Epic Road Trip #5: On to Arkansas

Been a little gap in the narrative. It’s been easier to make a quick Facebook post with a couple pictures to let people know I am safe and where I am at. But it’s raining and I don’t have a signal so it’s a good time to get caught up.

It was a fairly decent legitimate site at Pine Ridge. I drove down to the Piney Creek Wilderness area the next afternoon and there were lots of well maintained dispersed sites. I did a hike in the wilderness but couldn’t find the trail so came back. I had a controlled fall on some wet loose rocks which was a good reminder of the inherent risks in solo back country hiking. I’m pretty careful but you never know.

I didn’t want to take another hike so I headed south on back roads into Arkansas. I stopped in Fayetteville and saw an old friend. With short notice she was a great host and I got a hot meal and a shower and a chance to go to the grocery store for some goat cheese (a soft peppered one that is delicious) and local beer (Ozark Beer Company, Hardwork APA, it’s ok) and whatnot. I tried a couple gear stores looking for a Forest Service Map but no luck.

After Fayetteville I just drove on some long unpaved roads until I found stuff to do. I was heading towards Mills Springs Day Use area in what is mostly ATV infested woods when was stopped by a tree in the road. There’d been storms when I was in Fayetteville and there were a lot of downed trees. A couple in an F-250 with a camper shell were taking it apart with a hand axe. I got my full size one out but it was a little dull to their liking. We got the branch off and they were trying to pull it out of the way with their truck when the Forest Service arrived with a chainsaw and made short work of it. The couple was cool, recently retired marines who were 5 months into their cross country road trip. I told them about the water falls hike at Hercules Glen and they showed me a good campsite I stayed for 2 days.

I hiked both ways on the Appalachian Highlands Trail. A lot of poison ivy but pretty falls and a nice trail. There was a whole hillside that collapsed onto the trail which made it tough to get around but I navigated the edge until I found the trail again. Spent some time at the Springs area which was cool rock, maybe CCC era. There were some more modern additions maybe 1950s showing their wear and semiabandoned toilets, which are the very worst kind.

So today I drove out of the woods and came east and back into the forest. I’m south of Newton County I believe and there are some cool hikes I found directions too. My plan is to hike them over the weekend, between showers and then down to Little Rock for a couple few days to visit my old friend Jay and his wife.

It’s been smooth sailing and I’m hoping this part of the forest is in better condition then what I’ve seen so far. Well that’s it faithful reader. News from home is Smokey passed on and was buried by the other dogs in the backyard. It’s a sad thing, she was a good dog and had a lot of heart. She’d have liked all the cows I drove by today and barked at them all. Rest well Smokey, the cows will have to take care of themselves.

Newton County is as beautiful as I remember it. I did a couple of hikes near where I camped. Pretty decent trails, more ferns and wildflowers. Then I drove into Newton County and did a cool hike at a natural bridge site. There were a number of caves and pillars and such as well.

I then drove up to the Ponca Wilderness and hiked into Hemmed in Hollow. It was 2 miles of steep drop to get to the overlook to see the falls. It’s the tallest between the Appalachians and the Rockies but was hard to see from the overlook. I hiked out racing the dark and pretty much made it.

I then drove into the Buffalo Scenic River Area to park and camp. Drank a couple of the local APAs which are growing on me with some local jerky. I was bushed and slept hard. Came back to Jasper and will try to add some photos at the Subway with WiFi.

Categories: camping, hiking Tags: , ,

Epic Road Trip #3: Dogwoods & Whatnot

So this didn’t get posted, was lost in the ether, and showed up some time later in drafts after I made a new #3. So these paragraphs do not haunt me forever in drafts I will try to upload again.

Rained all night and into the day. So after a few preliminaries I hiked into the Paddy Creek Wilderness Area. I only went to the first stream crossing which was more then I wanted to do with my boots while I was still needing them. Looked for morels in low spots and on the road. Found a fern in flower that was quite impressive.

I haven’t been able to get to a ranger station that has water. The campground on my ancient of days map is now a day use area so I’m not optimistic. I have enough for tomorrow. I did find a nice dispersed spot with a fire pit and found dry wood. There is more forest noise and I’m on a ridge top. I have occasional cell network.

I’m camped in an area that was burned. Looks controlled and some stuff is coming back. It’s very open and lots of wood for the fire. It’s also a short walk from the ruins of a Civilian Conservation Corps site.

It’s late and I didn’t get a nap today since I traveled. I still have another meditation to do and I get to do a little texting. I’m going to try to publish this without pictures since my signal, which I am grateful for, is the nonetheless, piss poor.

Epic Road Trip #4: The Glades

The deluge came and I managed pretty well through it. I did decide to head to higher ground, the Swan Creek camp trails were all flooded. I think it’s really called Bar K Wrangler Camp, by the way.

I camped in some high country which was nice. After a couple of skewer cooked meals I got a cast iron skillet and a new sauce pan, as well as a baking sheet. I’m keeping them in a messenger bag as cooking on fires leaves a lot of soot on the pan which is how I left my last set.

I took a glades drive and hiked some forest service roads yesterday. Feel like moving south has advanced the season seeing cardinal flowers and indian paintbrush and not the spring ephemerals that go along with morels.

Today I hiked in the Hercules Wilderness Area. I hiked about 5 miles in the morning at the Fire Tower trail head. Later I found a shorter trail to the waterfalls (Blair Ridge TH) . It was 3.8 miles and with what I’d already done a bit of a stretch but I’m glad I did.

Saw a hummingbird in a patch of cardinal flowers and the glades had lots of wildflowers I’d never seen. The creek water was cold but swimmable and the falls were incredible. Nice pools and water action. Met a couple of young guys whose excitement was infectious.

