, he simply denied what was happening. But when the daisy’s head drooped under its own weight, Humpty was overcome by a torrent of distress. He screamed, “Don’t go. I love you. My love will never, never die. It is forever. Know that I love you now and forever.” But in reality Humpty knew that it was over. The next morning, in the place where his beautiful daisy reached out to him, he spied only a brown tangled mass of grass. Humpty retreated into his shell after that, his life’s passion only a memory. For him, all beauty, love, and life had evaporated, just like the dew droplets that had once adorned the petals of his beloved flower. The emptiness would not go away, a torture beyond belief, replaced his reason for living.

We will never know for sure why Humpty fell off his wall. Some say it was simply a case of negligence. He just lost his balance. Others say it was a mercy killing. Humpty’s lifelong perch afforded him an opportunity for freedom and release, and in the end, some would say he just took advantage of it. There was no questioning the result–massive amounts of broken eggshell. For most, that was the end of the story, but it really wasn’t.

It is well known that all the king’s men and all the king’s horses failed to put Humpty back together again, but what is not so well known is the fate of poor Humpty’s remains. In the spring, beside the patches of melting snow, something incredible happened. A shoot of grass sprouted. The hearty blade shot up right beside a large piece of Humpty, connecting that piece to another. More grass sprouted, and more pieces of Humpty came together. Amazingly, Humpty’s pieces, when connected, stuck together. But Humpty wasn’t just coming together; piece-by-piece he was growing. It was a slow process, but for Humpty, his newfound “wholeness” had become meaningful in a way that he previously could not have imagined.

To this day, what happened to Humpty remains a mystery. But somehow he pulled himself together. And when a broken egg becomes whole again, it is quite an event! The significance of this comeback did not go unrecognized by Humpty. Being an egg, he was already hypersensitive, but his hypersensitivity now mushroomed. Love was indeed the motivator here, but Humpty also realized that the tragedy of lost love had something to do with his recovery and transformation too.

We will never know what, ultimately, was responsible for Humpty’s rejuvenation. Was it the workings of some miracle of Mother Nature, or was it the mysterious power of love preserving what is best in all things? It is impossible to get beyond speculation here. One thing is for sure, though, the demise of the daisy meant, for Humpty, the demise of meaning and hope, and without meaning, death’s door opens wide. That door, in Humpty’s case, opened to massive amounts of eggshell all over the place. That’s all history now, even if it remains an unfinished story.

I heard that Humpty was climbing back up to his perch on the wall. That climb would be difficult for anybody, but for an egg it would be doubly hard. He fell a couple of times, but, I also heard that he at least learned how to fall without going to pieces. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why he would want to climb back up that wall. To be sure, the ground is the only safe place for an egg. Oh, well, whatever it takes to find happiness. Who am I to judge anyway? Climb on Humpty! Climb on and on, for as long as it takes, for as long as you can. It’s your life, live it. Your story is still unfinished!

If I Don’t Take Advantage Of The Potential Surrounding
Me I Only Have Myself To Blame

Sitting At My Typewriter

Oct. 17, 1977

In closing, I need to add a few observations concerning the trip.

1. When I began my bicycle trip my hair was long. I wondered how my long hair would be received on the road. I assumed the outside world would have regressed back to the “I hate longhairs” attitude, since back at university long hair had pretty much been disinherited by the student population. I was wrong. What I found “out there” was no hassle whatsoever. In fact, a large majority of the working class had assimilated long hair, along with its assorted life styles. In retrospect, that’s not too surprising since the working class has become my generation while college students are now from another time.

2. It was interesting that among the many bicyclers I met (Richard had more than his share of stories here), all had problems with unfriendly canines. Everybody had special defenses for dealing with the unfriendly critters. Richard kept his bicycle lock and chain at arm’s reach, so if needed he could easily use it to fend off attacking dogs. I also had many occasions where I had to deal with the unruly four-legged clan, but I was fortunate not to have to get physical. I perfected a procedure that got me through the scariest of times. It went something like this: Most dogs were only protecting their territory. Their charge slowed the closer they got to the bike. However, some actually wanted to eat the biker, and when that happened (I got so I could measure up the dog pretty well), I didn’t panic. I just kept looking forward until the dog was almost on top of me. Then I would turn and look directly down into the dog’s eyes. Immediately I could tell how “serious” the dog was, with varying degrees of intensity, I would scream at the dog “Go Home.” It worked every time. Sometimes it was just a case of telling the dog to go home. On other occasions, it took a little more energy. Once a large dog, a very serious large dog, attacked me. From out of the bowels of my being I mustered a roar that even shocked me. Fortunately, the dog stopped, and I pedaled faster.

