Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Blogger Blues

I sometimes get aggravated with my blog as I get the notion that it is an addiction of mine. I get these hankerings to just walk away and never post again but I always find myself writing yet another post. I only have a hand full of people reading so why should it matter? Do I enjoy it? I enjoy when something interesting in my life happens and I get to chronicle it with words and share it. Writing is not a burden to me. I sit down at the computer and in a matter of minutes a post for my blog is born. It doesn’t feel like work. If it felt like work then I assure you this blog would be idle and not updated everyday.

Then why do I find something distasteful about it? Is it the voyeurism I think it promotes in readers? Is it the egoism that is required by the author to think that what you have to write is really meaningful and worth a shit? I don’t know. I struggle with this from time to time.

I do know that there are few blogs I read that I immensely enjoy and they are not well read authors. Two blogs I just visited left me thinking some pretty weighty thoughts and fascinated me. I will probably mull over the ideas they presented all day in deep thought. It is these times that I want to sit in front of this computer and write inspired by the works of others. I am not friends with these people and they probably don’t even know I exist except for a number being displayed on the site counter, but I feel a tangible link to the authors. I have grown to be fascinated with their lives and the ideas and thoughts they expound. Maybe that is what brings me back to blog everyday; the hope that maybe a few people will find enjoyable something that I enjoy producing

Maybe I should think of blogging as a hobby. Hobbies are something that are healthy, enjoyable, and help us pass idle time. I love Model Railroading and would probably have a sizable miniature rail empire if my income wasn’t so limited. I enjoy that hobby vicariously through the pages of Model Railroader Magazine that I receive every month. I get to experience it through the work and art of others. I guess I will try to think of blogging as a hobby from now on to try and quell my uneasiness about it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wheeler and Dealer

I was just putting the finishing touches upon my yard after mowing the lawn. I was using my weed-eater to trim around my driveway. George pulled up in his 1981 Dodge Diplomat. It took me completely by surprise.

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered under my breath as I turned my weed-eater off. I was not expecting this at all. George never comes over to my house.

Lately, George has had an infatuation with my car. I made the mistake of telling him that it was gift. He thinks that since I got it for free then I would be willing to sell it for a small amount of cash. That was what today’s visit was about.

“Wazzup, my brotha!” George said as he got out of the car.

“Hey, George,” I replied suspiciously.

“Dey got yo white ass working hard, I see,” George said commenting on my freshly cut lawn and the weed-eater sitting on the ground next to me.

There was a young, black lady sitting in the passenger’s seat of George’s car. I had never seen her before.

“Who’s that?” I said to George motioning to the lady.

“Oh, don’t be mindin’ her,” George said. “Dis ain’t none of her business.”

“What do you want, man?” I asked cautiously. I don’t particularly like having George at my house for some reason.

George pulled a thick envelope out of his front pocket and handed it to me.

“Go ahead and count it, brotha,” George said.

I opened the envelope and it was filled with a wad of $20 dollar bills. It was quite a substantial amount.

“George, where did you get this kind of money?” I asked.

“It be a thousand dollars,” George said. “Ole George has connections.”

“What does this have to do with me?” I asked.

“I want to buy dat car,” He said as he pointed to my Honda.

I laughed.

“George, my car is worth ten times this much,” I replied as I handed him back the envelope.

“So, you ain’t gonna sell it to me then?” George asked.

“George,” I said with the utmost sincerity as I put my hand on his shoulder. “You come back this afternoon with $10,000 dollars and I will sign the title over to you on this spot. The car will be yours.”

“Now, goddamn, you know I can’t come up with dat kind of money!” George exclaimed.

“George, that is my final offer,” I replied amused

“I see how ya gonna be,” George said. “Damn, tight-ass, white cracka.”

“Now, George, I thought me and you were brothers,” I replied as I smiled.

George was not happy with my offer. I didn’t have any intention of selling my car anyways and I knew George couldn’t get up that kind of cash. We spoke for a few more moments and then he got in his car and left. I smiled to myself as I put up my lawn tools and walked on inside. That George sure can get some crazy ideas up his butt sometimes. Selling my car for a thousand dollars; I am not that big of a fool. You have to give him an A for audacity though.

A Regular Handyman

I hate mowing my yard. I have a huge yard full of green grass that grows endlessly. It is a multi-hour affair that leaves me exhausted. I usually cut it with a push mower. Charlie has had an old riding lawn mower under my house in storage for years. I called him on his cell phone and he told me if I could get it running again I could use it all I want.

Getting this riding mower running again was a major accomplishment. The tires were flat, the oil needed changing, the carburetor and air filter needed cleaning, and the battery was long dead. I ended up spending $75 dollars just getting the damned thing in running shape again. I changed the oil and spark plug. I cleaned the carburetor and put fresh gas in the tank. I filled the tires up with air. I then went down to the auto parts store and exchanged the old battery for a new one which was my most costly expense.

I crossed my fingers after installing the battery hoping the engine would fire to life as I turned the key. It cranked and cranked and the new battery soon grew weaker and weaker. Finally, with one last turn of the key, the engine roared to life. I did a little victory dance of joy. A job that normally takes me four to five hours only took one on the riding mower. I got to sit on my lazy ass as I did circles around my house cutting the grass. Oh, the little joys and pleasures that are bestowed upon us in life!

George also came over to the house today and it was interesting. I have made it pretty clear to him that I value my privacy and don’t like visitors. He wanted something and just couldn’t stay away. I will try to write that story up this evening when I get some spare time. Now, I must get a shower and then get supper started. I am starving.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ferret, Just a Walkin’

It never fails that if I get in my car to drive through town I see Ferret walking somewhere. For months he disappeared as he apparently was working up in Atlanta. Now, I see him looking dejected and just moping along the streets and sidewalks seemingly headed nowhere almost every time I get in my car. He sure has been a man of his feet lately. This morning I asked George what was up with Ferret. If there is any gossip on the Piggly Wiggly Groupies then George knows it.

“George, what in the hell is Ferret doing and where is he going?” I asked. “I see him everywhere.”

“Dat poor-ass nigga sez he can’t stand sittin’ in da house or down here at da Pig,” George replied. “He be sayin’ his momma be drivin’ him crazy. He just walks all day.”

“Is he headed somewhere?” I asked inquisitively.

“Not as far as I know,” George replied. “I think dat nigga kinda be off in da head after coming back from Atlanta.”

“Well, didn’t Ferret have a truck?” I asked. “What happened to it?”

George laughed.

“Dat dumb-ass sold it for $500 dollars,” George replied. “He said he was going to Florida with dat money to live with his brother, but he spent it all on beer and weed.”

As always, George knew what was going on with the Groupies. Lately, Ferret has been more of a wandering nomad rather than a Piggly Wiggly Groupie though.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Shotgun Marriage

I loved this woman with all my heart, but I wasn’t sure about marrying her. She had been talking about it for weeks, but I demurely dismissed it.

“Do you love me?” She would ask.

“I love you with all my heart,” I would respond.

“Shouldn’t two people who love each other get married?” She would then ask. “And spend their lives together?”

I would stumble upon my words and try to think of something coy or brilliant to say.

“Rachel, let’s just date and see how things go,” I would reply as I couldn’t think of anything more profound.

One evening we were lying on the floor of my apartment. I was putting together a birdhouse her parents had brought her from the famed Rock City tourist attraction. It resembled the red barns with black roofs that advertised Rock City on your way to Tennessee through certain states. I finished putting it together and Rachel was pleased. We started to roll and cajole on the floor playfully with each other. She climbed atop of me, straddling me, and looked down at me through her descending hair.

“Marry me!” She said with utmost sincerity. “Don’t you ever want to get married?”

“Of course I want to get married some day,” I replied.

I didn’t realize what course of action I had just set in motion. I should have been more precise with my wording.

A few weeks later, I had just arrived home from work as my girlfriend pulled up into my driveway in her car. She knocked on the door and I let her in. She was holding two small, black boxes.

“Hey, doll,” I said. “What are you up to?”

“Try this on and let’s see if it fits,” She replied.

She pulled out a ring and put it on one of my fingers. She was just giddy with excitement. At first, I thought it was just a simple gift, but the realization of the situation soon set in. It was a wedding band.

“Look at mine,” She said as she showed me her wedding ring as she placed it on her finger.

Rachel had gone out and bought both rings without me knowing or my approval.

“I love you so much and can’t wait for us to spend the rest of our lives together,” She said.

I was at a loss for words. I stood there dumbfounded.

“Rachel, isn’t this moving too fast?” I asked.

“You said you loved me and wanted to get married, didn’t you?” She stated and asked.

