fear the mind killer

or silence = death.

this we learned in the 80s under a different plaque. our generation our queer generation learned that health, health care and human rights are intertwined. is it any wonder that we continue to refuse to remain silent. that we already know our silence, our complacency to obey = death?

i’ve been sporadically watching pose, and i can’t help but acknowledge so many similarities between the two pandemics. who uses safe practices, who fights for what, what gets shut down, delays in treatment and care, who does the care work, inept government….

we will wear masks we will social distance. we will care for our communities, but that does not mean we will obey. we have learned how to care how to protect and rebel at the same time.

since i started solo adventuring the one consistant question was about fear and safety: wasn’t i afraid, a woman alone is so vulnerable, would i carry a gun/knife/pepper spray, and so many what ifs. in response i would throw statistics around like women being safer the further they get from home. and men are more likely to experience “stranger danger”. and i would get funny unbelieving looks, like i lived in a whole other world. and now i totally agree with them. i do live in a whole other world. i learned that the fears they name say more about them.

i refuse to live in a world that controls peoples’ bodies, specifically non-straight-white-male bodies, the standard on which all else is measured and policed by. p.s. also a huge part of why i am vegan, their control of lives include all lives human and non-human, civilization vs nature.

as i write this, we are in at least our 5th month of a global pandemic, a huge economic depression, and people are rising up in the streets in protest of police violance: state sponsored corporate backed violence against the people of this country, specifically black and brown folks. the violence against people coming up from the global south is a whole other form of violence just as hanis and dispicable. and to be honest, this is just the kind of violence radical environmental and animal rights activists have been warning about since 9/11 and the enactment of the patriot act.

the common thread in all this that pulls at the fabric of the people is fear. if the powers that be get enough white folks to believe that their individual lives are in dangered by certain folks, or “our way of life” is in jeopardy by having certain people living amongst them, then they can control people on both sides of that fear line. if we live in fear of getting sick, or unable to feed and house ourselves and our families (however they are defined), of the police (and all other uniformed milatary like ice and homeland security). if we fear all these things, our basic ways of life really: health, safety, security then they can control us and force us to obey. or so they think.

and all this pisses me off!

it is the same tactic used to keep women, all who identify as female, from adventuring outside of their assigned place in the world. women aren’t suppose to love science and mathematics or travel the word and explore alone, or without men, or at all really. if we were encouraged to, our pant pockets would hold more than a tube of lipstick. we are also not suppose to love and support one another, but stay isolated and compete for each little morsel tossed at us, and be grateful for that crumb

this tactic of fear mongering mixed with lies and keeping everyone off balance and not knowing what to trust or who to trust, we know who not to for sure, but who can we turn to for good solid information to make the best decisions for our families, our communities. and when this lack of trust gets so widespread and so deep in rips our ability to be good and active citizens to pieces. we struggle to keep the worst out instead of the best in. and that, my friends is the end of democracy in action!

so what to do.

well this whole tirad started in my head in march when i couldn’t figure out why, in all the suggestions and guidlines from the cdc and who started coming out, i couldn’t find one article on suggested ways to build one’s immune system for this disease. so i started going back through my herb notes and other health resources for respiratory support. they were saying people who they thought were at risk for dying from covid, but not how to prevent it. aka we don’t have a pill to sell you yet, so stay afraid. so i started running again, keeping specific herbs and foods to support my immune system stocked, keep my anxiety down, and drinking lots of fluids. my routine has adjusted and changed as the seasons move. more than anything, i am doing all i can to keep my stress down, but my senses alert.

we don’t just need to build up our bodies, buy we also need to build up our local communities, local economies, our local water supplies, food chains (distribution, farmers/growers, small local stores, mercados). we need to remember the healing powers of movement, herbs, being in nature/a part of nature, food, water, the lessons of our ancestors. this moment in time has shown us not where we are weak, but who is most vulnerable, where we need to focus our resourceswe need to return to cooperative communities and let go of the false promises of capitalism. then maybe we can finally have the democracy we were told we have.

and we need to laugh as much and as often as possible

so, i dare say, take the power back! get healthy, stay healthy. and then when the cops chase us, we will have the strength to stand strong and force them back. the pandemic, the depression (they call a deep recession), the fights in the streets for black-lives/against the police state, climate chaos…all this is actually the perfect recipe for the revolution.

adventures with covid-19

it may seem odd to think about living during a global pandemic as being an adventure, but its helped me move through it this way. it is an event that is changing how we organize our lives, interact with one another, and how we think about the ways we move through our lives: physically spacially spiritually thoughtfully intentionally, who we were before and who we hope to be after. how will the adventure effect us on the other side.

part of this being an adventure, perhaps, is choosing some kind of agancy in how i respond, aka choose my adventure. i am somewhat fortunate to, despite my great slacker tendencies, have a job in an essential business that is a co-op and not a corp. so i can still work and have a choice not to. i live in a state with a proactive governor who responded quickly, so there were/are resources available for people. hell i even bought a nice old truck just as businesses were being shut down. this huge piece of the adventure totally effects the choices i make as i continue in this adventure.

another aspect to this adventure in covid, for me, is i didn’t actually think i was going to experience this part of the climate crisis. sure i knew i would live to see the rise of the calamaties. i acknowledge that we are, and have been experiencing a great deal already: the rising seas, the increased intensity of storms and weather patterns, global political unrest. i guess i just didn’t think it would all start to happen all of a sudden so soon. i should have. i’ve been keeping track of this for long enough. i suspect the reader in me expected all the things to happen in chapters, or acts like a book or movie, not simultaneously…silly human.

a key part to how i am deciding my adventure is my level of privilege: a healthy (if a young 52 years), white, can pass as cis woman when people don’t identify me as male, i have a good grasp on having a healthy diet, access to clean water (for all the reasons this is important), fairly good mental and emotional health, have supportive people in my life… i have continued working so far, family took me in to recoup fund after bike tour so i have a roof over my head. and if weather really does play a part in this, we were already experiencing spring as it came to the southwest, so, that.

how is this situation impacting me? superficially i havent’ been hiking or exploring the area as much since places have closed down. i haven’t been able to go visit family in the spring. my skin is raw and cracked from hand washing and sanitizing. my thoughts have been derailed from projects to reflection and re-evaluating my health and well-being. the last thing i want to do is bring anything home to those who have graciously opened their home to me.

one thought loop i can’t get out of my head is reflecting back to the start of the hiv pandemic. who didn’t want to close the bath houses? or not wear condoms/practice safer sex? who was in denial? all the conspiracy theories and false narratives that fed fear and hatred. much of it continues today in various pockets. i don’t have any deep thoughts here, but i do recognize some serious similarities when i see white men not wanting to be told what to do.

my deeper thoughts are for the present future. now that i have woken up just a little more, i believe this virus will be with us for a while with or without an immunization, which who really trusts the government to inject anything into our bodies right now? and that immunization won’t be effective against the next big epidemic that comes our way, and one will. sooo wtf?!

well one day as i was walking, i remembered the words that came to me while camping by an alpine lake several years ago: “get lean, get clean, get strong”. i’ve pondered this several times, tossed it aside when inconvenient, but mostly ran away from it. but now? now i am embracing it, and it is probably the basis for how i am participating in this adventure.

almost as soon as this started around here, late february/early march, i started a running program. at first just getting out for a bit, then started the couch to 5k program, and this sunday the 10k program. it feels good to be running again. i don’t know how many times i’ve tried a new running program and been sidelined from an injury or pain. but this time everything has been good so far. well this week i had foot pain, so i am backing off a little….i’m susceptible to tight calves that lead to foot issues.

i’m cleaning up my diet a little more. it was pretty good. i haven’t had pizza or burritos since i left oregon (this is big, those were basic food groups for me). the only beer i’m consuming i get to-go from local breweries and limit my intake mostly because i’m one and drunk now). most of what i am cleaning up is what goes in my mind and heart. and this, i believe is what getting clean and strong is really about: clean thoughts and strong heart (lean is excess baggage and minimalist life not food and body so much). learning this is a heart/respiratory virus, i boosted foods, herbs, and activities that support my body, and continue to do the research.

i’ve learned to reach out to people when i feel the wave of an overwhelmed heart begin to shut me down and allow forms of ineffective fear creep in. i’ve made deals with a friend that we do this for one another. for the biggest fear i have around this? we won’t learn from it, as a culture. we will expect an ineffective failed state to give us a magic pill that makes everything go away, and that won’t help us one bit when the next pandemic blows into town on the wings of a virus that is typically kept in check with the delightful balancing act of biodiversity. my next great fear is that we will just go back to the old normal that continues to exploit the global resources that we have no business messing with the way we do.

