Views Along The Way

Hello Everybody,

I headed up the 101 Freeway toward Hollywood to check my mail one last time before I headed out of town. I had an artist residency in North Dakota, was hoping a check would be in my mail box – Hollywood’s my official address – that I could cash before I left. There wasn’t. But there was an envelope from Covered California, the state’s version of Obamacare. I opened it to find that I was indeed covered…for the month of March, 2014. That was good to know. I hopped back in my Jeep Cherokee, pulled back onto the road and settled in behind the wheel as I headed out of town.

20140627_110101Santa Clarita. Palmdale. Lancaster. Mojave. I followed Highway 14 northeast into the dry, hot land to Highway 395. When I reached it, I turned, heading due north. Every now and then 395 shrunk 2 lanes. I’m out in the country, I thought, lazilly steering around each curve with one hand on the wheel. Finally. It’s good to be Out There. Things is slower here. Hey, if I needed to pull over and take a piss, I could. Nobody else would even pass by, probably. Even someone did…phshaw!…what would they care?

To my left, little foothills steadily grew into the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains. I rode along side the ridge for hours, until I turned onto Highway 120 into the mountains and toward Yosemite National Park, singing Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again…

…goin’ places that I’ve never been, seein’ things that I may never see again…

I paid the price for admission, drove deep into the park, parked, walked around. It was cold, I put on a jacket. But the sky was cobalt blue with just a smattering of cotton ball clouds and the sun heated the side of your body facing it. Although crowded, the park was heavy with quiet. All the visitors walked about slowly and silently as if they were just another species of pack animal. Some were in couples, groups or were solo like me. Collectively, our wide eyes gazed up at the sheer cliffs, the bulbous stone peaks, peered out over wide meadows where Serenity floated just above the land like morning fog.

20140627_154624I wanted to stay a little longer – possibly forever – but the sun had begun its nosedive to the horizon and I wanted to get a little further down the road, so I walked back to the Cherokee, crept down the winding road leading out of the park. Curve after curve, the temperature got warmer. When I pulled out onto 395 summer was raging again. A few miles past the Yosemite entrance, I passed an SUV on the side of the road. Three girls ran out from behind a bush, toward the SUV, pulling up their shorts, grinning. See? Nobody cares at all

Just before I reached Carson City, Nevada, I got the feeling that I could drive all night. Then I hit the wall of exhaustion that always comes seconds after that feeling. I got a motel room and slept.

The next morning, my friend Laura from Helena, Montana, said I could come visit her if I was heading up that way. So I headed that way.

Kit Carson!

Kit Carson!

Eastbound on Highway 95 through Nevada. Beginning there and continuing through Idaho and Montana, the roads were populated with many bikers – old men on loud Harley-Davidsons, dressed in leather. Some had their wives, or lady friends with them. They rode in packs, pairs and solo. Hands high on the handle bars, their long gray hair flowing back into The Past as they faced the future and peered into it with sunglassed eyes trying to find some clue as to what the freakin’ Past may have been about. Take all my hair, read the expression on their faces. Every last one for all I care…


A little passed Elko, Nevada, I took State Highway 225 northward. There, I rode out of the desert into high, grassy rolling hills with occasional mountains. On both sides of the road were public lands – so said the signs – that belonged to you and me and everybody. But when the sun was an inch above the horizon I rolled into the Shoshone Paiute Indian Reservation. I rolled down the windows and the fresh evening air made me tired. I had no clue where the next motel would be but when I came upon a lake I noticed a sign that said I could pay $6 – slip it in a box next to the sign – to camp on the lake for the night. So I did. Then I drove down a steep dirt path to the lake’s shore. It was a very pretty lake. Blue glass. I stood on a rock at the shoreline, gazed across it to the beautiful yellow-green hills and the snow-capped mountains just beyond. Hmm…that’s strange. Snow on the mountains. Damn near July in Nevada. Weird. Just after the sun dipped below the hills and shadows started to blanket the land, I felt OK about everything…about the World, who I was and where I belonged in the World. I fit just fine. I’m just fine, after all these years, everything’s just fine. When the sun set, I was ready for sleep. I laid out my sleeping bag in the back of the Cherokee, crawled in, peered out the window. Gee…snow caps. July. Nevada.

20140628_194643I awoke at 2:30am to the yelps coyotes. The view out the window was filled stars as if I were in a spaceship looking down at the lights of some city on some planet. Then I realized I was shaking. I was cold. Too cold. I curled into as tight a ball as I could, the sleeping bag up to my eyeballs. One by one, the stars disappeared. Two hours later, only about five were left hanging in the morning sky. I crawled out of the sleeping bag, into the drivers seat, started the engine. The temperature read 39℉. I stared at the world through the windshield, through the cloud of my breath. Yep..snow f#$kin’ caps alright. I drove up the dirt road and back onto 225.