3. Arcadia National Park in Maine was extremely beautiful, but I found it lacking because of an absence of wild animals.

4 Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were my mainstay on the road. I got tired of eating all the other “not so good stuff,” but I never got tired of eating PB&J sandwiches.

5. This trip completed my many year old goal—the goal of putting myself in a position to study and travel continuously. Now, after achieving that goal, I feel freer than ever. I can pursue my studies, or travel if I want to. More importantly, though, I am free not to do either. I like that! And best of all, I am under no pressure to choose either way. Society, peers, and even my own conscience no longer play a role in how I decide. All future decisions will now be based on whatever feels good. Being a CMU custodian, I have enough money to live nicely, and I also have opportunities galore for intellectual pursuits. I can explore new thoughts whenever they arise, and the university is there to keep me honest. I am working in the middle of all the intellectual stimulation I will ever need, and more importantly, I am free from measure—no more A’s, B’s, C’s…. I can be smart, dumb, eccentric, or just plain plain. It’s up to me. It’s an absolutely great feeling! I only have myself to blame if I don’t take advantage of the potential that surrounds me.

6. The last point I want to make is in defense of this journal as a whole. Because I had to actualize my possibilities, and because I had to follow through on a plan in order to put myself in that position, this trip has been lacking in what I enjoy most—spontaneity. I needed to complete this trip, however, and in doing so, I have validated all the work I had put into getting myself to this point. It’s a dream come true. Just being here now is the exclamation point to everything. I am really free from here on out.

7. Last comment: for good or bad C. S. and I have begun correspondence. It appears as though we might get back together. Whether this is a manifestation of the tragic flaw in “mankind,” or just in me, time will tell. For the record, I guess I want this to happen. It would be, for me, more than a dream come true.

P.S. The correspondence ended (8-25-77). She will stay in South Dakota.

Biking In Michigan

September 8, 2007
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Incomprehensible-A University Trained Person Working With The Underclass

National Library, Ottawa

July 15, ‘77

The free music sure was great in Ottawa. I especially liked the concert given by David Wiffen. He played really nice acoustic guitar and had a fine voice. I found out he’s got a couple of albums and one of them at least will end up in my record collection in the near future. Also of the highest quality was a French female singer and her band. It was easy listening music, but very nice. The free concerts were sponsored by the city of Ottawa, and took place in what is called the Astrolab, on a grassy knoll behind the Parliament building. On occasion, though, concerts would take place at other locations.

I went to the Camp Fortune Amphitheater to see Tom Rush. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the concert. I never did get a clear explanation on why. The bus ride to the no show cost me a dollar. I also went to see a free theater production of What’s Up Charley Brown. The production needed a bit more polish. All in all, though, I was impressed with the way the city of Ottawa went the extra mile to give people like me entertainment. Thank you Ottawa. This city, the Provincial Capitol of Canada, has been an excellent finish to my otherwise questionable bicycle trip.

Yesterday, I got up early to meet Joe. I was excited about the big bucks I might make in Toronto. I was even more excited about going to Toronto with my new found New Zealand friends, Pam and Bruce. They were newly weds who were honeymooning as world travelers. After Ottawa, they were on their way to England, and from there they planed to work themselves around the world. I was just a wee bit envious. They were both beautiful people. Come to think of it, while in Ottawa, I’ve met a lot of really neat people. I have actually become friends with some of them.

When I arrived at the hostel, I met John. He was a tall, lanky, Australian. He introduced me to the dos and don’ts of hostel life. It seemed like he was always around when I was in the hostel. He wasn’t overly talkative, but the two of us seemed to hit it off anyway. He was a world traveler, but unlike Pam and Bruce, he had been at it for a number of years. He told me that as long as it stayed interesting, he would continue. He had already been around the world at least once. After I came back to the hostel one night and found that he had suddenly packed his things and left, one of the staff members told me not to worry, when he wasn’t traveling the world, he was working as a chemical engineer. He was that kind of guy–quiet.

