Tag Archives: Montana

Rainbow Gatherings

The first Rainbow Gathering I went to was in Oregon. I went with M. I hitched from Santa Cruz. And Met M in Eugene. From there it was east to the gathering. Near the town of Prineville.

We knew little about life at a gathering. We camped near the entrance. At this gathering parking was close. We camped alone. And had a hard time finding food.

At this gathering I didn’t explore much. I did talk to the Van Girl. It was a bit awkward. But it went well. We just chatted about what happened before. She asked about some shorts she loaned me. I had dumped them in the river. But I told her I lost them.

There was a big rainbow parachute at the gathering. People got underneath it. And if you pumped it right it would fill with air. Turning it into a giant cloth bubble. It would shrink back down. But pumping it again raised it back.

During the gathering M and I went to town. We weren’t eating much at the gathering. She sent for money from home. It took all day, and we were feeling down. At last the cash came in, and we bought food. We got food to share too.

One of the last nights we were at the gathering I ate some crackers. It was late near a campfire. The crackers were soft. Then I noticed they weren’t crackers. It was meat. I got sick for a couple days. On the way back to Santa Cruz I threw up. Alone with M in a strange town. Bent over throwing up in the gutter. Knowing anyone passing would think I was a junkie. But then I felt better.

The next gathering I went with Sean. I probably should have gone alone. I ditched him the first day. And didn’t see him until the last day. This time I camped with the Krishnas. There was two groups of Krishnas. Those who have no idea who they are, might be surprised to know there are factions.

The gathering was muddy. It rained a great deal. And there were huge flies. There were two access points for the gathering. Both were a good walk from parking.

I remember one area was particularly muddy. The trail became a muddy mess. I am sure people lost shoes. Maybe other things. And it grew and grew. People tried to walk on the edge, or around. But where ever people walked they killed the plants. Then with the water and no plants it turned to mud.

I ran into China at this gathering. I had met her years before in San Francisco. Another one of the many women in my life on whom I had a crush. But for whom I had no chance. I met her in San Francisco A friend and I were playing a joke on people. We walked up and down Haight Street. Have you seen our friends we asked. They have dreadlocks, were wearing hoodies, had a dog, wearing corduroy pants. They may have been getting into a VW van. Also they might not smell so great. Yeah, it could have been almost anyone on part of the street. Which was the joke.

At the gathering we spent time together with a guy who had some special drugs. He also had kava kava, which isn’t a drug. I took the kava kava and a pill. I felt so liquid an d tired and open. But most of all relaxed.

At this gathering I learned how to dig a spring. And before I left I dug one for the Krishna kitchen. Maybe I should write a chapter about Krishna as well.

There was a stream through the middle of the gathering. Some people were floating down the river. A friend of mine talked me into using her raft. But it was also her bed. I wasn’t sure, but she insisted. I’m not sure if I popped it. But it was a fun trip down the stream. I had to take all my clothes off not to get them soaked. Gathering don’t have laundry mats.

Later while digging a spring for the Krishnas I took off my pants. I was in the hole. They would have gotten wet and muddy. One of the Krishnas came over. He told me I should never be naked, because even when we are alone we could offend the sky.

There was another Krishna group at the gathering. A bigger one. I spend time at their tent too. Their guru was at the gathering. Christians also go to gatherings sometimes. They set up kitchens and talk to people about Jesus. Which is cool enough, as long as people don’t feel pressured. Gatherings really are places open to all ideas.

Towards the end of this gathering rumors started. The National Guard were coming. But they never did. The gatherings attract all sorts of people. The common bond is the desire to escape mainstream society. If only for a while. But some have paranoid ideas.

At the end of this gathering I met Pam. I had met Sean the same day, and he wanted to leave. Later I told him. I wasn’t ready. The time passed. I dug the spring. Then it was time to eat. I talked about our plans with a few people. It was getting dark. And I assumed we would leave the next day. When someone told me they found us a ride. It all happened for a reason.

The next gathering was Montana. This was a dry gathering. Having gone with a bus full of people. I camped near most of them. I ate at their kitchen, but also many others. At a gathering there are few rules.

No alcohol. Not in the gathering itself. I haven’t been in years and don’t know if this is enforced. There is a place called A Camp, next to the gathering where people drink. All the food is free. You are not allowed to trade food. And on the trade issue. There is a trade circle. But the use of money is not allowed. This is in part related to Forest Service regulations. At a gathering the Family Circle makes the decisions. This is a meeting held every day, and anyone can attend. Anyone can speak. And anyone can vote. The model is based on consensus. Which sometimes means the most persistent win. This group votes on where the gathering is held the next year.

