Archive for February, 2009

various and sundry

February 18, 2009 1 comment

thank you constant reader, i couldn’t have done it without you. I wrote the first draft of Up North a bit more than 7 years ago and it has languished in its little Mead Memo pad unread by anyone until now. I find re-writing/editing way harder than writing and it probably took about twice as long to re-write as write, and i didn’t even change it that much. I wrote it in the present tense writing most of it on the trip as you can tell in the context of the story. I hope you liked it as a serial. My next plans for it is to give it a third and probably final edit and put it out in Publisher as a novellette.

I have been captivated of my life as a novel since high school. I think i have written here that back then it dawned on me that there were two kinds of great writers. Those who have mastered the craft in the extreme and those who can write adequately but have lived a life that gives them something to say. I have been profoundly changed by taking that second path, even though i choose more to live my life than document it.

This was an experiment in trying to live a novel, really a short story. I was surprised how life accomodated to bring it a theme and leaving the protragonist changed as every short story does.

There is a school of counseling called Narrative Therapy. It teaches that we should think of our life as a novel. The trick is not so much looking back at what the protagonist has learned from the first part of the novel. Any thoughtful person can do thatl. The trick is to flip to the end of the book and see what that character has to teach us. The one that has it all figured out.

I have gotten some good verbal feedback on the story but no one has commented. Lets dialogue. Tell me what you think. What do you want to see more of? less of? again my thanks constant reader. Without you, this story would have only been told to myself. and of course the angels.

Categories: the mind, writing

Up North part 11: the final chapter

February 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I grabbed some Taco Bell, got oriented and was on a bus to Lansing in short order. After a short walk I was home. I showered, put on some clean clothes and started to walk down town. I was struck by how I was a man on a walk and no longer a vagabond. When I started walking up Capitol the point was really sent home when a gent with silver hair past the collar of his denim jacket approached me. “Excuse me,” he said. “I just got into Lansing and I’m trying to get some heat for the family, do you have any change?”

An hour ago I would have said, “I was just going to ask you the same thing,” but instead I reach into my pocket. Coming up empty I said “I don’t, but I’ll be coming back this way.” His eyes turn away before I am finished. I continued my walk to the florist and order Amee flowers for her new job. It was one of my pre-trip errands I just didn’t get too. The florist was really nice and promised me a nice arrangement, Gerber Daisies and wildflowers in Fall colors, no carnations.

My errand done I strolled back Capitol. I didn’t spy my sparechanger where I left him, but I looked up the block and saw him copping a squat with a buddy eating a sandwich and drinking a soda. I walked up the block and handed him a dollar, from my right pocket, enjoying the look of frank surprise on his face. “I told you I’d be back.”

“You must be a Christian, aren’t you?” he said as he got up to talk to me, eye to eye.

“I’ve been accused of that,” I said letting my internal grin shine through.

“I knew it. I have a verse for you, Acts 16:31, maybe you know it. It’s when Paul is in prison and is freed by the angels and the jailer asks what must I do to be saved? And Paul says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, thee and thy house.’ Now I take my house to mean my parents, my wife, and three children, even though I don’t see them. I know that this is at least something I can do for them.”

I am struck dumb by his sudden openness, his sincerity. I think of my own ‘house’ shaken as it is and I can only nod. Then I thought of another ‘house’ and the power of the prayers of beggars in the Rabbinical tradition I had been reading about up north and I asked. “Will you say a prayer for me? There’s a boy who fell in a river last night. They haven’t found the body and I know it would bring peace to that family if they find their boy. At least then they’d know. Will you pray for them?”

“Right now?” he asked. 

I looked around suddenly aware we are standing on a crowded downtown sidewalk. “Yeah, now would be good.”

We clasp hands as brothers. “Dear Heavenly Father…” I quickly lose track of the words, journeying on in my own thoughts and my own prayers and my own gods but joined to this man, beggar no longer, but a gifted and beautiful man of God who I am honored to know for this short time. He calls on the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ that this boy shall be found and peace come to his house, his family.

We open our eyes after the amen and just look at each other feeling the magic. I was the first to break away and release his hands. I reached into my left pocket and took out the last of my money. “Here’s another ten to give it power”.

Again that astonished smile. “God bless you”, and I know She has, just as I knew before I read it in the paper the next day that the boy is found this afternoon. For there is power in prayer, inexplicable, miraculous and comforting. As I walked away I offered a prayer for my new friend. To see a paper tomorrow and to know his own worth. To believe in his power. To inherit the earth.

