Friday, September 19, 2008

Jersey City, NJ 9-19-08

Miles since last blog:  23.9

I finally escaped NY, although it wasn't nearly as dramatic as when Kurt Russell did it.  I even have my banner, that combined with the fact that a team in Britain is attempting the world record distance for the three-legged race, leads me into tonight's diatribe:  Politics.  

I've been trying to avoid it, but it has been on my mind a lot lately and today forces my hand.

Politics have gotten out of hand.  You know this whichever side you are on, but what's different is this:  It's your fault.  No, it's not the Democrats. No, It's not the Republicans either.  No, it is most definitely not Ralph Nader.  Now, as a warning, this my get long and a bit preachy, but I'll try to infuse some humor and lots of unreasonable tangents to keep it entertaining.  (For those of you not wanting to read this, skip down to ***)

The reason politics is so screwed up is because we no longer have parties, we have teams, which play against each other.  And whichever team you're on, you cheer when your team talks good trash or the other team screws up and you laugh at them.  Go team.

Except, they were meant to be parties.  We've turned politics into a tug-o-war with our government and country as the rope, being pulled back and forth and fraying going over the center line again and again.  Sure, this is really, the politicians doing this, but 
we are the ones cheering and buying the box seats.  If we didn't support this kind of behavior, they wouldn't do it.  That's the nature of elected office.  Honestly, when you see the candidates slinging at the other party doesn't it make you a little ashamed?  Who cares if they may even be right, shouldn't we expect more from the leaders of the free world than low blows?

Whichever side you're on, you probably think half the country is filled with idiots, and you're probably right no matter what side you're on.  It's just that half of the total idiot populace agrees with you.  

Politics shouldn't be a tug-o-war.  It should on the other hand be a three-legged race.  Two parties not quite working in concert, but both trying towards similar goals, even if they don't always agree.  That's politics as it should be!  Right now politics is sadly more like the TV show "Gossip Girl" which I hear is fascinating or revolting (like politics).

So that's the three-legged race part, GO Brits!  (I have my own record attempt up for review so let's all be supportive).  Now for the banner tangent and the real reason for all of this.

Today being the first day I have my banner, I went through highs and lows with it.  The low, walking through NYC in a heavily populated area for 2 hours with not so much as a question about my charity.  Finally a man with a class of students asked me about it and told the kids to listen because this was something really cool.  I couldn't stop smiling, still in 3 hours in Manhattan, no donations, not even a real prospect.  

Almost immediately after I got into New Jersey a man on a bike stopped me and gave me $5 before even knowing why I was walking, just because he respected the deed.  He refused a receipt and rode off, but not before I gave him one of my new cards.  

About an hour later he called me and asked me about my gear, did I have a tent?  No.  How about cooking?  Cooking, . . . no.  He said to keep walking and he'd find me in an hour or so.  True to his word he called a few times over the next two hours to check where I was and where I was going and actually got close and said to wait, he was bringing me things but to be careful because the people in the area didn't like "people like us."

I didn't know him from Adam, I didn't know his politics or anything and although this comment was a small red flag in my head, I also know that while many people would be upset by the phrasing of this, they would also tell me to be careful going through certain areas and say things like, "Oh, I wouldn't go through there."  Take these things into consideration before judgement.

He arrived and said, "watch out around here, they don't like us because of this,"  he was patting the skin on his arm.  I'd like to make clear right now, that I have been warned now about a lot of areas, largely by friends and relatives who for the record are liberal like me.  Aside from very few others, I am the only one I know of who has spent any time in these areas other than when lost, and in the words of a friend recently lost in LA, "Compton isn't nearly as dangerous as Dr. Dre lead me to believe."  In other words, there is nothing to fear except fear itself.  I think one of my friends said that too ;)

We continued.  He had a car full of things for me, I could see it in the back window.  My first thought was, "Oh god, no, there is no way I can take all this stuff and carry it.  I just cut the weight I was pushing down."  

The list goes like this:

A military cocoon sleeping bag, heavy, bulky, amazingly useful and warm.  Reluctantly I agreed, this is something that will be great with winter coming, and it's better than buying it later with money that could go to charity.

