Tag Archives: usa

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Finally, an opportunity to properly write. Doug and I are on our plane from Auckland to Perth, currently still sitting at the gate. We’re late departing. Something about unplanned maintenance.

It’s hard to know where to start regarding all that’s happened over the past several days, so I’ll just begin with leaving my bike with a friend in L.A. I have a debt of gratitude to him for helping me out with that last minute. My day would have been MUCH, MUCH more complicated and stressful had he not, and it was already plenty of that enough. Rain on and off all the day long was the biggest culprit, but there was also a certain amount of stress in not being showered for two days, and continuing to schlep around in the same unwashed clothes for two weeks. The stink of yourself; the dirty crumpled look and feel of your clothes; and the oily, unwashed feel of your hair, scalp, and skin all become a heavy weight—though in reality one that is greater mentally than physically. But with all things the mental aspect is always more difficult than any sort of physical struggle, because the physical struggle is really just a manifestation of the mind. Of course when one is out in society, smelly and dirty but attempting to hold to some level of social standards in order to maintain one’s dignity (not that one has to abide by society’s standards in order to maintain his/her dignity) this can become a huge mental struggle, and so my thoughts about my then current state and how I imagined I was regarded by society (particularly by that society in the area I found myself pedaling my bike, shopping around for a hiking pack) now has me thinking and wondering how the truly destitute and homeless must feel themselves to be. Mere animals. Insects. Subhuman. Not worth the regard they ask us to pay them. So how can one expect them to have the confidence to look for employment anywhere? When one has lived in a state of hopelessness for so long, when one is wallowing in the quagmire of misery and apathy, how can it be expected they he might just go about filling out applications for employment like anyone else? When they walk into a shop or restaurant in dirty, stained clothes that hang on them like the haggard, tired expression of a half-starved face, stinking like they just climbed out of a dumpster, or like they’ve been living in the same set of underwear for weeks, who will hire them? Well anyway, I cycled around thirty miles in the wet in order to get a pack to migrate certain things into, and to leave my bike with Danny at the motorcycle shop he works at.

Now I’m in this plane soaring above the clouds, the sun very nearly set just ahead of us, the moon reflected in the wing—a tiny, yellow smudge amidst the blueish darkening of the world—and Doug, eyes shut beside me. Exhausted Doug with a blanket thrown over his lap, his hands folded, peaceful beneath its fleecy warmth.

Today was mostly spent walking a bit around the city of Auckland, as we opted for an eleven hour layover as opposed to the two, drinking coffee, eating and simply observing the city and its people. A most enjoyable way to spend the day I thought, though Doug’s overall exhaustion seemed to have got the better of him.

Very little else happened. Anything properly worth writing about at least. And I’m much too tired to bother. I setup an AirBnB for the next week in South Perth, and took a shower.

Truly it would have been wonderful if something of account occurred over our time in town and at the airport, but nothing did. We existed, in a bit of a state of suspended animation, as humans so often do between times. Doug does have the type of personality which compels him to talk to just about anybody about anything, though. And while I won’t go so far to say it’s something I missed about not being around him, I do have an appreciation and fondness for it, for often it leads to amusing moments. Moments of no great consequence, but significant in their own small ways, like an odd bit of grammar or poetry thrown in amongst the general sameness of a paragraph. He’s always drawing a new character into the coterie of our own little band of merry, or not-merry, makers. All these NPCs, so to speak, become important characters, people with meaning, in this game of his. And that’s really the thing! He gives them, through the agency of his actions, his desire to engage with them, importance, significance, value, more so I believe than most, and certainly moreso than anyone else I have met. And that I think is one of his great virtues.


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Little I have to write of tonight. There is, however, much to be finished from last night’s journal, but I’m far too tired, so that will have to wait. Today, though, was simple. Pick up car from rental company and drive to Houston, stopping here and there along the way to get out and walk around some of these towns with my camera, then upon arriving in Houston check in to my hostel before returning the car.

The drive was sublimely relaxing (something I think I craved) for not having to bother with sore legs, nor was there cursing at rough and bumpy roads with no shoulders, horrid traffic or crushing headwinds; just cruise and watch the landscape slip past. There were two tiny towns, Nome and Raywood, along the way that I stopped in, as well as the larger town of Dayton, which I managed to not leave myself enough time—classic me— to explore as I would have liked, and I stopped along one desolate, straight stretch of road that led 180 degrees, from horizon-point to horizon-point, without a car on it to photograph a single tree standing in the distance isolated in space between the blue blue of the sky and the brittle, dry, straw-yellow of the immense field within which it stood, and all around me and it only silence and a slight breeze tumbling through the grass and my hair like the gentle purring of a cat. It was a truly remarkable stretch, and made for a fascinating contrast with the wetter, estuarian regions of this eastern Texas landscape.

