Archive for June, 2008

If It Wasn’t For Me Your Last Breath Would Have Whispered “Wasted Life”

June 28, 2008

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MV Conversation

Future Time

“Do you remember the last time your world turned topsy-turvy? It should be a deja’vu experience for you. It took place in the same chair that you are sitting in now, and you were listening to the same music. Everything was going-to-black back then, too.”

“Yes, I remember,” I said, “I was depressed because nobody could understand me. I just couldn’t communicate what I wanted to.”

“Perhaps nobody was listening,” responded MV.

“Maybe,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure it was me. I couldn’t say what needed to be said. It was awful. I couldn’t cope, so I just gave up, and depression followed.”

“I wasn’t part of that,” responded MV.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I said. “I wasn’t blaming you.”

“Good! I get blamed for everything,” said MV. “Let me tell you who’s to blame. It’s the big guy upstairs. If you want to blame somebody blame Him. It’s idealism you know. If idealism ceased to exist, suffering would be cut in half. Without idealism, I wouldn’t be out of a job, but I sure would be on a hell of a diet.”

“I’m an idealist?” I responded.

“Is the kettle black!” MV replied. “You’ve been that way ever since you heard that nursery rhyme where the spider scared away Little Mrs. Muffet; back then, standing straight up in your crib, you though “why fear?” It’s time to go now.”

“Hold on,” I said, “all I ever wanted to do was share what I believed with others. Is that asking too much? Everybody wants that; is that to much to expect?”

“Haven’t you heard; some beliefs have to be earned,” said MV. “It’s not enough to share them. Tell me that’s not breaking news for you!”

“Well, even if I didn’t know that back then, I do now.”

“You had to learn the hard way, didn’t you?” responded MV.

“I guess I did. When no ears hear, no words get spoken. What was I supposed to do, though? I wasn’t saying anything threatening, so why were my ideas rejected outright?”

“Hey, I’m just the witness, remember?” said MV. “If you want answers you need to ask someone else.”

“Now who’s playing coy?” I replied. “When I needed you in the past, or even when I didn’t, you never remained silent, and I know you know exactly what I’m talking about, so you should have spoken up, but you didn’t–why?”

“Why,” said MV, “You still got the message didn’t you?”

“I got it,” I replied, “but no thanks to you.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” MV responded, “why do you think your words fell on deaf ears in the first place?”

“Enough of your double talk,” I said. “I know better than to listen to you. But I am thankful that I got the message– the message of family. Family puts God right smack in the middle of things.”

“Yep, you got it,” replied MV. “I suppose you deserve an ‘at-a-boy!”

“You bet I got it,” I replied, “It hit me like a rock; there I was clueless, and in the next instant, jubilation! To serve God, raising a family was enough. In that moment of revelation I decided to stop talking about what nobody could understand, and instead, find a wife and raise a family. I didn’t know what it took to be a parent—let alone a good parent, but I was ready to try. Actually, the adage ‘ignorance is bliss,’ when it comes to starting a family, is probably the best plan of action. There are other ways to serve God, of course, but for most, being a successful parent is as God-centered as it gets. I’m not saying I was perfect, actually I was a slow learner, but even in those times of desperation I didn’t give up. Family— the good, bad, and ugly—is a gift divine—and, I might add, a gift to the divine. That, for me, was my inspiration, as it was also my saving grace. It was what I had to do.”

“And all those memories were worth it?” replied MV.

“Absolutely,” I said. “It’s to bad family gets taken for granted far too often.”

“Your words belie the truth,” responded MV, “For many, family is a burden. Not that that’s bad. Its fertile ground for me, and you managed to get through it, but I haven’t heard one ‘thank you.’”

“What!” I exclaimed. “Are you saying that somehow you did it? You want credit for my family. I think not! I forced you out of my mind long ago. Quite frankly, I didn’t have time for you. Don’t tell me I owe you. That’s absurd. If this is the end, if my time is up, then I’m ready; but I owe you nothing!”

