Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coffee, books, sleep, and the return of Spam

I was beat, as you could imagine, from the train ride and all the walking. I left the ‘all you can cram down your gullet‘ and walked into the mecca.

Then I saw it, I hadn't dreamed of such a thing. I was walking towards the most glorious site I have ever seen, a Barnes and Nobles. Fresh and new and all clean – and full of books and coffee. I love books and they were hard to come by in my existence. I also love coffee and that was easier to get, but crappy. My exposure to coffee was instant that my dad made tasted like warm water with cleanser in it. After he died I didn't have any coffee.

So I am totally blown away by this site. I walk in and am overwhelmed by the books. I remember the smell was awesome and still love that smell. I smell coffee and head over to the cafe. I order a large coffee and sit and drink it - I was in heaven. This was the first time in my life I felt happy and after this I knew how miserable I was previous to this. I could never go back. I fell asleep in a large cushy chair.

I awoke over an hour later with a lower intestine full of bad news pushing hard at the backdoor. I was in a blind rush when I hit the bathroom door and by the time I was in the stall my transcending colon emptied itself with a vengeance. The kid in the stall next to me coughed and cursed, “Flush that will ya!” I chuckled perversely.

I got more coffee and returned to the chair - a man was sitting in it. I stood very close to the man in the cushy chair until he vacated it. That’s classic passive aggressive behavior. Comes in handy sometimes. Long story short, I again fell asleep in this chair. I was sound asleep too! When the store closed I was awaken by the retail book-whore kicking my foot. I don’t blame him because I was pretty funky with smell and visual smears. I rolled to the floor and started moaning, “That bastard kicked me.” The kid looked nervous and sort of backed away. When he returned with his manager I was long gone. I decided that I was flippin’ stayin’ in this mecca for a while.

I ended up sleeping in the bushes outside the B&N. When the sun came up I went in and washed up in their restroom, made a real wreck of it. I sang really loud to annoy the woman who gave me a look when I went in. I was screaming when a pounding on the door started. I fell silent. “Sir, are you alright?” “Of course I am, why?” “You are screaming. Is everything okay?” I refused to answer.

As I was starting to walk back to the eatery across the parking lot a hand came from under the small green shrubs in front of the B&N and grabbed my ankle. I went flying and crashed on the cement. Old Spam was looking up from the dirt panicked. He wanted to know why I was in the building. I just walked away. He ran after me. I yelled at him to stop. He thought we could hang out, but I told him to haul ass outta here. He was soon gone. Kinda’ sad but Old Spammers just held me down in this gig. I decided not to hop the rails anymore and instead decided to have some fun.

I was there for a few days laying low, eating, drinking, reading - begging for some bucks. I was soon smelling to high heaven - I was smelling soon after I started my journey but now you could smell me from a considerable distance. I was still wearing my sweats and army jacket and looking like I was dragged through a dumpster when I entered the Gap. I had been playing it low key until this point and decided that I needed to get some steam out when the salesgirl approached me. She said, “You can’t come in here.” I stopped and looked at her, and I know I looked like a homeless crazy fuck, but I looked her straight in the eye. “Excuse me? Is that because I don’t look like Gap material?” She said, “No because you have food and drink.” I dropped the offending beverage and jumbo dog on the floor. I fell to my knees. “I hate this shit. I hate this shit! No one will every help me become the man I want to be.”

She kind of looked around sheepishly and squatted next to me. “I will help you.” She said.

NEXT: I strut my stuff and am forced to move on, but not after taking a nasty spill off an escalator.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A bit about Rocky

When I met her she was on the bottom of a down slide. She started to bounce back up when she met me. Not that I was the reason so much as I was part of the situation that ignited her, and I, to start crazy living.

Rocky was from a large family that resided in the Appalachians. She was very different from everyone around her from the day she was born and knew it. She loved reading when everyone around her despised it. she wanted to leave from day one when everyone else either wanted to stay, or only talked of leaving but stayed anyway. She spent a lot of time alone and bored out of her mind. In other words we had a lot in common, even though we were very different in many ways. She handled boredom they way most normal kids do, by getting into trouble. I was odd in the sense that I didn't know I was bored until she came along. When I unleashed I was older and not eased into the world. I am lucky to be alive and not in jail.