but when these fears aren’t pinning me to the floor with only the stark white ceiling to respond to, i am excited and inspired for not just what comes next, but all the creative ways people are responding, acting, choosing their community adventure.

examples you ask? well how about biking and running communities doing virtual races/runs/rides? using these as fundraisers for community needs? at the co-op i chat with people (using physical distancing) that are getting groceries for neighbors/family/friends. i hear podcasts by herbalists that are sharing what they know about these kinds of illneses and what people can do for themselves and those in their community…so community action, that is what excites me. that we can do deeper community organizing and care work. to know what our neighbors need in a time of crisies, whatever that crisis is.

one action the federal government has inspired me to dig even deeper into, is local consumption. now, if you know me this is something that is always on my radar regardless of the adventure i am on: food, bike shops, bookstores, newspapers…so i have kind of made a deeper resolution to up my local game. i’ve been doing research on when i “need” certain things where will i get it.

so to sum it all up, like all adventures i embark on, this one too is about going deeper into myself to learn more about my personal edges. to learn more about myself and how i interact with the world i am a part of, the community that i am interdependent with, what skills i need to learn or become better at, or didn’t even know was a thing to know. these are the things i am excited to bring forward with me, what about you? what changes are you making that you hope to bring to post adventure?

time

there was a moment this summer as i was contemplating if, indeed, time was flying while i was having fun or the tough days were dragging on. neither was true. time was just time and it felt natural (?) normal (?). i don’t know the word for it since time was created by time ass capitalist to measure and value labor (aka stolen time). so, since this is a leap year, and we just celebrated the extra day added to febuary, i though i would use this time to write about my thoughts on time.

whenever people hear about how i have chosen to live these past couple years, i get a range of responses, but a consistent one is “wow! you are living the dream!” and i must agree that i am. i am living my dream, for when they are white men with wife and child/children on a day hike, i really doubt that i am living the dream they imagine. i worked hard at carving out the many layers of living a life that gives me the space to be who i am as much and as often as possible, and part of that is a type of buying back my time. of owning my time. and in this process i have learned that the measurement of time by european capitalist methods is bullshit. i mean it serves a function and that function is bullshit. and i would like to point people to one of my current favorite books: a history of the world in 7 cheap things by raj patel and jason w. moore, a book i will be referencing a great deal in the foreseeable future.

let’s see if i can explain.

as a person who likes to hike/backpack/bike-tour on multi-day/week excursions (not thru-hike where i set an alarm to get up freaking early to make the miles to make the finish line by a finish day), i’ve found time moves (evolves? rotates?)…naturally. i wake as the sunrises, and fall into bed as the sun sets. sometimes a little earlier or later depending on which i wish to witness. or more simply, i sleep when i am tired. i eat when i am hungry, i race waterfalls, admire sunsets, and am amazed at every sunrise i get to greet…no clock needed. i have even been known to wake, pack-up camp just to decided to stay for another day and explore a side trail or listen to a river.

some days can be arduous, especially the full month + that i had heat exhaustion pretty much every-fucking-day, but they didn’t feel long, just exhausting. and those moments when the views blew my mind, and the water from a wild and scenic river was the sweetest water ever…they didn’t seem quick and fleeting…and the people i got to meet were a kind of elixir.

here is what i have observed, that time is just time. that thing we are told, and i have believed, that as we age time flies. or time flies when we are having fun. or a work day is just dragging on and on when it feels like drudgery. and mondays suck. but it doesn’t, or it doesn’t have to. my theory is that when we sell our labor to soul sucking jobs to pay for our lives in the hopes that when we get a vacation or we get to retire, and finally live our dreams. (p.s. i don’t know many in my generation and my socio-economic group, that believes we will get to retire and if i get to do what i want to make money, i don’t want to actually retire, but that is a different post)….wait where was i? when we get to live our lives as we want, with agency and without doing work for people who go against our values, morals, and sense of well-being, and we have the time and space (mentally, physically, emotionally) to do the things that excite us and feed our creative and spiritual nature…well time is just time. there is no need to measure it, sell it, borrow it from pto (i mean think of it, we have to borrow against pto-personal time off when we are sick, want to go to a family event, parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends to school events for their kids, experience a solar eclipse, go on a bike trip…what the fuck, its our personal time all the time! you just pay us for some of it and then we get to eat and have a place to rest…) sigh.

but then i sit and meditate. ever sit and meditate for say 5 minutes? i follow my breath. i count in/out 1, in/out 2, etc then my mind is off and running down some rabbit hole of thought so i bring it back. one, two, three, four…just need to get to….shit! back to one… and those 5 minutes feel like hours. other times, i sit and my knees don’t hurt, i follow the breaths, i count to 10, and suddenly the bell sounds that 5 minutes are up. already? didn’t we just start? wow. so even all these times when doing something i choose to do (could be running, or writing, or whatever) measured time always seems different. even running a specific distance: one mile, 5, 10…) it should always feel the same, but it doesn’t. easy days go quick and challenges take forever….

my point? hmmm.

mindfulness. mindfulness is the point. it is always the point…(and “time” is maybe suppose to be measured on a larger scale as in seasons and solar rotations, phases of the moon and stars…

on this venture, time didn’t drag or fly or anything. i was doing what i want with my life and that is the point. sure, would i have liked more times with my friends? of course. would i have liked fewer moments of struggling with heat and elevation gain? yes. but i got to choose when to rest, when to stop for the day (as long as i had a place to pitch a tent), i got to choose the difference between pain and suffering. between how much i wanted to push myself in a given moment, or rest an extra day if i needed. i didn’t feel the need to go to work “sick” because i was out of pto or i needed the pto for a specific reason or i was out of pto because i was caring for a sick comrade.

this isn’t a piece of how capitalism sucks, but it does. we wouldn’t be measuring time if we didn’t need to sell it every since the feudal lords no longer allowed us peasants to grow/control the foods we plant on the lands we occupy.

i know, i know that capitalism is associated with democracy, but i regret to inform you that as far as labor goes, it is not. all we have is time, a life, this life and we must live it as we see best for us. the choices on how we live our lives needs to be ours and how we want and feel the need to contribute to our communities. and i am not talking about quantity of time we have with this life, but the quality.

i want my time to be measured by how i interact with nature and my community. like now is the time to plant….and harvest….and gather the medicine for….and to give thanks to the rain and sun and moon and all the moments that feed us and care for us and that acknowledges the transitions of our lives, not based on time but on when we are ready to walk, and to love, and to share knowledge, and to die. that we have never died too early or too late (i.e. suffered unnecessarily), but we lived our lives to the fullest. we live mindfully or perhaps it is heartfully.

so yeah, time shouldn’t be so complicated. if you have started a job and it feels like it is stealing your life and your time, quit! or go find another job then quit. well i guess i am choosing to live my life with limited funds, but wealthy beyond belief with experience and friends and family. the more i live the more i learn the less i “need” or maybe it is want.

the last 2 years sometimes felt like so much more than 2 years; they felt like a lifetime, because truly i have lived a full lifetime in these moments. i have changed in ways i can not imagine or explain. my patience for bullshit and excuses of ignorance for benefits is exhausting. but my love for life and relationships has expanded in ways i can not imagine. some of those relationships lasted for just a few hours, or a couple days, yet they have have fundamentally changed and my life will never be the same. and the people truly ranged from living on the streets to being financial advisors to the extremely wealthy, all of which have contributed to and reinforced my theories of the american economy.

so, back to time. i love measuring time by the sun and moon. by the tides. the windy season (as it is now in las cruces). the rainy season. the winter sports season. biking time (i.e. all the time), celebrations time, time for ceremony….none of which we need a clock or watch (what we used before cell phones), or a calendar. all we need is to pay attention. observe. be mindfull. or that is what i observe when i am mindfully paying attention to my life…

eugene one more time

i returned to eugene just a couple days before the uber-popular holiday of thanksgiving, a holiday that for as long as i can remember has always troubled me. it doesn’t take a genius historian to recognize the lies, the fallacies, the roust of the story we have been told since we were wee ones. yet and but it seems so benign as far as american celebrations go…wanting to gather friends and family to give thanks. if that is the reason for the gathering, why was it always so damn stressful? why do grocery stores and markets depend so heavily on the capitalism that week and especially that wednesday before? and then there is black friday the day after…all so consumer and money driven. gather the crew and spend spend spend and the capitalists give thanks.

