Golly, but it was cold last night. I woke up every few hours. To curse my lot and pity myself. And rub my toes together. I still managed almost twelve hours' sleep. I was haunted by awful nightmares. A band of cycling Girl Scouts pushed me off a high bridge. They were singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with sound effects, in three-part harmony.
Now I know how I'm going to die. I knew there'd be a bridge involved. The rest was a revelation.
They say it will be even colder tonight. I am inclined to believe them. It is plenty cold now and dropping fast. It will be my coldest night yet. But don't worry about me; I expect to be fine. I'm wearing every layer I can. Except for my raincoat. That's the nuclear option. For when I really want to fry.
I did not make remarkable progress today. I was not on the road until ten. And was slightly hobbled. Shin splints, don't you know. I've been fairly lucky with them. Cause they sure do hurt. It's like I've been whapped, hard and right on the shin. And not some coquettish tap with a Japanese fan. Something harder and more thuggish. Like an iron bar or a billy club or those biscuits I had three days back.
It feels like I have broken a bone. The pain is in fact muscular. Which is good. Muscle aches can be ignored, unless you're some kind of a sissy. So I gritted my teeth and limped forward. I got lots of ride offers. Americans are a good people at heart. We hate to watch each other suffer.
Unless of course there's money in it, or it takes our minds off other things.
I am walking on the wrong side of the road. I keep my thumbs to myself. I still feel bad when people double back, or when some poor trucker gives up all his momentum. It's a bitch to get those things rolling again. They've got a lot of gears to work through. And schedules to keep and diesel to pay for. Thank you, gentlemen.
Today a guy in a black pick-up pulled a dangerous U-turn. And risked his life and that of his bride in an effort to help me out. But I wasn't too sorry to turn him down. He looked like an absolute fiend.
Less than a mile up I found store in Deer Park, Alabama. It is a town of a dozen houses and, I'm told, a post office. It is all packed in amongst scrubby pines. This too is timber country. The store itself is a plywood box. They sell T-shirts and bedazzled handbags. And donutty things in cellophane. I had a "honey bun." And a packet of cheese crackers. And an icy Coke. It wasn't exactly biscuits and gravy. It cost almost as much. I don't quite blame them. I was glad they were there. I needed the snack.
I limped another ten miles to Citronelle, or at least the north edge of town. And stopped for a while at a gas station. I don't remember what brand. I had a Coke and plugged in a bit, for all the good it will do.
I'm sure Samsung hires some good engineers. I'm sure they're all doing their best. To push the far edge of technology and Make the World a Better Place. No doubt they love their mothers and give to charity. I'm sure they're the very best sort.
But they suck.
I met some friendly dump truck drivers. They've seen me over the past few days. And were all most encouraging. A Mr. Rivers paid for my lunch. And then some. Bless his generous heart. I've been a little cash poor. From overindulging in the indoor life. Not tonight. I'm out in the cold.
I lunched in central Citronelle. It must have been three by then. I found a somewhat dingy cafe. I hoped they might make me breakfast. I wound up with a hamburger. I've never been a great hamburger fan. But they do give value for money. They did not have any pie.
I like to tell people that when I'm done I'll never walk anywhere again. But it ain't true. I like walking. I'll still take the odd ten-mile stroll. But I'll never eat another hamburger. Or speak to anyone who does. Blech.
Unless it's a really good hamburger. Never's an awfully long time. I am hungry now and all this talk about hamburgers is really just making it worse. Breakfast, though, is yet my favorite. Breakfast is good food. Mr. Kellog did us a disservice. Cereal's not where it's at.
After lunch I met a drunken hitch hiker with blood crusted under her nose. She greeted me like an old friend. Turns out we had met before. She was the woman in the black pick-up truck. The guy driving was in jail.
"He crashed his truck on purpose and punched me in the face."
What a rotten guy.
"Why'd he do that?" I ain't Oprah, but it's polite to show some concern.
"Because he's an abusive ------------."
They will behave that way. I was glad I wasn't riding with him. At the same time, I should have been. I couldn't have stopped him from crashing his truck, but if I'd lived I might have stopped him from punching that poor drunken woman. Punching her twice, at any rate. Sometimes I'm slow to react. I've had people punch me five or six times before I knew I was in a fight.
Of course I might too have got myself stabbed. Or shot or gnawed on or something. There are lots of hillbilly stereotypes. Some folks just choose the wrong ones. I like the one where folks are kind, uneducated but with good common sense. Proud but at the same time neighborly, and can play the banjo real well.
Anyone can shoot meth and beat up a girl. The five-string banjo takes skill.
I just stepped out for my evening pee. Damn it's cold out there. I mean, Jimminy. It's almost humorous. It's like a practical joke. But the stars are pretty. The air smells good. It was a very pretty day.
I am in some trees behind a church. I found this spot in the dark. I wanted to squeeze in a few extra miles. I was ashamed of myself.
I've rejoined Highway 45. The one I'd been walking for weeks. If I'd had any sense I'd have never left it. I would be in Tampa by now. And I never would have been locked in a patrol car. Damn that still pisses me off. But I had to go and get creative. I guess I was addled by rain.
Tomorrow I'll get close to Mobile, Alabama, at least as close as I can. And still find a decent place to camp. My tent will be sopping wet. From my expiration, but I won't mind. It will be a balmy thirty by then.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Golly, but it was cold last night. I woke up every few hours. To curse my lot and pity myself. And rub my toes together. I still managed almost twelve hours' sleep. I was haunted by awful nightmares. A band of cycling Girl Scouts pushed me off a high bridge. They were singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight, with sound effects, in three-part harmony.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Two hours. That's not enough. I prefer to sleep ten or twelve. But I have suffered from insomnia since I was ten or twelve years old. Not the usual variety. It's not that I can't fall asleep. I just don't want to. Life is short. Sleep is a waste of time.
I was out of my room by nine or so, a record time for a motel. There was nothing much about the place that made me want to stay. A bare floor and cinder block walls, painted a glaring white. It was cleanish but not too inviting. What you might call prison chic.
I doubled back down the road to the old-folks cafe where I'd dined the day before. Another uninviting place. It is not overtly unfriendly. But everyone there sort of glared at me. It's their version of courtesy. They're too polite too ask who I am and what I'm up to. That leaves only fear and suspicion.
"Boo!" I wanted to say. "I'm here to corrupt your daughters." Or steal your chickens or vote Democrat. Something to give them a thrill.
I got fed, at any rate. I ate as much as I could. I figured it might be the last food I got until December or so. Odd food, though. I was not well understood. My biscuits and gravy and hash browns became crumbled biscuits with hash browns poured on top of them like gravy.
I was kind of soured on Chatom by then. Everyone was grumpy at me. Except Miss Frankie who runs the Cassanova cafe. She was just charming. But she wasn't around and I needed kind words before I climbed back on the road.
Call it a peculiar weakness of mine. I thrive on the kindness of strangers. And rather wilt without it. I can't do this all on my own. All I ask is that everyone be nice to me. Smile once in a while. Laugh at my jokes. Encourage me. Love me, if you don't much mind.
I hit the Exxon on the way out of town to pick up some smallish supplies. And ran into Smokehouse Jim Overstreet. He was heaven-sent.
"Who are you? What are you up to?" he demanded to know. Friendly old guy. He wasn't shy. I was delighted to tell him my tale.
It seems a bunch of old guys used to gather there to have their morning coffee. Until they took out the tables to make room for new beer coolers. But a few diehards refused to go. They gather in the aisles. We sat on tubs of transmission oil, glad to be in everyone's way.
Good Jim introduced me to all of them. There are lots of nice folks in Chatom. I just hadn't known where to look. I passed a very pleasant morning. I learned quite a bit and had some suspicions confirmed. That motel really is a dump. And the guy who runs it is a grumpy old fart.
"I'm sure he has a heart of gold."
"Nope," they were all quick to confirm. I believed them. They would know.
I didn't leave town until noon. That's when the party broke up. I wouldn't have minded sticking around. It sure looked cold out there.
And was. Funny, though. I felt like I was in Oregon. Or some dank corner of Washington State. Olympia comes to mind. The sky was grey. There was an almost fog and evergreens lining the road. The world was at its most depressing. I needed to walk fifteen miles.
To get within range of the next town on, if I want to eat tomorrow. As it was I managed seventeen, a fairly impressive feat. I'd got an awful late start. But my step was light because people were nice to me. That's all it takes. Seriously. Try it on someone you know.
My little computer hasn't cheered me much. Samsung, you know what you are. I type this on "one percent" battery power. It can shut off any time. Which prevents me from getting a steam up. Who knows what I might have gone on to say. Brilliance leaks from me occasionally. But Samsung Kills Art.
Find me in a coffee shop/cafe in Chatom, Alabama. Cassanova's Hideaway. Or Love Grotto or Passion Nook. I know it is something like that. It sounds like a different sort of shop altogether but it is not such a bad place. It offers some big city sophistication to a town that needs all it can get.
I had the cheesecake, thank-you very much. It was a man-sized serving. And more than I needed, having already dined. I had the meatloaf special. With mustard greens and mashed potatoes and a small piece of not-so-good cake.