I walked back inside and sat down upon my lounge chair trying to collect my thoughts.

“I arranged the flowers, church, and the pastor,” She said after she walked in after me. “Miranda is going to do the catering and the cakes and I have already paid. I also got my wedding dress and the bride’s maid dresses.”

“How much did you spend?” I asked in shock.

The amount was staggering.

“Dear God,” I thought.

I was trapped and there was no way out. Things were moving far to fast. It was like a snowball rolling down hill and picking up mass and girth.

We did get married a few months later. I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued by this marriage thing; something I had never experienced. I wondered what it would be like living full time with a woman. My father fully endorsed this endeavor. He paid for us to go to Washington D.C. by train for our honeymoon. All our expenses were paid. He said later that he had hoped a woman would tame my unconventional ways. To my credit, the marriage did last two years.

Drunken Phone Calls at 2 AM

I got a phone call at 2 AM. The first thing that went through my mind was that something bad had happened in my family or someone was violently ill and had to go to the hospital. I picked up the phone and a slurred and drunken voice responded. It was my once friend Chad.

I and Chad were the best of friends in high school. He was straight laced, never drank, and was a good student. Somewhere down the line he took a wrong turn and things got bad. He now lives in this beat up old trailer home and can barely pay his rent and utilities. He can never keep a job for long and bounces from one to the other. Because of my own experiences with drinking and addiction I avoid him as he is a bad influence and will not clean himself up.

“I need you to come over, man,” He said as he slurred his words. “I don’t think I can take it anymore.”

“Chad, it is two fucking AM in the morning dude,” I said sternly.

“Man, I think I am going to kill myself and momma wouldn’t answer the phone,” He replied.

“Okay, let me put on some clothes and I will be right over,” I replied.

He only lives a 5 minute drive from me. I pulled on some shorts and put on a t-shirt. I got in the car and drove over and knocked on his door. He let me in. The place was a wreck. There were beer cans and liquor bottles everywhere. The kitchen sink was pilled high with dishes and there was trash everywhere; the place reeked of stale cigarettes, alcohol, and rotting food. I cleared some junk off of a chair and sat down.

“What is going on man?” I asked.

“I am tired of being poor and things never going right with me,” He replied.

I picked up an empty bottle of vodka and showed it to him.

“Chad, this is your problem,” I said. “This is why you are poor and why things never go right. I know. I was once a drunk as well.”

“Fuck you man,” He said. “You don’t know shit. I ain’t a drunk.”

I got up out of the chair and started to walk to the door.

“You called me for help dude. If you don’t want it then I am going home,” I replied.

“No wait,” He said. “I am sorry. What can I do?’
I wrote down my psychiatrist’s number on a slip of paper and handed it to him.

“Call her tomorrow and she will get you into BIT (brief intensive treatment),” I said. “You only have to pay what you can afford. It is based on your income.”

“Do you think they can help me?” He asked as he lit another cigarette.

“Chad, only you can do that,” I replied. “They can just help you help yourself. They will help you sober up and get you a few weeks of sobriety under your belt before you are released.”

With that, I bid him farewell. I got in my car and drove home. Now, I cannot sleep and it is 4:30 AM in the morning. I am so wired that I will never get back to sleep again.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Changing of the Guard

Winter is almost upon us once again and I dread it. I can already notice the tale-tale signs of the changing seasons as the days are growing shorter, cooler and less humid, and a certain breed of cricket has begun its mating calls late in the evening. When I was a child, winter would bring on this state of melancholy that would exasperate my parents. Now that I am older I can cope more adequately. I do look forward to the beautiful foliage that results from fall though.

Fortunately, here in the south, winter comes late. September is just another summer month and our first frost doesn’t arrive till mid to late November. Sometimes, it is even as late as December. We are also lucky that we never get snow here as well so don’t have to deal with that inconvenience. On the exceedingly rare chance it does snow just a few inches, it will completely shut down most of the Deep South and this small town.

One of the hardest aspects of dealing with my homeless days was the cold. I learned to read the weather and could, with reasonable accuracy, predict an oncoming cold front. Cold fronts brought brutal temperatures and cold rain that would chill you to the bone. It also meant many hours just lying in my tent, reading books, and whiling away the time while trying to stay warm until the rain had passed. The emerging sunlight after such a front as the clouds dissipated was a joyous occasion. I would sit outside my tent, beer in hand, and soak up the unlimited warmth of the sun. When you are homeless, even the littlest pleasures can seem so grand and enjoyable. I still try to keep my life now in perspective with those six months I lived in a tent in the dead of winter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Arriving in God’s County

Day 4 – Noon Sunday - 8/21/2005 – mile 31 – 12:05 PM

Well, with some sadness and trepidation it seems my hike is over. I arrived in Waverly around noon eastern standard time. I got going around 5 AM this morning and was on the road by 6 AM just as the first light of dawn was showing on the horizon. It was so pleasant hiking in the cool, moist air of this morning. Also, my pack had grown increasingly light from me exhausting all my water and food and it felt much less burdensome upon my back. I walked all morning and finally reached the ancient, rickety timber bridge traversing the Norfolk Southern rail line and knew I was almost there. I have traveled over this bridge a thousand times during my lifetime on my journeys to Waverly via car.

I stopped by the grave yard and checked on my grandparent’s graves as I walked into town. I couldn’t find any flowers to place on their markers, but someone had recently put out some really nice silk flowers in the previous weeks. They were yet to be bleached by the sun. I then walked on up through town passing the two, small country churches on the right. Their parking lots were filled with cars as the locals were there for Sunday service. I reminisced about the many times I sat in that small Baptist Church with my grandmother listening to the preacher preach fire and damnation for our sins. After a few more hundred yards, I walked up the long driveway to my great aunt’s house to end my journey.

I am sitting outside my great aunt’s house as I write this. Apparently she is still at church and will not return for another half hour. She knew I was coming and said she would have some stuff cooked. She was going to fix one of my favorites, peach cobbler with peaches she had picked this summer. I look forward to a good, home cooked meal in a few moments then I will call my parent’s and see if one of them can come and pick me up. I didn’t plan on arriving so early and Charlie will not be through here until late tomorrow afternoon. I don’t really feel like hanging out at my great aunt’s house longer than I have to.

It is also so nice to have unlimited water. For the past three days I have had to carefully manage my water intake with what I could carry. I pulled out my great aunt’s hose pipe and drank until I could drink no more. The cool, refreshing water was wonderful. I almost started to fill up my water bottles out of habit, but realized I would soon be home and water was now in ready supply.

Here’s to a journey’s end!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Joining the Ranks of the Employed

Today, out of the blue, I was offered a job. I had driven down to my father’s pharmacy to get some medicine for my recent problem of dandruff. He asked me to step in the back room so we could sit down and talk. I thought, “Oh shit! This is about my recent hike.” My father thinks my recent hike was kind of obsessive-compulsive/manic.

We sat down and he offered me Neal’s job. Neal is my father’s delivery van driver and is retiring after many years of service. I graciously shook hands with my father and accepted the job. I got very excited as this is the kind of job I can do well and will be within my limitations. It was also flattering that my father would trust me with such an important responsibility within his business. I felt I couldn’t say no and let him down. This goes to show how much our relationship has improved and evolved since my homeless days.

My duties are to deliver home health care products such as hospital beds, lift chairs, and oxygen units and to keep up with the corresponding paper work. I will also be responsible for making sure the Nursing Home accounts my father has get their medicines delivered on a daily and timely basis.

My official job title is “Independent Contractor”. He is going to pay me $10 dollars an hour and I will probably work three hours a day in the afternoon. I start tomorrow. Neal is going to show me the ropes and how to do everything before he leaves permanently.

I look forward to starting work tomorrow. This job will not be like a wage-slave job like flipping burgers at a fast food joint as I will be helping with the family business that will someday be part of my inheritance. It is also helping my father and that goes a long way in improving our relationship. It is also part time so will still allow me a lot of freedom and autonomy and I will not be overwhelmed. My father completely understands my limitations about my mental illness and will work with me on this. Anyways, I was just excited about it and wanted to share it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Path Well Traveled

Day 3 – Saturday Night - 8/20/2005 – Mile 24 – 7:45 PM

Okay, there is more traffic on these back country roads than I had thought. It grew damn tiresome and aggravating. I could hear each vehicle racing along from a mile away as it approached. Each time, I would have to stop hiking and step off the road to let them pass. They acted as if I weren’t even there and wouldn’t slow down. The cars and trucks would fly by with a gust of wind and then I would climb back off the shoulder of the road and continue my journey. The big logging trucks were the most worrisome and with each of their passing came a flying windstorm of debris from the cut pine trees in their trailers. I would close my eyes and hunker down till they had passed with a roar.

