Monday, April 27, 2009
Safford II: Black and White
The Comfort Inn and Suites of Safford, AZ was gracious enough to afford me another night to recover. Most of the day was spent lying in bed watching television and going slowly stir crazy. The highlights of my day were a few phone calls, texts and a walk to a local convenience store where I met a guy biking across the country. That's right, the country is swarming with hobos and our spirit is infectious. Laid off, out of work, have you thought about riding the rails and sleeping on the couches of strangers? Or biking through the mountains and camping in the forest?
Let me tell you a little bit about what might be in store for you, it's a little story I call 'Yesterday.'
Recently I'd been mixing things up as a sort of experiment in keeping things fresh, event the results of the experiment were mixed, it was going alright. It starts with sleeping, Hotels, etc., the previous night I had decided to sleep on top of my sleeping bag and using just my wool blanket which is normally my pad under the bag. I just flipped stuff on the chance that it might be warm enough and that my sleeping bag would be more cushy bedding. It wasn't warm enough and the problem with laying out camp in the dark is that a lot of times you set up in places that aren't really suitable either. I've mostly learned to sleep around and on jagged rocks, but you can't deal with cold other than warming up. So I woke up in a tangle of sleeping bag and blanket and completely unready to take on the day with a half lame calf.
The good news was that I only had 11 miles into town where I was hoping to find a place to stay for the night. You know how that turned out from the first line, but let's pretend there's more to a story than it's end. I was moving slowly, brushing my teeth with a dry brush and toothpaste and letting the sun hit my back and chest alternately before I suited up for the day. When I went to put away my backpack a hundred plus moths flew into my face from the small pouch on the back of my carrier. When I opened up my hat another 20 or so flew out. This continued all the way down the road the eleven miles, me slowly loosing moths upon the world.
Before I got into Safford I walked through the tiny satellite town of Solomon where I stopped to use a gas station toilet, on the wall there was a spot carved out with a swastika and the words 'WHITE POWER' in blocky letters, I tried to imagine it was very old but most of the wall was fresh. When I came out to men with shaven heads were entering the store, another guy with short hair was standing outside by some motorcycles and checking out my cart.
I slowly pulled on the gloves I bought to cushion my hands my second time in Austin. The man with short hair came over to talk to me.
"What is this thing exactly?" He said nodding at Ando, my carrier. Talking about stuff, this is how guys relate if what I remember about regular society still holds true. I note that I am slipping further and further away from that society and that at times I find myself eating with absolutely no manors, shoving things in my mouth and not able to remember the motor functions of civilization. I humor him and play along in the man role.
"This is my cart, it's a baby jogger actually, I carry my stuff in it."
"Why are you walking across the country anyway?" I can't see his eyes because of some mirrored lenses that remind of the nineties Oakley fad. I size him up and go with the basic answer.
"I'm walking for charity, Public Education, trying to help out some of the schools that need it." He shrugs, not so interested in education I guess.
"Public education," he mumbled. "Yeah, I guess most schools are pretty bad shape these days. Hey, let me ask you something, this new president, what do you think about him." I already knew what he thought, it wasn't what was scrawled on the wall, no reason to think that was him, but his language 'this new president,' not Obama, not 'the new president,' but 'this' new president. I don't feel like getting into a debate but I'm not a liar either.
"Well, I tell you one thing, I think he'll be good for education."
"Yeah yeah," he seemed to be searching for something, he wanted to identify with me somehow I could see that, but he wanted to get something from me too. "But what do you think he'll mean for the war on terror?"
Christ, I don't want to get into this, this will go nowhere, what's a neutral response? "Oh, I don't know." The truth is, that like most other things, I just think people are too afraid of this, you're more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than a terrorist attack, perhaps we should go after the coconuts. No reason to lend credence to these idiots by being afraid of them. There are far more terrifying monsters lurking out there and attacking the USA, ignorance, economics, tubs without little grippy flower things on the bottoms, you name it.
"I read that loud and clear." He said smiling and nodding. Apparently he took this as my agreement with his obvious position. The two men with shaved heads came out, they were his friends.
"What are you doing?" They asked.
"Nothing," he said. I saw my opportunity to leave.
"Bye," I said and started walking off. Maybe if I was lucky, what would stay with him wouldn't be this false agreement, but instead that I said something positive about the president and education.
The walk was peaceful into town and the Comfort Inn and Suites was the first Hotel I came to. A very nice woman was behind the counter and she called the manager and got me a room donated for the evening. When I asked about a pharmacy to resupply she offered to drive me into town after she got off of work at 3.
I took a shower and ate at the restaurant across the street which was owned by the same people as the hotel, The Manor House, good Philly Cheesesteaks. True to her word, at 3 o'clock she drove me to a pharmacy where I picked up 50 SPF waterproof non-greasy long lasting Sunscreen, new moleskin (pad bandages for blisters), a few gatorades and a snack. When I got to the register she paid and told me in the car on the way back to the hotel, "some days you just have to give yourself over to the needs of others." It was that simple for her, as simple as not liking Obama was for the other man. It takes all kinds, I'm lucky people seem to like the path I travel, I get the best parts of them, the niceties all intact, but the woman seemed only nice to me. There were layers to her of course, but none of them were harsh or mean, just deeper or shallower views of the same woman, it's always nice to meet these people and in my life they are the majority.
The main thing the road offers is experience, time to think, sometimes too much of both, but isn't even a flood of too much experience and thought better than the doldrums? It either is or it isn't and we are a wonderful time in history to decide which one is for us.
I'm trying on different 'road names' or monikers, feel free to suggest one. So far my favorite suggestion was Hobo Hemingway but that would be more than a little presumptuous for me to try on. Thoughts . . .