Welcome to Balanced Rocks: Pictures and Stories

Beginning March 16,2010, I began a journey of balancing rocks. I hold to the practice of setting to balance at least five sculptures a day, sometimes, many more. Of these I take lots of pictures and videos. While conducting this adventure, I have been introduced to an incredible unfolding story. Additionally, I discovered this phenomenon is manifesting worldwide. As I post pictures and stories, I found many others similarly engaged and sharing their works. Additionally, as folks come upon me performing my work, many want to find out how this is done and try themselves. This blog shares this work in both pictures and stories. Enjoy


A seeming impossibility becomes possible

Rock Balancing: The Beginning

On a fine summer day, sometime in August, 2009, I was visiting family in Toronto. Like most folks spending summer in a large city, we used up as much time as we could finding outdoor events that would cool us. One afternoon, we headed to the Beaches section of East Toronto. After spending some time playing in a large sandbox in the shade with my grandkids and some of their newfound companions, we headed to the Boardwalk that extends from Balmy Beach to Kew Gardens. Ella accompanied me, Liam took off with his mom, Natalie. They ventured down the boardwalk, Ella and I headed onto the sand toward the water’s edge. Halfway there we encountered what looked like a small size Stonehenge.

About a dozen sculptures were gathered together in a rough circle. Each was a stack of two or three rocks balanced one on another. The tallest one was slightly taller than Ella, who was small average height for a five year older. All were in the neighborhood of three feet and four feet tall. What immediately jumped out was the precarious nature of the balancing. Most points of contact were miraculously slight. Most seemed to be standing on a point. Two more folks were witnessing this amazing display. We imagined that there must be small metal rods embedded at the point of contact, or else some kind of glue was used. Each of us peered from close low angles to detect what could account for this mystical display. Ella, not being so cautious, toppled one structure over. Luckily, it did not land on her.

I hurried over and picked up the fallen rock. I saw no evidence of a rod or glue. It indeed had been balanced on its pedestal. I lifted it up and tried to place it back where I reckoned it had been balanced. I cautioned Ella, to be careful and not upset any more sculptures and went about the task of finding balance. I was not successful and struggled immensely but did not find the magic spot where stability could be achieved. After a lengthy effort, an attractive Asian woman about my age approached and gently nudged me aside offering to demonstrate her work. She pointed to the spot she would set the stone upon. She called it by a foreign name. To me it looked like a slight dimple.

Placing the small end of the upper rock into that hollow, she deftly and quickly moved it around, slightly twisting and cajoling it into position. The sight of this slender woman with longish graying hair performing an intricate dance with a rock slightly larger than her head emanated calmness. It seemed only the ends of her fingers were used to achieve these small movements. Apparently, equilibrium was close. Shortly she was done and withdrew her palms which naturally assumed an open prayer posture. The rock I had grappled with was majestically resting in its previous stable state. She next went over and reset two other structures, I had not noticed were also amiss. I just took them to be part of the rubble strewn about the beach. Now all the display was standing and providing a small sense of order in our chaotic world.

I never got this woman’s name, but heard her story. She had set this display up for the purpose of taking pictures, one of which she hoped to use for a cover of a book she was publishing. Unfortunately not getting her name makes it difficult to find her book. But I carried away with me the sight of her presentation and the incredible feeling I had witnessed an amazing ethereal event. I also felt an urge to explore this practice.

Rock in the Snow

Rock in the Snow
January in Toronto

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Catching up on this journey. May, 2008: Ridgefield, CT

Back in February, as I was around two weeks into this present journey, I spent a couple days at Chris’s house in North Salem, NY. I dropped into a museum in Ridgefield Connecticut, just a stones throw away, to ply one of my trades. I offered to give classes in chair caning or other types of seat weaving. John expressed interest about having me come back sometime in the future. Later Brenda called and offered me a chance to attend their Pioneer Days Exhibition of colonial crafts. I accepted and built my plans to come on May 31 and give a demonstration of using cattails leaves to fashion a rush seat. When I accepted this offer, I had no idea where I would be by then, but planned to honor that commitment.
I left Ithaca, New York early yesterday and drove over two hundred fifty miles to New Haven Connecticut to pick up a bundle of cattails. Another purpose of this excursion was to reconnect with a few friends. This trip affords the opportunity to reflect on the nature of the journey that began in Pennsylvania on February 9. Before I left, I set up a blog site where I could keep a daily journal of my adventure. In the beginning, my entries current. Shortly after arriving in Ithaca on March 21, I made two decisions. One, I would stay put for a while and use my blog to post stories from a previous journey that I for years wanted to trust to paper. For over two months, I have kept up that task. Today, as I rejoin with the present journey, I decided to use the next two days to mull over this story. This constitutes today’s entry. Tomorrow, I will post today’s musings.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Going up the hill, May, 1975: Middlesboro, KY

Going up the hill, May, 1975: Middlesboro, KY
Shortly after leaving Peachtree and following US 64 east, I came to US 441, the same highway I left in southern Georgia. Travel was so slow, and rides so sparse, I felt concerned, I may never get to the mountains. Here I decided to get back to my old friend and continue north on her. Heading up a hill, A Volkswagen Camper van pulled over for me. I was picked up by Jack and Jill. Well, really it was John and Jill. But, Jack suffices for John. Coincidentally they had left Gainesville, same time as me, and by staying on 441 kept up with me. They drove, I hitched. They had the same goal as I: we both wanted to travel slowly, stay on back roads and experience heartland America. They hoped to spend the summer in their camper traveling all the way to Alaska, which meant traveling in heartland Canada as well. I had hopes for heading out west, but that would have to wait until I visited my folks in Massachusetts.
Jack was a historian and filled us in on the significance of Cumberland Gap. Here three states met up--Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia hovered nearby. These folks traveled just as I liked. We stopped often and took in local lore. Distance we covered was not great but by the end of the day pulled into a camp site in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. After setting up camp we headed over to join a game of volleyball. Here I received a portend of my coming adventure in Appalachia. At one point, the ball traveled away from us and headed over the edge of our field. I chased after it and headed down the embankment. Before I could stop the embankment turned into a cliff. I had a leap of about one story to a roadway below. Luckily, no traffic was on the road and I did not spill and kept upright. The ball was rolling away down the road.
Walking back after retrieving it, I had time to ponder the slogan, “Look before you leap.“ I could also be grateful, I had not broken my crown. I had not any fear about being on the road alone. I heard plenty of stories about pitfalls and tragedy that befell those on comparable journeys. I tried to maintain a positive attitude and believed I did not have to suffer like experiences. I also felt somewhat blessed as tonight’s leap displayed. Whether it be luck or some protecting spirit, I was able to return onto the court with our ball and resume recreation. In any case, I felt it wise to pay heed to the leaps one is about to take. This lesson would repeat several times in the next days. These mountains have a primal feel that gives the sense a misstep could be disastrous. But tonight, I again got to enjoy live bluegrass music and sleep in fresh mountain air.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The short end of a long detour, May, 1975: Peachtree, NC

My intention to travel north on back roads was losing steam. Three days on the road and I had yet covered two hundred miles. It seemed I may have to walk across Georgia. Weather was already getting steamy and romancing the idea of proceeding northward slowly was losing its appeal. I looked forward to heading toward New England via the Appalachian mountains. Southern Georgia has nothing resembling mountains. So I left US 441 and headed over to I-75 to increase the speed of this trip. Before I knew it, I was zooming around Atlanta, riding shotgun in a van. Traffic was heavy, but moving fast. I quickly was introduced to Southern Hospitality.
It was mid day, hot, and no time to stop for refreshment. Most folks were traveling with windows down. A car full of young black men was moving parallel along side us. The driver honked and after getting my attention waved an open can of beer at me. “Want a cool one, brother?” he offered. “Sure,” I replied, reached over and accomplished a beer relay without even a dip in speed. My driver kept pace perfectly so we obtained refreshments. I took a good sized swig and offered the can to the driver. He took a nip and handed it back to me. Not knowing if our neighbors were offering us the whole can, I looked over and pushed the half full can back out the window. The driver looked at me and questioned, “Do you eat pussy?’ “Sure”, I shot back. “Ok , keep the beer, I wouldn’t touch my lips to it, seeing where yours have been. Here’s another for the driver,” handing me a second cool one. Wanting to repay the kindness, I offered the only thing I was carrying, “Want any mushrooms?” “You mean those things that grow in cow shit? Man, you white folks put your lips on all kinds of stuff,” he teased back, declining my offer. “Stay cool brothers,” He added, then moved on ahead. It seemed the midday beer angel paid us a visit.
Shortly, I was let off near Chattanooga. Quickly, I was scooped up by Luke and Stephen. They were headed to visit a friend who lived east in the mountains of North Carolina and invited me along. “Yes,” I thought, “this detour is working out well.” My hosts were certain to point out a blight in their neighborhood. Long before we arrived, they described how a copper smelter had denuded a section of mountain valley on the way to Murphy, NC. Sure enough as we headed over a hill into Copper Basin, we were greeted by a sight that looked lunar but with red clay base. With this setting in mind , we continued on the way to Ralph’s cabin near Peachtree.
Getting there we decided a sojourn on mushrooms was called for as a way of mediating on the state of our planet, part that we just witnessed. Stephen, Luke and I hiked to a nearby summit to have a prolonged gaze into another reality. Ralph stayed near his cabin. Upon returning, we noticed Ralph standing in a pond holding the end of a sizable piece of rope. It ascended up into a large gum tree overhead. “What’s up?,” we asked. “Oh. I tied my camera up there and rigged this line to snap the shutter, so I can get a picture,” was the logical response. Sure enough the large rope was attached to a smaller line that ran to a camera secured in an upper limb. Just then he tugged the line, the camera dislodged from its perch, flew down, and splashed into the mud next to Ralph. He let out a curse then a wild laugh at the sight he presented. Covered with mud splash and camera deep into it, still with a sizable rope attached. We took it all in good humor.
Ralph changed course and became a chef. He fixed up an excellent example of Southern barbeque ribs. The meal complemented the setting and before retiring we sat around a fire and entertained ourselves with some bluegrass picking. The cool evening was a welcome relief to the heat I felt in the flatlands earlier that day. Gratitude was in order when I tucked myself into my bedroll.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting ready to head north, May, 1975: Gainesville, FL