i feel like if i made this post during the depths of “the holiday season” people would shut down or get defensive, and there would be no discussion or giving of space to question why and how we celebrate what during this time of year, and as we are doing more questioning in this country about how and why we celabrate events such as columbus day and moving it to indigenous peoples day, we can do the same with the last thursday of november (a month to celebrate the people native to this land). and i have to say, my favorite moments for this time have been the many friends-givings i’ve gone to or hosted over the years.

this year, in eugen, was a pretty special one. i spent it with 2 people who have also been questioning how to mark this time of year; a time that has been marked by countless cultures through the ages for many reasons. it is also marking the ending of the adventure that started two and a half years ago when i left oregon, along the coast, sent off by these same 2 humans. this wasn’t planned, but that is how great moments come to be when i just let them, and it is in retrospect that i realize just how right it was for us to be together during this time.

we decided that we would try and go camp somewhere, make it just a simple celebration of all we have to be grateful for individually and collectively. one buddy found the last remaining cabin on the coast and they snagged it! yahoo! we just needed to make it over the coastal range where snow was called for. it was a cold morning, and we did see snow up on the peaks through the whole journey, but when we got over the costal range we came across a managed herd of elk in a meadow, a cleared space from ranchers come to settle the area back in the 1800s. we had a snack as we watched the herd graze, then it was off to the dunes and the ocean. it was sunny and that kind of warm/cold one can find along the shores of oregon. so we wondered in the sunshine, ate more snacks, watched the surfers, and smiled as the sun began to decend on the horizen indicated it was time to go check into the cabin and set up, start a fire of our own, before the sun moved across the horizon and out of sight. but not out of mind.

