Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Coastlines and Long Beach Swank

Now I know what you're thinking, even before I start to preface
another entry. How can I trust the voice of this narrator? He was a
suicidal wretch working at a call centre in the Niagara region...and
now he's halfway across the Sleepy Midwest of the U.S.? How can
this BE?! I would like to then continue with the hope that you
suspend your disbelief and just keep reading, because as part of what
I've learned and where I am now, presently, (which I will get to in
future writings) things are not always what they seem and you can't
make your mind up about a painting until the artist has completed
the work. I don't consider myself an artist (I make mondo spelling
mistakes all the time, not to mention grammatical heresy, but that's
nothing new from the average crap that gets published...)
but I just find writing to be sort of therapeutic - it helps me get out
what I need to without hurting anyone or going on a rampage. But that
rampageous individual seems to be far away from here...but again, I'll
get to that.For now, let us catch up with the runaway train
that is this story.

As our hero (sorry, couldn't resist) barreled across the Midwest
with his trusty Scottish sidekick, sundowns and sunups became frames
to a day. I should mention too that, for some reason, you would think
riding in a truck would really smell bad as truckers are generically seen
as being unclean individuals (what with the tales of piss-bombs, tight
cabin quarters and crazy driving deadlines) but this was not the case.
Angus defied all of my past prejudices towards the trucking type - he
stopped at trucker stations and showered every day - and usually smelled
a lot like Irish Spring (the green original one, not the blue or aloe kind).
The ride was silent since that first 2 or so hours of talk that resulted in my
weeping when Angus asked me about my family. This seemed to be just
fine by him and by myself. One would think that near fifty hours with no
talking would drive one mad - but the truth is that just knowing that
someone is with you can carry you a hell of a long way. I'm sure
he had been with "chatty cathy's" before, and I've sure as hell had my
share (at least from the telecentre with yappers like Vance and Pat) so it
was a nice change to just share silence with someone. It was kinda
freaky when you thought about it, I mean when I really pondered the dead
air between myself and a large Scotsman in a transport truck, but it wasn't
that overwhelming once you got used to it -
like a newly itchy blanket that becomes worn and comfortable with time.