At one point, I sat down on the side of the road, tired and exhausted, and threw my backpack upon the ground. Cars and trucks rode by oblivious to my plight. I opened my water bottle to take a drink and then started to cry softly. I felt so lonesome and I had no one to share my adventures with. “I am not a bad person,” I thought. “Why do I have to go through life alone?” The lonesomeness and the lack of human contact of my journey had set in. These are psychological obstacles that I will face on my big hike next month. I wiped the tears off my cheeks, capped my water bottle, donned my backpack, and set out, back down that long road with a renewed determination.

Late this evening, I was coming back into civilization and the houses and trailer homes grew more numerous. I had to hike a good ways off the road to find a secluded and private spot to camp. I didn’t even light a fire tonight because I feared it could be seen from the road after dark and would alert the locals.

Tomorrow should bring me into Waverly and will be the end of my trip. I look forward to walking into “God’s country” and the familiar sights that will greet me. I plan on stopping by my grandfather’s and grandmother’s graves and will leave a few road side wild flowers that I hope to find. I have told my father often that if something were to happen to me then this is where I want to be buried as well; buried in a place that I someday want to call home. This quiet, sleepy, country town called Waverly. The birthplace of my grandmother and grandfather and of all the fond memories I have of my childhood.

A Walk of Death

Day 2 – Friday Night - 8/19/2005 – Mile 14 – 8:35 PM

Today’s hike was much better and not near as hot as yesterdays. The cumulus field started to build around noon and showers soon erupted. This brought welcomed shade from the clouds. I could hear it rumble thunder all around me for most of the afternoon. I managed to get caught in quite a few downpours, but they were welcomed and refreshing. I didn’t mind getting wet after the heat of yesterday.

As you hike the rails, you will know a train is coming as the rails start to “sing”. It is this high pitched sound of the steel wheels against the steel rails traveling for miles ahead of the train. I guess the rails make a pretty good conductor of sound and vibrations. If you get down to the tracks and place an ear to the rail you can distinctly hear the train approaching. Suddenly, far off in the distance, down the tracks, you will see the headlights and ditch lights of the engine wavering and shimmering in the heat as they round a corner.

One thing I have noticed walking the railroad tracks is that these great trains leave a wealth of death on the side of their tracks. As I hiked, I would start to smell the stench of death and in a few hundred yards would come across another deer carcass or other assorted animal. You could get a good indication of the local fauna just by the carcasses left run over by the trains. This was a boon for the local turkey-buzzard population. They would wait until the last minute to fly as I approached reluctant to leave their road-kill track-side gourmet. They would watch me intently at the same time they greedily fought amongst themselves for the choicest morsels.

Around lunch, I stopped by a creek and climbed down the bank to sit by the water. I took off my hiking boots, placed my aching feet into the water, and it felt wonderful. I noticed some blisters were starting to form so I tossed my hiking boots into my backpack and pulled out my ancient pair of tennis shoes (sneakers or trainers for you UK citizens) that are well worn and comfortable. I put these on and my feet felt much better. I then sat and ate my MRE (army talk for meals, ready to eat). I also smoked one bowl from my pipe and then got back on the tracks to try and reach Cusseta before sundown.

By late afternoon, I reached the little, small town of Cusseta and the familiar back roads that would carry me for the rest of my trip. I was glad to be off those train tracks as they grew to be monotonous. I hiked a few more miles out of town were I set up camp, ate supper, and then sat down against a tree to write this. Tomorrow will be my longest day of hiking yet. I will also have to carefully conserve my water as there are no more creeks until I get to Waverly and the end of my journey. I stocked up on water at that creek earlier in the day and that constitutes much of the weight in my backpack. I must have twenty pounds of water in there.

Well, I must close and call it a night. I have an early morning start ahead of me and must get some rest. I feel exhausted tonight and am longing for sleep in my sleeping bag. Good night.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Home at Last!

Well, I finally made it home. It was a great trip, but it was also very trying at times to say the least. I managed to make very good time despite my leisurely pace of hiking. I probably could have done this trip in two very rigorous and arduous days of hiking but that is not my style of hiking. The first thing I did when I stepped into my house was to take off and throw all my clothes on the floor and get in the shower. I haven’t had a bath and had sweated profusely for over three days and was feeling terribly grimy. That shower was one of the most refreshing and welcomed showers I have ever taken.

After arriving at my great aunt’s house this afternoon, I was going to call my father to come and pick me up and carry me home. What took me 3 and a quarter days to hike is just a 30 minute drive in a car. It turned out that him, Charlie, and my brother-in-law were coming over to the pond to clean it up some with lawn mowers and weed eaters. I stuck around and helped them with this task despite being exhausted and thread-bare from my journey. Dad fixed a wonderful picnic lunch of grilled and smoked chicken sandwiches. I greedily ate two sandwiches after 4 days of bland MREs. We also did some fishing and I caught three bass and one tiny bluegill bream.

After this post will follow a four part series of my journaling about my travels. I will post one journal entry each day for the next four days. That way you can follow along with me through my journey as it unfolded. I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted, but I hope you will find what I did write to be interesting.

Now I must catch up with my friend’s blogs and see what I have missed. I hope to find them all well and to have written some interesting things in my absence. The internet is one of things I missed most during my journey. Have a great day and thanks for continuing to stop by and read. The first post of my four part journal is just below.

Andrew

The Journey Begins

Day 1 – Thursday Night - 8/18/2005 – mile 5 – 9:20 PM

I am writing this by the candle light of my candle lantern as I lie on my side in my tent upon my sleeping bag. The crackling and popping of my dying fire can be heard outside it. I was anxious to make it out of town this evening and managed to hike 5 miles before it got too dark to continue. I quickly found a place off from the railroad tracks to make camp and pitched my tent. I feel like your traditional hobo from the depression era. So far, only one freight train has passed by this evening, but I am sure many will pass through during the night and awaken me.

I can’t describe how damned hot it was this afternoon hiking on the rails. I didn’t have any shade on the rail line and the heat beat down upon me relentlessly. Sweat just poured and dripped off my face and made my eyes burn relentlessly. I finally tied together and wrapped two cotton handkerchiefs around my head to try and stop the sweat from getting into my eyes. I will be glad when I hit the county roads around Cusseta where the shade of the side of the road will protect me. Did I mention my neck, arms, and legs got pretty sunburned as well? I will have a thousand new freckles in a few days. The heat of my sunburn will make for uncomfortable sleeping tonight.

Water conservation is the key on a hike like this in the heat. You sweat out just about as much as you can drink and you only come across so many creeks and bodies of water. Water constitutes the majority of the weight in my backpack second only to food. I was feeling lazy about cooking and brought along enough heavy, self-heating MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) to last me this trip.

How isolated I am kind of dawned on me as I write this. A coyote yelped and made me feel so alone. If something were to happen to me, I would be miles away from help or human habitation. I saw several large snakes today and if I were to get bitten by some of the more poisonous kinds then I would be shit out of luck. I do have a snake bite kit in my backpack, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Well, I need to try and sleep. I have my alarm set for 5 AM. It will take a good two hours for me to cook my coffee and breakfast and then to break camp in the morning. I hope to be in Cusseta by tomorrow afternoon and out of this god forsaken sun. I made a bad decision by taking the rail lines and not using the country roads. I was just damned determined to see some trains as I hiked and have seen few; just my luck. Good night.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Legs begin to Bulge

For the last two weeks, I have been doing some serious, hardcore hiking everyday. I am noticing muscles in my legs that I haven’t seen since last summer. I feel like this hiking machine as each day I grow stronger. Everyday I have added more weight to my pack and it is now up to sixty pounds. I can go for miles without getting tired or worn down. It is hard to describe what a good feeling this is; to set goals and to be able to accomplish them.

Yesterday evening, I went for a long hike out spring road and there were trees down everywhere. I counted over thirty trees destroyed. We had some good storms the other night and one of them must have spawned a small tornado or very high straight-line winds. It was a surreal sight and looked like a hurricane had blown through. Some of these large oaks were probably fifty or sixty years old and got felled in one night’s storm. I find that such a shame and a terrible loss of life. Sometimes, Mother Nature shows no mercy and this sight reminded me of that.

My blog shall fall silent until Monday at the earliest. I set out today on a little 4-day adventure of hiking and camping. This will be the shakedown cruise for all my gear. I just want to make sure everything is working all right and that I have the skills for my upcoming 100 mile hike. This hike will only be around 30 miles so it should be far enough to test my mettle, but not so far as to burn me out on hiking.

