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Up North part 3 – First Night

December 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Being thankful nothing came of the State Trooper drive by and my big old knife, then in my right front pocket quickly tucked inside my tent, deep in the pack, I was not unthankful when it started getting close to 5:00 and near dark this time of year. I had actually made some good mileage that day and was comfortably full of real experience. I started walking west as I had seen a sign saying State Park and there were several small locally owned motels that looked cheap. My first stop was a private campground, RV park sort of thing, but they wanted $17. I’d sleep in a ditch before paying that to lay on the cold ground.

Past the campground up a ways I came to The Acorn Motel and Yard Barn, this looked like my kind of place. I spotted an elderly white woman cleaning a room, propped my pack against the wall and asked her if she had any vacancies. She said, “Oh, I didn’t hear a car.”

“I’m walking”, I said. She gave a start but didn’t ask more and took cash for the room, $38. She also told me the bar across the street and up a ways had good food, “nothing fancy, burgers and stuff.” I used the phone in my room to leave Amee a message I was safe for the night and what my number was. I then called and talked to Brenda. When I hitchhike I like to talk to someone each night and let them know where I’m at and where I’m likely heading. Make it easier to track me down if I ever pull up dead in a ditch somewhere.

I was glad I called Brenda because she was bumming and had been leaving me messages all day not knowing I was going on this trip. It seems the Monroe City Attorney was giving my sister shit about paying for the damages on Mom’s, God rest her soul, car after a cop car had smashed into it. I commiserated some and then walked over to the bar for a couple of glasses of Bud draft, a patty melt (this meat stuff was starting to taste pretty good), and French fries with gravy.

I reflected back on the day mostly walking and waiting but then suddenly punctuated with this intense human interaction of meeting, sharing, bonding, and parting, over and over again. During the waits sometimes I read at slow exits. It passes the time, shows your literate, self contained, content to wait as much as needing a ride. It allows one to look up from the page and try to meet the gaze of the driver and perhaps a smile, a smile of invitation.

I’d been reading the Circle of Stones, one of the Clan of the Cave Bear novels. In it it spoke of thanking the Goddess for the game that sacrificed its life so that the eater may live. I bowed my head in thanks of the anonymous cow, from the feedlot to the slaughterhouse, so that I may march and secure shelter and survive the cold to live another day.

What I like about hitchhiking, and backpacking, and camping is it shifts you to The Now as only a struggle for the means of survival can. It is good to think of these things as not assured, what will I drink and eat and where will I lay my weary head? What steps will I take to survive the elements? It puts a lot of emotional modernity into perspective.

I returned to the hotel and watched some TV, channel flipping: Anthrax, Spock erasing Kirk’s sad memories, anthrax, Buffy bumming over a dying vampire lover, Angel perhaps, anthrax, the weather, anthrax, the increased popularity of the band Anthrax’s web page, anthrax.

Amee called, which I took as a good sign. She enjoyed the play she had gone to after work and Lucee was one pissed off cat for both of us being gone all day. I told the cat I was going for a week or two, depending on the weather and entertainment value of the UP, but you know cats, they just don’t listen. Cats Just Are, in spite of planes crashing into buildings, marriages ending, the survival imperative, they Just Are. As I am. I too have a warm spot to curl up in, a good day behind me and an adventure in the morn.

Categories: hitchhiking, travel

Up North part 2: first days’ rides

December 9, 2008 Leave a comment

The sedan was driven by a Korean gentleman in his 40s. A lot of people who pick up hitchhikers are internationals because frequently hitchhiking is more culturally appropriate in other countries. He was on his way to Mount Pleasant to hit the casino there. After we made small talk he gave me his card: Kim, Hyunjoo: Media and Communication Arts Associate Professor at Kwangoon University. He told me he was on a yearlong sabbatical as a visiting scholar at Michigan State where he had done his doctoral work. His research specialty was new media, the internet, cell phones and such. I told him no one on a cell phone had ever picked me up, they already had someone to talk to you. He wasn’t surprised.

He asked me if I had ever been to Korea and I told him I had heard Koreans didn’t like Americans. He agreed this was so but quickly added they were very sorry about the terrorist attacks and actually passed on his condolences. He then said that now Americans knew how it feels in the rest of the world. He talked about his childhood years, spent in air raid drills and Kim Il-sung’s threats to turn Seoul into a “fiery pit of rubble”.

I asked him about the Sunshine Policy, as much to prove I wasn’t an ignorant American as to find out his views. He spoke with a passion that surprised me denouncing it as a stupid idea as it strengthens Kim the Younger’s hand. “There are 27 million people in North Korea but he only has to make 1.3 million happy to stay in power with gifts and favors, no?”

