CHARACTER PROFILE for: "Slim Comber," and "Jasmine." ALSO, Final Thoughts on Mendocino Life

Anyone who has been following the loosely dubbed "chronological" portrayals of our accounts, surely recalls "Part 1" of my "Life in Mendocino" post, which is a few pages back by now, and focuses on the first bright and sun-shiny half of our time while living among the valleys of the redwood forests in Mendocino county. "Part 2," as I had so ingeniously plotted, would focus on some of the deeper, more revealing points in this portion of our trip, which has been arguably, one of the most startling perspectives of society we have seen thus forth.
When preparing to write about our accounts in this mysterious valley (for the web, mind you), I had been prepared to tread quite cautiously in choosing what I do and don't say; for reasons of respect, privacy, and even law. We never expected to find such a colorful tragedy out there, and because the nature of this study in sub-culture became so emotionally taxing to me in its totality, I put too much an emphasis on how I would honestly present the "private" so damn publicly.
After writing the over-due "Part 2," twice, I also began to struggle in considering my format of blog writing vs. writing the book (YES, I am still diligently composing a manuscript, though the scope of it as a whole, has continued to evolve simultaneously with my life)... ANYHOW, as it happened, I began writing the post two different times, and after a few pages in, both times- I realized I was writing for the book, not the blog.
So finally, I have come to accept that this portion of the journey, just wasn't meant to be released on the web. This is true with much of my experiences thus forth, only I didn't make the mistake of buttering you up for the delivery. The complexity of my experience was too great to be put in brief, plus, I've still gotta' preserve much of the zest my american journey has entailed, for the book. I don't want people to consider my book to be "based on the blog," but vice versa.
So in an effort to keep on truckin', I've decided to do a character profile on one of the more delightful locals we were fortunate enough to meet; throw down a few final photo's I may have neglected to share with you; and move the hell on. Finally, right?

"Slim Comber," as I will call him, was one of the nicest fellows we had come across since our enduring trip to the west coast, and our subsequent stint of "car living" in San Francisco. Right off the bat I was intrigued by Slim's demeanor. He was a laid back, smooth talkin', California native who I immediately identified as a caricature of the typical rural Californian for me to be studying. In reference to the "pen name" I have given him, Slim reminded me of the blue collar, land working men whom I had always read about with great satisfaction in Steinbeck's portrayals of the magnificent California countryside.
Slim had a good, steady job back in town in which he held modestly, and an absolutely adorable young daughter named "Jasmine,"whom he unabashedly prided as the joy in his life.
Slim had apparently gotten three full days off from work, and had decided to take his daughter down to his favorite local camping spot to get some quality relaxation time, and introduce his daughter to the local beauty which he so fondly prided. Upon arriving at the grounds, he found out there was some sort of mix-up with his site, and after he introduced himself and his daughter to us, and shared a few beers and even some smoke, we couldn't help but invite him to set up camp at our enormous site.
Slim did just that, and for the next two days we had a local among our camp, that undoubtedly led to the okies accepting us as "good folks" so quickly. Although we were hesitant to draw attention to ourselves as obvious outsiders, Slim drew in various people from surrounding camps, and we slowly began to understand the circumstances of our social surroundings, and even got to know some key figures in the camp.
When "Slim Comber" and Jasmine eventually left our camp, we were sad to see them go. In part, because of all we learned from him about what this forrest, and the local town, was really all about; but mostly, because he was such a helluva nice guy. He was a genuine sort, that could get along with almost anybody- which was a rare quality among the isolated locals- and his trust in us, allowed for their trust in us.
When we finally left camp a week later, we stopped into Slim's work to say good-bye to him, and thank him for all the good advice; and I'll be damned if he didn't have another absolutely golden reference for us! He jotted down the complicated directions of another free hidden camp site along the river, a day or so north, in Humbolt county- which turned out to be another wonderful stay.
It always seemed to be the good nature of people that got us along, and throughout all our struggles and achievements, the beauty of the landscape always seemed to reflect the beauty of the people...


Until we meet again...

Joseph R. Reeves

I spent some time trying to whittle a backscratcher for Chassy's birthday- too bad the unfinished product split in the hot car later...
Chassy was kind enough to carve me a custom "nose picker" in return. Thanks Chass :)

This shot is particularly funny, because as I sit in the cool shaded camp site writing like a nerd, B.O., Chassy, and a few locals play cards on the picnic bench- whats funny, is that they drag the table a few feet every half-hour, in order to follow one of the few massive sun-spots available down in the valley. 