Saw my first copperhead. He was big but had a meal in him and was pretty chill. I got some good pictures and video and I’ll see what I can post. It was a long walk out. I went into town for fajitas and took a little detour to the Pine Ridge section of the National Forest because I didn’t want to drive all the way to the Piney Wilderness Area, my last stop in the Mark Twain nearly complete tour.

As long as I’m not actually parked in someone’s front yard I made a good decision. I am bone weary tired but the best day of the trip so far.


Epic Road Trip #3: Swan Creek

April 28, 2021 1 comment

After a week I’ve really settled in and I feel great about the trip so far. Van life is good and today I went through and did a reorganization and everything is put away tidy.

I found some great camping on Forest Road 202 opposite the road leading to the damn with a day use area and a hiking loop. Up a few miles there is an old CCC camp with interpretive signs. People camp there but it feels like a historic ruin so I drove up to the next intersection and camped by a fire pit.

It was pretty sweet in spite of a likely controlled burn there. Not a lot of duff in the pine forest but not really sooty either.

The CCC site was cool with foundations, the swimming pool and the fireplace for the bunkhouse still standing. A great amenity for a dispersed camping site. I explored it a few times. The workers there built the damn, by hand, amongst other things.

I got up early and drove towards Springfield. I did a morning hike and meditation at a Conversation Department run nature center. Met a woman who lived next door. None of the neighbors would sell an access route for the property so they sold to the conservation department. The trails were well maintained and the wayfinding was excellent. There was some garlic mustard along the creek which seemed unseemly for the conservation department.

I then got my East and West confused in classic Mike fashion and drove across town to a Civil War Battlefield site, Wilson’s Creek. It was the first battle in Missouri. Union forces had advanced on Missouri and Arkansas Confederates. Outnumbered 2 to 1 Nathaniel Lyon led union forces in a surprise attack with heavy casualties on both sides.

Ultimately Lyons was killed in battle and only the Union Batteries allowed them to withdraw without being decimated. While the battle was lost it took Sterling Price’s capacity to wage offensive action away and Missouri was not much contested after.

The interpretive signs were blase about slavery but it’s worth a visit. You can’t really understand Missouri today without reflecting on the Civil War. “Little Dixie” has some shameful roots that grew a tree of hate that still fruits today.

I got supplies and meditated in a local park until Anthony got off work. There was a bluebird who was putting on a show. I realized he had a nest there and I had meditate through a couple of angry blue birds as well as a couple of women and a gaggle of little kids coming up on what I thought was an out of the way picnic shelter. I was glad Anthony called as toddlers fell in ditches and a growing wave of nonsense swept the park.

Had a nice dinner at a barbecue place and got caught up. Consulted with Anthony on my new meditation routine. It was a lot of fun and I got to shower and do laundry and sleep in a bed.

In the morning I caught a Denny’s breakfast so I could use the wifi and get my video game (Evony) set for the trip. It feels good to be able to eat out again. I’m sticking to low traffic times and will keep assessing and adjust if needed.

Drive into the Mark Twain piece closest to Springfield, just a half hour away and camped at Swan Creek Horse Camp. Swan Creek got its name in the Civil War when Union forces were camped there and a soldier shot a goose but shouted he had shot a swan.

It’s a nice place to camp. Picnic tables and pit toilets. A nice place to swim if it were a bit warmer. I met a local, Raven a recent nursing school grad who gave me the rundown. We’re supposed to get 3-5″ of rain in the next 2 days and she showed me where it floods to.

The next morning was going to drive into Ozark for pans/aluminum foil as I’d left my pans at my last camp but the road was covered with water so I skipped it and came to an ATV day use area that’s higher and has wifi. Not enough to download pictures but I’m going to try and post this. My van is not made for the rough life so I’m being super safe with the off-road parking, driving through water, and other forest driving hazards. I have dubbed the van The Cookie Monster.

I got a good supply of wood under a tarp and have everything organized for the coming deluge. I have an easy out and I think I can ride out the storm quite nicely. There is no signal so may add on later. Now it’s time to put stuff away and get some shut eye.

Epic Road Trip #2: Paddy Creek

I got a little lost but saw a sign for Licking and thought I might try my luck at the local cafe to celebrate being full vaccinated as of today. The place is small and the parking lot was full so I got some subway at a little truck stop. Tuna salad salad was a good compliment to camp food.

Coming back I stopped at the Big Piney Bridge and meditated by the river. When I got back to the campground I was looking for a site with fire wood. I had picked my previous site for shady parking. I found a cool site kind of by itself with a short trail to a piece of the creek with a nice beach. There was a little pretty stone and faded flower arrangement as well as a decent amount of wood. A little later I found 2 little morels growing in camp. It was sweet.

Cooked a nice meal. The morels I cooked up in margarine with my green pepper and onion for my greens. I ate them with a corn tortilla with some goat guda, toasted on the fire.

I ate my greens with leftover potatoes and it was delicious. I’ve been toasting a few marshmallows. My fire is dying down and it’s getting to be time to lay down. Likely pick this up tomorrow and add photos when I leave and get a signal….

And I did. Can’t add photos but will try to publish. Had a rainy night. Took a trail hike in the rain and poked around looking at stuff. Decided to see some new territory and drove down to Houston to try and fill my water jugs at the ranger station. I’m going down to the next district south to camp and see what there is to be seen down there. Probably the north part east of Willow Springs.

Monday I’ll head to Springfield and see my friend Anthony who has recently relocated there. A shower already seems nice and I’m looking forward to picking his brain on my meditation routine. Until then faithful reader.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Epic Road Trip #1: Getting Started

April 23, 2021 1 comment

Hello faithful reader. My deepest apologies for the long pause in content generation. The events of last spring were nothing less then momentous and managing the fallout and restoring myself to sanity where about as much as I wanted to do.