I am also a big railroad enthusiast so I will be hiking part of the way on the local CSX Inc. lines. This will take me halfway to Waverly then I will strike out on the back country roads for the rest of the trip. This should bring me to my great aunt’s house late Sunday night or early Monday morning. There I will stay until Charlie can pick me up on his way home from work in Dadeville as it will be on his way and I will not be a burden.

I will be taking a notebook and some pens. I will try to keep a daily journal of my activities and record anything interesting. These writings will be posted over a span of time next week upon this blog. All I will have to do is just to type them into my blog and publish them. Hopefully, this trip will prove interesting and it will make for an interesting blog next week.

Well, let me finish packing and then soon I will get underway. I hope you all have a grand weekend and a good rest from the work week. I will be busily putting the miles behind me as I make my way to God’s country (Waverly) and the great outdoors.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Obligations Fulfilled

Today was the day of my injection. I took it like a man. I have grown to be kind of like Norm off of the venerable sitcom Cheers down at the doctor’s office. Everyone greets me by name as I walk in and sign the register.

“Andrew!” The receptionist and the nurses will proclaim.

“Hey ya’ll,” I reply. “I am here to get the ole shot in my posterior for posterity.”

Today was kind of weird though due to where my nurse Andrea injected the shot. She injected it into the small of my back and not my buttock. I was like, “WTF?” I didn’t say anything though and was just glad to get it over with. I did have visions of my kidney being punctured by that 3 to 4 inch needle. I will have to wait and see if it affects the effectiveness of my medication the next few days.

I noticed this morning on the drive down that gas prices are at an all time high. I think gas is running around $2.50 a gallon now. It sure hasn’t slowed down anybody’s driving habits. Highway 29 was filled as usual with people hitting the fast food restaurants and the local, evil super Wal-Mart. It was back to back traffic all the way down to my doctor’s office.

I don’t want to get drawn and quartered over this next statement, but I hope prices double even more. I think we need a big change in our economy over peak oil and hitting people’s pocket books and wallets with outrageous prices might just do the trick. We need more bike trails, car pooling, walking, and public transportation. The “cult of the car” that exists in my town and I suppose most other towns in America needs to wither and die.

Of course, I am lucky that I never have to drive much. I can get by on $5 dollars of gas a week and that is normally what I put in my car. I walk or ride my bike if I need groceries, drinks, or tobacco. My doctor’s office is too far away to walk to or bike to though so I do need my car for that but that is only every few weeks.

Well, I am now off to plan a little adventure for this weekend. I am going to do some long distance hiking this weekend to test out my gear in preparation for my big hike next month. I need to seam seal my tent and check my water filter and other sundry things. Let me go get busy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What do you do for a Living?

I invariably get asked this quite often by family friends and relatives I haven’t seen in quite a while. Lately, I respond with, “I am retired” and do not elaborate any more upon the subject. Most people are too polite to press the issue any further and will leave it at that with confused looks upon their faces. They think, “How can a 33 year old man be retired?”

I used to feel a supreme amount of guilt over this issue. I, like everyone else, fell into that trap of equating my social status and worth with some 9 to 5 job. After much soul searching and many beers, I came to the conclusion that I have just as much a right to exist and to be happy even if I didn’t have a “productive” job in the traditional sense. My “job” is to make the best of this short life I have been granted despite all my limitations.

I have the unenviable position of having a mental illness that is a pretty solid excuse for me not working full time. For me to stay somewhat sane and healthy, I have to live a laid back and simple life. Still people cannot understand or grasp this concept. They think that recovery from my mental illness means that I should inevitably rejoin the work force and flip burgers for a pittance. My recovery hinges directly on me NOT having to do such menial things just to survive. My temporary sanity would digress into paranoia and mental exhaustion.

A lot of the time, I sense a great deal of fear and anxiety over this issue when it is brought up. Issues such as the threat of losing your health insurance or your home; the issue of losing your social status or the prestige your job affords you; there is also the seldom talked about issue of your job being a direct reflection of how good or how supportive a parent you will make. You don’t see women lined up down at the unemployment office looking for potential mates now do you?

One of the most liberating times of my life was when I let go of all that fear and anxiety. I no longer cared what others thought as far as employment equating to social status. I no longer worried if I would keep health insurance. (Most health insurance is terrible at paying psychiatric costs anyways. I pay the majority of it out of my pocket.) From my homeless experiences, I knew I could survive if I had to without a traditional home. I see so much fear and anxiety in our current society and it pains me and baffles me. I see all this fear and anxiety as a way for those in power to control us to keep us consuming and productive. I see so many people living dull and meaningless lives full of drudgery and “group-think” and it saddens me.

Yes, I live way below the poverty line. I cannot afford to shop often nor can I afford to drive around constantly in my car. I have been affording one thing due to the simplicity of my life and that is true freedom. I wouldn’t trade this freedom for any amount of money or security in the world. I will close with a quote from a book that changed much of my outlook on life.

"In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely; It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do."

-- Henry David Thoreau

About George

Pipe Tobacco asked in a comment yesterday for me to more fully flesh out George. George is around fifty years old. He is short and balding. At 6’3” I tower over him. George also wears a “captain’s” cap everyday with the frilly fringe on the bib and is almost never seen without dark sunglasses. He also has an affinity for some of the loudest Hawaiian style shirts you will ever see and wears them often.

George really does have a heart of gold. He occasionally does stupid stuff that can get him in trouble but they are mostly victimless crimes such as dabbling into drugs occasionally. His biggest vice is driving under the influence as he makes his living carrying people around in his car for money. Most black people in my area are still very poor and mired in poverty and many of them cannot afford a car so George takes up that vacuum.

Most of the groupies that hang out down at the Pig are untrustworthy and are, quite frankly, swindlers. George does like to bum the occasional beer, but if push came to shove he would look out for my best interests down there. I know if something happened that I could go to him for help and he would try to help me at the best of his abilities. You just have to catch him when he is sober.

Monday, August 15, 2005

White Pills

I was hungry today after my hike and didn’t feel like cooking. The heat today was oppressive and the last thing I wanted to do was stand over a hot stove. At the end of my journey, I stopped by the little Asian restaurant that is nearby the Piggly Wiggly. I ordered chicken fried rice and a glass of tea. A little Korean lady came shuffling out of the back room to talk to me.

“Chicken smell funny,” She said waving her hand over her nose. “You like shrimp?”

“Uh, no thanks,” I said. “Just cancel my order.”

“Hot wing good,” She replied.

“No thanks ma’am,” I said.

Their air conditioning wasn’t on and it was blazing hot inside the restaurant. I didn’t want to take my chances with dodgy shrimp if the chicken was bad.

I walked on around the sidewalk of the shopping center to the Piggly Wiggly. I went inside and bought a large bottle of Gatorade and some cheese crackers. I sat down outside on the bench to have a rest and to drink and eat. It was just hellaciously hot outside and the heat cast mirages across the parking lot making it look as if it were a shimmering lake.

I looked down towards the dollar store and saw George’s car. I saw him wave for me to come over, but it was to hot to go sit out in the parking lot. George cranked up his car and slowly pulled up to where I was sitting.

“What’s up with you mutha fucka?” He said. “You ain’t speakin’ to ole George?”

“Nah, man. It is just too hot to be standing out in that parking lot,” I replied. “I wanted to stay in the shade.”

George got out of his car and came over to sit down beside me. George lit up a cigar and offered me one. I declined. He also reached into his pocket and pulled out a zip lock bag filled with white pills and handed me the bag.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Dat shit will fuck yo ass up,” George said. “I can’t take em’. Dey tear up my stomach.”

“What I meant was what kind of pills are they?” I asked again.

“OxyContin,” George replied.

OxyContin is a pain killer and one of the hottest prescription drugs out on the streets right now. It is a clean high and you don’t get a hang over. It is also VERY illegal to have them without a prescription. I quickly shoved the bag back into George’s hands.

“Dude, your ass will get in a lot of trouble over those damn things if you get caught,” I proclaimed quietly.

George took a few pills out and tried to give them to me.

“Go on. You can have them,” George said.

“George, I don’t want your damn pills,” I whispered harshly. “You would do yourself a favor by getting rid of those things fast.”

George just laughed.

“Dey just be some pills,” He said.

“Yeah, those little pills will get you a few years in the state pen as well,” I replied.

By this time, the person George was hauling around came out of the dollar store. George quickly got up and headed to his car.

“See ya, my brotha,” George said.

“George, get rid of those things,” I said. “If you get pulled over and searched you are fucked.”