“Okay, at least for now,” responded MV, “but nobody goes quietly into that ‘last night,’ and without me you wouldn’t be going anywhere quietly. When we first met you were wasted on drugs, about to be pummeled into unconsciousness, and one angry son-of-a-bitch. Without me, you would have ended up nose down in the muck, rock-gut in your belly, and the whisper of a wasted life on your lips. Come on, admit it!”


“Maybe, nothing,” replied MV, “I’m your savior and you’re not man enough to admit it! Ever ask yourself, ‘Why me?’ Why did a mediocre nobody succeed, when many of the best and the brightest failed?”

“Luck I suppose,” I said. “It’s true in the lottery, why not here?”

“We’re not talking lottery,” replied MV. “Death is not a game! However, maybe, just maybe you do deserve some credit; after all, we’re still talking. Tell you what, I’ll give you more time, but remember, what I give I can take away! Let’s see, what did you accomplish anyway? Where do we begin; you tell me?”

I Was Only Able To Answer One Question-Why I Do What I Do

Judgment Day Continued

“I guess you could say it all began when I found out how freedom can coexist with cause and effect. Freedom got a whole lot more meaningful after that.”

“How so?” replied MV.

“Well, as best I can remember,” I said, “it all had to do with how different types of freedom come together. Our sensed freedom—the freedom to avoid the unpleasant while pursuing the pleasant—for instance, had the indirect effect of creating the environment where other freedoms get expressed. We are free, for example, to question our place in the environment and, hopefully, those investigations lead us to the further discoveries, discoveries of reliable predictions concerning our environment. As knowledge accumulates, expectations, goals, and even values change. The value and meaning of relationships change. What at one time was sought for pleasure becomes unattractive and so on and so forth. Sociologically, as regards logically consistent answers to our questions, we are free to change our behavior. We are free to grow wiser and more emotionally mature. What all this means for freedom, and this is what I tried to communicate back when nobody listened, is that the dynamic of freedom must be understood in terms of a liberation process that is in constant flux, especially if one values freedom!”

“Okay, I kind of get it,” MV replied, “so how did it go?”


“That first presentation,” MV responded, “How did it go?”

“Why ask me? You were there!” I said. “The presentation that started it all, the presentation where I didn’t yet have a full understanding of what I wanted to say, went remarkably well.”

“Just because I was a witness doesn’t mean I was ‘really’ there,” replied MV. “I’m not your twin, let alone privy to your inner feelings. So what does ‘remarkably well’ mean, anyway?”

“For a know-it-all,” I responded, “you’re not very bright! For as many times as I’ve been to bat on this one, you know I haven’t exactly hit the ball very well. My first time was beginner’s luck. The applause at the end was nice, too.”

“I thought so?” MV replied. “Your audiences just didn’t get or like the message!”

“Why do you think I stopped giving presentations,” I said. “People couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. My in
ability to speak well probably had something to do with it. It wasn’t all a waste, though, as I said before, freedom is growth, and I experienced lots of that.”

“Yeah, as I recall, at the first presentation you even recited a poem,” MV replied.

“That’s right,” I said. “I was lucky to remember it. In fact, the poem was what made it a good presentation. I invited Dr. Clifford, the Professor who taught Quantum Physics, and, surprisingly, he and his professor friend showed up. I guess he was curious, or maybe he just wanted to pester me with questions. God knows I pestered him with more than a few concerning quantum mechanics. In fact, the questions he asked at the presentation turned out to be instrumental in the development of the ideas that would later turn into a full-blown philosophy. Unfortunately, at the time, however, I was only able to answer one of his questions, the one about “why I do what I do.” I responded by referring to the poem that Faith Johnson, my Botany teacher, wrote on the blackboard. She loved teaching so much that she team-taught my Botany class without pay. Back then I could remember the poem. Today, I have to look to where it hangs on my wall. Here it is:

They set the slave free, striking off his chains…

Then he was as much of a slave as ever.

He was still chained to servility,

He was still manacled to indolence and sloth,

He was still bound by fear and superstition,

By ignorance, suspicion, and savagery…

His slavery was not in his chains,

But in himself.

They can only set free men free…

And there is no need to do that;

Free men set themselves free.