So why are you eating again, you wonder. I assure you, it's not gluttony. It's cowardice. It's raining outside and I'm rather hoping it will stop. I hiked twelve long miles to make it this far. I tell you, it is nippy out there. And wet and grey with flurries of snow or very very fluffy rain.
I was up at four-thirty. I might have been off by six. But I was waiting for the rain to thin so I could take down my tent. But it still got packed wet. Tonight it will be some degrees below freezing. And it will ice over and my zippers will lock and I will be there until spring. No sense in me being soggy as well. I believe I'll have some more coffee.
And that's about as far as I got. It was still pissing down. And so it went until a good ten minutes after I checked into a motel. I am not making fantastic progress this month. My whole trip's been a bit slow. I am testing a theory. I believe this can be done without experiencing hardship.
Not by me, certainly. But then I am hardship prone. I'm a gentle creature. Two days in the rain and I turn into one great prune. My calluses get all waterlogged. I lose my baritone voice. My underpants abrade my bottom. My colour starts to fade.
So I'm all sponged off. I dried all my gear. What I didn't do is sleep. And I've still got some suffering to endure. It is getting to be awfully cold. And I'm a bit cash poor. I may lose a pound or two before December. As hardships go, hunger is the worst. But only when you're not soaking wet.
It'll be in the twenties the next three days. I intend to survive. But be prepared to hear me gripe. You may dismiss it as whining. But you'll be wrong. I'm better than that. I've got this down to a science.
But at what cost? I've lost a toenail. It may or may not grow back. My feet have grown a size and a half. My beard is turning white. I can no longer read the very fine print. My heart has developed a crack.
I like the idea of being eaten by a gator. I mean the drama, the poetry. The terror and pain I could live without. At least I think so. I've never tried.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
It rained last night. Cats. Dogs. Buckets. Bathtubs. Barrels. But I didn't care. I was too wiped out. My tent does leak just a bit. Especially when I leave my windows open. I'd neglected to batten down. I thought the fresh air might do me some good. As it turned out it did not.
But it stopped at six-thirty or so, and stayed stopped until almost seven. By which time I was back on the road to Bolinger, Alabama. Three miles off. No considerable distance. Though it did seem further in the rain. By the time I hit the first gas station I was soaked to the shorts.
My new shorts, my discount underpants. I'm still making my mind up about them. They don't preserve my modesty as well as I'd hoped, but they are, well, flattering. I suppose you should lead with what assets you have. I may just find a bride yet.
I settled into the gas station and had me some biscuits and grits. It was my first food in a day or so. It still was not very good. But I choked it down and plugged in my computer and studied my map for three hours.
I'm in a mess. It is going to get cold. Damn cold, maybe twenty-five degrees. For three, maybe four days in a row. And tomorrow it is supposed to snow. It looks like I'm headed to Mobile again. I wish to golly I had known. I've come miles out of my way. And once there I may or may not have the bridge I need to cross the bay. If not, I double back 150 miles.
My little computer's still pissing me off. In Mobile they might fix it. But I doubt it, the dipshits. It's not why I'm headed there. I'm trying to stay near towns. So if I indeed freeze myself solid I'll have somewhere indoors to thaw. And drink cocoa with marshmallows and cuddle up in front of a fire. With someone who loves me, if only for a while. I'll leave her one of my toes.
I made it a mile from the gas station, a third of a mile perhaps. I figured I really ought to have lunch. Breakfast had failed to satisfy. So I had some catfish, which I don't much like. It is better with cocktail sauce. I know it's a beloved local fish but it tastes like an old canvas tent.
My day without food did not do me good. It's left a void in me. It's as if there's a gear with missing teeth in the machine that is my digestion. It's affecting me emotionally. My innards have turned against me.
The catfish did very little help. I searched for something more benign. But when in Rome you eat lasagne. In Alabama everything's fried.
I was hoping it would stop raining. It didn't. It wasn't too cold. But I was still in awful shape when I got to Millry, Alabama. I resigned myself to a low-mileage day. I stopped in a laundromat. It was supposed to be in the forties tomorrow and I had nothing dry to wear.
They've revised the forecast. Now they say the fifties. And they're no longer predicting snow. Which is good of them. I was concerned. It may not even rain. Breakfast is thirteen miles away. That's a pretty good jog. Almost as far as I walked today, in the rain, every step.
I DON'T dislike grits. Even pasty gas station grits. They helped me choke those biscuits down. In the future when I'm really rich, I'll have grits once in a while.
IT IS MEANT to be thirty-seven tonight. That's up from twenty-eight. I like this trend. The cold seems to bother the locals more than it does me, and it bothers me a lot.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I didn't get anything to eat today. Oh, I had a small hunk of bread. And even less cheese. I do not think it amounted to five hundred calories. I burned ten or twelve times that much. The discrepancy is making me cross.
Or maybe it's the threat, no the promise of rain. Or maybe it was the headwinds. Or the dark grey skies or maybe my one bad toe. Or maybe it was the county sheriff who locked me in the back of her car.
"You are not under arrest!" It rather felt like I was. "It is for your safety as well as mine!" Let's examine that.
I wasn't concerning myself with her safety. I figured she could look after herself. They must learn 'em jiujutsu or something and she did after all have a gun. Certainly she faced no threat from me. I do have the strength of ten men. But I am harmless. I'm a puppy dog. The worst I'd do is drool on her pillow.
So it had to be my safety she was concerned about. I wish cops would speak their minds. Next time just say, "Get in the car or I'll shoot you," and spare me the condescending bullshit.
This time somebody phoned me in. They figured I was casing houses. With a forty-pound backpack and a glow-in-the-dark hat. Among burglers traffic safety yellow is this season's new black.
So any idiot can make any claim and they are allowed to detain me. Never mind how asinine. Let's give it a try.
Hey, Sheriff! I saw one of your deppities buggerin' a goat. Form a friggin' task force.
An hour later I crossed the state line. And was immediately stopped by the Alabama State Patrol.
"Whatcha doing?" Fair question.
"Walking Across America." Good answer.
"Oh, how interesting! Be careful out there. Have a nice day!" Case closed.
Now that's how you run an investigation. Cheers to the Alabama guy. Polite, reasonable, just doing his job, trying to keep everyone safe. I don't mind paying taxes for that. Good man. We need more like him.
I meant to eat in Matherville. There was nobody home. And so began this experiment of starving myself half to death. One thing is confirmed, I do need food. I thought I was just being greedy. But without it my mucles are sore and I am just a little light-headed. And exhausted, as a matter of fact. I can barely move.
I pulled up three miles from Bolinger, Alabama where I intend to have my breakfast. Getting there might be a struggle but I think I'll be OK. I intend to get plenty of sleep. Goodnight. Love James.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Find me in the woods south of Shubuta. Funny name for a town. It sounds like a Kyushu delicacy. Something you'd get in the Fall. Come to think of it I dated a Shubuta once. We were engaged for almost an hour. But bless her heart, she let me off the hook. She was perfect in every way.
I woke up in somebody's vast back yard. That will teach me to camp in the dark. I went undiscovered but woke up fairly sore. I'd slept on some knobbly roots. I did a little better today. At least I think I did. It was dark again but I'm on a soft bed of pine needles and fallen leaves.
Quitman, Mississippi was eight miles off, or maybe closer to nine. But I didn't mind. I was trying to enjoy my last good day for a while. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. After that it is going to get cold. And rain some more, or so they say. I'm not looking forward to it.
I prefer days more like today. It was up in the seventies. A little too warm, in point of fact. It put me in a summery humour. Which juxtaposed nicely with the autumn leaves. There were carols on the radio. There are worse places to winter than Mississipi. There are worse places to walk.
I stopped for breakfast on the edge of Quitman. I stopped for lunch a half hour later. Breakfast was a 32-ounce cup of coffee at a place called Cups & Cones. Ice cream is their specialty. It wasn't as warm as all that. Today was their very first day in business. I wish them the very best.
"Y'all come back soon," they told me when I left. As soon as I reasonably can.
I think they have a good concept. Their coffee is very well sized. For our international friends, thirty-two ounces is something just short of nine litres. I had too something called a scone. I've always wondered about them. Scones it turns out are blueberry muffins, mashed into a triangle shape. Who knew.
Quitman is not such a very big town. I had lunch at the butcher shop. It was that or Hardee's. I had baked beans and a scoop of potato salad. And some kind of shredded meat, piled high on a bun. "Moose meat," I think she called it, but I can be wrong about that.
It was not so good. It tasted just like the beans. Even now they are conspiring. To do awful things to my digestion. I'm running low on moist towlettes. I will not share any further details if you promise to send me your good thoughts.
I was on the old highway for most of the day. I did a few miles on the new. They were at that point one and the same. I was disappointed with the shoulder. It used to be there. You can tell. But they've let it weed over. There are still some patches of sharp little rocks. They were most unkind to my toes.
The day before last I spent an hour trimming away the dead bits. And gathering them and throwing them away. I am not an animal. Though they may have had a place in the James museum, right next to my baby teeth.