These massive buggers are called "Bananna Slugs," and though I couldn't convince B.O. to try licking one, we heard from the okies that one lick makes your entire mouth go completely numb!

A final farewell "family style" portrait of the gang. It was sad to leave...


CHARACTER PROFILE for: "Jose the Young"

"Jose the Young," was a hearty and kind old man, whom I was lucky enough to meet and share stories with back in the beginning of our travels, when we spent a brief period living in Brother Mark's trailer home, just off a Marine base in Jacksonville North Carolina.
Although old in age, Jose had the spark of life in his eyes that might make envious the most daring of wayfarers. He possessed a certain aura that the Itallian's might call moxy, the Jews may call chutzpah, and the less inclined to vocabulary, might just refer to as "it." No matter how you want to name this presence, Jose had a distinguished essence about him, and he was a dazzling character for us to have met- particularly at the outset of our journey.
Jose was an ex-marine, as everybody in Jacksonville seemed to be. He lived in a trailer not far off from Brother Mark's, and he apparently, would stop by from time to time to chat. On this particular morning, Mark had headed to base earlier than usual, and me and B.O. had been up all night packing our massive bags, in order to make our much anticipated departure from Jacksonville. We were both drinking beer, and had been switching between that and coffee all night, and were therefore, in no mood to do much of anything except finish our packing, and get some rest. I was sewing a rip on one of my only pairs of jeans, when I heard a casual knock. Jose let himself in before either one of us could decide on whether to just ignore it, or see who it was.
Nervously, I sat on the couch sewing as our uninvited stranger asked B.O. where Mark was. When Jose took a seat, I immediately realized that his inquiries concerning "where Mark was," was more of an excuse for having come by, and that this seemingly lonely old man, had indeed found what he was looking for: willing- or at least appearing to be willing- company.
After offering coffee, and Jose seeming inclined, B.O. set a pot to brew, and I quickly tucked my open beer away while trying to remain quietly attuned to my task. I was in no mood to talk or listen, and as a "complimentary" shortcoming to my character at the time, I was wrongfully assuming that this old man had immediately figured me out to be a lazy, long-haired liberal pansy; the pansy part indicated as such by my sewing, and the rest of my unfair conjecture, likely summoned from my experiences of being faintly judged when out on the town there, in Jacksonville NC. But enough about my insecurities.  

Jose the Young, was really anything but young. He was a fast talking old man who stuttered a bit with his wording on account of his inability to vocally project at the same pace as he processed his thoughts. I pegged him to be around the age of old, and put little more stock into the actual number than that, as I often tend to do concerning the precise nature of numerals. He was dressed more in likeness to what I imagined an old sailer to look like then a marine; and in extent to this claim, he wore a dark blue cap that was rolled up nearly to the crown of his head. He was dressed in old-man clothes, but, with reverence to his decisions in attire, I can encouragingly say that they were neutral to any one decade, or put another way- timeless. All in all, he was a sort of cute looking old man with... you know what, this is what I hate about trying to develop a book at the same time as this blog. I'm wasting my time with all this rambling description! Firstly, because you can see what Jose looks like in the PICTURES, and Secondly, because most people probably just look at the pictures anyhow. Ahhhh, sorry. It's been a long day. I'll continue.  
Immediately upon seeing our massive army bags, and the the complex implements of marine-trained packing processes' that were scattered about (thanks to Brother Mark's teachings), Jose asked us where we were going.
After frantically and simultaneously explaining our plans- or lack there of- to him, we learned that Jose had lived similarly to us on-and-off, almost his whole life! He told us about his adventures in hitch-hiking after the war, working all sorts of jobs in different places for temporary stints, his outrageous experiences in Mexico and how he had nearly been fooled into smuggling young cute mexican women across the border, what America was like then vs. now, and love affairs a-plenty peppered throughout the course of the past 40 years. Easy and hard living, difficult decisions, loves lost, and tragedies of epic proportions mixed with divine comedies of the times past, and present- but never future.
And that was how it was for Jose the young, and as beautiful, intriguing, and inspiring as his stories truly were, I couldn't help but be saddened by the fact that it was all a past tense for Jose. He was by no means dormant, but his days were numbered, and his adventures were over.