James Oppenheim


Judgment Day Lasts To The End Of My Story And Flashback # 4

June 21, 2008
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A Deal’s A Deal-It’s Time To Shed That Mortal Coil

Judgment Day (a day that spans almost the whole of part of the rest of my journal)

At Some Future Time

“Jazz! You always did like jazz didn’t you. That’s probably because of that freedom thing, your eminent preoccupation, right?”

“What’s this? Is that you?”

“Yes, its me,” responded MV, “Did you think you were rid of me? Well I’m back, but as you know, I never really left. I would have been right up front with you if you only would have called, but you didn’t. It’s a pity; all that time I go unappreciated. You should be ashamed. Why didn’t you call?”

“You were my sickness and now you’re back, after all these years, you tell me why? Why even come back?”

“Because it’s time,” MV replied, “time to pay old debts. Time to shed that mortal coil.”

“Oh, that explains it,” I said. “A voice in my head announces it’s time to die and that’s that. Sick people die. I can’t argue that, but why so scripted? It’s like in a movie where the grim reaper points a finger, and off you go. Maybe I’m sick, maybe even sick to death. But if that’s true, why do you have to be so uncreative about it?”

“Don’t play coy with me,” responded MV, “a deal’s a deal! And now it’s time to pay up. After all, without me you never would have made it this far. Instead of a smiling old man, consoled by your beloved jazz music, rocking your heart away in your favorite chair, you would have died unfulfilled and in pain long ago. Instead of savoring memories of family, friends, and peaceful meditations, your corpse, save a few rotting bones, would have all but disappeared. You might even think yourself blessed, but I wouldn’t go that far. Even so, you have lived a good life– a rare accomplishment indeed. But now its time; prepare yourself, we must go!”

“Wait, what’s the hurry?” I said, “I’m sorry if you felt neglected, but if I really owe you for my good fortune, then maybe you ought to give me a little more time. We can both appreciate each other that way. After all, if you don’t allow yourself time to feel good about yourself, nobody else can do it for you. You’re right, I do have much to be grateful for. If I owe you that honor so be it. Actually, I’m only asking that you to give yourself more time to be appreciated. Believe me, you owe it to yourself, especially if, as you say, I would not be me without you!”

“Well, I guess a small reprieve wouldn’t hurt,” MV replied. “And besides, there’s more to this story than you are aware. This could even be fun!”

“What do you mean there is more to the story?” I said. “How can that be? You are, as you yourself have said, only a ‘shadow presence.’ I affirm or deny you as I please. In the form of conscience, you may have some influence, but that’s the end of it, right?”

“I am a witness, true, but I also have power,” responded MV, “You will understand soon.

The Bargain

New Orleans’ Room

January, 1970

After kissing both the girl and my job good-by, my depression started to kick in. By the time I got back to my apartment, New Orleans was making me nauseous. I wanted to pack up and get out of town, but I had already paid the rent and my suit coat hadn’t arrived in the mail yet. Feeling out of control, I retreated to familiar territory; I bellied up to the nearest liquor store and bought myself a fifth. It was a pretty safe bet that I would see things differently from the bottom of a whisky bottle. Back in my room, before I got drunk and after putting the finishing touches on another poem, a voice interrupted my train of thought, MV as I liked to call it, was the voice of my insanity. And it had returned!

“What the hell do you want?” I said. “I’m not in a good mood. Do yourself a favor and get the hell out of here.”

“Manners! Manners!” came the retort. “That’s no way to treat your old friend. I want to help you and you treat me like a cockroach. Can’t you be more civil?”

“I don’t feel civil,” I said, “in fact, I feel anything but civil. I don’t need you to spoil the one thing that gives me pleasure, getting drunk. Now leave me alone. I can drink this just fine without the likes of you around. Go away, please!”

“You need me,” MV said, “someday, when I’m not needed I might go away. Would that make you happy?”

“Overjoyed,” I replied, “But you’ve got it wrong. I don’t
need you, especially now! All I need is a damn drink and I prefer to drink alone.”