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I was feasted by the owner of Myers Rv Campground–I think she said her name was Joleen, or something to that effect. I’m not quite sure why she fed me so, unless she was really that desperate to get rid of the food from the “party” she had last night, or she realized that as a cyclist I would be very hungry, or maybe she is just this generous with everyone. All I know is that I was feasted to the brim on gumbo, rice, veggies, dessert and now I am satisfied and all the mosquitoes in my tent are dead. No finding refuge in here, no siree!

I went to Avery Island my first day in New Iberia for a TABASCO tour, and I’m reminded of this because I kept my rather large ticket as a bookmark, and on the side currently facing up, which I hadn’t bother to read as it’s something like a crest or seal, it states: “Avery Island “Man and Environment In Balance””. They do a lot of environmental conservation on the “island”, which, if you’re interested you can read about briefly here. I shall like to go back some day as I didn’t pay the fee to wander the jungle gardens within which there resides a large Buddha statue from, supposedly, the 12th century—quite a wonder! The gardens are themselves too a wonder.

In the distance, the middle-near distance, a cow moo’s, and another, and that is a wonder. A mournful kind of wonder, though. And fifty yards straight on is an oak wreathed with Spanish moss lit up by a lamp, the moss radiating light faintly, like a phantom, like horror stories from nineteenth century African(-American) slaves. And THAT is a wonder, a fearful, savage, sad wonder.

All these fucking RV’s are humming with the energy of their generators, or whatever is producing electricity for their microwaves, tv’s, air conditioners, stereos, computers, or whatever it is to run. I don’t know if that’s a wonder or not. I suppose it’s a technological wonder. But what I can’t understand is why when camping one wants all that noise and blather around. Where went the sanctifying peace and quiet of nature? The soft and continuous chirp of crickets. Or the mysterious crunch and rustle of leaves as a curious creature scurries past. Inside their five insulated walls they miss all this with their televisions and stereos blowing static, and they miss the mournful lowing of the cow, and the “who cooks for you” of the barred owl, and the chatter and squeaking that has just sprung up out of the darkness like hundreds of rubber duckies squeezed over and over in a sort of distant musical cacophony.

Of all our senses I think the sense of hearing is the most mysterious. All these ethereal tinglings of hair follicles in one’s auditory canal. Things perceived at a distance just far enough away so that you can not quite make it out visually, or so nearby that you might step on it but unable to discern where at all it is, and so unfamiliar that even if you could see it it would be almost meaningless. Sound can come from anywhere and be transmitted through anything. It floats on air, is carried by the wind, is the wind itself. It is like millions of taut wires protruding from your ears in countless directions being tripped by tiptoeing feet or colossally heavy hammers or butterfly wings of dynamite. We hear things in the dark, and may, through their agency, be brought into the light, yet we may hear things in broad daylight and be pitched into an impenetrable black.

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Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, Mid-City, New Orleans

On the back patio. Birds chirping. A fine, wet day. Wet, but no rain. At least not now.

Voices from over the fence. Through the gate people whooshing to and fro, and waiters in white linen aprons carrying boxes to the cafe across the street; children’s toys, and bicycles and tricycles interspersed with the potted plants and the dog bowls filled with water which the birds drink from. From inside the cafe comes the muffled noise of conversation and people jabbing away at their laptops. And I’m out here sopping this all up like a sponge, sipping my okay coffee, nibbling my decent muffin, and feeling strongly nostalgic for my early days of cafe culture back in Annapolis before I, and much of the world, discovered that coffee could be as good as an excellent bottle of wine or a great cocktail, that with care the most extraordinary flavors could be coaxed out of that little seed. Those days for me weren’t so care-free—I was broke and in debt at the time, working jobs that barely paid me enough to live on and pay the minimum amount necessary on my credit card statements to keep from getting charged those absurd fees that do so well to keep people in financial manacles (as if being poor and in debt isn’t enough)—but it introduced me to a life, a culture that has shaped my life and acts now as a key on a map advising where to go. And I’m eternally grateful for that.

I like this little cafe with its mediocre coffee and pretty-tasty baked goods. There’s not much care that goes into the technique of the making of the drinks and food here, but in the right place where exists the right atmosphere that doesn’t matter. This is a coffeeshop for the everyman. People of all stripes, all lifestyles, all walks of life are of course welcome here, and do come here, but it’s the common, average Joe who is most familiar to this place, as well as the many varied inhabitants of the neighborhood and any visitors passing through. It is like a great river which winding, winding, winding back on itself becomes a great pool that all the plants and the animals may water themselves at. It is a home, a destination, and a stopover point during migration. It draws all to its fecundating nexus with its mystical energies. Some stay for hours, some drift in for only a moment, but when they all leave they are better off than when they arrived. And now they know on their next migration, when the next chapter of their life is set to commence, they may stop here and begin the long process, or continue that process, of mutation, evolution, growth (caterpillar to butterfly.)