The problem is I trimmed too much. One so does like to be thorough. But I left myself with pretty pink skin which is not yet used to life on the road. And inclined to complain. And feel sorry for itself. It took me back, it did. To the very earliest weeks of this trip. When I was in constant pain.
You would have quit. I didn't. I've got nothing else to do.
I am worried too about my right foot. My bones are turning to pudding. I think if I went and got it x-rayed the doctor would tell me to stop. But I think it is a lot like my backpack. It can go any time. But with a little luck and favorable winds it will carry me to Florida.
Meanwhile I'm popping aspirin. It is two dollars a bottle. All the fancy medicines cost something like eight or nine bucks. A fellow can get his beard trimmed for that kind of money. I refuse to brook the expense. The opiates are even more. In the future, when I'm really rich.
Tomorrow I turn left towards Alabama. I don't believe I'll go to Mobile. It is just too big a town and there may be a trick to getting across the bay. I could write and ask but screw it. I really am sick of bridges. You don't know how close I came to dying on my way across the Ohio.
The little bridges are almost as bad. I crossed two or three tonight. It was almost dark. It took muscle contol. I had baked beans for lunch. Tomorrow I angle up Something-or-other Bridge Road. I don't like the sound of it. These bridges are narrow. People pass on them as a point of hillbilly pride. I dislike heights; I've got forty pounds on my back and the railings are even with my knees.
Mom, if I die and if you don't want it, send my banjo to my friend Simon. Give my horns to Larry. Donate my papers. Stuff my cat and bury him with me. Call your new cat James Harry Pierce.
A FEW DAYS ago I passed Minnow Bucket Road. I think that's a wonderful name.
ARMADILLERS have tails. Armored like the rest of them. They sure are a weird little critter.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
It is meant to be fairly cold tonight, thirty-seven or so. But I am not intimidated. Our brave Pilgrims suffered worse. As will I in a couple of days. Again it will drop below freezing. Winter. Just when I thought I was free, it pulls me back in.
I should be forgiven for thinking I had it beat. It was nearly eighty out there. And seemed every bit like a summer day. I saw a chameleon. Or some kind of lizard. I wasn't alarmed. I'm sure the snakes are still all abed. They don't have hands to rub together when the weather turns cold.
The sky was blue when I left my motel. I was there until check-out time. Wondering if the holiday would excuse another day off. I was still not well rested. I'd had two sleepless nights, nursing my little computer. It really ought to be euthanised. Or put up for vivisection.
But I had to move. It was too nice a day. I did get a few things done. I had a professional tidy my hair and invested in new underpants. My earlier shorts have quite worn through, either from friction or stink. And they're all that preserves my modesty on the rainier days. Still it is a regretable expense. I wish I could do without. In the future when I'm really rich I'm not going to spend a dime on underpants.
I didn't spend much. I got them at a discount underwear boutique. That's the beauty of these larger town. You can save if you've got time to shop. I was less fortunate with my haircut. That was done at the Walmart salon. Behind glass so the waddling hoards could stop by and gawk at me. I felt like a puppy in a pet store window, having his glands sqeezed.
A haircut is an intimate act. I have a neurosis or two. I'm shy around waiters. I can't buy toilet paper. I am afraid of vending machines. And it takes some courage to get my hair cut, even when people aren't watching. She wanted nine extra dollars to prune my beard. I decided to let that grow.
Today was Thanksgiving as you no doubt suspect. That's why they fed you so well. I could not spend the day with my family. Some have you have been sorry for me. But I'm fine. What is cloud and what's silver lining is not always perfectly clear.
There was a holiday mood on the streets. There were few people about. Even at Walmart when I went to buy cheese. Everywhere else was closed. So I did feel some small self-pity. I would not get properly fed. But I would be nourished on martyrdom. That's how I got so big.
I guess I do look like a hobo. People looked out from passing cars. As I stumbled down the edge of the road. It was the same sad condescension. I did my best to look forlorn so someone would give me pie.
I tell you, though, it's a slippery slope. You can choose what mood to be in. I just so happen to know what it's like to be in a months long depression. There's a Beauty in sadness, don't get me wrong. I value the education. But better you should pretend to be happy, whether you are or not.
So it was in high spirits that I hiked out of town. Higher still minutes later. I had come across an open Waffle House, my new favorite restaurant. They've got eight kinds of hash browns. Eight. And they serve breakfast all day long. And pie. And their coffee has a vaguely maply flavour.
So does their syrup. And everyone's friendly. And you get to watch them cook. I'm going to have my wedding breakfast in a Waffle House. I'll have them cater the reception. All I am lacking is the bride. I hope she likes waffles.
I didn't have any waffles myself. I ordered my usual. Which is, in review, biscuits and gravy, two eggs, sausage and hash browns. Which turned out to be an awful lot. I had not walked much the day before. I hadn't earned my appetite. I still finished up with pie. It is Thanksgiving after all. Think of those suffering Pilgrims.
It was all uphill from there. I had quite overstuffed of myself. But up I went for ten or twelve miles on Highway 145. Which is the old road. 45 is the new. They are more or less braided together. Crossing each other several times. I moved to 45 at the end. It looked like it offered more places to camp. The old road has too many houses. Find me now in a private wood, eight miles north of Quitman, Mississippi.
A bit deeper in the woods than I like to be. Remind me to wear my hat. It is usually the last thing I put on, right before I ship out. But it is a four-day weekend in hunting season. I believe I will break protocol.
QUITMAN. Quitman. Quit, man. It could mean anything. I'm going to need my Message From God to be something less obscure.
MY MOTHER, a trained zoologist and veterinary physician, says that if I am attacked by a gator I should thumb him in the eyes and kick him in the groin. Gators though were never her specialty.
THANKSGIVING. I am thankful. For all manner of things. But I won't mention them. It would be too much like bragging. I am thankful to be on this trip.
"Chicks dig me because I rarely wear underwear, and when I do it's usually something unusual."
I didn't make it out of my homeless hotel. The same thing has happened before. I get locked into this luxury life, hot showers and flush toilets. Not very and not every time. This ain't the Holiday Inn. You get what you pay for or not too much less for twenty-some dollars a night.
Don't think I'm letting fitness slide. I took a long walk around town. And there is enough of a slope in the floor of my room to keep me in shape for the hills. The lumps in the mattress are like pine cones and roots. The heater keeps things plenty cold. It is not so very much different than life out on the road.
I did make friends with one of my neighbors, Amos, a homeless gent. Some friendly church has put him up here. He is headed to California. As soon as he can get bus money. He is fleeing from Alabama. His brother, with the help of the FBI, is poisoning his water.
"To make me lose my mind," he explained. He is getting out just in time. I'm afraid though they will find him again. They put a tracking device in his teeth. And will not stop until they have stolen all of his "thirty-three-hundred-million dollars."
I hope he gets to keep some of it. He seemed like a very nice fellow. He rolled me a couple of cigarettes and made me a cup of coffee. Which I was glad to receive. It pays to be neighborly. I hope I don't get hep' three.
I probably should have invited him to dinner. I would have if I were braver. But he was just a little unclean and given to passionate rants. I worried he might get me kicked out of the local buffet.
Where for some money down I ate all that I could. Less than the other folks there. Many of whom were fairly old. Many others were very fat. We're a big-eating country, America. I'm just doing my part.
I had chicken and catfish and mashed potatoes, okra and turnip greens. Which I did not recognise at first. I asked the next man in line.
"You ain't from around here, are you?"
And corn bread and something slimy and green and three different kinds of pie. I'm quite sure I got my money's worth. I still feel just a bit weak. There were women there eating a lot more than me. I do like my six-thousand calories a day, but it is hard to get them all at once.
Tomorrow, I guess, I walk it off. If I can get out of town. I still don't know where I'm going. But I'll figure it out. I always do. In spite of my fool self.
CATFISH is a little musty. Too bad. It's cheap.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The weatherman promised catastrophe, thunder and hailstones. High tides and hurricanes. The very fires of Hell. There were travel advisories and cancelled flights. Tornado watches and severe weather warnings. Thanksgiving was going to be ruined, they said. We'd be lucky to escape with our lives.
It all seemed designed to make me uneasy. I have been rained on before. But I like my misfortunes to sneak up on me, like Love or intestinal gas. Let the future bring what it will. I'm still getting over my past.
It was a little humid when I woke up. The experts said 92%. I'm not sure just what the numbers mean, but it does sound awfully moist. My clothes had not dried much overnight. Neither really had my hair. I was a little slimier than I like to be. A quick rinse might do me some good.
But I wasn't going to make it easy for them. Meridian was ten miles off. The storm was coming from the northeast and I was headed southwest. I walked fast. It sprinkled a bit but I did make it to town. And into a fancy coffee shop. Then it really started to rain.
Meridian is almost all hospital. What I wanted was restaurant. A place to plug in and supplement the cookies I had for breakfast. Fancy coffee shop food is too small. I need a truckers' cafe.
But I did wait out one wave of storm. The people were nice to me. The coffee was good. I checked my map. I wasn't as lost as I thought. I was headed for the Verizon shop. I had some things to discuss.
