THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT
This is meant to be humorous so, if it isn’t, just consider the source.
We are currently in a Northern California town, near the coast, and to say they have horrible internet connections would be a gross understatement. Wireless? Forgetaboutit, as my friends in Beantown like to say. I haven’t been able to come close to uploading a video on YouTube, not with our Verizon wireless, not with the Verizon booster, nuttin’.
Which gets me to thinking and wondering, how is it possible, in the year of our Lord, 2023, that there are places in the United States which are barely connected to the World Wide Web? I mean, how many satellites are speeding through space as I write this? Something like ten billion, correct? I jest, but you know what I’m saying. Elon Musk alone is responsible for thousands, right? And it’s not like I’m talking about a remote, heavily-forested knoll in Alaska. I’m talking about thirty miles from Eureka H, California, and I really have to squint to see a forest nearby. The sky is clear of obstructions? Did the great satellite gods decide this area just wasn’t worth their time?
Don’t shed a tear for me. I really will be all right until I get to a place on the map which actually has modern conveniences. But still, come on, it’s 2023? I feel kind of bad for the people of Ferndale, California. How much longer are they expected to live in the Dark Ages?
On a related note, there is actually a blacksmith in this town, so maybe the “Dark Ages” reference wasn’t that far off-center.
FEELING AT HOME
There is a restlessness deep inside of me. A feeling of “lacking a foundation,” for lack of a better description, like building a shed on dirt rather than a concrete slab, like there are no solid footings to this structure called Bill, and it’s felt like that for as long as I can remember.
I suspect it has something to do with adoption. I’m no psychologist, no psychiatrist, no therapist, not trained in any of the head sciences, woefully lacking in the training necessary to untangle the web inside of me. I just know how I feel, and I’ve rarely felt “at home” anywhere, like no matter where I am, I don’t belong there. I’ve tried to explain it to Bev, and failed miserably. It’s a bit like grabbing a handful of fog, and I fail miserably at that as well.
Olympia was never home for me, although I lived there for thirty-two years. Bev’s house was never home for me, although I lived there for fourteen years. This eighteen-foot bus feels more like home, for me, than anywhere I have lived in the last fifty-four years, and I suspect that speaks volumes about my future after Bev finishes this thru hike.
I have an online friend, Cynthia is her name, but I call her Lil Sis, and part of the reason for that name of endearment is because she understands how I feel, and I have no words for how rare that is. She, too, is adopted and, again, I’m no psychologist, but I do believe there is something worth noting in that fact. But that’s as far as I can go with the analysis. I don’t have the tools necessary to unravel that mystery.
I just know I’m no longer capable of chasing my tail, hoping to grab hold, when the tail is made of wispy memories and Hallmark enticements.
I’m doing a poor job of explaining my feelings. I know that and I apologize. I just know that I need to hit the road once my support of Bev’s adventure is over. I need to climb in this bus, pick a direction, slip Puddle Walker into gear, and end my quest for home . . . or perhaps begin a new chapter of the quest . . or accept a new definition for the concept of home.
We shall see!
What am I chasing after? What am I running from? I don’t think it’s either of those things. It just feels like the natural thing for me to do and I think, at the age of seventy-four, it’s about time I do what feels natural rather than what feels contrived.
Every once in a while, the lyrics of a song will strike a chord with each of us, pun intended, and for me, two songs struck me deeply. One was a song by Neil Diamond, and the particular lyric went something like “I’ve got an emptiness deep inside, and I’ve tried, but it won’t let me go. And I’m not a man who likes to swear, but I’ve never cared for the sound of being alone.”
Welcome to my psyche, folks.
The other was from “Nowhere Man,” by The Beatles. “He’s a real nowhere man, living in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody.”
I write none of this for sympathy so please, none of that. I am simply speaking my truth as I know it, as I feel it, and as I have known and felt it for decades. I’m not sad about it, no depression runs through my veins. No, rather, I’m accepting of it, curious more than anything else, wondering if I can find that which is missing before my finding days are over. And the writing about it all is a record, a legacy, and method of recording the inner voice of yours truly, in case anyone really cares to know.
And I really do hope that someone cares to know; otherwise, that would be terribly sad, don’t you think?
HAVE YOU NOTICED?
Never before, in the history of man, has there been so many products and gadgets and miraculous must-haves which are all designed to save modern man time. The microwave most definitely saves us time. The car, of course, a great time-saving machine, much better than a horse, we all would agree. But seriously, think about your normal day, and all of the inventions you use which are time-savers.
And yet, we never see to have enough time. We are always in a hurry. We are always playing catch-up.
And you probably laugh when you read that, partly because of my brilliant wit, but also because you recognize the sliver of truth in what I say, and you know it is a malady which has affected you, as well.
So, we have a curious riddle, don’t we? We are surrounded by time-savers and yet we cannot find the time to accomplish those things we feel we must accomplish.
Why do you suppose that is?
Do you see?
I’m thinking these things from the bowels of my 1999 GMC Savanna, my Puddle Walker, on the grounds of a winery outside of Ukiah, California. It is 8:34 p.m. at the time of this writing, pitch-black outside, a pack of coyotes are howling in the not-so-distant distance, we have no internet, the dogs are hunkered down next to their humans, and Bev is reading. We have no real need for time-savers this evening, for we have no need to get anything of any importance done this night. We will do what we are doing until sleep overcomes, and then ponder more matters of great importance tomorrow morning.
But I find it amazing that Thoreau mentioned his thoughts on men and quiet desperation so many years ago, and it still applies today, or so it seems to me. No matter how far we have advanced as a civilization, we continue to make the same mistakes and chase after the wrong things in life.
A MATTER OF MONEY
Here’s another thing Lil Sis and I have in common.
Money has very little importance to us.
Don’t get me wrong, we all want to eat, we all want shelter, and we all want some creature comforts to soften those hard nights which inevitably will come, but the thought of having millions, the thought of owning more than one vehicle, the thought of having a new RV instead of Puddle Walker, none of those things have hold of me.
I have always found it reasonably easy to make money but, I tend to only make enough money to get by. Even today, I make money with content writing, but I have no desire to make more money. Almost by accident, and I say that with complete seriousness, I have done enough correct things during my lifetime to provide me with a decent retirement. My social security will never qualify me for upper-income tax benefits, but it’s not bad. I have a Teamsters retirement fund and, I say this in all honesty. I didn’t know I had until I was sixty-eight. I could not, for the life of me, understand why the Teamsters kept sending me snail mail until, one day on a whim, I opened up one of those letters and discovered they had money for me.
A little of this, a little of that, and seventy-four years later I make about $2500 each month, and that’s enough. More than enough, if this road thing works out. No rent, no mortgage, watch my spending, nothing extravagant, and I should be just fine out on the road, thank you very much, put to rest the concern, those of you who think this little Thoreauvian journey is a bit over-the-top weird.
And I’m willing to bet, here and now, that some of you are wondering why I only make $2500 each month after so many years of working, and for that answer I refer you to the beginning of this chapter . . money just isn’t that important to me, nor has it ever been. I make it, I lose it, I toss it away in silly ways, but here I stand, like a withered oak, laughing at the winds of time and fate.
There is a stanza from the poem Ulysses, by Tennyson, which has remained with me for many a year:
“That which we are, we are.
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Made weak by time and fate
But strong of will.
To strive, to seek, to find,
And not to yield.”
That’s me, and I suspect that is many of you as well.
Someone asked me the other day, “what if the bus breaks down in some God-forsaken town in the middle of nowhere, and you don’t have enough money to get it fixed?”
My answer: I guess that God-forsaken town will be my new home.