This is anarchy in the best way. A girl once shared a story. She was walking along a trail. Some people were trying to trade rice. The girl told them you couldn’t trade food at a gathering. But the wouldn’t listen. We can do whatever we want this is a gathering, the retorted. So she picked up the food and walked away. You can’t do that, they yelled.

“This is a gathering, I can do whatever I want,” she replied.

At gatherings people sleep in tents. Or in cars in some cases. Food comes from free kitchens. These kitchens are supported by a range of people. Some people will have small kitchens. One year there was a ramen kitchen. All you need is water and noodles. It was popular. Religious groups serve food. They use it as outreach. But other groups get involved too. And some Rainbow tribes. I have long felt most of the support comes from a few. People who work all year to be able to go to a gathering. I know some owned businesses. They would close every year and go to the gathering.

Trading was done at the trade circle. Greed was one reason there was no money. But I heard many talk about trading up. How they planned to get an item. Or bragging about their trades. You don’t need money to be greedy.

Law was enforced by Shanti Sena. In theory this was everyone. Say you were being robbed. You would shout, “shanti sena.” Anyone who heard would run to your aid. The reality is a small group did most of this work. They had radios like real cops. They walked around like cops. But there were not bad people. And neither are real cops. And sometimes the shanti sena system worked. I do not know much about process. There was little if any crime.

And then there were the real cops. Most from the Forest Service. They were called LEOs by some. Law Enforcement Officers. The most common term was six-up. When you saw a cop you yelled. It was meant to let others know. Some of these officers had been to more than one gathering.

And where do people shit. Well, trenches are dug in the ground.

One event which stands out from this gathering is a fire. It was a small fire in a tree. But a bunch of people raced to the scene. We formed a line for buckets and passed water. The group of us put the fire out.

Also one kitchen was serving seitan. It sounds like Satan. It was good, but only enough for one serving per person. Let me save you from Satan I teased people.

In some ways Montana was a lonely gathering for me. I didn’t feel close to people. There was a cute girl named Dada from Chicago. Again I had a crush on her. But had no chance. This was also the gathering I stayed at the longest. A small group will come to the gathering early. They set up springs and trails. At the end a small group stays to clean and repair the land. The idea is to leave it like it had never happened.

After Montana I went to Boulder.

The last gathering I went to was in Michigan. I was starting to feel like I didn’t belong. Which is my issue and no one else. At this gathering there was a problem with part of the site. We had been asked to move. Most did. Many did not. There was a stream through the site. We had made a bridge to cross. On one side of the river the Forest Service didn’t want us. They said it was an archaeological site. After people refused to move they sent in cops. They put one person in handcuffs. Then people went a bit crazy. Some were trying to form circles around the cops. Which is a bad idea. No one likes to feel trapped. The cops had ATVs. At one point I recall pulling a guy out of the way of a cop on an ATV. In the end everyone moved.

I find it strange. This was the most recent gathering. But it is the one I recall the least. This was my shortest gathering. I had a job waiting for me at home. It was out in the middle of no where. Land is cheap if you care to live there.

What I do recall is having to truck water into the gathering. The water on site wasn’t drinkable. Though I may have drank some. Of course after the gathering I met my ride and went to Boulder.

Gatherings are always held on Forest Service land. Never in National Park. Or Wildlife Refuges or Wilderness areas. No one can speak for the family. So no one can sign a permit. And no permits are ever signed. The family believes it is freedom to assemble. Forest Service considers in an illegal event. They are always free. Another reason not to sign a permit. The permit would come with a fee.

Montana Trip

The bus ride from New York in California is long. On the bus I met a teen guy and girl. We were on the bus together for a long time. The girl was cute. But she was young for me. Sometimes I still like to flirt. I had a practice of the bus. I’d put my bag on the seat. Then I would watch people getting on the bus. But not look at them. When I saw someone I wanted to sit next to, I’d move my bag. Then I would wave and smile to the person. It worked often. Most people will choose an empty seat. And on a bus full on strangers, people go towards someone friendly.

On a long bus ride, getting the right seat-mate is important. Late in the trip there was a child on the bus. It was early morning and most people were sleeping. Or trying to sleep. He was running up and down the isle. “Look it’s the salt flats,” the boy said. It wasn’t cool but I told him, “no kid, those are the cocaine flats.” The mother got upset. But she did make him sit down and be quiet. Which was all I wanted.