My Galaxy Tab has a battery gauge that is making itself less than useless. It hops around. It contradicts itself. It sometimes refuses to charge. It becomes convinced it is empty when it's not and automatically shuts itself down. My one device. Used hard and outdoors, in often unhappy conditions. Does this really mean that Samsung sucks?
Yes. Yes, it does.
The fellows at the Verizon shop did their best. I think they were glad for someone to talk to. It is lonesome selling phones just before the big holiday season. But their godd natilure did not fix things. I spent some time on a tech support line. The Samsung woman was less than useless. I hope she stubs a toe.
The Verizon fellow was decent, though. As were the men in the shop. They tried to help. It's the thought that counts. They did give me an address in Mobile. Where they may or may not be able to help. I'm not sure it will be worth the effort. Mobile, Alabama is an awfully big town. I'll as likely as not be murdered there. And it will all be Samsung's fault. I hope my heirs sue them goofy.
It was raining in earnest when I got out of there. I went straight to a motel. Twenty-five dollars a night. The cheapest place I've been to yet. My room is maybe ten feet square. With all manner of smears and stains on the walls that I'm too sure I can identify. But the price is right. It's pissing down out of doors. There are worse places I could be.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Few of us are beyond redemption. I'm in no shape to cast stones. There've been times I've behaved less than honorably. I've known cowardice, even lust. I have been stupid and I've let people down. Denying it does not help. Them Samsung boys ought to look in the mirror and admit to themselves that they suck.
Only then can the healing begin. I'd be prepared to forgive them. To forget, no. Their products are crap. They only get to break my heart once. They have turned this blog into a blog about blogging. They've cheapened it. They've hollowed it out. They've been a festering blister on my very soul. They're trying to ruin my walk.
Yet still I persist, in spite of myself. It's my heroic nature. Or the spite I've known since childhood. I won't let the bastards win. I woke up at five-thirty with an unhappy stitch in my neck. It was dark and it was raining, or so I was led to believe. It took two hours sitting sad in my tent to figure out what was really going on. It wasn't rain. It was humidity, squeezing itself into drops. Spontaneously and not far above the ground. I went ahead and packed up.
Gosh, but it was steamy out there. I had a five mile walk. To a gas station that turned out to be closed. Then it was just eight miles more. To Lauderdale, Mississippi, which is where you find me now. Having just eaten four heat-lamp sandwiches. They were foul and they cost me a fortune. But a boy's got to eat. A half-dozen fig newtons are a good start but they will only carry you so far.
It has been a thoroughly unpleasant walk. It is hard not to blame Samsung. But too I was hungry and sore and absolutely sopping wet. And my shoulder kept fading into tall grass, which is rather a challenge to walk through. And weaves itself into my socks and tickles my ankles most cruelly.
The vast pine forest continues. There are a million places to camp. And little side roads to pull off and sit. I did that a couple of times. In some places the trees were covered with vines. There were too some weird little fruit. Half tomato and half melon. They're hollow inside but for seeds. I tasted one for the science of it. It was not very good.
I was very pleased to reach this gas station. I figured it to be four o'clock. It was in fact short of one. It is hard to tell time on these overcast days. Last night I quit an hour early. I was certain it was about to get dark. I cheated myself out of three or four miles.
It was very warm last night. Up in the sixties I reckon. I was content to hug my sleeping bag rather than climbing inside. It should be as warm tonight. But it is going to rain for real. I'm not so very well cheered.
From here I am westbound to Meridian. I might wind up backtracking some. And I don't know where I will go from there. It is Samsung's fault.
I've gone and hiked myself off the tree farm. I'm sure going to miss it. I like camping amongst evergreens. It makes me feel like an Ewok.
Find me now under other trees. I could not tell you what kind. But my next adventure will be learning the names of every tree on earth. Because I'm in love with a forest ranger. I wish she worked in a donut shop.
I spent more than two hours at the gas station. I never felt truly at home. They kept charging me to refill my Coke. It limited me to four quarts. And it was rather a dirty place, though it was overstaffed. But I had to make that fruitless effort to recharge my computer.
The sun came out while I was sitting in there. You think it would cook off the steam. All it did is melt it like cheese and make it just that much more sticky. Man, it is gooey out here. I am soaked in greazy sweat.
And my trousers have become, how shall I say it, just a little bit clingy. A couple of nice men have offered me rides but I'm not headed that way.
I had just two hours to cover eight miles. That is a pretty brisk pace. But I managed it. I'm a superman. I am less than ten miles from Meridian. Which is yet west of here but it has to be done.
Because Samsung sucks.
I believe I will move indoors tomorrow. I need to get this damned thing fixed. But it may just work out. There are expected violent electrical storms. And I am feeling a bit sticky. And my bones are sore. And I smell like a bus station mensroom. And I'm covered in little red bumps. I like to have lots of reasons to piss away cash. I am not such a wealthy man. If I were I'd be married by now. Chicks dig wealthy guys.
I suppose they also like stability and a man with some sense of direction. All I've got is a sense of humour and a pair of clingy pants.
I was at the end there walking into the sun. The sky was pretty tonight. With lots of wispy little pink clouds and purple along the horizon. Every now and then a fighter jet would thunder by low overhead. There is an Air Force base east of here. God bless America.
I think fewer people would get behind wars if they knew how blasted loud they are.
There have been a few towns on this adventure that have taken forever to reach. Wenatchee was one. Then Belle Fourche [from the French, meaning "beautiful foosh"]. Meridian is yet another. But I'm not really looking forward to it. These big cities can be unkind. And I'm afraid I might be arrested for punching a Verizon employee. No Nuremburg defense will work. They suck by association
THE NUMBER ONE cause of injury for deer hunters? Falling out of deer stands. Their number-two complaint? Cirrhosis.
AT THE TOP of a very long steep hill I swear I could smell the sea. But it may just have been that wet dog smell I generate all on my own.
I PREFER humidity to cold. Humidity probably won't kill me.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I had some vague notion of packing up in the dark and getting a very early start. I'm not altogether sure why. I'm not feeling any more ambitious than I ever have. Certainly no more energetic. But these short days are starting to bother me. I always have a bit more to give. But when the sun goes down I have to put up my tent or risk not finding a spot.
As it was I slept until six o'clock. I was in no jolly mood to wake up. I'd fallen asleep listening to Nicholas Nickleby and it had come to pervade my dreams. I got my ten hours but they weren't wholly restful. I'd have been glad to go back to sleep. But a boy's got to walk. I've still got miles to go. This ain't no Sunday stroll.
I was walking by seven or so. The experts had promised no rain. But there was plenty of fog. It was kind of neat. This is Sunday and traffic was light. My highway is wide, four lanes divided. I had it almost all to myself. With pine forests on either side of the road and grey skies low overhead.
It was surreal. It looked plenty cold but it was warm enough. Not toasty but I was in just a T-shirt and shivered only when I stopped. So I didn't stop. I walked my thirteen miles to Scooba, Mississippi in one heroic chunk. Listening to America's Top Forty. God help this blighted nation. Of all the derivative overproduced crap. The eighties offered better music. It was hosted by Ryan Seacrest, that poster boy of bland banality.
My poor NPR had faded away. They can't afford the big towers. Because you have not yet sent them your checks. Get on it. They need the money.
I settled into a gas station in Scooba, population six-hundred or so. Which is where you find me now, getting a head start on my daily report. Samsung sucks so there's no way I can type it all up tonight.
I had two-thirds of a gas station pizza, made by my new friend Andrea. She's five-foot-nothing and a bit goofy. She wants to be a cop. Waste of human goodness if you want my opinion.
All sources say it ain't gonna rain. Looking out it is hard to believe them. But I don't really have much say in the matter. Moving on. Moving on.
It never did rain but it might as well have. It was humid as hell. The swampy bits. My shirt is soaked through. I'm sweating like a guilty chimp. I remain dressed here in my tent. I'm hoping to dry my clothes some. By means of my very body heat. By means of the Love in my heart.
The sun was up there somewhere I guess. It never did show itself. There were patches of clear blue sky. It was up in the seventies. But overcast. It felt like fog but that was just old-fashioned steam.
The pine trees continue to line the road. It is all one vast tree farm. There are sections which have been recently logged. Others have been replanted. Even the big trees are not very big. I think most of them get ground up. To make paper or pizza crust. They're pretty to look at I guess. But not what I expected from Mississippi. I thought there'd be more hanging moss.
My road seems to move mostly uphill. I crossed a few stagnant rivers. Beside the road are little canals which smell like something bad. Strange chemicals or solvents or something. It was starting to hurt my brain. Someone upstream is up to no good. The Gulf has suffered enough.
I passed the town of Electric Mills. Its water tower said Porterville. Which I think is yet to come. They need to get their story straight. Besides the water tower there was a trailer park and what may have been a lumber mill. Electric no doubt. Now that is technology worth bragging about.
These woods today are brimming with hunters, on both sides of the road. I don't know if they are meant to be here, but I won't tell if they don't. I think I've figured out how to hunt deer. It is not what I imagined. I thought you stalked them through the woods. It is easier than that.
