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