"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