It's almost as if you've wandered over lackadaisically with the half-hearted expectation that I might actually be true to my word, and continue piecing together the wonderfully fragmented tale that is becoming known as the latter part of my youth, and The Last Great American Journey. Round and round and round it goes, and as for where it ends? Well, I'd be the last one to know. One thing has certainly become clear to me though, and that is how abundantly naive it was of me to have laid out the original formula of this journey in such a meticulous manner that might suggest I actually control the timeline, scope, or course of events therein. Such an effort only becomes meaningful in revealing the futility of our own preparations, and Steinbeck's assertion at the beginning of Travels with Charley holds truer than ever when he says: "you don't take a journey, a journey takes you." I'm pretty sure Jerry Garcia said something similar of a trip, but I have a hunch he was referring to something else.
As is usual for my blogging habits, I find myself itching with the urge to share all the most recent happenings of my life here in Trout Lake, WA while working on a trail crew for the forest service- BUT I still haven't had enough time to really fill you in with the amazing details of how I got here, as well as the enduring process of getting adjusted to an entirely new life in an entirely new place. Such growth, change, and development has been the true fodder of TLGAJ from the outset, and though I've struggled with a coherent narrative structure in the blog, you can be promised that absolutely every encounter, dialogue, character, and revelation has been noted in some form, and will be delivered at some point either through blog, book, or both.
So as much as I'd like to introduce you to my charming trail crew family in the Lodge-Pole cabins on the Ranger station compound, tell you about my weekend job cooking at the Trout Lake Country Inn, recall my foggy shamanistic spirit dance at the annual Rainbow Family Gathering (a weekend adventure bound to compel short stories within itself), link some recordings of new folk-inspired songs me and my roommate Sean O'neil are working on, tell tales of my visits to the famed local "ASETI Ranch" alien spotting organization, and an overwhelming amount more-- as much as I would LOVE to begin sharing all that with you immediately, I'm going to have to get back to where I left off last…
My last actual "STATUS UPDATE" (Read Here) post was a self absorbed sort of re-capping of the creatively productive but socially dismal winter season I spent in Wisconsin. I don't do well with such extreme isolation, snow, and lack of sun, and though I managed to remain busy creating a series of documentaries and pushing my personal studio work, I was also reminded of why I fled from Wisconsin winters in the first place. After becoming increasingly active in the Madison protests of Scott Walker, I felt it was time to bring TLGAJ to a socially conscious environment, and I began looking into Americorps programs. My prospects were also enticed by the fact that such service based organizations would prolong my loan payments. At this point my family and friends are being harassed daily from those dirty-dog loan companies.
Through my experiences in N. California, and Mendocino County earlier that year, I knew I wanted to spend some serious time getting closer to nature and continuing my exploration of the value in work ethic. I also knew I would benefit artistically and spiritually from such an environment, and the fact that I was getting to a "point of no return" for my health as a 24 year old, sealed the deal in provoking me to seek out a physically demanding program that would show me a healthier way to get by, while also teaching me some better habits in conservation and self sustainability. Such details in my motives will be revealed at greater length when I catch up to telling about my time here in Americorps, but for now, all you need to know is that I got accepted for a 6 month position in the North West Service Acadamy (NWSA), and that that was my catalyst for leaving.
As is often the case, the setting for this latest departure was emotionally downtrodden, and my to-do list only promised to hinder any potential chance of leaving with a feeling of togetherness. I had committed myself to creating a 7 foot drawing, and substantial multi-media installation for a new gallery opening in Milwaukee, I agreed to help a friend make a promotional video for his website (Robb Quinn Video), and I had minimal cash to round up all the necessary gear I would need for my Americorps gig (which was a whole 'nother to-do list in itself). Needless to say, I was a tightly wound mess with allot on my mind, and ultimately, those circumstances were what kept me and The Great B.O. from departing Milwaukee together. For those of you new to the blog here, B.O. is a staple character from the earliest of my traveling endeavors, and if you don't know of him already, it shouldn't take you long to find out about him by referring to older posts. If you are already familiar with B.O., then you probably aren't surprised that we had yet another mellow dramatic fall out. This isn't the first time.
Before we had our little tiff, me and The Great B.O. had concocted a grand scheme that involved driving down to visit "Brother Mark" in NC the day he came back from his military service overseas. Since we were short on cash, we would pick ride-sharers up all along the way to help pay for gas, and then after spending a few days with Mark, we would tentatively drive from the beach in Jacksonville NC all the way to the west coast. The primary idea was to have made a full haul from coast to coast, but I also needed to be at the Portland Airport by the 23rd to catch my shuttle ride to Trout Lake, and furthermore, I wanted to spend the prior weekend visiting some friends in Portland and blowing off some steam. It certainly would have been a stint worth bragging about if we had pulled it off. Unfortunately, the morning I was preparing for my big shoot/ performance piece, B.O. needed me to help him pick up car parts. When I told him I simply couldn't do it, he got an attitude and said he wasn't sure if he wanted me in on the trip, and since I had a plethora of other things to deal with, I told him it would be easier and cheaper for me to find my own way to Portland anyways.
