Showing posts with label Indecision. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indecision. Show all posts

Monday, March 12, 2018

ETC Pod #7: Friar Chris - Hitchhiking and Philosophy

The final episode of the Friar Chris Series begins with a discussion about the differences between bicycle touring and backpacking then moves on to deeper topics, including (@ 15:45) my experience volunteering on the Gulf Coast in the immediate aftermath of Katrina and the corrosive and corrupting effects of tribalism and dogma in the Disaster Relief Industrial Complex. We then move on to (mostly) explore the fundamental ideas behind why he and I chose hitchhiking and what we learned and experienced while traveling the country as “disposable” vagabonds loitering out on the fringe. SPOILER ALERT: Sausage Party Hope lies within!



More episodes/subscribe: www.escapingthecave.com
My travel archives: www.toddzillaX.com
Also visit: www.christophermedia.net (check out Unregimented!)

Topical cheat Sheet follows:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Plans? Ha!



Perhaps you've heard or read about my confrontations with "plans"?

"We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

Perfect. Maybe that's why Steinbeck was Steinbeck:

"When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. And last he must implement the journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal. I set it down only so that newcomers to bumdom, like teen-agers in new-hatched sin, will not think they invented it. 
Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it."

--Opening lines: John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley In Search of America

Friday, October 21, 2016

10/21/16: Primm, NV - Signal Acquired

Stop me if you heard this before, but I woke up. Cold. Around 4:30. Familiar? Thought so. I'm sick of typing the same embarrassing anecdote in this space. Just go cut n paste this part from the four previous days. Cool? Good.

I rolled out of nest as the sun rose around 6:30 then spent the morning establishing a little routine: sitting at a stool inside the Flying J charging and writing.

I also rediscovered the beauty of Subway's 12" cold cut combo. Eat half in the morning. Half later on. Food? Done! And thank God. Planters and cheap beef sticks were getting really old! I appreciate the low cost, but I'm almost afraid to ask: What animal tastes like that, Matador? Nevadan Desert Snipe? Manbearpig? Or was that something trapped, caged, and butchered beneath Groom Lake?

**Related Fun Fact: Area 51 now shows up on Google Maps . #TheMoreYouKnow #TheTruthIsOutThere**

Monday, October 17, 2016

10/17/16: Day #1 - Jean and The Tin Man

In retrospect, the decision to hit the road Monday (10/17) felt a lot like the original choice to leave Chicago the week before: completely unprepared. When I woke up and sat down to write that morning, I had no idea where I'd be struggling to sleep in just a few hours!

 The day's big event was supposed to be a simple post office run. But, without making a conscious "decision", I  gathered the rest of my stuff and by 2:00 we had made my dropoff at a UPS Store (unable to fit everything in the one overpriced box ), and were on I-15 south heading out of the city to terra inc√≥gnita. My only pre-trip request: "when I leave, get me to a decent spot betond the city sprawl!"

I didn't have even a vague notion of where I was going, so direction didn't really matter. I suggested Hoover Dam, thinking hitching the road south toward Kingman would be a good way to break myself back in and that I could eventually go whatever direction I decided by the time I got to I-40.

Natali didn't want to drive that far, so it was essentially a decision between north and south on I-15. North almost surely meant Utah: The mythically infamous Hitchhiker Blackhole! So, since we are already on the south end of Vegas, I told her to just go south and make it easy. From there I relied on her knowledge of the area. She had a spot in mind, so I trusted her judgment.

The Rusty Tin Man Creaks Forth

Maybe 30-minutes later, Natali exited at Jean and dropped me off at Terrible's, a Shell station/small truck stop across from a rather large casino otherwise in the middle of Desert Nowhere.

The spot had everything I'd need to get my legs beneath me: a gas station for food, water, a Denny's across the road to get coffee and charging facilities, and truck parking. Also, an abundance of open space for stealth camping. We hugged, I snapped a pic, and suddenly I was hitchhiking again. For the first time since my short and family-aborted Texas to Colorado run in 2013.