Waiting for my bus in Sacramento was interesting. I met a woman who used rubber checks to steal cars. She’d make a down payment with a check. Take the car. The check would bounce and she would be gone. Also I met several people who had just gotten out of jail. Sacramento is now a beautiful city. And downtown has gained life. But these were dark days for the town.

I was back in California. But not for long. I stayed with mother in Stockton. She lived in a dump. Really, it was a dump. As much as she tried to get repairs done. The landlord refused. Until one day she stopped paying rent. It went to court. Mother took pictures of the apartment to show the judge. Not only did mother not have to pay rent. The apartment was condemned.

In Stockton I connected with people going to the gathering. In 2000 it was in Montana. I met up with them in a house in Sacramento. It was a group, including a mother. And some young children. The means of transport was a big yellow bus.

The first leg of the trip was to a festival north of Sacramento. The plan was to spend the night, and move along. But problems started with the bus. Someone had put the wrong fuel in the tank. And it took some time to get things fixed. I’m not sure how they resolved the issue. But we were able to get moving again.

Over the mountains and into Nevada was our path. The next stop I remember was in Winnemucca. We stopped near a park there for a couple days. I believe there was another problem with the bus. Old school buses aren’t known for running without problems. While at the part we took showers. There was a pool in the park. Some of the guys on the bus started hanging out at the skate park. And selling drugs.

Most of the people on the bus felt this was a bad idea. And asking for trouble. Soon the bus was fixed. In fact not a moment too soon. The cops showed up to question the group. They did their thing, nothing serious. And we were back on the road.

Driving along the highway they kept the front door open. Maybe it was the heat. But it was also because of number of them were smokers. They could blow their smoke out the door. Which was important because the kids had allergies to smoke. And it wasn’t a problem, until it was one night. The cat got freaked, bolted right out the door. We stopped the bus, but never found the kitty.

During another stop going through the desert we found a car. It looked abandoned. But there were things inside. A tent and other gear. Things a few of us wanted to take. It did look like the owner had walked away for good. Like the car had been there for a while. But I argued against taking anything. Because we didn’t know the story. Whose things were in the car. Or were the owner was now. We did know it didn’t belong to us. Nothing was taken.

We made a short un-eventful stop in Idaho. The next long stop was Bozeman. The Montana town sits right next to a mountain. We parked at the disc golf course. At one point a man drove up. Then a woman drove up. They drove away in his car. An hour later they came back. And drove away alone.

Wow. Every time I looked up. Wow. All I could think was wow. The mountain was so close and so big. It was almost alarming. While in town I tried to connect with an old friend. But it didn’t work out. I developed a deep love for Bozeman. Besides some great scenery. It also has a good health food store. I always feel better about a town with a good source of food.

The next stop was the gathering. In the future I’ll be sharing a chapter about Rainbow Gatherings. Most of all because I have been to a couple. And they run together in some ways. I once promised a dear friend I would take her to a gathering. And if I ever see her again, she wants to go. Then I will keep my promise. But it is the ever seeing part which I doubt the most.

After the gathering I went to Boulder, Colo. I spent a couple weeks in Boulder, doing yoga and tarot card readings. After Boulder was a brief stop in Stockton. Then a return to Portland.

The Second Trip

Some moments are ripe for change. For me it was the time to leave. My work was closing. The restaurant was set for a remodel. They tore it down. And started from scratch.

My friend Sean wanted to take a trip. I had shared stories about my first trip. And he had done some traveling too. The plan was to go east for the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Pennsylvania.

At first he was asking his girlfriend to come on the trip. And she refused. But then we all watched The Matrix. Then she agreed to go along. But my friend changed his tune. I’m not sure why, but he got upset. She did not join us on the trip. I wonder how things would have been different if she had gone.

We hitched out of Portland on I-84. Eastward we went through Eastern Washington. I’m not sure why, but we traveled through Spokane. If you forget how to pronounce the city name, remember it does rhyme with cocaine.

In Spokane we were spanging at a store. A man came out and talked to us for a while. Said we were doing it all wrong. If we wanted to learn about the world. Get a job he suggest – but not in a mean tone. He said we would learn more working, than traveling. Sean later pointed out we would never had heard his ideas. If we had never traveled to Spokane.

After Spokane our next stop was Missoula. We met some younger people. And they let us spend the night at their apartment. One of the girls I had a crush on. And I was flirting with her, maybe not aggressively. But the next thing I know she is making out with Sean. It upset me. There were and are few women I am attracted to on a real level. She was one of them. Sean later told me he didn’t know I was flirting with her. And I believe he wouldn’t have done something to hurt me. Just our ideas of things were different.