Rocky had a lot of sisters, brothers, cousins, and she wasn't sure how she was related to any of them. Her mother had apparently had many lovers and the man Rocky thought was her father, wasn't. It took her months to get her mother to admit her father was alive and many more months to tell her who he was and where he might be. That was all the excuse she needed to take off and get away from her home town. She had a relative that owed her father money he got calls every once in while from him demanding it. When she got to my town she almost left right away. She thought this placed looked worse than where she was from. She met her father who acted annoyed and disinterested. She stuck around a few weeks and was about to leave when she met me.

Rocky was small but scary. She was pretty, but hid it in her dark mess of hair and black clothes - hooded sweat shirts and black neck scarves. Her eyes were blue and the thick black eyeliner only made them more intense. You already know she smoked a lot, but he also drank beer, not to excess and she never seemed drunk - she seemed to drink because she liked it. I only knew her for a short time before I left, but we seemed to click. I did most of the talking, but she listened and stuck around, she seemed to like it as much as I did. At this point I really missed her and didn't quite understand why.

Both our lives were pretty bleak and uneventful before we met and we bot had large chunks of time we couldn't remember.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vagabonds, drug addicts, a pedophile and one dead dude

So up the ladder they came, those ragamuffins. I was scared to death. I don't think I was ever that scared before or since. I was so frightened that I was sure I was going to die. I think I just lost all sense of reality. When those men started to get to the top of the ladders I said the only thing I could think of, "I am on the lam fellas."

The first guy up the ladder paused and looked at me. The rest were clamoring for him to move. I think since I wasn't scared or violent, I brought him up short. What a sight I must have been, even to a homeless person. I heard more cursing from behind him, "Git yer ass up there" and the like. He smiled and climbed up and said, "Aint' we all on the lam." As a few others climbed up he continued, "Say you must be one crazy bastard!"

"Why's that?!" I said. "Cause you got one fuc***' white shoe on, a look in yer eye like you is a fuc*** jackrabbit and you just rode the death train into town!"

At that I paused, "Death train! Town! Where the living f**ks am I?" Turns out I rode the train along a stretch no one likes to ride on account of there is no stops and it is cold as shit. After a bit I simply stated, "Well I done killed a feller, lost my shoe, and I gots crazy in my bones. Let's get off this beast."

I went down with the others and we made our introductions. I asked about the others as we stood around a blazing fire. The train started rolling again and was picking up speed. One of the guys stood and announced that he didn't like all this slumber party bullshit and climbed up onto the train. A few others walked off and there was only three of us left. One man, I called him Spam on account he had a large patch of skin over his left eye that looked like a square of Spam. Spam was the talker of the group. "Don't mind him, heez one of them peed-o-philes. Goes down to Mexico once a year for the action, know what I mean."

And I shuttered for I knew.

I learned Spam was convinced he was being stalked by FEMA for his knowledge of "the city werkins'" and that was all I could get out of him on that. He told a few tales of his time in the gulf war and on the streets of almost every city in the US. The others were no account drug doers, no more than twenty or so. During our time chatting I noticed some lights in the distance so I asked about them. The third man who had been standing silent until now said, "That's a mecca."

I started walking and made an open invitation for the fellas to follow me. Now where we were was about a mile back from this mecca. The place we were at was the back end of an old rest stop, boarded up restrooms, lights not working. In hindsight I think these guys waited here for victims and would have robbed or killed me if I wasn't lucky.

As we approached the Mecca I was - I can't put into words what I felt. I was drunk, I was in heaven, I was looking at an island of lights in the middle of the dark desert. There were all these fancy stores, restaurants, all these colors and lights I had never seen before. I never could have imagined this. The sidewalks and asphalt was clean. All this in the middle of nowhere. I had barely ever seen a small ratty general store and this was Xanadu. Restaurants, big stores, little stores, lights, signs, but all so clean and quiet.

At this point it hit me how cold and tired and hungry I was. I was ready to stop this fool trip. I stopped and was breathing the sweet night air and noticed the others. Six of the men followed me

I spotted a place with people around it and a sign that said, "all you can eat" so I took the guys there. This turned out to be some real fun. The manager didn't want to serve us, but as I spoke to him the others pushed past. They started grabbing plates and trays, piling food on till it spilled over the edge. They were sliding on the food and dropping more on the floor. One of the druggies smashed a handful of three bean salad into his friends hair, who surprisingly did nothing but laugh like a goober as he continued to pile noodles on his already full plate. The manager had turned and was starting towards the men so I split.