From what I can gather, B.O. was pissed off that I was prioritizing my work for the art show in Milwaukee, and for the most part, I was. He was upset that I wasn't doing my part in preparing the Le Sabre (his car) for the big trip, and when he made the claim that I was always working on my "art shit" whenever we were about to depart for a trip, I quickly realized it would be better to just go my own way and avoid any potential cross-country drama. There was little merit to B.O.'s complaints, because the fact was that I had some priorities I had to put first. In the end I had a job I had to get to, and if B.O. wasn't already aware of the unrelenting dedication I put towards what he calls my "art shit," then he must not have been paying very much attention to my life in the years I've known him. His last words to me were along the lines of him considering me a disgrace to the journey, and we haven't spoke since. These things happen in life, and being friends with B.O., they happen a bit more frequently. Just today I heard he left a note at my folks house thanking them for putting him up, and informing them that he was heading out of Milwaukee. There was no indication as to where he was heading, and since he left a few debts to his name, Minnesota is always a good guess as to his whereabouts.
*(Since beginning this post, a whole lot more has revealed itself in the life of B.O., and some wrongdoings he has been so kind to have blessed me, my family, and my friends with. Unfortunately, I'm on a very serious break from B.O. for a while. Simply put, he has some things to sort out on his own this time around, and though he will always be family to me, I need a break from him for a while.)
|This is where I was working for most the winter... Editing video, working on some 2-D pieces, and even experimenting with animation.|
|Since I was editing for such ridiculous periods of time, I began starting strange little sculptures that I could periodically work on when I needed a break from the screen. Here's some experimenting I was doing with hot glue... I see potential!|
|My art making got so out of hand that it consumed my bedroom as well. This was generally where I'd work on writing...|
|Yet another promising beginning to another spaghetti sculpture. I don't know why I can't bring myself to stop making these damn things, but they sure are fun... just not to store...|
So without the side trip to NC happening, I had a few extra days to pack and gather my gear, and to make sure my work was where it needed to be for the gallery opening that would be taking place while I was gone. The remainder of my time was spent wrapping up meetings with folks in Milwaukee, stressing, and being dreadfully depressed and nervous. The realization that I was about to go through another radical life change was finally dawning on me, and I was particularly distressed about where my relationship with the lovely Miss Chastaine Tallon would go. We had been an item for some time, and I wasn't sure where the right place to leave things would be, or what the word leave even meant exactly.
Though I love Chassy dearly, I didn't want to ruin any potential we could have in the future by doing the hardcore long distance relationship and failing. At the same time though, I didn't want to end a good thing simply because we were headed different ways. On top of that, Chassy strives to be working upwards as a graphic designer and therefore needs a consistent job, whereas I still have much of America to see, and I could very well end up doing my Masters degree anywhere. Basically, neither one of us really knows where we'll end up in life, so suffice it to say our relationship is "complicated," and thats never an easy thing to face with someone you love. I assured her I wasn't going to make my life any messier by trying to find another girlfriend out West, and that we would both simply have to follow our paths, and see where they lead us. It was, is, and has been immensely difficult without Chassy, but my hopes are that if we can find happiness in knowing that we love each other, then we've got a chance to hold things together in the future.
Though I've been accused of many wrongs in the whole ordeal, selfishness is the major one for me to accept. The rest are circumstantial, unfortunate, and complex to say the least. I had my plans in mind for this trip months before I ever even met Chassy, so I was essentially pitted between my goals and dreams on the one side, and my love on the other. I concluded it was a lose-lose situation. One clear thing to me now'a days, is that I cannot live a life entirely for myself much longer or I'll rot just like the rest of 'em. I sincerely hope I don't lose Chassy in the long run.
* This is a raw recording of one of the more recent songs I wrote for me and Sean O'neil's music project, "The Whiskey Economy." It is a bad recording, and unaccompanied by music, so take it for what it is. The rest of the album is entirely different from this song, but I thought it was an appropriate one to share in illustrating just how difficult a time I've had without Chassy around. The vocals are pretty rough, but I'm trying my best to figure out how my voice actually works, so give me a break. I'm new to this...
The period leading up to my departure seemed to drag on forever, and after spending sufficient time and effort seeking out the cheapest way for me to get to Portland, I finally sprang 130 bucks on a 48 hour greyhound ride that left at 2 AM the next night. This left me with 70 bucks to get by in Portland for the weekend, and whatever I didn't spend in the city would be all I would have in Trout Lake until I got paid three weeks later on the 15th. As usual, I was cutting it pretty damn close.
With the immense weight of change grinding me down by the hour, and a two day bus ride in my near future, I wrapped up my packing while nervously drinking beer after beer. My folks dropped me off around 2 AM, drunk, at the greyhound station in Milwaukee to see me off. Neither myself or Chassy brought ourselves to say goodbye to each other in any formal manner, mostly because it seemed to reiterate the fact that I was leaving, and we didn't know when we would see each other next. Chassy was a soft, sobbing, little blonde mess of mascara when I hugged her good bye, and I'm not sure I'll ever forgive myself for not allowing my eyes to cry with her right there in that moment. There is a terrible and defiant order within the wiring of the male circuitry that doesn't allow us to cry when we really need to. I'd like to get it fixed, but there is also some faulty wiring in our systems that seems to prevent us from seeking such help. I promise, I'm working on it.