Being elected to the Columbia City Council was not a good thing for the blog. Hidden for 6 1/2 years or something and very episodic content generation after that. As I feared when I decided not to unhide the blog 3 months after first being elected having someone sift through my sacred things and attack me with out of context material from across the ages was more then I was willing to take. Or at least adding more potential wood to the fire.

Speaking of which I need to add little wood and TLC to my formerly jaunty little fire I am writing by.

So to catch you up, I handed off my City Council seat to Andrea Waner on Monday. I finished wrapping up a few things, packed my 2005 Dodge Caravan and am taking on van life to celebrate, regroup and recalibrate after being in the harness for 14 years straight, 3.5 times longer then I’d ever have before, and that only once.

Yesterday I finished packing had a cup of coffee with my friend Harry and caught a recovery story/rap performance on his Zoom training. I climbed a rock bluff and looked for morels at the Wagon Wheel trailhead to set a baseline. I had forgotten a few things from the fridge so I went home and cooked dinner and set off.

I stopped at the park on the Missouri River at Jeff City and caught the sunrise. My plan was to crash at the Camdenton WalMart parking lot and then drive to HaHa Tonka and maybe catch some Perseids just before sunrise. There was no overnight parking so I pushed on to Lebanon which was as chill as these things ever are.

I got up at 4:00ish and drove Northeast, breaking my plans to meander southeast until I hit the southwestern edge but not prohibitively so. Paddy Creek Wilderness area and camp ground was the closest Mark Twain National Forest area worth visiting. It was more pleasant then the drive to Lebanon and I grabbed a little more shut eye at a day use area so as not to be crushing into the campground at 5:30 in the morning.

I’ve been hiking and kicked off a new routine. Listening to my body; eating when I’m hungry: sleeping when I’m tired, meditatjng and some super simple yoga. The dogwoods are floating clouds, Little Paddy Creek is tumbling inexorably to the sea and all is right with the world. I’ve started the Deaths Bed Edition of Leaves of Grass and am bracing for the daily godsmack.

There is no signal here so I’m going to drive out and find one to lost. I’ll camp here through the weekend or dispersed camping nearby if it fills up while I’m excursioning tomorrow. There’s a spring I want to see and a short loop to recharge the battery. Until then faithful reader I will be cooking some potatoes and canned chicken over the fire and snuggle up in my cold weather bag as we have another record low. I’m packed for 4 seasons and excited to be underway.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Holiday Letter: 2020 vision

December 27, 2020 1 comment

As Christmas fades into New Years I’ve had the chance to read a lot of 2020 holiday letters. I have written a few on this blog in years past. It is nice to reflect on changes and update our family and friends and interested bystanders on what has occurred and how we’ve evolved. 2020 was a defining year for everyone, pretty much. It of course was for me which is why I haven’t blogged since May. To my new readers, my apologies and I’m glad you’ve stuck with me.

I went into the 2020s intent on having it be a rejuvenation year. I harnessed the holidays from the Yule Log to the New Years Day reflecting, letting go and thinking ahead. I was a little more focused on my own work in 4-A-Change. Welcome Home, the shelter for Veterans experiencing homelessness where I consult had been newly certified and we were doing good work improving operations, solidifying and preparing for growth. I had been working on domestic violence training with Tasca Tolson and we had a good training with a plan to grow that service.

I was also getting to do some respite care for my favorite 4-year-old. It was a great set up because it allowed me to stay in his life after me and his mom broke up. I was less engaged in public policy but doing my part. I had a bunch of other interesting one shot deals and mini adventures but I also had more time to reflect, drink coffee and follow and discuss events. And that quickly became very interesting as everyone knows.

Ominous stories of the corona virus and clear signals it was not going to be controlled and it would be a world changing event. Over coffee and the news and discussion with John we saw what was coming. A few stories had a big impact. A guy dying in L.A. on the streets from COVID. A guy who was homeless in Florida arrested for defying a stay at home order. Groups of activists on the West Coast moving homeless folks into foreclosed homes. We decided people wouldn’t die of COVID on the streets in CoMo. We set upon documentation of community spread, which would surely lead to a stat at home order as the time when we would have to act.

Four days prior, as it turns out, on a Saturday morning at 7:00 am I called the City Manager. Being on City Council has its priveleges. He had sent an email so I knew he was up and working. I explained my concerns and asked for a project manager to be identified to get an emergency shelter started so that unsheltered folks could have access to hand washing and shelter to be able to shelter in place.

He called me back and said no staff were available but the Social Services Director thought I had the background and wherewithal to organize such a project and I could do so as a citizen volunteer. John and I had been brainstorming more grass roots approaches so we shifted gears and I began to liaison with the Human Services Director as a volunteer project manager.

You can read more detailed accounts about what happened next here and in the media. In summary we went from concept to enrolling individuals in 4 days and sheltered 9 folks that night. It had been a whirlwind of constant organizing and brainstorming and then we were also operating a 30 person shelter. We put a lot into our first volunteer training and managed things as best we could.

I had phone issues and the emotional stress of immersive work with traumatized individuals amongst the emergence of the pandemic/lockdown and the tidal wave of need as hundreds of people in need of shelter reached out as well as hundreds and hundreds of offers of support and questions and suggestions. I have been blessed to have organized a lot of high energy engaging projects with heavy media interest but nothing like the CoMoCrisisShelter.

We lasted 10 days and served up to 30 people after a few days. We lost our funding, raised new money but ultimately were to disruptive to our hotel hosts and were asked to leave. We thought a hotel based shelter was too attractive and with the temporary collapse of most conventional social services we thought we needed a crisis center as a point of access.

We looked at sites and I made appeals and reached out to those who controlled suitable real estate. It was sad when some folks I considered friends stopped taking my calls. It was heartening when we got a great site with an enthusiastic commercial realtor.