one of things i’ve been learning more about as i spent more time with these wonderful humans is about the sun and the moon, its movement and how different cultures have marked time, space, and ceremony by its phases and placement in the sky in relation to life on this planet. the solstice is one event that we all agree is meant to be acknowledged in some way, but what is it really marking? something we had been thinking was that both summer and winter solstice, in the western world mark the first of summer or winter, but really, when one considers the way the sun travels, it is the mid point of summer and winter. for example, the first day of winter marks the time the sun starts winning the battle over darkness and we get longer “days”. in the pacific northwest, this was vital to our mental health. so much to unlearn and re-educate myself on, for “traditional” cultures have acknowledged this movement of the sun and seasons differently, and i feel deeply moved to learn the ways of people who lived based on the land/place.

~~~

once our abode for the night was set up, we poured some wine and we all kind of went into ourselves. i contemplated all the ways i’ve concidered celebrating thanksgiving. once, i heard that it had been suggested that it be a fasting holiday instead of feasting, so i’ve considered that. i’ve read the thanksgiving “prayer” of the haudenosaunee (iroquois nation) while preparing food for folks to come over. i’ve spent the day in solitude, meditating. but how do i want to keep moving forward in how i mark the movements of time and of the seasons, for lately i have been considering that the only constant is movement not change, but that is another discussion for another time.

we did make a lovely simple meal together that night. we gathered around the heater in the cabin. we read (one worked on school projects), and we chatted until it was time to snuggle into our sleeping time. and i slept, i believe we all slept and dreamt deeply .

the morning brought a slow walk around the lake our cabin overlooked, staying in the sun as much as possible with our mugs of coffee. watching the sun hit the cold air as ducks swam out of the rising fog. we made it back just in time to pack up for check out, and it was off to find a sunny picnic table to make the pancakes and snausages (vegan sausage). we all took turns flipping flapjacks for ourself or one another, basking in the warmth and the view of another lake amongst the sandunes separating us from the pacific. and then it was time to point roscoe (the latest adventure vehicle in their lives) back to eugene for a(n) (anti) black friday party. it was a perfect celebration for us, for me. old friends. new friends. good times.

this was just so damn perfect on so many levels. i have taken this gift i have given myself, of walking away from one life, to contemplate how i really want to be in this world. i turned 50 during this time (a cold winter night alone in colorado before i made the wonderful friends i would soon know). i’ve visited the friends and family that have helped me and encouraged me to be me as long as i’ve known them. i have made so many new friends and gained a faith in so much beyond myself, but not in any organized faith. all things i will talk more about as i keep unpacking what these past 2-1/2 years have meant to me, the foundation this time has created for how i want to move in my life.

today i am finding a new place in the desert southwest in a small city on a few boarders with such open expansiveness that there is room to contemplate so much. and everywhere i go there is proof of all the people who have moved through these lands for centuries. i couldn’t be happier. what a wonderful place to keep working on decolonizing my life. one of the many ways i am doing this is by trying to read as many people of color as possible, mostly women and queer folks. same for the music i listen to, movies, and food too. one truth i have come to recognize, and am willing to talk “come out as” now is i am calling myself a writer, finally. one partner i had decades ago told me a would write a book one day. i though she was had no idea who i was. sure i could write little article to go with photos if no one else was available for the paper. now here i am working on a book, a story, that keeps getting bigger and bigger. than i can actually see as becoming a series. and there is more, another big big project, but i will wait to release that when it has more form.

some resources for ya, if you are considering the disconcerting feelings that come up specifically around thanksgiving (also known as thankstaking or the deeper truth of thankskilling, i’ll post some at the end. i am not saying we need to stop celebrating thanksgiving. i do think the roots are beautiful; to give thanks for all we have done to prepare for the cold months of limited resources that allows us to go in and repair, heal, create…it is a gift. even if we change nothing in how we gather, it is important to know what and why we are gathering…i think.

thanksgiving toolbox

anything by the tierra incognita media

read indigenous peoples history

follow indigenous people hike

these are just a few that can lead you down the interwebs to so much more. and if you have favorites, share them. let’s lift up their voices!

eugene

so much has happened. eugene, surprisingly inspiring for me. i spent 3 months here, and once i gave up on the idea that i would or should get a job, i welled up with creative ideas. plus, PLUS, i arrived to adventure buddies, and adventure we did!

first off, i don’t want you think i barged into my friends’ lives for 3 whole months. i have my faults, but that i did not do. i did reach out to the local hostel and did some work-trade for a bunk, so i guess i did sort of get a job, but it was 4 hour shifts 5 days a week, so not so bad. and it was super easy for me to request to work/not work certain times to go adventure. also, i met even more people moving around this world in different ways for so many reasons, reasons i will be exploring in many ways.

as for the creativity that opened up in me once i recovered from logistics hangover, i am still amazed at how much i am giving in to it. it could be the space i am creating and plans i am laying out so that i don’t spend precious mental space worrying and fretting. but i have started having dreams at least once a month about ideas and directions that i want the book/story/potential series i am working on. things i haven’t been able to work out during waking hours.

i have also taken the time to teach myself how to draw, or should i say let youtube videos teach me to open up to the possibilities that i can create with pencils and pens..maybe water colors. i have never let myself do this. art supply stores intimidate me. i have looked at art classes, but was shy and afraid of not being good enough to share, and they always make you share.

so i have taken one of my dry bags and filled it with my journal, sketch pad, and a pen and pencils…my little art bag. it is so fun. sometimes when i am on a hike or some such fun activity, i don’t always want to write, or the words won’t come to describe my thoughts and feelings, so i draw it. i has effected all aspects of my expressive outlets. my photography benefits as i adjust for lighting or looking for the small details. same for my writing. if i am imagining a scene to write about, i can sketch out not just what i see, but people, lighting, feeling tones for the place come to life sort of speak and fill in what i’ve been missing. its great! also, it is yet one more thing that i can use to procrastinate what i am “suppose” to be doing now. so win win!

adventures! so many!

first, i got there and eugene was having a late summer pride event! it reminded those of us who came out in the 80s and 90s of those smaller community prides we use to have. ones that were free instead of 20 bucks or more and use local area entertainers instead of big names that blow the community’s budget for other things. i do appreciate both for different reason, but definitely love the smaller community feel.

my fellow bike adventure friend took me on a bike path tour one day. showing me how to get to the river trails, what streets are good for getting to favorite breweries and bike spaces. then he left to visit family and left the two of us alone to mischief. the other pal in this crew is more of a walker, so we walked all over the town. he showed me how to get around to the parks and buttes to walk and wonder. we went to the museum, heard some music, and he introduced me to some of the friends the two of them had made since being in eugene. this was the first time the 2 of us had so much time with just the 2 of us, that we really got to know one another even deeper. such a special time i can’t even express.

the adventures i had in eugene were mixed with solo and buddies. it has been so long since i had an adventure buddy, i forgot how much fun it could be. the adventures i had with my friend in kansas city was remarkable, but it was piece of my longer plans. also, with all the flooding, the planing was different. so planning micro-adventures with someone was just so fun.

eugene does have a wonderful public transit system that reaches out to nearby communities, including the mckenzie river ranger district, so i took a couple trips out there to wonder the river woods and hot springs. we took the bus down to cottage grove to bike the covered bridge route and play around those little towns. all for the cost of a regular bus ride of $1.75 or $3.50 for a day. i also rode my bike out to springfield fairly often for the fun of riding the river trail out to have a beer or for big queer yoga on friday nights.

i can’t say enough just how beautiful this valley is. how easy it is to so any different unique nature places from ancient forest to high deserts and mountains. hot springs and ice cold rivers.

i do have to say getting back to the trails up and around the sisters wilderness was pretty great. my buddies had decided to get in a backpacking trip before school kicked back into gear for the year. so we decided to rent a car and i would drop them off and we’d camp out together for a night. then i would get another car and pick them up and we’d have a little hike and adventure on the way back. there had been a fire recently where i walked them into the start of the loop they were doing. it was eery for sure, but still so beautiful. i feel fortunate to have experienced this forest in both situations, and to see the freshness of the fire mixed with the growth already returning. it was so soothing to be back up there smelling those piney forests and absorbing high altitude sunshine. catching the views of the first snow setteling on the peaks of the sisters’ peaks.

sitting by those high altitude lakes i was able to do more internal exploration of what is my responsibility to these areas that i both recreate in, and have reverence for. it is where i am refreshed, renewed, and fills me spiritually. it is a deep relationship that i feel whatever “wilderness” i am in, and it should be, needs to be a reciprocal relationship. so what is my responsibility? what do i have to give back to these forms of kin?

settleing in eugene for the winter is certainly a tempting thought, but there are many dark sides to this little city, besides nike. certainly here was the first time on this trip i truly felt unsafe. it was the topic of many conversations i had here. it was a tough topic to talk about because it could go in many ways and we wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren’t talking about the fear of the high rates of houseless folks living on the streets and in tents by the river. it is mostly in white men and not just the drunken frat boys. there is a high rate of people on meth and other drugs that are unpredictable who will do about anything for their next fix. it is a complicated topic that goes deeper into a myriad thread of our social ills in this country.

on the flip side, i think that being in eugene was more of a coming home than being in portland for a few weeks, but we’ll talk about that when i do a portland adventure wrap up. but that will be after our overnight to the coast #optoutside!

philly

where to start.

i could go the linear way…today and the next…i could group it into activities…my thoughts i had there…humm

well let’s start with getting oriented and see what happens.

i left off with the arrival to philly, getting the basic rulelessness of philly and eating dive take-out chinese food that really hit the spot. i met the roommate and the house doggo. we caught up a bit before it was passed time to get some sleep.

i woke and listened to the city around me, then i got a text from with-in the house. it surprised me at first, but eventually i came to enjoy the quiet interactions from the comfort of soft clothes. usually it was an update on work schedules, ideas for the daily activities…

everyone went to work and it was just me and mr. dog. to get my bearings i went for a walk around the neighborhood. i found the local punk coffeeshop/cafe with lots o’vegan options (p.s. i really enjoyed this place and it was below a super cool bike shop that mostly i watched people of color go up and down the stairs with every day bikes and wearing regular clothes). i also found the all vegan donut shop, (yum), and the local co-op that i had heard a great deal about (not all good not all bad).

at some point i texted another friend of mine that i lived with for a minute back in the portland years who had moved to philly. we made plans to get together while i was in town. we had a good catch-up and they let me know about a couple of actions happening around the city that i would end up going to.

this first day (and most days i was there) the sun was shining. it was hot, but not humid and super hot. this part of west philly reminded me of portland 10 to 15 years ago. especially north portland. perhaps it is because of the cusp of rapidly encroaching gentrification of a historically black neighborhood. i could see myself trying to find a way to spend the summer here. these first few days it was super tempting to look at job and housing options for the season.

that night we met some of my friends’ friends for happy hour at the taco place and chowed on vegan nachos and margaritas…yum. the conversations were fun and lively with lots of laughter and smiles. it is always nice to get to know my friends other friends, especially friends who don’t live in the same place i do…to know friends are well cared for and loved is a wonderful feeling to me. also, one of the women hails from russia. while in n.c. i read part of a book on the oral history of punk music in russia that my friend did the cover art for. she actually knew some of the bars and places in the book. it was a super cool connection.

our days together were spent in lovely relaxed (to me anyway) ways. we went to the museum. saw a wonderfully disturbing exhibit as well as the rocky statue and footprints. it was remarkable to me how many people come to the museum just to see the rocky statue, so much so they moved the statue from the top of the stairs (you know where he ran up in the first rocky) to down and off to the side of the stairs. we walked the historic streets of philly (once crashing the filming of some t.v. show we had never heard of). we talked and caught up on what’s been happening in our lives, our minds, our hearts. we ate good food, consumed good beverages, and had lots of fun.