My Czechoslovakian friend, however, was just the opposite. We had some stimulating conversations. We both liked to drink, so we spent a couple afternoons in the pub drinking drafts. Sometimes it was hard to understand him. He had an atrocious accent. After the 1968 takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, he immigrated to South Africa. I had taken a class on Eastern Europe and was familiar with the rise and fall of Dubchec, the liberal reformist leader of Czechoslovakia at the time of the Soviet takeover. My friend (I never could pronounce his name) was impressed with my knowledge of the situation. Dubchec was the reason the Soviets intervened in his country.

When he went to South Africa, he apparently had little trouble fitting in because he was trained as a mechanical engineer/designer. In fact, our most interesting conversation took place when he wanted to know what I did for a living. He couldn’t comprehend (or accept) that a university-trained person would work with the “uneducated classes.” He said that would be a crime in South Africa. No matter what I said to him, he could not understand that my goal all along was to become a custodian. He would just shake his head “no” most of the time. Actually, we had a lot of laughs over it.

I also need to say a few words about the hostel staff that has been so kind to me. Mitch, the friendly deskman who supplied me with many hearty laughs during my stay needs to be mentioned. Stephanie, the assistant resident staff person who got me an appointment with the free clinic for my poison ivy treatment (yes, I had a touch of the stuff while off-road camping) needs to be thanked, also. I want to thank, Jack, the head resident who let me stay past the three-day limit, let me stay on credit, and even let me work off the cost of one day by washing the breakfast dishes. And, as a passing point of interest, he also confirmed what I already expected about today’s hostel clientele.

The majority of the people I’ve met while hostelling were “free spirits,” but not the old hippie kind of free spirits that used to fill up the city “districts’ back when I did most of my traveling. The free spirits of today were free because they had lots of security to fall back upon. Their freedom rested upon—degrees, vocations, and wealthy parents. Even Bruce, my New Zealand friend, was a skilled computer programmer, and his brother was New Zealand’s Ambassador to Canada. Generally speaking, these people were in the bucks, or at least close to them. Jack agreed. He told me that today’s travelers were a different group of people. There were fewer of them, too. He said, “In the past, at this time of year, I would fill all 120 beds, as opposed to now, where only half would fill up.”

Pam, Bruce, and I waited for an hour before we accepted our fate. Joe, the con man, was not coming. I think Pam and Bruce were more disappointed than I was because they actually expected to get paid for the work they planned to do. Everybody was back at square one. Pam and Bruce went looking for work, and I began thinking about riding my bicycle across Ontario—not a happy thought. I didn’t look forward to competing for highway space with all that metropolitan traffic. It was my guardian angel, Stephanie, who suggested I hop on the train.

I jumped at the idea and began to make the necessary preparations. After getting a ticket and packaging my bike, I was ready to depart in the morning. That night, Pam and Bruce, holding an unopened bottle of gin, offered me a going away present. Together, we sat on the steps outside the hostel, reminiscing over the good times that never happened, drinking gin. It was onl
y a short stagger to get back to our beds. It was a good time. I owe Bruce one for that.

The next morning, I missed my train. I decided to take the next train out, a late evening one. I had another day to kill in Ottawa, so I went to the National Library and I picked off the shelf three books by Heidegger. He must have been popular in France because a whole shelf of his books was written in the French language. Ultimately, I don’t believe he’s saying anything I haven’t heard before, but he says it differently. He says it in his own unique language. It’s possible that I might understand this stuff even better if I could only get a really good handle on the strange way Heidegger puts it into words. I might want to read the book I have in front of me when I get home, so here it is: Heidegger and Ontological Difference, L.M. Vail, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park & London, 1972. Oh what the hell, why not this one too: Martin Heidegger, What Is A Thing, Vera Deuteh, analysis Gendlin, 1967, Henry Regner Co. Ch. Ill.