You get what's called a deer stand. It's like a little tree house. You set it up near a clearing and settle in to watch TV. And drink vodka tonics and smoke cigars and otherwise abuse yourself. Eventually a deer will poke out his head and if you're paying attention you shoot him.
Then you go to your truck to get your little four-by-four. You pull it around on a trailer. You rumble over to where your deer is waiting and hoist him up on a winch. Electric. You musn't overstrain. Then you drive him to a "deer processor." Who turns him into steaks and sausage that you may or may not eat. If he's extra pretty ("pointy" in hunters' lingo) you have his head stuffed and you hang it up on your wall. And brag about it.
I tell you these deer are all over me. They huddle around me for safety. I spend half my life chasing them off. I could kill one with a big stick. But I worry what it might do to my karma, which ain't in real good shape as it is.
I ate up the rest of my pizza right after I put up my tent. There was plenty of it but it had to be done. It does not pay to procrastinate. I've got some fig newtons and a donut left. And a little bag of gum drops. So I'm doing alright. Don't worry about me. I'll make it to the next gas station.
MY LITTLE mp3 player finally died. It's been holding on by a thread. So now I can't listen to Nicholas Nickleby any more. Oh, demmit.
SOME OF them Mennonite gals is good looking. I'm thinking of signing up. Though I wonder if I wouldn't have a brighter future in the United States Forest Service.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Find me in the Ole Country Bakery in Brooksville, Mississippi. It is coming up on eight-thirty and I'm ready to get on the road. I can't, of course. Because Samsung sucks. Samsung is famous for sucking.
I woke up before the birds. Birds are notoriously lazy. When I went to sleep it was awfully cold but it was warm when I woke up. It was still dark. It wasn't the sun. It was wind from down on the Gulf. It wasn't exactly frisbee weather but it was warm enough. Warm enough to dry my tent and get me out of bed.
I've never been much of an early riser. I do my best work late at night. But I can see why people like waking up early. The world is pretty in the morning. A little colder than I would keep it but there's compensation for that. In the smug self-satisfied feeling you get from waking before everyone else.
Never mind that I got ten hours' sleep. I walk hard. I had it coming. I crossed the highway to the Mennonite bakery and ordered up my biscuits and gravy. And a ham and cheese biscuit for luck. And a maply cinnamon roll. And thirty-seven cups of coffee. Not very big cups though.
Mostly I'm trying to put some charge on my little computer. And do a little typing here to speed the process tonight. So I can finish my daily report before it shuts down on me.
I say "Samsung" you say "Sucks":
I cannot begin to tell you how pissed I am at my Samsung Galaxy Tab. I can't because it will shut down before I post this message. Samsung, I hope you die.
Find me camped in a pine forest across the street from something called Shuqualak, Mississipi. Or something like that. I can't look it up. Because Samsung sucks. It probably doesn't matter that much. I'm not sure anyone lives there. And it is going to be in the fifties tonight. That is warm enough.
As I was leaving the bakery a nice man bought me donuts. A good half dozen. To sustain me. They will. He has my thanks. He was there with his car club. They were on some sort of grand tour. He was driving a '73 Mustang, modified to look like a '71. It is at best a subtle distinction but it was a pretty machine.
I hiked on in a fairly good mood. It was early yet. And the hopes I had for my little computer had not yet been dashed to the ground. I had a bag full of donuts and a song in my heart. The sun never really came out. But it wasn't cold and I had managed to get Car Talk on my radio.
I had to hold it at a weird angle. There was all kinds of static. But gosh I love those car talk guys. They always make me smile. You don't have to wait until pledge week, you know. Go ahead, write them a check. NPR, I mean. Not the Car Talk guys. I think they're doing alright.
I hiked my ten miles to Macon, Mississippi and slid into town the back way. Which added I guess a mile or two but I got where I was going. I needed to find me a laundromat. I was running out of underwear. And my laundry bag was getting harder to live with and harder to fit in my pack.
Laundromats as a rule are fairly bleak. They don't cater to society's cream. Some rich gal might slip in there to wash a horse blanket or something. But mostly they're for those of us who can't afford a washing machine. Or toothpaste in today's instance. What a disgusting place.
I was tempted to leave. I felt insulted. I feel demeaned by filth. But I did need my underwear. I did what I had to do. But I will never have any warm feeling for Macon, Mississippi.
That town, I guess, has seen better days, a hundred and fifty years back. They used to have a booming slave market. It was a railroad hub. They held lynchings at the high school. I think they should close up shop. The town is cursed and always will be. What a ghastly place. Salt the earth and pave it over. Bury it six feet deep. Or least get ahold of a bucket and mop and wash out the laundromat.
I had Chinese food on the way out of town. I've been awfully hungry for rice. But it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. With Pepsi it cost seven bucks. I am suspicious of buffets. I think they're unclean. I only had three heaping plates. Which is two more than I really needed. I like to get my money's worth.
It may be the last time I eat for a while. I've got a long lonesome stretch up ahead. I'll be lucky to find gas station wings between here and Meridian. In Meridian I have to try again to get my computer fixed. Or bloody the nose of someone or other. I hope he's not too big.
My donuts I am saving for tomorrow. They're no longer fluffy fresh. They've compacted themselves into neat little cubes, like the donuts our astronauts eat. Which is fine with me. Already they're bringing all kinds of joy to my life. My whole backpack now smells like donuts. It usually smells like tom cat.
I tend to think I'm almost done with this hike. I think I'm still west of Chicago. Which in my mind I want to put in the middle, though in fact it is well east of that. I am getting closer to Florida. That cheers me less than you'd guess. I was stupid to choose Miami. I'm going to get gator et.
Most of your Walkers Across America follow a similar course. They go from San Diego to Jacksonville. It's what, 2400 miles. Which is less I think than I've walked already. And there are no gators at all. And no pythons. There are a few deserts. Still, it seems kind of weak.
In the future when I'm a bergillionaire I'm going to build a sidewalk. From Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. With cafes along the way. We will call it the James Trail. You can use it too.
I don't really know where I'm going from here. I'll hit Meridian in three days. I had some notion of heading east from there but Alabama is a mess. The roads I mean. They're all squiggly. It's like southern Missouri again. I need to find an old truck driver to give me an education.
It seems I had something clever to say. I'll be damned if I remember it now. But I cannot sit and ponder. My computer's about to shut down. And there are dangerous beasties sniffing at my tent. Wolves or feral hogs no doubt. So as likely as not I'm about to be eaten. In lieu of flowers, NPR.
Friday, November 18, 2011
It was plenty cold last night, but not as cold as I've ever been. It was as cold as I'm ever going to be. I've had enough of this nonsense. My new minimum temperature is thirty-eight degrees. And that's only because it's going to be thirty-nine tonight and I'll be nowhere near a motel.
I was colder, in fact, in Sioux City. That was before I got my teddy bear pants. I was colder too a week or two back, when my tent iced over. But I was younger then. I had more to give. I'm getting old and I'm growing feeble. As God is my witness, I will never, ever be cold again.
I slept until almost eight o'clock. That wasn't all my fault. I usually open my eyes once or twice to see the coming of dawn. At the first fain't glimmer I'm up and packed, eager to hit the road. But today it took forever to arrive. Every time I checked it was dark. It took me a while to realise I'd zippered my bag over my head.
When I did climb out it was bright out there. The sun was well up in the sky. The air was clear and it was bitter cold. Not as cold as it has been in the past. But much colder than I was ready to deal with. I stayed in my tent for a while. To gather my courage and to let the ice melt. I listened to Nicholas Nickleby and read my Mennonite tracts.
One problem was I was overdressed. Which meant I had to undress some. I figured I was cold enough without baring myself to the world. I was content to let the sun rise until it was forty or so. Which took a while because I was deep in amongst the trees. There were deer scampering about. I heard gunfire in the distance. They were using me to draw fire. Devilishly clever beasts.
I did pack up eventually. I was in no great shape for walking. I think my fancy arch supports are starting to lose their mojo. The bones in my feet are starting to creak. I'm getting cramps in my legs. And in my butt, if it concerns you. The muscly bits, I mean. And the cold wind blowing against my forehead was giving me a headache.
I blame it all, by the way, on the Samsung Corp. I'd be much pleased if you did too. Please take every opportunity to tell people how very much they suck.
I was also hungry with no idea when I'd be eating again. Which you would think would inspire me to press further down the road. But that is not how I deal with crisis. It's why I'd make a very poor soldier. When the going gets tough my first inclination is to sit under a tree and cry.
But I walked on. It was too cold for tears. I figured there had to be something. I wandered past the town of Artesia. It did not look promising. All I could see of it from the highway was a crumbling warehouse and remarkably well maintained church. I ain't real religious myself. I would have much preferred a cafe.
I walked on. A good five-hundred yards or so. Then I came to a sign. Inviting northbound traffic to A.C.'s Eatery. The sign itself was in good repair. It may have even been new. Contrary to all policy I went back the way I'd come.
