The last couple of weeks have been busy ones. Apologies to the legions of fans following this blog.
This week, I’m pretty sure I came in close to sixty hours, clocked…plus some time off the clock. The plant manager who hired me took off to Europe to see his wife for the first time in three years. I’m “filling in” for him temporarily, though the main job seems to be keeping the flow moving and making sure he doesn’t come back to a smoking crater in ten days.
A bit ago, I touched on the “Why Sarasota?” thing. The answer was simple. I ran out of money in Tampa, and Sarasota was the next stop on the line. I did know an old friend who lived a bit north of here, but I was looking for a fresh start. A lot of this blog was about proving a simple point.
No matter who you are…no matter where you are, you can survive. You just have to want it bad enough.
I don’t mean “want” in the way most adults (and children) use the word. I mean WANT. If getting a job means getting up at 3AM after sleeping on the floor of the Salvation Army, you do it. If it means working a fourteen or fifteen hour day, you do it. Work on Sunday? DO IT.
That, my friends, it the definition of want.
We can all piss and moan about the lack of jobs, or affordable housing, or Obamacare, or what the fuck ever. The jobs are there. The housing is there. I think of it this way. A diabetic might WANT an automated insulin pump system…but NEEDS a bottle of insulin and a needle.
A lot of the good things that happened to me on this trip was the result of some fine friends back home who wired me some quick cash. Another was a staggering amount of luck, both good and bad.
I still haven’t found what I was looking for here in Sarasota. I’ll lay over here for a bit, stash away some cash, and keep getting ready for the next leg. It might be a week down the road, or a year. Part of the problem is a simple one.
If you don’t really know what it is you’re looking for, you never really know if you find it.
When personal icon/hero Hunter S. Thompson wrote “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” he claimed to be in a search for the American Dream. What really happened was simpler. He was a storyteller, and his friend Ruben Salazar was deep in the shit. He had to get his friend out of town for a couple of days before he woke up with his throat cut. They took off on a tear ass journey to Vegas, and with some side work HST justified book expenses. Salazar became the character of the Samoan Attorney, and the rest wrote itself.
That search for the American Dream. We’ve all wanted to go out tear-assing across the country looking for the undefined and the undefinable. On that journey, Thompson discovered a country ripped to shreds by opinions of war, double dipped in a drug war, in the midst of an economic meltdown. We were in that no-mans-land between the sentiment of the sixties and the raging ruthless crush for cash that would define the 1980’s.
Yup. The times certainly have changed. I guess nobody else sees any parallels.
One thing about journalism and its current state struck me hard on this trip. A couple of weeks ago, there was the story of the possible national truckers strike, threatening to shut down the DC beltway.
NYT, WaPo, HuffingOnPaint, every national media outlet ran pretty much the same story. Nobody knew if it was real or bullshit. We would just have to wait to find out. Every story looked and sounded the same, like the reporter had made the required three calls, asked the required questions,filed the required number of column inches, then left the office for the day for the required shots at the home bar before the requirement of doing the old lady.
Blind luck put me at the Flying J Truckstop in Ruther Glen, Va…just six miles from the “rally point” for the protesters. If they were going to DC, there was a 90 percent likelihood that they would stop there to fuel up first before going to the rally.
How hard would it have been for AP or Thompson/Reuters to pick up the notes from somebody already there, or at the very least chase a local reporter out there and give him a national story credit? It was so impossible, nobody bothered.
A friend has the Sustainable Journalism Alliance website. I can see why he is worried about the state of journalism. We’ve grown too complacent. Even if the smell of blood in the water draws every shark within twenty miles, some sharks do have to keep moving and keep hunting, and chomp down on anything they come across just to see if there is any meat to it.
Thus endeth the lesson.
Trip log, notes and such.
Earlier the day before this, when thirsting for water, I walked down the trail in the early AM to find myself face to pointies with a porkupine the size of a medium jack russell terrier. The quills came out about a foot further. I waved my stick at him, but he seemed uniqely unimpressed. It took a few more seconds of stick waving and loud yelling before he decided to turn and waddle along the trail in front of me, looking for a hasty exit. Me and my walking stick were putting up with no shenanigans.
On running out of water an collapsing, a “Captain Obvious” notation. The only water you find on a ridge-line is the stuff that falls from the sky. When hiking in 85 degree heat, water is EVERYTHING.