The End

Categories: hitchhiking, religeon

Up North Part 10: nearly home

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I started walking up the ditch to get up to the next exit, wary of the interstate. It was tough going with the slope and the weight of my pack. I walked up the slope and started walking down the shoulder but felt very uneasy, especially when a state trooper cruised by. I walked back down the slope and made my way in the bottom of the ditch. Eventually I came to a ravine and walked back up the slope but stayed on the safe side of the guardrail. As I walked along a passing truck caught a gust of wind and got pushed over to the berm right where I would have been had I been still walking on the shoulder. On the other side I hit the ditch again and followed a deer trail, pushing my way through the knee high grass.

After a couple of miles of this I was beat. Before I got to the exit I spied a hotel that looked cheap. It was only 4:00 but I hadn’t eaten since my bowl of Count Chocula in what seemed another universe ages ago. Besides I was tapped. I clambered over the barb wire fence and checked in exhausted. I found myself again at “The Gateway to the North” and would likely be home tomorrow.

It was not until I got in the shower that I fully realized just how truly grimy I had grown. Days of hiking sweat and unchanged clothes had not only left me not only smelling ripe but I had to literally sluice the funk off my poor body. After putting on some clean clothes I walked down to a Ponderosa to put a serious dent in their salad bar and spent the rest of the evening channel flipping through the anthrax coverage.

When I flipped off the tube and started to drift off to slumberland I heard the rain let loose. Rain coming down on a solid roof is one of the most beautiful sounds you can hear after being houseless for a while.

 I woke and was up and out for coffee early. I noted that the gas station closest to the on-ramp was also a Greyhound Station. I decided if the rain kept up I would finish up my journey on the big silver dog. I stayed in the hotel until check out trying to wait out the rain. It had let up to a light drizzle but I was pretty wet just walking to the gas station. I had used up my pen writing so I bought another one and a second cup of coffee and learned the greyhound leaves at 12:30. As I sat under the overhang at the gas station drinking coffee and writing Lansing Please on my cardboard I decided I would give it about an hour before catching the bus.

I stood by the on ramp trying to look happy and content in the drizzle and I hadn’t even finished my first smoke when I looked back down the on ramp and saw a large newish gray pick up pulled over. I started to fuss with my pack while I waited for reverse lights. When they came on I started to trot down the on ramp. I opened the passenger door and said, “thank’s for stopping”.

“You can throw your stuff in the back seat, throw back in anything that falls out,” the driver said. He was a blocky looking working man kind of guy who looked like he was doing alright for himself. I threw my pack on top of the suit cases, jackets, and boxes of shotgun shells piled haphazardly in the back seat. “Where are you headed?” he asked as we pulled out and merged with highway traffic.


“I can get you to East Lansing.”

“Sounds good. I can take a city bus from there. Thought I was going to have to take a greyhound, my least favorite way to travel”, I said as the rain started coming down hard. “I would’ve quit right about now. So, are you coming back from a hunting trip?”

“No, no. I live up in Petoskey. I’m coming down to see my cousin, his boy is missing. Might have fallen in a river. I’m coming down to help look for him,” he said heavy with emotion. He went on to tell me that his cousin’s boy had gone down to Michigan State to watch the football game or maybe just to party and had gone missing. Witnesses had reported that same night seeing a young white man in the river but couldn’t get to him before he was swept away. The family was expecting the worst.

I offered my condolences and we talked at length about grief and loss and the healing power of time. The driver was a contractor, mostly sewer and pipe work, and periodically took business calls on the drive. He had never hitched before but picked up hikers frequently for the company. “My friends say I’m crazy picking up hitchhikers.”

“I don’t think so. No desperado is going to go hitchhiking to find victims. They go to convenience stores.” I could tell the contractor wanted to talk. Wanted distraction from this drive he so much did not want to make. So we talked of many things but would inevitably come back to what he was facing.

“Most cousins you’re not really close to. You grow up, lose touch, and grow apart. But he always came up to go snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, whatever. We’re close. And he always brought the boy.”

“If there’s anything I can do to help, I’d be glad to.”

“No, no. They don’t even want me to come down. But I had to be there.”

“It has got to be really hard not knowing.”

“Yeah, you expect the worse, but still….”

We went on to talk about trips out West, problems with his previous pick up, the economy (business was still good), and development and sprawl. We both agreed Traverse City was growing into a nightmare. He reported Petoskey controls growth really well with strict building codes. And we talked about our wives. The contractor had married for the first time this summer in spite of being in his 40s. Took him awhile to find a partner who could put up with his schedule and his hunting and fishing. We both agreed partners need their own interests to be healthy and he never questioned my solo vacation.

We arrived in East Lansing with barely a break in the conversation. The contractors grim expression returned before he was finished wishing me good luck and goodbye. “I’ll pray for you, and your family,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said and he looked like he meant it.

Categories: feelings, hitchhiking, travel