October 23, 2016, Around Santa Maria, CA

California and her rolling hills. Eternally rolling along the 101. Trees sprouting from these hills like spores on a mold. A prehistoric landscape untouched by the hand of man. I see some fences of course. A cow here and there. But otherwise it’s nature, nature in its unaltered original form. Some of the tops of the hills and those in the distance are veiled, obscured in a mist: mere soft silhouettes. Appropriate, because I’m looking far, far into the past…

And I think back to yesterday along Big Sur. About people trying to capture moments and memories with a camera (like clawing at the air, trying to grab it, grasp it, hold it in one’s arms), and watching while driving along the highway, watching the waves hammering continuously against the rock walls, and after we go to bed at night this living world continuing to hammer against these rock walls which will continue to deny it, absorbing blow after blow. And this goes on eternally. After we sleep. After our deepest of sleeps.

California is a magical place. What must settlers have felt when they first arrived here to this bounty? This impossible world where it is spring and summer year round. It is very much an Eden, like that from which Adam and Eve were tossed out I imagine. And here I am, rediscoverying this lost land buried in antiquity and legend. What right do I have to be here?, for surely I am no better than Adam or Eve (though I might have wisdom enough not to take advice from a serpent or snake, unless he was a very tricky and persuasive one, even if I am in the habit of trusting easily).

These hills remind me of bread dough a little bit: in their smoothness very much uniform. Like agglomerations of soil covered with a smooth, even carpet of grass, like a table cloth thrown over a dining table, then stuck with trees like a pin-cushion.

83 – Arcosanti

As mentioned in my last blog post I stayed a night at Arcosanti, breaking up the drive between Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona. I first read about Arcosanti three or so years ago, and was immediately gripped by the theory behind the development of the community. In a way this visit has been quite a bit of time in the making (and very nearly all of that time thinking I wouldn’t ever get the chance to visit), so I’m elated this trip had provided me the opportunity to stop there and see for myself what it’s all about.

In short Arcosanti is a sort of urban laboratory in a very much non-urban setting on several hundred acres of Arizona desert highland about an hour north of Phoenix. It is a community of a few permanent residents and numerous volunteers working together to create a living space that is in harmony with the environment, and within which the members of the community themselves live in harmony.

Arcosanti was first begun in 1970, the brainchild of the architect Paolo Soleri. It is the physical manifestation of the philosophy that is ‘arcology’—a portmanteau of architecture and ecology—the idea that all urban development should be created as harmoniously with its environment as possible.

For a shockingly low price one can choose from a few various sized rooms, from the “Sky Suite” which comes equipped with a living room, kitchenette, and private bath, to their small standard rooms with writing desk and shared toilet and shower. As I’m mainly a pretty low budget traveler I opted for a standard room, all of which are located in one area on the south side of the community. The twelve or thirteen rooms sunk into the hillside all lie in a row, sharing walls, and utilize the earth as a temperature stabilizer. The single exposed side facing south is an enormous window providing for spectacular views over the landscape from anywhere within. I could not have been more shocked and delighted as I walked up to my room then stood there mentally open-mouthed as I peered through the glass. As I mentioned, there is a writing desk, another great surprise for me, though, I did any writing in bed, as often seems to be my custom. Still, from an aesthetic perspective it was absolutely darling and, I thought, extremely thoughtful. The third and final thing that truly made me smile was the plaid, flannel throw at the end of the bed. The whole room and everything in it being white or off-white, the poured concrete floor brown, everything in neutral tones but for that single piece of brilliant red and black. It truly felt extraordinary to me, and lent the space character and comfort. It seemed to me to be saying about Arcosanti, “See? We care. And it’s details like me that prove it.”

The following morning I walked up to the main complex for breakfast (a continental not worth writing about, but considering the cost of a night quite excusable. Dinner on the other hand, which I did pay $10 for, was outstanding and well worth the additional cost.), and afterward packed up before heading out for a tour of the complex. The guided tour which was supposed to last an hour, though ours went on for nearly two since there was no one behind us, covered everything about Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri anyone could wish it to: from the life of Paolo Soleri himself, who only died three years ago, to the first inklings of his ideas which were put into practice at Cosanti, his home and art studio in Paradise Valley, to information about volunteering and/or becoming a resident of Arcosanti, to the philosophy behind the development and community, to information about the environment Arcosanti is located within, to what many of the volunteers and staff do with their free time, etc. It was a wealth of information. Our tour guide, Mark (I think that was his name), was the most excellent person. Answered every question, was patient and kind, extremely knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. Enthusiastic! It was quite obvious that that enthusiasm quickly grasped hold of the group and, for me, didn’t relinquish its grip for days. Quite obviously he loved living there, and, frankly, it was easy for me to see why.

If you’re a resident of Arizona, or someone who’s road tripping through there is absolutely no excuse not to visit this place for a day, a night, a few nights, a week…. A) it’s a most enjoyable, comfortable stay at a budget price and, B) if you’re unfamiliar with urban development will provide a fascinating introduction to it, especially with regards to what ought to be changed about the way much of our country is currently being developed. Hell, I’ll say it’s worth a flight if you’re out of driving range since it is close to Phoenix and Flagstaff.