Heading east we got a ride with a crazy couple. I recall stopping in Buffalo, Wyoming. We would all take a walk for a while. She would call a hotline and say she was an abused woman. Then someone would come out and give her gas and money. I didn’t like her taking advantage of services meant to help people. Though she claimed there was a small kernel of truth to her story.

The plan with me and Sean was for us to go to Boulder. I loved Boulder during my last visit. And I wanted to stop again. Also as we got closer I was looking forward to being away from the couple. But then the three of them came to me. They had made plans for us to go all the way to Pennsylvania together. Great, I thought.

At one point the heat was getting to all of us. We pulled off the interstate to go to a lake. But there was a usage fee and none of us had the money. Driving back we crossed through Glendo, Wyoming. They were having a town fair. I pointed out we would be missing a rare event if we didn’t stop. So we stopped.

I ended up singing karaoke with some local teen girls. The only song I recall is, “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…” And Sean won the Watermelon Eating Competition. The guy in the couple said at one point some local boys were giving me the eye. Because I was singing with their girls. But he took off his shirt, showing some mean tattoos I guess. He made it clear he was with me, and they tamed down.

In North Platte, Nebraska, she went to the hospital. Me and Sean walked downtown. Found a pizza place. Got some out of the trash and started back. There was a house with a trampoline in front. I asked if we could jump on it, as a joke. They said we could. But it didn’t feel comfortable, or fun.

From Nebraska we went south. They had to do something in Kansas. While I don’t think brake repair was what they planned. It became unavoidable. The whole van should shake and the brakes made a loud grinding noise. My guess is they had to replace more than brakes. This is where we finally parted ways.

We had to walk through town to find a place to hitch a ride. Doing so we passed some cops at a convenient store. They stopped us a couple blocks later. They asked if we had any weed. No, we told them the truth.

“Then why did we smell weed when you walked by,” they asked.

We explained we hadn’t bathed in a while. Sometimes body odor can smell like weed.

“Nope, we know what weed smells like,” they insisted.

We suggest it was the sage we had burned in the van. Again they insisted they knew the smell of weed. They had to let us go. We asked for directions to Missouri. They informed us they didn’t know how to get to Missouri. So we headed off down the road. They also told us not to hitch-hike. We got lucky and found a ride from a woman at a gas station.

In Saint Louis, Missouri we got a ride with a airport shuttle. The man drove like he was crazy. But it was kind of fun. We made a stop at the Gateway Arch. You can pay to take a ride up into the arch. But neither one of us wanted to spend the money. So we got back on the road. We were hitch-hiking in East Saint Louis, and the sun was going down.

“I think we need to get out of here before dark,” I told Sean. It was a place about which I had not heard good things.

We got lucky on two counts. We got a ride before dark. And our ride took us all the way to Chicago. Then took us on a tour of the city. Finally we got dropped off in Indiana. From there to the gathering was a short trip.

At the gathering I lost Sean right away. And didn’t see him until almost the last day. He was in a rush to go. I said just wait. I wanted to dig a spring. Then I wanted to eat. I had shared our plans with a few people. One of which came up to me. We wanted to go to Niagara Falls. And he had found someone who could give us a ride. The amazing Pam.

We got a ride from the gathering from Pam to the falls. Then she said we should meet her friend Laura. Pam took us to Syracuse, New York. There we met Laura, who is also amazing. Hanging out with Laura and Pam they suggested we meet Shaylyn. She lived in Ogdensburg, New York. Right across the river from Canada. So, up to the far north we went. This is real Upstate New York.

We spent three days in Ogdensburg. And a day in Potsdam, New York. There was a festival in Potsdam. Before going I was singing a line from Into the Woods, over and over. “We’re going to go to the festival, and dance with the prince.”

Laura’s uncle lived in Potsdam. We went to his house. He was building it himself with trees from his land. When the time came to go to the festival Sean stayed behind. It was just me and the girls. There was music, and the street was closed. We were dancing. They said I must be the prince.

I am still friends with Shaylyn, Laura and Pam. In fact they are more like sisters.

Pam gave us a ride to the ferry for Burlington. We crossed the river and spent a couple days. One night we met some girls at a park. We chatted for a while. Then they wanted to buy us some food. We went to the store, and we were walking around. I picked an olive out of the bulk bin and ate it.

“You can’t do that, it’s stealing,” one of the girls freaked. “Here we can buy some.”