The first emotion: youthful exhilaration. An excited sense of utter uncertainty psychologically framed as "adventure". I'd had this feeling several times before. This time though, it was tempered. "Been 'here' before..." Considering it had been so long, I was surprised that almost instantly I reverted to instinct, method and experience. I automatically surveyed the grounds, walked inside for water, some snacks, and cigarettes.

Yes. The cigarettes were back. I'd left Chicago with vaping gear planning to decrease my nicotine levels along the way and quitting a week or two later. Good plan. It had worked before. Except, the previous week my battery had gone to hell and I was forced to drop an unplanned $50 on a new one, tank, and coils. That was ridiculous and pissed me off. "Fifty bucks?!? Why not just fucking smoke? How the hell am I going to keep this battery charged?" I answered that silent question immediately. when my smokes and I were reunited. And yeah, it kinda felt good! Hitchhiking and smoking go together like cigarettes and booze; smokes and coffee. Trump & Putin. It's weird.

Why am I even explaining this? Don't judge, fuckers.

The second instant realization: a repeat of the week before. How moving from "abstraction to action" annihilates the internal "what if" anxieties. As soon as we were on the road, the "what ifs" turned to problem solving and forward motion. I was reminded more than once of the "molehills" in the lead up to my original departure in 2008. How everything I'd worried about for nearly 4-years was proven ridiculous. Almost immediately. Our minds are both our greatest assets and our biggest nemesis.



There was a shade tree set in a perfect spot between the parking lot and the road. An ideal place to be seen by the traffic coming and going. I plopped the pack down beneath it and exhaled. Almost immediately, I nearly got out of there. Had I been "saltier", I believe I would have.

A truck driver saw me and my setup, walked over, and said he could tell I wasn't a bum and asked what I was up to. I gave him the now-unfamiliar, unrefined, and poorly articulated "out to see people without electronic eyes" version and we spent 10-15 minutes chatting. He talked about how he'd given rides to people similar to me and how they'd stayed in touch. In retrosepct, it's obvious he had taken into account that I'd just been dropped off and was waiting for me to ask to come along. But, apparently I was waiting for an engraved golden invitation, not wanting to seem (feel?) like a transportational panhandler. Had I been a bit more tuned in, this trip would look vastly different. He went north. Presumably toward Salt Lake City or Reno.

Almost directly on the heels of my new trucker friend came Curt & Judy. They were in their late 50's or early 60's, had parked their RV at Terrible's, and were in the area to do some off-roading in their 4-wheelers. They struck up a conversation while walking from the RV to the canino's Denny's. They were quite curious about my base motivations and we hit it off immediately. We shared philosophical views about the existentially corrosive effects of chasing money and careerism, among other things. I told them about the inspiration I drew from Plato's Cave and gave them an Upper World Photo card with an invitation to contact me via my Facebook page. They invited me to let them know if I made it up to Seattle and I immediately warned them about such polite, off-handed invites! I tend to take folks up on them from time-to-time! Eh, Shawn? Kim? Jeff?

While I slightly hoped to find a ride Monday, there was no "real" effort. Any hope stemmed mostly from directional indecisiveness. I had no beacon whatsoever. I'd decided that I'd wait for my first "real" ride out of the desert and off I-15's north-south LA to Vegas/Utah asphalt funnel. Thus, despite my vast experience failing in such matters, I was targeting trucks. And had just let one go!

Yes, I was certainly rusty.

In reality, it was good to just sit with myself and just be. To slowly disconnect from the electronic eyes, embrace the old "Sit Down and Shut Up" idea, while simultaneously basking in the positive energy of the post-drop off day, and reconnect with the real, raw world.

The cynicism that I'd felt returning all weekend as I attempted to "pay attention" to the election and "current events" almost immediately evaporated and was replaced with positivity borne from real interaction with real people in the "real" world. I know of no better "therapy".