We talked of language acquisition and Chomsky’s idea that it’s nearly impossible to learn a language properly after puberty. His English was excellent but he bemoaned the fact that he could not express the subtleties of his thoughts in English. He claimed it wasn’t a problem as a student but his thoughts are more complex now and he struggles to find a way to express them.

All too soon we were at Mt. Pleasant and he thanked me for making 70 miles very short. I thanked him for saving me from a very desolate exit. I took an opportunity to piss at the local McDonalds and quickly crossed the street to the top of the on ramp heading north. A lot of hitchhikers had worked this on ramp judging by the huge number of cigarette butts and candy wrappers.

After a short wait a long haired guy in his 20s pulled over his van and offered me a ride to Claire, The Gateway of the North. He claimed to be a welder but was on his way to Claire to install a furnace. We talked about the war after I mentioned that I thought rides had been bad because of the threat of terrorism. He claimed he had a brother in the Special Forces-Marines and he has been sent to parts unknown for at least a year. He also claimed the FBI was looking for two suspects who had been seen videotaping the Soo Locks. He offered me a Basic Menthol, which I took, though I’d rather have smoked another of my Winstons.

The Claire exit was not as busy as Mount Pleasant but still looked promising. Nonetheless I scanned the area for places to possibly bed down as the short days of October can easily leave you stranded. The 220 acres of scrubby pine looked promising and there was an array of fast food joints as well in case I came to live at this exit. Idle speculation as it turned out.

After a short while a beater pulled over with a couple of small flags prominently displayed. This poked a hole in the thesis I’d been turning over in my head about hitchhiking in a post 9/11 world. My theory was that flag waivers would not stop for a hitchhiker because jingoism is based in fear. But this guy was not your typical flag waiver. He had numerous jailhouse tattoos for example with the heart on his right cheek especially striking.

He immediately began a tweeker type spiel about how he was a trader and he liked to trade stuff. All without barely even a nod from me, he told me he had this hunting knife that he just knew I should have and he started reaching desperately under the seat in a way that was nothing short of alarming, even if he were just looking for a pack of smokes and not a knife. Not coming up with it he immediately pulled over on the side of the interstate quickly damping my secret joy at the not finding of the knife. He comes up with the knife, sees my barely restrained alarm, and assures me he is not going to cut my throat. He tossed it to me buckled safely in its leather sheaf. I am pleased to have it in my possession and in his near monologue on the sale of the knife it comes down from $10 to $5. I counted my singles, have five and buy the damn thing. I certainly wasn’t going to hand it back. He asked me if I have any drugs and I told him I had Maxalt, migraine medication that makes your joints ache and gives you a three day hangover, just to fuck with him. He asked, “what’s the buzz like?”

He is only heading as far as Harrison and he insists on dropping me off on the interstate just before the exit even as I tried to tell him I was staying off the interstate and he was going to the top of the exit anyway. I get out stuffing my new knife into my front pocket. Instant felony sure, carrying a concealed weapon, but it’s better than waving it around on the side of the highway. I pulled out my pocket size steno pad and jot down his plate number TVQ 771, just in case, as he pulled off. Of course a State Trooper then immediately rolled by slowly, but he kept on going by me and my big old hunting knife.

Categories: hitchhiking, travel

Up North part 1: getting started

December 3, 2008 2 comments



On Thursday morning I had Amee drop me off on what I thought was 27 North, just north of the I-69 loop. Turned out it was Old/Business 27. I found out at the Marathon Station 27 was a mile East of there up 69. I stood by the on ramp for about half an hour watching the commuters tear by with looks of disdain on their faces. The gas station attendant had said Old 27 rejoins 27 about 2o miles north so I started walking.

About 11:00 I was getting pretty tired and hungry when I spied the Knob Hill tavern. They were just opening up for the day and the smell of bleach was strong in the air. I ordered a Coke, lit a smoke and looked at the menu. I had been a vegetarian again for a couple of years but I ordered the half pound Olive Burger with some fries, as a grilled cheese was not going to cut it, and honestly I was a little mad at the world.

I was the only customer and management was cleaning and putting things out so I turned my attention to The Price is Right, my eyes drawn to the light gleaming from Bob Barker’s feaux leather shoes. The hand woven rug I nailed at $1,400 and knew I was in the zone, had found the flow. Hitchhiking can do that, even when you haven’t gotten a ride. There’s a spirit to it, a survival focus, a different way of looking at the world, of looking at life.

I turned my attention to the second customer of the day who entered large. He ordered “liquor” as a beer would not warm him up as he had already tried that. As the barmaid poured a shot I set aside the fact that the gentleman was on his second drink, at least, at 11:15 and struck up a conversation in hopes of humanizing myself enough to be offered a ride. I said I’d been walking and worked up a sweat and now I was freezing. A hustler I am not but I have come to terms with putting myself in a position to be offered things I would like to have.