It took most of the day to hitch a ride from Homestead to Gainesville. Paul had arrived before me. Now we just had to await Eddie’s arrival. He did not get back that day. The whole trip to the Keys had been a disaster for us. Eddie bore the brunt. He was mugged in Key West, jailed in Clewiston, lost his car in the Everglades. By the time he got back the next morning, another piece of hard luck beset him. By hitching, he was able to get as far as Orlando. There he decided to catch a bus. While waiting in the station, he was approached with an offer to buy some drugs. He followed the seller outside and was promptly set upon by thugs who beat him and took the rest of his money. It was good to welcome Eddie home, little worse for the wear. The remainder of money, we had left from my stash of Canadian bills, went to provide Eddie with a cheerful night out.
By this time, I was feeling the pull to head to New England. My folks had moved there while I was out of the country and I had never visited their new home. I was now ready to venture for the first time to coastal Massachusetts. They had moved to Martha’s Vineyard. Before that, I was not aware of inhabitable islands anywhere off the Northeast coast. My only previous excursion through New England happened in the summer of 1969. Susan and I had taken a trip to Quebec to celebrate friend’s marriage and also our coming first wedding anniversary. We spent the better part of a week in Montreal, Quebec City and were returning home through the countryside. We made our way down through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was the second Sunday in August. News was coming over the radio about a giant music festival bogged down in the Pocono Mountains in New York State. We were unaware that any concert had been scheduled to take place this weekend.
The announcements suggested no one else try to make their way to this concert. Two days of rain only dampened the crowds, but did not want to make them leave. Apparently traffic was snarled by additional folks wanting to take part in “three days of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music,” as Max Yasgur announced to the throngs camping on his farm in Woodstock, New York. Despite the appeal to stay away, I felt an urge to head right over. Susan, perhaps a bit more grounded could not wait to return to our apartment in Douglaston, Queens, New York City. I had to settle for listening to the music recorded there. But I did not miss the launch of the cultural revolution that Woodstock symbolized. Returning home, I was greeted by a letter that announced, “Greetings, you have been selected to report for military duty.”-- a draft notice. Now a little more than five years later, I was planning on returning to my parent’s new home for a sort of homecoming. In the meantime, I had to find a suitable cord to bind my only belongings, a silk lined bedroll, before heading north.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where did I get my eyes? May, 2008: Ithaca, NY

I guess we form our viewpoint of the external word based on our interactions during our formative years. At least that is in line with current psychosocial developmental theory. My views were bedded in family values which included weekly attendance at a Catholic church, a parochial education at Catholic schools, and a firm independent life style. My father was self employed, with an overwhelming work ethic. It was difficult for him to cease working even under medical orders to rest easy. I came from a large family that, although we had bitter rivalries, bonded together during adversity often of a financial nature. Our family was regarded as middle income, but it often felt lower depending on economic conditions in my dad’s business.
The most memorable parts of our weekly visits to church were slight readings from the Gospels. During my teenage years, I performed alter boy service, which formed in me a distaste for liturgy. It did give me opportunity to sit in front during sermons and gospel readings. Additionally, from this vantage point I could keep an eye on all the attractive young women in the congregation. I was put off by Paul’s church message that denied us accessibility to natural physical attractions. There was an undercurrent hinting church authorities were not living up to these teachings. Later it became apparent that other religious bodies also had difficulties living up to these principles. On the other hand, I was taken by Jesus’ message that affirmed the value of a materially poor life style. His message also contained elements that turned from worldly authorities, but also offered a strong moral code. Core to his teachings was the message that we, “Do unto others as we would want them to do unto ourselves.” Unfortunately, church sermons, immense wealth, and treatment received during school exposed hypocrisy. This rooted in me skepticism and strong urge to find a society that exhibited a way to life embodying elements of Jesus’ point.
By the time, I graduated from High School, I developed a similar skeptical attitude about worldly governments, mostly our own. This was enhanced by the shooting death during my senior year of John F. Kennedy and subsequent unsubstantial investigation and lingering doubt about government and media veracity. During the early summer of 1964, I was sailing on a maiden cruise of a wooden sailboat my dad built. On board were four people--my dad, new owner, sail maker, and I. As we cruised out into the Gulf of Mexico, I relaxed on deck, while the men sat in the cockpit having pleasant conversation. A topic sprang up that gathered my attention. The sail maker announced, “ Our country is going to be at war within a year.” He based his idea on the increase he received for orders of military canvas goods, similar to what occurred before WWII and our Korean incursion. At that point, I could not see any situation that demanded a war response. However, within two months the Gulf of Tonkin incident was sprung upon us. My skepticism about worldly governments only increased my desire to seek and find that kingdom Jesus spoke of as “not of this world.”
During the later 1960’s while embroiled in the Viet Nam incursion, our own country was in turmoil, cities burning, people clamoring for social redress, and an overall dissatisfaction with our institution’s ability to take corrective measures. It almost seemed that any attempts to right matters only aggravated the problems. It seemed the only solace occurred in the alternative underground society that flourished on social fringes. This sub culture was termed hippie. Hippies embodied many of the principles found in varied spiritual teachings, including those of Jesus. Their culture was characterized in media for its drug use, open sexual conduct, and glaring lack of obedience to worldly authorities. In the meantime, it provided the best example of folks carrying out the principles contained in the Golden Rule. It very much felt like what can be imagined as early Christian life, attendant with persecutions. The most appealing characteristic of the counter culture was its openness. Yes, it had failures and moral lapses, but they were not denied and dealt with in a refreshing transparent manner.
By 1970, the counter culture came under assault to try and bring it into line with dominant culture. This attack was carried out at first as a financial battle. There had sprung up a preponderance of free stores, where counterculture elements distributed goods and services gratis. There was also a sharing of talents often without charge or at least for barter. This economic system fell prey to capitalism. Intentionally developed market forces created, “Hip Capitalism.” All of a sudden, the underground culture had market value. Coincidental with this, inflation was making it necessary to come up with increasing revenues just to obtain basic necessities. No longer could free culture stand next to inflationary forces. Around this time a back to the land movement began. Largely this could be interpreted as an attempt to further get away from main stream economy. By the mid 1970’s the underground culture was largely absorbed into the mainstream and small pockets of that free spirit movement were becoming scarce.
It is thus likely, my journey was prejudiced with a goal of trying to seek the remnants of such communities. And my eyes may have been using glasses that tended to make the world I viewed seen in such light. Taken as such, unknown to me, my task may have been to record the demise of the last of the Christians. That slant is with me today, as I believe I am witness to the apocalyptic vision that has held and increased during my life time. No matter the congregation, talk about prophecies of world’s ending, be it “The Apocalypse of John” or stories from other cultures have dominated conversation. Today it has spread further than spiritual communities and appears in scientific and economic communities.
This little sojourn into my psycho-social-spiritual formation provides a hint at the slant I present while reporting my travels during a time I believe begins the unraveling of the our world. I provide this so that as I pour out my stories, the reader may have a glimpse into the significance they hold for me.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Reflections on a quarter. May, 2008: Ithaca, NY

I have been telling a story that unfolded over thirty years ago. I shall take a break from spilling this tale and instead reflect briefly upon it. The period between Leaving Mardi Gras and the second leaving from the Florida Keys lasted about three months or quarter year. Times were unsettled. The country had swallowed but not digested the culmination of its prolonged brutal military engagement in Southeast Asia. Additionally, sweeping changes were being snuck into our financial system. Our government had moved us off the silver standard and resulting inflation was making it impossible to fly under the IRS radar. Roads were filled with individuals, families and autonomous groups that seemed intent upon existing outside the dominant social structure. Just as apparent, the rules of social order seemed intent upon forcing all to be included in its fold.
It seemed that by staying on the move, a large diverse contingent was finding a way to exist outside the prevailing social fabric. This party also seemed intent upon finding a way to live that precluded it from inadvertently becoming the beast it was trying to avoid. Many sojourners thought themselves gypsies, pilgrims, early Christians, but to a large extent would avoid identifying as such. Singer Jackson Browne seemed to have described it when he called the roads filled with homeless souls with no idea where they are going, but will help you if they can. Taking this journey to gather story made me part of it. I was hardly just an outside observer reporting on my witness. Instead, I sprang into relationships with those I was engaged with on my journey. In the past several months, I had come to rely on strangers for support and was given opportunities to help others.
In the background spiritual elements seemed engaged in the struggle that had been introduced to most of us in our church’s and culture’s tales, myths, and legends. Shortly before I began my journey, a young woman I met in a Subway store in Saint Catharines, Ontario introduced me to the concept of “mark of the beast” as contained in Revelations. I had not heard that tale previously. However, it seemed to have a large focus in both the traveling and settled world. Other tales and spiritual themes wove thru society. Not all were based on the Christian story, others were present. But a prevelant theme seemed to involve how we treat and relate to each other and our earthly home.
Many substances, later termed “substances of abuse,” were wide spread during this time. It almost seemed that those who provided aid to travelers were not adverse to using such substances. It was difficult to tell whether those not giving aid to travelers would use substances; the main assumption is they were not. In reflecting on this story, I will try as best I can to be objective. That is difficult when I was so much part of the tale. I will try to achieve balance by exposing the viewpoint and cultural lens, I draw on to examine this journey. Briefly, I used substances, had a Cathoilic school education, and had separated myself from this country by resisting the Viet Nam war. I began my journey by accepting amnesty granted to US Army deserters and was motivated to travel about seeking and promoting healing from sundry war wounds. I will spend a day reflecting before writing it down. Afterward, I will go back to unpacking my tales.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Let's get out of here. May, 1975: Homestead, FL

I suppose we were lucky meeting a couple of guys in Homestead who had heard about a vehicle like ours. It had been abandoned in barren swampland between Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys. Even though it was still in the dark of night, they offered to take us to it and we accepted. Before heading to the car, they took us to a quarry on man made canals facing lower Biscayne Bay. Just for fun, they showed us an example of phosphorescence common in south Florida waters. They whipped out a pistol and shot several times down into the lagoon. The bullets left glowing trails all the way to the bottom. It was a bit unnerving to be in the company of armed strangers, who happened to know the whereabouts of our vehicle and had met Steve and Buster. It was difficult to figure were we in the company of accomplices or adversaries. As it got lighter they put their weapon away, we got back in their ride and headed to Eddie’s car. It was not too far off the highway, but hidden from sight.
Upon examination, we determined Steve and Buster were never successful in getting a drink of water for the car. The radiator was bone dry and the engine had seized. It was not worth fixing. Eddie found a mechanic who would take it off our hands at no charge. It was nearly the end of the day when we were ready to head back to Northern Florida. But first we met Marilyn. She brought us to her house in Homestead and treated us to fine dinner. She had quite spacious quarters and had separate bedrooms for each of us. After a gentle evening listening to and playing music we retired in sumptuous luxury. I do not remember getting any sexual favors, but I do remember being woken a couple of times and seeing Marilyn bending over astride my chest with a long straw in her mouth that had just blown something up my nose. Whatever it was, blasted me into alertness . She would laugh, hop off and scurry to one of the other bedrooms.
Sometime, that night I had an incredibly vivid dream. In it, I was awakened by a brilliant flash of light. As I sat up to see what it was, I heard the sound of the Big Bang at the end of the world. I dreamed I witnessed a nuclear explosion out my window in the direction of the Air Force Base. Needless to say, it was a fitful sleep. Whatever her motive, our gracious hostess prepared us an excellent cooked breakfast and drove us to the highway. We were in a hurry to get back to Gainesville and decided it would be expeditious to separate. We split into equal shares the remainder of my Canadian bills. Then we drew lots to see who would thumb first. Paul got a ride quickly; Eddie was next; I got picked up last. But my ride was a good one; it took me all the way to Gainesville.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sweetest town in Florida?, May,1975: Clewiston, FL

