Sorry about not getting a blog out in the last two weeks. This is largely an effort to get back on the horse.
Archive from east coast trip in 2006
06/09/03 Booking Along
September 3 and I’m back in the bus (i.e. my van) again, parked near the 179th st. station on the F line of the New York City subway. That means, barring any kind of hassles, I should be on the subway fairly early tomorrow and exploring campuses before 10:00. I already know that many are essentially fortresses and I’ll need appointments with someone (probably will shoot for faculty advisors to environmental clubs, meditation groups, etc.) Tomorrow (Labor Day) I hope to suss out which are harder to penetrate than which others.
I’m largely biding my time, however, while I wait for the printer to get my books ready. I’ve settled on a cover with a wonderfully evocative photo by Jim McKinniss (go to the text/photo workup at www.to-mars under Books to see it), took Chelsea Hubbard’s first draft of a logo and put it on, and am going to see the mockup on Tuesday. My thinking is that, better equipped, I’ll be in a better position to approach said faculty, independent bookstores, radio hosts, etc.
Tomorrow I intend to schedule the rest of my week in NYC. Being closer to the subway will make for a lot better use of the city. Being on the streets doesn’t lend itself particularly to getting on the internet, though, as it’s proving harder to get access than I expected it to be. New Yorkers seem to be more security conscious than midwesterners.
06/09/06 Hey, I wasn’t Kicked Out or Anything
Just got an e-mail that makes it clear I haven’t communicated my situation well. I’m in the bus again because I want to be. Pann and Lee were/are wonderful and were perfectly happy to have me around as long as I needed to be (well, *that* statement is probably presumptuous–suffice it to say they hadn’t been hinting that I needed to pack up or start paying rent yet), and there was no friction at all (again, at least so far as I could tell). But Long Island is surprisingly far from NYC, especially when you know Queens and Brooklyn, Burroughs of the city, are both on it.
I was needing to catch the LIRR on a specific schedule and then be in NYC over an hour later and then had to catch the LIRR back. The LIRR fares are not the cheapest, while the subway has a good price and an everywhere, every few minutes, all day and night (although the definition of “few” changes a bit) philosophy/practice, applied to both trains and buses.
I wasn’t using the City much (that’s what they call it on Long Island, clearly not realizing that the term refers to San Francisco–these people!), and after coming all these miles, that didn’t seem to be making much sense. Still haven’t made too much use of “the City,” but the book is looking good and I’ve placed my first order with the printer..
06/09/07 Utopia’s Sad Demise
Yesterday as I was writing in my personal journal, sitting on a city street before getting my day started, a passing car suddenly started a racket. I thought it had dropped its tailpipe and was dragging the muffler, but then, WHAMMM, something hit the side of the van, and the car came to a halt about even with the back of my vehicle.
Turns out the unfortunate driver had lost a wheel, which had recently been changed by a friend, and which even more recently hit the side of my van. It left only a rubber mark–no dint or anything. Tire wound up about a block and a half away on the other side of a busy intersection. The stop sign, for which most drivers slow to about ten mph, probably saved someone’s life. How odd it must have seemed to be approaching a four way stop when suddenly a wheel and tire go bouncing through in front of you without so much as a pause.
That put me to thinking, yet again, about how tenuous life is. Had the tire just hit a stick in the road and been sent bouncing on a slightly different course, it might have been me that would have been killed. As it was I had no adrenaline rush, no earth-shattering, life changing, re-evaluation of where I was going or what I’d been doing.
Don Juan (Carlos Castaneda) said it well–hell, lots of people have said it–death is always at your shoulder. If we could see it, everyone of us would be accompanied by that figure in black hood all of our days, every second. I wonder if we’d even notice these apparitions, save for those odd, horrific times when one just steps in and pulls its charge off the planet.
But, Christ, you can’t live your life thinking the next moment is going to be your last. The odds are definitely immensely in favor of that moment after next actually coming. And probably for many succeeding moments. So why dwell on this kind of talk?
Well, it can be helpful in values clarification, I think. After all, the odds are at least as great that there won’t be nearly so many moments coming down the pike as you’d like. Use the ones you’ve got now well, while you’re still getting them.
Okay, enough of being George. Here’s an answer to a question some of you have wondered about. What’s it like? This living on the street in your van in a big city a thousand–no, three thousand–miles from home?
First of all, no, I’m not in the same place every night. Duuhhhh! They pay people to deal with people like me, you know. And they work all night. Not same place, not even in the same neighborhood. At least not on successive nights.