“Let’s see,” said MV, “you’re saying that getting drunk has left you bubbling over with joy. Right? Oh come now, this is no time for silence. How about sharing some of that joy, I could use a little ‘pick me up.’ Let’s see what you’ve written, correct me if I’m wrong. As I recall, it went something like this:

Dark shadows fall,

the echoes of my life.

Worry, sadness, and pain,

the never ending present.

The emptiness of living is my plight.

Life is in agony,

my soul in chaotic drift.

If only mercy killings

were the fashion and

I not such a coward.

Yeah, now I’m happy. Happiness is contagious around a party animal like you. Be careful though, you’re liable to kill yourself with laughter. Are you sure you don’t need my help? I mean, anybody can dig their own gave, but to make it official you need to be buried and mourned. It appears you’ve mastered the first half. If you do not need my help, what do you need? I tell you true, I can give you more than you can imagine. Certainly, I can do enough so that you will never again feel compelled to write such drivel.”

“What I need,” I said, “you will not, or cannot give me. I need you to go away. I need to know I am not loosing my mind.”

“But we’ve been over that one before,” replied MV, “I am your mind. Lose me and your mind will surely be lost, the best part of it too. By the sounds of it, maybe you need the girl next door. I know I do!”

“Oh,” I said, “the guy’s prostitute in the next apartment over must be back. It seems to be a once a week thing. Wait a few minutes and the walls will be vibrating.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” said MV. “If you like, I can get you girls and they won’t even be prostitutes.”

“Fine,” I said, “Bring me a girl and while you’re at it, bring me a girl I can love. Sex is always better if you at least like the girl you’re with and I imagine it’s great if you love her. Wait! Better yet. Bring me a girl that everybody would love to love. Shit! Why not have everybody love everybody! That’s it MV. How about it, can you do that? I want to look out my window and see nothing but loving and peaceful souls. Can you turn souls that hate into souls that love? That’s what I want MV. Can you do that?”

“What you want is to turn the world into a Garden of Eden minus the apples. Right?” responded MV.

“You’ve got it,” I said, “Now go and do it. Take your time, I’m patient!”

“If I could grant your wish,” MV replied, “what would you do for me?”

“You flatter me. What could I possibly do for you,” I said, “Be your slave?”

“That’s not a bad idea,” MV responded, “If I could do the impossible, then yes, for services rendered, I could make you my slave. But, I cannot do the impossible, so I guess you’re safe for now. Besides, if you really knew what you were asking, you wouldn’t be asking.”

“ What’s that supposed to mean?” I said.

“It means you don’t know what you’re saying. If you did you wouldn’t say it,” responded MV. “You look out at the world and see black and white and good and evil. Those things are mere reflections of what’s really going on. In the real world it’s not possible for me to do what you ask. If it was, then all righteousness and goodness would, in a blink of an eye, cease to exist. You look at the world and see cruelty, suffering, injustice and, if I know you, a fiendish plot to turn all good things bad. But what if bad things were necessary in order for good things to happen? Would you still wish away the bad? Of course you wouldn’t! If an irremovable bond linked bad to good how would you feel then?”

“Now who’s asking for the impossible,” I said, “there is no plan, no purpose to the world. It’s just what works that counts, and what works, unfortunately, is usually violent in nature. It all started with an exploding universe and now it’s come down to big fish eating the little fish. If you see reason and purpose in that, fine, but all I see is the strong and smart killing the small and weak and that’s called ‘survival of the fittest’ with lots of pain thrown in for good measure. Comprende?”

“All I want you to do,” replied MV, “is admit that you don’t know everything. That’s the beginning! I really can help if you just ope
n up a little. Just admit it; your knowledge is incomplete.”

“Ok,” I said, “so explain it to me, so we both can be enlightened!”

“I can’t give you the answers without you first asking the questions,” replied MV, “a clear vision of ‘reality’ may be obtained only through your own eyes, never through the eyes of another, but I can give direction. Besides, my words–my answers to your questions, unless they affect your heart, will not be of use to you.”