Took a day to recover at that Cove Mountain shelter.
Just walked from the Cove Mountain Shelter (near Duncannon, PA) to the town of Marysville. Walk FELT like 20 miles, but it was around 8. When reaching the Cove Mountain Shelter on Saturday Morning, down to the last 4 ounces of water in my bottle (water is everything) I decided the best course of action was to get OFF THE MOUNTAIN! Several things led me to believe this was the best course, among them the following
All the maps I had carefully printed out were either the wrong ones, or missing. Though my laptop battery was slowly dying (well, marginally slower than I thought I was) a quick check of the cached copies I had of those maps led to a stunning collection of red “X” maps. They were gone.
Add that to the fact that I had gotten on the trail very late, and my wheezing cigarette smokers lungs and heavy pack led to a stunning two miles a day. On some sections of the trail with 45 degree climbs, I literally had to stop every 75 feet.
Also, my compass was gone. I have no idea where.
Add that up: No compass, no maps, no water or idea where the next water stop was or the one after that, or the distance between them. Toss in the smoker. I was a stroke victim looking for a place on the trail to keel over and die.
A lawyer and his 13 year old son came through the shelter. I had gotten there quite early in the day (around 11) but after being without water the previous night and stoking out that afternoon, I decided to take a rest day. He let me take a look at his map for a bit, and I figured the smartest thing to do, getting off the mountain-wise was to go straight down, following a minor game trail until it intersected with a logging road on the map.
Dumb, fat bastard. Even a DFB can get lucky, and after an hour of bushwhacking I found the road. Problem was, one end was a dead end and the other took me to the highway. Which was which?
After a good sit down and think, mixed with a bit of reason and logic, I figured it out.
I guessed right.
When I get back to somewhere with good internet access, I’ll update this, but the logging road seemed to be about three miles. Add another mile of bushwhacking to get to it. Now add the distance coming out on Route 11 about a mile and a half before the Subway sandwich shop to the town of Marysville. That is how far I walked today.
I keep fighting the fear, the feeling that I have to rush,rush, rush to get this done. I have to sit for a minute and realize I have a LONG time to figure this all out…the rest of my life. If it takes me three days or three weeks to make it back to Route 1, what is the difference?
A pisser. I now know I have to go BACK into Harrisburg to catch a bus. I’ll look at maps over the next day or so and see if that is smart.
In Marysville, the locals were helpful, at least at the local Dunkies. Coffee drinkers are solid folk. I struck up a conversation with one guy, retired, who makes knives. Another, a retired soldier hauling a truckload of logs to split was especially helpful. I mentioned the fact that I smelled like a deranged goat, and asked if there was a coin-op laundry anywhere nearby.
The saints and mother Mary protect stupid fat hikers. There was one less than a block away.
Somewhere along the multiple dumps of stuff along the trail, I lost one of my t-shirts that I REALLY wanted to keep, one that Curtis gave me. I still have the long sleeve Woody Creek one, but in the madness of dumping stuff I cut myself down to a pair of pants,one pair of shorts (that I’m wearing) two t-shirts, one polo, one hoodie, and three pairs of socks. One windbreaker that is semi-waterproof.
That’s it. I dumped a pantload of food as well, and am pretty sure I still have enough on hand for a week. Even that seems too much. I THINK I might be able to get the day pack inside the frame pack after doing laundry, but I still have to figure a way to keep a water bottle handy.
I still need to jump into the river, even if it is the Susquehana. I stink.
As I’m writing this, I’m also looking at the pretty good burn I got today, and thinking sleeping arrangements might be a quick priority. Eyeballing the Railroad tracks across the street, I saw walking Route 11 that the train seems to come by every 25 minutes or so…too fast to jump. I’m not sure I’m that desperate yet, and even if it IS trespassing, that area beside the tracks looks real tempting, considering the fact that I’m in a town with a mountain on one side and a river on the other. Kind of hard to hide from the local constabulary.
***LATER THAT SAME DAY
I never did jump that train. Pure cussed stubbornness kept me walking. I was too proud to even stick out my thumb. With frequent breaks, on town turned into the next, and just after 10:15 pm, I found myself in Harrisburg. Not quite a record, but I’ll have to go back and check the route. The day totaled out well over 23 miles in 13 hours, with that cursed pack.