When Family Gets Together It’s Only A Matter Of Time Before Tensions Arise

Biking In Michigan

July 18, ‘77

Well, here I am again. Excuse me while I check my eggs. They are about ready to be made into sandwiches, and, while I’m at it, I might as well have a few more drinks of apple wine. Can’t seem to get enough of that Boonsfarm. An interesting note here—the last time I drank a quart of apple wine I was in Arcadia National Park in Maine. It was raining and I was also cooking eggs. This time it just quit raining, and I’m about to eat my eggs. I don’t really know what all that means, except maybe a real good time. Apple wine and campfire eggs are great in combination; that is, if they’re not too burned! Now where was I.

I made my way back to the train station on my last night in Ottawa. My seat on the train was not very comfortable, and the long night ride was cold, but once the sun came up things got better. I arrived in Sarnia around 2 p.m. Within an hour after arriving, I had unpacked my bike from the train and repacked my bike for the road, gone through customs, and was riding along the Michigan side of Lake Huron. When Michigan was good, it was great! I rode until 8 p.m. Riding on a good highway, in sunshine, was what bicycling was supposed to be all about. I camped that night at a scenic turnout, overlooking Lake Huron, and except for the seven bologna sandwiches that I had to eat because I was worried that the meat wouldn’t last another hot weather day, it was a pretty good night. I’ll never do that again, though!

The next day, a 90-degree day, I biked into Bay City. I stopped to visit with my brother and his family, but he wasn’t home. I bought six beers and with two left I rolled out my sleeping bag on his deck behind his house and called it a night. God, the joys of private property, I almost forgot how nice it could be. He came home later that night and wanted me to stay for a couple of days. I agreed. I spent my time there eating and drinking and watching TV. It was great. My parents even came down for a visit. I borrowed $35 from them, and was on my way again. When the whole family got together like that it was only a matter of time before tensions would rise.

When I left Bay City it clouded up. I spent most of the day riding in and out of rain. After ten hours I made it back to Lake Huron. I’m presently sitting at a picnic table in the Harrisville State Park, getting ready to move outside the park, all because I want to avoid paying the camp fee. This is a very nice park, but there are so many places to set up camp along the highway that it just makes sense to take advantage of them while I can. To be sure, it hasn’t always been this easy to find a campsite. Michigan rates right up at the top of the list of states for finding easy, non-paying campsites.

It’s getting dark, so I’d better prepare. And now for the last couple drinks of the apple wine that I intentionally saved for this journal entry!

July 20

I’m in a little different mood today. I still agree with Michigan being one of the best states for camping, but I’ve run up against some asshole drivers that take the joy out of biking. Oh well, gotta take the good with the bad I guess. Except for one particular asshole who tried to run me off the highway, it was good day for biking today. It was hot, and I took five swim breaks (yesterday three or four).

Yesterday, when I was peddling through Alpena in the late afternoon, I ran into an old classmate of mine from CMU. Mark was a musician and his band had a gig at an Alpena bar. He wanted me to stick around and hear the band. No problem! After a shower and a short nap, I left his motel room and moseyed over to the bar about 10:30 p.m. It was a pretty rowdy crowd and although I knew Mark preferred playing jazz, as opposed to rock and roll, on that night at least, the band played passable rock. The beer was cold and before the night was over I managed to drink more than my share. At last call, Mark grabbed a twelve pack and we all went back to the motel room. Everybody was a wee bit drunk, but I managed to sober up when the boys in the band started to play a game of firecracker your roommates. Mark noticed that I wasn’t really comfortable with what was going on, so he suggested we go look for the sun. A couple more beers later we found it, coming up over the Lake Huron horizon. I just wish I could have appreciated it more. I did manage to get a few passed out hours of sleep on the beach, though.

When I made it back to the motel, I found everybody fast asleep. I left Mark a note of thanks and split. An hour or so out of Alpena, my gear cable broke. After backtracking to the Alpena bike shop, and getting my bike repaired, the whole morning was shot. It was no big deal. I was in terrible shape, anyway. By the end of the day, I had pushed through a strong headwind, and made it to Roger’s City. Tired, and still feeling the effects of my hangover, I managed to find a camping spot just off the perimeter of the state park. I had a good time with Mark, but it didn’t come cheap.

I expect rain tonight. That’s why I chose to hide myself close to the park. There is a roofed picnic area not far from where I’m camped. If things get bad, I’m out of here. When I pulled the tent flaps in on me, it was 8:45 p.m., a little early, but I am just too tired to worry about getting caught. Goodnight!