The previous week's ideas about Digital Detox were certainly top-of-mind Monday, and would be for the foreseeable future. Clearly, I'm no prospective Luddite! But, finding balance and a sense of intentional utility with technology is obviously key. I'd never tried hitchhiking with a full-on smartphone, and I was rightfully concerned about it before I even left. But, the usefulness is undeniable. On Day 1, I shot and edited video and found myself finishing and uploading my "October Surprise" post while stashed away behind the truck parking lot! And, yes, I also occasionally found myself habitually reaching for my device as I became bored. But, at least I was mindful of it. At the same time, I was mindful of Plato's "Return to the Cave".

Finding a spot to camp as the sun fell around six was a breeze. I laid the bivy/Thermarest out on the semi-rocky ground, flung the sleeping bag on top, and laid there unable to sleep. I was semi-productive with the writing and editing, but I couldn't shut down the brain.



Clearly, there was more to this trip than I was even aware of...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10/11/16: The October Surprise

When I returned from Peru in February, the "plan" (ha!) was to spend the summer hitchhiking. A glorious and heroic return to the method, adventure, and free-flowing existential orgies of 2008-2010. With a "real" camera this time! Then vocation took over. I underestimated how difficult replacing the computer that was stolen last fall in the break-in would be and how much I had to learn about putting digital photographs on paper! Long story short, I got sidetracked. Not that I "couldn't" go. I didn't feel "right" about half-assing this exponentially expanding photography project. Before I knew it, it was late July. My first photo show was rapidly approaching in August. My remaining resources were put into production and presentation. I had no expectations but lo and behold! I sold things. I made money. Then I entered another spontaneous show in September. I sold more things. I made more money.

 

"Hey! Maybe I was right about this photography thing." Unfortunately, the summer wasn't just photo shows. Life's never that singular and monolithic, is it? It was also complicated by redneck Vulture Family Values drama. The details aren't for you to consume, but suffice it to say that in a spasm of self-destructive rage, I sold my camera and telephoto lens. I put some of that money toward upgrading my travel gear thinking, wrongly in my fit of DNA disgust, that I was ready to scrape photography to the ground and just "go".

I'd been here before. I should know better. Add an unneeded photo gear complication for later in the year. That would be fun to deal with! After the last show, things got annoyingly familiar. Again: what the hell was I going to do? It was almost October. Getting late in the year to be thumbing and stealth camping, unless I was eager to be fucking around in the snow. Which, if you've been around from the start, you know I'm most certainly NOT!

My friend Natali and I had been tinkering with the idea of me starting a trip at her place in Las Vegas for the past few months. She'd been subjected to my indecisiveness firsthand. After a couple of weeks of mentally masturbating and creating all sorts of the old, familiar doomsday narratives in my head, September had become October, and I decided to jump.

On Tuesday the 11th, I bought the ticket to Vegas. For that night. I gave myself approximately 8-hours to prepare for a completely improvised and open-ended trip. The only things I was mindfull of at that moment: "I'm sick of the sound of my own voice. I'm sick of the same internal conversations. I know what this is: the same irrational, contrived anxiety that stopped you from starting this for four years, from 2004-2008. Unfounded fear. And you know how ridiculous it was then. How the imaginary mountains were in practice tiny molehills. Figure it out on the fly. The only way you'll do it is to take your own mind out of the equation. Fuck the camera. Just go. Dumbass."

I went. Before I could second, third, and tenth guess it. As soon as the ticket was bought, all the abstract redundant silliness of the summer abated. What mattered was what was ahead of me. First: getting the gear together for my flight! I had to focus and act. Amazing how useful that is. By 8:30, I was headed to O'Hare. I had no idea what to expect beyond getting reacquainted with my friend. And, once in the air I noticed a remarkable mix of both excitement and calm resignation! I'd always talked about just "going" no plan. No expectation. Just to see where the road took me. I was finally doing it. And without "planning not to plan"! It's neat when you realize you can still surprise yourself.



I shot an email off to Chris. He understood. And, despite everything you just read, there would be a mini encore performance as well as a cementing of some recent realizations in the coming days. Particularly about the absurd corrosive effects of social media.

 How does that saying go? "If you're suffering, you're thinking..."