“How can you talk about the heart?” I interrupted. “You are ridiculous. First you tell me that what I believe is wrong, and then you say ‘sorry sucker, I have what you want but you’re not getting any!’ How sublime! What a crock of shit! You talk like a madman. God! What does that make me, a genius on the insanity scale? Okay, you say that everything is the way it’s suppose to be, and therefore, everything is already an expression of the good. Right?”

“That’s right,” replied MV.

“Well, the only good that can come out of this is for you to leave me alone,” I said. “Get the hell out of my life! I’ve got some serious drinking to do and trying to make sense out of your nonsense is giving me a headache.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” MV interrupted. “In the beginning you wanted a girl, then it changed to paradise. Right?”

“Yeah, something like that,” I replied.

“Then I told you that what you wanted was impossible because good and bad are so interconnected that one can not exist without the other. Right?”

“If you say so,” I replied.

“Well here’s the deal: I’ll help you understand what’s ‘real,’” said MV, “and if I succeed I promise you will become free from all scorn and bitterness. You will discover, with my help, how it all fits together, how good or evil are woven into one reality. To get to that place you must penetrate reality’s nexus, and that my friend is no minor achievement, but together we will triumph. Are you up for the challenge? All that I require for this service is your soul.”

“Say again,” I exclaimed.

“I’m offering you that ‘final realization’ where, by design, pain and suffering become a necessary part of all that is righteous and good,” replied MV.

“No,” I said, “I mean the part about me giving you my soul? Am I missing something here? Have we made some kind of right turn? The word soul is hardly in my vocabulary, but I still don’t like what I’m hearing. This is important. We’re talking about my sanity now, not just a dream!”

“Wait a minute. Think about what you’re saying,” said MV. “Get your head out of the Dark Ages and listen to me. How can giving me your soul be bad when to make that possible bad must become good? In the end, you loose nothing. And anyway, look at what you get in return; I’ll do your bidding. You will have total control.”

“I need to understand what you’re saying,” I said. “When you say bad is good you don’t mean that bad is good relative to different levels of badness, you mean that bad is somehow inherently good. Right?

“Right,” said MV.

“And, if I discover how good and bad are inherently good then and only then, do I give up my soul. Right?

“Yes, that’s right,” replied MV.

“If I agree to this,” I said, “you will do whatever I tell you to do, and you will continue to do so during the entire time that it takes for me to conclude that bad is good. Is that right?”

“We are not talking semantics here,” MV responded, “the rules of language, the rule of non-contradiction, keeps opposites apart. Don’t worry, we are not talking about language we are talking about vision. When you are able to see past the rules of language then you will see also the good and evil connection.”

“I need an answer to my question, thank you,” I said. “As long as I believe bad is not good, I get to keep my soul and I get to tell you to get out of my life?”

“Almost,” MV responded. “You don’t get to bury me. I need to be able to help you along. However, if at anytime you want me to leave just say so, I will go. I will be available if you need me, though. That’s part of the deal!”

“I need to hear it one last time,” I said, “if I am not in agreement that bad is good, then I keep my so

“That is right,” replied MV.

“Then we have a bargain. Where do I sign?”

“Don’t be so archaic, MV responded, “We are adults here. Your word is as good as it gets.”

“Okay, then go,” I said, “get the hell out of my life. I’ve got to wash this whole affair out of my memory and I don’t need any help from you to get the job done.”

When I woke the next morning, I wasn’t exactly at a hundred percent. At first, I thought I had a nightmare, but on second thought I knew I couldn’t be so lucky. I faced up to the fact that my mental health was deteriorating. My emotions were pulling me in every direction. If MV was the real McCoy and if he could be trusted, then from here on out I would be able to turn my insanity around. But, if I actually believed that, I really would be insane, not to mention I would be giving my soul, a soul I never even knew I had, up for grabs. Anyway, illusion or not, making that deal with MV was probably the safest bet I have ever made.