As we awoke in the morning, Hawk retuned from his overnight duty. He had the makings for a fine breakfast courtesy of Uncle Sam. Afterwards he needed sleep and we needed to get underway. Straight out the gate of Homestead Air Force Base is US 27. We could follow it right up the middle of the state to Gainesville. I drove Eddie’s car. He rode shotgun, Buster, Steve and Amy sitting in the rear. It was a blistery day right off. We were thirsty and the car was running hot. We stopped twice to get liquid refreshment. We entered Clewiston under a large billboard that advertised it as, ‘Te Sweetest Town in Florida.“ By this time, the car needed a drink also. I pulled into a gas station, hoping to get some water for the radiator. As I came to a stop, the rear door opened and Buster jumped out, dressed the same as yesterday when he acted as our hood ornament. He approached, fully unclothed, three men who looked to be working there. He blurted out, “Do you have any water?” They looked at him astonishingly and spoke to one another in Spanish. I quickly shepherded Buster back into the car and drove away without getting any water.
Not only did the car need cooling down, but so did we. I felt it prudent that we take a break. So, I drove a few blocks to a park on Lake Okeechobee. We cooled off for a while and got Buster back into some pants. It turned out that he had taken off his and thrown them out the window. I gave him mine, while I wore a long shirt sort of like a kaftan. After it seemed like everything that was boiling over, cooled off, I headed back to the highway. As soon, as we turned onto US 27, we were boxed in by three patrol cars and ushered to the side. A Clewiston police officer walked up to me and blurted, “We had a report that someone, from a car matching this one was streaking.” I pointed out to him we all had clothes on. He nodded and asked me to produce a license. It knew it was in my wallet back on top of the fridge in Gainesville. Not wanting to appear that I deliberately left home without it, I offered the excuse, “My license is somewhere in my pants, that I lost while at a beach in the Keys.” I showed him my only apparel that looked a dress. I did not want to expose that Buster had my pants, which would have implicated him as a possible streaking suspect.
I was arrested for driving without a license. Eddie as owner, was arrested for letting me drive his vehicle as such. It turned out Amy was a minor, and was detained pending notification to her parents. Eddied gave his car keys to Steve and Buster on the promise they would go to Miami and find some bail money. I thought that a fat chance and the officers escorting us to jail thought that not a good idea, but told Eddie they could not prevent him from giving up his car to essentially strangers. It seemed both Buster and Steve had licenses to drive. In the jailhouse, I was given a pair of dungarees and one phone call. I called back to Gainesville and asked Paul to send my wallet containing my license and my stash of Canadian money. He said he would bring it by nightfall. I had a court date at 7:00 PM and hoped he would arrive in time. Our only cell mate was a local who had been arrested several times for a similar charge--operating without a license. As a habitual offender, he was facing a several month sentence. Clearly, I did not want to be his roommate for that long.
As court time approached, Paul was no where in sight. I was getting anxious that I might be staying in Clewiston for a bit. Our cellmate was a the first case and received six month sentence with a threat that any further occurrence would be felonious. Just as that case was disposed, Paul walked in and handed me my wallet. The judge asked me what had I been handed. I showed him my license. Upon, reading my charges, he decided he had to let me go. Apparently, the arresting officer , had charged me with not having a license, which I just produced. The judge admonished him that the correct charge should have been Failure to produce a license. Eddie was let go, since he too, could not be charged with aiding and abetting a non criminal.
As we were leaving the courtroom, our arresting officer warned us to not be in his town when he got out of court. He was obviously perturbed and had to stay there for several more cases. It was dark as we got onto the street. Even though we had a quantity of money, there was no way to get it exchanged. We figured the chances of three guys, hitching together, getting out of town were slim. We pondered how to break up and go searching for Eddie’s car. Out of the blue, a car pulled up and offered us all a ride. We escaped. The driver, hearing our story did not think heading into Miami would be fruitful in our search. We went with him to Homestead and spent the rest of the night walking around, hanging out in diners, and pondering our next move. We considered it might mean abandoning Eddie’s car and returning home without it.


Friday, May 23, 2008

It's not here. May, 1975: Homestead, FL

Just before Key West are several large Keys that seem relatively isolated and unpopulated. In contrast Key West is packed with humanity. It took us a while to find a place to secure our car. Finally we did, and Eddie went about conducting his business. I strolled around taking in the atmosphere. We planned to meet up at Sunset Pier and join the daily revelry attending end of day. The air reeked of legacies of artists and pirates. There seemed to be looming creative robbery. Before I caught up with Eddie, some thugs had caught up with him. He had been strong armed and relieved of all his money and possessions. He managed to hang onto his cars keys. We decided to leave immediately. Our dilemma was we had not enough money for gas. We met a young couple, Steve and Amy, who where headed to Tennessee. They offered to help with gas for a ride. We offered them a lift to Gainesville and a place to stay for the night.
Next, we picked up Buster. He was hitching with a towel wrapped around him. Once aboard, it was obvious the towel and his wallet was all he had. He had be relieved of his pack while swimming. Luckily, he managed to stash his wallet and towel separately. He was intent upon leaving the Keys right away and none of us minded having a naked man riding in the back seat. Buster was a loose cannon. Just past Big Pine Key we boarded Seven Mile bridge. This two lane highway offers no place to pull over or turn around. Unbeknownst to me, Buster climbed out the rear window and onto the roof. When I first noticed him, he was descending onto the hood. I felt any sudden change in movement might eject him onto the roadway. So, I maintained speed and steadiness while he practiced being a hood ornament. A police car passed in the other direction. I could tell by the look on the policeman’s face, we better retrieve our naked life size decoration. Fortunately, the cop would not be able to turn around and pursue us until he got off the bridge. As soon as I could, I pulled over and got Buster back in his seat. He seemed pleased with himself. Since he had no destination nor dress, I figured there might be a remnant of clothing for the taking at Grassy Key and headed there.
We arrived at the beach at the tale end of a drinking party. Hawk was the center of attention. His claim to fame was opening coconuts by using only his mouth. He loved showing how he could strip the husks with his bare teeth and throw us the nut. He already provided us with a few. He soon realized he had to go home and get ready for work, Home and work for him was Homestead Air Force Base. He got into his car and pealed out. He went speedily up the sandy, rutted and bumpy road full of turns. He did not make the first turn, but ended up front end down into a large ditch. He gunned the engine several times trying to extract himself, but only managed to spin the tires off his rear wheels. He got anxious about not being able to get to work.. Apparently his behavior was causing him problems and one more night of missing his duty station would land him in trouble. We were headed his direction so added one more to our party of wayward souls escaping the Keys. We got him home with time to spare. He offered to let us stay in his apartment for the night. A small military barrack seemed better than an even smaller car at the mercy of ravenous Everglades mosquitoes. We all settled onto the living room floor, grateful to have escaped with our persons intact.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where did Paradise go?, May 1975, Grassy Key, FL

When I got back to Gainesville, I decided to take a break from trespassing and gathering mushrooms. I felt the pocket full of money I had was tainted. I left it in my wallet on top of the refrigerator and decided to let it cool. The guitar I brought with me went quickly. I borrowed Paul’s bicycle and rode with Cathy to University of Florida campus to watch a film. On the way out, we discovered both bicycles were lifted. I offered Paul my guitar for recompense. I did not want to take it on my journeys and he was already an accomplished player and did not just fool around. He accepted the guitar with thanks. I was curious how Grassy Key was fairing after I left little over a month ago. I still envisioned the abundance of uniformed officials heading down the Keys as I was leaving in March.

Eddie wanted to conduct some business in the Keys and I agreed to accompany him. We left late afternoon and following the same route I had taken two months ago --US AIA from Fort Pierce to Miami. Two events stood out. One, somewhere either in Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood, a fashion store for clergy appeared. It had two story windows fitted with mannequins bedecked in regal splendor. For a moment I envisioned the scene of a Papal fashion show from Felini’s “Roma,” which was taken to be satire. This store was for real and from its looks was doing well. Secondly, when I was at the wheel, a hitchhiker appeared right in downtown Miami. It was late, probably around midnight; so, I pulled over to give a brother a ride. He hopped in the back seat and as I took off asked, “Have you guys, ever done amyl nitrate.” Before I could answer he passed be a small vile containing that powerful stimulant. I took a whiff and kicked my heart and head into high gear. I passed the bottle to Eddie and he did the same. As soon as he finished, our passenger, announced, “ This is where I get off; thanks for the ride.” Eddie handed him his bottle s I pulled over. We drove away wondering, “Are we in some sort of surrealistic movie?” We oressed on toward the Keys. It was the dark hour before dawn when we pulled up to the beach at Grassy Key.