The real problem, though, is the watchful protectors of their space–the residents. Narcs in every window, or walking the street accompanied by their attack Pekinese late at night. Armed with cell phones with a direct line to local security, if not the cops.
It doesn’t take you long to learn that you don’t eat where you’re going to sleep. It’s even smart to get out of the van when you first stop, take a walk, and don’t turn any lights on inside when you return. Be ready for bed when you roll in.
Dressing where you slept, though, that’s cool. Everyone’s always glad to see you getting ready to leave.
I did spend two nights in one neighborhood in Queens, though. It’s called “Utopia.” Nice enough neighborhood, where I stayed, but still I think the name a bit overstated. Kind of reminds me of our habit of naming streets in Tahoe after Indian tribes. Or having the grizzly bear as the state mammal.
If it’s gone, and we feel kind of bad about that, let’s name a street, or a river, or–oh happy day–a state symbol after it. It’s the memory that counts, anyway. Right?
Utopia, being on Long Island and probably dating back to before the bridges, may have seemed like exactly that when it was named. But even Utopia had a grime reaper at its side.
Love to all. Missing Tahoe right now like you can’t believe.
Next time: Why A-wordholes are the real terrorists.
06/09/09 On Being Swept Away
Got an e-mail from Jim McKinniss, the friend and photographer of The Call’s cover. (Also look at http://jim_mckinniss.photoworkshop.com/ to see more of his excellent work.) He commented on what an emotional roller coaster I seem to be on. Absolutely dead on.
Here’s how it feels today:
I’m very much afraid I may have committed to a course of action from which there is no retreat, no return. Certainly not to anything resembling “normalcy.” Perhaps not even from “being on the road.” I’m beginning to see how one thing can force another, and then another, and others beyond that. I’m trying to see my way to turn all this promotional activity into an “advance to the rear,” as a General at the Chosin Reservoir was once quoted (Korean War), so I can actually start making headway back home. But it’s not entirely easy to do.
The water is deep and very swift. Our mother, Gaia, is being swept away. I saw that, and sought no counsel, nor heeded that which many offered. I dove in. I am committed, and the current has me, too. It’s far too strong, I will probably drown here, in this whirlpool I find myself in.
Of that I’ve actually been fairly certain since the train almost hit me in Beziers(see the book).
Some say it’s just an eddy of my own construction, but I don’t. I don’t even think it is a whirlpool only I see. The rapidity with which so many turn their heads and look away from the vortex each time it’s pointed out belies that claim.
But, still, none of that matters. I’m in the stream now. I must do what I must do. I know of no other way to open people’s eyes.
If our mother is to be saved, others will have to throw lifelines, for no one person can do this. They needn’t lose their footing, though, as I appear to have. You who also see and react need to keep your lines tethered, or you, too, will flail against the current. But if my sacrifice moves some of you to commit–to really start taking this seriously–then I will be content. As content as is possible–knowing what I do–seeing what I saw.
Some have already thrown me lines. First and foremost, Barbara, my wife, partner and editor for twenty-three years. But Pann and Lee, Rick and Linda, Steve, Elfriede, Jim, Kris, Roger, Rod and Pat, E.J., Chelsea, Dan and many, many others have also helped in untold ways, not the least of which is their continued belief in my sanity, as hard as that often is for any of us.
But certainly most of all, through their continued love. I want so much to thank them. But what I really owe them is an apology. I am so sorry for the hurt my actions will cause you, or already have. I love you all.
Sorry, no talk of A-wordholes as promised last time. Not up for a lighthearted go at it just now.
06/09/15 I Can See Clearly Now
Mood swing on the up tilt recently. Got a much better handle on what I’m going to do with the rest of this trip. Or at least try to do. Mood still variable, though.
The phrase “advance to the rear” which was a reference to how the marines had to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir region in Korea when they were cut off by the Chinese in the early stages of the Korean Conflict, as we used to call it, was an inspiration.
I will approach potential speaking venues in five or six regions, each further along the way west. I’ll make the approach at least a week before I anticipate being in the region, preferably two or even three. The decision alone was like breaking a dam. Work was suddenly getting done–and that contributed largely to why you haven’t heard from me lately. Revised a lot of the website and planned a rough estimate of where I’ll be when. Approached a number of Mars Society chapters, as they were easy to compile.
It may all turn out to be poppycock, but at least it’s direction. Frankly, I doubt even three weeks notice will be adequate to get many engagements, but at least I’ll be able to say I was trying. It’s doubtlessly irrational, but that’s important to me somehow. And it has the big advantage that it sets me on a course toward home.