Artesia, Mississippi is a tiny town of maybe a few hundred people. The trains probably used to stop there to get their coal and water. Now it's a sad main street and little else. They're threatening to put some factories nearby. Which ought to snap it out of its doldrums. Nice folks. I wish them luck.
A.C. himself made me a burger. He sat and prayed while I ate. It seems that he, with Jesus' help, is attempting to conquer sin. Good luck with that. My burger was good, though I'm getting a little tired of them. I look forward to the day when I can cook for myself and re-embrace vegetarianism.
Now I'll eat anything I can get. It's getting rather hard. It is like Montana in this part of the state. Cafes are few and far between. I was promised a Mennonite bakery in Crawford but there was nothing there. There was a gas station but I didn't buy food. My hopes were at that point still high. A man drinking beer said I would find food. I didn't. I think he was drunk.
I think I was the only white person in Crawford, Mississippi. Everyone was really nice to me but they looked at me like I was lost. Which I was, to a certain extent. I dared not check my map. Because Samsung sucks. I cut my losses and walked back to the highway.
Hungry and cold and low on water. I stopped waving hi to truckers. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to make new friends on the road. I limped on as far as Brooksville, Mississipi, which is where you find me now. Having doubled back up a side road to find a place for my tent. Hobo skills. They served me well but I am not enjoying camping. It is cold and I'm thirsty and my butt hurts. The muscly bit, I mean.
I think the Mennonites I was looking for are here. I plan to have two breakfasts. And I think I need to rethink my route. I'm having trouble keeping fed. But the weather will be better tomorrow. Warm for a day and a half. Then it will be warm and rainy.
My mood is soured and it is Samsung's fault. They suck like there's no tomorrow.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Twenty-eight degrees. I feel cheated. Twenty-seven and I'd be indoors. That was the line I drew in the frost and I can't go back on it now. It would make me look weak. Indecisive. You'd lose all respect for me. A little cold air never hurt anyone. Except for the people it has killed.
That is unlikely to happen to me. Mine is a passionate nature. I am warmed by my depth of feeling and by my boundless sense of romance. And my two pairs of socks and my thermal underwear and my custom made teddy bear pants. And my two fleece pullovers and a hat that ties under my chin. I've got my bag made out of ground up ducks and an empty Gatorade bottle. I'm as prepared as I can possibly be. If I freeze to death it's not my fault.
I expect to be fairly uncomfortable. I am a little shivery now. But I am not yet feeling sorry for myself. Do you feel sorry for me? Well you damn well should. It's freezing out here and I'm probably going to die.
They'll dig me up in five-thousand years. I will be well-preserved. They will study my clothing and stomach contents. I will come to define my age. Twenty-First Century Man, they will say, was bearded and wore his hair long. He was by nature a wanderer. He lived on biscuits and gravy. He communicated by means of a primitive electronic device which, their technologists will affirm, sucked.
National Geographic will put me on their cover. I'll be displayed under glass. T-shirts bearing my likeness will be sold in museum gift shops. Anthropologists will build their careers on theories as to why I bottled my urine.
You ask why; I say why not. It really is cold out there. Don't judge me until you've walked 2500 miles in my ill-fitting moccasins.
I was perfectly willing to stay in a motel. I've been doing a lot of that these days. I checked two papers and looked at a TV. The weathermen all agreed. Twenty-eight, they said. Not twenty-seven. Miserable conformist bastards. Not one had the courage to give me an excuse to move myself indoors.
I could be watching Law & Order right now. I could be taking a bath. I could be eating pizza and talking to my mom on the phone. Think how sad she'll be when I freeze to death. She'll be out of sorts for a week. Think of my lonesome banjo going forever unplayed.
It has never been played particularly well as it is. And now it never will be.
I could walk to the highway and put up my thumb, but that would not be sporting. It is for me to endure this pain. Who knows, I just might live. There have been people frozen almost stiff who went on to live happy lives. The trick is to thaw them slow. Make a note of that. Thaw me slow. Like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Planning happy Thanksgivings, are you? Be thankful you're not me. I'm cold.
It'll be warmer tomorrow night. Then it will be in the forties. So all I have to do is survive for another 12 hours or so. Hell, I can do that. I think the point here is that I am going to be uncomfortable. Which I should be used to by now. I've suffered as few others have. Have you ever flown across the Pacific in economy class? I'd rather be here now. Of course on the plane I do drink quite a bit. I should have procured a bottle.
I used to know some Polacks. I am not being unkind. That is what they called themselves. They drank their vodka neat. At room temperature and by the pint. I remember one snowy evening. We were on the veranda in our T-shirts, sharing jokes and singing songs. I was not the slightest bit cold. It was like magic.
But all I've got is Gatorade. I must be careful not to mix up the bottles.
I was cold this morning as well. I slept until almost seven. The sun was out but it was not warm. It was though a beautiful day. The sky was blue and the air was clear. It was windier than I like to see. I took my time packing up. My tent poles stung my fingers.
It had dropped to thirty-seven or so. It must have been forty by then. I had slept with my windows open in order to dry out my tent. It worked, thank goodness. If it had not I would be in much worse shape now. As it is I expect it to fairly ice over from the steam of my breath.
I had a twelve-mile walk to town. I was completely out of water. And I had breakfasted on Corn Nuts. It left me a little parched. But I figured I could make the hike in three hours. I was wearing my lucky warm socks. And half hoping I'd be stopped by the State Patrol. I've got more to write about them.
Six or seven miles in I found a cafe, one of them Mennonite concerns. Simplicity, Economy, and Modesty; that's what they're all about. And baking, God bless them. They fed me fairly well. I had biscuits and gravy and a blackberry roll with a half pint of cream cheese frosting. And coffee. It was the last time I ate. I wish I were back there now.
The Amish, I believe, spun off from the Mennonites. They weren't hard core enough for them. The Mennonites too believe in non-violence. So do I, in certain moods. Other times I just really want to hit someone. I almost never do.
I'd like to hit Newt Gingrich, but I don't think that's fair to him. Try as I might, I cannot distinguish him from Pat Robertson.
I reached West Point, Mississippi well fed. It took away my reason to be there. I drank Sweet Tea at a McDonald's and tried to recharge my computer. Which is misbehaving again. The cold isn't doing it any good. But I've got other worries now. I am cold.
West Point made little impression on me. It seemed like a pretty big town. There was a lot of traffic at any rate. It was hard to get around. I stuck around as long as I dared then headed south again. For another eleven miles. I more than met my quota today.
I didn't notice for the first couple hours, but I've been walking steadily uphill. Which I almost prefer if it's not too steep. It seems to suit my stride. And I came to a stretch with no houses at all. It was easy to set up my tent. I think I'll stay here until the sun is well up. I hate being cold in the morning.
I haven't the vaguest where my next town is. I'll hit Macon the day after tomorrow. I'm hoping there will be something between here and there. It's possible I'll want a snack. I didn't put any food in my bag. It seemed heavy enough.
IT HAS BEEN a while and I'm not dead yet. My nose is a little runny though. Which is an awful hardship, I know, but unlikely to earn me a medal.
IF I DO last the night, twenty-six becomes my new minimum temperature. Damn.
VODKA is in fact a Polish drink. You'd be forgiven for thinking it's Russian. They stole it. At least that's what the Polacks tell me.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
It was raining when I woke up, some minutes before sunrise. There was lightning but no thunder. Somewhere there was a tornado. Nowhere near me, as far as I know. I heard about it on the radio. It was a quarter of a mile wide and injured fifteen people.
It rained gently and it rained hard. Then it rained harder still. I figured I may as well stay in my tent. I had nowhere to be. Walking in the rain is bad enough. Packing up is much worse. I put on some dry socks and listened to Nicholas Nickleby.
Which I've read a half-dozen times. I've listened to it a dozen times more. I was running out of water and I was getting a little bit bored. And hungry but at least I was dry. Not as dry as you might think. Some water always manages to find its way into my tent.
As did a number of little red ants. I murdered them to pass the time. Which is not, I confess, what the Buddha would do. Call it a weakness of character. When I lived in India I'd kill hundreds of them every day. I tried to get my lizards to eat them but they would not even try.
The rain did stop at nine or so. It turned out to be a trick. It waited until I took down my tent then opened up into a monsoon. I don't use the term loosely. I know of monsoons. I have lived in monsoony lands. In two minutes it soaked everything I own and me right down to my shorts.
Getting back out to the road was a trick. The world had turned to mud. Not that sissy Yankee mud either. Here is the real thing. Tenacious and gooey. Each one of my shoes must have weighed fifteen pounds. I was feeling just a little bit picked on as I clomped up the hill to town.
But the sky was pretty. It was eerily warm. The clouds were all aswirl. And conspired with the fog in the southeast to look very much like a mountain. A Cascade, specifically. But I was not fooled. Not for more than a minute or two. This is Mississippi.
It was not an altogether unpleasant walk. You can only get so wet. And there was a summery smell in the air. Town was but two miles off. Okolona, to be specific, "A Certified Mississippi Main Street Community."