One of the previous crew walked over to check us out. We recognized each other. He stated, “ I was sleeping out in the water. The mosquitoes are too bad to sleep on the shore.” His face and neck, apparently, portions not immersed in water, were covered with welts betraying the remnants of a blood feast. We huddled around till morning in our car. It was safe from the critters but too warm for comfort. Zack, told us how Paradise came to an end. Shortly after I left in March, a huge raid was conducted. After the police swept thru rousting and driving away folks, a contingent of locals stormed thru torching and otherwise destroying the camps. All vehicles became burned out hulks, no structures or lean-tos were left unscathed. He also mentions shooting and hollering. No one was shot, just shots fired into the air. From the sounds of it, a drunken gang was out having their fun. Some folks were still camped way back in the woods, but everyone had to more or less stay invisible. It was OK to be at the beach, just not camp or set up residence. I felt disappointment, that we would not be able to taste the experience that seemed to be fire brushed aside. As soon as it got light, we headed to Key West so Eddie could conduct business. Zack took a ride with us. He heard many of the Grassy Key crowd had scattered about down the keys. He was going on a search.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back to Florida quickly, April, 1975: Gainesville, FL

It was still April and weather was not settled into warm yet. At Niagara Falls, we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the falls. Before walking across the border, we strolled along the walkway overlooking the Horseshoe Falls. A family-- dad, mom and two kids, sauntered just ahead of us. On their matching jackets was an American flag emblem and company logo. We overheard the man tell his wife,” Honey, you know why I like coming over to the Canadian side of the falls? Well, it’s because you can see the American side from over here.” It seemed a strange perspective, but we were getting ready to cross over the Rainbow Bridge and get the perspective of seeing both sides at once. At the middle is a boundary marker with a national plaque on each side. For a few moments we stood in the middle, held hands and contemplated being in two places at once. The view from there was spectacular.
Coming north, I carried little. In Toronto, I unburdened the load of mushrooms, I had shipped up. For the return trip, I was packing a guitar, I had retrieved from Liz’s house. Besides that , I had a pocket full of colorful Canadian money. I separated from Esperanza in Buffalo. She was headed to Philadelphia, I wanted to hurry directly to Florida. Around noon, I left Buffalo west toward somewhere in Ohio where I could meet up with Interstate 75 headed south. My driver told me he picked me up because he saw my guitar. He asked me what type of music I played. My answer, “I don’t play much; I just fool around a bit.” In truth, I had only begun learning. A previous roommate, had taught be some basic chords for common folk songs. I was not at all accomplished on even those yet. That and I only retrieved it after not practicing for four months. I was quickly berated, “You must never say “fool around’ with a musical instrument. They are much too important to treat so lightly. I hope you take care of it while on the road. It needs better care than a baby.” It turned out my benefactor played Flamenco Guitar in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. He let me out where Interstate 77 heads south. I promised to take good care of my baby and was sure, I would never again slip by saying, “I only fool around a bit.”
Immediately, I was picked up by Bob. He was headed to California. He was in the same kind of hurry to get there as I was to get to Florida. He had come to retrieve a car his grandmother had left him in her will. He did not like Ohio spring weather. He showed me his boot . The heel swung aside and revealed a hidden carrying place. Here he kept his stash of speed that he planned to use to keep awake for his whole drive. After walking around spring mud, his boots got soaked and the Dexedrine pills turned into mush. He showed how he to scoop a dose out with a finger and lick it off. He offered me some, but speed was not to my liking. But, I offered to share a hash oil joint that I found hidden in my wallet. By the time we finished it, we had arrived in Dayton, Ohio. Here we parted ways. I to head south on I-75, he heading west on I-70. He gave me his address should I ever want to come to California.
Right away, Dave pulled over in an old Volkswagen Beetle. He had the look of a focused race car driver, Both hands on the wheel, head slightly bent forward, eyes peering straight ahead and shoulders hunched in a bit. He was in a race to get to Florida. He had a week off for his job and wanted as much time in the warm weather as he could squeeze in. He did not want to spend much of that time driving. I offered to share the driving and we proceeded ahead, stopping only for fuel, coffee and snacks. Before sunrise the next morning, I was deposited in Gainesville. My elapsed time from Buffalo to Gainesville was 19 hours. I could not have made better time had I had a car traveling alone. It seems the roads were filled with drivers with a purpose.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

History Repeats, April. 1975: Toronto, ON

As we approached the bridge going over the Detroit River to Windsor Ontario, I felt a tinge of anxiety crossing an international border walking. It seemed customary to either have a vehicle or use public transportation. I had witnessed folks being turned away based solely their appearance and lack of suitable funds. I was not sure about our qualifications on these counts. Before my fears could materialize, a small pickup pulled over to offer us a ride across the bridge. The driver was a bonded hauler who spent his days transporting shipping containers back and forth across the boundary. He must have picked up on my anxiety since he immediately offered that riding with him, thru the shipping customs point, would subject us to only a cursory examination. He was correct, since the Customs Official only asked were we bringing any contraband with us. Immediately, feeling the small pinch of illegal substance lining my pocket, “Of course not,” I lied. We were let on our way.

In Toronto, We separated. Esperanza went to visit an old boyfriend, I to see Liz, an old girlfriend. I arrived at her house and found a package waiting for me. The mushroom tapestry, I had shipped to myself from Adel, GA had arrived before me in good shape. I immediately set the package out and offered some to any takers. Alan and Wayne stepped forward and gratefully snatched a handful. After ingesting a few and, despite my warnings, downed them with beer. Within minutes, they decided they needed to drive away. Again, I protested, but to no heed. They got into their work truck and left. No sooner than the remainder of us sat down to breakfast, did Allan and Wayne show up at the front door howling in laughter. They returned without their vehicle. I took a hike to retrieve it.
Down the street at a traffic light, a scene resembling the one I witnessed two days previous repeated. Their truck was patiently waiting at a red light, engine running, doors open and music blaring. This time, there was a small crowd, looking on in a puzzled manner. I explained, “My friends got caught up in the Rapture, and I am getting their truck.” I got away before receiving a response. It turned out this vehicle was one I previously owned and traded away to settle a debt before I beginning my road adventure. Returning to the house, We settled down to spend a day without work responsibilities. I pondered what to do with this load of mushrooms. It seemed to be causing trouble away from its native environment.
I called Esperanza and we agreed to head back to the States in two days. I would quickly have to dispose of my mushroom tapestry that was turning into a burden. Someone had a friend who had a friend who expressed interest in my holdings. Somewhere in the Beaches area, I met that Someone. In a darken well appointed office space we worked a deal. He took my mushrooms, I left with a pocket full of colorful Canadian money, a small hash oil joint and two small microdots. I never felt right about exchanging money for mushrooms. It seemed I was treading on something Sacred. This notion would haunt me and eventually bear sour fruit. I contacted Esperanza and we agreed to leave the next morning.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Welcome to America, April,1975: Detroit, MI

Before we could get our gear together and head up the Interstate ramp, a car pulled over and the driver signaled us to climb in. Esperanza chose the rear seat, I joined Michael in front. He was a recent immigrant to this country from Greece and was returning to his new home in Detroit. He had visited relatives in South Bend and was interested in driving the side roads on his way back. Since none of us were familiar with this neck of the woods we all became tourists for the day without a guide. Most of the countryside was farmland, with many small diners and food stands. We stopped many times for coffee and conversation. Besides exploring the country side we explored each other’s stories.
Michael had come over to join immigrant relatives. He was a factory worker, who had left a wife and two daughters behind, until he could afford to bring them over. Many of his compatriots would split up families while the intricacies of immigration were worked out. He was also acutely interested in the waves of hitchhikers he noticed traveling around this country. We were not the first he had carried. This was an experience he had not seen in his country. I suppose he had not visited Northern Europe recently as the wave of modern day pilgrims was also awash there. Having him question us, gave us opportunity to reflect and understand the nature of our own journeys. I experienced mine as an unfolding that could best be summed by the title of a popular hit tune, “On the Road to Find Out.” Esperanza concurred and we welcomed Michael as part of the story.
He was also taken by the fact that we were traveling together without being committed partners. It seemed strange to him that the nature of our commitment lasted only as long as our journey. He was also puzzled about the nature of any sexual relationship we may have. He approached this subject by asking me about Esperanza’s availability for sex. I guessed that in his culture, matters of this sort were handled by the males. He was quite surprised that I brought her into the discussion and pointed out that here woman can speak for themselves. I stood aside and supported Esperanza as she turned down his offers. He accepted her rejection and our time together was comfortable enough that when we arrived at his home late that night we accepted his offer of floor space to sleep on.
His apartment was barely furnished. Michael was overly apologetic about the lack of amenities. His first furnishing was an excellent music system. Besides having a good radio and the beginnings of a cassette tape collection his belongings consisted of a single bed, a coffee table, no chairs, but he did have an automobile. He did have a set of dishes and cooking utensils that he displayed while graciously preparing and serving us fine example of Greek cooking. He apologized for the lack of beds, but we assured him that sleeping on his carpeted floor indoors was much better than cold damp ground. We arose early and Michael dropped us off at the entry ramp for the bridge to Windsor, Ontario on his way to work. In parting we welcomed Michael to our country and walked toward Canada before the sun arose.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Putting it in high gear, April, 1975: South Bend, IN

It came to me that by traveling with a pack full of mushrooms, we may never get north. Selecting a few in case, we met anyone who desired to partake, I packaged the rest up and mailed them to myself at a friend’s address. Gail, our hostess, drove us to the Post Office and then to the Interstate. It did not take long before a van load of youngsters provided us a ride. They were headed directly to South Bend, IN . They were returning from a week long vacation and needed to report for work the next morning. We drove straight thru and arrived at their home before 8:00 AM the next morning. They invited us in for a spell so that we could all rest up from our long drive. Needing a stretch, we accepted.
Their idea of rest and relaxation comprised calling all their friends to come over for a welcome home party. I got a first hand lesson why mushrooms and alcohol do not mix. Soon the house was full of folks having a celebration. I contributed a few of my remaining mushrooms to anyone who desired them. Jake and Dave wanting the experience asked. “How many should we take?” I answered, “Just take one, wait fifteen minutes, then take another if you feel like it.” They quickly decided they could consume a handful and wash them down with beer. After a few minutes they remembered they had a work assignment, got into their van and headed out. The rest of us sat around getting some rest.
In a couple of minutes Jake and Dave were standing at the door bowled over in laughter. Apparently, they abandoned their vehicle down the street. They had traveled as far as the first stop light when the mushrooms began to have their effect. Not being able to drive they walked home. Thankfully they were able to realize their incapacity to operate a motor vehicle. I walked down the street to retrieve their van. At the light, it was sitting, doors open, engine running, no driver in attendance. Other traffic was skirting around it, not paying the least attention to its abandonment. I hopped aboard and returned to the house. By some sort of magic, it had not been stolen, impounded, or reported. Everyone by this time had settled into the rest they sought after a long return from vacation. One of the folks who came over to welcome us home drove Esperanza and I to the Interstate to resume our journey.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Going North in Spring, April, 1975: Valdosta, GA

I had managed to gather a few thousand dried mushrooms. There were hanging from thread punched through each one by needle. I was intent on bring these north and sharing the bounty of the harvest. To disguise them, I strung them together on a wooden cross piece. They looked to be a tapestry wall hanging of sorts and had an artistic appeal. Since I would be carrying these in my pack, I felt it necessary to camouflage their true nature. Esperanza wanted to accompany me. Though I usually traveled alone, I welcomed her company. She was a much more accomplished camper. She traveled with a tiny tent and basic cooking gear. My pack held a load of mushrooms, small clothing, a book and sketch pad. I planned to eventually get to Toronto. We both had friends there we wanted to visit. Afterward, I hoped to return to Florida, she head to Philadelphia.
Besides, companionship, I suppose, she felt more safety hitching in the company of a male. There were a lot of single women alone on the roads. Not that they were any more vulnerable to predators, but there were unsavory types who descended on lone sojourners. So, perhaps our bonding was for convenience and safety. The first day we made it to Valdosta, GA, just north of the Florida border. It was early enough to set up a comfortable camp. Finding suitable woods was not a problem. Soon we set up our site. This was much more home style that I was accustomed. A tent, bedding, and cooked meal provided comforts I was not used too. The vagaries of traveling with a partner descended upon me.
We both had to make adjustments to our traveling style. Esperanza was more into comfort, I into speed. Alone, I would not have stopped as early as we did , but kept on going. Of course by the time, I would have chose to halt, there would not be light to set up a site. I sacrificed my urge to keep moving, a small price to pay for creature comforts. Having a prepared site to waken to also gave us an opportunity to have a small meal before heading to the road. It seems my days of full steam ahead are limited. Part of me is grateful.