I think I’ll try to do something rational with the time, too. There are a number of friends and family dispersed through this land that I might make lynchpins in the itinerary. Might even just let it all go for a bit and do something totally irresponsible, and just tootle.
That would, at least, reassure some of those of you with faint hearts who wonder wether I’ve just gone completely bonkers. After all, not everyone gets an opportunity like this to be just touring the country on his own agenda in his own vehicle, with no hard and fast deadlines to meet. “And he’s just throwing it away!”
Anyway, the current plan makes me run about two weeks behind my original schedule, making the trip almost three, not two, months. That’s actually a relief, though, because I really was beginning to have a hard time seeing the end of it at all.
Can’t let this missive go without some philosophical stuff, though. One is the “Korean Conflict” allusion earlier. That was back when people seemed to understand the importance of language. When “war” was reserved for something Congress had formally declared, not someone’s idea of a good cause. How smart our elders were. I speak being fully aware of my being a senior citizen now.
The other is the A-wordhole thing. The main reason so many people in a city live in isolation is that they occasionally encounter assholes, and, because they’re assholes, it feels like you encounter them more than you do normal people. Like terrorists, they project a profile way out of proportion to their actual threat, terrorizing people into withdrawing from cooperative behaviors that are the only real way to meet the challenges that our population poses. If the good people would rise up against the assholes, cities would be truly wonderful places, for people are actually quite pleasant. We are instinctually a herding species, I think. Intelligently herding, perhaps, but herding nonetheless.
06/09/20 East Coast Camping
Hello from Upstate New York:
I’ve broken out of the grip of the cultural whirlpool that NYC is and am now actually beginning to make my way home. Needless to say that’s a good thing.
Last night I spent in my first campground in a state park on the east coast. State parks are on a different model out here. More preserves for nature, I think the philosophy must be, than windows into it. Or at least that was how it was explained to me when I first discovered, years ago, how rarely parks out here have campgrounds. This is the first time I’ve actually stayed in a campground in a park east of the Mississippi. Here’s my personal journal entry from this morning:
“The park is laid out on a hill (small mountain, perhaps, by eastern standards) north of NYC overlooking the Hudson near a little town called Stoney Point. Three deer just walked by. Deer on the east coast walk funny, not the familiar, careful selection of hoof-fall and then the shift of weight, but sort of a more careless advance, not paying much attention to the ground. Run very like ours, though, except their tails seem to shoot up with each leap the same way a person’s toes do automatically when you take a step. Saw a fox last night., very bold, on his way somewhere. He passed within a car length of me as I talked on the phone outside the car in a parking lot.
“Stoney point apparently has a lot of stones. That’s the main fence building material around here. At precisely 7:00 a.m. a machine started nearby that sounds like it does something industrial with these rocks. Trees, if not planted by man, look as if they were. All about equal age, maybe twenty or thirty years, and in almost straight rows, widely spaced. No underbrush. Might just be the result of one season’s very selective cut, followed on with persistent management of the groundcover.
“Last night when I came in late, probably five cars were visible, none with fires going, nor was there the smell of smoke. The late registration dude (I don’t want to call him anything official: he was fat, tattooed, playing game boy, and borderline surly) insisted I go out and get my license number off the van and was very clear on the fact that he assigned sites and I had no choices. I’d not driven past the “registered campers only” sign to view the grounds, so I assumed there weren’t many sites available.
“Wrong. The whole site is a long rectangle, about two football field lengths wide and four or five times that long. The place has pits for maybe 200 fires. The site I was assigned is not one I’d have chosen. It’s twice as far to a working bathroom as to a dysfunctional one, and there’s no level spot to park on. But it really doesn’t matter that much. This morning I can see that all the sites are pretty much the same. Yes, I can see them all, almost, from right here. Last night I thought the punk wanna-be must have had an attitude, but today I suspect he was following strict company policy (I’m assuming that, like home, most of the campgrounds are run by private companies). Campers appear to have been assigned to maximize distance between occupied sites. That makes sense, knowing how densely people are packed out here.
“Even the pits and tables resemble the layout of the trees, widely spaced and in approximate straight lines, sort of a mirror of the famous New York City grid a few score miles away, only in a more natural setting. The boundaries of the campground are visible at the edge of the active maintenance. Beyond the camps the forest is less managed and the underbrush goes unhindered. The effect is sort of like a patch of tall grass that’s been mowed to make a nice permanent spot for a picnic.