Jose was a helluva fella' who not only had the kind of extraordinary stories that many old people have, but he had some practical advice for us as well. I knew of some islands off the coast of S. Texas that I was planning on eventually spending some time on, because I had done some research, and found that free beach camping was allowed year round. As it turned out, Jose had lived there for a month or two in his times, and he was able to tell me exactly what the procedure was- so to not be bothered by DNR or law- if I was to live there for extended periods of time.
Another bit of advice "Jose the Young" was able to share with us, was in practical, affordable, and travel friendly meal management. He was so stoked about sharing his wonderfully cheap and healthy system with us, that he went home, and grabbed an example for us! Can you think of a systematic way to carry a weeks worth of food in a small amount of space, and under 10 pounds? Forget about canned food, thats way too heavy! It's not so easy, I'll tell you that.

I'll lay this character profile to rest for now, but you can damn well be sure that "Jose the Young," will forever be immortalized in the in-process book, as well as some damn fine short stories that might be coming your way sooner than you think. Keep reading, and I'll keep writing. Hell maybe someday I'll even make a dollar or two, anything can happen, right?

Until we meet again...

Joseph R. Reeves


Status Update: The Great B.O. Parts Ways (For Now); In The Meantime, Here's Some Classic Portraits Of The Man Himself

Priceless B.O., priceless.

With the month of September now looming ahead, Chassy and I, like most sensible mammals, have been putting our fragments of plans together, with the intent of entirely bypassing the mid-west's awful rendition of winter. With College now behind both of us, we finally have the option of heading towards a reasonable climate that will allow for us to continue living a life where shoes are mostly optional, and productive lifestyles are as simple as sunshine. That's right, we're gonna' be southbound after our hectic month in Milwaukee- at least until its warm again. Is this really some kind of surprise to y'all? I certainly shouldn't think so.
Anyhow, as we vaguely plot our course for the next half year or so, our long time brother, andpartner-in-crime, The Great B.O., has began to do the same thing, except he plans on earning his bread in the ever-grey boonies of Minnesota. I think he's F'in crazy, but he does have a better tolerance to the cold than I do, plus, with B.O.'s plush persona and legendary work ethic, he has managed to find himself a helluva' lotta' friends in the auto business. Whenever B.O. needs to earn some money, he's got places lined up like eager teenagers, just waiting to put him to work. It's magical really, and in my humble opinion- it wreaks of the american dream.
So in the "business" sense of things, our parting ways- much like the several times we have done so in the past- was inevitable, understood, and has quite honestly always been an aspect of our traveling philosophy. Not so much the reality of inevitably separating, but the truth that neither one of us can allow ourselves to fall short of our own goals, by following the other one's too long. Example: When B.O. decided he needed to try and "make it" in Las Vegas on his own, and I subsequently had to take a plane back to Milwaukee to make it back for a gallery showing I was in. He had the urge to do something that was not in my schedule, and thus forth, we both understood it would be the cause of our parting ways. The ebb and flow of a good traveling partnership I suppose.
So without getting any teary eyes here, I thought it would be fun for the whole family if I went and compiled some of the lovely portraits I have been collecting of The Great B.O. throughout our travels. Some go way back to our initial departure, back when we had 'ol Dylan rolling with us as well. It sure seems like it's been ages! It's CRAZY to think that it hasn't even quite been one year since I set out to write a great american novel. It sure has been allot to take in...

As a final request from your humble editor here at "TLGaJ," I ask that you go find a super corny slow song to play ("yellow," by coldplay, or perhaps, "You Are So Beautiful-" this needs to be high school slide-show corny), and put it on play as you slowly scroll through the laughs, the anger, the drunkeness, the concussions, and the over-all madness that B.O. is ultimately comprised of.

Remember B.O., J.U.I.C.E. Meeting in September- in the meantime, keep on living the american dream! Don't let me down. Here's to you Brother,

Until We Meet Again...
(cue the music)

After blistering in the hot sun all day along the freeway leaving from Daytona Beach- we finally caught a *ride that took us all the way down to Orlando Florida. The first thing we did was buy some high lifes, and rest our weary backs! *see CHARACTER PROFILES: "Big Urn"

One of the lesser seen faces of B.O.

Anyone who ever tells you that you shouldn't eat fresh cantaloupe with a knife in the car while driving, can shove it! This is precisely where The Great B.O. indefinitely delivers...

Almost a year ago, on the very top of the "Sydney Hih" building in Milwaukee.

B.O. and D-money brush their teeth at the auto-detail shop in Minnesota. In the very beginning, the three of us lived in a pop-up camper together. It didn't last too long...