I did it again with something else. And she reacted the same. I’ve always viewed it as a sample. As long as you don’t press your luck.

The other thing I recall about Burlington was the pizza. Some people let us spend the night at their place. There was a flier for $1 pizza. It was too good to be true, right? But it wasn’t. We called and ordered a few. They weren’t great pizza. The quality was comparable to Little Caesar’s. Their story was they had an oven and liked to make pizza.

It was in Burlington I parted ways with Sean. There had been problems. He sat on my bag at one point and drenched my socks in a waterproofing chemical. Which made my feet break out in a rash. He would drink all his water, and then want to drink mine. And the girl issue from Missoula. It was better we part ways.

I went to Cambridge for a couple weeks. Another place I loved from my first trip. And I loved it the second time too. I even camped in the same park. For money I did Tarot card readings on the street. I made a friend, and we chatted about philosophy. He remarked how well read I was for my age. I love the Harvard Square area.

But the time came to go home. In the fastest time ever I made it back in about three days. The only problem I had was in Ohio. We were on the interstate and it was getting dark. I told him to drop me off on I-80. But I dozed off. And woke up on a freeway. When I asked he said we weren’t on I-80 anymore. So I told him to drop me off at the next exit.

Getting out I started walking through Shaker Heights. I found a pizza place and got a free pizza. A young man on a bike asked for some. I told him sure, but he didn’t eat pork. It was a pepperoni pizza, but I was picking the meat off. Me neither I explained and told him what I was doing. He did help me with directions and gave me some money for the bus.

At the bus stop another man wanted some pizza. I was getting sick of it already and was ready for someone to eat it. He ate it, and then called me away from my bag a little. He thanked me and said he was homeless. I told him I understood. He asked for money and I told him all I had was $1 for the bus. When the bus came he grabbed my bag and wouldn’t let it go. The bus almost left without me. I banged on the door and told her the story. I gave him the $1 and rode the bus for free.

From Ohio to Chicago, then Minneapolis where my friend from college James lived. I got there at night, and connected with him the next day. When I said I crossed the country in three days, I didn’t count the time with James. He also gave he a hair cut. Then he dropped me off headed west.

In North Dakota the mosquitoes were so bad I had to sleep inside. There was a truck stop with a movie theater. So I slept in one of the chairs. No one noticed me in there, or said anything. The movies were Little Big Foot and a psycho movie about a woman with an unknown stalker.

From there I got a ride with a guy in a U-Haul. He took me all the way into Montana. Even staid the night in a hotel with him. And he took me out to dinner. From Montana I went south through Idaho. Then across Eastern Oregon. From Hermiston, I got a ride all the way to Portland. I was home.

Back in Portland I got a letter from the girls in New York. They had plans, and invited me to join.

The First Trip

My first trip started in Santa Cruz.

The plan was to meet M in Eugene. Then we would attend the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Eastern Oregon.

After the gathering I got sick. I think it was food I ate. Hitch-hiking back we stopped in Willits California. I sat on the curb. And threw up in the gutter. It was cold and wet. And I didn’t feel good.

We got back to Santa Cruz the next day. After a short while we got a ride Seattle with James. In Seattle we stayed with her friends. But we didn’t stay long. We hitch-hiked east from the city. We wanted to go to Lewiston/Clarkston. Two towns across from each other on the Idaho/Washington border.

We headed across the desert heat. M wanted to stay on the interstate. But my idea was a more direct route. Almost right away I could see I was wrong. We got dropped off on a road with little traffic. Washington is the Evergreen State. But not the eastern half.

There were a couple small towns. We made it to one about nightfall. I’m not sure where we camped. The next day we were making little progress. Sometimes on the road, under the sun you can find shade. Even a post can help. A sign creates shade. In the dry landscape out there I thought I was going to die. There was no shade. No moisture.

I remember wondering around feeling out of my mind. Thinking there might be shade in a ditch, or under a leaf. One of the towns was Othello. And we decided to never go to a place with the word “hell” in the name. The highway was number 26. And I still don’t like the number.

At last we got a ride. All the way to our destination. The first day in town we went to a food bank. M went to talk to them and I waited. When they came out he asked us if we were homeless. A question which in most cases results in no food at a food bank. This is because Food Banks don’t stock the foods homeless people need. And homeless people tend to not be able to use the foods they provide.

So a bit nervous, I confirmed we were homeless. To our surprise he put us up in a hotel for three nights. We didn’t have plans to stay, or look for work. We made it clear. But he wanted to help us anyway. It was a good three days. The town itself felt friendly. It had the same feel of a lot of middle American towns.