A one man tent.  Again, I agreed for the same reasons even though I had something, this was too good to pass up on the chance I would need it later.  The rest went similarly,

A lightweight camp stove
6 pepsi cans
A vitamin water with a special top you can use with just one hand
2 rolls of toilet paper, which I eventually gave back for space
A bar of soap, which I had been dreaming of, why does everyone use gels now?
A packet of lunch meat, eaten immediately
A bag of pretzels
2 peaches
2 chocolate bunnies
Camp cook and eatware
A sleeping pad
A bicycle, he offered later, I turned this down
maybe more?

Every once in a while he would stop and say, "I don't know what else I can do?"  There was probably a correct response to this situation, but I think I usually just stood there or thanked him again, neither of which was probably the correct answer.

"I'm one of those good republicans," he offered.  "I look at you and I know you must be a little left of center, but I see you're doing something.  Most people (on the left) just talk a lot, but you are out there practicing what you preach and that's worth something."  I actually tend to agree with this even as a liberal myself.

"I'm an old warrior," he said again.  I, being a Californian who was raised in a liberal town with liberal friends and relatives, found him an alien type of creature.  Not in a negative sense, just not something I was used to, he was like a character that I would see a friend do, but I liked him despite our disagreements and some of the things he said.  He talked about lots of old warrior type of stuff, though he said he was never in the military.

Yes, we saw things very differently.  Yes, his political views were very different from mine.  We both knew that.  Still, he kept saying amongst many other things, "Education is the key to success," and things like that.  We found common ground.  Once more, I imagine he saw in me something someone was doing that was worthy of dreaming of.  "I hope you realize when you accept money or things from people that they are helping you because there is a part of them that wish they could go with you."

Even more, I found in him many things that I would aspire to be someday.  I am trying to do something good, but if I really dig I don't know that if I saw someone on the street with a banner that I would do everything he did.  He gave and gave and seemed almost self-chastising when he didn't know what else to give.  He went a place he was uncomfortable to help a person he didn't agree with.  For all of what many of 'my people' would call misperceptions and wrong ideas, this man has a great heart.  I have met no one that took it to heart greater that I finish and be successful, most people like it and want me to succeed, but this was something more.

For the record, he is the only total stranger that has contributed.  For the record, what he gave me tallies up to be far more sizable than any donations I have received (aside from places to stay), it actually probably exceeds that of my entire family and friends at this point.

"Wherever you are someone knows, there's always an old warrior around," he said.  "I'm not a religious man, I mean I don't go to church but I consider myself one of Jesus' soldiers.  I see people or things and I know I have a mission, and I always complete it.  I think there's a reason we met today.  I don't know what it is, but things had to line up just right to run across you.  I dragged my heels today."  I have heard this before from religious people on my walk.  Things were meant to be.  I'm a skeptic by nature and I am not religious, but maybe for them I was supposed to meet them.  He looked up at the sky and yelled, "Is that it Lord?  Have I done enough?  What else should I do?"  In my world to now, he is an alien, but I liked him.

Maybe I'll meet you someday, and by then I'll be (or at least feel) like an old warrior.  And if you agree with me, you can say, "Let's try a three-legged race."


Shortly after this I met a man who was fascinated with my carrier.  He had lost his license and kept fist pounding me and saying, "I like your style."  He told me to stay away from smoking, gesturing at the cigarette in his hand, and drugs and that he was once the 17th best cross country runner in all of New Jersey.  We walked away in opposite directions and he startled some kids by yelling out, "I like you, I like your style.  You keep going!"

Other high and low-lights:

+New shoes
-New shoe blisters
+A great shower
+I used both the banner and cards today multiple times
-I was hassled by the NYPD for . . . I'm not sure, loitering?
+I'm couchsurfing with really cool guys and had good Indian food for dinner
+It's bedtime


Anonymous said...

Great post. I love the stories about the people - characters - including the police. Walk long, be safe, aloha.

Andrew said...

I was the teacher who met you on Broadway yesterday. The fourth grade students I was with were inspired by your walk and the work of PFEE. We'll be following your trip online in the months ahead. We'd love to stay in touch, and host you at Calhoun School next time you're in New York.

Thanks for providing us with a teachable moment. Good luck with your walk.

Calhoun School

Kathy * KD * Kathleen * KatyLou said...

I can't wait to see more posts on here from people you have met along the way. It's so inspiring! Moved me to tears. Can I get some press releases out there for you? I want to help. I'm so proud to be your family...