Cows walked across the road here and there with no fear, as I motored through the reservation. Little calves ran after the mamma cows, nipping at their udders. Bulls mooed deeply at me. The highway followed the winding Humboldt river. Steam hovered above it as if the river’s soul was trying to leave it and go somewhere else. Frost covered the blue-green grass along its banks until the sun popped up over the hills and melted it. Junky Jim Walter’s Homes sprinkled the landscape, surrounded by one, two or three clunker automobiles. But all the Indians appeared to be sleeping in. It was Sunday after all.

20140629_043228At Bruneau, Idaho – a town with just over 300 inhabitants – I stopped at a country store for some coffee. Three old men were sitting at a table and they turned and stared at me as if I was a raccoon that’d just wandered into their kitchen. After a while, one of the men stood and hobbled to the counter.

“Coffee?” I asked.

“Right there,” pointed the man. I went to where he pointed, poured a cup. “Where you headed, young man?”

“Helena, Montana.”

The old man straightened his back and Jesus! He is the size of a f#$kin’ statue! He looked out the window, then down on me. “How you gettin’ there?”


“Cause you don’t wanna go through Mountain Home.”

“I don’t?”

“No. You don’t wanna go to Helena from here but I guess you have to now since you’re here. What you do, is when you get to Mountain Home, you take the first right, then you take the first right after the Wal-Mart. Two rights. That’s all and that gets you to the Interstate.”

The old man was right. Two rights later I was on the Interstate. That evening I pulled into Helena. Laura guided me to her house by phone.

“It’s so good to finally meet you!” She said as she hugged me.

I’d known Laura only via instant media – a friend of a friend. But only minutes later me, her and her boyfriend, Garret, were conversing like long lost friends. We never stopped talking even through dinner and the walk after, and through the drive around Helena after that.

Laura and Garret

Laura and Garret

“Oh, look, there’s the old theatre where Mark Twain spoke,” Laura would say or something like that, in between our deeper ponderings about Life…not work, or ambition or goals or anything about who we thought we wanted to be, but Life – as a whole, you, me every living thing and inanimate thing in The Universe – contemplating what exactly IT all was and where IT might be headed. “And there’s some preserved cabins from back in the mining days.” Then back to Life. By 1am we were back at Laura’s, deep into the subjects of Free Will and Illusion, and the catastrophic consequences if Humankind achieved mortality…and finally to the inevitable discussion of the haunting notion of Computer Intelligence. I’d been awake for 21 hours.

“I think I need to sleep.”

The next morning, Garret, Laura took me to breakfast.

“This is special,” Garett said. “Here we are, we didn’t know each other and now we know so much about each other.”

“And it just took a day,” said Laura.

“This is real living,” I said. “I think.”

“This local artist and I have been working on something together,” Garett said. “He makes sketches and I hand them out to strangers that I get to know. Would you like to have one?”


“And would you like to give it to somebody you meet on your travels?”

My first thought was, Oh, no. You see I’m gonna be real busy, working on my book, and doing so many other…

“Absolutely,” I answered. “I’d love to.”

Who am I gonna give it to?

Who am I gonna give it to?

“It was so wonderful to get to know you,” Laura said, in the parking lot as we hugged.


“Please come through again, anytime. And maybe we’ll see you in LA,” continued Laura.


Laura and Garett walked to their cars, I to mine. I had the sketch in my hand and…life just keeps going like water spilled on a table. Until I evaporate or drip off the edge…I got in and started the engine and took Highway 12 straight through the heart of Montana, witnessing staggering beauty along that road that I could attempt to explain to you but you’d have to take the drive yourself to truly understand it.

Dakota Territory

Dakota Territory

The next morning I took Highway 2 into North Dakota. The land flattened with every mile. I passed through one tiny farm town after another and thought of my own farm town home of Orange Grove, Texas, way down at the opposite end of the country. Then I thought very fondly of my childhood. It was a good childhood, when I look at it all these years later. I saw it all, crystal clear. Those real, real memories. Who knows if they really happened? Who cares? There I am, a little kid…

Fortunately, the wind was blowing across Highway 2 at about 30mph. I had to negotiate the wind like a sailor on a skiff, which kept me from sinking down any deeper into the Great Ocean of Memory.

Be well…

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Texas and Nova Scotia at the Same Time?

Hello Everyone,

The darkness beyond the pure.

The darkness beyond the pure.