Safe Camp was born and again you can read about what happened in detail here and in the paper. It was a beautiful experiment in Mutual Aid and we were asked to leave before we even unpacked. Four days we stayed and the community rained down support in food and needed items and our neighbors and my own city government looked for levers to get us to disperse.

As I sought sites for our Crisis Center I found a site and an offer to host a depression era style Car Camp for folks living in vehicles. I started project managing that mutual aid project while we looked for another site for a Safe Camp. A small Black church in the central city let us host a Safe Camp in their backyard. John pretty much ran that project with the participants.

At all of our projects we focused on using the crisis shelter as a platform to improve their lives. We were less interested in providing immediate shelter to get by in but providing shelter as a platform to live a life of greatness. We had lots of successes and folks got into permanent housing, reunited with family and did other good things.

We emphasized skill sharing and empowerment. CAR Camp turned out to be our longest project at 7 1/2 months. We struggled with the less helpful parts of homelessness culture and we had our ups and downs. I yelled more then I have in the rest of my life. The mutual aid concept was thoroughly tested and proved to be sound.

Through these events a lot occurred with me. Not for the first time and likely not for the last I took Parsifal’s Journey into Chapel Perilous. Stress, vicarious trauma, disrupted sleep, the highs and lows of immersive organizing with the most challenged individuals all in the context of an unprecedented global crisis with the risk of death all around is a sure recipe for an *awakening*.

I had revelatory experience and struggles with hypomania into mania that you might expect. It was disruptive and painful and fucked up and beautiful. More good then bad came out of it by a good margin and you can’t ask for more than that.

I came to see great significance in the Sweet Light. In the twilight of the Piscean Age and/or the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius we surely live in the Sweet Light with the possibility of gentle clarity if we open our eyes.

In 2020 I learned to acknowledge the Sweet Light and felt compelled to preach it some. And I did, first on Easter Sunday after a beautiful sunrise and then on Sundays and/or Saturdays. Outside, in a circle, at a time not based on the clocks of some but on the sun time of all.

We had some beautiful sharing, earnest prayer, a little tentative song, the mangling of scripture and thoughts about how we were loved and things could be better and how grateful we are and all the goodness given to us.

As I worked to manage the things I had wrought out of concern and hope and a touch of madness the spell passed, as it always does. Sanity returns, revelation goes cold and you move the world a little more slowly.

We wrapped up CAR Camp with a COVID exposure the day before move out. I was identified as a close contact and instructed to self quarantine. John stepped up and closed down CAR Camp and worked with the Health Department to see those who needed it got the facilities to isolate. We had one or two more positives but John stepped up mightily.

John has done so consistently and with excellence through the entire pandemic. The Crisis Shelter, 2 Safe Camps, ongoing homelessness outreach most often as a volunteer and providing tons of support for Room At The Inn (RATI) our inclement weather shelter program John has been an exemplar of humble effective service.

I am picking up a little outreach as he bottom lines transportation. I’m also cooking more and trying to make sure I get some exercise. I started playing an online game, Evony, as a time waster and destresser. I’ve enjoyed making friends online and reading less news and letting others try to save the world for awhile. I feel like I did my piece to help and put out everything I had. I was glad to do it. Met a lot of great folks and made some memories. I learned a lot and got a taste of what’s possible.

I’m looking forward to another season at home and wrapping up my City Council service. With things as they are I get to reflect about my public service as it wraps up. Not what I expected who usually wrings the last engagement out of a thing and reflect later.

I skipped a lot of minutia, weirdness and negativity that happened as well. One piece of it is someone went through my blog and pulled out clubs and beat me up with them publicly. That’s why I hid my blog when I went into politics. I lay out my sacred things here. Its public but I trade mostly on genuine disclosure and unfiltered thoughts, anecdotes and stories, poems and songs and musings on things I’m interested in. It bothered me more then it might and so I didn’t blog for the rest of the year.

The last 2 times my filter went down I’ve spent more energy trying to be wiser and kinder rather then bring it back. I still have a lot to learn about that but I’m going to take the journey. Share your thoughts and questions and whatnot in the comments if you like. If I get some feedback I’ll surely do this more often.

I hope your year has been an experience to learn from and you have more fond memories then you realize yet. I hope your new year is blessed and you get to experience it with open eyes and an open heart. For those who celebrate Happy Kwanzaa!

The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter XII: Buying the Farm

 

Mike in KC

I moved to Columbia because I wanted to have a place to get ahead so that I could buy a house and have a place for my dad. I suspected his retirement was not going to end well. I stayed with my friend Sarah, then ultimately a room opened up at her house and I rented a room for her. I saved up my money. After a couple of years, I was ready buy a house, which was really great because dad had retired. He made it for a year. He had paid up his rent, cashed in his retirement and bought a new Ford F-215.

He then promptly lost the rest of the lifetime of savings on a epic, three week gambling binge.

He was fine for a year because he had free rent. He’d be broke and living on comp meals at the casinos and ramen noodles by the end of the month, but, he was making it. When his rent ran out, he decided that he was gonna live in the Ford F-215 pickup truck. My brother John and I had normalized this living out of a vehicle or out of a backpack in the great, wild West, so dad knew that was an acceptable lifestyle. His problem was with gambling. So three weeks later he’s in his truck and he’s flat broke.

I was eager to find a house and wanted to buy one. I couldn’t find one in any of my preferred neighborhoods, which would have been in the First Ward of Columbia. That is kind of my native, cultural homeland, at least in terms of where I could afford to buy a home.

I ended up looking on Columbia’s North side and found a great house. By that point my dad is living in his truck, in my friend Sarah’s driveway so I couldn’t be too choosy. I got this great house on Leslie Lane with a nice big backyard, big enough for horseshoes and the Leslie Lane Family Living Center began.