So blah, blah, we drove on, and initially, my thought of getting off
somewhere before California seemed safe and normal, but this journey was
one that seemed to be propelling me to lose all footing of such things and let
the chips fall where they may. I think something changed when that
walk-in clinic doctor gave me that golden note- that note stating I needed 'paid
stress leave' to go and do something different - a door opened. Forever, though,
my life had been one of closed doors, or at least for as far back as I can
remember. But we'll get to that...As stated, the trip to California
was upon us and a detour down the Oregon coastline was one which Angus had
carefully planned for in his route management and it was an experience not to
be forgotten. All to the east were giant Tolkein-esque trees - cedars, firs, oaks,
balsams - all towering in their majesty toward a cherry-orange skyline,
guarding the land from the tempest sun, while of course, to the right (and west)
was all oceanic glitter, totally distorting any perception of skyline or horizon.
You'd try to see where sky and ocean met and map it with your vision but it
was damn near impossible. I could hear Angus turn to make sure the road was
still in front of him every once in a while, but for the most part, he was
captivated by the sea. I could hear him letting out little nasal sighs, on and off,
through his furry red moustache and beard, enamoured by what he was seeing
and probably thinking something too captivating for words. I, on the other
hand, stared out at the big, sparkling sea and thought...
nothing. For the first time in a dog's age, I can actually remember the feeling
of a 'clear' mind. Up to that point in my life, my mind was a jammed epicentre of
lashing criticism
general dislike of others
seething rage and hatred
and the list could go on, TRUST me. For some odd reason, though, none of that
Niagara telecentre bullshit seemed to faze me. It was where it was and I was
where I was - barreling down the Oregon coastline and not really thinking
about anything but the immediacy of ocean and pavement. You see, one
thing I've discovered along the way of this bi-coastal journey is that people's
heads are altogether too full. You may have heard reference to someone with
an 'empty' head as being dim-witted or 'slow' but there is much truth in the
phrase 'ignorance is bliss'. Now i'm not suggesting that we all make ourselves
stupid by filling our heads with uselessness (namely tv sitcoms) because
that will not accomplish anything - what I suggest, at least for my own good,
is a decent, lengthy emptying of the mind. This can take many forms, and
some may refer to this as 'meditation' or 'new-age' but I'm hardly a buddhist.
Whatever floats your boat. It's what the head gets filled with that is the
decision of the empty-er. Does that make sense? Ah, fuck it. Let's get closer to
being caught up.Angus crested the California stateline in no time at all, and
I thought about the distance I had come since being in Clairton, Pennsylvania,
that lost mining town from The Deer Hunter, and it made me feel kinda
queasy. Regardless, we burned down 101 like mad, leaving everything from
raccoon to bear cub roadkill carcasses airborn in our dust trail. Long Beach
emerged into our view, as 101 turned into 17, then into 1, then the party strip
that is 166 (I don't think truckers usually drive that route but I know Angus
made his own rules). I rubbed my eyes and saw every type of person one could
imagine: hippies (lots of those), yuppies, gangsters, mafia gangsters, new york
mafia gangsters, girls, guys, girl-guy blends, blacks, whites, asians,
hispanics, and mixes. It was like a cornicopia of colour, sound and humanity.
Everyone who was here, on the party strip, was either walking, walking a dog,
talking on a cellphone, talking on a payphone (probably to no one),
rollerskating, rollerblading, driving a convertible or doing something to be
noticed. It was not a place to blend in - it was place to stand out and get
noticed. This sort of spooked me for a minute but I couldn't hide this huge grin
that was spreading from ear to ear because I was so enthrawled with what was
going on that I wanted to know the source of what made these people who they
were. I felt like an alien coming to earth in a 50's sci-fi movie, in search of a
'leader' or 'intelligent life form'. Angus pulled up by an Amoco in the heart of
the strip, almost taking out a few Paris Hilton wanna-be's in his ruthless
curb-hop. I sat there in his cab, knowing this was the end of the road and that
there was no going back - at least not right now with Angus - and I felt kinda
scared for the first time on this whole trip. It was more of a stomach-feeling
though, like unending butterflies, but without the rollercoaster ride.That was
when it happened. I gave a nod toward Angus and a half smile, preceding to
slide myself out of the seat - that's when I felt the hammer hand of a giant
Scottish man grip my left shoulder. As I turned back to look at him, his icy
blue eyes pierced into the soul of me in a way I've never known anyone to
stare, and he uttered the first words either of us spoke in almost sixty hours -
'You hate him, don't ya, lad.' At first, I didn't know what I meant, but then
stupidly and sheepishly, I did. I answered back, almost in a mutter. "Yes."
He saw that I tried to look away but he corrected my jaw and lined
my eyes with his. 'I'm sorry - you're not him and you never will be.' He
removed his hand and sort of gave my back a slap, probably a tap to his
standards, that near gave me whiplash. I sat there for a moment, stunned,
and then shuffled my way out of the surfwax-carrying rigtruck, standing
on the pavement with the door open, admiring the rig for all its splendor
and how this vehicle carried me such a long distance in many different
ways. Angus was still staring at me so I gave him a salute from the Amoco
parking lot as he was probably now off to the wax warehouse, somewhere
inland, and watched him fire up the engine and roll away. And as quickly
as Angus came into my life, he was gone. So who the 'he' Angus referred to is
what you may be wondering, I'm sure. I'll get to that, but first, let me tell you
what happened next as I was now stranded, at a gas station in Long Beach.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Untravelled Highway

So a little over a year from my last entry...you're probably wondering'
what the hell happened to that guy?' I have been through some of
the weirdest, epiphanal, offbeat, zany experiences ever endured by
a human being. I feel that even by writing, a huge internal grin is spreading
from ear to ear within me and I can't even begin to re-trace the steps down
the rabbit hole. I can say that I learned much. I can say that. Going over
all the messy details might be a tad magical, but right now I'm in an
internet cafe in...well, we'll get to that.
'So last I heard, you were on a mountain in Pennsylvania in a mining

town?' Yes. Yes I was. It's all a blur, really, and I know you've read hippie
novels where the main characters say that a lot, and I am by no means
a hippie, but I now understand some of those generalized expressions a
little more. The unclear becomes clear. I began to get a little weirded out
on the mountain, thinking thoughts like 'Hey - I'm on a mountain' and
'What if I fall off?' or "What if those rednecks try to get me like they did to Ned Beatty in the movie Deliverance?' or 'Who would know
if I died up here?' and so, after a few cool nights in April, an 18 wheeler
rolled by the below service road and had to stop because the driver
needed to take a 'wiz'. So quickly, I packed up my little backpack,
and scuttled my way down to the service road, falling once and cutting
my ankle on a sharp, protruding mossy rock in the dark mountain dampness.
When I first came out of the mountainside forestry, I think
I scared the shit out of the trucker, mainly because I was a dark, nerdy
looking guy just staring at him and because he was just finished zipping
up from his wiz. Regardless, though, we hit it off well. His name was
Angus, and like the name would suggest, he was a giant Scottishman with a red
beard and redhair winging out from his oily ballcap.
I asked him for a ride into town but he said he wasn't 'goin to nue tune'
which means 'going to no town' just in...Scottish, I guess. He reminded
me a lot of groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons and the father
character from So I Married and Axe Murderer. But he was real. And
he was about 6 foot 5 and looked like he didn't like to 'take crap'
from people. You know the type. Anyways, once the initial awkward
greeting was over, and I told Angus my story, his heart showed through
his rough exterior. He helped me into the cab and off we went.
As it turned out, Angus was not heading to the next town because he was
heading to California. He trucked for a blockwax shipping company (wax used
mainly on highline surfboards) and told me he did these kind of
runs every month or two. The funny thing is, It's a good 40-50 hr trek
from Pennsylvania so considering the time it takes to get there, unload,
lade and bill the order, and get back...you can see the time problematics
here. This equals a laidback schedule for old Angus who said he
had been driving for blockwax for almost eight years. I decided quickly
that I probably wouldn't go all the way to Cali with him but that I would find
a neat place to stop and get out on the way down when it was convenient
to jump ship.
So there I was, someone who had never really known adventure before