Snowflakes started falling around 2AM.  We’d been lucky for the most part, keeping just ahead of the winter storm as my girlfriend, Osha, and I drove through New England and New Brunswick, Canada – even with a 30 minute delay at customs.  But the storm caught up with us in Nova Scotia.  Both of us thought it would be a good idea to fill up on gas and get a few groceries before we headed out to the cabin on the Bay of Fundy.  We exited off Canada’s Highway 101 at the only gas station we’d seen in at least an hour.  We thought we had plenty of time, for the cabin – Osha rented the place dirt cheap through AirBnB, an awesome website where people rent out cabins, or houses or apartments to travelers – was only about 15 miles away.  Ok, ok, the cabin was only about 22 kilometers away.

With a full tank of gas and a full bag of junkfood and bananas, I steered the rental car toward the 101 on-ramp.  I’d been behind the wheel for 15 plus hours.  My previous record was 17 hours – a jag between Los Angeles and Fort Stockton, Texas.  I thought I was quite alert, despite the hour, and had resigned to the assumed fact that I would not break my driving record this time around – unless Canada used a different unit of time measurement, too.  But alas, that was not so.  Canada is so much more like us than not, it turns out.

We motored onto the 101 and into a much different scenario than only minutes before.  The highway was almost completely white.  Solid white winds pushed our car toward the median.  I could barely see the lines of the road.  I leaned forward – shoulders incredibly tense, face poised like a hawk’s – tracking the road as if it was a snake in a field.  I slowed to about 20 kilos an hour.  Then 10.  More tension, eyes unblinking.  Osha was as still and silent as a statue.  But what the hell, a warm bed was only a handful of kilos away.  I was sure we’d make it.

We turned off the 101 into the little town of Berwick.  The snow was a solid 6 inches deep, falling in less than a half-hour.  We crept like a turtle through the town and onto the mountain pass that would take us up, over, then down to that warm bed.  I wanted to speed up.  Creeping along only got me pure, padded room nervous.  But I couldn’t see the road anymore, so I inched the car along.  We began to ascend the pass – our headlights flashed into space, but were cut off by the whiteness of the storm.  The winds angrily rocked us.  10 kilo’s and hour.  8.  5.  We took a sharp turn on a switchback and the car’s wheels spun on ice.Osha

“It’s time to turn around,” said.

Damn.  5 miles away.  I think that is 9 kilo’s, maybe.  Anyone?


Countries that use the Metric System are green. Countries that use the Standard System in gray.

We were both pretty rattled as we got back on the 101 and headed toward the nearest hotel, which by my calculations – providing my grasp of the conversion formula to reconcile metric to standard was accurate – would take us about forty-five minutes.  We crept along the highway’s corridor, everything out the window was white, except for the very unsettling blackness of blizzard night beyond the mounting snow.  A plow truck passed us on our side of the road.  Shortly after, I could no longer tell if I was going straight.  Osha thought we might be in the field.  Then it happened.  0 KPH (0 MPH).

We gambled and turned around.  The plow’s tracks were instantly snowed over but we could just make out its tail-lights.  We followed the plow until it stopped and the driver told us he couldn’t go any further.  He turned around and we followed him to the Berwick exit, then inched our way to a gas station there.  There, we parked the car, pulled out the sleeping bag, and watched the snow cover the car.  It was 4:30AM when I killed the engine.  I’d been behind the wheel for 17 hours and 30 minutes.  A new personal best.

We would run the car for 30 minutes, then kill it for 30 minutes.  In those intervals I would move about in that incredible world between waking and dreaming.  I couldn’t tell you at all what I dreamed about – the visions disappeared the moment I would shake awake – but I can say that I got really homesick in those dark early hours.  Just a few days earlier I was in Texas with my mother and sisters for Christmas.  I wore cut-offs and t-shirts down there.  The lowest it got was 27 degrees, but it would warm up to 65 degrees or higher.  During the day’s drive to Nova Scotia, it never got higher than 27 degrees – Fahrenheit, I don’t even want to attempt converting it to Celsius.

Visualization of my fear of being a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll.

Visualization of my fear of being a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll.

I couldn’t feel farther away from Texas than I did in that car.  I’m finding I long for Texas more and more as I get older.  I feel at ease there, more than I do anywhere else.  It is where my feet first hit the ground and I accept, totally, my Texas-hood.  I like telling people I’m from Texas.  I believe I have accepted who I am.  The snow had long since covered the windshield when I grew very unsettled over the fact that I can miss my home but not want to live there.  It was just another of what I thought was a crippling amount of contradictions in my life.  I grew up shy but desperate for attention.  I loved to read but hated to sit still.  I ate a lot, but never gained weight.  I ate a lot but only ate a few different things.  I stayed up late, and stayed on my feet all day.  I drank but I didn’t want to.  I loved country music and rock-n-roll equally, but would never listen to them at the same time.  I honestly felt I was breaking some fundamental law of the Universe when I did.  The latest contradiction was that I live a charmed life in New York City with all the comforts of home – a life filled with love and friends, where I thrive on my capabilities, day to day.  But something just won’t let me call it home.  Texas is home, will always be home, but if it is, then…then it all begins again.  Round and round.