the moments we were off doing our own things, i walked the streets of philly, explored so many varied parts of histories that philly holds from pre-revolution to social justice actions, including an action against ICE that i went to with the other friend i have here. all the walking and wondering, the pouring over maps that listed important names as the names of parks or centers: malcolm x, paul robeson, du bois, MOVE, and mumia just to name a few. i tried to get to the edgar allen poe house, but just couldn’t get make the time for all the things.

one day i was walking around the historic area where independence hall is and the liberty bell, historic homes that had “servants quarters” i.e. slaves. i rounded a corner and spotted the “first bank” of the u.s. it stopped me in my tracks and i read the plaque. it talked about how it was proposed as a way to pay of the huge debt that this new founded country now had due to the war for “independence.” within just a few blocks i would run into at least the first 5 banks in the country. the last couple i ran into trying to escape the area. i was overwhelmed by the obviousness of the connection between war and banks and the merchant class and just how much we have not changed at all, the cycle this country spins to keep the capitalists of capitalism in control of the labor class. i needed to get away and clear my head.

there is a park by the house of the statue of liberty so i found a shady place and sat and calmed my thoughts and did a favorite activity of mine, people watch. there were people of all backgrounds speaking many languages, and i could not calm down. it was much more like a punch. normally this is a scene that warms me from the inside, but with the fascist want-to-be dictator that the u.s. has as a president right now, i was embarrassed (?), saddened (?), pissed for sure. that we as a country of immigrants (unless you are native american), that we would do any less than welcome those seeking refuge with open arms, is outrageous to me. granted these were tourists with some level of privilege ($$ everything in independence area cost money to enter except the liberty bell), and most likely would not have border issues when trying to return “home”, but i held some doubts for sure.

it was decided that we would take a day to go to the roommate’s parents house in jersey to swim, and break the city’s heat, so refreshing. what a great idea, go play and splash in a pool during the heatwave. it was a super fun day. we swam. we drank. we ate. we played games. we watched a couple thunderstorms roll by. we drove back to philly during another storm, tuckered out. i fell into a deep sleep.

i woke with the urgency of needing to make plans to get moving again. i couldn’t stay in philly. maybe i will return one day. there was a deep part of me that wanted to stay and see what i could get involved in, but i had a deeper need to get back west of the rockies. no matter how hard i try, i am not an east side of the country kind of kid. also, i could tell by the conversation i had with many people that i would most likely fall in to the cycle of working too much to make ends meet and consume things i don’t want to in the long run, and not make the time and space for the creative ventures i am trying to get started and move ever more forward.

eventually i found the route that would take me west. i chatted with my pals in oregon to make plans for my landing. and then i relaxed into my final few days in philly, and this led me to some great conversations that helped me work out some of my thoughts i’d been having while there.

my friend and i had a conversation one night about whether living so close to the deep history of the neighborhood, and racist history of philly, lent to having a sense of responsibility to that history? it is related, i think, to how i feel about living so close to nature and feeling a responsibility to protecting and making responsible choices in how i move around in my life. i mean, i can’t imagine white people calling the cops on black folks while having a picnic in malcom x park…just sayin’ but if gentrification keeps happening…

another night, at the first micro-brewery in philly that is right next to the punk cafe, i chatted with the bartender. he had recently returned to philly after going to school on the west coast. he was able to give himself the time and space to return and and come out to his family and the challenges of being a young gay black man in west philly (and the world). we talked about many things, including the similarities he is witnessing from his time in oakland and being back in philly around gentrification, housing, and wages.

but make no mistake, my last days weren’t all politics and heavy conversations. i ate a lot of vegan foods…went to the straight edge pizza place for amazing vegan “wings”. i had all the vegan treats i could get in my mouth. we went to an irish punk bar for some tasty vegan snacks and good beers. p.s. i do love me a good irish punk bar.

the morning of my departure was to be early, so we said our so longs the night before. i had decided to bike to amtrak instead of waking my friend and loading up the car for a ride to the station. this would be the only time i would bike in philly, and i am glad i did. i had been wanting to ride, but touring bikes are not really city prepared as everything is quick-release aka easy to steal. i rode away in the early morning during rush-hour traffic in busy bike lanes. it was a beautiful morning and a nice ride.

while waiting at the red cap post to be directed to where to load my bike i met a nun from a west philly church who encouraged me to get confirmed or something like that, just to be safe, like an insurance policy for my soul i guess. she was very nice about it. i told her i’m more along the lines of buddhist. she assured me that was ok, but i should still get to a catholic church. she reminded me of what dorothy day of the catholic worker movement might have been a little like. i also met a couple that would be on the train with me all the way to sacramento. little did we know what was in store for us in the coming days.

a couple of side notes. after getting into eugene, i read that the chinese restaurant we went to closed it’s doors the end of that month. rent was getting too high. the owner told the story of his family coming to the united states, and the support he has had since arriving in philly.

i also learned why a pizza shop i had tried to go to a couple times, but had a paper note that they were closed. seems that the staff believed the owners had fired a black employee for racially motivated reasons, so the staff locked up shop. the sister bar/restaurant did the same a couple days later in support. well that explained my confusion, and also reinforced my feelings that people were taking actions and not just sitting in meetings talking about the theory of racist management practices.

i can’t express just how much i am grateful for this friend, and this visit. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now i guess. we met when i lived in syracuse, and this is the second time we visited in person since i left ny. there are for sure gaps in our knowledge of the others’ experiences in those years, yet our friendship has stayed important and strong to us both. who knows where we will meet next.

i can’t wait to tell you about the adventures i’ve been having in oregon!

from the south to the east

from my friends in north carolina, i did a one-way car rental to a city with a train station to get to philly with bike in tact. as i pulled out of the rental car place, i stopped at a local brewery to get my bearings and have a snack. i hadn’t exactly decided which way to get to charlotte, or where to stay when i got there. at the brewery i sat outside with a view of a creek, and in the distance i could see what i found out later, a huge community garden. this little town has much to offer.

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as i sat there looking, thinking, and planning the woman next to me struck up a conversation. i’m not sure how it started, but she said she had recently decided to “go vegan” and this place has some great options. soon the conversation switched to community and how conservative the next town over is. her “boy friend” joined in for a little while. he is a health educator in the school district and the conversation got detoured a little. yet, we got a little deeper into the perception people out side of the south have about the people who live in the south and just how wrong that is, and it is true and troubling.

i think this falls into my idea of political false sense of security, and the pacific northwest, and all liberally identified towns/cities are guilty of this. it is part of what the denial has led to the flourishing of fascists hate crimes in places that refused for so long to believe it could happen here. anway, it was a good way to get sent off and out of the south, but first charlotte.

well first, cherokee north carolina.

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i should have taken more time here, like a day, and gone to the cherokee nation museum run by the reservation. i should have. instead i drove through the town. through the gross tourism businesses with awful names and mascots and symbols. i did stop by the park by the river and watched the families swim and cool off even while it rained. it wasn’t hard to imagine this relatively flat open area of the river being popular as a gathering place for various families and “tribes” of the cherokee pre trail of tears and genocide. i walked the banks until the rain got too heavy for a comfortable drive.

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the short time in charlotte was fairly uneventful. i didn’t ever really feel comfortable in this town. i got into town and found the amtrak station, then where i would return the rental car, the searched for a cheap place to stay that was an easy logistical equation to solve…that included a place to consume good food.

it was quickly apparent where infrastructure money went with just a short drive from the train station through downtown. one side had pot holes that would eat a car, the other smooth paved roads, light rail lines, and bike lanes. i had to find a way to navigate both. i checked into a cheap hotel, dropped off the car, walked to an interesting place for dinner….a brewery (are you really surprised). this space was actually pretty unique. it is in an older wherehouse type district, but all the buildings look more like airplane hangers. where i pulled up a stool is actually shared by 3 breweries, and is huge. there is so much space inside. outside had all kinds of “lawn” games, fire rings, and picnic tables all being well utilized. inside had t.v.s (so many t.v.s in in american pubs i.e. public spaces). they also have a video game lounge with fancy gaming devices and big screens. seems like a neat idea to merge breweries into a space to share resources (including a pretty good menu) but with different style beers.

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i must confess, though the walk was only going to be 20 minutes to the hotel, i took a lift ride. i was so tired, and the sun had just set, and i had to be up around 5 am to check out and make my way to the train station.

the morning was gorgeous. it was still so hot, but the sunrise and moonset created so many amazing colors in the sky. i ended up taking the light rail as far as i could through downtown, and then biked some residential backroads i found to avoid as many road craters as possible in the dark. got to the station early only to find out we would be leaving at least an hour late…and the train adventures began.

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i ended up 5 hours or so late into philly. thank goodness for friends you like the night life, and taught me the first rules of philly, break all rules.

when she picked me up at the train station, she just pulled over in this odd little nook, we threw my bike and bags in the car. she then explained that people in philly do what they need to do, to accomplish what they need to accomplish, especially parking.

as we entered west philly (baby) she pointed out some points of history and places i may have heard of, the world cafe (npr), osage street (the one time america bombed itself. you may have heard of the MOVE 9)…my tired eyes tried to take it all in while watching the lights and cyclists bike the city, as i relaxed into being back in the presence of this person who has known me for so long.

naturally we double parked to pick up the food she ordered earlier. as she jumped out of the car she quickly turned back and said, “don’t talk to strangers!” what? laughing, that is kind of what i do!

philly is going to be fun! stay tuned (i listed to a lot of whyy)

beyond asheville

the pals i stayed with on the west end of north carolina are some of the best people this world has set in my path. we shared good food. we shared lovely inspiring conversation. we shared quiet times on the deck watching trees, the light shift and change, the plants and botony adjusting to the heat, storms roll through, puppy adoration for a canine who is now part of their family, walks in the woods every day witnessing the constint changes of places people think of as consistant. there is something special that happens to this spirit when i see my pals, friends, buddies, those i love, doing what they love/building and achieving their goals: working on building the skills and practicing to make dreams come true, building the life they envision…lifting people up….there is so much here that i have no words for, but i will carry with me for a long long time.

these daily/multi-daily walks/hikes were so inspiring. we chatted about what it is like to walk the same paths on a regular basis through the seasons, to see all the changes. just in this one week we saw a change in where and what mushrooms were growing, or some new flowers starting to bloom on the trees and bushes.

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these walks and chats had an enormous effect on me. first i reflected on land and my relationship to place. where have i thought i “knew” the land because i walked it one day in one season in a particular year. was it a wet/dry year? hot? stormy? flooded? low river or high? somewhere in-between? migration season? north or south? for whom? even if it is for a week or a month, it is still only just one snapshot of a place. is that enough to build a relationship with the land or to develop a sense of place. i think that is part of why i do like to get to, and set up, camp early in the day vs. making the miles, passing out, and waking early to start it all over again. to walk. to sit. to listen. to watch. who moves through here? what grows here? how does the pollen move? do i have time and enough information to learn of the people who moved through here before settlers/colonizers/capitalists/agriculture/towns/mining? what story does the land have to tell me? what is the language of the land.

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the other piece of this experience is that now i have an even deeper desire to develop a sense of place. i want to be able to see some place if not every day, then every other day. i want to see the changes. i want to see those first red, yellow, orange, brown leaves of fall. the first buds of spring that actually show themselves in winter. learn the path of the sun/moon. i want to build and develop a relationship with at least one little piece of land. town or not wherever i rest again, it has to be convenient to get to some living piece of land. in other words, not have to drive an hour or bike too far. even better if i can just take a short stroll that leads me to a longer one. its all part of learning how to see/listen/experience/smell/noticing…all the things that make me a better animal, more feral you might say.