B.O. passionately explains his latest invention to me and Chassy while on the beach just outside Portland. It's a pretty good one, so I can't say what it is... you guys would steal it...

Another instant classic, and a photographic lead-in to one of TLGaJ's first "HOW TO's: How To: Charge Your Phone When Your Homeless," Ohhh Boy were we miserable that day, man!

B.O. gets spruced up to go to the "Medical Cannabis Cup," in San Francisco

B.O. don's the legendary "gladiator" mask on our way to Albuquerque New Mexico, as two "foreign studies" ride-sharers sit in back somewhat amused, and somewhat disturbed.

B.O. and the Pacific Ocean finally meet as we make our way up the famed Highway 1.

After a dramatic fallout between myself, Dylan, and B.O.- in the very beginning- I sold my truck and the pop-up, and wen't to visit B.O.'s brother Mark in North Carolina. Who do you think is to pick me up from Charlotte NC, but The Great B.O. himself! This had been the first time we saw each other since the disastrous explosion (our initial departure), and luckily, we recovered as brothers do.

B.O. Jumps over his lil Brother "Mark's" shoulders in Jacksonville N.C.

Clearly this man deserves a ride to Tampa Bay, or Fort Myers- don't you think? Look at that convincing smile!

B.O. Shotguns beer's with me on the side of the interstate. I'm not sure it was very neccessary looking back on it now, but I got no regrets!

Here in Ft. Meyers, we washed our hair near their public library, and got scolded by the cops soon after. Apparently, if your homeless, you aren't allowed to have illustrious hair. Totally bogus...

I don't even know what to say here...

When living under the redwoods in Mendocino, we had a pet caterpillar named Fred!

An awesome little stream we camped on as we traveled North from CA, toward Oregon.

Another flat tire, and we were only about 60 miles South of Eugene, OR, our destination for the day. We actually had to spring 40 bucks and buy a new tire that day, after at least a dozen patched-flats in the previous weeks.

We spent a few days with little Olive here, in Eugene Oregon, and as most kids do, she loved playin' with B.O.!

This is actually a step or two ahead of where I've really left of chronologically in the "formal" telling of our tales, So I guess I ruined the surprise. Yep, B.O. got a concussion.

B.O. lights something up...

I think B.O. was a bit irritated with me here...

B.O. is actually a tender lil' sweetheart when you get to know him, see!

YAY! Pretty lights and wine induced mania in the streets of Portland Oregon!

"Beat," is the only word that comes to mind here... Or maybe the phrase, "Excuse me ma'am, I'm hungry, could you spare a dollar?"

I just like this one. I don't know why.

In Portland, Bad/Cheap beer is frowned upon, unless it's of a trendy label, like that of Hamm's, or Pabst. I know, I know. I'm rolling my eyes and sighing as well here.

It looks like the devil himself is about to propose to you in this picture... creepy...

B.O. wears his "J.U.I.C.E." tatoo triumphantly, and pats my back drunkenly.

Leaving Wisconsin- one of the many times...

I love this photograph here atop the highest point in Santa Fe New Mexico!

Las Vegas makes even the most un-motivated, and crummy, of photographers look like pro's; every shot is a damned postcard I tell you! The rest of the night I mostly took pictures of people taking pictures of things, because I thought it was pretty hilarious. I'm pretty sure B.O. is somewhere in the crowd here though...

This is after a few days in Las Vegas, after we've blown all our cash, and B.O. decides he's gonna try and live in the Honda, and "make it" out in Vegas. I decide to head to Milwaukee, and B.O. uses "Craigslist," on my net-book before I go. He posted the F'in car he was living in without batting an eye; ballsy to say the least. Cheers to balls!

B.O. looks like he's listening, but trust me, he's not. Rarely, we see him sitting passenger as we fly through the Wyoming countryside.

B.O. erotically puts the lotion on the skin- near the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

B.O. with one of his many memorable expressions that will surely never wash off- San Francisco laughs in the background, but he don't mind.

You've got air and water B.O., what more do you need?! This was one of many flat tires we patched along our journey- somewhere in CA...

B.O.'s mouth crammed with sunflower seeds.

The first time we geared up to hitchhike, we took waaaaayyyyyyyyy too much stuff!

B.O. found a comfortable place to sleep, here in the woods on the side of the highway. Just outside Fayetteville N.C., as we were hitchin' south to Florida

B.O. eating our rations of packaged tuna on Daytona Beach