Friday, May 16, 2008

A matter of Law, April, 1975 Gainesville, FL

Returning from my routine gathering mushrooms, I stopped by my sister’s house. Karen greeted me with, “There is a City Counsel meeting tonight discussing something that might interest you.” My curiosity peaked, I questioned, “ What’s that mean.” “They are proposing a new trespassing law. It might have an impact on your gatherings. The meeting is going to be televised, so maybe you would like some makeup,” she offered. Not having any, I asked her to help me with some makeup and she agreed. We spent the next while bending my face into our idea of resemblance to a native in war paint. When we finished, I did not even check in the mirror, but left for town hall. It was filled with people but I found a seat amidst the audience. Sitting in front, town council was reading and discussing a proposed new ordinance.
The words were many and listed prohibitive ways of being at, over, near, crossing or otherwise in attendance of any public or private, property, way, conveyance, or similar place. It sounded like it could be interpreted as making it illegal to be anywhere. Additionally, it would be prohibited to loiter with the intent to trespass. The gist of this law, made it seem that one could be charged with trespass at the whim of the enforcers. Next the issue was opened for question and debate. This proposal certainly impacted me and as I listened to discussion, I wondered about curtailing my activity in public or private pastures. Finally, I found a question needing an answer and clarity for this new ruling. I politely raised my hand and waited to be called.
After fielding several questions, The moderator pointed to me and asked me to rise. As I stood, television cameras whirled to face me and record my question. “Sirs, I admit that there are times, I commit loitering. I certainly do not want to fall afoul of your regulations. Could you explain, how it is determined that my loitering is with the intent trespass? Sometimes, I may fall into loiter, but want to curb my intent to trespass,” I asked, trying to be as wordy as their proposal. The council huddled for a bit, till the moderator thanked me for the question and provided, “ We cannot answer this question and will have to study it and modify the language in the proposed ordinance. It is now tabled and will be reintroduced at meeting next month.” I figured my trespassing days were numbered. I still had a month to transgress, but before then, Esperanza and I were planning on heading north. I went over to Debbie and Kathy’s house and announced to the tribe our temporary victory. We celebrated with a dance. Several folks had named our bunch “Wheredafugarewees.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Staying put awhile, April, 1975: Gainesville, FL

Since leaving Niagara on the Lake, Ontario on January 1, except for a brief stay at Grassy Key, I had not settled anywhere. This was in holding with my intention to travel for a year. One day after returning from mushroom gathering, I ventured on to the campus of University of Florida. There were rumblings of a massive student protest in the air caused by general upset over the steadily increasing cost of education. Besides being in an economic recession, the country was suffering huge inflation. Everywhere these costs were being passed on to the consumers. Here it was college students, and thousands were rallying in protest. The scene was dominated by a large stage where prearranged speakers would deliver their message over a sound system. After several leaders had addressed the crowd, the microphone was opened to anyone. Something stirred me to come forward and deliver a message.
I had noticed that throughout our country consumers were protesting rising prices by cutting back on their purchases. It seemed producers were getting the message. I knew nothing about economics but I reckoned that decreased demand resulted in increased supply, hence prices dropped. My message to students was, if they let go their education for a bit, administration would notice and perhaps prices would moderate. Apparently, I was inadvertently rousing early forms of consumer activism. My message seemed well received and afterward one student approached me and invited me to her house for dinner. Not only supper, but a place to stay came forward and I joined with Debbie, Kathy, Eddie and Paul in a student based commune. The women were students, the men not. My tasks besides daily journeying out to the fields consisted of housekeeping, cleaning, basic maintenance and providing comic relief. Having a supply of mushrooms on hand helped with this undertaking. Having a place to stay also made it possible to gather and dry a sizeable supply of mushrooms. I gathered many more than I could find takers for and a strings of bronze colored dried mushrooms had an artistic appeal.
One day Paul who had a vehicle, ventured out with me to observe my calling. Being adventuresome, we traveled to a new spot, but still in Alachua County. Finding a suitable place to park we walked through several fields till we were far removed from the road. We happened upon George, an elderly black man. George farmed 40 acres of land that his ancestors had received as reparations along with a mule after the war between the states and freeing of slaves. The mule had long since perished, but the forty acres was intact. His land was removed from thoroughfares and isolated. This suited George fine as he seldom saw use to go anywhere. His farm was pretty self sufficient and his needs minimal. After hearing seeing some examples of our collecting, George pointed over a slight rise and added, “If it’s those things you want, head over there. You’ll get all your need.”We thanked him and headed in the direction he pointed. Coming over the rise, we were greeted with a supermarket supply of mushrooms. We filled both shopping ages we brought along and left with a goodly store still on the shelves. Paul and I decided that we were recipients of the slogan, “Seek and ye shall find.” We further figured to leave the rest for others and headed home. It took me the rest of the day to string our bounty on lines for hanging and drying.
The house we stayed in provided a way station for many folks. Some of the people there were destined to form a community in the future. Others were just passing through. One, Esperanza, stayed for awhile and ended up traveling with me when I headed north to distribute mushroom communion. Before leaving, our household ventured to Ocala National Forest for a weekend getaway. We shared the campgrounds with competing Christian Fellowships. One group took to wearing no clothes, the other remained fully dressed. It seemed the clothed contingent judged the nude group to be not Christian. The nude bunch were more open and accepting. They did not seem judgmental about their clothed brothers. Our group not being put off by nudity were more attracted to the openness displayed by the naked members. We figured that if we were to get back to the Garden, dressing as Adam and Eve first appeared might be most appropriate. The two Christian groups went their separate ways peacefully. We returned home. Esperanza and I prepared for a northbound journey.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There's magic afoot, March 1975: Gainesville, FL

It became my daily task to hitch out to the field I was shown and harvest mushrooms. After spending a day communing with them I would return to town and distribute them, It seemed a sort of communion. I had plenty of takers. I turned out to be expert in identifying their growing patterns. Others became my guides and teachers in their use. Two aspects highlighted. One, mushrooms did not mix with alcohol and two, should not be exchanged for money. This last highlight reminded me of the story of Jesus tossing out the money changers. Should this element be stepped upon, a likely outcome seemed called for. I did not want to test these waters. Since the field I picked was several miles outside of Gainesville, I had to beg rides from others. On the return, my benefactors would usually accept my offer of a mushroom or two. It felt holy.
One day, my ride out was provided by a couple of young tourists who were interested in learning the art of picking. As was done with me, I was willing to share my knowledge. We drove out to my picking location. Even though it offered a spot to wander around unobserved, these guys did not like leaving their car where they could not see it. Consequently, we drove further out to find a location where we could pick and they could keep an eye on their vehicle. We found such a spot. We parked their car, climbed a fence and roamed around a pasture. After teaching them identification and gathering a few we were interrupted by a rancher in his pickup. He had come through the gate and tracked us down. He did not want us trespassing on his field. He pointed back to the road at a Marion County Sheriff’s car and said the driver would like to talk to us. We accepted his offer of a ride back to the gate. Along the way we decided to get rid of the mushrooms we had picked and ingested them, probably three or four apiece.
Upon arriving at the gate, the Sheriff’s Deputy was genial. He stated, “ If you want to eat something that grows in cow shit, that's your business. But I do not want you trespassing in my county.” He was sufficient with issuing a warning, provided we promised to not come back and trespass in his county. Seeing that my other location was Alachua County, I agreed to his request. My companions also readily agreed. We were let go and escaped back toward Gainesville. On the way, I decided to get off at my regular picking location. I had no mushrooms to bring back to town. They dropped me off and we separated to enjoy our respective “Good Ones.” After getting out in the middle of my familiar area, I remembered I had eaten a few mushrooms. I was used to eating one or two, never four. I spent the day, in deep spiritual union with my surroundings. My nightfall, I choose to stay there.
There were wooden platforms placed in the pasture. These were about a foot high and used to hold hay off the ground to keep it dry. They seemed like a good place to recline. Cows did not eat at night, there was soft bedding material and I did not have to worry about having my rest interrupted my armadillos or other ground creatures. Sometime in the middle of the night I was wakened by the sound of creatures of the walking erect two legged variety. Voices carried to me. By the sound of it, a couple of guys, obviously drunk, were seeking mushrooms. One phrase stood out, “I heard they glow in the dark. How come, we aren’t seeing any?” Out of the dark, I responded, “You guys looking for mushrooms?” Obviously taken aback, they jumped up with, “Who are you, what are you doing here?” I quickly assured them, I was only a mushroom picker, who was spending the night out in the field. I also informed them, I had never witnessed mushrooms glowing in the dark. and warned them alcohol and mushrooms would make an unwelcome mix. I offered them each a couple of mushrooms under the provision they would eat them after the effects of alcohol wore off. They accepted my story and offered me a ride back to town. I accepted. No sooner had they let me off and I walked under the carport roof at my sister Karen’s house than I large clap of thunder ushered in an immense rainstorm that lasted the rest of the night. I did not get hit by a drop. Some sort of magic had rescued me from having to stay several miles away from any decent shelter from this deluge.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mushroom picking, March, 1975: Gainesville, FL