The Meaning The Minister Attached To “Leaving One’s Body” Caused The Problem

June 13, 2008

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St. Ignace Church

Aug. 3, continued

The next morning, while enjoying my campfire coffee, I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation I had with the minister. It was intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the guy appeared to be struggling with something that he wanted to talk about but couldn’t or wouldn’t. He appeared depressed, too. I began to think seriously about attending his church service. After all, it was a beautiful morning, and I had to wait around for my parents anyway. “Why not,” I thought, “it sounded like a good way to end a good bicycle trip.”

I went downtown on my bike, and got directions to the church. In another 15 minutes, I arrived at a small, wooden building with a white steeple. While chaining my bike to a tree in front of the church, I started to wonder why I was there. Sometimes I acted impetuously, and when it dawned on me that this was one of those times, I found myself too embarrassed to leave. Some of the congregation had already greeted me, so I took a deep breath and went inside. There were probably forty or so people waiting for the service to start. The place was about half full. Two old ladies had cranked their heads around to look at me. They were smiling, so that’s where I sat, in the pew next to them. The ladies were quick to make sure I had my hymnal and bible in hand, and after I thanked them, the service began.

It began with the “robbed ones” parading down the isle swinging a canister of burning incense. I guess the incense was meant to bless, or possibly purify the congregation. It was my first time, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. The smell of incense was especially pleasant, though. As the minister walked past me we made eye contact. I was right; his eyes betrayed his feelings. He grew tense when he recognized me. Upon reflection, though, I am not sure if his tension rose on account of me, or if it was already there in anticipation of his sermon, which I would be a witness to. I’m not a churchgoer, but back when I was attending Bill’s Methodist church with Carin, my girlfriend and his daughter, I got a feel for how far a minister could stray from the “party line”–Christian orthodoxy. What I was about to hear stretched those limits.

His sermon began simply enough. He spoke of the time when Jesus told his disciple, Peter, that the time would soon come when he would have to leave his body. It was the meaning the minister attached to “leaving one’s body” that, perhaps, the congregation had a difficult time with. Forget about St. Peter and the pearly gates. According to this guy, you didn’t go anywhere. On second thought, maybe that’s too strong of a way to put it. It might be more accurate to say that leaving one’s body was like “stepping into God’s house.” You still didn’t go anywhere, but, in a manner of speaking, God came to you. The Christian church preached that Jesus was sacrificed for the sake of the rest of us, to save all the sinners, but this minister wasn’t saying that. Rather, he was saying that Jesus was not a sacrificial lamb, he was a messenger, and, as was common among sinners confronting disturbing messages, they, the sinners, murdered the messenger. In this case, the message, “love thy neighbor,” was just too threatening, not to mention the horrifying idea of seriously considering the possibility of unconditional love. “Messages promoting love are grudgingly received and never, or hardly ever practiced,” said the minister.

At that point in the sermon, it was as if the lady sitting next to me had reached over and pinched me because in that instant I realized that if I had been living at the time of Jesus, I probably would have been one of his accusers. I probably would have called for his execution. It was so easy to condemn, especially if one felt afraid or threatened. It was next to impossible to love under those same circumstances. Jesus knew that he would die for love. That’s why he taught that death transcends the particular. The Christian church teaches something similar—that the good go to heaven, go to Jesus.

The teaching of the meaning of the death of Jesus was a uniquely Christian teaching, but that meaning was not what Jesus taught. Sitting in that congregation, totally absorbed in the words coming from the pulpit, I felt a sudden change in my disposition. I no longer felt like a particular. My sense of separateness began to dissolve. When Peter approached Jesus and heard the words, “The time is coming when I must leave my body,” Jesus was not talking about “stepping out of life,” rather he was talking about “stepping into life,” into the whole birth-death process that sustains life and divinity. “Leaving,” for Jesus, meant that a door opened—a door into the body of Christ, into the body of all people caring for each other, into the body of all divinity that makes love possible. Jesus died so that a more vital love might be shared—a love for each other, for life, and for the divine. For that one brief moment I felt at peace, really at peace. I felt whole. I felt love.

