Monday, October 27, 2003

Writing 121

I am alone.
Most people would consider me homeless, but I would not consider myself as such, per se. You see, the Earth is my home, and wherever I go, there I am. So I am at home everywhere I go. I have been to cities and towns all over the United States of America, and Canada. I do not have the inclination to go to Mexico, it’s too sunny, although I would love to head over to Europe and am saving my dough for the airline ticket. I like to stay in a city until it becomes familiar, then I move on. I love the disconcerting experience of being in a new place, surrounded by fresh scenery and strange accents. The bigger the city, the more areas there are to explore, the longer I stay.

I originally come from a small town near Portland, Oregon, called St. Helens. This town has railroad tracks running right through the center of it. My friends and I every so often would meet a vagrant, a rail rider, who would stop off in our little town for a day or two while passing through to bigger, more opportune cities. During prime mushroom season, early autumn of my seventeenth year of life, I was at a friend’s apartment. We had been smoking pot and hanging out, typical small town teenage entertainment, when another pal came a-knocking on her door. He had with him a threadbare vagrant of a grandfatherly sort, fresh off the trains, and they had recently been magic mushroom hunting. They brought their bounty into the kitchen, and my friend’s mother made us some magic mushroom tea. I have never had an affinity for mushrooms. I choked down as much of it as I could, but it was, quite frankly, nasty. It didn’t get me high either. We all stayed up late into the night hanging out and making art. Gramps told us he would be hopping a train to Seattle the next day, and he invited any of us to join him. I decided that night to embark on an adventure, just for the thrill of the experience. I snuck home in the wee early morning hours, packed my backpack full of clothes, grabbed my violin in its case, put my cat, Purrsia, on a leash, and left my mom a note. I pointed out that I was almost 18 and told her I was going on a journey to find myself. I said I would call her in a week to let her know I was okay and have some kind of plan. With my bank card in my wallet and twenty dollars in my sock, I headed north.

We spent a few weeks in Seattle. Gramps had a nephew, Bill, who lived in a small town just outside Seattle, and I was able to shower at his house on a weekly basis. Just after my weekly scrubbing during our 3rd week in Seattle, I opened the back door to step onto the porch and smoke a cigarette. Sparkling under a layer of rain ignited by sunshine, an old 5 speed bicycle tilted it’s handlebars to me in a solemn salute. A bicycle! What a perfect idea. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? The glass porch door slid open and Bill walked out. I told him it was a beautiful bike, and he said it had belonged to his deceased wife. She told him once that if anything happened to her to make sure it went to someone who would appreciate it. I asked him what he wanted for it, and he said that the first day we met I had somehow reminded him of the bike. He told me I could have it for the pleasure it brought him to give it to me, and if the opportunity ever arose to pass it to another who will appreciate it, to do so. Of course, I promised him that I would.

Suddenly Seattle seemed much smaller. In another week I told Gramps I would be heading down to San Francisco. He gave me a switchblade and some marijuana, and advised me to be careful, suggesting I get a dog. I found some baskets and a little trailer for my bicycle. Purrsia discovered the basket on the front of the bike was just the right size to curl up in, and I had plenty of room in the trailer for my few belongings. I bought a little two man tent, a pot, a mug, a spoon, some oatmeal and soup, covered it all with tarps, and went in search of a dog.

At the third pound, I found who I was looking for. A medium sized, young adult solid black male of mixed breeding. He appeared to me as a cross between a wolf and a blue heeler. His ears were as soft as rabbit fur and were two quizzical triangles standing straight up as he cocked his head and looked me in the eye. I was smitten. He looked to be about a year old and was already neutered. I knelt down and he came up to me, friendly, and without any fear. I scratched his back and he sidled up into my arms, licking my face. He left the pound with a green harness and leash, and a new name - Stalker.

My pets and I have been traveling from city to city since then. I bike when I can but sometimes it is more realistic to bus, or, if I do particularly well in a city, go by train. I try to stick with cities of temperate weather as biking in the heat can get very sticky, and if you don’t know where your next shower is coming from, you do better to avoid stickiness. My favorite places to bathe are county fairgrounds. Usually when I get to a city I find the nearest fairgrounds and check out their equestrian facilities. There is often a bathroom with a shower, and the bathrooms are sometimes heated in the winter. The best part is the privacy! Most of the time these bathrooms are empty. If I cannot find adequate bathing facilities at a fairground or campground I will visit a mission with this purpose. I generally try to avoid visiting these types of places as they can be very dangerous. So many vagrants looking out only for their number one can lead to rough situations. Usually when I reach a city, I will locate all of the missions and other homeless gathering places, and check them out. I like to see what kind of facilities are available should the need arise. I also like to schmooze the homeless crowds, to get information and current news about the city I am in, and to get a connection for drugs. In general though, I prefer to be alone with my thoughts and my mammal friends.

The city I am in today is called Vancouver, located in British Columbia, Canada. It is early autumn, the air is cool and the leaves have started to turn. I‘ve been here for 3 weeks, spending my nights in Stanley Park and exploring the city during the day. When I want to make a few bucks, I head into high population density areas and pull out my violin. Trendy streets lined with restaurants often yield a decent wage to a passionate violinist. I love to play my violin, and I think I communicate it well to my audience. When the bow slides over the strings, the feeling sends a shiver down my spine. I usually play for the lunch crowds, out entertaining themselves by spending money in the hip little shops and boutiques sandwiched between the restaurants. I look forward to the Christmas season in another five weeks, when consumerism runs rampant leaving everyone in a jovial mood. I usually make a killing on the good humor of these happy spenders, and repay them by playing every Christmas carol I know.

I use drugs judiciously. I believe that anything used in moderation can have a positive, rather than negative impact on a person’s psyche. I stay away from “dirty” drugs, like crystal meth and crank. Marijuana is my drug of choice, but often when I reach a city I like to take some acid before I explore it. Being in completely unfamiliar surroundings intensifies the strangeness of the trip. I have used other synthetic drugs – heroin, ketamine, ecstasy – but I reserve alcohol for those cold winter nights when I have only my sleeping bag and my pets for warmth. I don’t drink to get drunk because usually when that happens I end up feeling like hell for up to a day after. That makes bicycle transport much more unpleasant and as such, reduces my mobility. I do not smoke cigarettes for the same reason (that, and because it is not very intelligent to pay a corporation for your own death), and I do not struggle with addiction to one single drug.

I suppose if I am addicted to anything it is to my freedom. I am the mistress of my situation, the cause and effect, and I am my own way into and out of every position. I do not have any responsibilities other than my pets and myself, and this affords me an unparalleled sense of liberty.

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