Dad and I moved in and settled in and we were pretty good roommates. It was right next to my employment at Phoenix Programs. When my grant ended and I moved into the main building, they built a brand new building near where I had bought my house. I’m a block from work so I would walk to work and could come home and dad had a little dog and we added other little dogs over time. We had a pretty good life together.

I encouraged my friend Harry Train to move to town. I thought he would be a great substance abuse counselor. It he turned out that he was. He stayed with me until he got a job in the field, then got his own apartment. My friend Kevin Webb came in and did a tour of duty on Leslie Lane, but that was after my dad had died.

Dad had COPD from being a big-time smoker. That caught up with him and he passed away. I had this period of grief and reflection about what it all means. I remember my family came from all over the country. Everyone also made it home to Michigan for a funeral there except for my brother John. John had spent a lot of time with my dad and made a decision early on that he was going to spend his time with him while he was living.

John had been to Columbia and stayed for a couple of weeks or a month. This was not that long before Dad passed. When we took my Dad to the emergency room for a breathing treatment, they ended up putting him on a ventilator. That became the last, four or five days of his life. My family members came from all over the country. Then, he passed away. After Dad died, most out of town folks left the next day in the late morning and early afternoon.

I had dinner the night after Dad died at the nearby Country Kitchen with Betty and Bill, my sister and her husband. I walked home after dinner and realized that when I got home I would find, Fido, the little dog that my dad and I had shared. Now, this was all there was, which was fine. Fido and I a really bonded. He was my dad’s dog. He was raised like I was. He’s a little aloof. He had been more like a brother, but he became my life partner as me and Fido lived in the Family Living Center. We ended up not being alone long because my friend Kevin came to stay. His marriage had gone foul in the State of California so he returned to his beloved Columbia as he needed a place to stay. I enjoyed living with Kevin.

My brother John was planning came to stay after for my dad’s funeral but we delayed his visit for two weeks as John was wrapping up his business in California. His plan was to look for property in Kentucky and kind of start a new life.

Two weeks after my dad died, we had the funeral in Michigan. As John was driving there through the State of Iowa got stopped and searched and he was found with two and a half pounds of marijuana. John had been living in California and had grown weed and had the weed that he had. He just packed up the weed that he had when he was going to move. He knew he wasn’t going to have access to free to low-cost, high-grade marijuana in the Midwest and South and so ran afoul of the law. He had his court stuff in Iowa then came to stay with me. That period was tough on him. He had had some felonies when he was a young man. He’d been working in the medical marijuana evaluation field. He had built this whole industry as kind of an office guy and an activist who lived a real righteous life in California.

Suddenly John is a felon and back to thinking about whether he’s going to go to prison or at least have a recent felony conviction and be on probation or parole. He stayed with me about six months until his court business wrapped up. He got to serve his probation in California and moved back out there. Then I was on my own again.

I had paid the DirectTV baseball package and Dad said, “Oh, let’s not get it for this year” but I was like, “Oh no!, We love watching baseball.” Dad loved the Detroit Tigers and I was a fan too. Following your out-of-market team is costly thing, but over his objections, I signed up for the baseball package and then he died about three games into baseball season in early April. I watched a lot of baseball that year. It was really the last year that the Detroit Tigers did well. In September they knocked the New York Yankees out of the play-offs and went on to the American League playoffs where they lost.

Watching them beat the Yankees was this massive wave of grief. Dad had been dead for five months, but I realized that he would’ve loved to have seen that. He didn’t get to see it really because of two or three cartons of cigarettes. As he lost his lung capacity, he would get some new inhaler and steroids that gave him more lung capacity. He would just spend it on smoking because he had to cut back as his lung capacity was so poor. I just don’t think he realized he could die from smoking. People had been saying, “Smoking’s going to kill you” for his whole life. When you get down to like five or 10% of your lung capacity, those cigarettes really matter.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter XI: Columbia Career

 

Mike Trapp dont be a jerk

I moved to Columbia in January of 2016 and my friend Sarah Bantz said that I could sleep in her living room for a month.

I had $240 and a backpack and a duffle bag. For the first time in my life, I had difficulty finding a job. I’m pretty good worker. I’m a strategic thinker, I’ve learned a lot. I’m good at what I do. I’m not career-minded. I’m not afraid to work under my value. So I’ve always been able to get work really quickly.

When I moved to Columbia, I didn’t get a job until April. It took a personal connection because I was some guy from out of town. I didn’t have a real local connection. Up until this point, when I had applied for work, which had been a while because I’d gone through connections for the last eight or 10 years, but before that they were always looking at my resume.

People would say, “Oh my God, Mike, you’ve done a lot of stuff.” When I had this long string of 10 or 12, one to two year jobs I had assembled, people started to say “Man, you can’t hold a job.” I knew when I got a job that I would probably need to change my work plan. I also knew that when I got my first social work job, they asked me what my career goal was and I had said that I wanted to have 15 entry level jobs and I realized I had racked up about 13 of them maybe 12. I was burning through him and I knew I would needed to make a stand at my next job.

My roommates sister Amy Bantz got me a job at The Shelter, the local domestic violence shelter. I was their first full time male employee. I got a case management job there. It was just a great group of folks. There were these women that were all really strong and there was this great community and they operated according to a radical feminist consensus, although they were starting to change into your kind of standard hierarchically oriented nonprofit. That was the official structure.

I worked there for about a year and it was just a great experience. It was a great introduction to Columbia. I made a lot of great friends and got to do interesting work. Because I had a background with folks who had mental health conditions, I worked as a patient advocate mostly for women who were in the shelter, sometimes women who needed services like court support or stuff with ex partes.