~~~

one day, while one of them was in class, i borrowed their car and followed the road that followed the river. so beautiful. i went until i found a riverside park that people put their boats, rafts, kayaks, whatevers in to float. there are 2 signs here. one tells the history of how the “cherokee” hid in the rhoadundrum bushes to avoid being sent to the oklahoma indian territories as part of the indian removal act in the journey known as the train of tears. on the other side of the park is a sign acknowledging the white man who “gifted” this land for “the people” to enjoy. it is dedicated to his wife and children who died before he did. it is part of what i find funny (?) about public lands, that what was once stolen from people who had no concept of owning land can be given back to “the people to enjoy” but not to the people who previously lived on the land prior to european settlers/colonizers. public lands is a term that is being tossed around a great deal right now, and not a conversation to take lightly for many reasons. these thoughts are not meant to take away from the beauty of this land, but to add to just how wonderfully magnificent this river valley and mountain range is.

~~~

after wondering around, i went back to the river center. they have wifi and thereby i could get some phone services to know when my friend was ready for me to come on back. i thought i might sit by the river and write, but all i could really do was watch. i watched the people, the rain, the boats, the water shift and move, people practice various moves in various floatations – it is like a dance. ever since i learned that water crossings are best to do earlier in the day because they rise as the snow melts and the mountain gives up more liquid to the stream, i try and watch it and see if i can notice it going up. i mean this is something i have witnessed but through a day as we crossed a stream early in the day to play and picnic in a meadow. when we came back late in the day, the crossing was indeed more difficult, deeper and more swift. for sure a more difficult, more technical crossing where we helped one another work their way back to camp. it indeed was a wonderful day.

leaving north carolina behind would not be easy, but that is the only way i was going to get up to philly for the next friend visit…so stay tuned as you are hopefully engulfing on a summer adventure of your own.

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retracing good times

as i clean up and insert pics in this post, it is raining the nice specifically pacific northwest kind of rain. you know, it is too heavy to go with out a jacket of some kind but not enough to zip it up. the kind that drives drivers nuts because you can never get the wipers just right, always too slow or too fast.

we had been watching the weather, hoping and getting excited as the chance for rain increased each day. last night we i mused that i felt like a kid a christmas, excited for the morning to see what would happen. then the morning, it happened. while we were out for breakfast. we looked out just as we were about to walk home. so wonderful. and it is suppose to continue through the day.

ok so here i am going to start writing about all the good times that got over shadowed by the challenges and struggles i face, for there was so much fun and laughter, and that is what kept me going….

so

once i saw thelma and the sleeze where going to be playing at the hanger in carbondale, i was tempted to hang longer. finally some music i love and relate to. but really that was all that was tempting. i was able to eat pretty good at the co-op, but it was time to go. so i bus tailed it outta there.

the overnight in knoxvile, as i have said was fun. the city market area with the art, and food, and bike race monitors, fountains for kids, and being designed as a pedestrain “mall” was super nice. to walk and wonder without having to worry about cars is always a treat.

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the walking and wondering with freedom encouraged more walking wondering and exploring. i went up streets, down street. i wondered alleyways and shop windows. all the murals in the alleys led me to more alleys and city perspectives.

i’ve always loved alleys. it reminds me of being a kid. the first house i remember remember as a youngen had an alley. we cut through to friends’ houses, playing hide n seek, check what games friends were playing before they knew we were there. it was also the furthest view point for adults to find us, or for people to think to look for us for any reason. it is also a great way to check on the neighbors’ gardens. then there is the unused, dirt floor garages that no one used except us for shenanigans.

i’ve only had a few homes since that had alleys, but i always enjoy them. portland had some good alleys. wondering pals who enjoy meandering through alley ways are priceless, and it is good to know i have a few.

it seems, based on my little trip, that more cities are utilizing their alleys for more than just a place for dumpsters and smoke breaks.  i have found wonderful mural art projects, one might call city art-scapes? i like it. here in eugene google maps often sends seem through alleys. and some store fronts/brewery entry points are in alleys. so good.

so from knoxville, i went to asheville. i made the big decision to stay a week in ashville. it was the week of 4th of july….not a fan of this day of nationalistic celabration especially how nationalism is playing out these days. so i hunkered down in asheville with some international travelers and misfits. also the women’s world cup was entering the final rounds and there are fun places to watch such events here.

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the hostel i stayed at is in the heart of downtown, down a narrow alley like street actually. everywhere i went was .4 miles (aka a 20 minute walk) according to google maps. i was near vegan restaurants, a co-op, so many good breweries, coffee shops and 2 tea shops, multiple book stores, music venues, and a vegan punk cafe that was so flipping great on so many levels. it is kind of how i imagine the red and black cafe could have been if they could have held it together better.

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rosetta’s, the punk cafe, had an upstairs and a downstairs if you entered on a certain street. the upstairs is at street level one street over. the upstairs is kind of told school order at the counter kind of place with self serve stations and a beautiful copper pipe and tile water station that i wish i had taken a picture of. downstairs is like a regular table service kind of place. both have the same menu.

i had such a hard time deciding what i wanted. everything being vegetarian or vegan, and most things could be made vegan. would it be nachos? comfort food? healthy bowl? salad? or what really sold me on the cafe the pay it forward rice and bean bowl.

the pay it forward bowl, actually called beans and rice under the heading everybody eats, is set up as a sliding scale meal and they let you know how much pays for the meal to what would allow someone else to eat if they didn’t currently have the currency. i think this simplifies the whole sliding scale healthy food and water as a right not privlage kind of action vs. philosophy/theory. it is offering an option to a community while holding boundries that allow them to stay in business without giving up their ethics and values so that they can contribute more. it is a fine line and a tight-rope to walk. also the people who worked there were all super nice and not at all snarky the whole time i was there, everytime i was there, regardless of who they were serving.

then there is the actual setting of the place. great art and murals on the walls, walls and stairway FULL of poster and flyers of events, bands, actions, community groups and organizations, calendars for other places having punk rock trivia fund raisers for trans folks at the southern border needing/wanting leagal or/and basic needs met. a zine library was in a very visable corner next to the condiment stand. it was clean with out being starial. it is a place i felt comfortable in as a dirt-bag and as a cleaned-up kid out for a good meal that wouldn’t make me feel like a sell-out for eating out.

the places i watched the world cup were fun and energetic. i high-fived strangers. we held one anothers palces as we went to the bathroom. we made a group food run when we realized bloody mary’s started before we remembered we hadn’t been awake long enough to eat. it was one of the few times i was around some sporty dykes that felt super comforable to finally talk about our sports-ball experiences while in school. most of us, at least in my age group, we pretty shamed out of sports, especially team sports. may be why i prefered individual sports like track. let me be and i will run my ass off, stretch longer while everyone else hits the locker room. or finish faster so that i can get in and out before the rest of the “team”. i was tired of being made fun of or being baited about attractions or crushes. i loved the sports, but i hated all the rest that went with it. eventurally i just used an injury that wouldn’t heal (pulled muscles in my knee training indoors), and needing to work as a reason to drop out. very real reasons, but if i had felt supported/safe, who knows. i’m also not a very competitive person, so probably would have still quite. seeing the portland thornes play during pride weekend one year, that was pretty special. seeing professional women on the pitch and in the stands be out and open…rainbow thorne flags…it was something to experience. i felt much more proud there then being at the ubber corporate sponsored “pride” parade held earlier that day.

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one evening at the hostel i met this interesting woman is in her late 60s and is just discovering the joys of solo travel, and is toying with the idea of becoming untethered herself. her husband died a couple years ago, so why not sell the house and move into some kind of camper type situation and see the country. she spent her time at the hostel asking anyone she could how, why, where they venture, whatever question was on her mind. it was fun to see her open to so many possibilities.

i also met a guy who practices chinesse medicine in l.a. he comes to asheville every so often for continuing education. turns out we know some of the same practicioners and share some of the same theories of healing. i left him some of the foods that i thought might not make the hot journey to my friends.

i did really fall for asheville. i can see the attraction and why people have reccomended it to me so many times. i have thought about it as an option. i checked out cost of living, housing, jobs, access to nature and wildness. it could be a livable city option for me. yet something just seemed off. not quite right for me. it is a big city. bigger than i expected and full of tourists, like actual tourists and not just visitors, so…there is that. but it is closer to some great pals that i got to have a wonderful visit with.

 

life and threats on trains

i am jumping some stories. mostly i just need to get this one out of my head.