“Some sites have wooden platforms with high two by four railings that, I presume, allow canvas tops in the heavier trafficked summer season for flatter, more sanitary (away from dirt and bugs) sleeping than tents would. I can only speculate, but I’ll bet this is a favorite summer camp locale for city kids. The scene must be similar to a huge slumber party in the back yard. This place, when fully populated, would look more like an army bivouac than my idea of a campground. The Dutch would be in awe of its natural surroundings, what with the real forest and everything. Otherwise, it’s a lot like the parking lot campgrounds I often saw there back in 1986. I find it mildly depressing because it reminds me of how far removed from Gaia we’ve come.
“I wonder what percentage of the world’s population has ever seen real natural settings, other than on TV or in pictures? I’d guess far less than ten.”
I’m working my way slowly back, spending most of the day after 10:00 am in libraries, where internet is usually freely available on WY-FY (sp?) and the tables are big and flat. Much to do. This job never seems to lighten up much, although it’s very good to be out from under the big deadlines that so often seem to come with the territory.
Found a serious glitch in the web page last week: you couldn’t order books through it account of a wrong e-mail in one of our codes. It’s fixed now, so give it another try if you were frustrated before. Hell, give it a try whether you tried before or not. The speculation value alone has to be better than a lotto ticket. Remember, I’m trying to change the world, here. How valuable is one of these books going to be if I actually succeed?
06/09/22 Paving Over Biases–Or Not
I’ve made it as far as the Catskills, now. In so doing I’ve come to recognize a strong bias of mine–one many of you may have already detected.
I think overpopulation is a serious problem.
That makes it very hard for me to recognize some of the more forgiving aspects of the world around us. For example, because the back roads here are virtually all little more than driveways accessing the thousands of two and three acre plots that line them, and because I don’t know the routes the locals doubtlessly do to the innards of the remaining natural habitat in which these communities lie, I have a very hard time recognizing the “natural” in them. I then tend to discount the appreciation for nature that the locals have by dismissing it as if it were somehow illegitimate.
The opposite, I’m sure, is more accurate. By virtue of how much of the country out here is completely destroyed by our machines–by us–I act as if residents of urban areas can’t possibly see what it is they’re killing. I’ve always sort of assumed Joni Mitchell didn’t really understand what she was saying when she sang “they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” Truth is, she probably comprehended it far better than I. I have to travel to see the lot. She had to travel to see Paradise (A guess, I don’t know Joni’s history). But that, too, is an oversimplification, for I’ve plenty of lots to look at if I wish.
Yet, whether you see it or not apparently doesn’t stop it.
I’m writing this as I sit beside a nice river that flows, now, mainly to New York City. Here, above the last reservoir before it hits the city’s extended plumbing network, it’s gorgeous. In a few days or weeks it will doubtlessly be heartbreakingly so, for the colors should begin soon. The sound of the highway behind me is only slightly more noticeable than most river access points a traveler like myself would find near my Tahoe home, and I’m sure the locals know of many truly idyllic spots.
Here, today, the horror of my Vision borders on overtaking me. Seeing this vast array of life serves as a strong stimulus to see it all dead once again, as I did for an instant or two in 1986. The memory seemingly has the force of a tidal wave. I have to struggle to contain it.
No wonder I have so much difficulty showing people why I grieve so, why I am so obsessed, how large the impending tragedy will be. How bizarre it is that so much evidence of life should trigger in me such fear of exactly its opposite. No wonder people worry about my sanity.
Yet I see a world which seems insanely bent on staying the course when it can see the course’s eventual outcome as well, logically, as I did, literally. The mind versus the heart. That’s what I think the difference is. For others, it is hard to understand me because their understanding is, at most, intellectual. Mine is visceral.
Maybe you can at least understand a little better why I truly hate this Vision.
How, though, to bring you, who have not–do not–want not–will not–accept it as fact, as I must from having seen it as a reality, if only for a few seconds? How to make you recognize that it is the loss of the life that is the real tragedy I foresaw and therefore always focus on? Securing a place for life itself is the issue. Throwing the lot of all living things in with ours, which seems to be how we can best comprehend it, may not be the only thing that is important, but it is the most important thing.
Sorry. I’m obsessing again, aren’t I.
Got to go.
P.S.: After writing above I stumbled onto a small town, Phoenicia, that reminds me so much of my hometown back in the 50′s that it’s spooky. Everybody greets everybody by name and asks about the family. It’s like Lake Woebegone, for god’s sake. Only difference is that their spirit seems to be far more aware of nature’s value than ours ever was back in the old days.