Whatever that is supposed to mean. There was a street called Main. I clomped halfway down it looking for somewhere to eat and dry my bones. No joy. It was back to the highway. I dined at the supermarket.
I had biscuits and grits and gravy and eggs and two chunks of fried baloney. Which was salty as hell but I'm not complaining. The whole meal cost me four bucks. Five with coffee. It was all good. Those were my very first grits. Which don't really taste like anything. They're like bland tapioca pudding. I put salt and pepper on mine. I don't really know if you're supposed to. I waited until no one was watching so as not to piss anyone off.
It stopped raining over breakfast. I dried as much as I could. And set out to walk as far as I could in a pair of squishy socks. My shoes were cheap but they're not waterproof. There was not much I could do about that. Suffering, they say, builds character. Blisters will make me a god.
I was headed, of course, for West Point, Mississipi, twenty-eight miles off. With absolutely nothing between the two towns. It's like being in Montana again. And it had me a little bit intimidated. I looked for alternate routes. But nothing really leapt out at me. I bought a sandwich to go.
And walked. I guess it wasn't so bad. I was stopped by the State Patrol. It's been a while; I was overdue. It still rather hurts my feelings. I don't like being asked to explain myself. It is not so easy to do. And I'm sure there is something in the Fourth Amendment that says I don't have to show them ID.
I guess they have me on "unusual conduct." My whole life's been conducted unusually. But I still resent being run through their computer. What happened to the Land of the Free? I can see them pulling over to offer help. I might need a foot rub or something. But once I tell them what I'm doing they should be on their way. But it takes Imagination to understand. They're a fairly unimaginative bunch.
My pace slowed just a bit after that. They'd gone and ruined my mood. Walking Across America is a Great Thing to Do. It pains me when people can't see it. Driving a Winnebago or riding a Harley would make perfect sense to them. If you want to be truly free from suspicion you need to have a fat ass.
I was outside the supermarket adjusting my pack. Some fellows pulled up in a truck. "Have you eaten?" they asked. In fact I had but I knew just what they meant. If they were Christians they didn't wear it on their sleeves. They just wanted to make sure I was fed. What a wonderful state, I thought. I meet good people everywhere. But I'm thinking now of cutting it short and heading for Alabama.
Or Arkansas. Alabama, I think. I keep mixing them up in my mind. And I cannot be sure the cops like hobos any more on that side of the line. But a night in jail would enliven this blog, and one hopes, pay for this trip. I would insist on compensation. I can hold a grudge.
I am still twelve miles from West Point, camped by a soybean field. It is meant to be in the thirties tonight. I'm fine if it doesn't rain. Tomorrow will be cold indeed. I'm just a little bit worried. I draw the line at twenty-seven. That's when I move back indoors.
"YOU AIN'T from around here." I get that one a lot.
THE RETIRED preacher I met yesterday has eleven children. "Being fruitful," he calls it. He has too sixteen grandchildren. "Do you know all their names?" I asked. He assured me he did not. Again quite without irony. I expect he has them written down somewhere.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Staying in motels just exhausts me. I'm not altogether sure why. I think it might have something to do with a lack of oxygen. Your cheaper places tend to be stuffy. They would not pass a blacklight exam. Hot baths soften my calluses. Soft beds weaken my thighs. Watching six hours of Law & Order will give you peculiar dreams.
Notice I've italicised "Law & Order." I'm not going to do it twice. It took me fifteen minutes and three points of battery life. But I do have a new blog editor. I like the old one better. But life goes on and things change, no matter how much it hurts my feelings.
I haven't changed so very much. I'm a youthful forty-two. Because I've spent a lifetime avoiding resposibility. Which is after all what ages us. I'll be forever young. You might as well go ahead and admire me for it. Jealousy is unbecoming.
Sure there is some grey in my beard. My eyes have wrinkled some. In the manner of Clint Eastwood. Everybody likes him. And every important part of me works, as well as it ever has. Though I did while washing my feet this morning discover a missing nail.
On the little toe of my left foot. It was never much to see. But it's gone now, poor little fellow. It has given itself to the cause. Never again will I have to pay full price for a pedicure.
I did not get back on the road until noon. It took me hours to walk out of town. If I had not slept indoors I would have been in a pickle. Trapped in a city after dark with no place to put up my tent. It was nothing but my hobo skills that convinced me to sleep indoors.
Which I have been doing a lot of this month. It is really slowing my progress. I have been in Mississippi for what, a week, and I'm still up by Tennessee. There are children who look up to me. I feel I am letting them down.
But I never signed up to be a role model. All I can offer is my best advice. Read more and watch less TV. Take up the banjo young. Clean your room and take care of your teeth. Eat your vegetables. Avoid brown liquor and nicotine. Smoke pot in moderation.
It was an unpleasant walk, even in daylight. There was no shoulder at all. For miles I was walking on the spongy grass growing next to the road. Which is tiring and really hard on my feet. They get knocked around in my shoes. Which are fairly lightweight and not at their best on uneven surfaces.
I had by then abandoned Tupelo for Verona, Mississipi. Which butts right up against it to the south and goes on for another few miles. After that I had some sharp gravel to walk on. Just like in Iowa. But here it's a rusty red color and littered with prescription bottles.
I did find some countryside after that. Traffic thinned just a bit. And one or two raindrops landed on me but the skies never opened up. They've decided that will happen tomorrow. Hail and thunderstorms. And maybe a tornado or two, just to keep me on what's left of my toes.
The Gulf of Mexico is behind it, they say. Something about warm moist air. And I am pleased to be so far south that the Gulf is even a factor. Warm rains aren't going to kill me, I guess. The day after that it gets cold. Down below freezing again. I thought I was free of all that. I'm typing this in a T-shirt with my windows open. At the motel I ran the AC.
Eventually I made it to Shannon, Mississippi. I was walking in rather a daze. My mind again wandered to other things. I was not thinking of my feet. Which is how a long walk is supposed to go. It is why I've always liked walking. It is like a sort of meditation, without going all Buddha on you. But that sort of peace has been lost to me for nearly all of this trip. Sad to think that I'm just getting it right when I am nearly done.
I'd had a big breakfast in Tupelo. I had a big lunch in Shannon. At a once gas station that is now P&G Wings and Things. It is run by a retired minister. We watched Let's Make a Deal.
With genuine interest. There's no irony here. In a perfect world we wouldn't need it. But it is a force alive in me. The Buddha was not ironic at all.
I walked on a few miles from there, until the sun went down. And was at least briefly concerned about where I might set up my tent. But I found a spot. I always do. Hobo skills, don't you know. I am between a river and a ploughed field. It is going to get muddy if it rains.
I HAD pecan pie at P&G. I wasn't hungry, but I'm glad I made the effort.
WHILE I was having my biscuits and gravy, the cooks were arguing. There was something very wrong with the biscuits, they said. Neither would admit fault. They tasted OK to me but it did get me thinking. It rather ruined my meal.
THERE IS A critter outside my tent, heavy and seemingly bipedal. I think it's one of them bigfoots. I'll try to get a photo with him.
NO ONE can tell I'm a Yankee until I talk. I feel like a spy.
I spent all day in Tupelo, trying to fix my computer. Which I may have done but I'm not optimistic. Samsung sucks.
Elvis was born inTupelo in 1935. He died forty-two years later. I'm forty-two right now. And still have one or two things to accomplish. Like getting out of Tupelo. It's a fine city, or so I suspect. I've only seen one road of it. And likely not the prettiest road. It's all Walmarts and shopping malls. I didn't even make it as far as Elvis Presley Park.
I spent all at a Verizon shop and walking around killing time. I walked miles a mall. And sat sipping soda and recharging. It was eighty degrees today. And sunny, a good day to be outside. People are walking around in shorts. It's summertime in Mississippi. Tomorrow it's going to rain.
And here I am sleeping indoors tonight. I'm finding these motel stays exhausting. And expensive and not at all in keeping with the spirit of my adventure. My forward progress has slowed to a crawl. I blame the Samsung corp.
I do have something to show for it all. I can do italics now. But I cannot undo them. Forgive the mess. Back on the road tomorrow.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I'm not sure what time it was when I woke up. The sun had not been up long. I had had some trouble falling asleep. Stress, don't you know. Over the state of my little computer. It's bound to affect my health. And will be fully explored when this goes to court. Keep one eye on the legal journals. For James v. The Samsung Corporation, Which As Everyone Knows, Sucks.
It was fairly warm but windy. A deer was kazooing nearby. Or a hunter who was trying to sound like a deer. I wore my yellow hat packing up. And my bright orange hunting vest. One so dislikes to take chances. I really don't want to get myself shot before I reach Florida.
Then it won't really matter so much. How can you talk that way? I tell you, it's all about poetry. This story needs a conclusion. I limp into Miami and then I go home? That will not do at all. I need to Fall in Love or be Born Again or Felled by a Hunter's Bullet. Drama is what this adventure's been lacking. I'm only thinking of you.
I'll try to linger long enough to type up that final scene. And I'll forgive my murderer, but never the Samsung Corp. Because they suck. They should admit as much in all their advertising. We are Samsung, they could say, and we suck.