I don’t have any more words for what happened to me while I listened to that sermon, except possibly, that there is a whole lot more to say if I only had the words. Walking away from church I was overcome with yet another feeling, one that said, “It’s all right, everything’s going to be okay.” At the start of this bicycle trip I was curiously aware that I should not expect any new insights. The simple fact that I was going on another bicycle trip was success enough. It affirmed my chosen lifestyle and living that lifestyle was all the reward I needed. No further contentment was necessary. So why, on this, the very last day of my trip, did I get this feeling of wholeness while sitting in a completely unfamiliar Christian chur
ch with total strangers. It’s funny how some things work out differently than planned–and better.

About this trip — it’s been good. It’s that simple. The one thing that did go wrong — my knee, I accepted with no hard feelings. I took a totally relaxed attitude about this trip and it paid off. Even in the rain, and there was plenty, I did not let myself get to down. When it got bad, as it did in northern British Columbia, I boarded a train–a good choice. On many occasions I was so high from the scenery that I felt like I was going to burst with joy. All of life came together in those special moments, in those very special moments. On a more negative note, I was definitely the odd man out among the more adventurous youth. Youth has its place, and so does age. It is too bad they rarely find a comfortable place to coexist. That separateness is not irreproachable. Responsibilities go with each, and both are to be valued for their potentialities. I think its time to leave. I see my parent’s coming to pick me up.

End Part Two Of Journals, Begin Part Three–Judgment Day

Most people do not live in an emotionally moving, warm universe; rather, they live in an indifferent or a hostile one. If more people lived in a non-threatening and emotionally warm universe, I believe more good would get done, more compassion produced, and less violence would result. In part three of my story, I will describe, either directly or indirectly, the universe I now live in. I believe everybody, in his or her own way, already lives in this universe. For the few who do not know about this universe yet, it is probably only a small perspective shift away, but for some others a major change in perspective may be required.

The Tobacco Stains On His Toothless Lower Jaw Identified The Man I Was Looking For

June 7, 2008

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Marquette, Michigan

July 31, ’80

I biked in mostly rain today, but I did manage to perform a good deed. On the highway, I found some tools that had fallen off a semi-truck. Knowing that the tools were high quality and therefore expensive, and also knowing that the trucker probably was pissed when he discovered his tools missing, I reflected on the times when I had lost something of value. I would tell myself, “Whoever ends up with my stuff needs it more than I do,” or at least I hoped it happened that way. Keeping that thought in mind, I set out to play the middleman in order to make that hope come true.

I was a little disappointed at first since I couldn’t find anybody who I thought would be extremely joyful over a gift of tools. I needed to get rid of them, though. I didn’t need another thirty pounds weighing down my bike. I was thinking about handing them over to anyone when I road past a restaurant and saw a man and a woman getting into their car. The man was in a T-shirt, and, as I approached him, the tobacco stains on his toothless lower jaw identified him as the man I was looking for. I road up to the car and said, “I found these tools on the highway. I can’t use them, but maybe you can.” Then I handed him the tools. At first he appeared confused, even a little frightened. But, after he realized I meant no harm, he thanked me very kindly, and his wife even rolled down her window and voiced kind words of gratitude. I was glad that I had waited until I had found the right people to give the gift of tools. In fact, I was very pleased with myself.

I arrived in Marquette just in time to purchase an $11. bicycle tire. Prices got higher the farther east I went. I bought the same tire for $8.50 the last time. After I had bought my tire, I went up to Northern Michigan University and grabbed a shower. At the University, I met up with another biker. He was out of London, Ontario, on his way to Vancouver. We agreed to camp together, and after a pizza and beer at a local pub, we biked to a stretch of deserted beach just north of Marquette. The white sand beaches of Lake Superior were fantastic. We had no problem setting up camp, and enjoying the six beers we had carried back with us. We watched a big red moon come up over the lake — nice.

Not so nice, however, were the Lake superior mosquitoes. They tried to carry us away last night, and then today we have the man-eating flies to contend with. They’re biting my ankles through my socks about every four minutes– making me write faster and faster. I suppose I’ve enjoyed this beach long enough, anyway. I think I’ll go tell Rick I’ll be heading out instead of spending a couple of days here in paradise like we had talked about last night. All things considered, Lake Superior is still worth the hassle.