trying to find the way i wanted to travel west with my bike for the least amount of money as soon as possible was my mission. after pouring over options that just were not going to work, finally one popped up.

it would take me early wednesday morning to mid-day sunday, but i could load my bike up without the need to box it up. seemed good. i packed some foods and beverages and prepared to be able to just kick back, write, read, look out the window and day dream. what more could a kid ask for?

philly to chicago was fairly uneventful, in fact, was delightful thanks to the woman i was sitting next to. her youngest child had finished high school, so now it is her time to do whatever, so instead of the kids leaving the nest, she left.

she had seen me run around the station with my bike and that is what started our conversations and connection, leading many more. she got rid of as much of her life as she could and is moving to montana where her eldest child lives. she loves to bike, run, swim, and basically just be out of doors. she “hates the city”. we would go to the lounge car for our own happy hour moments, a night cap, or morning coffee. our conversations always shifting and changing, or involving whomever decided to chime in. upon arrival in chicago we both had a four hour layover, so we went out in search of salads for lunch, and wine for her to take to her sleeper car for her next train ride. we helped each other find our next trains, exchange contacts and say so long. a very delightful 30 hours.

while waiting for the next train, the califonia zepher, i ran into another person loading their bike. we didn’t really chat until we were waiting to take our bikes to the baggage car to hand up to the loaders. i should have known this leg was going to be an interesting one. we didn’t get to hand hand our bikes up to the baggage people. we had to lay them down in a different baggage car, and the guy that was showing us which car to load on to, made it clear that he did not appreachiate bikes on trains. did he know that we most likely would not be using the train if it weren’t for the ability to bring our bikes? later, when i was trying to claim my bike, i kept getting sent back and forth until they finally listened to me about where i had put my bike a couple days before.

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the conductors on this first section of this train were just rude. they treated us all like we were misbehaving children before we even left the station. later i would wish that they would actually address the parents of the children running over people all day and night. i spent a good deal of the time either in the observation car or the cafe beneath it. here i met so many people studying or practicing so many different kinds of physics. our conversations were amusing. to me it was about who was so certain of their knowledge vs. who acted curious and inquisitive. i also met a cycling guy from england who had also over heated and decided to go west. we both felt validated by our decisions based on our conversations. we both asked and listened, gaining insight from one anothers’ experience. so nice.

infact that was something that followed throughout this train ride. certainity vs curiosity. traveling through lands that i knew very well and over hearing people sharing information with their traveling companions about what things were or did, and being so very incorrect. one person actually tried to argue with me about sunflowers. insisting that they were mustard seed plants. i didn’t aruge. why would i? didn’t seem worth it, but it did lead me to this whole different internal dialogue about who knows what and how do we know what we believe we know and why do we cling to that knowledge so tightly?

is this how we end up so certain in our believes? in our own dogma? what makes some so certain and others open to different or alternate possibilities? is it possible to move from firm dogma to open possibilities? i was thinking all these thoughts as we were moving through various canyons of the colorado river. there was a bear, a fox (again arguments about fox or coyote), and some mooning from river rafters.

then we were back to the desert. we had entered navada and those getting off in reno were very excited. we were running a few hours late due to the need for amtrak to yield to rail/cargo trains. however, about an hour from reno things would change.

the engineer, or lead conductor was on the intercome giving us updates on times and various pieces of information about the gorgous forested lands we would once again be traveling through when all of a sudden the trains emergency breaking system kicked in and gasps came over the speakers.

soon we were told that there was some kind of mechanical issue and that they were going to do an inspection of the train and then get back to us. having the same kind of thing happen just outside of philly, i doubted that this was the truth. i should also mention that a rail train was stopped on the tracks next to us, heading east, and also at a stop.

the train outside philly stopped for a long time because there was a fear that we hit some trespassers on the tracks. i couldn’t help but think that something of the sort had happend here. we were pretty close to a major highway (and i had just seen a person on a bicycle peddling by wishing i could get to my bike and peddle away).

eventually they told us that we did indeed hit a “trespasser” and that we needed to stay and make sure that the “trespasser” was ok (they never mentioned if it was a human or non-human animal, it was always the trespasser). eventually, naturally, we noticed the various vehicals showing up and since we were the last car of the train and all the action was directly behind us, we knew some kind of shit happened.

couple of hours later we are told that we did hit a “trespasser” and that we “were waiting for the coroner before we could leave.” then we had to wait for the crew to give statements to the sharriff, then waiting to be cleared by the sharriff’s office or police crew. don’t really remember. i just figured we would go when we could go and no amount of questioning was going to change our situation. the crew in our train just kept trying to reassure that amtrak would make sure that everyone eventually would get where they wanted to go.

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we would sit there outside of reno for 4 to 5 hours. the train was running out of food and beverages…and patience. they ended up having to make an emergency meal for all the passengers on the train. the complementary meal would be a beef stew and mashed potatoes. i went down to the snack car to see if mike still had some vegan burgers. nope. we was out of almost everything, but encouraged those of us that do not eat meat to go to participate anyway to put it in their minds that they need a different plan for emergency meals. the diner crew was not happy and was down right pissy to anyone asking if there were other options. i get it. they were way late to get off duty, were tired, frustrated, and probably a little traumatized as well.

mike, the guy who worked the snack car, told me a little about what had happened. the “traspasser” was actually a crew member of another train (the rail car stopped already) who was walking along a live track with earbuds in, knew our train was on its way in. the whole crew broke all the safety guidlines. we were going full speed when “he” was struck. he most likely died instantly and didn’t feel it, or at least not for long. the question remaining on many minds: suicide or accident.

i thanked mike for all the work he did, and the service he provided all of us, and i wished him and the rest of the crew well. i can’t imagine how the crew must feel under these conditions: a person dying, being so late getting into the end of the line before they had to turn around and go back the other directioin, having to answer all the questions from everyone about where to and how they were going to get some place.

my 10 hour layover in sacromento became a 3 hour layover. it was late enough that i didn’t even bother trying to load my bags on the bike and look for food. some of the screaming kids from the last train were in this waiting room, so i just went outside then up to the platform to wait for my train. it was a nice summer evening and i wanted to enjoy as much as i could. in reflection this could have been a good or bad thing.

our train was only 20 to 30 minutes late coming out of l.a. i was told that i would load my bike up in the front baggage car, then would board in the last coach car. i’ll tell you that is a long haul with full bike bags.

i got in line to board, and this would be the first time on this trip that i would have to wait for an assigned seat. the guy handing out seat tickets would become known as the “beanie guy” as he was the only crew member wearing a beanie. this guy actually sent me up one car, so i was in the next to last car now. we boarded a little after midnight so i had all my sleep stuff on the outside of my backpack making it easier for me to set up my sleep station, put on headphones, cover my eyes and pass out.

in the morning i woke before 6 (when the cafe opens). a few people around me were already up and were talking about there being a second mass shooting. i knew about one, but not the other. this was not how i wanted to wake up. i wanted to at least acknowledge my internal noise before the external chaos of the world permeated my being. so i went to the observation car. we were approaching mt. shasta and the sunrise views were outstanding. i struck up a conversation with the woman next to me who was returning to eugene after a weekend at the national storytelling confrence in california. we had a wonderful conversation before she went to the dining car for breakfast. i eventually went to my seat to read some more after a really long wait for a rail train to pass while we were next to kalamath lake.

the people around me where interesting. all kinds of conversations where going on, but mostly people were sleeping or reading or listing to something with earbuds in. i had just told my friends when i would be coming into town just before we went up the pass and out of cell range. at odell lake we came to a slow stop and told we were waiting for a rail train to pass.

funny how time passes when stuck on a train with no where to go. an hour passed and nothing. no train. no info. the conductors where kind of pacing around. going down the stairs, up the stairs, leaning against a wall behind the seats just in front of me (i was sitting in an aisle seat at the top of the stairs, so it was easy for me to watch them. the one conductor would talk into his radio thing from time to time. at one point, as we could hear the radio crackle with information, he said there should be something soon, that it appeared that the train we were waiting for to pass was having engine trouble.

our car was getting a little antsy, as i’m sure most people were. a few of us stood up and stretched and chatted. i told the people behind me that i didn’t think the conductor was telling us the truth and explained to them my experiences thus far. i was pretty sure we didn’t hit someone up here, but that something was going on.