I figured they would call the cops. I took some rolls and butter pats with me from the edge of the food bar and left. I turned back in time to see what looked like a pile of cottage cheese hit the window. I think they started a food fight. I would miss my new friends, but I had a better place to be.

NEXT: Coffee, books, sleep, and the return of Spam

Monday, March 9, 2009

I go...

It was oddly cold when I left my house. Rocky was curled up asleep on a few boxes, wrapped in her sleeping bag. I could see how young she was when she was asleep and relaxed. She had started piling all the crap from the house along a space she cleared along one of the walls. She cleared this space by throwing everything from one side of the room to the other. I had to sit outside for a few hours while she did this. When the sun started down she appeared in the door and asked if I wanted something to eat. She didn't wait for a reply, she just walked off across town.

Minutes later she came back in her dads truck. This was a rusty noisy old thing and she could barely see over the wheel. She stopped it and came in the house with a sack of something I ate, I didn't pay attention as I was busy watching her work – and work and work. I had just dawned on me that she stopped smoking as much and hadn't stopped going through all that crap. A few hours after dark she finally quit. She lay down and started snoring. She woke briefly late in the night and lit the lantern, I pretended I was asleep but I could see her through the slits in my lids. She was hugging her knees and rocking, she looked over at me on occasion and frowned, I think she was crying. After awhile the lantern went out.

It was still dark and kind of cold as I walked down the street. Rocky had spent some time the previous evening helping me prepare for this journey, but I waved her off and took care of things myself. In hindsight I should have taken her council. I was wondering why I was starting this journey, I already wanted to go home. I was miserable.

I had all I needed for the journey; band aids, a can of beets, a smear of lard on a napkin for cooking, a fistful of pepper for defense, dry socks, a small pad of paper and a pen in a Ziploc bag, toothbrush and paste in one pocket and a floss in another, a bag of nuts, Mylar for disguises, a harmonica I can’t play, and a roll of cash – about thirty ones. All this was in my jacket. In addition I had a large nylon bag filled with more stuff on my back. I hesitated because I could go back in and take it easy, but the cold wind ruffling my gray sweats and tugging at my bulky army surplus jacket called me out. I started walking. Walking was a chore as I wore a pair of white dress shoes may father left. I don't know why I wore them, I think I wanted to ruin them.

Now I pretended I was homeless. What would sleeping under a bridge in the freezing nights feel like? I had never fended off the attacks of addle minded crack addicts with their fetid breath, The worst I ever got was the coach at the school standing in front of me and making me do squat thrusts. His giant stiff prod in my face. He talked and breathed in an odd way that made me feel he was on the brink of shooting his load. I imagined that having to jump up and move on quickly was a large part of being homeless; if not dodging bodily fluids running from a fight. I was worried I would slip and fall down a concrete aqueduct or roll from a perch I might be sleeping upon. I would have to say I was more worried about the open-road variety of wandering crazy as I deemed them far worse than their inner-city counterparts.

The sun began to rise rapidly and it seemed it would be a beautiful day. I walked for hours along the tracks until I came to a town a bit larger then my own. I walked on until I came upon the outskirts. I found a bush to lay down next to. I fell sound asleep. It was the mournful call of a freight train rolling through town that woke me hours later. I could tell it was slowing as it passed through town. This seemed an opportunity to me. A ride across the open country on board a freight train sounded very romantic. Just me floating across the open majesty of the land. The reality would prove to be much darker and painful then I could imagine.

I jogged to the tracks and caught up to the train. It seemed to be slowly gathering speed. I started running, which is something I never do so things got painful quick. I lunged for the train and caught a rung on the ladder that ascended the car. I held tight and as I was dragged along I realized my nylon bag was caught under the car and my hand was tied to it. I pulled up hard and the bag tore - the damn bag had countered my every move as I ran and made catching the train far more difficult than need be. And now I lost it. I caught the rung of the train ladder with my now free hand and heaved. I pulled a foot up and it slipped and I let go. I went down like a sack of crap.

I scratched my hands, knees, shins, face, and bruised myself but good. Not to mention my sweats were torn and I was very dirty. I stood, determined to get on the train that was quickly gaining speed, and started running. I felt like my chest was about to explode but I managed to grab on and hold. My feet dragged and I lost one of my white dress shoes, but I really shouldn’t have been wearing them to walk across country – that was a bad idea. By the time I was on the ladder I looked back down the tracks and all my shit was strewn for yards behind me. The bag was still tied to my arm. I pulled the damn thing off and dropped it and started climbing.