George just laughed again and drove off down the parking lot to pick up his fare. I stood up and walked on home glad to be out of that situation. I have shitty luck and the probability of the police showing up as I was around those pills was very high. George sure can do some stupid shit sometimes and he wonders why he has been in jail so much over the years. He sees it as bad luck. I see it as stupid decisions and doing dumb shit like that will get you in trouble. Luckily, George doesn’t do stupid shit like this often other than drinking and driving.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Evening fall

As I sit here with my windows open, the last light of the day is left. As the sun sets, the cicadas begin a cacophony of calls in tandem. The crickets also emit a chorus that is music to my ears. I take all of this in with great joy and familiarity.

Soon, a transition will take place between the vocal insects of the day and the vocal insects of the night. As darkness descends, so will the katydids and their distinctive call. The cicadas will cease until the heat of tomorrow’s sun awakens and stirs them for another day. The katydids will take over and call in earnest until the wee hours of the morning.

Far off, the mournful wail of a freight train’s horn calls way off in the distance and adds to the orchestra of the evening. “Where are they going? What freight are they hauling?” I sometimes think.

Times such as these induce this intense wanderlust within me. I want to strike out and journey into things and lands unknown. I want to discover what special moments such as these I can discover and capture in my writings. The road ahead of me waits. Will I have the courage to step out and journey down that road? Not for tonight. Tonight, I shall sit on my front porch with my pipe in hand and dream about what could be. Maybe, if only I could have the courage to follow my dreams.

A Late Summer’s Hike

I went for a long hike this afternoon in the heat of the day. I wanted to see how I fared. Luckily, I had plenty of water with me as I needed it. I had also filled several empty two liter bottles of soda with water to add weight to my Kelty backpack to simulate a full load of gear and supplies.

It was a pleasant hike other than the heat and the storms I would later run into. I walked way out spring road into the country. I hiked out to the point the road turns to dirt and the pavement ends. I would say around four miles out.

On the way home, I stopped by a large pasture and sat in the tall grass next to the road under the shade of an oak tree. I pulled out a bottle of water and an energy bar and started to refuel for the journey home. Several cows came ambling over to the fence to see if I had anything to eat.

“Sorry girls,” I said. “I don’t think you all would like an energy bar.”

They were very tame and watched me intently. I walked over to the fence with a handful of clover I had pulled out of the ground. The tamest cow took the clover and started munching on it. I rubbed her great neck and behind her ears. There were gnats and flies flying all around her and she twitched the muscles under her skin and thrashed her tail trying desperately to dissuade her attackers.

By this time, I could start to hear the far off rumbles of thunder. I threw my backpack back on and started down the road at a good clip. It was a race for time as the thunder grew ever louder and the sky darkened. Soon the sun disappeared and the wind picked up greatly. It felt wonderful, but I was growing ever more concerned that I would get caught in a storm.

Finally, I had lost the race and was still several miles from home. On one side of the road was a sprawling pasture and the other side was a creek and a dense thicket of hardwood trees. I climbed over the fence, across the creek, and ran up into the woods just as it started to pour rain. I covered my backpack with its rain cover and put on my poncho as I sat down against a large oak. I would wince with every bright flash of lightning and subsequent crash of thunder. Lightning like that can be scary especially if you are sitting under a large tree right out in the middle of it with no shelter. I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

As is typical with these afternoon thunderstorms in the south, the rain soon stopped and the sun came back out. I was soaking wet despite having my poncho on. It had rained so hard that water had run down my face and neck inside my covering. I walked the rest of the way home kind of dejected as it is uncomfortable hiking in wet boots and socks. I managed to rub a few blisters on my toes. The first thing I did when I arrived home was to shed my wet clothes and footwear and take a long, hot shower. Man, did it feel good.

I love experiences like that. To me that is what hiking is all about. The adrenaline I feel in such experiences is so palpable and invigorating. Getting wet is just a mild inconvenience compared to the joy such encounters bring to me.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dinner and a Movie

Charlie asked me to take his autistic son Randal on his usual Saturday outing that includes a movie, the mall toy store, and dinner today. For some reason Sandra couldn’t do it and Charlie had a class reunion to attend. Charlie kept apologizing to me, but I assured him I didn’t mind. I was getting to see a movie and dinner for free but it did take six hours to complete everything.

Randal picked a movie called Hustle and Flow about a pimp who makes a demo tape and becomes a rap star. I went to the movie mainly just to keep an eye out on him as I didn’t have anything to do for two and half hours as I waited on him to come out from the theater. When I saw the MTV films logo an ominous feeling overcame me. The movie was not my cup of tea and it was an excruciating two and half hours but I endured. Luckily, the theater with this certain movie was almost devoid of patrons so things were quiet. It might have been because it was the afternoon matinee showing or that the target demographic just didn’t show up. When we departed our theater, the cinema was crawling with teenagers and college students all out for a Saturday night at the movies. They had waited for the night time showings to arrive en mass.

After the movie, I dropped him off at the mall. You have to drop him off at one end away from the toy store and he travels through the mall walking through almost every shop on the way. I just sat down on a chair near the toy store and waiting for Randal to make his appearance. After an hour, he did, and he bought one of those super soaker squirt guns.

“Horsefly, are you ready to go get something to eat?” I asked.

Randal hollered loudly that he was. There is no way to transcribe the way he talks. You can only understand him if you have been around him and known him for years.

I asked him if he wanted to go to the new chicken finger place or the old one. You have to be very specific as any deviation to his wishes can upset him and cause a temper tantrum that can get quite physical. He said he wanted to go to the new place in another town. I drove him there and we both sat and ate as he smiled and whispered to himself. He gets very excited around a large group of people and the restaurant was packed.

Afterwards, I drove the 45 minutes home and unlocked Charlie’s house and let him in. I made sure he had ample lights on in the house and that he got down to his little den where sits his television, lounge chair, toys, and shelves upon shelves of shaving cream.

“Well, horsefly, your dad and mom will be home in a few hours,” I said. “I am going to head on home.”

“We loves you!” He said loudly as he sat rocking in his chair and caressing his new squirt gun.

“I love you too,” I replied as I shut the door, locked up the house, and drove on home.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Love under the Stars on a Country Night, Almost

“Take me out to the country and make love to me under the stars,” She said one night not long after we had gotten married. “I have always wanted to experience that.”

I was intrigued by this suggestion. My ears pricked up like a horse after hearing her say this. This was as close to camping as she would ever allow herself to become involved with.

“You sure?” I asked. “It is a long drive and there are animals out there. It might not be what you really want or expect.”

“Can we go tonight?” She pleaded.

I looked at the clock above our television and then out the window noticing the sun had began to set.

“To the country we shall go,” I replied.

I walked out to my truck and let the convertible top down. I also put a quilt on the back seat for us to lie upon. I walked back inside to see if she was ready to go.

“Honey, you ready?” I called out into the house.

She was in the bathroom putting on makeup.

“I am almost ready,” She said loudly with excitement beyond the closed door.

Soon, she stepped out of the bathroom and we both walked outside and climbed into my truck. It was a pleasant drive out into the country with the sounds of katydids and crickets calling all around us, and with the cool, night air blowing in our hair. We finally reached the pond my family owns and drove down the long dirt road to privacy. A full moon hung on the horizon and helped illuminate our dark surroundings. I got out of the truck and so did she. I unfolded the quilt and threw it upon the ground on the edge of the pond. We both lay down upon it and looked up at the stars that unfolded above us in the night sky.

“It is so beautiful out here,” She said as she lay on her back.

“You can’t see stars like that in the city,” I replied.

She leaned over and kissed me passionately and started to undress. The milky white luminescence of the full moon illuminated her skin. Her bare shoulders and breasts glowed in the moonlight.

“Make love to me,” She said as she pulled me closer to her.

Suddenly, a crash rang out in the woods nearby. The sound of abruptly broken limbs and twigs echoed out across the pond. My ex-wife froze in fear. I could feel her pulse and breathing rate go crazy in my arms.

“What was that?” She asked.

“Probably just deer,” I replied nonchalantly as I tried to resume our kissing and fondling session.

“No, wait,” She said. “Did you hear that as well?”

I sounded like something walking in the woods just a few hundred yards from us.

“Rachel, it is just deer,” I said. “Believe me. They are harmless.”

She quickly put on her bra and shirt and clamored for the safety of my truck; so much for making love under the stars. A few deer had completely ruined our amorous affair. It was a long drive home in silence as the mood had been spoilt.

Basic Training

Sorry posts are coming so late in the evening these days. I haven’t had much time to spend sitting in front of the computer this week and have been busier than a cat in a litter box. I also haven’t had much to write about either.