I Lost Respect For These Academic Elites When They Berated My University

September 1, 2007
333 magnify

After Ten Years I Prefer Learning Experiences That Do Not Dead End

Hanging Out In Ottawa

July 8, ‘77

It was three dollars a night to stay at the hostel, and an added dollar if you ate breakfast in the morning. The food was great, too. I was a real tourist now. Yesterday was an especially good day for me. After I watched the changing of the guard (an English holdover I guess) I took off for the Art Museum. On my way there, I stopped at the Photo 77 exhibit. I spent an hour viewing the photography and then another hour or so, trying to figure out how holograms were put together. I never did figure it out, and I left exhausted.

A few blocks down the street I found a small pub. I felt right at home, as I drank my thirty-cent drafts, listening to a room full of old men talk French. I spent the whole afternoon playing pool with a couple of the old guys. I never did get to the museum. With 25 cents left in my pocket and almost drunk, I left the pub and went back to the hostel, and cooked up the steak I had waiting for me (there was a community fridge, so I put it to use). I was out of money, but I wasn’t too worried because I knew more money would arrive in the morning. After dinner I watched TV, and turned in early.

After morning breakfast, I walked down to the bank to pick up my money. The guy behind the counter told me it hadn’t arrived. It was Friday, and I had already waited four days for the money. I wasn’t happy. With only twenty-five cents in my pocket, and only a slight chance the money would arrive on Saturday, the thought of getting through the whole weekend without any money was not a pleasant one. After I left the bank, I stopped at a bakery and, with my last quarter, bought a hard crust of bread. At that point, I didn’t even know if I had a bed to sleep in. It took a little friendly persuasion (something I didn’t like to do), but in the end I was permitted to keep my bed at the hostel (on credit) until Monday.

The next day, I took off early for the same Art Museum that I never made it to the day before. The museum made me forget that I was broke. I especially liked the part devoted to the works of the Canadian Seven. At the turn of the century a group of artists got together and mixed impressionism, abstract art, and realism in an attempt to capture their feelings of the great north woods. They went on major painting expeditions in Quebec’s Algonquin wilderness area, and along Ontario’s Lake Superior shoreline. The results were stunning. If it wasn’t that I needed to get to the bank for one last shot at my money, I definitely would have stayed longer.

Outside the museum, it was time to eat my last chunk of bread, so I walked over to where there was a peaceful looking mound of green grass and sat down. A couple young teens came up out of the trees from behind me, and asked me if I wanted a piece of cheese to go with my bead. They were hanging out on the other side of the trees, in a gully next to the museum. I helped them eat their cheese and pickles. Apparently, the fellows used the isolated gully as their home away from home. They survived on stolen food from nearby markets.

When they invited me to hang with them, I politely declined. Ten years ago I would have jumped at the chance. Back then I looked at everything as a learning experience, but now, even though I was lonely and without money, I was inclined to pursue more relevant learning experiences, ones that didn’t dead end before they got started. Once again, I thanked the lads for their generosity, and walked away. From the top of the hill, as I turned for one last goodbye, I noticed that their attention had turned to practicing knife throwing. They were trying to stick knifes in an empty potato chip canister lying on the ground. They never did look up, and, I might add, they were terrible knife throwers.

At the bank, I went up to the teller’s window, and told my sad story. The guy was not sympathetic. After a few rude comments, he left his post; I assumed to get the answer to my question. When he came back, he was not helpful. In fact, he left me with the impression that my money might never come. That was not what I wanted to hear. With my voice rising in decibels, I asked for clarification. I ended up explaining my situation, once again, to the new guy who had stepped in to prevent a scene. He told me he would call my Credit Union in order to make sure the money was sent. For some strange reason, he ended up calling to confirm that the money had been sent, not once, but twice. When it was all over, the asshole gave me a $25. advance (minus the $3. taken out for the two phone calls) on the $100. I still had to wait till Monday to pick up the rest of my money. I was not happy when I left the bank.