We did look for work. I still had my ID. But after three days we hitched a ride east. Next stop Missoula. We got a ride from a good guy. But we were hungry. And when we stopped for him to get lunch we ate the whole basket of free crackers. We had no money.

In Missoula I lost my ID. It was rough. We spanged at a store for a while. A woman invited us over for breakfast. And we ate at the shelter. The shelter there felt like ones I have been to in Roseville, California or Santa Cruz, or anywhere. Missoula is a neat town. One place I could see myself living.

We headed out after a few days. Feeling a little more lost. But headed east. It had started to rain, so we left. We went through Wyoming. In Casper someone stopped and offered us a ride to the shelter. When we tried to hitch-hike in town the police stopped. They were friendly. Asked us not to hitch-hike in town. And also offered us a ride to the shelter. The next stop was Boulder, Colorado.

We were there for a while. Took all our things out and dried them in the sun. This became a ritual on our trip. Rain, sun, dry, wet. We spanged on Pearl Street. Slept in a corner by the library. We were happy. Once we asked a cop for money on accident. When we apologized, he replied, “what I’m human too.” He gave us some change. But the rains came and our trip moved along east.

We developed a motto. “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

Across the great plains was a straight shot. We got at least one ride from a trucker out of Limon, Colorado. There really isn’t anything else in Limon.

We stopped next in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another friendly town. But not one we stayed at long. This is where our brief shoplifting career started. We went to the store and then slipped things under the garden fence. Outside we retrieved the items. It was an easy scam. And it fooled me into thinking we could get away with stealing.

Ann Arbor is a college town. It had the same feel as Berkeley and Santa Cruz – and Arcata. I recall going to Food Not Bombs. This organization sets up in a couple different cities. It is like the socialist answer to the Christian soup kitchen. They give food and provide political materials.

From Ann Arbor we continued east. We stopped along the freeway in Ohio. It was a spot where the I-80 and I-90 ran close and paralell. M couldn’t sleep, but she managed to sneak us into a hotel room in the morning. She had found a hotel with a key drop for departing guests. When someone exited she grabbed key and we went into the room. She was good at these things.

When we were going through Portland we slept on Jantzen Beach. She went to a hotel and found left-overs from room service. Then brought them back for us.

After Ohio went passed through Pennsylvania and stopped in Ithaca, New York. We tried our tricks at K-Mart, but they were wise to us. Then I was bold enough to think I could walk out with the bag. It didn’t work. I’m not sure what we were trying to steal. But I store security took me to the office.

The police came and put me in handcuffs. I was upset. Worried about M. I remember crying. They took me to the jail. And fingerprinted me. A judge was going to come and talk to me. The judge wanted to know about M. Did we know anyone? Would anyone be taking care of her? She could see we were alone. And she made me a deal. If I promised to stay until Monday, and then report to court I could spend the weekend with M. And not go to jail.

We thought about running. But the wiser choice was to stay. We knew we would be at a bigger risk if we got stopped again. And homeless people get stopped by the police often.

The weekend was good. Another town. They were beginning to feel the same. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song: “every town is the same to me, with their movies and their factories.”

At court on Monday the prosecution pressed charges for disorderly conduct. I wasn’t charged with stealing. The judge released me on a conditional discharge. And it was one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in my life. I could go, but if at any point in the next year I got a ticket for anything – jaywalking – I would spend 15 days in jail. M and I made our way to the city limits as fast as we could go.

But what a smart move. If I had gone to jail the city would have been paying the bill. And M would have been alone on the street. I believe she knew given the conditions we would leave town. So she saved the city money, and encouraged us to leave with one step.

From there we continued east. The goal was Cambridge,¬†Massachusetts. But along the way we had trouble. Just outside the city is a beltway freeway. All the roads were tollways. We got dropped off at a tollbooth between one freeway and another. And we couldn’t get a ride.

We tried to walk off the freeway, but got stopped. The police drove up behind us and yelled, “get the fuck off the freeway.” We told him we were lost and asked for help. We told him we wanted to get off the freeway, but didn’t know how. He told us to go back to where we were at the tollbooth. Which we did.

In the end we got a ride. But it was the wrong direction. And it was raining again. The ride dropped us in Worcester. We tried to sleep under some trees but we got wet. We sat under the roof of a gas station.

In the morning the lady who opened it was friendly. She gave us some food and hot chocolate. Our things were piled by the door. Once someone looked at them strange. “Their mine, got a problem?” the lady said. She let us sleep in her car for a couple hours. We needed the sleep. Then before we left she gave us some donuts.