I have been in “basic training” all week for my upcoming hike this September. I rode my bike over 15 miles today early this morning before the sun got high in the sky and heated up the air. I have also completely changed my diet and cut out all sodas. I have even gone so far as to stop smoking cigarettes. I only occasionally smoke my pipe during the day. I already feel more energetic and fitful after just a week of these sudden changes. I am deadly serious about this hiking stuff and want the Pinhoti trail under my belt before the leaves begin to change and the first frost arrives.

Before I obtained my new car, I walked or rode my bike everywhere. I have found since I have a decent car that it makes me lazy and I am more apt to jump in it to travel across town or to my father’s store. This week I have tried to change that mentality and to rely more on my bike or my feet for transportation. It sometimes takes careful planning and arranging my journeys so they are either in the early morning or early evening to avoid the heat of the midday. I forgot how enjoyable it could be though. As you walk or ride a bike, you are more likely to notice nature, your surroundings, and what is going on around you. Familiar landmarks take on a different meaning as they become goals to accomplish.

I have also found that there is a stigma to walking or riding your bike everywhere here where I live. You seem to be considered poor or disenfranchised. There is this definite “cult of the car” that is pervasive in the society that inhabits my local town.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Well is Dry at the Moment

Every time I sit down to write and begin it just seems forced and unnatural. I write a few paragraphs and delete it in frustration. I had many things happen today but I can’t quite get up the creative flair to write about them. I fear my well of writing is dry at the moment. Have any of you experienced this?

Normally, I sit down at the computer and words just flow out from my mind and onto the screen. Blogging is an effortless affair that takes little thought other than guiding my fingers across the keyboard. Within moments, I have a blog post and publish it. That just doesn’t seem to be the case the past few days and has resulted in horribly uninspired writing. Hopefully, tomorrow will be different on these regards.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Vampire Rises from His Coffin

I stayed up all last night unable to sleep and slept for most of the day. This is very unusual for me to do lately. It has also rained heavily and stormed for most of the afternoon and that only compounded the situation. The heavy rainfall and the comforting sound of thunder made me more the drowsier. What finally woke me up was an especially violent storm late this evening that spurred me to go unplug everything of value so it wouldn’t get hit by lightning. Every television Uncle Bob owns got hit by lightning last week so the thoughts about that are fresh on my mind.

I grow more excited about hiking the Pinhoti trail everyday the more I think about it. I even dreamed about it during my slumber today. The logistics of it are overwhelming though. I am not sure how long it will take me to hike 100 miles of unfamiliar territory. I am not one of those hikers that get in a hurry. I like to take my time and take in the surroundings. Things are worrying me such as will I be able to find enough water? Will there be places to re-supply my food stocks? How am I going to handle my bi-monthly injection? How is my family going to react to me being in the wilderness on my own and for several weeks? I am hoping my psychiatrist will agree to give me a temporary prescription for risperdal in a pill/oral form for the trip.

I did manage to get the topographical maps ordered. They should arrive late this week or early next week. That will allow me to plan in more detail were water is along the trail and where access to roads and towns are for re-supply.

Sleepless in the Valley

I awoke at 2 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. It didn’t help that I went to bed at 8 PM in the evening. I was just exhausted after a busy day. I got on up, turned off my short wave radio, and put some clothes on. I enjoy the solitude of the night and the cool air. It gets so hot around here during the daytime. I am considering becoming nocturnal and sleeping in the day until fall arrives.

When I was a long haul truck driver, I preferred driving during the night. Most truck drivers and normal drivers were diurnal and that meant that the traffic was light after midnight and I had ample places to park to get some sleep when morning rolled around as everyone was back on the road. Sometimes, I miss those late nights, behind the wheel, and with talk radio playing in the background as I traveled down the road headed for places afar. Those moments always made me ponder and think deeply.

I did manage to get my father’s wiring sorted today. It took hours and he paid me well. Watching my father work all morning instilled a sense of awe in me. He has to work so hard to keep up his business. He has numerous employees and they all turn to him for what to do. On top of that, he is constantly answering the phone and having to fill prescriptions correctly without error. It made me admire him. I just couldn’t do what he does and stay sane. It also made me wonder if this incredibly stressful job has a lot to do with his heart problems recently and his bypass surgery.

Well, I have a casserole dish of homemade macaroni and cheese in the oven and it is almost done. It smells heavenly as I write this. I know that must sound odd that I am cooking such things at 3 AM in the morning, but I was just starving and needed some comfort food. As soon as the timer goes off, I am going to dish me up a bowl, pour a glass of tea, and sit down and enjoy a treat I haven’t had in awhile. Oh, and by the time you read this, good morning to you to! :-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Computers and a Possible Hiking Adventure

I have a long day ahead of me today so will not be online much. I have to organize all the computer and network wiring down at my father’s store and it is extensive. He called me and asked me last night if I could come down today. He is worried that it is a fire hazard after one of his surge protectors starting smoking yesterday. It is a bird’s nest of a wiring mess and may take many hours getting it all sorted out.

On a good note, I came into a considerable sum of cash yesterday. A check I have been anticipating from the state for months finally arrived. It was from an old 2001 tax refund that somehow never got sent to me. I think I am going to use the money to hike the 100 mile Pinhoti Trail this fall when the weather cools down. Pinhoti is an old Indian word that means “turkey home”. The trail runs through Alabama’s Talladega National Forest.

My first step will be to order detailed topographical maps of the trail off of the internet today. I have read online that the trail can be ambiguous and is not near as well marked or traveled as the Appalachian Trail so maps are a must

Monday, August 8, 2005

Grumpy Lives Up To His Namesake

I had one of those grumpy old men, “you kids, get off my lawn!” moments this morning and was feeling ostentatious. A young African American male is courting my next door neighbor’s daughter recently. Apparently, he is picking her up and taking her to work. The past few mornings have entailed a harrowing experience of what I call “sprinkler music” that is dispersed with an occasional booming bass note that literally shakes the very foundation of my home. I call it “sprinkler music” due to the fact that the continually repeating treble tone sounds like an old fashioned lawn sprinkler going off.

I realize that this music, for most males of this persuasion, is akin to a male peacock strutting around the farm yard and displaying his elaborate feathers to entice potential mates. I just wish they had a quieter way of getting a piece of ass. I could literally see concentric circles form in the center of the coffee in my mug this morning and radiate out to the edge due to the vibrations.

I walked outside after putting on some clothes and stepped across the street to his car with my coffee mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The music continued to blare loudly. I managed to make it to his car without him noticing and knocked furiously on his passenger’s side window after putting the cigarette in my mouth. The music fell abruptly silent and he rolled down the passenger’s side window.

“Dude, do you think you could tone it down for a bit and turn it down?” I asked. “The shit you are playing loudly has been driving me crazy every morning for the past few days.”

“Shit dawg, I didn’t mean to be dissin’ you.” He said.

(dissin’ or dissing = disrespecting)

“No problem, man,” I said. “It doesn’t bother me at night, but seven fucking ‘o’ clock in the morning is a bit early, don’t you think?”

He was just a teenager so I couldn’t be too harsh. I did some incredibly stupid shit during my teen years so I understood. I just wanted to drink my morning coffee without trying to read the signs in the concentric circles that were being vibrated into it.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

What You Can’t Say

I reread my post on homelessness a moment ago and kind of cringed over what I wrote. I was mainly just trying to proofread as I reread it. I am by no means an authority on homelessness and hope it didn’t come across that way. I was just homeless once and for a few months, but I still have opinions on the matter and feel strongly about it. That’s why I tried to stick really hard to why I became homeless, but the glaring fact of the lack of family support is telling so I had to add that.

One good thing about having a lesser read blog is that you can get away with indiscretions like today more easily. Hell, I am only getting around ten hits a day lately and these people are folks I consider friends and blogging confidants. (Thank you, blogging friends and confidants.) I sometimes have the urge to want to increase the traffic to my blog for egoistic reasons, thus my failed experiment with blog explosion, but I realize what I have now is a happy medium.

Anyways, I just found and read this following essay not long after I wrote my post on homelessness and thought it was interesting and wanted to share it. The following quote from the essay sums up my experiences, thus far, by blogging anonymously on this new blog with only a few people reading. It made me feel better about my little rant this afternoon and it was an interesting read to boot.

The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it's also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.


It is a lengthy read but if you want to read the whole essay titled “What You Can’t Say” then click on the link below. (Pops in a new window.)

Solving Homelessness

I was reading “The Homeless Guy” this morning out of boredom. No one updates their blogs early Sunday morning. He had written a post where he claimed to know the causes of homelessness and he tends to try and speak for all homeless and formerly homeless people. I started to write a long comment but realized it wouldn’t be worth my time and would fall on deaf ears.