Contradictions made me crazy and immobile.  I was never able to commit to anything or anyone.  The snow-covered car was a cocoon and inside it all those contradictions  incubated and grew into the old monsters I’m very used to.  They don’t stalk me like they used to, but they get real hard to hide from in a rental car.  And it doesn’t get any easier to tell the girl sitting next to you that the monsters are in the car, so I kept them to myself as the wind pushed us like waves battering a boat at sea.

Morning came and in its gray light the storm looked less formidable.  The snow was pure, free of the night’s darkness, and the hope of the new day banished the monsters to the forgetting place.  Osha called Kevin, the owner of the cabin, who insisted on coming to get us.  When he got there, he told us we could stay with him and his wife at their home, but…

Tide rolling in at the Bay Of Fundy, 40 feet below us.

Tide rolling in at the Bay Of Fundy, 40 feet below us.

“I tell ya, if you we can get to the cabin, I really think you guys should stay there.  It’s warm, and you’ll get a pretty good show.”

Kevin took us in his 4-wheel drive up and over the mountain, then down past the fishing village of Harbourville, then finally to his cabin, which stood 100 yards from a 50 foot drop off to the waterline.  That is, the waterline at low tide.

“The tide’ll come in at around 1PM.  Yeah, with the winds the way the are, you should really get good a show.”

Kevin built the cabin.  He and his wife, Karen, are born and bred Nova Scotians and have never really desired to live anywhere else.

Osha and Kevin, instant friends.

Osha and Kevin, instant friends.

“I mean, there’s struggles everywhere, but we have a happy life here.  Now that the kids are grown and we have this cabin, we get to meet and spend time with a lot of different people.  Americans and people from all over come to the cabin.  We got a lot of stories and have had some laughs, let me tell you.  They way I see it, you live 70 years if your lucky.  To live that long without laughin’ most of the time…well, it’s just not worth it.”

Kevin told us to make the cabin our home and that he’d come back to get us when we wanted him to.  Osha and I were exhausted, but after rallying our energy we bundled up and went to the shoreline.  The tide was coming into the Bay of Fundy, wildly.  The seas were about 10 feet and waves pummeled the rocks, shot up into the sky, then sprayed us when they caught the wind.  Salt and ice filled the air and forced its way into our lungs.  But when we took a walk to the village, we were protected from the wind by a bluff, and that silence which always follows a heavy snowfall was palpable.  If felt like we were the only two people on the planet.  The only sound being our footsteps on the snow.

A couple of hours later, Osha and I watched – from inside the cabin – the Bay of Fundy writhe like an ocean in a Greek epic.  The Bay of Fundy has the greatest tidal range on the planet – 53 feet in some areas.  It was a 40 foot difference in front of the cabin.  Earlier that morning, we could see several hundred yards out.  That night, it looked like the waters would breach the cliff’s top.  But Kevin said they wouldn’t, and he had earned our trust just after he hugged before even saying a word that morning.  Anyway, the sun set and moments later the view out the cabin’s window was black – so black it’s hard to believe anything existed out the window.  But tide’s roll in and out in the blackness just like early morning life crises – the only difference being that tide’s are necessary events upon which life as we know it is contingent – not wastes of time, like the latter.

Bay of Fundy at low tide.

Bay of Fundy at low tide.

The next morning – at low tide – Osha and I walked out among the rocks on the exposed floor of the Bay of Fundy.  Leaning into the brutal wind, we walked about large granite boulders scattered about the bay’s bottom.  The were gray – salt-cured – on the outside, but shone bright pink where pieces were recently broken off.  In between the boulders was a fine layer of granite pebbles, produced by water and an inconceivable amount of time.  Tide in, tide out.  Boulders to pebbles.  I looked out as far as I could see.  The seas were choppy but I badly wanted to get into a boat and keep going.  But then – out of nowhere – I felt homesick again.  Why did I feel so homesick as I looked out at a part of the world I’d never seen before?  But why did I also desire to hit the open sea and seek – forever if necessary – to find that one place the mapmaker’s haven’t found?  Dammit.  Am I the sailor or the homebody?  Who do I want to be?

Wise Words.

Wise Words.

Osha and I split the driving on the way back to the States.  I like to be on the road.  Movement equals freedom, to me.  But my homesickness and wanderlust tugged at each other for some time, as we motored through Canada and toward the USofA.  I finally told Osha about it, and of a few other contradictions, while I was at it.  I’ve always wanted a home.  I’ve always wanted to roam as far away as I can.  Maybe the answer is to find a place somwhere in the middle.  Maybe that’s the trick.  When I finally stopped talking, Osha looked toward me and said,

“Or maybe it’s to be both at the same time.”

Be well…