Having gotten to Gainesville, I remembered Richard’s advice about the Mushrooms available there. In his words, “ They grow in cow shit, are totally free and really get you off.” I had since heard them referred to as “Magic Mushrooms.” I was ready to find out. Bearing in mind that some mushrooms are highly toxic and quickly fatal, I proceeded cautiously. Not knowing where to begin, I heeded the first piece of information about their growing medium. Since Gainesville is surrounded by cow pastures, it did not seem important which direction I headed. Being on the southwest side of town, pointed me in the direction of Williston. No sooner had I gotten headed west on Williston road, than a couple of teenage boys from Michigan stopped for me. When I informed them of my mission, they divulged they were headed out to pick some mushrooms and invited me along. They became my teachers of mushroom identification.
Several miles out of town, we pulled over next to a wooded area. I saw no signs of pasture, but followed the lead down a path through the woods. After several hundred feet, we emerged into a broad fenced area filled with scores of cows, one bull and many armadillos. At first glance there was no sign of mushrooms. Here my tutors explained their choice of location. A parked car was a dead giveaway that someone was about the business of roaming the fields in search of mushrooms. Some folks were bothered by strangers roaming around their fields in search of anything called magic. Without an owner’s permission, being out in their fields may mean trespassing. Hence it seemed better to conduct these searches unawares. Since the owners did not seem to care about their mushrooms and we were not going to disturb there animals or harm their property, it seemed innocuous that we trespassed to gather a few mushrooms.
It did not take too long before some mushrooms of the variety psilocybin cubensis showed themselves. The first identifying feature was a small bluish ring about the stem. Any piece of the mushroom would also turn blue when bruised. Their caps had a slight reddish color at the center proceeding from a pale white rim. The mixture of colors would deepen as the mushroom aged. Over the next weeks, I gleaned abundant knowledge of mushroom culture, by examining them from baby sprouts no bigger than the lead of a pencil up to a large cap of several inches in diameter bending over from its own weight. Richard‘s advice was correct; they did grow in cow shit, were free and the experience gained from ingesting them was good. There was also an attendant magic aura surrounding them.In their company a certain feeling of protection emanated. Spending hours walking silently in the company of cows, armadillos, and snakes while conducting a search added a spiritual component. Ingesting mushrooms provided an opening to further exploration into spiritual realms. Having gathered a few samples, we headed back to town. Along the way, we searched the broad avenue of parting salutations. “Have a good day,” seemed limited and not inclusive enough, especially for those intent on not having an pleasant day. After rumination we parted ways exchanging the phrase, “Have a good One.” In this case, “One” could be anything that the recipient of the wish wanted. My mushroom gathering adventure became a “Good One.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back to the world, March, 1975: Naples, FL

Several folks were hitting the road in the morning. It takes some creative hitching to flag a ride, when there are many folks lined up singly, in pairs or small groups. It seemed to be an unwritten code that newcomers took their place at the end of the line. So whoever had been out the longest was the first to present a thumb to oncoming traffic. My technique was to walk past the end of the line and just keep walking. Once I got separated from the crowd, I would hitch on my own. It is difficult to tell how effective was my strategy since I was out of sight from the masses, whom may have gotten rides. But on my own, I never had to stand for hours as I heard tales of being stranded with a whole bunch in a lone outpost.
I was pulled from the side of the road by a couple, Betsy and Ann. They were headed to California, but in no big hurry. They lived in their vehicle but needed to have a residence established as a means to secure SSI disability payments. I was not certain of their disability, but they claimed to not be able to work. Their residence of choice was in Berkley, By their story, they had little over a month to return there for a disability review. As we got underway we noticed a parade of police cars headed back towards Marathon. They bore markings from the FHP (Florida Highway Patrol), FMP (Florida Marine Patrol), and Monroe County Sheriff. I suspected they were headed for a showdown at Grassy Key. As I related the story about the recent demise of Paradise, we offered prayers and good wishes for the folks whom may be in confrontation. Each of us had experience traveling slowly on the East Coast of Florida, so we decided to leave via the West Coast.
We made many stops crossing the Everglades. I even cajoled them into pulling into Everglades National Park which I had visited on my way down. I related the tale of having snuck onto a military base but we were able to restrain ourselves from breaking that barrier. By the time we hit the west coast it was getting dark. We headed to the beach in search of a place to camp. On a long stretch of unnamed shore north of Naples we pulled in for the night. There was just enough light to see the pieces of wood I was gathering for a fire, but not enough light to see what bit my hand when I reached for a piece. Whatever it was delivered a painful sting to my right palm. In minutes my palm swelled up. I was determined to not go to a hospital. I had no insurance or funds to cover emergency costs. My camp mates ministered and nursed me through the night. The swelling continued up my arm to the elbow. The pain slowly turned to numbness. I worried slightly about what would be the consequence should the numbness go past my shoulder. Somehow, I went to sleep and by morning pain dissipated, swelling went down and numbness was replaced by a slight itchy tingle. My diagnosis was that I suffered a scorpion sting. By coincidence or not, both of my traveling companions were Scorpios. Despite an invitation to accompany them to California, I left them in Gainesville. I hoped not to have anymore painful stings.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paradise Dismantled, March,1975: The Keys, FL

There was sadness abounding as we witnessed the falling apart of what seemed to many utopia. Half the folks at Grassy Key departed. Those remaining seemed determined to hold out and not be budged by the law. The atmosphere seemed more like that displayed by the hole in the wall gang from old time western movies than the blissful attitude of paradise from recent weeks. In a small way this was similar to the unraveling that occurred between the three days of Peace, Love and Music at Woodstock, NY and the day of Outrage, Anger, Violence, and Murder at Altamont, CA between August and December, 1969. There was accommodation for a few at the abandoned artist’s community where I was sheltered. Another large group banded together at an old worn out limestone quarry. During this unsettling, many tried to piece together our next steps as we most certainly would have to leave this area. Living a day to day existence did not seem to provide insurance contingencies for emergencies, especially for those who had managed to get by without personal resources.
When I had first arrived, I had gotten rid of most of my possessions, notably a pack and clothing. My attire consisted solely of a kaftan type garment that had come my way. My sleeping gear was made up of a colorful lightweight cotton sheet. With this gear I was hardly prepared to venture away from the Keys. It seemed everyone was provisioning for our looming exodus. I found an excellent full sized bed cover. It was of a lightweight quilted design, the upside of bright cotton, the down side of silk. This would make become the foundation of my bedroll for the rest of my travels. In a pile of abandoned clothing, I gleaned a suitable outfit to provide warmth and comfort outside the Keys. No one was totally physically prepared to leave, nor relished giving up our cherished community. Reality spoke otherwise. There was rumor of coming raids and likely harassment determined to drive us out. There was obvious tension and an evil portent that the forces driving us away from here would be in worldwide pursuit.
Late one evening, I headed over to Grassy Key. On the way, I bumped into a vehicle parked just off the road. A young couple with two kids were asleep on the ground beside the car. Apologizing for disturbing them, I got into a conversation with the father. He related they had left Indiana in search of a paradise they heard existed nearby. Apparently work had dried up for them and they were at the tail end of the winter migration. Unfortunately, I had to beak the news that the paradise they were seeking was under attack. By the man’s response, it seemed he was familiar with vestiges of beneficence being snatched away. He thanked me for the information and was resigned to keep on moving. I was beginning to grasp the Gypsy Spirit. Continuing my walk, I entered the way to Grassy Key. Right away, I came upon three police cruisers and several officers. They were confronting several trees that had been cut down and fallen across the road. Apparently this was an attempt to bar entrance to Paradise. “What is this?” I asked one of the officers. “I guess they are declaring war.” was the response. “Not only do I not want to go to war, if I did , I would not go against you guys,” I came back. It seemed I was not looked upon as the enemy. For the next minutes, I consoled with them and picked up that this barred entrance was only a temporary inconvenience and they would no doubt obtain reinforcements and make their way past. As soon as they got in their cars and left, I continued on down to the beach. There, around the old central campfire, was the gang that felled the trees. They were celebrating their victory of keeping the law at bay. It was no use telling them their victory was likely short lived and reinforced police would come back. I related the story of witnessing the police turning back and mentioned they had plenty of resources. This crew likely reinforced with alcohol acted as if they welcomed confrontation. I wished them well and headed back to my refuge.
Sometime that night, I was awakened by a couple of policemen who were sweeping through our encampment, informing us it was no longer legal to live here and warning us to leave and that a not so pleasant push was on its way. I gathered my stuff and went on ahead of these officers to awaken my mates and forewarn them a couple of hospitable cops were on the way to issue warning. I convinced Karen that our camp no longer offered refuge. We gathered our small belongings and headed down to a hidden beach where structures would not give away our presence. That night we both again received a conjunct vision. This one briefly showed that through out the world was a gathering of the remnants of God’s people. They were being assembled by beings referred to as, “Stewardesses.” In the morning, Karen and I figured we were to part ways and venture out and witness the unfolding of this story. Neither of us held much import that we were given this vision, except we felt we were being charged with an added responsibility to treat other well and to the best of our ability live the Golden Rule.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Paradise continues, March, 1975: Crawl Key, FL

For the next several days, we continued to live in Peace and Harmony. There were comings and goings. We did not have many road worthy legal vehicles. That meant most transporting was accomplished by hiking. However, we managed. Fish, date and coconut palms seemed to provide for us adequately supplemented by assorted bounty that showed up. I took to beginning each day sawing open a coconut, serving the meat and milk, then carving the shell into a covered container. Mangrove branches provided more material for carving. From these issued walking sticks, pipes, and assorted beads. Some folks worked with string and twine which were in abundance from abandoned fishing gear. Macramé arts flourished. We produced assorted trinkets which we traded and gifted to one another. A Viet Nam Vet who had an artificial leg was presented with a walking stick I carved. It had a hollow center and doubled as a pipe. He asked to have carved on it “New Jerusalem.‘ I obliged. It was easy to believe we were the beginning of a new model for cooperative living.
We enjoyed good relations with the police. Every day around noon a Sheriff’s Department cruiser would pull up to our main fire pit. The genial officers aboard would engage in pleasant conversation and take in what they could see about our living situation. At first we were not engaging in any activity that would cause concern. However, due to the open nature of our community, several unsavory types climbed aboard. We did not want to be unwelcoming, but accepted all comers. Stories of unpleasant encounters in town started to filter back. It seemed to be setting the framework for our undoing. No one among us felt called to police anyone’s behavior, so we continued our community experiment in hopes that good behavior would outshine the bad. Some even brought forth the idea that what we were partaking in what was only a small part of a Grander Design. Our main focus still centered on becoming a sharing, caring, loving group of people.
One evening a large gathering assembled and musical instruments were brought out. We enjoyed a lengthy celebration of song and dance. At its pinnacle, everyone joined in a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Before we finished several police vehicles pulled up and a raid commenced. Most of us scurried away. Two were apprehended, Paul, who called himself John the Evangelist, was nabbed right off and Mickey who had a crippled leg and could not join the rest of us in running away. Apparently, Paul had a record and outstanding warrants. His behavior in town stood out and he was traced to our community. Mickey was released the next day and brought back the story of Paul’s arrest and his criminal background. There was also talk of a bigger raid to unearth any more folks we might be harboring. This raised fears that many did not want to confront. Terry left with Jennifer and Candy for Zephyrhills.
Karen showed me an alternative location down the road, across the street on Crawl Key. We walked over and found back in the forest several abandoned shelters. These were obviously the remnants of an older community. Huts were made of bamboo, thatch, and salvaged lumber. They were quite charming and offered shelter from sun and rain and had raised sleeping platforms. We met a couple living in one shelter who had been there quite a while. They informed us we were what we saw was left over from an artist’s colony that failed but left intact their structures. They said it was OK I took over one of the lodgings. Karen had already been ensconced in another. I set about house making and gathering belongings and what was left from the good spirit that had been scattered during that police raid. From across the road, I could witness the demise of Paradise.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Easter is Approaching, March, 1975: Grassy Key, FL