We would do some safety planning and some folks with people who didn’t work out of the shelter. Primarily I worked with folks at the shelter and I worked with the survivors and family members who had a lot of substance use disorder and mental health conditions because that was my background and I had done domestic violence advocacy work and family preservation and I’d done batterer intervention. I was familiar with the standard model that the heart of domestic violence is power and control.

That’s something that nobody else in the social services environment specifically and especially in kind of any other environment besides domestic violence service specialists works from this idea that the heart of domestic violence is power and control. That resonates with the truth and that allows you to create effective modalities.

I worked with survivors doing safety plans and helping them get into housing and helping them with other kind of ancillary needs and the mental health and substance use disorders spheres. I got a reputation of being able to work with anybody. I was recruited to Phoenix Programs after I had been at the shelter for a little less than a year. The executive director really liked me at the shelter, but she knew that I had better in me and thought that this was a great opportunity. She recommended me for this grant funded position at Phoenix Programs running an assertive community treatment team, which is a team based approach for people with high need mental health issues and Phoenix programs as a stand-alone substance use disorder treatment. This was an experiment for them funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health who does these health special project grants. We had two years of funding to create an act team, which was kind of a new model because that’s advanced kind of mental health agency work being done by a stand-alone substance use disorder treatment took target folks who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

It was part of a cohort of groups who were doing integrated mental health and substance use disorder treatment. And having that background of working with those two things from a context of domestic violence, I had this kind of holistic approach. I was team member and then just for a few months and then the person who was supervising the team left and then I took over kind of running the team. We had a lot of success and Phoenix programs was really interesting and that they were a 12-step oriented, almost Christian organization that had an abstinence-only approach. I had a very nuanced position towards marijuana for a substance abuse counselor. I had been a drug policy reform activist. I believed in the harm reduction model. I also believed in integrated substance use disorder and mental health integrating those two together.

We worked with these great consultants who were world leaders in that specialty. Ken Minkoff and Chris Klein. I got to work closely with them in a cohort of great practitioners from around the state. I really grew clinically in a powerful way. And after I’d been at Phoenix just running this kind of program as an uncredentialed person – I had a masters degree- I picked up a credential again, which I hadn’t had since I worked in Michigan. I was a social worker there. I picked up a credential as a substance abuse counselor.

When the grant funding ended, I went into the regular treatment environment and then I did a lot of training and I began to oversee training and become a clinical manager. I found substance use disorder treatment really fulfilling in a way that other work had not been in that it was overtly spiritual work. I had a spiritual approach when I would talk with my clients and the way they were open to that, I would definitely go there and try to engage spiritual processes and it could be really powerful for people who believe in that and to be able to do that openly as part of your model.

The other thing that I really got out of Phoenix Programs was the idea of working in an active spiritual program. Seeing people in recovery, learning the power of gratitude, I’m looking at 12 steps, which is a lot kind of like Wesleyan, the method that Methodists get their name from or discipleship from when I was a young evangelical.  This idea of where you’re at and making a daily assessment and trying to improve yourself every day and trying to have an active contact while you’re out doing good, that resonated with things that I believed in. I found that I was pretty good at being a substance use disorder counselor and then a supervisor of counselors and then ultimately the executive director.

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The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter X: Anza Borrego

 

Mike chin on hands

So things didn’t work out. Amy and I were living in Toledo. We moved to Lansing because she got a job as a librarian at a domestic violence resource place. In that transition we decided to separate and I went back to the house on Rotor Street in Monroe that had been my folks’ house. After my mom died, dad and Brenda lived at home. Dad just started living in his truck and just didn’t come home anymore. Brenda had the house, so I went and stayed with her.

About that time I took a trip to Anza Borrego [State Park in Southern California]. I’d caught a ride with my dad and we rode around to the desert Southwest. That was in January. I went just to kind of put my head together. I wanted to go off and camp by myself. I wanted to make it more of kind of a spiritual retreat. Aleister Crowley’s book Four really gets into what was it about Moses and Mohamed and the Buddha and Jesus that allowed them to go out and change the world. There was no point of doctrine that all of them believed. They believed very different things, but they all did the same thing. They went off into the wilderness and they came back, changed and then they implemented home from there.

And so I went to Anza Borrego both to clear my head. I have a place in the winter campaign. John had had recommended it as a nice place to camp in January and my dad got rides through near there because he used to deliver near Palm Springs. He dropped me off there and I camped by myself for about three weeks. It was just windy and it’s still winter camping, even though it’s like 70 degrees in the day time it get got cold at night. My gallon of water would freeze through, but the wind would be blowing. I just felt I’d kind of like blow through me and let go of a lot of stuff and I wanted to own my own hurt. So that didn’t carry any kind of bitterness or resentment. I wanted to just kind of feel it in and let it go.

I also opened myself up. Now, I was about 30. Jesus became spiritually aware at 30. He studied and then, for 3 years laid out an ambitious plan of healing people, feeding people and telling people stories. I was about 30 and times were weird. 9/11 had happened and the world seemed to be changing. Something that had really impressed upon my thinking during my breakdown days: I remember sleeping in front of the TV, I woke up and it was like the year 2000 was flashing and this was 1996. With Y2K and the change of millennium. I felt like that that was something. I explored that and spent a lot of time just being open to the universe and praying.

I was wandering around following ravens in the desert. You can only go hiking so many times and reading and you’re by yourself and talking to the camp ranger for about five minutes a day. Some days not. So, I was following these ravens and had been in this really open spiritual place. Going back to my Bible as literature class, one of the points that Dr. Roberta made that really struck me about Jesus is that Jesus was who he was. And there was also the times it was not that the times were right for that message that could move things. That just helped me see that this is not the time. Thirty is an arbitrary number. Moses was in his forties and fifties, and Mohammad was in his forties. Buddha, I don’t know how old he was.