July 9

Last night, back at the hostel, this guy came in and asked if anybody wanted to go to work painting houses for him. He got a couple takers, including me. But, after finishing a cup of coffee with him this morning, I’m not so sure his offer was legitimate. The guy was upfront about what he was doing—coning the government. His con was to hire illegals and pay less than minimum wage. Joe, as he called himself, paid his employees after the work got done, and the government got nothing. To be sure, it was a scam. My problem was in trying to figure out which side of the scam I was going to be on. Last night, when Joe presented his shtick, he told me I would make $2.75 per hour. During morning coffee, he upped the wage to $4.25. I found it hard to believe that my amicability was worth the extra $1.50 per hour. Joe was not shy about talking about his other schemes, either. He also ran a Christmas card scam where he t
ook the money and ran. I wasn’t going to count my money until it was in my hand. At the very least, out of the scam, I hoped to get a ride to
Toronto. That’s where the houses were that needed painting. We were supposed to leave on Tuesday, which worked out good for me, since my money was supposed to arrive on Monday.


Beautiful Ottawa Park

July 10, ‘77

Yesterday, I spent five hours in the Museum of Science and Technology. The main attraction was the Soviet Union’s three man orbiting space capsule on loan to the museum. It was amazing. My five hours were well spent. It was different from the time I spent in the Art Museum, however. At the Art Museum I was awed, while in the Science Museum I spent most of my time considering and deliberating. The combined experience of the two museums was remarkable.

There were plenty of bicycle trails in Ottawa, but today was the first time I hopped on my bike since I arrived. It felt good. Any biking before today would have been a chore. I had been told this city was an innovator in catering to the silent two-wheeled clan, and now I’m sure of it. I’m presently sitting on some rocks overlooking waterfalls on the Ottawa River.

Right after I found this marvelous place, three young university Professors had found their way to the same panoramic view that I was enjoying. I was sitting just off the path, but I could hear their conversation reasonably well. I found it so intriguing that I had to stop writing. They had come to Ottawa for some kind of academic conference. What I found really interesting was the way they were self-promoting themselves. It was as if each thought the other was not in the same “ballpark,” academically speaking that is. In fact, they took turns defending their credentials. Much of the “persuasion” had to do with ranking the journals they had published in and how they rated, academically speaking, their employers. They all taught at universities with respectable academic reputations—wealthy universities. My ears really picked up when they turned to berating one of the convention presenters. Apparently, he was on a burgeoning career path when he taught at the University of Hawaii, but, according to them, when he jumped ship and went to Central Michigan University, a fourth rate institution, his chances of making it in the world of “academic excellence” had all but disappeared.

Well, as might be expected, when they started berating my university I began to respect these academic elites a whole lot less. Before I left that beautiful spot, I managed to get some of my feelings down on paper. My poem, the Invisible Rebuttal was the result. I guess these other poems are finished also:


The Invisible Rebuttal

Knowing I have created

my position,

and admiring my present

disposition,

I am disturbed

to think my thoughts

would think themselves

a lofty lot

if perchance they bent themselves

toward degrees of PhD’s;

for knowledge is

as knowledge does,

and in the end

all who only see

the ‘lonely tree’

will find themselves

within the plot

which reads aloud

I knew a lot.

Parroting

Wind swept nights,

melancholy days,

bright lights shining

in a seed of new decay;

time travels onward

conjuring dominions past,

waiting for summer’s rain

and new life beginnings.

Reason

I wish I had

a song to sing

in clear open skies,

to holler high

and holler low

in all my happiness;

I’d laugh and cry

and rant and rave

until my breathe was done,

and if a man

should ask me why,

I’d say

I learned this thing.

Circles

Footsteps, footsteps,

growing old,

hunger waits

and waits and waits,

until the bread,

and then it moves

around again.

Feelings

Embers gold

breach the night,

searching hearts

long apart,

the whole universe ignite,

love is light.


The Toast

A drunken poet,

a toast to death,

how sublime;

only a fool would toast again,

bartender another drink.

Sunbathing

On hard rocks,

with speckled dots

in relief on black sunshine;

I hold my hand above my face,

and wait a tired long time.

Eternal Feminine

Come to me in filtered light,

come to me by shaded night,

lead me in your shining wonder

while hidden from my sight.

Spanning horizons,

swallowed in seas,

in a cloak of magic symmetry

she waits for me.