Hardly anyone in our community knew what time it was, nor had a good handle on the day or month. We had reckoned it was several days after Mardi Gras and that meant we were counting down the days from forty towards Easter. Since Fat Tuesday landed somewhere near the middle of February, and that was certainly over two weeks ago, it meant we were at some point in March. Observing the moon was just beginning to wax, a pagan amongst us noted that by the time the moon became full, it would also be past the Vernal Equinox. Putting all this together, meant that Easter would arrive the first Sunday after we observed the moon going full. Since we had little to distract us, our community observed and noted the increase of the moon conjunct with the swelling of the tides and the approach of Spring. There were some amongst us who were talking about heading back North. I wondered about the possibility of exporting this Paradise community as folks headed out. It was then that a most powerful vision arrived.
The evening that the tide seemed to be at its peak and the moon its fullest I was sleeping a few feet from Jennifer’s small tent several feet above the high water mark. In a dream state I was awakened in the exact lsame ocation. I arose and sauntered down to our central campfire area. There I met one of our community, Karen. We greeted each other and decided to take up the chore of venturing to town with some plastic milk jugs to collect fresh water. This was a needed task since we had no nearby sources. We gathered up our collection of empties and headed out to the road. When we got there we were puzzled by a complete lack of traffic or other signs of human activity. After what seemed like an hour, we noticed a van approaching. It stopped and after we climbed aboard, the driver looking puzzled stated, “You are the first people I‘ve seen this morning in over an hour. What is going on?” “I don’t know. You’re the first person we have seen this morning. We’re headed to Marathon. Maybe there we’ll find out,” I shot back. We headed off toward town.
As we pulled into town, the streets were likewise deserted. We noticed a couple of others walking around looking puzzled. We all convened at the gas station were we were able to obtain water. No one among us had a clue about what was going on. After filling our jugs, Karen and I headed back to our beach. Shortly a new model car pulled over and offered us a ride. Still wondering, we climbed in and told the driver our destination. He appeared to be a middle aged, balding, round faced, business man. Without a prompt he offered an explanation of the strange events. His words, “The world has undergone a judgment. It has been divided into two, one side headed for destruction and the other towards Paradise. Those on the other side are not even aware anyone is missing.” He did not introduce himself, but I took him to be Jesus. He let us of at our road. Shortly thereafter, I awoke at my spot on the beach, with a fresh vivid memory of this compelling vision.
I stumbled down to the central campfire and was greeted by Karen, the same person who had appeared in my dream vision. She greeted me with, “You wouldn’t believe the dream I just had. You were in it.” We compared dreams and it seemed we had shared the same visionary experience. The next couple of guys who stumbled into our morning also related similar encounters in their night’s vision. Soon others were awake and business of finding our daily bread got under way. I put my story away and went into town with Karen to get some water


Thursday, May 8, 2008

A different kind of Community, March, 1975: Grassy Key, FL

Shortly after exiting the surf, from my foreseen nude swim, I wrapped a towel around me and went over to a large circle that held the central campfire for this beach commune. It almost had the feeling a downtown area of a small city. It was the area that newcomers would head to first upon arriving. It was here too that information would be dispersed and small business conducted. As a way of introduction, I took out a can of tobacco and rolling papers and set them on one of the huge logs that ringed the fireplace. I figured that sharing was the desired behavior for a community that seemed to lack resources. It worked and I was welcomed as some folks immediately set upon my offer. This behavior turned out to be commonplace, in that sharing was conducted almost on a religious level. Before the end of my first day here, another carload of folks showed up. Out stepped Terry, who I had met in Jackson Square in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. He dragged along Jennifer, Candy, and Roberta, Or, more to the point they dragged him along, since it was they who had a vehicle. We all spent that first evening near the central fire and slept scattered around on the ground except a couple of the woman reclined in their vehicle.
Just like in a city, after folks had landed downtown, they would eventually migrate to the suburbs. Here it meant setting up a site a distance up or down the shore or back in the mangrove bushes. I moved with Terry and the bunch he arrived with about a hundred yards away from downtown and we set up two tents. Along the shoreline other suburban outposts were established, most had beach frontage. Some were in tents, others in home made shelters of plastic tarps, and yet others in vehicles. There seemed to be a steady commerce of our slight resources mostly conducted in the downtown area. Work consisted of gathering food, water, tobacco, occasional other treats. Folks were resourceful in gleaning nature’s bounty. It seemed extreme, but some people would hitch to Homestead and sell blood for cash to purchase items not readily available in nature‘s store. We were able to carry out this endeavor without having ownership of the land. As yet, the trespassing laws were not enforceable without an owner’s complaint. The land we were staying on was of indeterminate ownership. The story was this beach was part of an estate that fell into no hands when heirs did not step forward. Apparently, it had been in this limbo for several years. As a bunch who did not desire to own land, we took advantage and found home. Rumor had it that an abandoned mansion in Marathon served the same purpose and offered an in town shelter for city folk.
It was a colorful bunch assembled together practicing the principles of sharing, caring and loving one another. It seemed I had finally found a group of people that were living up to some wide held religious values that had been preached but I never witnessed being lived. Together, we held this must resemble Paradise. In the meantime our numbers increased with folks who had left the struggle to survive in a winter when many brothers and sisters living elsewhere were suffering in a potent economic downturn. There was Gypsy, a young woman from California who nightly would travel into town and use her wiles to obtain a few drinks, a pack of tobacco, a sometimes small amount of cash. She often returned late at night and rouse everyone by shouting for her dog she always left behind. We put up with obtrusiveness because of her sharing community minded spirit. There was Phil, who seemed quite aloof, and preferred staying in an abandoned vehicle that even if it had an engine would not be drivable. Phil shared his living space with a collection of returnable bottles. He spent his time fishing and seemed to return daily with a nice catch, and a few more bottles gleaned from the beach. Every Sunday, Hector would show up with a host of Cuban immigrants. He would throw a large party in celebration of the beach he landed upon entering this country after crossing the Florida Straights in a small boat. He expressed genuine interest sharing with those less fortunate and understood the life style of those who preferred the path of the Beach Bum. Were it possible, I envisioned staying on this beach until living in Paradise engulfed the whole world. It remained to be determined how long that would take or how long my vigil would last.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First Impressions, February, 1975: West Palm Beach, FL

After spending a whole evening escaping the clutches of the long arm of the law, I decided to take it easy. A day at the beach was called for. Luckily, my first ride was headed to Juno Beach. Here it is common to see many folks scanning the sand with metal detectors. Lore has it that a Spanish Treasure Fleet sank off shore in the 16th century. Several seekers swore they found gold here. It seemed a popular spot for booty seeking. I sat all morning doodling on a sketch pad. I even got to explore the surf. By mid afternoon, I was ready to resume my crawl southward. It was around dinner time passing through Palm Beach when I saw at the curb, Mike, who was arrested last night for Cannabis possession. He waved and shouted, “I got let out last night after you guys left, They didn’t even give back my stash.” He seemed in good spirits.
Further down the road, I went into a diner for a meal. As I was leaving, an elderly gentleman accosted me and berated me for my appearance and apparent lack of job. I engaged him in a polite conversation and he relented his attitude when he found I was erudite. He offered to buy me a meal. I told him I just ate. He was additionally surprised to find I could pay my own way. I joined him for dinner and afterward he offered to take me across the street to a bar. Apparently he was a well known patron and instructed the bartender to put my fare on his tab. During the evening, a couple offered to let me stay in their camper van parked across the street at a motel. They were staying in a room and not needing their camper. By the end of the evening, I decided I would feel more comfortable sleeping on the ground outdoors. It was late when I bade farewell to my new found friends and went out in search of a dark quiet location.
This part of South Florida is sparing on its dark locations. After a lengthy walk, I happened upon a golf course. By walking out onto the fairways, I could finally find a spot amongst the bushes that offered quiet and no light. I spread out my roll and enjoyed a long nap sleeping off the effects of partying. It was daylight when I was awakened by a tugging on my bedroll. As I came to, I noticed a small child prodding me into alertness. As I turned over, I noticed a young woman with a stroller, whispering to the child to come away from me. It was obvious she was frightened by my appearance and choice of sleeping arrangements. I unobtrusively shooed the child back to his charge, gathered my belongings and scurried away. I found a breakfast diner and went in to partake of their special. Before sitting down, I went into the restroom. There I observed the site that frightened the young woman. I admit I had a wild disheveled look about me. Not wanting to raise undue attention, nor disturb bystanders, I vowed to better attend to my presentation.

