Wanderlust Remedy

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Month: August, 2012

VANishing: My summer of slacking on the road

It’s 7AM in San Luis Obispo.  I have parked my 1989 Toyota VanWagon next to a Starbucks to mooch their wifi.  A few minutes earlier I barely avoided pissing myself, but found sweet relief at a Jack In the Box.  It was close.  I was tempted to piss outside seeing no one was up yet, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it because I passed out in an affluent neighborhood.  I got paranoid.  My back hurts.  Because the nicest neighborhoods are almost always built on the land with the least geologic/seismic stability I slept at an extreme slope.  My body kept slipping forward off my newly constructed bed.  At least it was better than the way I was doing it which was sleeping on the floor with my head jammed between the passenger seats.  Regardless I always sleep like a baby in the van.  Could it be because it mimics a womb?  These minor complications are the little bits and pieces of reality I didn’t anticipate when I embarked on my latest stupid experiment.

For the past couple months, with intermittent stops at my parent’s house, I’ve been cruising around Southern California and the Central Coast in my van with an incredibly limited amount of money.  My madness is fueled by a fascination with the writings of Jack Kerouac, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the aesthetics of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski.  Take note these are all narratives of the masculine persuasion.  How few women have ever dared?  Or are there many who’ve also boldly taken on this lonesome experiment, but go unsung.  I’m no gypsy.  I have no caravan to roll with.  It is a solo pursuit.

Other versions of this post delved into the emotions felt throughout this stupidity.  The executive decision was to keep the emotional claptrap to a minimum.  Let’s just say I’ve felt lots of lust, some degree of infatuation, even less love and loss, betrayal, belittlement, misogyny, empowerment, camaraderie, and a whole lot of loneliness.  Every fucking day could be a blog post.  I’ve partied a lot, woken up in stranger’s houses, been kicked out of places, and spent a whole lot of time in the ocean.  There’s a lot of stories that could be told, but instead I want to focus on the inside of my van.

This is my refrigerator.  Along with my backpacking stove I call this my kitchen.  It’s all a pain in the ass.  I’ve probably spent over $30 on block ice.  Food still goes bad.  It’s too fucking hot.  Because this set up is a pain in the ass, I usually end up eating hastily thrown together lavash wraps.  Friends have thankfully let me make use of their kitchens.  In a tight pinch I also have resorted to eating dumpstered donuts.  A bag of dumpstered donuts is a blessing and a curse.

This is my bed.  My friend and I built it out of some plywood and 2×4’s.  We measured no times and cut twice.  Think that’s how you’re supposed to do it.  Upon installation one of the legs snapped off.  I also forgot to put legs on the far end of the bed so it has to be propped up by my wardrobe.  It’s definitely a work in progress and will take on multiple permutations until it is in it’s final state.  Hopefully before then I don’t impale myself on a jagged piece of wood while I sleep.  The van’s shaggin’ wagon status has been revoked.  Nothing wild can be done on this precarious construction.  Underneath my towel and sleeping bag I’ve got a hand-me-down thermarest.  Thankful for the donation because sleeping on the bare floor of the van was not the most comfortable experience.

This is my wardrobe.  Better than a walk-in closet.  I’ve got a nice selection of outfits in here… except my friend did just tell me I need to dress better.  Perhaps I stopped caring in my pursuit of simplification.  Yoga pants and sweatshirts forever.

This is what lunchtime looks like.  I loiter at a public park, set up my backpacking stove, and make culinary magic happen.  I blast some jams from my epic van stereo system.  Today’s selection was Killer Mike.  Parks and beaches become my living room.  I can only chill in the van if the back door is open.

Despite all the emotional, physical, and financial burdens I really am seeing and experiencing a lot of shit.  Here’s a sampling of the past few days.

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New Hawk City

The appropriate cliche:  You can find beauty in anything if you look hard enough.  Beauty had to be found.  With a bank account in the negative, the escape had to be hot and incredibly local.  I looked into the thick 100+ degree air and found it in the Fee.  I found it in New Hawk City.  Aeries, boulders, buckwheat, white sage, physical exertion, and bullets of sweat.

 

Have you ever felt like you were internally cooking?  Where there may be few rivers flowing in Riverside County, there are pockets of open space everywhere full of life.  You may think these cities are built on false promises, but the promise is in the hills.  Remember how bitchin’ the Ramona Pageant was? Don’t look down, you may see a subdivision.  Instead look up for blinding sunshine and a sky full of life.  Look straight down at the ground and pretend you are Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western runnin’ from everyone.

By the end of my time in Hawk City, my water bottle was left with only a drop of piss warm water and the desire to return over and over again.