M had no sweatshirt because it had gotten soaked. I took mine off and gave it to her. We started to walk to a smaller highway to catch a ride. Someone offered us a ride but M didn’t trust them. Then a guy driving by stopped and gave me a jacket. Later we made it to the on-ramp, the same car stopped again. And M said she didn’t trust them again. So we had to spend the night in Worcester again. It was still raining.

There was a garage or shop of some kind near the road. We walked around back where there were a couple old cars. One truck had the door unlocked. So M and I slipped in and slept on the seat. I felt more in love with her than ever. She was on the side closest to the seat. She was so warm and soft. And I had the stick from the clutch in my back half the night. But we slept and stayed dry. It was a bit of a risky move.

The next day we saw the car from the previous day. We just let it drive past us. In the end we got a ride to where we wanted to go. Cambridge is a cool area. We hung out in the park. And Harvard Square of course. And read at the bookstore. I have M roses. She put them under the shelf and left them. I guess we couldn’t have taken them with us.

In the park we met some odd people. One guy said he once blew a blood alcohol level higher than .50. This means he added, his blood was more than half alcohol. I don’t know if it could even be true. But I did see them mixing ingredients in a bottle to leave in a hole. They were making their own alcohol.

We slept at a park with a fountain. I recall it waking me up when it sprung to life every morning. We went to a Catholic service. It was a good time. We even ventured into Boston. Walking along the street we saw an amazing church. A sign mentioned tours. So we asked for one, and got one. It was so grand and large. We walked around the sanctuary. Then when it was time to leave, the door out seemed so small.

We dried out things here, well mostly. Then it rained and we started for home. In Rhone Island I recall checking one of my notebooks. It had been damp the whole trip. It was so upsetting I just pitched it into a tree.

“There are important things in there,” M told me. At the time I didn’t believe it was true. But now I wish I still had the notebook.

We hadn’t made it far before we stopped to get food. We stashed our things in the bushes and went to a restaurant. We kept a small bag with us. When we returned everything we had left was gone. This meant we now had no blankets. And it was starting to get colder. We wondered for a while confused about what to do next.

Then we met some odd junkies who said they were going to Utah. The woman was friendly. The guy wasn’t so open. They gave us a ride through New York City. We hopped it would be a ride all the way. But they guy kicked us out in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy four people in one car.

So we were out again. No blankets. We tried to sleep. When you get so cold you want to stay close. But also to roll up tight. And you can’t do both at the same time. I know I slept little.

The next day a lady gave us a ride. It was a good long ride all the way to Ohio. I was in the front, and M was in the back. This is normally a safer situation for M. But this case was odd. I was talking to the lady. Then trying to talk to M. But at one point she sat back and I knew she was upset. I figured we could discuss it later.

The lady gave us some blankets. She dropped us off at a gas station. As we got out she came and gave me a big deep hug. And turned and just patted M’s back. I knew I was in trouble.

“Fuck me or buy me a hamburger,” she told me. Turns out I hadn’t noticed what was going on in the car. Every time M tried to talk the lady turned up the music. I was flirting with the lady. Not in the hopes of scoring with her, I was with and loved M. But in a more natural relaxed way.

While still in Ohio the police came while we were hitch-hiking at a tollbooth. He suggested a path to another exit, with more traffic. But it wasn’t passable, so he gave us a ride. We told him about the cop in Massachusetts. “No wonder they get shot all the time,” was his reply.

Crossing Ohio we actually got a short ride from another friendly officer.

In Indiana we stopped in Gary. The truckers got us scared to go outside. They said we would get shot and killed. The road had left us with little energy. So we believed the hype. Instead of going out we curled in the bottom of a phone booth in the building. It has a lock. I locked the door and we slept there. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.

The next day we got a ride from a trucker. All the way to Reno, Nevada.

It was the first time I crossed the salt flats. Waking up in the middle of them is odd. You know it is summer. And it is warm. But it looks like the ground is covered in snow.

From Reno, to Sacramento, to Berkeley. I believe M took the bus home from Berkeley. And I went home to Santa Cruz alone. More alone than ever.

This trip may be the highlight of my life. I learned so much about the country. Some places were smaller than I imagined. And some places were bigger. We live in an amazing country. And it is full of amazing people. Every where we stopped people were friendly and helpful.

This trip emboldened me to take on risks later in life. And it still does.

I remember…

I remember.