in any kind of meaningful and realistic form, beyond the realm of online
gaming, in a 18 wheeler bombing down interstates with a large man
named Angus and a whole lot of blockwax. There came this sort of
gleaming, though, where my life, prologue to this point, seemed to be at an
utter disconnect with the current situation. Two roads diverged in a yellow
wood. But somehow...they were both me and I was reeling in this realization.
An angry, love hungry, misunderstood, philanthropic, existential slackster
whose deepest motive was to get through the day with less than a thousand
suicidal thoughts was turning into this...mound of weird, psychotic thrill-seeking
pleasure. I could not do enough or see enough. Funny too was the fact that
I had been one of the biggest adversaries, in every moral sense, to the
U.S. of A. and now, here I was, traversing through it and living off its land.
Little did I know what would befall between Penn State and...what was

to come. Angus and I got along swimmingly. He would have been one
of the people from the Niagara region that I would have referred to as
'street dirt' back in the day of being of my assenine self but now, that
didn't matter. He was a means to an end and he knew a hell of a lot about cabre tossing.
I guess he comes from a family of famous logthrowers and
this ritualistic wood-heaving was grown competitionally
and recreationally. He had 7 brothers, of which he was number 4. All of
them bigger than himself. Good GOD! What a thanksgiving that would
be. He asked me about my 'family'. I sighed for a while and stared out the window.
'No one has ever asked me that before' I thought
and sort of half said aloud. He seemed a little uncomfortable upon
my spurting after a long silence, but regardless, if he was interested
or not. I figured I would let him have it, even to get some shit out of
my own system. The funny thing is, I didn't even get a word out
and just started sobbing, uncontrollably (and I mean uncontrollably)like a
wee school girl who had skinned her knee. This went on for sometime, I
believe about 15-20 minutes (we were just west of Cleveland at
the time) and Angus just stared ahead, looking over at me from time
to time, probably making sure I didn't have a gun. I lay there with my
head leaned against the window, watching my tears roll down the
glass on to my shirt. Angus said nothing...and just drove. What I
appreciated about that silence though was that he didn't try and
figure me out or pretend to be interested or even kick me out for
crying like a pussy. He just drove. And he drove like mad.
We were making serious distance as time seemed to blend together

in mud brown farmland and chunks of states. The ominous 50 hour drive
was now near half done, and we were in the cornfields of Nebraska,
when a strange thing happened. For some unknown reason, Angus
pulled the truck off the road even though I knew had just stopped for
a wiz a few miles ago. He got out of the truck, with me in it, and walked
out to the centre of the highway. The dark of the morning was starting
to break and all of the emptiness of Nebraska fields were humming
in full throttle of crickets, meadowlarks, and the rustling of corn husks
thrushing back and forth against each other in the spring morning
breeze. I didn't know why he was standing on the road with arms
folded - maybe he knew something I didn't - maybe he was lost -
maybe this place was special to him - whatever the reason, I was
kinda freaked out. Then, in a flickering of minutes, I began to understand.
The sun. The sun was just beginning to peek over the midwest, cresting
the land in an orangey yellow that is impossible to capture, and all
the while, seemed to move and dance as it rose, millimetre by millimetre.
Angus, staring with arms crossed, took off his hat, and let the sunrise up
and spray warm colour on to his thick receding orange hair, beard and
clothes staring straightaway into the concetrated glow.
In that briefest of beautiful moments, I could have sworn I saw him
turn aside, close his eyes, and utter maybe three words from his
lips. With the sun climbing fast, Angus strode back to the cab and
climbed in with one quick motion and saw that I was awake. I wanted
to say something - but I think that would have cheapened the moment.
He half smiled, pulled a 'u' and we were off westward. I don't know
to this day what Angus was thinking of in that moment, but I'd like to
think that even if it wasn't necessarily warm or fuzzy or beautiful,
then at least it was something meaningful. Meaning. Yes.

More to come...gotta go to bed now. Ok bye.