I reached the top of the ladder and the train really started to pick up speed. We quickly reached a top speed of what must have been 80 miles an hour. I didn't realize how scary this would be. You feel higher than you could imagine on top of a freight car and the wind is incredible. The fear of getting blown off or getting hit by a overhanging object was incredible. I was afraid to move. I just hung on for dear life and lay flat as the sun went down. Then the temperature began to drop.

That train didn't stop or slow down for hours. Where I found myself late that night was horrible. Very different from my little town. Men started swarming the train as it pulled into a yard. One man saw me as I sat up and started climbing up the ladder screaming to his friends. I had to think fast.

NEXT: Vagabonds, drug addicts, a pedophile and one dead dude.
This is it, the "town" You can see most of it here from the main road. Some stuff has changed since the time of my journal writing, but it looks like this now.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A personal note

I thought that it wouldn't make a difference to me if no one read this blog, but it does. I need to feel that I am writing all this and that people are reading it. Please tell your friends to check out my blog. Thanks so much.

The plan

Rocky and I spent days walking across town and back. And that didn't take much walking.

We talked about nothing and most of the time we walked in silence. She smoked constantly and I found it interesting, mostly because I started adding up the number of cigarettes she smoked and wondered where she kept them all. When I wasn't walking with her I was sitting in my house in the lawn chair watching the light fade away. I would then sit in the darkness until I couldn't keep my eyes open. Then I would lay on the floor and sleep.

We started stretching the trip, going off into the desert a bit on either side of town. Now you would think that growing up here I would have done what the normal kid would have done and explored, but I never did. My world view was so small, so limited, and so bleak that it didn't occur to me there would be anything out there other than what I already knew. Even though I had traveled a bit off the range so to speak it was quite symbolic that I was walking with Rocky when my mind awoke.

I looked up and saw the rusted gate. It was a small area that was fenced off, about a ten foot by ten foot area, and as we approached I saw why it was fenced off. There was a massive hole in the ground. I stopped and could feel my mind open up into a vastness never felt before. For the first time I had curiosity. I wondered why that hole was there. I vaguely remembered talk about the mines that used to operate around here and the danger of what they left behind. I almost forgot Rocky was with me and started climbing over the fence. I heard her cough and that caused me to pause. She never coughed, which I thought was odd since she never inhaled without having a cigarette between her lips. I think that was her way of yelling stop. I turned and she looked at me the way she does, bottom lids all squinty and her lips curled up. She called me a dumb sh** and told me to stop trying to kill myself. Anyway, I told her I just wanted to look down the hole and she told me it was probably a vent shaft for an old mine and probably went down a thousand feet. And then what, I asked, what's down there. A mine, she spat. I couldn't let it go. We walked back to her trailer and then I went home - I couldn't stop wondering how deep that hole was, how big was the mine, where was the entrance. I fell asleep early that night and slept late the next day.

I woke to Rocky digging through the debris in a large old desk. She was flipping through all those old papers and tossing them down. She asked me what all that shit was and I didn't answer. I was thinking about that mine shaft when I fell asleep and in my sleep I wandered from dark to light to random rooms from my life - school room, bathroom, a place or two I must have gone when I was much younger. I came out of the mine and I was in the desert, but I could tell I was far from where I lived. I couldn't see anything different around me but I could feel it. I wanted to feel that way again. I needed to feel that. I asked Rocky what she thought it meant. Means you are tired as fu** of this shithole.

We talked in that room all the day. She left at some point and came back with a sleeping bag and a huge box. In the box there was a kerosene lantern, some food, and a bunch of Rocky's stuff. She lit the lantern and threw me a sandwich she made of some canned meat and stale bread. I liked it. She kept flipping through all that crap and started telling me about where she came from and why she was here now. She ended all this by stating she was going to stay here. I said I was just thinking of leaving. She sat up looked at me with a smile, this I never saw before. She started telling me her plan.

Rocky wanted to stay here a while longer. She wouldn't tell me why, but she couldn't leave the town and was moving in with me. But to my surprise she thought I should leave town for a while. She laid out the plan which was I leave and stay away for as long as I can. She said that I was not to come back until I came back because I wanted to and not because I had to. She wouldn't explain that and stopped talking, only to say I had better get ready to go.

next - I go and she stays