i had smelled cigarette smoke several times that morning, and it appeared that a few people kept going downstairs by the bathrooms where carry on luggage can be stored, with empty cups, but coming back up with full ones. i knew they had thrown people off the train for such things, but why stopped here for so long for that. none of it was making sense.

the guy that had been sitting across the aisle and behind me came up the stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and said that everyone was suppose to move to the back of the train. that the conductor was going to have us all move back. this didn’t make sense. i stayed in my seat.

meanwhile some guy that i couldn’t see kept yelling about wanting the “fucking dog off the train”. a young guy in our car had a service dog.

the beanie guy kept coming up and down the stairs with wide eyes, yet unable to make eye contact. something was happening, but what the hell was it. not having cell service was not easing anyone’s situation and internal dialogue was quickly becoming external, making its way to whomever was nearby to listen.

by this time, i was already suppose to have arrived. my friends have traveled by train often and know things happen and how to get info. i found out later that where they were waiting for me, the happy dive bar across the street from the train station, was close enough for them to hear the amtrak announcements letting them know that we were late, but not how late or why.

so here i am chatting with the people behind me, telling them that i didn’t think any of this was making sense when i looked up and on the other side of the door, in the next car is what looks like a gaggle of riot cops or swat team trying to open the door to our car and charge down the aisle. shotguns up and pointing red laser beams at us as they moved our way.

at first i was laughing, as i reached for my phone to record anything that may happen. there were lots of brown and black folks on this train. i was laughing because the lead swat like guy couldn’t get the door open. it took 3 or 4 tries before they all came charging down at us, fully armed and pointing shotguns at us all. and i was laughing because this is what would happen now here.

and where did they go, but to the back of the train, pointing their guns at all those who did move back there (so happy i did not move). eventually the guy who told me to move, told the cops not us, that guy over there.

the cops backed up, pointed all weapons on the guy who had been yelling about the dog on the train. the cops asked him his name, i didn’t hear his answer, then asked if he was armed, “yes, i have a 45”. then shouts “i got it! i got it!” after we had heard him drop it on the floor.then they hauled the guy off the train as he kept asking what he was charged with and that he had been sleeping for the last 3 hours. and off goes another angry white guy that’s been carrying a gun ready to fire away at any moment.

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what the fuck

5 fully armed officers from various departments had boarded the train. then they started taking people off one by one to interview them. seems this guy was threatening people since the sacrmento station, starting with a woman’s pre-teen daughter. people had been alerting amtrak employees about this guy from the go.

on the train he had a coutdown going for when he was going to start taking hostages,  had been smoking on the train several times, and it seems everyone in our car had some story about this guy, except me. i had managed to miss almost everything.

eventually they let us all off the train for a “smoke break”. i did suspect some of the people came forward with a story once they saw people getting to smoke while talking to a cop.

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eventually we got back on the train and we got to start moving again. all of us sitting near one another shared stories and asking what were we suppose to do now. those who had the guns pointed directly at them started to breakdown into tears and sobbed on shoulders.

the woman who had been sitting/sleeping next to the guy overnight had been in the observation car during the time we were stopped and came back once we started moving again. i had seen her in the morning. she thought he was just another crazy white guy and she was a strong black woman tired of crazy white guys. i ran into her later when i went down to the cafe car for a beer and a snack. the cafe was closed but i saw her in the back by the bathrooms alone, looking shaken up.

i asked if she needed anything. we talked. well she talked. i listened. she had no idea he had a gun. she had yelled at him. they had faught pretty much all night until she got up and left. she had bad feelings about him from the go. “he could have shot me at any time!?”

we didn’t see or hear from a conductor until we were abut 30 minutes from the eugene station (our next stop). someone came over the speakers as the guy sitting next to me and i went in search of some kind of information anouncing the approximate new times. some of us did our own math and believed that they purposly went slower than needed to talk about what and how they were going to respond to what had happened.

when a conductor finally did come back to check in on those of us getting off the train in eugene, he had no response. no one was going to come make sure that we were “ok” or that those personally traumatized had access to support via amtrak or some other means. i found out, by talking to others while in line for bathrooms or drinks, that unless one was in our car, no one knew anything about what happened. even those in the observation car that the armed cops came through to get to him, were told nothing.

to be a little fair. once the incident was over and we were moving again we saw beanie guy head to the front of the train with his bags packed looking none to happy. we never saw him again. we assumed he got off at the unscheduled stop before we got into eugene proper. he was the one conductor people had voiced their concerns about the guy since before boarding in sacramento. this could have all been handled quickly in a station with support.

the conductor who did talk to us had only been on the job for 6 months, and he was the one we saw back in our area. the lead conductor i only saw once early in the trip. she was recalculating arrival times in the cafe car after the stop we had in klamath. i did see her in the baggage car when i went to claim my bike. she apologized for any inconviencies. i wished her well. i just wanted to load up my bike and point it to my pals who by now had gone home and were cooking up a nice curry for us as the beer was chilling. have i mentioned how much i love my friends?! all of them! everywhere!

it took awhile for some of us to take in everything that had just happened. i still am i reckon. many of us that follow just how much gun violence there is in this country. how many mass shootings there are. how much fear people live in and with every flipping day; sometimes it takes a minute to realize what was experienced.

as for myself. i’m ok. i’m good, as pools well up in my eyes right now. i don’t know how i felt as i was instructed to stay in my seat and keep my head down as i could see it all go down. it was so instinctual. the arsonal of the police/military weapons at eye level, the brown man i was sitting next to me waking up as everything was happening, me putting my hand on his back telling him to stay down. i trusted no one in this situation but my own privlage keeping me more safe than those around me…and as a queer low-income gender queer person in this country being white and educated was what i had going for me…as usual. i say this with no ego or good for me moment, my concern  was for those around me. i never believed i was in physical danger, but that others would be. i don’t know why. as others processed what could have happened if….i listened. i never felt the danger. as i’ve taken some time to process and talked it out with my people i still don’t feel like i was in physical danger. maybe part of my laughter of the military police having problems opening the door, was the idea that “of course this is what is happening” with no sense of suprise.

but i am certainly feeling something

i feel for those who did feel threatened

those who were sittting near this white man spouting violent threatening language

those who feel this threat each and every day due to how they look or move through their lives

where their families moved here from as refugees seeking asylum

forced here

colonized here

no matter who we are

no matter how we vote(d)

where we live

for so long now

this is our reality.

the people behind me? they were suppose to be at that garlic festivile that was a scene of a recent mass shooting.

everyone had some kind of close call with a mass shooting in this country, or white supremest hate filled violence to share.

so i have a question(s) for all those who voted for this administration, for this way of governing for this hate sponsored politics. those of you who don’t believe that this is what you voted for…that you voted for the economics or whatever you thought was going to provide you with a sense of safety and future you wanted to see, who think this is not the america you wanted to make great again.

for all those who believe that there is a grave threat from people who seek refuge along the southern border, or are muslim, black, brown, queer, trans

how do you “know” that this is the source of violence or some kind of risk to your safety, financial or physical. how do you “know” this to be true?

i also have questions for all those who have asked me if i feel safe traveling alone? camping by myself, biking by myself. i have never felt a threat until i entered the places more populated by people.

because of all these and so many more questions i have, i don’t know how to end this post.

thank fucking much that i had some of the best people in the world waiting for me with food and beverages and hugs and listening skills when i got off this train to help me deal with a fairly benign situation comparitively.

i shouldn’t have to deal with this, no one should.

the things i should have to deal with have nothing to do with fragile egos with guns, fists, white houses fed by congress and mega corporatioins.

i’m tired too

i’m tired of being angry

i’m tired of deciphering if that sound was fireworks or gunfire

i’m tired of filtering

of self censoring

and if i am this tired, how do others who have done this for generations, centuries feel?!

a final note. i looked this incident up on line just to see what if any news would be reported, because we never saw a news crew. there was very little reported. mostly that we were delayed for 5 hours costing amtrak lots of money in lost revenue due to missed connections and such. that there were 272 passangers and 15 crew members. that there was no injuries reported and no weapons. really? no weapons??!! we saw the weapon. i heard the man say he had a 45. i heard the cop drop it then pick it up and repeat several times “i got it! i got it!”

know who to trust with what you know is true