Aug. 1

Yesterday was a good day, as was the day before that, and the day before that. Michigan is a great State. Of course, it helps when the weather is good, too! The flies forced my quick departure from the beach yesterday, so I didn’t get a chance to acknowledge the great company Rick turned out to be. The two of us left the beach together, and went to the hospital where we ate a great breakfast for a reasonable price. We wished each other well after that, and I headed out for Munising, another fifty or so miles down the highway. It was already afternoon, so that was a good place to aim for, particularly since it was my last chance to camp on Lake Superior.

The bicycling was great. The weather was muggy, and occasionally the traffic was heavy, but that was the only drawback. I almost forgot, before leaving the last campsite, I thought I’d try swimming in the lake. Lake Superior is very cold. This time, however, the water was tolerable, even pleasant, after I got used to it. I enjoyed my morning swim tremendously. It was just me, in the middle of the lake, digging my toes into the sand, looking out at the miles of deserted shoreline. It was beautiful.

At the end of that gorgeous day, I went to a bar and had a couple beers, and ate a turkey sandwich. That was a great way to end the day. I also called home and set the date for my parents to pick me up–Sunday, Aug. 3, in St. Ignace. After I had made those arrangements, I felt strange. My trip was coming to an end, and it was a very heavy feeling. This had been a very good bicycle trip, but I’ll probably speak more on that later.

I just finished my last pancake and am about to begin another great day. There were no flies in the campground last night and hardly any mosquitoes. It doesn’t get any better than that!

The Subject Of Religion Never Came Up Until The Minister Got Up To Leave

St. Ignace Bar

Aug 2, ‘80

Well here I am, sitting in a $6. per night camp site–the end of the line, end of the road, the end of the trip. After I started throwing things away, I started feeling empty. In retrospect, the same type of thing occurred on my last bicycle trip. I hope my parents appreciate the fact that I’m not bicycling the best part of the trip — the home stretch. Tomorrow, I will meet them on the north side the Mackinaw Bridge.

Yesterday, when I reached Munising, I called information. I was looking for an old college roommate of mine. In the early ‘’70s we hung out together, and I wanted to pay him a surprise visit if possible. He was from Manistique, so I thought maybe he was still there. The operator told me there was a J. Fredrickson phone number listed, so that was good enough for me. I reconfigured my route and headed down to Manistique.

When I arrived, I went into a bar on Main Street and inquired into the whereabouts of Jimmy (Manistique was a small enough town for that kind of thing). The bartender informed me that he hadn’t seen him in a long time, but his parents lived in town. “Why don’t you get in touch with them,” he said. I tried calling, but nobody was home. The guy sitting at the bar drinking a beer told me he didn’t know what Jimmy was doing now, but three years ago he was working as a corrections officer in the prison system up in Marquette. Disappointed, I got on my bicycle and started pedaling east on Highway 2.

Highway 2 was enough to turn a bicycler’s hair white, especially when the bicycler in question knew there were better routes to travel. The traffic was so bad I had to stop bicycling early. I camped just off the highway, under some power lines. The next day it was more of the same. Michigan was a great state, but my opinion concerning the idiot’s driving the highways remains in tact — Michigan has more than its share of assholes.

Aug. 3

I had a good night last night. After my shower, I walked downtown and stopped at a couple of bars. At my second bar, Ken, the owner and ex professional wrestler, greeted me. He was a very funny guy. Another fellow came into the bar and sat next to me. After awhile, the bartender introduced the guy sitting next to me as the town’s Episcopalian minister. I found that surprising. He was my age, and he didn’t talk like a minister. After Ken bought a round of drinks, I returned the favor by buying a second round for the three of us. The subject of religion was never brought up; that is, until the minister got up to leave. He invited me to his morning church service. I was sure he wasn’t serious. I could see it in his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to have a Saturday night drinking buddy show up in the middle of his Sunday congregation. “Don’t be surprised,” I said, “maybe I’ll be there.” When I finished my beer, I said goodbye to Ken and headed back to my campsite. On the way there, I passed another bar where I had to stop for a pizza and beer. Hey, I was hungry.