Sometimes, it is hard to capture the point he is trying to make, but I think he was trying to say that severe emotional trauma causes homelessness. I had posted a comment and link to a major research study a few weeks ago that stated that the lack of family support is a major contributor and almost universal factor leading to homelessness. He basically just stated, “But you have to ask why.” His reply was kind of pedantic.

The majority of us experience severe emotional traumas during our lifetimes but very few of us become homeless. A dearly beloved family member dies, you lose your job of twenty years, your mate that you adored has an affair, you experience a devastating divorce, are just but a few examples. All of us have experienced something similar but it didn’t make us leave behind everything to go sleep in a card board box downtown in complete squalor.

I would never intend to speak for all homeless people, but I do know what caused my own homelessness and, in my case, it was simple. The lack of family support was a major cause in my becoming homeless and it was partially of my own making. It was also family support that got me out of the woods. Here is what caused me to become homeless:

A) I have a mental illness that is socially alienating and devastating and I wouldn’t take my medications. This caused my then wife and family to become estranged from me and to be afraid of me.

B) I was also drinking heavily at the time and this just compounded the above problem. I couldn’t stay sober for longer than a day. No one could trust me and rely on me to be responsible. I was attempting to self medicate myself through copious amounts of alcohol. Alcohol was the only substance that made me feel “good” and I was miserable at that time.

I personally think that there will never be a cure-all, one stop solution to homelessness. Every case is so distinctly different and requires personalized care. This personalized care is almost impossible to implement with such a big bureaucracy like our current government. One thing I do know that out of all the homeless blogs I have read, the authors are all estranged from their immediate families; every one of them. That has to say something profound.

I have also found that keeping a home and keeping good relations with my family to be much harder work than being homeless and isolated. I am socially and ideologically

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Riverside

I decided to go fishing today. It was the perfect weather for fishing with overcast skies and temperatures in the lower eighties. I gathered up all my gear in my backpack and a five gallon bucket and walked down to the river to my favorite spot. My fishing license has expired and I just knew if I went up to the lake, a fish and wildlife officer would want to see my license. The secluded spot down at the river is back in the woods across the railroad tracks and the chance of coming across an officer is very slim.

It took me about 45 minutes to walk down there. I noticed the trail was well worn as I walked it. As I walked up through the woods to my spot, I was disappointed to find three elderly black men already there. I was looking forward to a quiet and peaceful afternoon spent fishing alone. I decided to try my luck anyway.

“You fellas mind if I fish here as well?” I asked.

“Ah naw, sit on down and throw out your line,” One fellow said.

All three men had been drinking heavily and the odor of alcohol emanated from them.

I put a night crawler on my hook and lowered it into the water and immediately got a bite. I yanked my pole back up and the bream slipped off the hook taking my bait with him. I repeated the process and within minutes I had a nice size bream in my bucket.

“Maybe we need to be fishin’ with worms,” A fellow said. “We are fishin’ for catfish and ain’t got a bite in over an hour.”

“What are you fishing with?” I asked.

“Chicken livers,” He said as he held up the container.

I hadn’t been fishing down here in months and was dismayed by the amount of trash lying around. Apparently, this secluded spot has become well known and popular with the locals. I saw liquor bottles and beer cans scattered everywhere all around me. It made me sad to see such a sight, as this used to be a great and clean place to come fishing.

Over the next few hours, I managed to catch three more good sized bream. Satisfied with today’s results, I packed up my gear and bid the gentlemen a good afternoon. I headed on home to start the unpleasant task of cleaning four fish and getting them put up in the freezer.

Three catfish for me.......

My fishing went okay yesterday. I kept trying to fish for bream and the little small fingerling fish kept taking my bait. I would curse loudly as I brought up the line devoid of any bait and with a lack of fish. My floater was constantly bobbing up and down in the water as if I had something and it was frustrating. I finally took off the floater and just let the hook and bait sink to the bottom. I ended up catching three good sized catfish.

Cleaning catfish is a chore though. You don't clean them like other fish such as bream or bass. You have to make an incision behind the head and literally peal the skin off with a pair of pliers. Getting the hook out is another story as well as they always tend to swallow it. I know it sounds gross. Sorry! They are in the freezer now for a future fish fry.

I have a new visitor every morning now. A neighbor's cat comes by like clockwork every morning just after 7 AM and we socialize. She got a little plate of tuna this morning. I know I am spoiling her but it is nice to have a cat back in my life. She is sitting atop the desk bathing as I write this. Soon she goes about doing whatever a cat does all day and I will not see her till tomorrow morning.

My ex-wife brought her thirty page thesis for me to proof read yesterday as well. I have the chore of reading through thirty pages of not so interesting material today and tomorrow. I shouldn’t say that as I have read none of it as of yet. I may prove interesting as southern writers usually intrigue me. It is titled, “The Influence of Columbus, Georgia on the Life and Works of Carson McCullers.”

I also have to help her put together a power point presentation and that will be fun. I always enjoyed doing that for the Professors when I worked at the University.

Well, I need to grab a shower and get ready for physical therapy. I dread this so as it has hurt so badly lately. I want to call and cancel and just play hooky. I get tired of the pain and the seemingly slow gains.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Ferret Comes Home

As I had written earlier, I wanted a pot roast for supper. I walked down to the Pig to buy one. Today, the flea market down from the Pig was bustling with activity. Apparently, they have run off Church Lady from sitting in front of the exit of the grocery store as today she was sitting at a table way down from it near the flea market. It kind of makes a good fit as the people who run the flea market are country bumpkins and Church Lady is one as well. I walked by her table and she called out to me.

“God bless you sir!” She said. “Care to give some of your good fortune to the Lord?”

She handed me this little pamphlet about how the end times were near and unbelievers would perish in the flames of hell if they didn’t repent and give their lives to Christ. I leaned forward over her table so she could hear me whisper.

“I know you are full of shit,” I said. “Monte saw you buying cigarettes and beer a few weeks ago so don’t bother me again.”

“Now, don’t be talkin’ to a servant of the Lord in that way!” She said loudly and was visibly shaken.

“Those were for a friend of mine,” She leaned forward and whispered back.

“What kind of servant of the Lord buys cigarettes and beer for a friend?” I asked. “Isn’t that a sin?”

She looked all around her nervously to survey if anyone had overheard our exchange.

“I won’t say a word if you just never bother me again,” I replied.

“I won’t bother you again so just go away,” She said relenting.

She couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.

I walked on up to finish my shopping. As I exited the store, I saw Slop and asked him if he had seen George. Slop said no and I was disappointed in that I was looking forward to talking to him.

“I did see someone and you will never be guessin’ who it be,” Slop said.

“Who?” I asked inquisitively.

“Give me a dolla and I will tells you,” Slop said.

“Slop, I thought you said you would never ask me for a buck again,” I replied.

“I just be kidin’ with ya,” Slop said. “Ferret was around dis mornin’.”

“Where has Ferret been?” I asked.

“He said he been workin’ up in Atlanta but lost his job and came back here to stay with his moms for awhile,” Slop said.

“Well, tell Ferret I said hello if you see him again,” I replied.

“I sho will,” Slop said.

Well, that was interesting. I haven’t seen Ferret for months now and he can be some interesting writing material. Maybe, in the next few days I will catch up with him and found out what he has been up too. Ferret is probably the most nervous guy you will ever meet. Throw George in the mix and it makes for a very interesting Piggly Wiggly groupie encounter.

The Brighter Side of Yesterday

I feel much better today and much more upbeat. As they say, “Shit happens!” so you just have to go with the flow. I have much to do today and must get busy after being neglectful the past two days. I normally keep my apartment very clean but it has devolved into a state of disarray over the past few days. Laundry, dishes, and other things wait to be taken care of. I also have the urge to cook a pot roast in my crock pot. That means I have to walk down to the Piggly Wiggly to do some shopping. That will fill my belly and also get me up something to write about most likely.

I miss it when I don’t feel up to writing and posting it into my blog. My blog feels like this neglected step child that is languishing in cyber space. I greatly enjoy formulating and writing about my experiences. Often, as I interact with others, I try to pay close attention to what is going on. I try to catch those little nuances that make a situation interesting to read about. I read where other people grow to feel as if their blog becomes a chore and a second job. Most of the time, it is something that I take great satisfaction out of and I never feel that way. Let’s hope that continues because if it ever becomes a job or chore then I would find other things to do.

Well, let me get busy. I have much to do. I also need to update my radio station blog to give me something interesting to listen to tonight as I settle down and catch up on the blogs I like to read and have ignored for several days. Good day!