But a new party is beginning, February, 1975: Jupiter, FL

After a brief stop in Gainesville to visit family, I hurried over to the east coast, headed to the Keys. In Fort Pierce, I met Jeff who had hitched all the way from California. He was headed to Miami, so we joined together. We both enjoyed traveling on the slow road, in this case highway A1A, which meandered through all the towns on the east coast of Florida. It was quite dark when we were let out in Jupiter at a lonely intersection. Besides a traffic light there was only piles of construction materials and the beginnings of a bank building. We headed over to a stack of plywood and sat down to ponder our next move. Jeff pulled out a small envelope of marijuana and asked, “Wanna smoke one?” “Well, certainly,” was my answer. Just as he finished twisting up a joint, another car stopped at the light and let out its passenger. Mike walked over to us, reached into his shirt pocket and whipped out a joint of his own and questioned, “ You guys wanna get stoned?” Again, I replied, “Well, certainly.“ Jeff showed the join the had just rolled, both were lit up and passed around our small circle.
Just as we finished, a police cruiser pulled up and the officer motioned us to come over and be checked out. Jeff and Mike walked over, I waited to gather myself together before facing an Officer of the Law. Before I got up, Jeff came back and stated, “Get your pack, we’re going to the station.” “What for?” I asked. Jeff replied, “Mike got busted for the stash he was carrying in his shirt pocket. We are taken in to be searched.” I gathered my pack and joined the other two in the back of the cop car. I wondered what to do with the small packet of good gold grass I had in my front pants pocket. When we got to the station, our escort put Jeff and I into a waiting room and went to another part of the station to book Mike. He instructed,, “Hold tight, when I get done, I will come back and search you guys.” We were left alone for what seemed a half hour. I came to a solution about the small amount I was holding. I slid open a filing cabinet and placed my stash inside.
Shortly, the Man returned and quickly pat searched our pockets but not our packs. Finding nothing, he informed us we would be taken back to the highway and warned us to be careful about who we traveled with on our journey. To the side, he warned me about my traveling buddy. Jeff was a highly decorated Viet Nam veteran who was awarded a citation for bravery in close quarter hand to hand combat. The policeman's concern was that as a Viet Nam era deserter, I might be at risk to incur Jeff’s wrath. I felt no such concern since Jeff and I had already shared our war stories. Another officer arrived to transport us back to the side of the road. As we got dumped off and settled on the curb, Jeff mentioned, “You can’t imagine the butterflies I feel in my stomach.” I just looked at him quizzically. “Take this pack over behind that sign and twist us up one; I need it,” he motioned to a sign away from the road. I took his pack, walked away and when I felt hidden, opened it up. It was crammed full of marijuana. I quickly rolled up a joint and returned to Jeff. He smiled, adding, “Can you believe, I walked into a police station carrying all that, got searched, then released and given a ride back here? I really need to smoke one now.” We got further blitzed as we sat on the curb watching the late night bar patrons making their way home.
After a few minutes, another police car pulled up. Again we were summoned to come over and be checked out. Feeling cocky and knowing that he would quickly find from our ID’s that we had already been searched in the station, I asked, “What would happen if instead of producing an ID, I told you that I was a secret agent and could not show you any identification?” Before he could answer, his radio crackled, “There is a 10-30 [ or some such number code] at the Holiday Inn.” Before answering my question he slammed his car into gear and zoomed away. Apparently whatever was happening at the Holiday Inn was of more import than two stoned hippies slumming on the side of the road. We quickly came to the conclusion that we may be pressing our luck and should likely get out of sight. Nearby was a bridge and we climbed beneath it and found dry level ground to retire for the night. In the morning when I arose, Jeff had already departed. I headed for the beach.


Monday, May 5, 2008

The party's over, February, 1975, Lake City, FL

The Mardi Gras celebration begins the week before Fat Tuesday. By Sunday it was already getting out of hand. On a nightly basis when they mounted police swept the streets, it was not a place to be for those who couldn’t move on command. For those not ensconced in rooms it got pretty ugly. I was more or less one of the street crowd and not enjoying the scene. I had gotten a handful of coins and beads thrown from parade floats and decided I had seen enough and was ready to move on. Making my way to I-10, I met another who had also had enough and was heading in my direction--Florida. Mike was a traveling reporter for a newspaper on Long Island. His method of travel was hitchhiking. I don’t know how he filed his stories but he produced his work on a small portable typewriter he carried with him. Mike had no arms.
He was born in the 1950’s, after his mother had taken thalidomide. As a result he had hands attached to small appendages on top of his shoulders. Mike was quite adept at using his hands in this location. When I first met him, he asked in greeting, “Wanna get stoned?” When I said , “OK,” he deftly reached into his shirt pocket, produced rolling papers and a small matchbox with pot in it. He quickly twisted up a joint, pulled out a match and sparked it. All the while a brisk wind was blowing that would have given me trouble getting a match to stay lit. By cupping his hands with his back to the wind, Mike got the joint lit and so did we.
I did not witness him typing, but I am certain he was well adapted and seemed to have no limitations. Quickly he used his thumb to fetch us a ride.
A Volkswagen Beetle towing an identical one pulled over. We got into the first one with Wayne. He had just finished a thirty year career in the US Marines and was moving all his belongings to Florida. He had room for us in the lead car, the rear one was loaded with his possessions. Wayne was a professional soldier, having served in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. He was a senior enlisted man and during times of no conflict attended the War College, a military institution to study and learn the art of war. He was certain that all his experience taught him one thing only. Wayne reiterated several times, “All I learned is dead men stink in the sun.” We spent several hours traveling through Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle trading war stories and anti-war stories. It seemed an unlikely paring, one who had avoided going to war and another who immersed himself in war having a meeting of minds about war’s outcome. When we parted at Lake City, Florida we offered each other congratulations for the courses we had taken. Mike had not said much during our trip, but like a good reporter took it all in and made notes. Together the three of us made that day’s story.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Desperate Scam. September, 1975: Huntsville, AL

Driving with Rick across the breadth of Southwest United States was intense. We were both determined to reach the Southeast rapidly. I was headed to Gainesville Florida, he to Gainesville Georgia. I wanted to get to my sister’s house in time for my birthday. I do not know what propelled Rick. He had a camper on the back of his Pickup that had a bunk, cooking facilities and a small table. Sometimes, we both shared the cab and could converse, otherwise one of us would drive and the other in back resting. We both seemed to be carrying the same types of food, namely, oatmeal, coffee, and sugar. The difference was I had powdered milk and avocadoes, he had real milk in a cooler. We agreed to use his milk in the oatmeal, my powdered milk in our coffee. He did not like avocadoes and we agreed to not touch the remaining Coors Beers I was bringing to David, my sister’s husband. I was light on money but Rick said he had enough for gas. As long as I could share the driving we would stay on the road.
In the midpoint of our second night we ran into some trouble half way through Arkansas. One of his front wheel bearings was making a loud squeal and showed signs of not being able to hold up much longer. I wondered the significance of a second wheel bearing going bad on this leg of my journey. Fortunately, we happened upon an all night truck stop having a garage which could affect a repair. Unfortunately this dipped into Rick’s cash reserves to the extent that we might not have enough money for gas. After getting under way, I pondered a solution. One that sprang forward was a tinge illegal but seemed workable. I suggested that in the morning we go into a small county seat so I could apply for food stamps. We could show the cooking facilities in Rick’s truck as home. If this worked, I would barter the stamps for gas, not quite what they were intended for, but a possible way out.
Before morning we pulled into the town square in Huntsville, Alabama. Rick slept in back, I dozed in the cab. Warmth and bustle of mid morning woke me and I found the Food Stamp office across the square. Leaving Rick to his slumber, I went over and began the process of applying for food aid. The woman handling my case was friendly and quite willing to accept my story of living in a camper. Apparently that was not unheard of in these parts and she did not even ask to inspect my facilities. However, she did ask where I was camping. There happened to be a large scale map of the county posted on the wall in her office. Upon hearing her question I leapt up and peering at the map, hastily pointed to the location of my fictitious campsite. She looked where I was pointing and quickly stated,” Oh, that’s Lester’s property. He shoots folks who trespass out there.” Immediately, I rescinded my request for stamps and announced, “Wow, then I guess I better be leaving this county and heading back north.” She agreed that would be a good idea. I returned to give Rick the flat news of my failure to scam food stamps.
After a few moments Rick hatched a scam of his own. He had been holding a quantity of “Black Beauties,” a form of speed that was popular with truck drivers. He figured on heading over to the nearest truck stop and dealing enough of these to gain gas money. I felt bad he had to part with his stash and I was not able to help. However, we drove to a nearby trucker’s haven and it took him no time to find a willing customer. Before long we headed out to finish the last leg of our cross country dash.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Letting off steam, September 1975: Ogden, UT

I got under way from Boise headed east. Local lore included the Snake River Canyon that defeated Evil Knievel’s attempt at clearing it in a jump with a rocket powered motorcycle the previous year. I was given a ride by a band of natives in a pickup truck who provided me with another tale they thought had much greater implications for disaster. As we headed east on I-84 toward the desert they pointed back to the mountains in the west. Here they told stories of working on a project drilling large wells into geothermal pockets of super heated steam. These held dual promise and an enormous threat. Under pressure steam will absorb heat well past the boiling point of water. Deep in the earth steam can reach several thousand degrees Fahrenheit. As it comes to the surface, it releases enormous pressure. This can be used to power electric turbines. Once the heat and pressure is dissipated steam becomes water to be used to irrigate millions of acres of desert.
The wells either under construction or being proposed were a dozen feet in diameter and thousands of feet deep. The enormity of this project was mind boggling. These natives were concerned because part of this project was being conducted on tribal lands. This bunch was concerned by the possible threat contained within. They questioned what effect are we having by removing so much pressure from deep in the earth. Of course scientists promoting this project were assuring that the water being released from the bowels of the earth would naturally be replaced. These guys were skeptical. They were headed east on I-86; I wanted to travel further south on I-84. So I was let out in the middle of the Great American Desert where the highways split. There was no exit, facilities, or reststop and except for the vehicles whizzing by, no sign of civilization as far as the eye could see in any direction. While standing there I had two things to ponder. One, I would not be walking away from here and most certainly would have to rely upon the kindness of a stranger for rescue. Secondly, as I gazed at the mountains toward the setting sun, I wondered what effect removing hydraulic pressure from deep beneath an unstable geological formation would have on plate tectonics just to the west in California. My first concern was relieved pretty quickly.
I was picked up and brought to Ogden Utah, almost a hundred miles south. I found a nice platform raised off the ground so that I could sleep above the desert floor. Nearby was a store where I could use the last of my funds to get a six pack of Coors beer. I drank one before going to sleep, still pondering the enormity and gravity of the tale I heard today.


Blog Archive

About Me, Part One

My photo
Rock Balancing: The Beginning. What began as a journal of my travels took a hiatus when I began to settle in Ithaca NY. In the meantime, I took up the practice of setting rocks to balance. I returned to my blog to begin recording this story

Part, The second

On Easter Sunday Morning, 2008, I made a decision to settle in the Ithaca New York area. At the same time, I decided to continue to post my blog, However, the stories now will come from the archive stored internally. These will be the stories I gathered while on previous journeys and never entrusted to paper. The date of each posting will not reflect the date of the story being related but will mark the date that narrative got inscribed.

Carry wood

Carry wood
33 years later

Part: The third

I took a brief hiatus from my daily blog writing. I did not know the direction it would take. part of me thought I would abandon it. It turns out I missed it. The old title "On the Road Again' is no longer apt. It appears I am settling. The travel stories will age to a point, when I will probably resusitiate them and do something with them. I dusted off some old stories and begin this new series.
Thr first is one was written two years ago. I edited it and begin again a series that is more apropos to someone settling in upper New York State. They are meant to warm, amuse, educate and sometimes inflame.