He didn’t offer me a ride but he mentioned he’d seen 14 deer that morning and I reflected on my long morning walk through deer country without spying nary a one. I did see two big dogs about half an hour later. You see what you’re looking for mostly and my gaze was mostly within. I also spied a sign St. Johns 5 Miles. That meant I had walked nine miles and impressing a passer by with my diligent walking was not going to catch me a ride on Old 27 so I headed off down a country road the sign said led to US 27. In a couple of miles it did.

There was a sign, Sleepy Hollow State Park 6 Miles, with an arrow to the East so I figured I’d give it a couple more hours and then hoof it down to Sleepy Hollow. I was hitchhiking Up North to camp and if I only made it 15 miles, and walked all of that, so what. I sat down on a guard rail near the sleepy on ramp and decided to jazz up my hastily drawn sign I’d whipped out at the Marathon Station back in Lansing. I drew thick black lines around UP North and I squeezed in a small please at the bottom.

As I filled in, a wild eyed but gentle young man walked up. I had just come to terms with never getting a ride and saw my chances plummet as it is more than twice as hard for two gents to get a ride than one, especially for we of the wild eyed sort. Then I remembered I didn’t need to get a ride and no cars were coming to this dead exit without services anyway. He asked me for a cigarette and said he was out walking picking up butts off the side of the road. My heart softened as I thought about this young madman isolated in the country without even the dubious comfort of a cigarette.

I said, “in that case you’d better take two.”

He asked me where I was headed and I told him I was hiking north to camp and write poetry. He told me he liked riddles and puns and word games on account of his name being Dan. Not following I asked him to explain.

“You know in Yankee Doodle Dandy, he calls a feather a macaroni”. He went on to say Daniel was a hard name to live up to meaning blessed by God. And then there was Daniel the prophet who gone and got himself thrown in the lion’s den and all that. In the pause as we drew on our smokes I told him I had been reading Daniel chapter 7 the night before last and it was some pretty heavy stuff.

“You see Daniel has this dream of four ‘great beasts’ that are really empires with iron teeth who eat their victims, crushes them, and tramples the remains underfoot.” I quoted: “The fourth beast is to be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all other kingdoms. It will devour the whole world, trample it underfoot and crush it…. He will plan to alter the seasons and the Law.”“And that’s what we’ve done Daniel, altered the seasons, we’ve broken the weather”.  He sagely agreed but it appeared neither of us felt much a part of it, though we talked freely of living in a great beast. There is a separation that comes with madness, much akin with the disengagement Buddhists seek, I believe. The conversation moved on to the meanings of our names by our second smoke, until it was interrupted by a late model sedan pulling over to be my first ride of the day, and I said goodbye to Daniel Thomas Faivor, truly believing he was blessed by God and praying this increasingly cruel world would be gentle with him.

Categories: hitchhiking, religeon, travel

tracking snow

December 2, 2008 Leave a comment

i collect weather wisdom. today i heard a new one. on the first day it snows enough where you can see your tracks whatever the day thats how many snowfalls you get that winter. here in como its 30, oh for a day of delay and that one on christmas. personally i look at the squirrels. if there skinny and frisky and not to concerned with impending winter i try not to as well. if they chunk up and stay busy stocking it away i look for a bad one. this year they started out skinny and lazy and i predicted a light one. they’ve chunked up some this fall so i’m changing it to a moderate winter with hopefully more snow than ice. most folks have been calling for a bad winter because we had a mild summer. these folks i think just feel we have to suffer sometime. myrtle, the popster’s dog i share a home with, had her first snow. she liked it. i shouldn’t have been surprised, she’s a skinny little dog with big grizzly bear feet and little beady eyes, she’s made for the snow. it was fun watching her play. i was also relieved she liked the snow. i was afraid she just might prefer to shit in the house until spring. but the fall crops are in, garlic and spinach, and most of the leaves are raked, so let it snow. thats what 1000 piece puzzles were invented four.

Categories: dogs, gardening

Poetry Archive #3 (what every driver should know)

December 2, 2008 Leave a comment

my birthday is in three weeks

and i don’t have any friends

i am far from all that is familiar

except for that vague sense of malaise

that can kill poetry, hope, joy

not in a tragic shot of misery

but a rote cloud of routine half-reality

half experienced, quickly lost in

the next empty exchange.

real experience pulled forth only

at apparent enormous cost

most risk not taken

unless backed into a corner

called to account

even if you are looking away

an insular gaze to chill

in the ubiquitous hustle

cost without even the satisfaction

that you really helped

Categories: poetry