I’m only using those folks as exemplars and models. I think if you want to implement a change process or decide who you are as a person and that, that’s what I’m talking about when I’m telling this story and what I’m doing. Take into account the conditions of the world or the things that I think are existential threats to all of our existence are that our, a front against what I would consider God’s justice or human justice. There are people who have nothing and struggle for their very existence and they are brothers and sisters and have had a right and a need for that assistance in a system that they can be successful and not have to be afraid. Everybody all the time. Everywhere. What do you do with those kinds of things? You know?

For me, I’ve decided that from time to time, you know, I’m going to pull back and I’m going to reflect and I’m going to make concrete changes in my life based upon those reflections.

As I follow the Ravens around and I found this morterro stone. They’re the mortar stones that the indigenous folks would pound grain with and this was a little brown, which they said that probably had symbolic powers. I just kind of carried around it and use it as a worry stone. I just felt that now and then I was on the right path and to keep doing what I’m doing and study in and learn and try to help. The millennium was important and as we had more people who were born in the new millennium and look at us who were bringing these kinds of ancient disruptive ideas about accumulating things and having stuff and engaging in this process of extraction and manufacture and distribution and consumption and disposable in such a way that puts the entire continued existence of life on the Planet Earth at-risk to meet some unmet psychological and emotional needs and feed ourselves, clothed ourselves, and have shelter in this short term destructive not even very fun way. Younger people are going to reject this and there’s going to be a mass movement.

You can’t stay in the pocket, you know, when I was burning brightly, when I was mad and when it’s come upon me of times when like when I’ve been campaigning or other times when you’re, or when I’ve been organizing giant protest or when I’ve been reading, doing a lot of poetry and you’re making this powerful emotional connections and doing things, then there’s the feeling that goes along with that. You feel it. It’s like a fire. You can’t keep that fire going year after year after year.

I got in the pocket and politics – to jump ahead a little bit – I was on 40, 50 hours a week plus a 40 hour a week job and I was sleeping and working all the time. Then it was really engaging and fun and I got a lot done. But it was maddening, too.

So I learned a lot in Anza Borrego and and I healed some and I got, I felt validated that I was on the right path and that this was not the time to go all in and to try to implement it, plan spiritual and cultural transformation to get us on a path towards equity and sustainability.

I came back from the trip. I worked, I lived with my sister Brenda. I, one of my old boss had started a private practice and so I had gotten social work licensure in the State of Michigan. So I started doing family counseling, a lot of abuse and neglect cases. I started doing batterer intervention, which is really amazing to go through separation and divorce with a group of guys who were also often in separation or divorce or struggling in a relationship and modeling taking on patriarchy and male privilege.

It really helped me grow as a man to help these dangerous and abusive men who also had a lot of love in their hearts and a desire to be good parents and husbands and boyfriends or just peaceful people or maybe they didn’t even see that they had a problem, but when the process went on and they had to own up to at least that one thing, because nobody got there by not having to do at least one terrible thing. All of them admitted that they had engaged to behaviors that controlling assholes did. And they could learn not to do that. And we could do that in a group and support each other and tell our stories and hold ourselves accountable and that was a good and powerful thing. I did that for a number of years.

When I moved out to work for CAN, I had talked my brother John and his partner to come out and organize because they are great organizers. I knew this movement was cooking and it was a chance for room and board and free weed. So they did. John and Marsha stayed out there and ultimately they broke up. Marcia moved further up the West Coast. John stayed out there and he worked for Dr. Todd Mikuriya who was really the one of the most significant and earliest medical marijuana practitioners. He had turned Jack Herer onto the idea of medical marijuana. Herer was the guy who wrote The Emperor Wears No Clothes. He offered the phrase In any condition for which marijuana provides relief and was behind Prop 215 argument that since there’s not the research on marijuana, you have to be able to try it out. He considered marijuana an easement, which means even if it didn’t have any ability to treat that just being high makes you feel better when you’re sick. It’s just easier and you’re in a better place and a more relaxed and open state. if you’re dealing with a terrible illness, that’s a pretty good place to be.

John talked me into going out and working with Dr. Todd and the clinic. And so I moved back to California, kind of steered clear in my old crowd because I didn’t know how things had ended awkwardly. A little bit of regret about that because I could have reestablished some friendships while I was there and I didn’t. Now, I talk to them on Facebook. It’s just water under the bridge.

I worked at the marijuana clinic and we would do medical marijuana evaluations and I would do the blood pressures and schedule appointments and follow-up for the people who had high BPs. They were trying to treat the pot doctor like he was a primary care doctor and I would say, ‘No, you got a primary care doc and you need to get in with that doctor.’

We did good medical practice and it added to my kind of interest in chronic disease management. It was really the first time I kinda did that. I got into some biofeedback. Dr. Todd was an early innovator on that field and I took a class on biofeedback and it was really cool because a lot of the things that I had done with relaxation and states of consciousness, it was cool to demonstrate that on the machine. When I did alpha wave training, you would put on the thing that would measure your alpha waves and it would put up your alpha waves as a blue bar. You could close your eyes and that raises your alpha waves by about 10%. The trick is to using passive volition, you allow the bar to grow higher and alpha waves are created and this thing that is unconscious comes under your conscious control through a process called passive volition. It’s an act of the will, but it’s an allowance rather than a making.

That was fun because I put it on and rose the bar at-will the first time I tried and learned some stuff about hand-warming: You can control migraines by moving blood to your hands and you can check that by hand temperature. It added to a lot of these things that I had already been doing just by noticing the bodily symptoms and using that as how your body temp can be measured by the warmth of your hand, that had come to me when, during my manic breakdown, I noticed when I used my motivational speakers voice – the voice I use when I speak in front of a large group – my palms would sweat because I was afraid of speaking to the group, but then I would take a deep breath: fear plus oxygen equals ecstasy.