I know that time frame is 14 hours. In a town named (Center?) I saw a sign for Subway and stopped for an hour lunch with WiFi. After five days in the mountains eating rice and slim-jims (and some peanut butter) I ate with a gusto that had people at nearby tables looking down to count their fingers.
A word about “Mountain Coffee.” It is obviously an art I have not yet mastered. The batch I brewed up tasted like it came in smuggled next to the coca product in an orifice belonging to Juan Valdez’ donkey.
I mention 10:15 as a specific time for a reason. The bus/train station closed at ten. Now, I’m on sleep/wait mode until the station opens at 6. No WiFi, so I can’t even check my balance to see if there is enough for a ticket on the dirty dog to DC or Roanoake.
Several other observations. Not much feels better on feet that have suffered that indignity that taking off the boots and the socks and walking for a few minutes in the grass. I suppose I should double seal the socks in a bag, as they are no doubt either a potential future bioweapon for sale to some tin-pot third world dictator, or will eventually be more valuable than Curt Shilling’s bloody one. Either way, I’m not sure you could even dunk them in a river without killing all the fish.
A word about generic sportscreme type muscle rub. If you decide to rub down the lower calves, make sure not to hit the front of your legs, particularly if you spent the morning in the puckerbrush wearing shorts, and they look like a rocksalt shotgun wound.
Also, wash up a lot before rubbing your eyes…or any other body parts.
That helpful guy that told me to keep going down route 11 must have been a bit confused. I did, and it turned into an interstate highway numbered 85. By the time I realized it I found myself stuck on it, crossing six lanes of high speed traffic and hiking with hardly a stop until I got off. Strike one, being a pedestrian on an interstate highway, strike two, after dark. Strike three, not even having decent reflectors or a good enough tale to tell the Penn State Cops if they pulled up.
Either way, I got a base on balls. The highway didn’t quite drop me off where he said it would “About three blocks from the Amtrak,” It dumped me about four miles away.
The six gunshots I heard might have quickened my pace a bit on that section of the route. Nothing like being in a strange city and hearing gunfire, and being armed only with a stick that doesn’t even successfully scare a porcupine.
DC was a bust. I never managed to take care of several things I wanted to do there, and ended up at 10pm Monday still awake since 7am Sunday. I booked a ticket to Fredericksburg, a bit further down Rt 1. Perhaps the ghosts of that battlefield will haunt me as the bus rolls in. “Has nobody noticed we have committed ourselves to the same stupidity that put us on the battlefield?”
Yes, I and many others have noticed. That is why I’m trudging through with my pack, hoping to get out of the way before the battle really starts. Andi Parkinson shared the story about the planned rolling truckers strike set to happen in a few days. DC will be a clusterfuck, to be sure. In advance, I bet there will be some incident between a trucker with nothing left to lose, and a state cop with marching orders.
Nothing good will come of this.
Today, I took what I hope was a good picture of the capital dome. A bit of nothing ran through my head as I took it, an unfinished thought. So many have we sent to that dome, themselves convinced of their good intentions. So many still consider themselves people of reason, yet in the eyes of those that sent them have become petty tyrants. That dome seems to focus the intention of tyranny on whomever we send.
Budget is running painfully low. I may set down in Fredericksburg for a bit, checking out the local cleaners to see just what is going on. We’ll see how it goes. May have to try and work up something for David for tomorrow, or spread it around to the rest of the media, “Thoughts While Wandering Through A Closed City”
I’ve not updated this today, rough nite of camping and bad weather ahead. A VERY nice lady and her daughter saw me hinging on the way to get their groceries, bought me a sandwich & soda and stopped on the way and gave me a ride to a truckstop about six MILES down the road.
Budget is running PAINFULLY low. All the busfare and trainfare (as well as regional stuff) pretty mcuh drained my account. If you (or anyone you know) felt like chipping in for the purpose of getting me either closer to or further away from you, there is an EASY way to do it.
go to http://www.greendot.com or a local pharmacy, grocery store or whatnot and get one of the Green Dot Refill cards. Stash some cash on it, then flip it over, scratch the shiny part on the back revealing the numbers. Then, send me a text message to my cell (207-420-6439) and text me the numbers. VIOLA! You’ve just handed me money!