 

Two Hours in Sun City

David Lynch could’ve not done it better himself. Two hours in Sun City and the weather has gone from blinding skin burning sunshine to a sky full of thunder clouds and sporadic outbursts of rain. Thunder rumbles to the south. Indeed the world’s a little darker, and a little stranger. Sun City has many identities. It is a place frozen in time. It’s a place for the elderly. It’s a place for the poor. I am accidentally here waiting for a bus.

Physically, Sun City looks like a wasteland. Especially in the summertime the hills look dead. Brownish yellow hills envelop the valley of inexpensive stucco tract homes and doublewides which make up the Sun City. Most of the town hasn’t been updated since I assume the 1970’s. Many of the homes have rock lawns. It’s far too hot and far too much work to maintain anything living. The bike lane also has symbols indicating this is too a golf cart lane.

I arrive in time for bus 1. There’s only a dollar in my wallet and the bus driver does not sympathize with my sweat drenched self. It’s over 100. I go to get cash back and enjoy a scoop of thrifty ice cream. An old lady likes my hat. It smells like old people in there. I sit outside and lap up my scoop. It’s my second flavor selection. They were out of vanilla. I think this is a lie.

When I show up to a bus stop there’s a man with a cruiser. Everyone waiting for the bus looks upset. There’s a wad of bloodied gauze on the grass. Bus 2 has a bike on the rack.

I go to wait in the library. A little elderly lady with a bandage on her face asks me if it’s raining. I told her it wasn’t when I was outside. She then tells me everything she must do in the day. I stop listening but keep intently staring at her bandage and nodding until she’s done. Is this what life comes to? Those around us are obviously not content with the conversation and passively aggressively clear their throat. The couple sitting across from me are wearing matching American flag t-shirts. A man comes over and said the library is closing in two minutes. I start sketching the feet of the female in the couple. She is wearing sandals with socks. Now that I think about it the other lady was wearing sandals with socks too. A conspiracy? I pack away my sketch pad.

“You look like you’re going camping.” The male in the American flag was commenting on all the bags I had. I always have a lot of bags. I tell him I’m taking the bus to Orange County for the weekend. He’s wearing an I <;3 Jesus lanyard. The library worker comes over to say the library is closed. It’s 3 PM. I try to leave, but he continues to talk about Pio Pico. I don’t mind. I don’t think they get out much. The woman’s question catches me off guard.

“Are you a Christian?”

How could I answer without getting a lecture or be rude? I have a flashback to my childhood when I dealt with this question whether it be at school or at a friend’s house. I would often pretend i was Christian and sometimes even go to church with friends. It always felt odd. I am older now.

“I am spiritual. I believe there is something greater, but try to enjoy my life now.”

I guess it was a good answer because there wasn’t any uncomfortable conversation about salvation that followed. Instead they told me about a show called supernatural encounters that they enjoyed (“it’s stuff you wouldn’t believe unless you are a Christian”), about the pending end times (“nothing bad is going to happen in America. It’s all in the Middle East”), and capped it off with a Bible passage I should read in the King James version. I told him to be safe. The sky was black and thunder claps were sounding off in the distance. I head over to subway to fill my water bottle and take a moment.

Grizzly adams, two women and I are at the bus stop. I wonder which bus Grizzly is waiting for. He starts throwing some kind of liquid into the trash. The air is hot and thick. The smell of wet asphalt is strong. Grizzly disappears. The two woman board another bus. I am alone in the storm for a second.

Emotionally I entered a time machine today. Every summer there’d be at least one day a windy thunderstorm would kick in. There was the day I didn’t go to Rachel’s house because I was scared of dying in the storm and the day my mom had to pick a friend and I up from her house when the power went out after watching ‘The Exorcist.’. Although I have overcome most of my fear of death, Sun City reminds me I’m afraid of getting old along with all the social trappings of getting old in America. Even when I try to shun the conventions and typical views of aging, Sun City is there to throw me back into the loop.

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****UPDATE****

Yesterday I returned to where I started, the bus shelter off of Cherry Hills and Bradley.  Grizzly Adams was sitting there in the grass.  I had a bag of snacks I did not want to eat anymore, a spontaneous purchase of sea salt popcorn and zesty salsa pita crisps.  They served me well as my bus home broke down and the trip home took longer than I had ever imagined.  Having not spoken in hours my voice cracked when I started to say “excuse me.”  The snacks may be of use to me.  Plus I was curious to see what his story was, why is he in Sun City?  Grizzly continued to read his book and gave me no attention.

I assumed he was crazy.

As I push my bike away, I hear Grizzly say hello to another dude on a bicycle.  He isn’t crazy.  He just didn’t want me or my charity in his world.  My ego is bruised.  It was a weekend of ego bruising.

Do no harm.