Over the Hump

I already feel much better this morning. I think a lot of it is psychological as I now know my medication is back up to therapeutic levels. My shot this morning was uneventful and painless and for that I am grateful.

I did manage to take my mother out to eat last night. She was just starving and wanted to go. I was experiencing severe paranoia though and I thought everyone in the restaurant was watching me and laughing at me. I tried to block it out and told myself that it wasn’t real but that is so hard to do when you are not feeling well.

I miss writing when my blog falls silent. I enjoy taking an experience or conversation and putting it down for others to read in an organized fashion. I often find myself thinking of how to write about a certain situation as it happens. I try to capture, in my mind, the little nuances that make things interesting and that paint a vivid picture for those who stop by and read.

I did write a long, rambling story last night about my experiences going out to eat and about my return home only to be harangued by my Great Uncle about a task he wanted me to perform. I am probably going to post that after this. If you are not up to reading something that is very lengthy then by all means skip the next post.

As far as Bob is concerned, keep in mind that I was not feeling well at all last night and was kind of abrupt with him. I wasn’t mean or nasty but I wanted to be left alone and didn’t need anything thrust upon me. What he wanted me to do was not pressing and he had a replacement television. I am going to go over in just a bit and help him out and take those televisions down to the repair shop as I feel up to it now. Anyways, below is the long, rambling post I wrote last night just before retiring to bed.

Dinner for Two and a TV Too

I was not feeling up to much tonight but lots happened. Thursday is the night I and my mother go out to eat every week. I just couldn’t disappoint her. She hadn’t eaten all day in preparation for our night out. I called her and told her I would pick her up in a few moments. I drove over and knocked on the back door of my parent’s house. She shuffled to the door in her nightgown. Apparently, she had fallen back to sleep after my call.

“Do you still want to go get something to eat?” I asked.

“I am just starving,” She said. “Let me put on some clothes and we will go.”

I was kind of hoping she would say no and would go back to bed. She went into her bedroom for a few moments, got dressed, and came back out looking disheveled.

“Mom, brush your hair and put on a little makeup,” I said.

“I don’t really have it together tonight,” She said after a light hearted laugh. “I just woke up.”

“Here, let me help you,” I replied.

I walked her into her bathroom and tried to help her fix her hair with a hair brush. She half-heartedly put on some lipstick and other makeup.

“Are you sure you want to go out to eat?” I asked. “It seems me and you don’t have it together tonight.”

“Let’s go down to the barbeque place and get a plate.” She replied. “I also need to go by your father’s store and get some birthday cards for your cousins.”

We walked outside, down to the car, and got in. Soon, we were on our way down through the valley to get something to eat.

“What are you getting?” My mother asked as we stood at the counter in the restaurant.

“A smoked chicken plate,” I said.

The lady at the counter took my order and my mother told her to get her the same thing as well. We sat down to eat but I didn’t have any kind of appetite. I was experiencing severe paranoia and thought everyone in the restaurant was watching me and laughing at me.

“Are you okay?” My mother asked as she held out her hand to hold mine.

This jolted me back into reality. I had been staring off into space.

“Yeah, I just don’t feel good,” I replied. “I have a headache and am not that hungry.”

My mother ate all that was on her plate. I only ate a few bites. I got a to-go box and took the rest home with me. We now had to drive down to my father’s pharmacy so mom could get some cards and some coca-colas. As we drove up in the parking lot, thankfully, my father’s store was in a lull and it was empty. I didn’t feel like answering questions or being social with some of his long time customers who know me.

“You two doing okay?” My father asked. “Did you go to the White House?”

“We are fine,” I said trying to down play the real situation. “No, we went to the barbeque place just up the road.”

“You are making me hungry just talking about it,” My father replied.

Mom finished her shopping and declared that she was ready to head home.

“See ya Dad,” I said.

“You sure you are okay?” My father asked. “You two are acting kind of strange.”

“Yeah, we are fine,” I replied. “We are both just tired.”

I have learned to downplay my episodes as they cause unwanted attention.

I drove Mom home and dropped her off under the foyer. She thanked me for the meal out and asked me once again if I was okay. I assured her that everything was fine and I just needed to go home and have a lie down. I drove on home and was glad to pull up in the drive way and get that over with. I walked inside and found five messages on my answering machine. I debated over pressing the play button. I hit play anyway. All the messages were from my Great Uncle Bob.

“Andrew? I need you to come over and put my televisions in my Van and I need you to take me down to the repair shop tomorrow to get them fixed,” The first message from Uncle Bob said.

The subsequent messages were of the same variety. His televisions had gotten hit by lightning in that severe storm we had last week and Charlie had brought him a temporary TV so he could watch for the time being. I dialed his number and got him on the phone.

“Hello?” Bob asked.

“Bob, I can’t come tonight or tomorrow,” I said. “I don’t feel well.”

“What’s wrong with you?” He asked.

“That is none of your business,” I replied. “I don’t mean to come across as abrupt but I really don’t feel well.”

The majority of my extended family doesn’t know about my mental illness.

“I really need to get these televisions down to the shop tomorrow,” He said.

“Sorry bud,” I replied. “But you are going to have to find someone else. I am not up to doing much for the next few days. If you are willing to wait until next week, I can help you. If you can’t wait, then get Linda and Florene to help.”

“I really need to get them fixed tomorrow,” He said persistently. “If you could just put them in the van and drive me down, I would appreciate it.”

“Bob, good night,” I replied. “I will talk to you next week when I am feeling better.”

“What?” Bob asked sounding confused. He had never heard me basically say no before and it caught him by surprise.

“Good night,” I said. “I need to head to bed.”

I hung up the phone and paced back and forth in front of my entertainment center awaiting him to call back. After several minutes, the phone remained quiet and I could finally calm down. I was almost beside myself. I sat on my back porch for an hour, smoking cigarettes, until my anxiety started to abate. I feel much better now.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Under the Weather

Not feeling particularly well the past two days. My medicine is time released and tomorrow is my day for another shot so I am pretty sure it has ran out. I think that as the medication dosage level in my blood drops my symptoms start to crop up. I have been extremely unmotivated, morose, and depressed. I have also been kind of agoraphobic and have not left my apartment since my trip with Bob thus not having anything to write about in particular. Any social contact of any kind makes me a nervous wreck when I get like this. When I am feeling ill, I can get socially inept and strange so I have found it best just to sequester myself in my apartment and just rest.

Earlier this morning, I was briskly pacing up and down the driveway smoking cigarettes. I was talking very loudly to myself and cursing. I stopped abruptly and realized what I was doing. I looked across the street and noticed my elderly neighbor standing at his window watching me. I know I looked and was acting completely strange and nuts. I headed on inside feeling terribly embarrassed.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Caught and I Can’t Escape

I knew this would happen but we fools have been known to walk blindly into traps. I haven’t seen great uncle Bob for weeks now as I have been avoiding him. I just knew if he were to catch me, he would get up some kind of task or road trip for me to perform. My greatest fears were realized today.

I had been feeling terribly guilty about avoiding him. After all, he is an elderly man who had just lost his wife of thirty years and is recovering from major heart surgery. My guilt finally overcame my better judgment and I drove over this morning to check on him. We talked for a while as he watched a taped baseball game from the other night. Finally, the hammer dropped.

“Grumpy?” Bob asked in his country twang voice. “I need you to take me up to Acworth to get some stuff finalized about the estate. Can you take me tomorrow?”

Acworth, Georgia is a two and half hour drive. I don’t know why he can’t use an accountant here in the valley. The accountant he uses up there seems kind of shady like a used car salesman.

“Yeah, I will take you,” I said with a depressed tone to my voice.

I just cannot say no to him for some reason. I said goodbye, walked out the door, and was kicking myself in the ass, figuratively, as I walked to the car. Why was I such a fool to go over? I knew this would happen and he wonders why I have been avoiding him. This is not something pressing or that needs to be done on an urgent basis. My father had told him that several days ago.

After I got home, I called my father to bitch.

“Dad, I told you what would happen,” I said. “I know he has been asking about me but that is why I haven’t gone over.”

“Well, shit son,” My father said sounding dejected. “You can’t even go around him without him getting you up something major to do.”

“That is why I have been avoiding him,” I replied. “I am his errand boy and he knows I am too kind to say no.”

So, my day tomorrow is completely fucked. I will spend all day driving him up there, waiting around a shady accountant’s office, and then driving the two and half hours home; all this for something that doesn’t really have to be done at this moment. It is about money. He is afraid his two step children are going to get most of the estate and wants to makes sure that doesn’t happen. Oh man, if I still drank, I would love a few beers about now. Hell, I probably would drink a twelve pack.