I had managed to find a nice place for my tent, in a wood behind a church. Services were already up and running when I limped through their parking lot. There weren't many cars there but there were quite a few. I was tempted to go inside. As a very small boy I did go to church. I remember there were blueberry pancakes.
Which in themselves should have been more than enough to put me on a more righteous path. I don't think they had anything to do with the worship, but they were my favorite thing about the place. The rest was all songs that I didn't know and words I did not understand. I was but two or three or four. My soul was still fairly clean.
This morning it was the warmth of the place that I wanted. I do not speak figuratively. But it seemed like a fairly self-serving reason to enter the House of God. And I am looking a little ratty these days. I smell perhaps even worse. In the future when I am really rich I'll send them fifty bucks.
And a crate of blueberries. And a banjo. Joyful noise, indeed.
My new shoes really let in the wind. I've had this pair before. But I don't remember them being so airy in June or July in Montana. But my feet generate some heat of their own. So will a compost heap. I have no doubt they will be warm enough, as long as it doesn't rain.
Like yesterday it did warm up. The sun did emerge from the clouds. And put me in a peculiar mood, like I knew where I was going. Or what I was doing or why or how. As if Life in all of its mysteries had suddenly begun to make sense.
I think I had a slight fever.
Cities do have some logic to them. They all grow along similar lines. I've been in and out of enough of them that the road seemed familiar to me. Cape Girardeau butts right up against Jackson. They are separated by that one patch of woods. Then come miles of mini-malls on the edge of the city itself. As I've stated elsewhere I've been walking for years, but always in this town or that. Walking through the suburbs made me feel oddly at home.
I've joked some about being homeless, but homeless in fact I am. All this walk does is give me an excuse. I don't know what I'll do when it's done. I am 42 and at least half mad. I have no ties to anywhere. I've been kind of hoping I'd reach a town where I felt I belong. Then I'd move there and find for myself some kind of work. I don't really have any skills. Rare are the opportunities to be paid for speaking your mind.
You know what job I'd be really good at? You'll think I am being a goose. But I think I have almost all that it takes to be a good minister. I have a good memory. I like to read. I am most comfortable when on stage. I like helping people and I can write. I can extend metaphors. I can find all the meanings within a text. I can educate and persuade. I can joke and be serious. I wear small authority well. My sins have been many and colorful. Yours would not dismay me.
The pay's good enough. I would never grow rich, but no one would expect me to. The only downside I can see is my utter lack of faith. That and my inadvertent tendency to really piss people off.
I did not make it far into Cape Girardeau before I stopped for breakfast. It was my intention to eat but once today and this place looked really cheap. It was in the parking lot ofa discount motel. There were plenty of people there. I made a solemn promise to mention it by name, but I don't recall what that name was.
I am trying to make a few dollars last until next month. I ordered less than has been my wont. Biscuits and gravy without all the fixin's. They're designed to fill you up. And I fell into conversation with some men at the next table, one of whom gave me cash.
I have accepted donations before. They have been a real help. I feel a little guilty about it. There are more deserving causes. But I can see how what I am doing might be inspiring. It has rather inspired me. They're helping me and I'm helping them. I'm letting them share my dream.
But today it sort of embarrassed me. Because I was truly in need. There is no shame, they say, in poverty, but they are full of shit. Poverty is among the worst and most soul-killing humiliations. Don't think for a moment it's not. And mine is of a lighter kind. I'll eat well on the first of the month.
Really well. I'm a-gonna stuff myself. And then I will have some pie.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri is a college town, home of Southeast Missouri U. It calls itself the City of Roses, though they all died some years back. It is pleasant enough, home to rich and poor. It has a few nice parks. I made my way up to the campus and parked at the library.
Believe me or don't, I'd have rather been walking. I was in a good walking mood. But my little computer was undercharged. I wanted pictures of the river. And these nightly reports mean something to me. Without them I'd as soon stayed at home. Few experiences mean much to me until I can joke about them.
Semo, they call it, is a mid-sized school. It has buildings both old and new. It is earnest, I believe, but not over-achieving. I felt very comfortable there. Which is more than I can say of my own college, or any of those that I've dabbled in here and there. I guess it helps that I'm older and stronger and wiser and a little less frightened of people.
Don't get me wrong. It's still an issue. You folks scare the crap out of me.
I spoke with a young man waiting outside. He did not honor me with his name. He is studying something or other. I forget precisely what. Green Energy Management, or something like that. It did rather impress me. I hope he goes on to save the planet and gets himself rich on the way.
I envied him his focus in life. He seemed like a really good kid. I wonder if he knows that college is fun. I didn't figure that out til later.
The library smelled like a library, and a college library too. I sat in there for hours and hours. I'm still not fully recharged. Less so now after these ramblings. Damn my driveling muse. I hate to be chained to an electrical outlet with winter fast on its way.
I did pry loose eventually and made my way through the rest of the town. I very much wanted to visit the waterfront, recommended by a kayaking gentleman. But it was late and I hadn't walked much at all. I had to find my bridge. I'll be back to Cape Girardeau, one of these days, I swear.
I found the bridge after asking directions of a pretty young man. In the less affluent part of town. He was wearing a long pink wig. And a miniskirt and a bustier. I must say he looked pretty hot. I told him he looked "fabulous". I think that is the right word. He giggled and blushed most becomingly. I thanked him and moved on.
There was no walkway across the bridge. There was a wide shoulder. And it was a clear day and traffic was light. It wasn't so awfully bad. I had hoped to spend more time gazing at the river; it is a milestone of sorts. The second of my halfway points. The continental divide was the first.
But Illinois beckoned. I was starving by then. So much for eating just once. I determined to stop at the first place I found and eat whatever they had. But first I had to cross a wide flood plain. I say flood because it still looked wet. In other places there were withered crops. I think they were lilypads.
It was a barren place. A place you see underwater when the Mississippi spils over its banks. With barns poking up and soggy cows clustered where there is high ground. And what I'd been sure was a restaurant or convenience store turned out to be a strip club.
Now I like naked ladies as much as the next guy. More, if you want a debate. I cherish every long hour I have spent in their company. But what I really wanted was something to eat, and without a cover charge. I walked on.
For what seemed like miles across that sad plain. I could see civilisation ahead. It turned out to be another strip club. What is it with these people? I mean, damn, it is the middle of nowhere. Who knew pre-verts commute.
I turned south on Highway Three. I resigned myself to not getting fed. Poop. It is good economy but it makes my muscles ache. This road ran up the length of a swamp, a proper swamp on both sides of the road. With some of the most interesting litter I have seen on this trip yet.
One of the strip clubs features an Adult Superstore, selling all manner of novelties. Decorative, mechanical, even pneumatic. You name it, you can get it there. And these shoppers, they're like kids at Christmas. They can't wait til they get home. So they rip open the boxes these things come in and huck them out the windows of their cars.
Make a boy blush, some of it. Lordy.
I put up my tent a few miles down, right beside a bridge. On a closed road; the bridge is out of service. There is some equipment about. There may or may not be workers here tomorrow. The worst they can do is tell me to move. The trains are goimg by across the river. It is cold but I'm warm enough. Goodnight.
THE WARMEST THANKS to the good Mr. Volkerding, for his generosity and his timing.
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