The day I knew it was time to move. It was in Roswell, New Mexico. I sat on the park bench as the sun went down. A couple hundred miles away in Lubbock, Texas was my home. I had lived in Lubbock for almost a year.

A year of hot and cold. There were few good moments in my year in Lubbock. But I remember Roswell. Something in me told me it was time to move. I didn’t want to return to Lubbock.

As soon as I got back to town I called my landlord. It felt optimistic. And I remember feeling like my life would be better. I would move. I would get a better job. I would write. Make money. Be happy.

I remember packing up a trailer. And the pain in the ass it was to back up. Almost a two weeks before it was time to go I packed my things. I remember wanting to leave. The heat and the cold. And my crazy roommate.

Do you want to have sex with me? She came in one night and asked me. I did not. And she didn’t seem to want to just accept my answer. Why not she asked.

But as I pulled out of town it was all in the dust. Me, my blue car, my kitty and all my things in a trailer. The drive ahead of me. I remember feeling excited for something new. Something different. Even though I was going back to a place I had been before.

It is a small town in Colorado I remember the most. Salida is an art town in the mountains. And it was an art night when I drove through. A beautiful little town. It made me want to stay. But I recalled the cold winters and snow of Colorado. Besides where I was going would be home. I remember thinking it would be home.

After stopping to visit a friend. And taking time to discover another mountain town I remember driving into Wyoming. The next stop on my agenda was Yellowstone. One of the scenic wonders I had yet to visit.

I remember Yellowstone. It was a special place. And the Grand Tetons. Someone once told me tetons comes from a word which means breasts. The French named them.

After a couple hours in Yellowstone I was ready to continue. I remember wanting to stop in Bozeman and Missoula Montana. For the whole trip I slept in my car. I remember waking up to the beauty of nature outside my window. It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold. The road is so free. In my heart I sometime wonder if the road it my only home.

Bozeman is where I did laundry. And I shopped at a small co-op in Missoula. How did you find us, the clerk asked me. Google Maps. Small towns like Missoula and Bozeman make me miss the days I remember in a small town growing up. I feel so alone in the city. But I have lived in small towns recently and I remember feeling alone in them too.

All I remember of the last couple years is feeling alone. Through the hot and cold.

I remember driving through Idaho. There was a dead deer in the road. I had to drive so it would pass under my car. But it hit my exhaust and broke it. The next morning in a Walmart parking lot I discovered the damage.

Sometimes the universe looks kindly on me. This was one of those moments. In the parking lot was someone who knew how to weld. All he needed was some equipment. They called around and found a shop. We drove over to the shop and he was able to fix my exhaust. I paid him, but the shop owner took no money from me or my handyman savior. The whole ordeal cost me less than $100.

I remember getting back on the road. I knew it wasn’t far. My plan was to drive along the north side of the Columbia. Interstate 84 runs along the southside, it is faster. But I wanted to see the river. To be able to stop and take pictures. I remember some bikers I met along the way.

They were hitch-hiking and I stopped to offer what help I could. They wanted a ride, with their bikes. They said the wind was too much for them to ride through. Not having the space I had t refuse. But I suggested riding at night would be easier.

You see I told them, the land heats the air and it rises. Then air from the ocean, which is cooler, comes rushing to fill the vacuum. But at night, the air above the land will be cooler.

The sun was beating down. The river was full of wind boarders. I remember driving along the curves of the road. My camera battery was dead so I didn’t stop much. And every mile I got closer to Vancouver I remember feeling excited about the life to come.

In Vancouver I would reconnect with old friends. I would make new friends. I would get a good job. I would make money. I would be happy. I remember being so hopeful. So eager for it all to begin.

I remember sending text messages to a friend. I am on my way. I remember thinking I would see her soon. It would be the next day, or maybe the same day. After all the miles. She didn’t live so much further for me to go see her.

I remember driving through Washougal for the first time. Turning onto Interstate 205, and then Route 500. And I must have done something wrong because I ended up at the mall.

When I got to my new home, my friend opened the door with a smile. She has the same stunning beauty of the actress from Portlandia. “Put a bird on it,” I told her.

At last I was here. I remember feeling relived. Almost feeling happy. Her children and some neighbor kids helped me unload and move my things into the room. And then I settled into life in Vancouver.

 

(Post Script: This was written as part of an exercise from a new writing book I bought: Room to Write, Ronni Goldberg. I will post more as I work through the book. The exercise was to write something based on memory. I know I have already been posting a lot of memory stuff. I wanted this to be different, so I choose something recent.)