The epic two day greyhound ride was absolutely packed with characters, conversations, and serendipitous experiences that excited me for the big changes I was finally an the road toward, and it was an important reminder to me of why I had originally set out to experience america in such a way. After a stagnant and emotionally taxing stint of video editing in the frigid, sunless, winter months of Wisconsin, I was finally back on the road again. Despite my hang-ups, it felt magnificent.
I'm going to experiment a little with my prose here for the description of my greyhound experience, and perhaps dip into my notes a bit:
Milwaukee to Minneapolis and my last glimpse of the great forests, lakes, and farm fields of the upper mid-west; Minneapolis to Fargo N.D., where the golden corn fields stretch abundant and lax across long rolling hills on roads so straight and narrow they defy perspective. On through N.D., and the magnificent Cheyanne River Valley beneath a cloudy blue sky and ever expansive terrains. The people here are loved by the sun, and emerging triumphantly into being, a gallant steel armature of a painted steed cuts through the landscape. Into the great plains among Medina, and then Bismark, and then the Enchanted Highway among buffalo, wild horses, and eventually, our national grasslands. The gentle hills are ornately carved with old winding dirt roads, telephone lines, and the contours of the acres of a proud man with a greasy smile and a pair of Levis. Great truck stops with aging civilizations, soda pop, and tribesman lie somewhere ahead in the next few fleeting decades and unnumbered exits. Monumental silos are staggered restlessly among it all, and onward we blaze through the black hills of Dickenson, the infamous badlands, and the extravagantly colored "Painted Canyons" that begin to leak into the great state of Montana like raindrops on window in wind. Nightfall by Miles city beneath sheets of warm rain fall, and a soft shroud of darkness so expansive that our massive box of metal seems to fall endlessly forward through it with listless concern. The shadows among the roadside look like Cowboys and Indians. Bring your cap gun, this shit is wild...
(taken directly from notebook/notes)
This is it! I'm living my fucking dream!
Tony, Keny & Terry-Ann, Lars, Bob Harper; also suburban kid w/ techno and hair gel, ex hippy the hater, Minnesotan farmhand and unexpected guitarist…
Driving through the night in the red light, drinking MD 20/20, passing bottles in the dark among strangers and friends, and new strange friends, and prodigy musicians, and lovers torn apart and patched together in the beautiful dance we live for…
Finally make it to Billings, half drunk and salivating from tobacco snus- Bob Harper transfers busses but joins me and the juneau-bound couple for a drink at an Italian night club. We have an hour and a half layover, Bob only has a half hour, and he buys me a shot and makes plans to meet again with me sometime- Bob departs, and as Teri gambles, Kenny buys me a Bud light and unravels his tragic and beautiful love story to me. We drink, we drink, we drunk, terry gambles, last call, attractive over-dressed skirts give me inviting eyes while brutish men not dancing with their girls give me eyes of despise, and the three of us drunkenly go back to the station where someone shares muscle relaxers with us… Feeling wonderful, I buy a ramen and microwave it at the station while talking to the ex-hippie douche about organic food as he eats cheeto's and I boldly sit on the floor near a trashcan and power outlet to charge my cpu. I get in line for the bus and chat w/ shy pretty latina bound for Seattle, get on board feeling F'd up, and a local mason named Will sits next to me. We talk excitedly and inquire curiously about each others paths and I wake up a bit. Will goes to bathroom, and I fall asleep before he comes back… Wake up in Missoula, Will and Minnesotan farmhand leave, and a new chatty character by the name of Tony comes to sit next to me...
|"Bob Harper" on the greyhound. Via cell pic.|
|Strange Italian night club, getting drunk during the layover in Billings...|
|It was a long, strange ride. I was glad to have met Kenny and Terri.|
|"LARS" from the Greyhound|
|"Tony" from the greyhound.|
So inevitably I made it to Portland, of course, and after my inspiring stint on the greyhound, I had the next two nights to spend with my wonderful friends in the city. After my weekend of cutting loose- which is several stories within itself- I was to catch a shuttle from the Portland Airport, to my final destination: Trout Lake, Washington.
And this, my friends, is where I will leave off. I have very much to share with you all about my life here in Trout Lake the past five months, and now that my trail season is coming to an end, its time to start sharing all that with you. Come November, I'm headed South with the money I've saved from my modest volunteer wages, my job cooking at the Inn, and the miscellaneous work I've done around town. I've got allot to catch everyone up on, because more and more stories are going to be in the making with the upcoming stints I've got planned. Until then, keep up with me here on the blog, and become a follower so I can sleep soundly knowing one more person is paying attention to my senseless rambling.
Until We Meet Again…
Joseph R. Reeves