In the rush to get out the betting slips on the mayoral race, I neglected to mention any of the bond issues or ballot questions. Unforgivable as a columnist, but better late than never.
Rather than just go all “editorial board” and gather everyone together in the same room for a minute to vote on such stuff and tally it up, I’m just giving my personal reasons for voting on such stuff. Besides, since the office move last week, getting everyone that works for this paper all in the same room at the same time is a feat similar to herding cats.
Question 1: This is a “People’s Veto” of legislative action, to turn over the changes in Maine law that made same day voter registration a thing of the past. A “YES” vote means you are telling the Legislature and the Baboon in the Blaine House to get bent. A “NO” vote means you agree that same-day voter registration is absurd, and a pathway to fraudulent voting.
Not surprising to anyone that knows me, the reasons for my “YES” endorsement are simple ones. For the last five years or so, life here in Portland has been a transitory affair of rooming houses, mostly illegal sublets, couch surfing and so forth. After an illegal eviction (I came home to it happening) and losing everything I owned, I led the life that doesn’t quite lend itself to registering to vote in advance. Heck, with a post office box as your only permanent link, you couldn’t register if you wanted to.
Does that make me less of a citizen, less worthy of making a choice, simply because I live a life transitory? Me, who follows local politics with an intensity only matched by a rabid honey-badger mixed with a feral cat? Should my ability to cast a vote be spurned by the paperwork wonkish simply because I choose to live a different lifestyle?
A vote is a vote. Since an investigation that originally accused a couple of hundred students with voting illegally turned up only one case in 10 years, the secretary of state is obviously full of fermented fertilizer.
Questions 2 and 3 are the casino issues. I have no issues with casinos anywhere in the country, as they perform the admirable task of separating silly people from their excess money. Considering that these dollars would be spent on frippery anyway, I have no problem with someone deciding where to spend THEIR money. It’s not mine, nor the state’s. People spending their own money on what they wish does NOT cut funding to education in this state, regardless of what some silly commercial told you. That is, unless the folks who made that commercial had some sinister plan to seize all your money in the first place, you know, for the “common good.”
I’ve always been a bit cheesed off that the Maine Passamaquoddy Indian Tribes got screwed by the feds on the Indian Gaming And Regulatory Act, then got hosed by the legislature that denied their application for a casino, but found the idea good for everyone else back in 1988.
Casinos, take ‘em or leave them. Not my fault that the opposition claims Maine made a “Rotten Deal”, especially when you consider that the funding for the “Maine’s Rotten Deal” group came mostly from the folks involved in the existing casino in Bangor. I’m giving both of these a “YES.”
Question 4 for me is a stumper. I can see the arguments both for and against screwing around with the redistricting timeline. This bill pretty much forces the legislature to act, swiftly, when the census numbers come out and to re-district the state’s two Congressional districts. Picture whatever party happens to be the majority now has to stand in the doorway with a whip and a chair, refusing to let the legislature adjourn until they have come to a two-thirds majority vote on new districts.
Hey, if this involves ritual scarification for the elected, I’m all for it. So this one also goes down in the “YES” column.
The county bond issue on the Civic Center is troublesome for me. Most of what I see on the planning documents are cosmetic changes, things to make life easier for those working at the CCCC. Improved vending spaces sound great, but the already inflated prices of vended items that quite frankly taste like licking a hobo’s shoes, at an INCREASED price to help pay for the bond … well, that is just a little over the top for me.
The Civic Center board has a point when they cite that the size of the venue prevents many national acts from appearing here. I also remember a famous Grateful Dead two-day show back in the 1980’s, that just happened to coincide with the arrival of the new police chief (Mike Chitwood, who promptly freaked out like he had “dropped” something he found on the sidewalk, and DEMANDED that the city and the county change their booking policies.)
A couple of years back, when CCCC security allegedly told Axl Rose he couldn’t have alcohol on stage during his warm-up or during the show, he suddenly “got sick” and cancelled the performance. Guess the dressing room WAS too small for his ego.
I’m still on the fence about this one, as the case has not been made to my satisfaction, at least one worth $55 million by the time the bond is paid off. If we fix it, it might not work, and if we don’t fix it, it might not work. I’ll flip a coin on this one when I get there.
That about wraps it up for the election! There will be a few more days of candidate moaning and such, but like the flu, eventually it will end.