I was intrigued by that idea of ecstasy that I had felt in drugs, but also had felt at other times, like seeking really well. We’re really not doing a great presentation or performance or speech in front of a crowd that’s feeling, it’s that same kind of feeling of ecstasy. I realized that it was an overcoming of as fear.

I had doubts about wanting to live in California because some things I didn’t like about it is the, the rubbing your nose at the disparities. You know, there’s a lot of homeless people, a lot of aggressive panhandlers, a lot of very rich people, a lot of things, this big class divide and and it’s just right there and you can’t really get away from it.

And everything’s expensive. So it seems like there’s this focus on money that’s more so than any place that I’ve been. Plus it’s really beautiful and there’s lots of things to do and you can find anybody who’s into anything. I had great Dungeons and Dragons group and got engaged with political stuff and saw great shows and went to all the wilderness areas in the West. It was a great time, but it wasn’t as change-the-world as I like to be. I also knew that my dad did live in his truck, was not going to be a sustainable solution.

And so I quit Dr. Todd. I’d saved up a little bit of money. I didn’t make much, so I didn’t have a lot of money.

I went backpacking in Big Sur. It was a lot like my trip to Anza Borrego only this time rather than just kind of reading books – I think I took a Bible to Anza Borrego – I took the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the thing that the Jesuits do for 30 days. I thought I would self-coach myself. When I was at a training at at a Catholic school I went in their library and I pulled the meditations off the shelf and opened this page and read this one page on humility. It was just powerful about having the three levels of humility: One is treating other people like yourself. Two is only allowing yourself what you need. Three, always take the worst thing in the service of a higher purpose. So you can only have what you need. It’s better to be sick than well. It’s better to be poor than rich. That’s the highest form of humility.

I took those exercises and I was by myself and I was camping. One of the spiritual exercises is this thing called a colloquia, which is a form of prayer of this kind of imaginary conversation. I don’t want to give too much away about what they are, because when you take the exercises, you’re supposed to take them as you’re not knowing what they are. So I didn’t read ahead. Once I read that part in the book, I just read them as I went, so I don’t want to get into too much there, but it would involve these colloquia and these amazing conversations. I was by myself, and was engaged in this organized spiritual practice of meditating on the themes that would go on for like four days. You’re doing visualizations and reading and thinking about it while you’re hiking in this beautiful and the redwoods and drinking the pure mountain streams and only eat and what you can carry. It was just this amazing experience.

I started to realize that I was making a break with the real world and how things are organized, like owning a house or going to a job. Having a manic breakdown, I was in a world of one and nobody else is on your vibe and it’s frightening and scary. Freud says religion is insanity. I felt like I was getting to that point where I was going to make this breakthrough and I was going to be very much organized to be different. I just felt like the world said, ‘It doesn’t have to happen now.’

I stepped back from that. I planned to do the 30-day thing and do the whole with no thought in mind beyond just doing these exercises. And I stopped after two and a half weeks and I called my dad and, and he happened to be headed to Fresno. And I thought, well, I may never get a chance to have another trip with my dad. I started hitchhiking to Fresno. I’ve been living out of my backpack and I’ve been going to these resorts and having a meal maybe once a week and I would resupply. You’re like a middle class guy when you’re walking around the woods with a backpack and people treat you like you’re middle class guy. And I got in a car with the guy and I’m a middle class guy, hitchhiking and feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve been backpacking I got dropped off. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay.’ It’s totally cool thing to do. I got out of his car in Santa Cruz and I was a homeless person because I’m dirty and I have a backpack and suddenly without me changing I dropped like eight pegs in the social order.

I leaned my backpack outside of a Denny’s and had been washing in the streams for three weeks. And I washed in the sink and with the warm water and this slew. I thought I was clean, but this slew of brown came off and I realized I had this thin film of dust that I had for weeks. I literally teared up, I was so emotional about the beauty of plumbing. Any person with a backpack can stumble in and wash with warm water. I sat down and I ate my dinner at Denny’s and I had this experience like Jesus was there having dinner. It was this intense kind of colloquy.

Robert Anton Wilson talks about it. He says, pick anybody and read everything they ever wrote, read everything that anybody who knew them, what they had to say about them, meditate on those words, memorize those words, focus your consciousness on that person, and that person will speak to you. Knowing what my mom would say about different things. I do this with my brother where I’ll say what my mom would say about something. In an imitation. He can do it to me. We have that. Jesus is such a figure of literature and society and Christian society and then something that’s animated and intrigued me.

That was a an interesting and powerful experience. I took that trip with my dad and it was the last trip I got to ride with him. I rode with them for about two weeks and got out and Eugene, Oregon and hooked up with my friends. John and Lisa. I had made some music with John and they let them Toledo. He has a great ethnomusicologist and just a great musical partner. We’d done a bunch of metaphysical roots music in the style of the Carter Family. It was good to reconnect with them. Their friend was driving a U-Haul to the Bay area so I caught a ride with her and told her the story of my life thus far, and shared a lot of the things that I’ve talked about. We really had this great bonding experience. She was moving there and wanted to stay cause it felt like we made a connection, but I had just left from there.

I caught a train to Toledo, Ohio and Mr. Harry Train picked me up at the airport. He was living with his sister in South Toledo and stayed in his basement for a few days. I called Sarah Bantz about taking her up on letting me crash with her if I was going to start a new life in Columbia, Missouri. I stopped and worked some construction with Eric Hempel in Champaign, Illinois. I tried to hitchhike to Columbia, but got rousted by the cops. I ended up coming into Columbia on a Greyhound in January of 2006.

 

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