I had an eight mile hike to Baldwyn, Mississippi, population God-knows-what. Not so very many dozens. It is a fairly small town. But I was glad to be there. I was starving to death, or at least to grumpiness. And was much looking forward to my biscuits and gravy and eggs and sausage and toast. And hash browns. And pie, of course. I think good nutrition is key.
"Not on Sunday," said a grumpy old man when I asked if there were anywhere to eat. I asked several other people as well. The answer was always the same. I knew it would be; I just wanted to hear them say it. I liked how they looked at me. As if I were the Devil himself for even suggesting such a thing.
It left me with a bitter choice. The next town was ten miles off. Or I could head back north a bit and join the big highway. I took that option. A boy's got to keep fed. Otherwise a boy can get cranky.
At the highway I was spoiled for choice. McDonald's, a gas station, or Subway. Mooshy burgers or breakfast burritos or, God help us, Subway. I went to the gas station first. There was nowhere to plug in. So I tried McDonald's but that was no good, so now here I am. Subway is the Samsung of the American sandwich industry.
It has blossomed into a beautiful day. It was cloudy this morning. Cloudy in layers of latticework with blue sky filling the gaps. It gave the heavens depth and dimension. It did too threaten to rain. So I'm glad to see the plain old blue sky, even if it is less interesting.
From here I'm back on 45, having backtracked a bit. Which is fine; I have to be careful to stop short of Tupelo. Which is too big to invite tent camping. I'll walk into there in the morning. If I haven't been shot, skinned and tanned, and made into moccasins.
It was somewhere in the seventies but it never felt that warm. There were cooling breezes of 20 mph or so. Headwinds. They're almost always headwinds, no matter which way I point.
But I wasn't complaining. I was enjoying my walk. A little extra challenge made it fun. There are times that I would jog if I didn't have to carry my pack. But the road itself was not very good. There was a shoulder of sharp gravel. Which after some miles turned into soft grass. Which is harder to walk on still.
I abandoned the highway at a place called Guntown and hiked back to 145. It's a smaller road with no shoulder at all, but there are not many cars. A few mean dogs but that's about it. The trick is to be meaner still.
I cannot tell you much about Guntown. A thousand people live there. Which would make it a force in northern Nebraska, but it isn't very much here. I do not know why it's called Guntown. Something about guns, I'd guess. Its specialties are muffler repair and what looked like project housing.
Fairly nice project housing, as project housing goes. Everyone waved at me.
I stayed only long enough to wave back and then I continued south. Over a few blind hills but it wasn't so bad. There was a lot less wind back there. And the walking came easy; my mind was busy thinking about other things. Like how very pointless Life seems to be and how tired of it I am. And about the corrupting nature of lonesomehood. And just what it means to be me.
You know, that kind of shit.
I did eventually make it to Saltillo, which has maybe three thousand people. And is where Elvis Presley's mother came from. I want to call her Gladys, but I might be wrong. I stopped at a Hardee's restaurant to suck down some calories.
My burger was peculiar if not altogether bad. It was I thought overpriced. You can get better burgers at a saloon for a dollar or two less. But worse, I had misjudged the time. I had to eat in a hurry. Now I am a fast eater at the best of times, but I like to set my own pace. I wound up making myself somewhat sick, a condition that yet persists.
But I had to walk on. I had maybe half an hour to find a place for my tent. And was not at all sure I was on the right road. Traffic was just awful. I had to walk in a muddy ditch to keep from getting sqooshed. Uneven ground is hard on my feet. Hardee's is hard on my guts.
In the end I had to make use of the Force. And my renowned hobo skills. I think I did alright. I am in a clump of trees on the edge of a field, too close to someone's backyard.
I don't think I'm going to get shot here. I will wear my hat and vest. At least tomorrow is a weekday. My murderer may be at work.
Tupelo is maybe two miles off. I had to stop where I did. It is a city of fifty thousand, if the rumors are correct. And it is where I will be most of tomorrow. I hope to hit the Elvis museum. Elvis was born in Tupelo. Tupelo's reputation is made.
It may rain tonight but it shouldn't be cold. It may rain and be hot tomorrow. Which is what you expect from Mississippi, a certain humidity. I'm not too far from Alabama. I can shoot over any time. But so far Mississipi's been good to me. I think I'll walk south for a while.
SAY IT with me. Tupelo. What a neat name for a town.
LAST NIGHT I pooped and buried it. While I slept someone dug it up. Weirdos.
I DON'T THINK I'll ever kill myself. There must be a dozen people I'd rather see dead.
NEWT GINGRICH? Jesus Christ.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
At some point in the very wee hours I heard a blood-curdling scream. Like something out of a horror movie, not a half-dozen yards from my tent. I was startled but not frightened. It did gnaw at me some. I couldn't imagine what in God's nature could possibly sound like that.
Then it hoo-hooed, which suggests owl. That was a coyote trick. Other coyotes soon after answered. From all points on the compass. Near and far. I was surrounded. There must have been dozens of them. I left them to their foolishness and tried to fall back asleep.
Which I did eventually, but not as soundly as I would prefer. It was all I could do to crawl out of bed, late at seven o'clock. After what should have been ten hours' sleep. Only three or four really counted. It was the sort of morning where you don't feel like making your bed.
But I can't indulge in that luxury. Everything has to get packed up. It is tedious and oddly stressful. I'm never sure everything will fit. Add mud or rain or rifle fire and it gets to be no fun at all. At least the sun was up by then. I wasn't too awfully cold.
A ways up the road was a gas station. I could have walked by without coffee. But there was too a truckers' cafe. The Jake Break, I think it was called. The waitress was kind, as was everyone there. This is Mississippi. I ordered the Hungry Man Breakfast. Plus biscuits and gravy. Plus pie.
A boy has got to keep fed.
I spent an hour or two trying to fix my computer. It is worse than ever before. Any more I might say about that would not be fit to print.
From there it was on towards Booneville. I was making very good speed. It was neither warm nor cold. My legs were strong. I was listening to NPR. I bought a little radio in Corinth. It did not cost much at all. And it even works if I am careful to hold it at exactly the right angle.
Halfway there I split from my highway and picked up 145. Which is the road that used to be. It should take me to Tupelo. Where I hope to find a Verizon office. That's where they sell these things. And where they will tell me that they cannot help. And where I'll be cuffed for assault.
I stopped once on the edge of Booneville. This blasted computer again. And had me a gas station hamburger. The ladies who made it were nice. No great chefs, mind, but good people. I could refill my Coke for free. And did so until I got shivery and started hiking again.
To a Wendy's, not a mile up the road. I had another hamburger. Just to be polite. I needed somewhere to sit and plug in my computer again. Samsung, by the way, sucks, sucks. Make time to tell all your friends.
It was my good hope to get some miles in. It was a pretty good walking day. But with only an hour of daylight left I was five miles short of my quota. I thought about checking into a motel to work on my computer some more. But the one cheap place didn't have any phones. I do like to call my mother. Or have her call me. I am a good son, no matter what stories she tells.
Thirty bucks a night. Run by Indians. All the motels here are. I smell the incense and the lime pickles and it's like being in Delhi again. Which is no clear recommendation. Delhi is fairly unclean. And the service is spotty and the people are brusk. Lizards live under your bed.
Florida. It frightens me. It's being overrun by snakes. Rock pythons. They eat people. They've had alligators all along. It seemed like such a good idea. Seattle to Miami. Across this vast country diagonally. I'm having second thoughts. The best route down takes me through a stretch known as Alligator Alley. Somehow I don't like the sound of that. It sounds vaguely gatory.
Booneville, by the way, was a pretty big town. How big I cannot now say. I daren't waste power looking it up. Samsung, you should all know, sucks. It was getting quite dark when I got out of town. It went on for miles and miles.
Then there was a stretch of really big houses, deep among acres of land. Then medium houses on five acre lots. Then small houses jowl to cheek. Then the medium houses again. Then some trailer parks. Then I crossed a highway. By then it was dark. I thought about turning around.
Or walking all the way through the night, but there are some narrow bridges. It wouldn't do for me to get sqooshed. What would the gators eat? So I relied on my hobo skills. I found a wonderful spot. By the light of the moon, diffused by clouds. I really do have a gift.
I'm in a bowl, surrounded by river. I'm sure it is sometimes a pond. But the banks will protect me from rifle fire and hide me from passing cars. I may have some trouble getting out of here. And I'll get awfully wet if it rains. But it was just what I needed when I needed it and I found it in the dark.
It will be in the fifties tonight. I'm not too far bundled up. And I can leave my windows open which really helps dry my tent. I hear crickets and owls and passing trucks. There are varmints in the underbrush. And the coyotes are howling not too far off. I should sleep just fine.
I CAN'T spell Mississippi without chanting the letters to myself. I always put an extra 'S' in the middle. It just seems so much more rhythmical that way. Then I have to go back and erase it.
"PEOPLE THINK hillbillies are white, but there are black hillbillies, too."
I COULD really go for some Indian food. A fellow gets tired of burgers. But consistent and predictable digestion is the key to a successful walk.